The Genetive Case – Genetiivi – Finnish Grammar

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
  2. The Formation of the Genetive Case
    1. The genetive of the personal pronouns
    2. Words ending in a single 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
  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 case’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 case.

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).

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 cncerning 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.


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 asunut Suomessa jo vuosia. Your sister has lived in Finland for years already.
hän Hänen puutarha on täynnä ihania kukkia. His garden is full of wonderful flowers.
me Meidän koira on nukahtanut sohvalle. Our dog has fallen asleep on the couch.
te Teidän auton takavalot eivät toimi. Your (plural) car’s back lights don’t work.
he Heidän täytyy mennä Kelaan ajoissa tänään. They have to go to Kela on time 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 single vowel (-a/-ä, -u/-y, -o/-ö): add -n

This is also true for some words ending in -i and -e, but they generally have a different rule. See below!

Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive Nominative Genetive
kala kalan tyyny tyynyn talo talon
seinä seinän työ työn melu melun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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!


3. Consonant Gradation in the Genetive Case

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

I have a separate article on wordtype A.

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

I have a separate article on wordtype B.

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