Finnish for busy people

The Fourth Infinitive -minen Neljäs Infinitiivi

Finnish has five infinitives. This article focuses on the fourth infinitive, which is formed by adding -minen to the strong stem of verbs.

Table of Contents
  1. The Formation of the Fourth Infinitive
  2. The Inflection of the Fourth Infinitive
  3. The Use of Fourth Infinitive
    1. Fourth Infinitive as a Subject
    2. Fourth Infinitive Rections
    3. Fourth Infinitive Necessity
    4. Puhui puhumistaan

1. The Formation of the Fourth Infinitive

The fourth infinitive ends in -minen. You add this ending to the strong stem of the verb, which you can find by taking the third person plural form, and removing the -vat.

Verb Third person plural Fourth infinitive
nukkua he nukkuvat nukkuminen
syödä he syövät syöminen
ajatella he ajattelevat ajatteleminen
tavata he tapaavat tapaaminen
häiritä he häiritsevät häiritseminen
rohjeta he rohkenevat rohkeneminen

Some verbs also have a second noun describing the same action (eg. juokseminen = juoksu, uiminen = uinti). These forms have the exact same meaning. Not all verbs can have both versions, but every single verb can be made into a –minen noun.

2. The Inflection of the Fourth Infinitive

The -minen ending can make a noun out of a verb. The result can be called a nounalized verb. Since you change verbs into substantives, the result can be inflected into all the cases! To do that, you treat the -minen form as a noun with ending -nen (like for example punainen or suomalainen). For example:

Case Nainen Hevonen Lukeminen Saaminen
Partitive naista hevosta lukemista saamista
Genitive naisen hevosen lukemisen saamisen
Inessive naisessa hevosessa lukemisessa saamisessa
Elative naisesta hevosesta lukemisesta saamisesta

3. The Use of the Fourth Infinitive

When using certain verbs in connection with other verbs, you sometimes have to turn them into a substantive. In English, you do this by adding -ing to the verb (e.g. I enjoy reading). In Finnish, you can recognise this specific form by the ending -minen. The –minen form of the verb is the nounalized verb!

Note for advanced learners

Advanced Finnish linguistic sources will make a distinction between -minen as a noun (teonnimi) and -minen as an infinitive. According to those sources, the fourth infinitive is limited to the nessessive use of the form (see part 3.3. below). These sources consider the nounalized verb as a separate entity despite it having the exact same basic form. I don’t see a need to consider these two separate entities. If you’re an advanced learner, you can read more about this here, here and here.

3.1. Fourth Infinitive as a Subject

If you’d like to say “swimming is fun” or “cleaning is boring”, you will need the -minen form of the verb. These are all sentences with the verb olla, whose adjectives are always inflected in the partitive case. This is due to the complement rule (see 2.2.2) that says that subjects expressing an activity will have a partitive case complement.

Verb Finnish English
nukkua Nukkuminen on tärkeää. Sleeping is important.
tupakoida Tupakoiminen on epäterveellis. Smoking is unhealthy.
kävellä Metsässä käveleminen on mukavaa. Walking in the forest is pleasant.
siivota Siivoaminen on tylsää. Cleaning is boring.
potkia Seinään potkiminen kielletty (pic). Kicking the wall (is) forbidden.

3.2. Fourth Infinitive Rections

There are certain verbs that require the -minen form for any verbs attached to them. The most common ones are probably harrastaa and pitää. Of those two, harrastaa required the partitive form of the verb (harrastan lukemista) and pitää requires the -mistä form (pidän lukemisesta). You can read more about the verb harrastaa in our separate article.

In addition to harrastaa and pitää, there are quite a lot of verbs that require the inflected -minen form in sentences. Below are some examples, but you can find more of them in a separate article.

Verb Example Translation
aloittaa Aloitan laihduttamisen huomenna. I start dieting tomorrow
lopettaa Lopetin vihdoin tupakoimisen. I finally quit smoking.
Verb Example Translation
rakastaa Katri rakastaa laulamista. Katri loves singing.
harrastaa Venla harrastaa juoksemista. Venla enjoys running.
inhota Inhoan juoruilemista. I hate gossiping.
vihata Vihaatko lentämistä? Do you hate flying?
pelätä He pelkäävät ratsastamista. They fear horse riding.
Verb Example Translation
pitää Pidättekö kokkaamisesta? Do you like cooking?
tykätä En tykkää tiskaamisesta. I don’t like doing the dishes.
nauttia Nautin saunomisesta. I enjoy taking a sauna.

3.3. Fourth Infinitive Necessity

This section of the page deals with what is linguistically seen as the true fourth infinitive. It’s extremely rare. It expresses that an action is preferable (or in a negative sentence that the action is not preferable).

Fourth infinitive More common way English
Jos Anttia on uskominen. Jos Anttia voi uskoa. If Antti can be believed.
Sinne ei ole menemistä. Sinne ei kannata mennä. You shouldn’t go there.
Sitä ei käy kieltäminen. Sitä ei voi kieltää. It can’t/shouldn’t be denied.

3.4. Puhui Puhumistaan

There is also a sentence construction that utilizes the fourth infinitive’s nounalized verb. With it, you can express a continual action. This construction consists of:

  1. a verb describing the action, followed by
  2. the nounalized version of the same verb. (the second part will be inflected into the partitive and be followed by a possessive suffix)
Finnish English
Hän puhui puhumistaan. He talked and talked.
Hän juoksi juoksemistaan. She ran and ran.
Myrsky yltyi yltymistään. The storm kept getting stronger and stronger.
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