Finnish for busy people

Verbtype 4 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 4 consonant gradation. Find out more about verbtype 4 and the other verbtypes here.


2. When Do You Use Consonant Gradation?

Verbtype 4 consonant gradation takes place in all the conjugated forms of the present tense. The infinitive of the verb (the basic form) will always be weak, while every conjugated form will be strong.

There is a huge amount of verbtype 4 verbs that don’t undergo consonant gradation, eventhough they have the right consonants. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing which verbs undergo consonant gradation and which ones don’t. Even a simple verb pair like pelata / pelätä will behave differently (pelata: minä pelaan / pelätä: minä pelkään). Hence, for verbtype 4, you will have to learn by heart which verbs undergo consonant gradation.

Other tenses and moods:

  • The past participle of verbtype 4 verbs will always be weak:
    en pakannut, olen pudonnut, emme ole tavanneet
  • The passive of verbtype 4 verbs will always be weak:
    pakataan, pudotaan, pakattiin, tavattaisiin
  • The conditional of verbtype 4 verbs will always be strong:
    pakkaisin, putoaisimme, tapaisitteko
  • The singular imperative will be strong and the plural imperative weak:
    Pakkaa! Pakatkaa! Tapaa! Tavatkaa!

3. Which Consonants Change?

Consonant gradation only happens with the following consonants.

Weak Strong Verb Infinitive Weak
k kk pakata minä pakkaan, sinä pakkaat, hän pakkaa
me pakkaamme, te pakkaatte, he pakkaavat
p pp hypätä minä hyppään, sinä hyppäät, hän hyppää
me hyppäämme, te hyppäätte, he hyppäävät
t tt mitata minä mittaan, sinä mittaat, hän mittaa
me mittaamme, te mittaatte, he mittaavat
nn nt suunnata minä suuntaan, sinä suuntaat, hän suuntaa
me suuntaamme, te suuntaatte, he suuntaavat
ng nk hangata minä hankaan, sinä hankaat, hän hankaa
me hankaamme, te hankaatte, he hankaavat
mm mp kammata minä kampaan, sinä kampaat, hän kampaa
me kampaamme, te kampaatte, he kampaavat
ll lt vallata minä valtaan, sinä valtaat, hän valtaa
me valtaamme, te valtaatte, he valtaavat
rr rt kerrata minä kertaan, sinä kertaat, hän kertaa
me kertaamme, te kertaatte, he kertaavat
d t pudota minä putoan, sinä putoat, hän putoaa
me putoamme, te putoatte, he putoavat
Ø k maata minä makaan, sinä makaat, hän makaa
me makaamme, te makaatte, he makaavat
v p tavata minä tapaan, sinä tapaat, hän tapaa
me tapaamme, te tapaatte, he tapaavat

4. Limitations on Consonant Gradation

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-.

Consonant gradation can only take place at the border between the last and the one-but-last syllable. This means that certain longer verbs won’t be subject to consonant gradation. I can’t currently think of an example of this, but there is always that one student that finds an example! Maybe it’s you? Let me know!

Many verbtype 4 verbs do not undergo consonant gradation. There is unfortunately no rule for which ones do and which ones don’t. Time to learn them by heart, one by one, when they come your way.


Patron Perks

Would you like a printable version of this page to use offline? Consider signing up for Patreon! Patrons have access to a 19-page file about all the different kinds of consonant gradation that exist in Finnish. Don’t pass up this opportunity!

It contains all these topics:

  1. Wordtype A consonant gradation
  2. Wordtype B consonant gradation
  3. Verbtype 1 consonant gradation
  4. Verbtype 3 consonant gradation
  5. Verbtype 4 consonant gradation
  6. Why doesn’t siivota because “siipoan”?
  7. Verbtype 6 consonant gradation

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Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

Verbtype 4 corresponds to these KOTUS types:

    #73 (salata): ending in -at-, -ät- (1,083 Wiktionary entries);
    #74 (katketa) ending in -Vt-, with V being a vowel other than a/ä (186 entries)
    #75 (selvitä) a small subset of #74 (54 entries).

All three types allow for penultimate(second-to-last)-syllable gradation.

The Wiktionary conjugation table for KOTUS 73 (salata) includes examples of rarer consonant gradation examples for loan words, including (g → gg) ‘digata’ (to dig, like) and (b → bb) ‘dubata’ (to dub), and also lists a few more rules:

Words ending in:

-Csata, -sCata, or -sata have a sticky ‘S’ and have no consonant gradation.
-hkata, -lata, -rata (with exceptions: karata and perata), -lvata (except for salvata), -rvata have no consonant gradation.
-kata have fairly regular consonant gradation (k → kk), even in loan words.
-tata have fairly regular consonant gradation (t → tt), even in loan words.
-data have fairly regular consonant gradation (d → t), even in loan words.

As discussed on the Why Doesn’t Siivota Become “Siipoan”? page, an interesting case is ‘tavata’ (KOTUS 73), which has (v → p) gradation for the meanings of ‘to meet’ or ‘to make a habit of’, but doesn’t have consonant gradation for the meaning to ‘to spell’ (etymology: Swedish ‘stava’ (to spell).