The Inessive Case (Missä) – Finnish Grammar

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Inessive Case
    1. When something is IN something
    2. When two things are closely connected
    3. When objects have something
    4. When using the verb ”käydä”
    5. With certain expressions of time
    6. With the third infinitive
    7. With the second infinitive
  2. The Formation of the Inessive Case
    1. Words ending in a single vowel
    2. Words ending in an -e
    3. Words ending in -nen
    4. 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 Inessive Case

1. Use of the Inessive Case (Missä)

1.1. When saying something is IN something

When something is in something, inside something physically, you will use the -ssa case.

Finnish English
Leipä on kaapissa. The bread is in the cupboard.
Me asumme Suomessa. We live in Finland.
Kirjastossa on tänään paljon ihmisiä. There are many people in the library today.

1.2. When two things are closely connected

When two things are very close to each other, or connected in a way where one doesn’t easily come loose from the other, we can also use -ssa. This is different from in English.

Finnish English
Katja Lehtinen puhelimessa. Katja Lehtinen on (”in”) the telephone.
Istumme pöydässä. We sit at (”in”) the table.
Sormus on sormessa. The ring is on (”in”) the finger.
Kenkä on jalassa. The shoe is on (”in”) the foot.
Käsineet ovat käsissä. The gloves are on (”in”) the hands.

1.3. When objects have something

When people have something, you use the minulla on -sentence construction. When a THING has something, you generally use the inessive (-ssa). This is not a fool-proof rule, but you’re bound to run into this.

Affirmative Translation 1 Translation 2
Asunnossa on ikkuna. In the apartment there is a window. The apartment has a window.
Kirjassa on yli 300 sivua. In the book there are over 300 pages. The book has over 300 pages.
Autossa on neljä rengasta. In the car there are four wheels. The car has four wheels
Pöydässä on neljä jalkaa. In the table there are four legs. The table has four legs.

1.4. When using the verb ”käydä”

The verb ”käydä” means ”to visit”, but the meaning of it is a lot wider than in English. In Finnish, you visit the toilet, the store and the shower. The idea of ”käydä” is that you go somewhere, stay there for a short period of time, and then return to where you came from. In that light, you can see very well why you would ”visit” the toilet. If you say you ”go” to the toilet, you’re kind of focusing on the trip there rather than on the fact that you’ll be back after a little bit.

Finnish English
Minä käyn kaupassa. I visit the store.
Me kävimme Suomessa. We visited Finland.
Minä käyn suihkussa. I go have a shower
Sanna kävi vessassa. Sanna went to the toilet.

1.5. With certain expressions of time

Some expressions of time use the missä-form. With expressions of time, I recommend against comparing with English because you will find out the Finnish system is a lot more difficult. Find out more in the article about expressions of time.

Finnish English
joulukuussa in December
kerran vuodessa
once a year
kolme kertaa päivässä
three times a day
viidessä minuutissa in five minutes
kerran kuussa once a month

1.6. With the third infinitive

The inessive can also be used in combination with the third infinitive. For example: Olin lukemassa. Olitteko nukkumassa? Kävin ostamassa ruokaa.

1.7. With the second infinitive

In the temporal participle construction, you will use the second infinitive in combination with the inessive to express that two things are happening at the same time (eg. ”Hämärässä lukiessa silmät alkavat särkeä” = ”When reading in the dark your eyes start hurting.”


2. The Formation of the Inessive Case

The inessive is one of the six location cases. Its ending -ssa/ssä gets added to the same form as most of the other locations cases (-sta, -lla, -lta, -lle)

2.1. Words ending in a single vowel (-a/-ä, -u/-y, -o/-ö): add -ssa/-ssä

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

Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
kala kalassa tyyny tyynyssä talo talossa
seinä seinässä työ työssä melu melussa

2.2. Words ending in -e: add an extra -e- before the -ssa/-ssä

Words ending in -e get a second -e- in any case except the partitive.

Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
huone huoneessa perhe perheessä kappale kappaleessa
kirje kirjeessä lentokone lentokoneessa taide taiteessa
parveke parvekkeessa koe kokeessa aste asteessa

2.3. Words ending in -nen: replace the -nen with -se/-se before the -ssa/-ssä

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

Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
nainen naisessa hevonen hevosessa suomalainen suomalaisessa
eteinen eteisessä iloinen iloisessa ihminen ihmisessä
sininen sinisessä toinen toisessa tavallinen tavallisessa

2.4. Words ending in -i

2.4.1. New words ending in -i: add -ssa/-ssä

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 Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
banaani banaanissa paperi paperissa kahvi kahvissa
pankki pankissa posti postissa maali maalissa
tili tilissä adverbi adverbissa dollari dollarissa

2.4.2. Old words ending in -i: replace -i- with -e- and add -ssa/-ssä

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

Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
suomi suomessa ovi ovessa järvi järvessä
kivi kivessä suuri suuressa nimi nimessä
pieni pienessä lehti lehdessä pilvi pilvessä

2.4.3. Old words ending in -si: replace -si- with -de- and add -ssa/-ssä

More old words, but this time with -si at their end. This group has its own additional change: the -si will turn into -de-.

Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
uusi uudessa vuosi vuodessa si dessä
kuukausi kuukaudessa vesi vedessä reisi reidessä

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


3. Consonant Gradation in the Inessive Case

Wordtype A
Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
tyttö tytössä pankki pankissa puku puvussa
pöytä pöydässä hattu hatussa kauppa kaupassa
silta sillassa kampa kammassa hiekka hiekassa

I have a separate article on wordtype A.

Wordtype B
Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive Nominative Inessive
savuke savukkeessa opas oppaassa keitin keittimessä
tavoite tavoitteessa rakas rakkaassa hammas hampaassa
soitin soittimessa puhallin puhaltimessa allas altaassa

I have a separate article on wordtype B.


That concludes the article on the inessive case!

 

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