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Verbtype 3 Consonant Gradation

Welcome to the page about verbtype 3 consonant gradation!

1. What is Consonant Gradation?

Consonant gradation is something you’re going to run into all the time when learning Finnish. It’s something that affects both nouns and verbs, though in different ways. It’s called gradation, because words can have a “strong” grade and a “weak” grade. This change takes place when we add an ending to a word. For verbs this can be the personal endings (-n, -t) or any of the tense modifiers.

Consonant gradation only affects certain consonants (K, P and T). When conjugating a verb, the K, P and T in the middle of the word can change. Different verbtypes undergo a different system of consonant gradation.

In this article, we will only be looking at verbtype 3 consonant gradation. Find out more about verbtype 3 and the other verbtypes here.

2. When Do You Use Consonant Gradation?

Verbtype 3 consonant gradation takes place in all the conjugated forms of the present and past tense. The infinitive of the verb (the basic form) will always be weak, while every conjugated form will be strong.

Other tenses and moods:

  • The past participle of verbtype 3 verbs will always be weak:
    en ommellut, olen ajatellut, emme ole suudelleet
  • The passive of verbtype 3 verbs will always be weak:
    ommellaan, ajatellaan, ommeltiin, suudeltaisiin
  • The conditional of verbtype 3 verbs will always be strong:
    ompelisin, ajattelisimme, suutelisimmeko
  • The singular imperative will be strong and the plural imperative weak:
    Ompele! Ommelkaa! Ajattele! Ajatelkaa!

3. Which Consonants Change?

Consonant gradation only happens with the following consonants.

Weak Strong Infinitive Conjugation
k kk nakella minä nakkelen, sinä nakkelet, hän nakkelee
me nakkelemme, te nakkelette, he nakkelevat
p pp tapella minä tappelen, sinä tappelet, hän tappelee
me tappelemme, te tappelette, he tappelevat
t tt ajatella minä ajattelen, sinä ajattelet, hän ajattelee
me ajattelemme, te ajattelette, he ajattelevat
nn nt juoksennella minä juoksentelen, sinä juoksentelet, hän juoksentelee
me juoksentelemme, te juoksentelette, he juoksentelevat
ng nk rangaista minä rankaisen, sinä rankaiset, hän rankaisee
me rankaisemme, te rankaisette, he rankaisevat
mm mp ommella minä ompelen, sinä ompelet, hän ompelee
me ompelemme, te ompelette, he ompelevat
ll lt jokellella minä jokeltelen, sinä jokeltelet, hän jokeltelee
me jokeltelemme, te jokeltelette, he jokeltelevat
rr rt imarrella minä imartelen, sinä imartelet, hän imartelee
me imartelemme, te imartelette, he imartelevat
d t riidellä minä riitelen, sinä riitelet, hän riitelee
me riitelemme, te riitelette, he riitelevät
Ø k jaella minä jakelen, sinä jakelet, hän jakelee
me jakelemme, te jakelette, he jakelevat
v p ? ?

The question marks mean I haven’t been able to come up with a verb that fits that type of consonant gradation. This might either be due to me not thinking long enough, or because there just simply aren’t any verbs of that type.

4. Limitations on Consonant Gradation

4.1. Consonant type limitations

If a certain consonant combination is not included in the list above, they ‘re not subject to consonant gradation. For example: -ss- is not in the list, so you will never consonant gradate -ss- to -s-.

4.2. Syllable limitations

Consonant gradation can only take place near the end of a verb, ie. in the syllables right before the -ella. This means that certain longer verbs won’t be subject to consonant gradation, because their consonants closer to the beginning of the verb. Some examples: aivastella (aivastelen, not aipastelen), ammuskella (ammuskelen, not ampuskelen) and anniskella (anniskelen, not antiskelen)

Infinitive Conjugation In contrast with
säännöstellä säännöstelen suurennella > suurentelen
anniskella anniskelen kuunnella > kuuntelen
ammuskella ammuskelen ommella > ompelen
raitistella raitistelen ajatella > ajattelen

4.3. Consonant clusters

Generally, consonant gradation does not happen when there is an -s- or a -t- next to the consonants that normally change. This is the case for example with the verb annostella. Because there is an -s- next to the -t-, you don’t get consonant gradation (minä annostelen, not annosttelen). This is a very common exception! There are many verbtype 3 verbs that end in either -skella or -stella.

Infinitive Conjugation
annostella minä annostelen
napostella minä napostelen
opiskella minä opiskelen
piileskellä minä piileskelen
jaksella minä jakselen

You can read more about consonant gradation of both verbs and nouns in this overview.

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katinka hullu saksalainen

jaella -> jakelen

Thank you! I added it 🙂

katinka hullu saksalainen

UkU UvU is only used with nouns
nakella ->nakkelen
p v seems not be used , eg hipoa -> hivellä -> hivelen

Joona Sundstrom

Entä tapauksessa “Kävellä”-verbin kanssa? Miksi ei sanota “(Minä) käpelen”?

Veikkaukseni on, että “kävellä” on kehittynyt verbin “käydä” kautta (se on kai kielihistorian jossain vaiheessa ollut “käyellä”). Siinä ei ole siis koskaan -p:tä missään muodossa. Onkin yleisesti niin, että sanassa on vahva aste vain jos jossain sanan kehityksessä on ollut vahva aste. Vahva aste onkin aina se alkuperäinen, koska astevaihtelu on “nuori” keksintö, jota ei ollut kielen syntyvaiheessa.

Katinka on aikaisemmassa kommentissa maininnut, että p-v-vaihtelu ei näytä olevan lainkaan käytössä verbityypissä 3. Sekin näyttää pitävän paikkansa.

On muitakin samanlaisia tapauksia verbityypeissä 3 ja 4 (esim. siivota). Voisin vielä jossain kirjoittaa näistä mielenkiintoisista poikkeuksista. Kiitos kommentista!


could someone give this explanation in english as well? my class and i are very confused.

Inge (admin)

I wrote this article on the topic: Let me know if you have more questions 🙂

Michael Hämäläinen

The only possible example of ng:nk gradation I could find was rangaista, but this is judgment call as Wikipedia includes this usage note:

There is also a form rankaista which is quite widely used alongside rangaista, although it is considered colloquial and non-standard Finnish. Sometimes the fluctuation between g and k in the inflected forms tends to cause difficulties even for native Finns

Hmmm, yeah.. I conjugate it as rangaista : rankaisen : rangaissut, so it fits the bill as far as I’m concerned 🙂 Mixed paradigms are interesting.

Inda Vari

“Consonant gradation can only take place at the border between the last and the one-but-last syllable.”

which in the case of ‘suurennella’, there are 4 syllables, ‘suu-re-nne-lla’, the border should be ‘ll’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Inda Vari
Inge (admin)

Hmmm, you’re right, it’s really the syllable before that. Strange, because in all the other verbtypes it IS the last and one-but-last syllable.

The syllables are divided differently in Finnish: suu-ren-nel-la > suu-ren-te-len.

Learning Finnish

“Consonant gradation can only take place near the end of a verb, ie. in the syllables right before the -ella.”
How do then explain rangaista -> rankaisen?

That’s the same place, comparatively, the syllable before -sta 🙂 You can think of it as the one-but-last syllable: ran-gais-ta > ran-kai-sen


The null consonant seems to break down with “kuolla”, no? Does this pattern perhaps only apply when the first consonant is J, followed by two vowels?

Thanks for the great guides, by the way!

Inge (admin)

There are plenty of verbs belonging to verbtype 3 that don’t have any consonant gradation.

Usually, there is some kind of historical or derivational reason why there’s a k “hiding”. Jaella is derived from the verb jakaa with the frequentative derivational suffix -ella.

In contrast, the verb kuolla doesn’t have any such relation in its “word family” where there would be a k. As a learner of Finnish, you can’t start by learning the (very complex) system of word families right away, so that doesn’t always help you.

I’m working on an article showing the “word family” of the verb liikkua. I hope that will bring home the point that Finnish derivation is very complex.

John Alderson

In section 3, the last column of the table should be headed “Strong” not “Weak”.

Inge (admin)

Yes indeed, thank you for the correction! 🙂

Alexander Bliznyuk

As a rule, we can derive the exact spelling for any form of any given verb by its infinitive.
But is it possible to somehow predict the appearance of “k”? How can we know, for example, that juosta turns into minä juoksen? If the only way is memorization, could you please post a list of such verbs?