Finnish for busy people

The Past Passive – Passiivin Imperfekti

The past passive is very common in both sentences where we don’t specify who did the action, and in spoken language. In spoken language it replaces the me-form of the verb (e.g. me menimme becomes me mentiin).

1. Use of the Passive imperfect

Hard to decide if I want to call this form the “past passive” or “passive imperfect”. Whichever you prefer, the usage is the same. The passive (both the present passive and the past passive) are used in the same situations. I will be focusing on the formation of the past passive in this article.

Some example sentences:

Finnish English
Viime vuonna viljeltiin vähemmän viljaa. Last year less grain was cultivated.
Puhelimia käytettiin vain soittamiseen. Phones were only used for calling.
Me käveltiin eilen kouluun. We walked to school yesterday.
Siellä ammuttiin ilotulitteita. Fireworks were fired there.

2. The Formation of the Passive Imperfect

The present passive and the past passive are not always added to the same form, nor have the same ending each time. Some verbtypes have -tiin as the past passive’s marker, while others have -ttiin.

2.1. Verbtype 1 Passive: weak stem + -ttiin

For verbtype 1 verbs that end in -oa, -öä, -ua, -yä, -ea, -eä, -ia, or -iä, you use the weak stem and add -ttiin to it. The weak stem is found by taking the minä-form of the verb and remove the -n.

Verb Minä-form Passive Example sentence
sanoa minä sano-n sanottiin Aamulla sanottiin “huomenta”.
nukkua minä nuku-n nukuttiin Viime yönä nukuttiin hyvin.
lähteä minä lähde-n lähdettiin Eilen lähdettiin lomalle.

The second rule for verbtype 1 only applies to verbs whose infinitive ends in -aa/ää. For these verbs, you remove the -a/ä- at the end of the stem and replace with with an -e-.

Verb Minä-form Passive Example sentence
ottaa minä ota-n otettiin Otettiinko avaimet mukaan?
rakastaa minä rakasta-n rakastettiin Me rakastettiin toisiamme.
maksaa minä maksa-n maksettiin Kaupassa maksettiin käteisellä.
säästää minä säästä-n säästettiin Rahaa säästettiin patjan alla.
pyytää minä pyydä-n pyydettiin Apua pyydettiin naapureilta.

2.2. Verbtypes 2 and 3: infinitive’s stem + -tiin

The infinitive’s stem is the stem you get by removing the last two letters of verbtype 2 and 3. To this stem, you add -tiin. If a vertype 3 verb normally undergoes consonant gradation, you will use the weak form for the passive imperfect, because it’s based on the infinitive, which is also weak.

Verb Passive Verb Passive
saa-da saatiin teh-dä tehtiin
myy-dä myytiin imuroi-da imuroitiin
ajatel-la ajateltiin ommel-la ommeltiin
pääs-tä päästiin pes-tä pestiin
men-nä mentiin pan-na pantiin
sur-ra surtiin pur-ra purtiin

Below, you can find some example sentences of verbtype 2 and 3 verbs.

Example Translation
Me saatiin eilen lähteä aikaisemmin. We were allowed to leave earlier yesterday.
Suomessa myytiin viime vuonna vähemmän viinaa. Less liquor was sold in Finland last year.
Ennen ajateltiin, että sade oli jumalten kyyneleitä. They used to think rain was the tears of the gods.
Me päästiin aamulla nopeasti töihin. We got to work quickly this morning.
Viime kesänä me mentiin Särkänniemelle. We went to Särkänniemi last summer.
Stalinin kuolemaa surtiin Suomessa. The death of Stalin was mourned in Finland.

2.3. Verbtypes 4, 5, and 6: infinitive’s stem + -ttiin

The infinitive’s stem is the stem you get by removing the last two letters of verbtype 4, 5 and 6. For these verbs, the passive imperfect will always be weak because it’s based on the weak infinitive (e.g. pelä- instead of pelkä- for the verb pelätä).

Verb Passive Verb Passive
halu-ta haluttiin siivo-ta siivottiin
tava-ta tavattiin maa-ta maattiin
tarvi-ta tarvittiin pelä-tä pelättiin
vali-ta valittiin häiri-tä häirittiin
vanhe-ta vanhettiin halli-ta hallittiin
pae-ta paettiin nuore-ta nuorettiin

Below, you can find some example sentences which contain the passive imperfect of verbtype 4, 5 and 6 verbs.

Example Translation
Me haluttiin enemmän palkkaa. We wanted more wages.
Ennen tavattiin ystäviä useammin. Before, people met friends more often.
Tarvittiinko tähän oikeasti tutkimus? Did we really need research about this?
Presidentti valittiin äänestyksellä. The president was chosen by vote.
Hotelli siivottiin öisin. The hotel was cleaned during the nights.
Mökki maalattiin tänään. The cottage was painted today.

3. Consonant Gradation in the Passive Imperfect

The passive imperfect for all verbtypes is weak! That’s due to the fact that verbtype 1 is taken from the first person singular (the minä-form) and the other verbtypes from the basic form. Finally something is easy!

Verb Passive Verb Passive Verb Passive
nukkua nukuttiin leipoa leivottiin ampua ammuttiin
kunnella kuunneltiin jutella juteltiin ommella ommeltiin
pelätä pelättiin tavata tavattiin pudota pudottiin
tarjeta tarjettiin lämmetä mmettiin paeta paettiin

4. The Negative Passive Imperfect

Take the positive passive imperfect and remove the -iin. Behind the one or two t’s you have left then, add -u or -y, depending on vowel harmony. In front of this word construction you of course have to add “ei”.

Verb Present Past Negative Past
nukkua nukutaan nukuttiin ei nukuttu
leipoa leivotaan leivottiin ei leivottu
juoda juodaan juotiin ei juotu
tehdä tehdään tehtiin ei tehty
olla ollaan oltiin ei oltu
ommella ommellaan ommeltiin ei ommeltu
tavata tavataan tavattiin ei tavattu
haluta halutaan haluttiin ei haluttu
tarvita tarvitaan tarvittiin ei tarvittu
rohjeta rohjetaan rohjettiin ei rohjettu

This form is also called the TU-participle or passive past participle.

5. The Object in Passive Sentences

In passive sentences, the object will never appear in the genitive case. Affirmative sentences will have objects in the basic form. In negative sentences there is no difference between regular sentences and passives.

Regular sentence Passive sentence
Minä söin omenan. Omena syötiin.
Miehet rakensivat talon. Talo rakennettiin.
Me avasimme ikkunan. Me avattiin ikkuna.
Me emme syöneet omenaa. Me ei syöty omenaa.
He eivät rakentaneet taloa. Taloa ei rakennettu.

You can read more about the object in general here.

Real-language use of the past passive

If you’re interested in how the conditional is used in authentic situations, you can listen to the following song:

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Just a question to section 2.2. In example given:
“Me saatiin eilen lähteä aikaisemmin. We were allowed to leave earlier yesterday.”
Is this an example of he spoken passive that refers to “me” or is it the actual passive (if we translate “we were allowed” it is passive, but if we take “we were able” it is the “me” passive). Kiitos paljon!

Inge (admin)

Hmm hmm… I had a hard time understanding your question, but let’s see if I can clear it up. Do ask any follow-up questiongs you have if I’m misunderstanding!

First, that example sentence is the spoken passive, not the actual passive.

“Saada” doesn’t mean “to be able to”. That’s “osata”. Maybe the small difference between “minä saan” (I was allowed) and “minä osaan” (I am able to) is causing this confusing?

While “saada” technically has a passive meaning in English (someone is allowing you to leave), its not considered passive in Finnish:
“Minä sain lähteä” means “I could leave; I was allowed to leave”.
“Me saatiin lähteä” is the spoken language form of “Me saimme lähteä”, “we could leave; were allowed to leave”.

I racked my brain but couldn’t think of any situations where the verb “saada” in its meaning of “having permission” would have been used in an actual passive sentence. All I kept coming up with were spoken passive examples.


That’s clear now – “saada” has a passive meaning when translated to English, but not in Finnish and this is what caused my confusion. Thanks! You do a great job with this site!

Inge (admin)

Alright! Glad I managed to clear that up for you. Thanks for the feedback and good luck with your studies 🙂


Do you have any suggestions for listening and reading for A2 exam?

Inge (admin)

I suppose you could do the exercises at the lowest level of YKI-treenit. Those are level A1-A2. Some of them will seem very easy, while some would be more your level:

Nothing else really springs to mind that would be specifically for level A2.

  1. Me käveltiin eilen kouluun (passive imperfect)
  1. Me kävelimme eilen kouluun (imperfect)

Can you show me the difference between 2 sentences above. Thanks so much!

Inge (admin)

Just like the present tense passive, “me käveltiin” is the spoken language version of “me kävelimme”.