Finnish for busy people

Verbtype 4 Consonant Gradation

This article is all about verbtype 4 consonant gradation. Find out more about verbtype 4 and the other verbtypes here.

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.

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 Infinitive Strong
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

Slang word consonant gradation

Michael’s addition in the comments (thanks, Michael!) is interesting to note: “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).” These verbs are all slang words.

Weak Strong Infinitive Conjugation
g gg digata (to dig, like) minä diggaan
g gg vlogata (to vlog) minä vloggaan
b bb dubata (to dub) minä dubbaan
b bb lobata (to lobby) minä lobbaan
b bb mobata (to mob, bully) minä mobbaan

However, there are other similar verbs that don’t get the same consonant gradation:

Weak Strong Infinitive Conjugation
g g tagata (to tag) minä tagaan
g g joogata (to tag) minä joogaan
g g tsiigata (to watch, look) minä tsiigaan
b b skimbata (to ski) minä skimbaan
b b debata (to die) minä debaan

4. Limitations on Consonant Gradation

4.1. Consonant type limitations

Certain consonant combinations are not subject to consonant gradation. For example: -ss- is not in the list, so you will never consonant gradate -ss- to -s-. This is true for nouns as well as verbs.

Infinitive Conjugation
plussata (to sum) minä plussaan
stressata (to stress) minä stressaan
surffata (to surf) minä surffaan
treffata (to date) minä treffaan

4.2. Syllable limitations

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.

For example, the verb hantteerata has -tt-, but we won’t have a weak infinitive because the -tt- isn’t situated at the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable. This creates the difference between minä hanttee-raan (→ hantteerata) and minä mittaan (→ mitata).

Infinitive Conjugation
hantteerata (to handle) minä hantteeraan
mitata (to measure) minä mittaan

4.3. Consonant clusters

There are some consonant clusters which – by rule – don’t get consonant gradation. When you get the consonant combination -st-, -sp-, -tk- or -hk-, you can be sure that there won’t be any consonant gradation.

Infinitive Conjugation
vastata (to answer) minä vastaan
testata (to test) minä testaan
vatkata (to whip) minä vatkaan
katketa (to snap off) minä katkean
vispata (to wisk) minä vispaan
löyhkätä (to stink) minä löyhkään
tuhkata (to cremate) minä tuhkaan

4.4. Read more

Why Doesn’t Siivota Become “Siipoan”?

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
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).


Interesting, i would say that im fairly advanced(or maybe im not), yet i thought i should revise the basics, at the current moment i would say that my brain says most of the times the right forms for verbtype 4, but as Inge stated “you should learn them by heart” it left me wondering does one really have to learn all of them by heart, of course it doable, but is it practical, luckily your comment gave me a bit more sense, but it would be still better to have a clarification is that really true and if it could be in any way made clearer

Inge (admin)

Hmmm, I’m not sure. Michael helpful comment sheds more light on which verbs do get consonant gradation. The comment doesn’t really give any explanation for verbs like pelata/pelätä or siivota. He’s giving the general rules. You’ll still have to learn the verbs karata, perata, salvata and others by heart.

His mention of verbs with an -s- next to the kpt is indeed one that is helpful in many cases! That’s a situation to keep an eye open for! This is not really an exception, as it is the general rule for any word with an -s- next to the kpt, for nouns as well.

I’ve been relying on people to scroll down and look at Michael’s comments. He’s been very helpful with the more analytical side of grammar in many articles. Still, maybe it would be best to incorporate his information also into the main article.

Thanks for your comment! 🙂