Finnish for busy people

Wordtype A Consonant Gradation

Wordtype A consonant gradation is the reason why pöytä becomes pöydällä and tyttö becomes tytöllä.

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 a case ending to a word.

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 look at what kind of consonant gradation wordtype A words have.


2. What is Wordtype A?

Wordtypes are based on what kind of letters are at the end of the word. Since Finnish has so many cases that you add to the end of words, there are a lot of changes that happen at the border of the word and the case ending.

Words belong to wordtype A end in the following letters:

  • In a single vowel (o, ö, u, y, a, ä, i, but not e!)
  • In -nen: eg. nainen, hevonen, iloinen

Wordtype A is for the most common type of words. If you’ve been studying for a short period of time, you probably haven’t learned yet about wordtype B. If that’s the case, focus on this first type of consonant gradation until you have a decent grasp on it before learning wordtype B. Save yourself some confusion!


3. When Do You Use Consonant Gradation?

Wordtype A consonant gradation takes place when you add certain cases to the end of words. It happens for the following endings: -n, -t, -ssa, -lla, -sta, -lta, -lle, -ksi and -tta. These cases have one thing in common: when adding them to a word, the last syllable becomes closed. You could also see it this way: these are all cases that end in either one consonant, or two consonants and a vowel.

For Wordtype A, the nominative of the word (the basic form) will always be strong. All the cases mentioned in the last paragraph will make a word weak.

Strong forms:

  • nominative (mikä?): pankki, pöytä, matto
  • partitive (mitä?): pankkia, pöytää, mattoa
  • illative (mihin?): pankkiin, pöytään, mattoon
  • essive (-na): pankkina, pöytänä, mattona
  • comitative (-ine): eg. omine nokkineen (rare case, check here)

Weak forms:

  • plural (-t, mitkä?): pankit, pöydät, matot
  • genetive (-n, minkä?): pankin, pöydän, maton
  • inessive (-ssa, missä?): pankissa, pöydässä, matossa
  • elative (-sta, mistä?): pankista, pöydästä, matosta
  • adessive (-lla, millä?): pankilla, pöydällä, matolla
  • ablative (-lta, miltä?): pankilta, pöydältä, matolta
  • allative (-lle, mille?): pankille, pöydälle, matolle
  • translative (-ksi, miksi?): pankiksi, pöydäksi, matoksi
  • abessive (-tta, ilman mitä?): eg. ehdoitta (rare case, check here)
  • instructive (-in, miten?): eg. täysin rinnoin (rare case, check here)

4. Which Consonants Change?

Consonant gradation only happens to the following consonants.

Strong Weak Example 1 Example 2
kk k pankki → pankissa paikka → paikassa
pp p kauppa → kaupassa kuppi → kupissa
tt t konsertti → konsertissa kartta → kartassa
nt nn Skotlanti → Skotlannissa Englanti → Englannissa
nk ng kaupunki → kaupungissa Helsinki → Helsingissä
mp mm kampa → kammassa lampi → lammessa
lt ll silta → sillalla ilta → illalla
rt rr virta → virralla kerta → kerralla
t d pöytä → pöydällä katu → kadulla
k Ø polku → polulla Turku → Turussa
k v luku → luvussa puku → puvussa
p v apu → avulla kylpy → kylvyssä
lki lje lki → jäljessä kylki → kyljessä
rki rje rki → järjellä rki → särjessä

5. 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-.

Generally, consonant gradation does not happen when there is an –s-, –h– or a –t– next to the consonants that normally change. This is the case for example with the word suihku. Because there is an –h– next to the –k-, you don’t get consonant gradation. Other nouns in this category: tuhka, rahka. There are some words that can have the -k- disappear or not, depending on personal preference: eg. vihkovihossa / vihkossa.

Consonant gradation can only take place at the border between the last and the one-but-last syllable. This means that certain longer words won’t be subject to consonant gradation. Teatteri has a –tt-, but it won’t be subject to consonant gradation because it’s not located in the right part of the word (te-at-te-ri). Compare this to kon-sert-ti, where the -tt- IS located at the right part of the word. This means teatteri becomes teatterissa, but konsertti becomes konsertissa.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

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

6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Opiskelija

Suggestion and a question.
As there are 14~15 cases in Finnish what happens to the rest of the cases, abessive, comitative ?

Do they stay strong when adding the case ?

Inge (admin)

All the cases that end in one consonant (-n, -t) or in two consonants and a vowel (eg. -lla, -lta, -ssa, -tta, -ksi) will become weak in wordtype A. The comitative ends in -ne, so it won’t become weak.

This is explained somewhere in the text, but not in the list. I will add them when I have the time 🙂

Tori

Hi! I’m confused about this part, which says: “Words belong to wordtype A end in the following letters:

In a single vowel (o, ö, u, y, ä, e, i, but not e!)”
Is the letter e included or not? Kiitos paljon!

Inge (admin)

Words ending in -e belong to wordtype B, so they have a different kind of consonant gradation. Read more here: https://uusikielemme.fi/finnish-grammar/consonant-gradation/wordtype-b-consonant-gradation-sanatyypit-astevaihtelu/

Pete

Tori was pointing out what appears to be a typo. E is included twice, and A is not included at all. I think the list should say:
*single vowel (o, ö, u, y, a, ä, i, but not e!)
Is that right?

Inge (admin)

Ohhh, okay! I read that wrong! It should indeed say “o, ö, u, y, a, ä, i, but not e!”