The 5 Finnish Infinitives
Finnish is said to have 5 infinitives. However, the number of infinitives listed can differ based on the source. For example, iso suomen kielioppi only talks about three infinitives: A-infinitiiv, MA-infinitiivi and E-infinitiivi. Another example is the fifth infinitive, which could also be seen as a “diminutive” of the third infinitive. On this page, I’m going to present the 5 Finnish infinitives the way I was originally taught.
1. The First Infinitive
The first infinitive is also called “the basic form” or “the dictionary form”. Another name it carries is the A-infinitive. It has received that name due to the fact that this infinitive always ends in an -A.
The first infinitive is what we base the Finnish verbtypes on! It’s the infinitive on which most of the rules for tenses, moods and derivatives are based. As such, it’s considered important for language learners.
The First Infinitive
|Verbtype 1||sanoa||to say|
|Verbtype 2||käydä||to visit|
|Verbtype 3||harjoitella||to practise|
|Verbtype 4||valita||to choose|
|Verbtype 5||häiritä||to disturb|
|Verbtype 6||vanheta||to get older|
The Long Form of the First Infinitive
|Verbtype 1||sanoakseni||in order for me to say|
|Verbtype 2||käydäkseni||in order for me to visit|
|Verbtype 3||harjoitellakseni||in order for me to practise|
|Verbtype 4||valitakseni||in order for me to choose|
|Verbtype 5||häiritäkseni||in order for me to disturb|
|Verbtype 6||vanhetakseni||in order for me to get older|
The long form of the first infinitive is a lot less important for language learners, but it’s still interesting to know it exists. You can read more about it on our page about the long form of the first infinitive.
2. The Second Infinitive (-en, -essa)
The second infinitive can appear in the inessive case in order to express things happening at the same time. This is used in the temporal substitute construction (= temporaalirakenne = temporaalinen lauseevastike). For example, maksaessani means “while I was paying” and odottaessanne means “while you were waiting”. There is also a passive inessive form.
It can also appear in the instructive case. In that case, it refers to the manner in which something is done. You use this form in the modal substitute construction (= modaalirakenne = modaalinen lauseenvastike). For example, puhun huutaen means “I talk in a shouting manner”, while puhun kuiskaten means “I talk with a whispery manner”.
|Verb||Active Inessive||Passive Inessive||Active Instructive|
3. The Third Infinitive (-massa, -maan)
The third infinitive is also called the mA-infinitive (mA-infinitiivi), due to the fact that you will be using the -mA- marker in it. This infinitive can occur in certain cases only. It never appears on its own in a sentence. Rather, it’s always part of a verb chain, with a main verb combined with the third infinitive of another verb.
|Stem||Isän maalaama talo näyttää hienolta.||The house my dad painted looks great.|
|Missä||Tapaturma sattui, kun olin maalaamassa.||The accident happened when I was painting.|
|Mistä||Tuletko suoraan maalaamasta?||Are you coming straight from painting?|
|Mihin||Aamulla menen maalaamaan aidan.||In the morning, I’m going to go paint the fence.|
|Millä||Rentoudun parhaiten maalaamalla.||I relax the best while painting.|
|Abessive||En voi olla maalaamatta!||I can’t not paint!|
|Instructive||Sinun pitää maalaaman.||You have to paint (archaic)|
You can read more about the third infinitive and about third infinitive rections on our website as well. The third infinitive is also used for the agent participle (agenttipartisiippi or mA-partisiippi).
4. The Fourth Infinitive (-minen)
The fourth infinitive is controversial because linguists have argued about what can be considered as the fourth infinitive and what can’t. In its most theoretical form, the fourth infinitive is only used in “sinun on tekeminen” type sentences, which are extremely rare and archaic.
However, you can also see the fourth infinitive from a wider perspective and categorize all nounalized verbs as fourth infinitive forms. This is not how serious linguists see it, but it is how you would be taught Finnish in immigration courses in Finland. When we include nounalized verbs into the field of the fourth infinitive, its usage suddenly shoots up and you have an infinitive you should learn to use as soon as possible!
|Nominative||maalaaminen||Maalaaminen on väsyttävää.|
|Genetive||maalaamisen||Aloitan maalaamisen huomenna.|
|Partitive||maalaamista||Rakastan pimeässä maalaamista.|
|Missä||maalaamisessa||Tärkein asia maalaamisessa on väri.|
|Mistä||maalaamisesta||En oikein tykkää maalaamisesta.|
|Mihin||maalaamiseen||Olen kyllästynyt maalaamiseen.|
|Millä||maalaamisella||Maalaamisella voi rentoutua.|
|Translative||maalaamiseksi||Valitaan väri aidan maalaamiseksi.|
5. The Fifth Infinitive (-maisillaan)
The fifth infinitive is a rare form which has the meaning ”on the verge of doing something; just about to do something”. Its marker is –mAisillA-, with a possessive suffix at the very end. Because of the -ma- at the beginning of the marker, we can also consider this infinitive to be part of the mA-infinitive. You can read more about it on the third infinitive page (point 2.9).