Location cases: where, where to and where from?

You may know, that it's very typical for the Finnish language to use endings to express many of the things which in the English are expressed with prepositions. These endings are called case endings. For example, to express where something or someone is, you use the ending -ssa, while English language uses prepositions in and at.

There are 6 local cases, they are most widely used and usually have a very concrete meaning; they express where something or someone is, or where it's going or where it's coming from and they answer the questions where, where to and where from.

The location and movement

The system has two dimensions: location and movement. Location can be inside or outside (or on the top) and movement can be towards, away or static (no movement).

First, we must look at the verb of the sentence. Does it express movement or not? For example, coming (tulla) and going (mennä) both express movement.

Mistä sinä tulet? Minä tulen kirjastosta.
Where are you coming from? I'm coming from a library.
Mihin sinä menet? Minä menen kauppaan.
Where are you going to? I'm going to a shop.

Verbs like to live (asua) don't express any movement:

Missä sinä asut? Minä asun Suomessa.
Where do you live? I livein Finland.

Then, we must look at the place in question. The place can be inside or outside (or on the top), and the place can be closed or open.

In English, you use a preposition "in" (or sometimes "at") when talking about something inside or when the location is closed and preposition on when it's a flat, open or you are on the top of it.

I live currently in a hotel. The Indians lived on the plains of Texas.
Asun nykyään hotellissa. Intiaanit asuivat Texasin tasangoilla.

The box model

Finnish language puts these two things (movement and location) together, so you get 6 different cases.

location cases
laatikkoon laatikossa laatikosta
into the box in the box from the box
laatikolle laatikolla laatikolta
on the box on the box from the box

You have to think you have a thing, let's say, a key. You put the key in the box (laatikkoon), then the key is in the box (laatikossa), and you take the key out of the box (laatikosta). And if you put the key on the table (pöydälle), the key is placed on the table (pöydällä) and finally you take the key from the table (pöydältä).

How to form location cases

All location cases, except the illative has the common stem with the genitive. It means that if the consonant gradation affects the stem, it will have the same form as the genitive.

Most of the endings have the vowel a in it. That's why you must remember the vowel harmony: "if the word has dots in it, the ending will have them too".

The interior location cases, singular

Inessive, elative, illative are interior location cases by common name.


Inessive expresses being inside, it can be translated in, within or at. Inessive ends with -ssa, or -ssä (remember the vowel harmony with cases ending with a!)

Inessive and elative have the common stem with genitive.

inessive and elative stems
nominative inessive in English
talo talossa in a house
juoma juomassa in a drink
järvi järvessä in a lake
ihminen ihmisessä in a human
mies miehessä in a man
Pekka asuu Suomessa.
Pekka lives in Finland.


Elative expresses coming out, it can be translated from, or out of. Elative ends with -sta.

Tulin Suomeen Amerikasta.
I came to Finland from America.
elative declination
nominative elative in English
talo talosta out of a house
taivas taivaasta from sky


Illative expresses going to a place, it can be translated to or into.

Astuin sisälle taloon.
I went inside the house.

Forming illative is a little bit tricky. In simplest variation, -n is added and the last vowel becomes long.

illative declination
nominative illative in English
talo taloon to a house
kirja kirjaan to a book
juoma juomaan to a drink
kuppi kuppiin to a book

Sometimes -h must be added between the two vowels. Usually this happens, when there are lots of vowels already. It would be impossible to pronounce if there was for example chain of 3 a's.

illative declination
nominative illative in English
maa maahan to a ground
suo suohon to a swamp

Few exceptions are:

illative declination
nominative illative in English
vapaa vapaaseen to a free
taivas taivaaseen to the sky
essee esseeseen to an essay

The outer location cases, singular

Adessive, ablative, allative are exterior location cases, which equivalent to innner location cases. They express being near of something or on the top of something.


Adessive is used for on, at or top of. Sometimes also near or around of something.

The ending is -lla (or -llä, depending on vowel harmony)

Odotan sinua asemalla. Kirja on pöydällä.
I'll wait you at the station. The book is on the table.
Talo on mäellä. Talolla on väkeä.
The house is on the hill. There is a crowd at the house.


Ablative expresses leaving a place:

Juna lähtee laiturilta neljä.
The train leaves from the platform four.

The ending is -lta.


Allative is used for to or on to

Laita kirja pöydälle. Lähden kaupungille.
Put the book on the table. I'll go to the downtown.

The ending is -lle. (Don't worry about the vowel harmony, it doesn't apply to -lle!)

All exterior location cases (Adessive, ablative, allative) are in the same grade and has the same stem as genitive. Easiest way to form these cases, is to replace the n of the genitive with the appropriate ending.

Often, when you talk about places, you must use interior or exterior location cases. Interior: "Olen kotoisin Turusta". Exterior: "Olen kotoisin Tampereelta". (I come from Turku/Tampere)

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