The five Finnish infinitives

1. The first infinitive

The first infinitive form of a verb is the "dictionary entry" form. This corresponds to the English 'to' form, for example:

English Finnish
sanoa to say
käydä to visit
valita to choose
harjoitella to practise
häiritä to disturb

The first infinitive contains verbs of 6 kinds, each of which has its own rules when conjugating the verbs. Learn more about the verb types here.

There is also such a thing as the long form of the first infinitive.

2. The second infinitive

This corresponds to the English "while -ing" form. It behaves as a noun: it can be inflected, but only in the inessive and the instructive.

The second infinitive is formed by replacing the final -a/-ä of the first infinitive with -e, then adding the appropriate inflectional ending. If the vowel before the -a/-ä is already an -e-, this becomes -i- (see example from 'lukea' = 'to read').

Sanoessani kiitos katson toista silmiin.
= While saying thanks, I look the other person in the eyes.
Ruokaa tehdessä käytän suolaa.
= While making food, I use some salt.
Mikko nukahti lukiessaan kirjaa.
= Mikko fell asleep while reading a book.
Sanoessasi kiitos, olet kohtelias.
= When saying thank you, you are polite.
Tehdessä töitä, työpäivä kestää usein kahdeksan tuntia.
= When you do work, the workday lasts usually eight hours.
Hän puhui puhelimessa, ajaen samalla autoa.
= He talked to the phone, while driving a car.
Hän pakeni paikalta juosten.
= He escaped from the spot, running.
Hän lähti huoneesta sanoen nähdään.
= He left the room, saying see you.

3. The third infinitive

This corresponds to the English verbal noun (-ing form). It behaves as a noun: it can be inflected, but only in a limited number of cases. It is used to refer to a particular act or occasion of the verb's action.

The third infinitive is formed by taking the verb stem with its consonant in the strong form, then adding -ma/-mä, followed by the case inflection.

Note that the -ma/-mä form without a case ending is called the agent participle. The agent participle can also be inflected in all cases, producing forms which look similar to the third infinitive.

Hän on lukemassa kirjastossa.
= He's reading in the library.
Risto menee katsomaan elokuvan.
= Risto will go to watch a movie.
Katja tuli juuri syöstä.
= Katja just came back from having eaten.
Lukemalla voi elää monta elämää.
= By reading you can live many lives.
Olin lukematta lehteä viikon.
= I was without reading the newspaper for a week.

Want to know more? Check the page about the third infinitive!

4. The fourth infinitive

The fourth infinitive has the stem ending -minen. You use it when you are combining two verbs. In English you would use the -ing form of the verb; Finns add -minen. This nounalized verb can be inflected in all the cases.

Autolla ajaminen on helppoa.
= Driving a car is easy.
Pidän ruoan laittamisesta.
= I like preparing food.
Harrastan lukemista.
= I enjoy reading as a hobby.
Nautin auringon ottamisesta.
= I enjoyed sunbathing.
Lopetin tupakoimisen eilen.
= I quit smoking yesterday.

Want to know more? Check the page about the fourth infinitive!

5. The fifth infinitive

This is a fairly rare form which has the meaning 'on the point of / just about to ...'

Olin lukemaisillani...
= I was just about to read...