Finnish for busy people

The Finnish Verbtypes

According to the way Finnish is currently taught to immigrants, there are six verbtypes in Finnish. Over time, there have been many different ways of dividing verbs into categories. The model with 6 verbtypes presented below is definitely not the only one. There have been attempts to limit the amount of verbtypes to 3, but there has also been a system with 45 verbtypes. If you’d like to hear more about those, Michael Hämäläinen has brought up some of these alternative ways in the comments

Verbs are divided into verbtypes based on what they look like in their basic (infinitive) form as well as how they change when being conjugated. If you know what verbtype verbs belong to, it will be easier for you to remember how it is conjugated.

This article called Your First 100 Finnish Verbs will help you get started!

Table of Contents

1. Verbtype 1

Verbtype 1 is the most common of the 6 verbtypes. Verbs belonging to this verbtype have an infinitive that ends in 2 vowels (-aa, -ea, -eä, -ia, -iä, -oa, -ua, -yä, -ää, -öä). To find this type of verb’s infinitive stem, you remove the final -a or from the infinitive.

Puhua (to speak)
Person Conjugation English
minä puhun I speak
sinä puhut you speak
hän puhuu he/she speaks
me puhumme we speak
te puhutte you speak
he puhuvat they speak
Sanoa (to say)
Person Conjugation English
minä sanon I say
sinä sanot you say
hän sanoo he/she says
me sanomme we say
te sanotte you say
he sanovat they say
kysyä (to ask)
Person Conjugation English
minä kysyn I ask
sinä kysyt you ask
hän kysyy he/she asks
me kysymme we ask
te kysytte you ask
he kysyvät they ask

Please note that verbtype 1 verbs can undergo consonant gradation! Verbs below that undergo to consonant gradation are marked with KPT below.

Some other common type 1 verbs:

  • ajaa (to drive)
  • alkaa (to start, to begin*) KPT
  • antaa (to give) KPT
  • asua (to live in a place)
  • auttaa (to help) KPT
  • etsiä (to look for, to search)
  • herättää (to wake so. up) KPT
  • hoitaa (to take care of) KPT
  • huutaa (to shout) KPT
  • katsoa (to watch*)
  • kieltää (to deny) KPT
  • kiertää (to go around) KPT
  • kirjoittaa (to write) KPT
  • kysyä (to ask)
  • laajentaa (to expand) KPT
  • laskea (to count)
  • lukea (to read) KPT
  • lähteä (to leave) KPT
  • maksaa (to pay, to cost)
  • muistaa (to remember)
  • neuvoa (to give advice)
  • odottaa (to wait, to expect) KPT
  • ostaa (to buy)
  • ottaa (to take) KPT
  • paistaa (to fry*, to shine*)
  • puhua (to speak)
  • rakastaa (to love)
  • rakastua (to fall in love)
  • sallia (to allow)
  • sanoa (to say*)
  • soittaa (to call, to play an instrument*) KPT
  • sortaa (to collapse) KPT
  • tietää (to know) KPT
  • tuntea (to feel) KPT
  • unohtaa (to forget) KPT
  • unohtua (to be forgotten) KPT
  • vaatia (to demand) KPT
  • ymmärtää (to understand) KPT

2. Verbtype 2

This verbtype consists of verbs that end in -da/-dä. To find this type of verb’s infinitive stem, you remove the -da/-dä. Notice that the third person singular doesn’t get the final letter doubled like in verbtype 1!

Saada (to get)
Person Conjugation English
minä saan I get
sinä saat you get
hän saa he/she gets
me saamme we get
te saatte you get
he saavat they get
Juoda (to drink)
Person Conjugation English
minä juon I drink
sinä juot you drink
he/she juo he/she drinks
me juomme we drink
te juotte you drink
he juovat they drink
Syö(to eat)
Person Conjugation English
minä syön I eat
sinä syöt you eat
hän syö he/she eats
me syömme we eat
te syötte you eat
he syövät they eat

Verbtype 2 only has two verbs that undergo consonant gradation: tehdä and nähdä. Their consonant gradation mirrors that of verbtype 1: eg. tehdäteen, teet, tekee.

Some other common type 2 verbs:

  • analysoida (to analyse)
  • haravoida (to rake leaves)
  • imuroida (to vaccuum)
  • juoda (to drink)
  • jäädä (to stay)
  • kommunikoida (to communicate)
  • käydä (to visit*)
  • luennoida (to lecture)
  • myydä (to sell)
  • nähdä (to see*) KPT
  • paketoida (to package)
  • pysäköidä (to park)
  • saada (to get, to be allowed*)
  • soida (to ring)
  • syödä (to eat)
  • tehdä (to do, to make) KPT
  • terrorisoida (to terrorize)
  • tuoda (to bring)
  • tupakoida (to smoke)
  • uida (to swim)
  • viedä (to take)
  • viipaloida (to slice)
  • voida (to be able to*)

3. Verbtype 3

Verbs belonging to this verbtype end in -lla/-llä, -nna/-nnä, -rra/-rrä, -sta/-stä (in other words: in two consonants and a vowel). To find these verbs’ infinitive stem, remove the -la/-lä, -na/-nä, -ra/-rä, or -ta/-tä. To this stem, you add an -e- before adding the personal ending!

Tulla (to come)
Person Conjugation English
minä tulen I come
sinä tulet you come
hän tulee he/she comes
me tulemme we come
te tulette you come
he tulevat they come
Mennä (to go)
Person Conjugation English
minä menen I go
sinä menet you go
hän menee he/she goes
me menemme we go
te menette you go
he menevät they go
Nousta (to get up)
Person Conjugation English
minä nousen I get up
sinä nouset you get up
hän nousee he/she gets up
me nousemme we get up
te nousette you get up
he nousevat they get up

Remember that verbtype 3 verbs can undergo consonant gradation! The ones in the list below that do so are marked with KPT.

Some other common type 3 verbs:

  • ajatella (to think) KPT
  • haista (to smell like*)
  • hymyillä (to smile)
  • julkaista (to publish)
  • juosta (to run) KPT
  • jutella (to chat) KPT
  • keskustella (to chat)
  • kiistellä (to quarrel)
  • kuulla (to hear)
  • kuunnella (to listen) KPT
  • kävellä (to walk)
  • olla (to be)
  • ommella (to sew) KPT
  • opetella (to learn) KPT
  • opiskella (to study)
  • panna (to put)
  • pestä (to wash)
  • purra (to bite)
  • pyöräillä (to ride a bike)
  • ratkaista (to solve)
  • riidellä (to argue) KPT
  • surra (to mourn)
  • suudella (to kiss) KPT
  • tapella (to fight) KPT
  • työskennellä (to work) KPT

4. Verbtype 4

Verbs belonging to verbtype 4 end in -ata/-ätä, -ota/-ötä, -uta/-ytä. To find this type of verb’s infinitive stem, you remove the -t (so NOT the final -a!). Some sources will tell you to remove the -ta and then add an -a. This comes down to the same thing.

The third person singular gets an -a added to the end when the two vowels from the stem are different vowels. When the two vowels are -aa- it wouldn’t make sense to add a third one, so we add nothing (eg. hän halua+a is correct, but hän osaa+a doesn’t work).

Haluta (to want)
Person Conjugation English
minä haluan I want
sinä haluat you want
hän haluaa he/she wants
me haluamme we want
te haluatte you want
he haluavat they want
Osata (to be able to)
Person Conjugation English
minä osaan I am able to
sinä osaat you are able to
hän osaa he/she is able to
me osaamme we are able to
te osaatte you are able to
he osaavat they are able to
Pakata (to pack)
Person Conjugation English
minä pakkaan I pack
sinä pakkaat you pack
hän pakkaa he/she packs
me pakkaamme we pack
te pakkaatte you pack
he pakkaavat they pack

Remember that verbtype 4 verbs can undergo consonant gradation! The ones in the list below that do so are marked with KPT.

Some other common type 4 verbs:

  • avata (to open)
  • erota (to divorce)
  • hakata (to beat) KPT
  • haluta (to want)
  • herätä (to wake up)
  • huomata (to notice)
  • hypätä (to jump) KPT
  • juoruta (to gossip)
  • kadota (to disappear) KPT
  • lakata (to stop) KPT
  • luvata (to promise) KPT
  • maata (to lie down) KPT
  • määrätä (to determine)
  • pelata (to play*)
  • pelätä (to be scared) KPT
  • piffata (to treat)
  • pihdata (to skimp) KPT
  • pudota (to fall) KPT
  • siivota (to clean)
  • tarjota (to offer, to serve)
  • tavata (to meet) KPT
  • tilata (to order)
  • tykätä (to like*) KPT
  • vastata (to answer)
  • älytä (to get something, to understand)

Many -ATA verbs are loanwords. You can find out more about Swedish origin loanverbs.

5. Verbtype 5

Verbtype 5 is quite rare. Verbs belonging to this verbtype end in -ita/-itä. To find this type of verb’s infinitive stem, you remove the final -ta/-tä. To this stem, you then add -tse- before adding the personal ending!

Some sources will give you a different rule. They recommend removing the -ita/-itä (so also removing the -i-) and adding -itse- to that stem before adding the personal ending. The end result is the same, so choose whichever method makes more sense to you.

There are some sources that combine verbtype 3 and verbtype 5, based on how both receive an extra -e- when being conjugated.

Häiritä (to disturb)
Person Conjugation English
minä häiritsen I disturb
sinä häiritset you disturb
hän häiritsee he/she disturbs
me häiritsemme we disturb
te häiritsette you disturb
he häiritsevät they disturb
Tarvita (to need)
Person Conjugation English
minä tarvitsen I need
sinä tarvitset you need
hän tarvitsee he/she needs
me tarvitsemme we need
te tarvitsette you need
he tarvitsevat they need
Hallita (to rule)
Person Conjugation English
minä hallitsen I rule
sinä hallitset you rule
hän hallitsee he/she rules
me hallitsemme we rule
te hallitsette you rule
he hallitsevat they rule

Verbtype 5 verbs do not undergo consonant gradation.

Some other common type 5 verbs:

  • hallita (to rule, to govern, to master)
  • havaita (to perceive)
  • hillitä (to restrain)
  • häiritä (to disturb, bother)
  • kyyditä (to give someone a lift)
  • mainita (to mention)
  • merkitä (to mark)
  • palkita (to reward, to award)
  • tarvita (to need)
  • tulkita (to interpret)

6. Verbtype 6

Verbtype 6 is the most rarely used of all the verbtypes. Most of these verbs have something in common when you translate them: their meaning will usually be “to become something”. This implies a change from one state to another (becoming cold, hot, old, etc). There are, however, exceptions that do not follow this pattern. Most of these verbs that imply a change will have an adjective as their base (eg. vanheta – vanha, lämmetä – lämmin, laajeta – laaja).

This type of verb ends in -eta/-etä. To find the infinitive stem for verbtype 6, you remove the final -ta/-tä. To this stem, you then add -ne- before adding the personal ending.

Vanheta (to become old)
Person Conjugation English
minä vanhenen I become old
sinä vanhenet you become old
hän vanhenee he/she becomes old
me vanhenemme we become old
te vanhenette you become old
he vanhenevat they become old
Lämmetä (to become warm)
Person Conjugation English
minä lämpenen I become warm
sinä lämpenet you become warm
hän lämpenee he/she becomes warm
me lämpenemme we become warm
te lämpenette you become warm
he lämpenevät they become warm

Remember that verbtype 6 verbs can undergo consonant gradation!

Some other common type 6 verbs:

  • aueta (to come loose, open) KPT
  • heiketä (to become weaker) KPT
  • kalveta (to turn pale) KPT
  • kyetä (to be able to*) KPT
  • kuumeta (to become hot)
  • kylmetä (to get colder)
  • laajeta (to become wider)
  • lyhetä (to become shorter)
  • nuoreta (to become younger)
  • paeta (to run away) KPT
  • pidetä (to become longer) KPT
  • pimetä (to become darker)
  • rohjeta (to presume) KPT
  • tarjeta (to stand the cold) KPT
  • tummeta (to darken)
  • vaieta (to become silent) KPT
  • valjeta (to brighten up) KPT
  • vanheta (to become older)

7. Verbtype 4, 5 and 6 Crossovers

While the Finnish division into verbtypes has very few exceptions, there are some verbtype 4, 5 and 6 verbs that cross over from one verbtype to another. These verbs do not fit in with the (simplified) rules used in most course books.

Mainly because of this problem with verbtypes 4, 5 and 6, some linguists consider all three of these verbtypes as one large groups of verbs ending in -Vta (vowel+ta), which has three subgroups. That way, they avoid the issue of these exceptions completely. However, for Finnish language learners, this combination of three verbtypes isn’t practical.

The following verbs look like verbtype 5 (-ita/-itä) but get conjugated like verbtype 4. See the striked out words for how these would have been conjugated if we would follow the rules to the letter.

  • selvitä (to become clear) — selviän (not selvitsen)
  • hävitä (to lose, to disappear) — häviän (not hävitsen)

Next, we have some verbs that look like verbtype 6 (-eta/-etä) but get conjugated like verbtype 4.

  • hävetä (to be ashamed) KPT — häpeän (not häpenen)
  • kiivetä (to climb) KPT — kiipeän (not kiipenen)
  • ruveta (to start*) KPT — rupean (not rupenen)
  • todeta (to state) KPT — totean (not totenen)

Last but not least, here are some verbs that look like verbtype 4 but get conjugated like verbtype 6.

  • hapata (to acidify) KPT — happanee (not happaa)
  • loitota (to divert away) KPT — loittonee (not loittoaa)
  • helpota (to get easier) KPT — helpponee (not helppoaa)
  • parata (to get better) KPT — paranee (not paraa)

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Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

As mentioned in the first paragraph, there are various other typologies in use; I am familiar with two others. I came across the first in Daniel Abondolo’s _Colloquial Finnish_ textbook, and perhaps it was developed by Prof. Abondolo uniquely. Unlike the standard 6-category scheme based on the dictionary form (1st infinitive / A-infinitive), his scheme uses the verb stem (i.e., the part taking the personal endings (-n/-t/-mme/-tte/etc.):

Class I: (1) any vowel other than “-e” | (2) {other than: n / l / r / s / X} – e
Class II: (1) X | (2) TSE |(3) (E)XE
Class III: n / l / r / s / X – e
Class IV: Long vowel or diphthong

The capital letters here are a bit strange, but function as a special notation encoding a useful pedagogical crutch: namely, they represent the letters that are omitted in non-stem forms, such as the A-infinitive. For example, taking Class II examples, Abondolo writes ‘tarviTSE-‘ as the stem of A-infinitive ‘tarvita’ (to need); ‘vaikEXE-‘ as the stem of ‘vaieta’ (to fall silent); X is a marker for the contraction verbs (supistumaverbit) stem ending: ‘tapaX-‘ [note the strong form] is ‘tavata’ (to meet).

Apart from simplifying 6 categories into 4, the genius (and/or madness!) of this contrived notation is two-fold: (1) every verb stem is already in its strong form (consonant gradation) and there are no ‘hidden’ characters, (2) every stem can be inflected into any other form with only a single step involving removing or transforming the stems (no letters are ever added, only removed).

Abondolo’s scheme also makes clear the special role of the so-called ‘dental consonants’ of n/l/r (important for formation of the passive and active past participles (–NUT-partisiippi)), and marks boundary gemmination (using capital ‘Q’), which is important for keeping track of consonant gradation.

Cross-referencing against the standard 6 categories, the closest overlap is seen with Class I, which contains only verbtype 1 verbs, and Class IV, which holds only verbtype 2. Class II broadly covers verbtypes 4,5,6; Class III covers the dental stems in verbtypes 1, 2 (nähdä) and 3.

It’s a big commitment to adopt Abondolo’s scheme for your studies, but once his special markup scheme is adopted, the “algorithms” needed for manipulating the stems (both for verbs and nominals) are greatly simplified. Sadly, I am only aware of the scheme through its brief introduction in _Colloquial Finnish_ – to go beyond this, you must expand upon it yourself. I was so enthralled with the Abondolo scheme that I took every KOTUS verb type (see follow-on comment) and worked it into this scheme in an Excel spreadsheet.

Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

The second typology should scratch the itch felt by database administrators, logicians and purists who seek the Holy Grail of “MECE” (Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive). This is the typology developed by KOTUS (Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskus | Research Institute for the Languages of Finland) and used for the inflection and conjugation tables in Wiktionary. It is precisely because this typology is so refined that the inflection/conjugation tables can be automatically generated based on templates (every headword in Wiktionary, including nominals, is mapped to a KOTUS number). Incidentally, Zsuzsanna Oinas’s _Guide to Finnish Verbs: 120 Finnish Verbs Fully Conjugated_ follows the same principles (essentially, Wiktionary already includes everything in that book).

The 27 KOTUS verb types are categorized by stem types, as explained in tabular format here:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Finnish_conjugation

Clicking on the KOTUS verb tables in Wiktionary will open up additional tables for each subcategory based on consonant gradation or specific vowel cluster.

Some will be put off by the excessive detail; others may adopt the maxim that ‘nothing succeeds like overkill’ (obviously, of American origin). Those wishing to fully reprogram their brains could try using the tables with cloze deletion in the Anki flashcard application ().

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

This is such a lovely topic really 🙂 If you like grammar rules and putting things in compartments, the different ways to divide verbs into groups is like the holy grail.

Adam Smith

You said,”According to the way Finnish is currently taught to immigrants.” I would say, “According to the way Finnish is currently taught.” Adding “to immigrants” sounds very discriminative, if I was you, I would be more careful the way I express myself.

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

I chose my words as well as I could! Let me elaborate.

With the “to immigrants” I mean that that’s how it’s taught here in Finland, specifically in courses of the unemployment office, aimed specifically at immigrants. Nobody but immigrants with a resident permit can attend these courses.

Classes abroad are often very different. Courses in Russia, for example, apparently focus much more on grammar analysis than is done in immigrant courses in Finland. They can approach the verbtypes a different way. Likewise, university courses (which can also be for exchange students and degree students and NOT just immigrants) also regularly teach grammar differently.

Yesim Ruskio
Yesim Ruskio

Currently in Finland languages courses are generally provided by unemployment office and it is called “integration courses” and it is only for foreigners and immigrants.