Finnish for busy people

The Order of Finnish Suffixes – Miehelleni Talossammekin

This article should help you figure out the order of the Finnish suffixes! It deals with questions like these:

  • Is it “vaimolleni” or “vaimonille“?
    Answer: vaimolleni (possessive suffixes go behind the case endings)
  • Should you say “talossammekin“, “talokinssamme” or “talommessakin“?
    Answer: talossammekin

Finnish has long words. This is due to the many cases, suffixes, derivational elements in Finnish. All these elements are called morphemes. Verbs and nouns get different types of morphemes, as you will see in this article.

Table of Contents
  1. Suffixes in the longest Finnish words
  2. Elements added to nouns
    1. Possible elements for nouns
    2. Order of the suffixes for nouns
  3. Elements added to verbs
    1. Possible elements for verbs
    2. Order of the suffixes for verbs
  4. Limitations for suffixes
    1. The plurals of nouns
    2. The clitics –pa, –s and –han
    3. The passive marker
  5. Elements added to infinitives
  6. Elements added to participles

1. Suffixes in the longest Finnish words

Let’s start with the very extreme! We can make a word longer by adding many derivational elements to the base of the word as well as suffixes. That’s how the infamous “longest Finnish word” has been formed: epä|järjestelmä|llis|ty|ttä|mättö|myyde|llä|nsä|kään|kö|hän. I suggest you read through this reddit post to find out more.

  • järjestelmä “system”, noun
  • järjestelmällinen, adjective
  • epäjärjestelmällinen, adjective
  • epäjärjestelmällistää, verb
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttää, verb
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämätön, adjective
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyys, noun
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellä, noun with case ending
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsä, noun with case ending and possessive suffix
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään, noun with case ending, and two suffixes
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään, noun with case ending and three suffixes
  • epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän, noun with case ending and four suffixes

The common remark people have when seeing this word is that it’s not the basic form of a word; it’s a word with four suffixes. As such, people have come up with another infamous “longest Finnish word”. This one doesn’t have any suffixes: Lento|kone|suihku|turbiini|moottori|apu|mekaanikko|ali|upseeri|oppilas. This compound word means “airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student” (translation from Wikipedia).

There are some elements that can be added to almost any type of word (such as the question suffix -ko/kö and the clitic -kin). Others are exclusive to verbs or nouns. Below, you can find separate sections for different types of words.

2. Elements Added to Nouns

2.1. Possible Elements for Nouns

The following elements of language can be added to nouns:

These elements can be combined to make longer words. We can, for example, take the word jääkaappi and make one word that translates as “in our fridge as well?”: jää|kaapi|ssa|mme|kin|ko? The parts of that word are:

  • jää- “ice”
  • jääkaappi “refrigerator”
  • jääkaapissa “in the fridge”
  • jääkaapissamme “in our fridge”
  • jääkaapissammekin “in our fridge as well”
  • jääkaapissammekinko “in our fridge as well?”

2.2. Order of the Suffixes for Nouns

The order of the elements added to the end of nouns is as follows:

  1. Stem of the noun: eg. talo
  2. Plural marker: T-plural or the plural marker -i- (see section 4.1)
  3. Case ending: eg. partitive, genetive, illative
  4. Possessive suffix: eg. -ni for minun
  5. Other suffixes: -kin/-kaan + -ko + -pa(s) + –han (see section 4.2)

Note that you don’t need to use every single one of these elements when creating a word. A noun can, for example, simply get a possessive suffix and none of the other elements. The order presented in this article takes all the possible types of suffixes into account.

Whole word stem plural case poss.suff. suffix suffix suffix suffix
talot talo t
talokin talo kin
talossa talo ssa
taloihin talo i hin
taloissammme talo i ssa mme
taloksiko talo ksi ko
talossapas talo ssa pas
taloistannekinkohan talo i sta nne kin ko han
List of all the cases

These are all the Finnish cases:

  • Nominative ie. the basic form: talo, minä, silmä, rikas
  • Genetive: talon, minun, silmän, rikkaan
  • Partitive: taloa, minua, silmää, rikasta
  • Accusative: minut
  • Inessive: talossa, minussa, silmässä, rikkaassa
  • Elative: talosta, minusta, silmästä, rikkaasta
  • Illative: taloon, minuun, silmään, rikkaaseen
  • Adessive: talolla, minulla, silmällä, rikkaalla
  • Allative: talolle, minulle, silmälle, rikkaalle
  • Ablative: talolta, minulta, silmältä, rikkaalta
  • Translative: taloksi, minuksi, silmäksi, rikkaaksi
  • Essive: talona, minuna, silmänä, rikkaana
  • Comitative: taloineen, silmineen, rikkaine
  • Abessive: talotta, minutta, silmättä, rikkaatta
  • Instructive: taloin, silmin, rikkain

Note that you can only have one case ending at a time. You can not, for example, inflect a word in both the missä-form and the partitive case.

3. Elements Added to Verbs

3.1. Possible Elements for Verbs

  • Derivational elements: eg. -yty (peseytyä), -tta (korjauttaa), -u (kaatua)
  • Tenses: eg. present (no marker), imperfect (sanoi)
  • Moods: eg. imperative (sanokaa), conditional (sanoisi), potential (sanonee)
  • Personal endings: eg. sanon, sanot, sanomme
  • Suffixes: eg. -ko (juoko?), -kin (juokin), -pa (juopa), -han (juohan)

We can do the same with a verb, starting with sanoa, in order to create a word that means that you’re wondering if someone would would be laid off as well: “irtisanottaisiinkinkohan?

  • irti “off”
  • irtisanoa “to lay off”
  • irtisanotaan “x is laid off”
  • irtisanottaisiin “x would be laid off”
  • irtisanottaisiinkin “x would be laid off as well”
  • irtisanottaisiinkinko “would x be laid off as well?”
  • irtisanottaisiinkinkohan “I wonder if x would be laid off as well?”

3.2. Order of the Suffixes for Verbs

There are more limitations for suffixes of verbs that there are for nouns. Here is the general order of the elements that can be added to a verb’s stem:

  1. Stem of the verb: eg. seiso
  2. Passive: eg. -ta
  3. a) Tense: present (no marker) or imperfect OR
    b) Mood: imperative, conditional or potential
  4. Personal ending: eg. -n for minä
  5. Other suffixes: -kin/-kaan + -ko + -pa(s) + –han (see section 4.2)
Whole word stem passive tense/mood pers.suff suffix suffix suffix suffix
seisomme seiso mme
seisopas seiso pa(s)
seisokaahan seiso kaa han
seisoisitteko seiso isi tte ko
seisoinko seiso i n ko
seisotaankin seiso ta an kin
seisottaisiinkin seiso tta isi in kin
seisonemmekinko seiso ne mme kin ko

4. Limitations for Suffixes of Nouns and Verbs

There are some additional limitations concerning the combination of the elements presented in this article so far.

4.1. The Plurals of Nouns and Participles

The plural marker for nouns is either -t or -i-. If you’re only a beginner, the opposition between the -t- and -i- plurals is not something you should worry about too much yet. It will become clear as you advance in your studies.

The T-plural is used when no other case endings are added. However, note that this doesn’t include other suffixes. Nouns in the T-plural can still get, for example, a possessive suffix. We can create, for example, the word talotkohan.

You will  use -i- as the plural marker when a case ending is used, such as the inessive (taloissa) or the translative (taloiksi). Not that in some words and cases, this -i- will actually be a -j-! For the word talo for example, the plural partitive will be taloja and the plural genetive talojen.

4.2. The clitics –pa,s and –han

The clitics –pa,s and –han are very common in everyday Finnish language. All three are used to change the tone of what you’re saying slightly. They can, for example, make your sentence a little more colloquial, or turn a statement into a request. If you’re a beginner, you should just let these clitics be until you’ve advanced some more.

We can come up with words or phrases which use multiple of these clitics. Some of them will sound natural, while others seem a bit weird. As a learner of Finnish, you will need to get used to the usage of these clitics in real-life situations. The theoretical possibility of a certain string of suffixes doesn’t always match up with what will actually be used in practical Finnish.

While –pa and –han very often appear in the same word (eg. Tulipahan sanottua), the clitics -s and -han will generally not appear side by side.

  • Common: meni, menis, menihän, menihän
  • Impossible: menishän, menishän

The suffix -s can also appear on its own at the end of imperatives (eg. Tules tänne) or behind -ko/kö (Oletkos kuullut?), but not behind all tenses and moods.

5. Order of the Elements of Infinitives

This is an advanced grammar topic! You won’t need this until you’re at least level B1.1. Infinitives are much like nouns in the sense that they get case endings such as the inessive case‘s –ssa/ssä.

The order of the elements added to the end of infinitives is as follows:

  1. Stem of the infinitive: eg. seiso
  2. Passive marker: eg. –tta (only in the second infinitive)
  3. Infinitive marker: a, e, ma or mis
  4. Plural marker: the plural marker -i- (only in the third infinitive)
  5. Case ending: eg. partitive, translative, inessive (limited number of cases possible)
  6. Possessive suffix: eg. -ni for minun
  7. Other suffixes: -kin/-kaan + -ko + -pa(s) + –han (see section 4.2)
Whole word stem passive infin. plural case poss.suff. suffix suffix suffix
seisoa seiso a
seisoakseni seiso a kse ni
seisoaksemmekohan seiso a kse mme ko han
seisominen seiso minen
seisomista seiso mis ta
seisomassa seiso ma ssa
seisomattakin seiso ma tta kin
seisomaisillaan seiso mais i lla an
seisoessa seiso e ssa
seisottaessa seiso tta e ssa

6. Order of the Elements of Participles

This is an advanced grammar topic! You won’t need this until you’re at least level B1.1. Participles can behave as adjectives, which means they get all the suffixes that nouns can also get. In addition, there are special participle constructions which create forms with multiple suffixes.

The order of the elements added to the end of infinitives is as follows:

  1. Stem of the infinitive: eg. seiso
  2. Passive marker: eg. –tta
  3. Participle marker: eg. va, nut, tu
  4. Plural marker: T-plural or the plural marker -i- (see section 4.1)
  5. Case ending: eg. partitive, genetive, illative
  6. Possessive suffix: eg. -ni for minun
  7. Other suffixes: -kin/-kaan + -ko + -pa(s) + –han (see section 4.2)
Whole word stem passive partic. plural case poss.suff. suffix suffix suffix
seisovat seiso va t
seisovallakaankohan seiso va lla kaan ko han
seisottava seiso tta va
seisottavissa seiso tta v i ssa
seisovinani seiso v i na ni
seisonuttakin seiso nut ta kin
seisottuna seiso ttu* na

* -ttu is both the passive and the participle marker in one.

Read more elsewhere

Hopefully you found what you were looking for in this article on the order of suffixes in Finnish words.

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