Finnish for busy people

Modal Substitute Construction – Modaalinen Lauseenvastike

The modal substitute construction (= modaalinen lauseenvastike = modaalirakenne) is an advanced grammar topic. If you’re a beginner, you should search for something easier on this website! There is plenty to find!

1. The Use of the Modal Substitute Construction

As you can guess from the name, a substitute construction replaces one way of saying things with another. The modal substitute construction is used to express the manner in which something is done. As such, it replacessiten että” or “niin että” sentences.

1.1. Don’t overuse it!

Let’s start with a warning. The point of substitute constructions is to condense two sentences into one. It’s used especially in newspapers and other official sources. In spoken language, it appears mainly in some fossilized phrases.

It’s important to know that you can overdo your use of this sentence construction. If a text has too many of these constructions, it will start to be hard to read, even for Finns. Finns call texts with a lot of difficult sentence constructions “kapulakieli”. This is something that has been said especially often about texts of the Social Security Office (Kela). Often it is better to use another sentence instead of a “lauseenvastike”.

1.2. When expressing the manner in which something is done

You can do actions in a certain manner. For example, you could be crying/laughing/screaming while you run. You could be reciting the alphabet while going up the stairs. You could be singing while you take a shower.

Finnish English
Miia tuli kotiin [itkien]. Miia arrived home [crying].
Vanhus nousi bussiin [varoen]. The old person got on the bus [cautiously]
Hän juoksi [nostellen polviaan]. He ran [lifting his knees].
Nyt tanssikaamme [laulellen]. Now let’s dance [singing].
Jari saapui kouluun [haukotellen]. Jari arrived at school [yawning].
Lapsi juoksi luokseni [huutaen]. A child ran to me [screaming].

1.3. In certain phrases

There are also certain phrases that contain the modal substitute construction. Some examples of those are “alusta alkaen” (starting from the beginning) and “toisin sanoen” (in other words).


2. The Formation of the Modal Substitute Construction

The modal substitute construction or modaalirakenne is built around the second infinitive’s instructive case (you can find out how to form this construction on that page). On this page we will focus on how the whole sentence is formed, rather than the infinitive.

2.1. The subject of the modal substitute construction

This sentence construction can appear both with and without a subject.

Same Subject

When both verbs in the sentence have the same subject, you use only the instructive form of the verb without anything else.

Finnish English
Mies kulki [horjuen]. The man went [staggering].
Tyttö astuu [ujostellen] sisään. The girl stepped in [shyly].
Nyt tanssikaamme [laulellen]. Now let’s dance [singing].
Different Subject

When the two actions in your sentence construction have a different subject, you will put the subject of the instructive verb in the genetive. You will also add a possessive suffix when the subject of the second sentence is a personal pronoun.

Finnish English
Tyttö nauroi [kaikkien nähden]. The girl laughed where everyone could see it.
Hän sanoi asian [kaikkien kuullen]. She said it where everyone could hear it.
Minä en puhu enää [sinun kuultesi]. I’m not talking anymore where you can hear it.
Älä tee sitä [minun nähteni]. Don’t do it where I can see.
Mies otti rahat [vaimon tietäen]. The man took the money with the wife knowing.

2.2. The tense of the modal substitute construction

You can use the modaalirakenne both for things that are happening right now and things that have happened. The second infinitive’s instructive form will remain the same regardless of the tense of your sentence.

Present Past
Matti tulee töihin kävellen. Matti tuli töihin kävellen.
Hän saapuu paikalle juosten. Hän saapui paikalle juosten.
Kuljemme laulaen. Kuljimme laulaen.

That’s it for now!
Comment below if you have any questions!

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