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The Active Present Participle – VA-Partisiippi

Table of Contents
  1. What are Participles?
  2. The Use of the Active Present Participle
    1. Example sentences
    2. The active present participle as an adjective
    3. In the quasi construction
    4. When you’re unsure about an observation
    5. When using the että construction (referatiivirakenne)
  3. The Formation of the Active Present Participle
  4. The Inflection of the Active Present Participle

1. What are Participles?

A participle is a specific form of the verb, used to either turn a verb into an adjective, noun or to replace a subordinate clause. That’s a pretty broad description. All these participles can be used in a multitude of different ways.

Often participles are used as verbal adjectives which can be formed from all verbs. Like ordinary adjectives, they are declined in all cases and agree with the noun which they qualify. They can be in active (-VA or -NUT) and passive form (-TAVA or -TU), and there is also an ‘agent’ participle. On this page you find just the active present participle.

If you’re looking specifically for “oleva”, you can read this article.

2. The Use of the Active Present Participle

There are three parts to this word construction:

  1. It’s active: there is a subject and someone is doing the action
  2. It’s present: it’s happening right now, or in the future
  3. It’s a participle: it’s derived from a verb

2.1. Example sentences

The following example sentences display the most common usages of the active present participle. The number in the first column directs you towards the chapters below this table where you can learn more about the construction used.

# Infinitive VA-participle Example Translation
2.2 maksaa maksava Hän on maksava asiakas. He’s a paying customer.
2.2 nukkua nukkuva Älä herätä nukkuvaa karhua! Don’t wake a sleeping bear!
2.2 nousta nouseva Nouseva aurinko paistaa. The rising sun shines.
2.2 tarvita tarvitseva Anna apua sitä tarvitseville. Help those who need it.
2.3 imuroida imuroiva Olin imuroivinani. I was pretending to vacuum.
2.3 siivota siivoava Hän oli siivoavinaan. He was pretending to clean.
2.4 kuulla kuuleva Olin kuulevinani askeleita. I thought I heard footsteps.
2.5 tavata tapaava En kertonut tapaavani häntä. I didn’t say I was meeting her.
2.5 olla oleva Tiedän olevani oikeassa. I know I’m right.

2.2. The active present participle as an adjective

The active present participle can be used as a adjective – thus replacing a joka-sentence, e.g. lapsi joka itkee (the child who cries) → itkevä lapsi (the crying child); mies joka laulaa (the man who sings) → laulava mies (the singing man). In the song Tavallinen päivä, Edu Kettunen uses the phrases särkevä selkä “hurting back” and saapuva talvi “approaching winter”. If you like music, you could check out the analysis of that song here.

When the VA-participle is used as an adjective, it has the following characteristics:

  • It’s based on a verb (e.g. lukevalukea)
  • It answers the question “millainen” (what kind?)
  • It’s inflected in the same case as its main word (e.g. lukevat lapset)
  • It can also be expressed with a joka-sentence (e.g. lapset, jotka lukevat)
Finnish English
[Maanantaina alkava kurssi] on tärkeä. [The course that starts on Monday] is important.
Aion aloittaa [maanantaina alkavan kurssin]. I plan to start [the course that starts on Monday].
[Laulava mies] unohtaa kaiken muun. [The singing man] forgets everything else.
Katson [laulavaa miestä]. I’m watching [the singing man].
Laulava versus laulanut

The article you’re currently reading deals with the VA-participle as an adjective. For comparison’s sake, it is also important to know that the active past participle can also be used in this way. We can e.g. talk about laulava mies and laulanut mies; itkevä lapsi and itkenyt lapsi.

The difference between the two is that VA-participle is used when expressing two concurrent events or a future event. The NUT-participle’s events will be consecutive: one after the other.

Finnish English
[Itkevä lapsi] seisoo kadulla. [The crying child] stands on the road.
[Itkevä lapsi] seisoi kadulla. [The crying child] stood on the road.
[Itkenyt lapsi] seisoo kadulla. [The child who cried] stands on the road.
[Itkenyt lapsi] seisoi kadulla. [The child who had cried] stood on the road.

As you can see above, the VA-participle is used when the crying is happening while the child is standing there. If the crying is over by the time the child is standing on the road, we use the active past participle.

2.3. In the quasi construction (kvasirakenne)

There is a construction that uses the active present participle in order to express that you’re pretending to do something. This construction consists of the (plural) active present participle + the essive + a possessive suffix. The main verb of the sentence is always “olla”!

Finnish English
Olin nukkuvinani. I was pretending to sleep.
He eivät olleet kuulevinaan huomautusta. They pretended they weren’t hearing the comment.
Hän oli kuuntelevinaan. He was pretending to listen.

2.4. When you’re unsure about an observation

There’s another minimal use for the active present participle, which expresses that you think you experienced/observed something, but you’re not sure about it. This form is rarely used, and only with verbs that are related to perception. This construction also consists of the (plural) active present participle + the essive + a possessive suffix.

Finnish English
Olin äsken kuulevinani musiikkia. I thought I heard music a minute ago.
Unessani olin näkevini ystäväni. In my dream I thought I saw my friend.
Antti oli tunnistavinaan hänet. Antti thought he recognized her.

2.5. When using the “että construction” (referatiivirakenne)

The sentence “Luulen, että hän tulee myöhässä.” can be replaced by a reference structure (referatiivirakenne) which means the same thing: “Luulen hänen tulevan myöhässä.” We have an article on the referatiivirakenne here.

Finnish English
Minä tiesin tekeväni virheen. I knew I was making a mistake.
Hän sanoi tulevansa heti. He said he was coming right away.
Me epäilemme hänen valehtelevan. We suspect he’s lying.
Hän huomasi minun lähtevän. He noticed that I was leaving.

3. The Formation of the Active Present Participle

The active present participle’s marker is va/-. You add it to the strong stem for each verbtype. This is quite simple because it’s the same form you would use for the third person plural (-vat/-vät) except you don’t add the -t.

Verbtype 1
Verb Third Person Plural Active Present Participle Translation
nukkua he nukkuvat nukkuva lapsi a/the sleeping child
leipoa he leipovat leipova äiti a/the baking mother
Verbtype 2
Verb Third Person Plural Active Present Participle Translation
imuroida he imuroivat imuroiva isä a/the vacuum-cleaning father
tupakoida he tupakoivat tupakoiva kuljettaja a/the smoking driver
Verbtype 3
Verb Third Person Plural Active Present Participle Translation
kävellä he kävelevät kävele taapero a/the walking toddler
tulla he tulevat tuleva vuosi the coming year
Verbtype 4
Verb Third Person Plural Active Present Participle Translation
maata he makaavat makaava potilas the patient that’s laying down
kadota he katoavat katoava hetki the fleeting moment
Verbtype 5
Verb Third Person Plural Active Present Participle Translation
häiritä he häiritsevät häiritse naapuri a/the disruptive neighbor
tarvita he tarvitsevat apua tarvitseva lapsi a/the child that needs help
Verbtype 6
Verb Third Person Plural Active Present Participle Translation
vanheta he vanhenevat vanheneva nainen a/the aging woman
lämmetä he lämpenevät lämpene ilmasto a/the warming climate

4. The Inflection of the Active Present Participle

The participles can be inflected in all the Finnish cases.

Case Singular Plural Example
Nominative nukkuva nukkuvat Nukkuvat miehet kuorsaavat.
Genitive (-n) nukkuvan nukkuvien Nukkuvien lasten sängyt ovat matalia.
Partitive (-a) nukkuvaa nukkuvia Älä häiritse nukkuvaa karhua!
Illative (mihin) nukkuvaan nukkuviin Nukkuviin ihmisiin on vaikeaa tutustua.
Inessive (missä) nukkuvassa nukkuvissa Nukkuvassa tulivuoressa on laavaa.
Elative (mistä) nukkuvasta nukkuvista En tykkää nukkuvista karhuista.
Allative (mille) nukkuvalle nukkuville Minulla on lahja nukkuvalle serkulleni.
Adessive (millä) nukkuvalla nukkuvilla Nukkuvilla ihmisillä on yleensä silmät kiinni.
Ablative (miltä) nukkuvalta nukkuvilta Nukkuvilta ihmisiltä ei kannata pyytää mitään.
Translative (-ksi) nukkuvaksi nukkuviksi Häntä kutsuttiin nukkuvaksi sankariksi.
Essive (-na) nukkuvana nukkuvina Nukkuvana aika rientää.

Check out the other Finnish participles here!

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So if you wanna say “(verb) I could…” you have to use the että construction, alrighty then.


I’d like to know if it’s possible this structure when using the “että construction” (referatiivirakenne): 
minulla olevan…
for example…hän sanoi, että hän uskoi, että minulla on iso auto = hän sanoi, että hän uskoi minulla olevan iso auto.

Inge (admin)

Definitely possible, yes! Good question!


Thank you for the explanations!


Can va-participle be used as noun like in tava-participle?

Inge (admin)

It can, yes, when it’s referring to a person. “Älä herätä nukkuvaa” means “Don’t wake up the sleeping (unspecified person)”, while “Talossa nukkuvat eivät heränneet” means “The (people) sleeping in the house didn’t wake up”.