Tempus, 4 tenses in Finnish

The verb has four tenses:

  1. present tense
  2. imperfect tense
  3. perfect tense
  4. past perfect

These are more or less the same as in English.

1. Present tense

The present simple is the tense used to describe actions that are timeless or happening currently.

Present tense expresses actions at the time of speaking or statements that are always true. Present tense is used to express also the future because there is no separate future tense in Finnish. There's no special ending for present tense, therefore personal endings are added straight after the stem.

Istua - to sit

2. Imperfect tense

Imperfect tense is a simple past tense. It's marked by i, which is added between stem and personal ending.

Kysyä - to ask

*No long vowel in 3rd person.

With some verbs you must use -si-ending:

Vastata - to answer

More about simple past tense.

3. Perfect tense

Perfect tense delivers general information about past, eg.:

Olen käynyt Kiinassa.
I have been to China.

You use the perfect tense when you are talking about something that started in the past and is ongoing or if something happened in the past and is finished but it's not important when exactly it happened.

It consists of olla-verb and nut-participle.

Käydä - to visit

4. Past perfect (pluskvamperfect)

Past perfect tells about background of the past event. You use the past-perfect tense usually when we are talking about 2 separate events that both happened in the past. The use of the past-perfect tells us which of the 2 events occurred first.

Olin tullut juuri kotiin, kun se tapahtui.
I just had arrived home, when it happened.

It consists of nut-participle and olla-verb in past tense (olin, olit, oli...).

Syödä - to eat

See also the article about the negation in the past tenses.


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