Finnish for busy people

The Inflection of Postpositions – Finnish Grammar

The inflection of postpositions follows the same principles as the inflection of any location. Learn how it works and when you need it!

Table of Contents
  1. Which Cases?
  2. How Does it Work?
    1. Postpositions ending in -lla/llä
    2. Postpositions ending in -ssa/ssä
    3. Irregular postpositions
  3. Postpositions That Don’t Inflect

1. Which Cases?

Finnish has 15 lovely cases for students to learn. It’s not enough that nouns get inflected into the location cases though; no, postpositions also do so! Luckily they don’t bend in all the Finnish cases. The inflection of postpositions is limited to the location cases: the missä (inessive or adessive), mistä (elative or ablative) and mihin (illative or allative) forms.


2. How Does It Work?

The word connected to the postposition will remain in the genetive case in all three forms. Which one you use depends on the verb you’re using and the direction of your movement. Are you moving away from somewhere, staying at that place, or removing yourself from the location?

2.1. Postpositions ending in -lla/llä

As you can see, postpositions that end in -lla will be the easiest:

  • Kirja on television päällä. “The book is on top of the television.”
  • Laitan kirjan television päälle. “I put the book on top of the television.”
  • Otan kirjan television päältä. “I take the book from the top of the television.”
English Minä menen… (mihin) Minä olen… (missä) Minä lähden… (mistä)
near kaupan lähelle kaupan lähellä kaupan läheltä
keskellä kukkien keskelle kukkien keskellä kukkien keskeltä
on top of television päälle television päällä television päältä
underneath maton alle maton alla maton alta
above pöydän yläpuolelle pöydän yläpuolella pöydän yläpuolelta
underneath pöydän alapuolelle pöydän alapuolella pöydän alapuolelta
at the outside talon ulkopuolelle talon ulkopuolella talon ulkopuolelta
at the inside talon sisäpuolelle talon sisäpuolella talon sisäpuolelta

2.2. Postpositions ending in -ssa/ssä

Postpositions that end in -ssa/ssä will be inflected the same way as other nouns:

  • Janne seisoo television vieressä. “Janne is standing next to the television.”
  • Janne menee seisomaan television viereen. “Janne goes to stand next to the television.”
  • Janne tulee television vierestä. “Janne goes away from next to the television.”
English Minä menen… (mihin) Minä olen… (missä) Minä lähden… (mistä)
in front of luokan eteen luokan edessä luokan edestä
next to Leilan viereen Leilan vieressä Leilan vierestä
at pöydän ääreen pöydän ääressä pöydän äärestä
in between talon ja puun väliin talon ja puun välissä talon ja puun välistä

2.3. Irregular Postpositions

The words takana and luona both end in -na in their missä-form. You will just have to remember these.

English Minä menen… (mihin) Minä olen… (missä) Minä lähden… (mistä)
behind puun taakse puun takana puun takaa
at sb’s place Leilan luo / luokse Leilan luona Leilan luota

3. Postpositions That Don’t Inflect

Not all postpositions inflect like this. There are some that can only appear in one form. If you’re dealing with a postposition to expresses a concrete location, you can be sure it inflects. In other cases, it probably won’t. What follows is a list of some postpositions that don’t inflect.

  • kanssa (=with): Menen Julian kanssa ravintolaan.
  • vuoksi (=because of): Vamman vuoksi Julia ei voi tilata itse ruokaansa.
  • puolesta (=on behalf of): Tilaan ruokaa Julian puolesta.
  • kera (=with): Syömme siellä lihamureketta oliivien kera.
  • jälkeen (=after): Ravintolan jälkeen kävelemme kotiin.
  • kautta (=via): Me kävelemme kaupan kautta, koska haluan ostaa jotain.
  • läpi (=through): Meidän on pakko mennä metsän läpi.
  • kuluttua (=past): Puolen tunnin kuluttua myönnän että olemme eksyneet.
  • tähden (=for the sake of): Julian tähden teeskentelen, että tiedän missä mennään.

That’s it for the inflection of postpositions! Leave a comment if there is something you want me to add, rephrase or change!

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Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

Thanks for this concise summary! It seems in many textbooks, locative cases are discussed with regard to the nominals (nouns and adjectives) and postpositions are treated as a subcategory of adverbs, so the key connections are lost. Great to see this issue addressed on its own page. Regarding 2.3. Irregular Postpositions “takana and luona both end in –na in their missä-form”, my understanding is that these belong to an obsolete system of generic local cases: locative (-nA, which merged into modern essive), lative (-ksi/-[glottal stop]/-kse, merged to modern translative) and separative (-tA, merged to modern partitive), as noted in this… Read more »

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

The merging of the cases you mention is both a blessing and a curse for learners of Finnish. On the one hand, it means we don’t have to learn the locative, lative and separative anymore. On the other, it means the case they’ve merged into can have several added meanings.

Personally, I love words like takana, kaukana and kotona, because they are reminders of the history of the Finnish language.

Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

I like them too! But the linguists kill the romance by calling them “unproductive” or “defective”! (haha) I had not thought about it that way, but I see what you mean by the legacy meanings. Perhaps this means that my previous comment equating locative with modern essive was too simplistic. Korpela’s Handbook of Finnish makes some reference to these: Old locational use (corresponding to “to, into”) of the translative is reflected in some adverb-like words like alemmaksi (down, to a lower position), which is the translative of alempi (lower). A case called lative, with endings such as -s and -k… Read more »