Sunday, February 7, 2016

Imperfekti - Past tense in Finnish

How to make the past tense? Basically, you just add an i or si after the verb stem, before the personal ending. All verb stems end with a vowel. Some vowels stay, some disappear and one turns into another vowel.

1. o, u and y stay:

  • sanon > sanoin - I say. I said.
  • puhun > puhuin - I speak. I spoke.
  • kysyn > kysyin - I ask. I asked.

2. a, ä, e and i go away:

  • ostan > ostin - I buy. I bought.
  • heitän > heitin - I throw. I threw.
  • menen > menin - I go. I went.
  • tarvitsen > tarvitsin - I need. I needed.
  • pakenen > pakenin - I escape. I escaped.
  • tanssin = tanssin - I dance. I danced. (Yes, they are the same.)

3. Sometimes a becomes o:

4. With the verb type 2 verbs, the first vowel is dropped when you add i to the stem. 

(Käydä is an exception as käyn becomes kävin in the past tense.)

  • syön > söin - I eat. I ate.
  • juon > join - I drink. I drunk. 
  • vien > vein - I take away. I took away.
  • saan > sain - I get. I got.

5. Finally, all verb type 4 verbs  and some verbs in the verb type 1 have si in the past tense:

  • pakkaan > pakkasin - I pack. I packed.
  • haluan > halusin - I want. I wanted.
  • tykkään > tykkäsin - I like. I liked.
  • tiedän > tiesin - I know. I knew.
  • ymmärrän > ymmärsin - I understand. I understood.
  • lennän > lensin - I flow. I flew. 

p.s. Notice that the third person singular has only one i in the end. Sometimes people accidentally double the i, but don't.

  • hän lähtee > hän lähti - S/he leaves. S/he left.

If this was useful, you might also like my post past tense in a nutshell.

About the author of Random Finnish Lesson: 

My name is Hanna Männikkölahti. I am a professional Finnish teacher who gives private online lessons and simplifies books into easy Finnish. Please read more in and follow this blog, if you want to be the first one to know when I post something new. 


Unknown said...

Thank you this is very clear and easy to understand, I have been trying to remember this for a while!

Random Finnish Lesson / Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Eipä kestä. Kiva kun voin olla hyödyksi! :)

Ali Vajahat said...

this blog directly targets the real problems that Finnish learner are facing. Great blog! Hyvää bloggi!

chicklet said...

How do you say I took a finnish course

Random Finnish Lesson / Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Hyvä kysymys! I'd say "Opiskelin suomen kurssilla" or "Olin suomen kurssilla."

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