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The Genetive Case – Genetiivi – Finnish Grammar

In this article, you can find information about the genetive case. We’ll go over when to use it and how you inflect words into the genetive.

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Genetive Case
    1. When indicating possession (John’s, Pekka’s)
    2. In front of postpositions (takana, edessä)
    3. When expressing necessity (täytyy)
    4. With the object of a sentence
    5. In certain more advanced constructions
  2. The Formation of the Genetive Case
    1. The genetive of the personal pronouns
    2. Words ending in a vowel
    3. Words ending in an -e
    4. Words ending in -nen
    5. Words ending in -i
      1. New words ending in -i
      2. Old words ending in -i
      3. Old words ending in -si
    6. Words ending in a consonant
      1. Words ending in -as
      2. Words ending in -is
      3. Words ending in -os/-us
      4. Words ending in -ton
      5. Words ending in -in
      6. Words ending in -ut
  3. Consonant Gradation in the Genetive Case

1. Use of the Genetive Case (minkä, kenen)

1.1. When indicating possession

The genetive is used to express someone possessing something. The genetive’s marker -n will be added to the end of the possessor of the sentence.

When a group of words all belong together (say: a pronoun, an adjective and a noun), all three of them will be put in the genetive.

  • “[This young woman]’s dress is blue” becomes “[Tämän nuoren naisen] mekko on sininen”
  • “[Anna’s sister’s ex-husband]’s cupboard is locked” becomes “[Annan siskon entisen miehen] kaappi on lukossa.”
  • “[That angry man’s dangerous dog]’s collar is loose” becomes “[Tuon vihaisen miehen vaarallisen koiran] kaulapanta on irti.”
Finnish English
[Tuon miehen lompakko] jäi pöydälle. [That man’s wallet] was left on the table.
[Mikon lempiväri] on musta. [Mikko’s favorite color] is black.
[Naapurin apua] ei tarvita. [The neighbor’s help] is not needed.
[Suomalaisten asenne] on kielteinen. [Finns’ attitude] is negative.
[Oppaan selitykset] olivat mielenkiintoisia. [The guide’s explanations] were interesting.
[Äidin tyttönimi] on Nieminen. [Mom’s maiden name] is Nieminen.

1.2. In front of postpositions

Postpositions in Finnish are often used to indicate location in relation to another object (eg. päällä “on top”; lähellä “close by”; vieressä “next to”). Postpositions generally require their complement to be inflected in the genetive.

Example English
[Television päällä] on kukkaruukku. There is a flower pot [on top of the television].
[Television takana] on seinä. [Behind the television] is a wall.
[Television lähellä] tapahtuu kaikenlaista. [Close to the television] happen many things.
Hiiri on [jääkaapin alla]. The mouse is [underneath the fridge].
[Koulun vieressä] on karkkikauppa. [Next to the school] there’s a candy store.
[Liisan kanssa] on aina hauskaa. [With Liisa] there’s always fun.

1.3. When expressing necessity

In Finnish you will need to use the genetive with verbs expressing necessity (täytyy, pitää, kannattaa). Necessity can also be expressed with the more advanced on mentävä” sentence construction, which also requires the genetive.

Finnish English
Minun täytyy käydä kaupassa tänään. I have to go to the store today.
Sinun kannattaa tulla ajoissa. You should come on time.
Aleksin pitää siivota huoneensa nyt. Aleksi has to clean his room now.
Isoäidin on pakko asua vanhainkodissa. Grandma has to live in a retirement home.
Sinun ei pitäisi olla täällä. You shouldn’t be here.

1.4. With the object of a sentence

Let the controversy begin! The issue of the -n ending at the end of the object in a sentence has been the subject of many different opinions. All it is really is a disagreement concerning what to call this -n. I’m adding it on my genetive page, but there are plenty of people who would rather I’d only add it on the accusative page.

The -n (call it either the genetive or the accusative) is used for objects in normal affirmative sentences. It expresses that whatever is being done is happening to the whole object.

Finnish Explanation
Minä syön omenan. I eat a whole apple. / I plan to eat a whole apple.
Minä syön omenaa. I eat some apple. / I am currently eating an apple.
Minä luen kirjan. I read the whole book. / I plan on reading the whole book.
Minä luen kirjaa. I read some of this book. / I am currently reading this book.

I’m simplifying the matter here, but these sentences are the core of the object phenomenon. You can read about it more in my article about the object.

1.5. In Certain More Advanced Constructions

The genetive will also appear in some constructions that are meant for advanced learners of Finnish. Check out the following pages if you want to learn more:


2. The Formation of the Genetive Case

The marker of the genetive is always –n. Words undergo certain changes when you add the genetive case to the end of them.

2.1. The genetive case ending of the personal pronouns

Personal pronouns inflect as follows:

PP Finnish English
minä Minun rakas auto on rikki. My beloved car is broken.
sinä Sinun sisko on raskaana. Your sister is pregnant.
hän Hänen puutarha on täynnä kukkia. His garden is full of flowers.
me Meidän koira on nukahtanut. Our dog has fallen asleep.
te Teidän takavalot eivät toimi. Your back lights don’t work.
he Heidän täytyy mennä Kelaan tänään. They have to go to Kela today.

In addition of the genetive, you can also use a possessive suffix to express possessive with personal pronouns (eg. minun auto – minun autoni).

2.2. Words ending in a vowel (-a/-ä, -u/-y, -o/-ö): add -n

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
kala kalan tyyny tyynyn
talo talon seinä seinän
työ työn melu melun
vaikea vaikean takuu takuun
museo museon televisio television

2.3. Words ending in -e: add an extra -e- + -n

Words ending in -e belong to wordtype B, which means their basic form will be weak (eg. parveke, koe) and their genetive strong (eg. parvekkeen, kokeen).

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
huone huoneen perhe perheen
kappale kappaleen kirje kirjeen
lentokone lentokoneen taide taiteen
parveke parvekkeen koe kokeen

2.4. Words ending in -nen: replace the -nen with -se + -n

This is the same change that -nen words go through in any case except the partitive.

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
nainen naisen hevonen hevosen
suomalainen suomalaisen eteinen eteisen
iloinen iloisen ihminen ihmisen
sininen sinisen toinen toisen

2.5. Words ending in -i

2.5.1. New words ending in -i: add -n

New words are often loanwords. Usually they’re recognisable because they resemble words in other languages, like pankki for “bank”, or paperi for “paper”. Loanwords are easier than Finnish words because they don’t undergo as many changes when you add endings.

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
banaani banaanin paperi paperin
kahvi kahvin pankki pankin
posti postin maali maalin
tili tilin adverbi adverbin

2.5.2. Old words ending in -i: replace -i with -e- and add -n

Old words are very often nature words. After all, nature has been around for so long that Finns have had names for them since the very beginning. Some words’ age can be confusing, for example äiti (mother) is actually a new Finnish word, even though mothers have been around since the beginning of time!

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
suomi suomen ovi oven
järvi järven kivi kiven
suuri suuren nimi nimen
pieni pienen lehti lehden

2.5.3. Old words ending in -si: replace -si with -de- and add -n

More old words, but this time with –si at their end. This group has its own additional change.

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
uusi uuden vuosi vuoden
si den kuukausi kuukauden
vesi veden reisi reiden

Find out more about the inflection of the different types of words ending in –i!

2.6. Words ending in a consonant

2.6.1. Words ending in -as: replace -as with -aa- + -n

Words ending in -as (or –äs, depending on vowel harmony rules) belong to wordtype B, so they will have the weak grade in their basic form (eg. rakas, opas) and the strong grade in their genetive form (eg. rakkaan, oppaan).

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
rakas rakkaan rikas rikkaan
taivas taivaan lipas lippaan
opas oppaan itsekäs itsekkään

2.6.2. Words ending in -is: two groups

For words ending in -is, we have two groups: words like kallis that get -ii- when inflected, and words like roskis which that get -ikse- when inflected.

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
kallis kalliin roskis roskiksen
kaunis kauniin kirppis kirppiksen
kauris kauriin fiilis fiiliksen
ruis rukiin futis futiksen

2.6.3. Words ending in -us/-os: two groups

Words ending in -os will get -okse- when inflected. Part of words ending in -us are the same, but they can belong to two groups: some get -ukse-, others get -ude- before the genetive’s -n. You will want to check out this article to get the specifics.

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
mahdollisuus mahdollisuuden vastaus vastauksen
rakkaus rakkauden kysymys kysymyksen
ystävyys ystävyyden keskus keskuksen
pimeys pimeyden tarjous tarjouksen

Some general guidelines:

  • If the word is based on a verb (such as opettaa > opetus), it will generally get –ukse-.
  • If the word is based on an adjective (such as pimeä > pimeys), it will get –ude- in the genetive.
  • If the word is based on a noun (such as ystävä > ystävyys), it will get –ude- in the genetive.
  • If the word ends in –uus/yys (double vowel), you will get –ude-.

2.6.4. Words ending in -ton: replace -ton with -ttoma- + -n

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
työtön työttömän koditon kodittoman
rahaton rahattoman rasvaton rasvattoman
maidoton maidottoman alkoholiton alkoholittoman

2.6.5. Words ending in -in: replace -in with -ime- + -n

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
puhelin puhelimen keitin keittimen
avain avaimen kiharrin kihartimen
puhallin puhaltimen suoritin suorittimen

2.6.6. Words ending in -ut: two groups

Words ending in -ut are most commonly NUT-participles (eg. kuollut “dead” from kuolla “to die”). These nouns will get -een in the genetive case. Separate from this group there are regular nouns ending in -ut (eg. ohut, kevyt, lyhyt, olut). This is a pretty rare wordtype, which has a genetive ending in -uen/yen.

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
väsynyt väsyneen rakastunut rakastuneen
kuollut kuolleen pudonnut pudonneen
ohut ohuen lyhyt lyhyen

3. Consonant Gradation in the Genetive Case

Wordtype A
Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
tyttö tytön pankki pankin
puku puvun pöytä pöydän
hattu hatun kauppa kaupan
silta sillan kampa kamman
hiekka hiekan apu avun

I have a separate article on wordtype A.

Wordtype B
Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
savuke savukkeen opas oppaan
keitin keittimen tavoite tavoitteen
rakas rakkaan hammas hampaan
soitin soittimen puhallin puhaltimen
allas altaan työtön työttömän

I have a separate article on wordtype B.

 

Read more elsewhere

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Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

Korpela’s Handbook of Finnish also addresses some less common genitive-related topics — I’ve copied them below:

The genitive form of an adjective can be used to qualify another adjective or an adverb. In these constructs, the adjective is always in singular, and it typically characterizes the amount of the quantity expressed by the other adjective. Additional examples:

 

Similar examples of genitive modifier + adjective written together as one word (e.g., hiuksenhieno super fine, subtle; kristallinkirkas crystal clear) are included in the Adjectives with Fixed Modifiers page, as well as more general-purpose examples in the Compound Adjectives page.

A genitive form of an adjective can be used in adverb-like manner to qualify another adjective or an adverb, e.g. tavattoman halpa (unusually inexpensive). In English, an adverb ending with “-ly” is typically used instead.

The genitive of a superlative form can also be used as a qualifier. Finnish has three ways of expressing e.g. “as large as possible”:

 

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

Ah, nice! At one point I was planning to make a separate article about these, but when I started I just couldn’t think of enough examples to warrant doing so. Thanks for listing these!