General characteristics of Finnish verbs

A verb is a word which denotes actions, events, or states of being. In more simple terms, it shows what someone is doing. Or what happens; if it's raining, there's not necessarily anyone who is doing the rain, but still "to rain" is a verb.

One important feature of the verb is, that it describes the relationship between subject and object. Subject is the one, who is doing something. Object is the other, it's the target of the action. Thus, verb expresses what the subject is doing to the object.

In Finnish, it matters a lot who is the subject. This is called personal conjugation:

present tense conjugation
Singular Plural
minä kysyn I ask me kysymme we ask
sinä kysyt You ask te kysytte you ask
hän kysyy He/She asks he kysyvät they ask

As you can see, the verb has different endings, depending on the subject (The 3rd singular (he/she) is marked by long vowel.)

In addition to 6 persons, Finnish verbs have also other forms. There are some examples below, but they are very arbitrary, since there are not always equivalent translations in English, or quite often English has one form, which covers several functions. Click the titles to find out more information about the forms.

4 tenses

Finnish verbs have 4 Tenses. There's no future tense, but you can use present tense to talk about the future. The past tenses are more or less the same as in English.

4 Tenses
Present (including future)
Asun Suomessa.
I live in Finland.
Imperfect (simple past)
Asuin Suomessa
I lived in Finland
Perfect
Olen asunut Suomessa.
I have lived in Finland.
Pluskvamperfect
Olin asunut Suomessa.
I had lived in Finland.

4 Moods

There are 4 moods in Finnish. Often times English uses modal verbs (such as "may" or "would"), but Finnish has it's own forms. Potential is rather marginal.

4 Moods
Indicative
Puhun suomea.
I speak Finnish (the default case)
Imperative
Puhu suomea!
Speak Finnish!
Conditional
Puhuisin suomea, jos osaisin.
I would speak Finnish, if I knew how.
Potential
Puhunen suomea.
I may speak Finnish

2 Voices

Active is the default and in addition to that there's the passive.

2 Voices
Active
Puhun suomea.
I speak Finnish. (the default case)
Passive
Suomea puhutaan Suomessa.
Finnish is spoken in Finland.

5 infinitives

Infinitives are verb forms which behave like nouns. The first infinitive is the one you can find in dictionaries. The 2nd and 5th are marginal.

5 Inifinitives
1. Infinitive
Haluan puhua suomea.
I want to speak Finnish (the default case)
2. Infinitive
Hän käveli puhuen suomea.
He walked while speaking Finnish.
3. Infinitive
Hän oli puhumassa suomea.
He was speaking Finnish.
4. Infinitive
Suomen puhuminen on vaikeaa.
Speaking Finnish is difficult.
5. Infinitive
Hän oli puhumaisillaan suomea.
He was about to speak Finnish.

2 participles

2 participles
Present participle
Suomea puhuva mies.
A Finnish speaking man (a man, who speaks Finnish)
Past participle
Suomea puhunut mies.
A Finnish speaking man (a man, who spoke Finnish)

To conjugate a verb, you need to know which type it is. There are 6 different types of verbs.

Verb is the "head" of the sentence. It determines the meaning of the sentence and what other parts it may, or has to, include.


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