Types of sentences in Finnish

When you know what kind of sentences there are, you are able to choose which case to use. Typically, subject is in the nominative case, and object either in genitive or partitive.

1. Verb sentence

Verb sentence consists of subject + verb (+object). It's the most common and prototypical sentence type, and can be used in various situations.

The object a) in partitive case, if it's uncoutable or an abstract entity b) in genitive case, if countable.

If the sentence is negative, the object is in partitive case.

B. Verb sentence + object in genitive

Here are some examples where the subject is in nominative and the object in genitive.

subject verb object
Minä syön leipää.
I eat bread.
He syövät lounasta.
They are having (eating) lunch.

A. Verb sentence + object in partitive

Here are some examples where the subject is in nominative and the object in partitive.

verb sentence
subject verb object
Hän opiskelee kirjallisuutta.
He studies literature.
Minä syön leivän.
I'm eating a bread.
He söivät lounaan.
They ate the lunch.
Minä en syö leipää.
I don't eat any bread.
He eivät syö lounasta.
They do not eat lunch.

C. Verb sentence without an object (intransitive)

The object isn't always necessary. Some verbs especially cannot have an object, these verbs are called intransitive. For example: "Ovi aukeaa. " / "The door opens".

Note: Because ei is a verb, it conjugates in person. The other verb is without any endings (the stem).

2. Copula sentence (to be)

Copula sentence consists of Subject + Copula + Predicative. Copula sentence says what someting is, so it's like an equation. It can be used to describe things or to express similarities between the subject and the predicative.

copula sentence
subject copula predicative
Minä olen ihminen.
I am human.
Tarja Halonen oli Suomen presidentti
Tarja Halonen was the president of Finland.
Suomalaiset ovat hiljaisia.
Finns are quiet.
Tämä takki on nahkaa.
This jacket is made of leather.
Minä en ole ihminen.
I am not human.

Subject is always in the nominative case. Singular predicative is typically nominative, but plural predicative is in plural partitive: Suomalaiset ovat hiljaisia. (Not Suomalaiset ovat hiljaiset.

Partitive must be used, if the predicative is a mass noun. (Usually, something is made of something.)

Negative sentence is similar to verb sentence, but the predicative is in same case as in affirmative sentences. The stem of olla is ole. (For example "Minä olen ihminen" vs "Minä en ole ihminen".)

3. Existential sentence (there is)

Existential sentence consists of Locative + Verb + Subject. Existential sentence can be used to express where things are (or are not) or possession. Unlike in English, you don't have to use the phrase "there is".

existential sentence
locative verb subject
Pihalla on auto.
There is a car on the yard.
Paidalla on kastiketta.
There is some sauce on the shirt.
Minulla on auto.
I have a car.
Pihalla ei ole autoa.
There's no car on the yard.
Minulla ei ole autoa.
I do not have a car.
Paidalla ei ole kastiketta.
There's no sauce on the shirt.

Locative is in inessive or adessive case.

Unlike in other sentence types, the subject isn't always in nominative. Subject is in the nominative case if it's countable but in the partitive case, if it's plural or an uncountable or abstract entity.

You can express a possession by using the existential sentence. The personal pronoun is in the adessive case.

In negative sentences subject is in partitive case. The stem of olla is ole-.

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