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Third Person Imperative – Tulkoon – Jussiivi

This article looks at some harder imperative forms: the third person imperative and the passive imperative. If you’re a beginner, you should first check out the basic imperative, because this mood is something you usually learn pretty early on when studying Finnish. Some examples of the basic imperative in the singular are Syö! Tule! Älä tule! In the plural those forms are Syökää! Tulkaa! Älkää tulko! 

The harder imperative forms that you can find in this article are pretty rare. This is definitely an advanced topic (B1+). The third person imperative and passive imperative are called jussiivi (the jussive mood) by linguists. We will take a closer look at them below.

Table of Contents
  1. The Meaning of the Jussiivi
  2. The Formation of the Jussiivi
    1. The third person imperative forms
    2. The passive imperative form
    3. Negative third person imperative
  3. The Usage of the Jussiivi
    1. Phrases (Onneksi olkoon!)
    2. Bible phrases (Jumala varjelkoon!)
    3. Swears (Hitto soikoon!)
    4. Passive Imperative Phrases (Sanottakoon)
  4. The Sentence Construction of the Jussiivi
    1. Subjects and Objects are Possible
    2. The Subject’s Position (Syököön hän. Hän syököön.)
    3. The Object’s Inflection (Syököön omenan. Syötäköön omena.)
    4. The Object’s Position (Omena syötäköön. Syötäköön omena.)
  5. Advanced Discrepancies (B2+)

1. The Meaning of the Jussiivi

The third person imperative is used to give an order to someone who isn’t there to hear it (e.g. Tulkoon vain ‘Just let him come’; Tulkoot vain ‘Just let them come’). Usually, it has a hint of exasperation in it with the behavior of that person or the situation.

When translating this form to English, you will generally use “let him/her/them” with a second verb behind it. Below, you can see some examples of the third person singular imperative (#1), the third person plural imperative (#2) and the passive imperative (#3).

# Finnish English
1 Hän kertokoon sen. Let him tell it.
2 Lääkärit kertokoot sen. Let the doctors tell it.
3 Kerrottakoon se heti. Let it be told right away.
1 Puhukoon asiasta. Let him talk about it.
2 Puhukoot itse. Let them talk themselves.
3 Puhuttakoon asiasta. Let there be talked about it.
1 Lukekoon kirjan. Let him read the book.
2 Lukekoot kirjan. Let them read the book.
3 Luettakoon kirja. Let the book be read.

2. The Formation of the Jussiivi

2.1. The Third Person Imperative Forms

The jussiivi will have -koon/köön (in the singular) and -koot/kööt (in the plural) as its marker. This ending is added to the same form of the verb as the regular plural imperative.

Verb 2nd person plural 3rd person singular 3rd person plural
antaa antakaa! antakoon! antakoot!
nukkua nukkukaa! nukkukoon! nukkukoot!
silittää silittäkää! silittäköön! silittäkööt!
imuroida imuroikaa! imuroikoon! imuroikoot!
juoda juokaa! juokoon! juokoot!
tehdä tehkää! tehköön! tehkööt!
suudella suudelkaa! suudelkoon! suudelkoot!
nousta nouskaa! nouskoon! nouskoot!
tavata tavatkaa! tavatkoon! tavatkoot!
pudota pudotkaa! pudotkoon! pudotkoot!
valita valitkaa! valitkoon! valitkoot!

2.2. The Passive Imperative Form

In addition to the third person imperative forms, we also have the passive imperative. You will add -koon/köön to the stem of the present passive participle (TAVA-participle). For example annettakoon will be translated to English as “let it be given” and juotakoon as “let it be drunk”.

Verb Passive TAVA-participle Passive imperative
antaa annetaan annettava annettakoon!
nukkua nukutaan nukuttava nukuttakoon!
silittää silitetään silitettä silitettäköön!
imuroida imuroidaan imuroitava imuroitakoon!
juoda juodaan juotava juotakoon!
tehdä tehdään teh tehköön!
suudella suudellaan suudeltava suudeltakoon!
nousta noustaan noustava noustakoon!
tavata tavataan tavattava tavattakoon!
pudota pudotaan pudottava pudottakoon!
valita valitaan valittava valittakoon!

2.3. Negative Third Person Imperative

The negative third person imperative is formed with älköön in the singular and älkööt in the plural. The main verb will have -ko/kö added to it in the same way as the regular plural imperative (e.g. älkää menkö → älköön menkö, älkööt menkö).

For the passive, you will use älköön and the present passive participle stem with -ko/kö added to it.

3rd person singular 3rd person plural Passive imperative
älköön antako! älkööt antako! älköön annettako!
älköön nukkuko! älkööt nukkuko! älköön nukuttako!
älköön silittä! älkööt silittä! älköön silitettä!
älköön imuroiko! älkööt imuroiko! älköön imuroitako!
älköön juoko! älkööt juoko! älköön juotako!
älköön teh! älkööt teh! älköön tehtä!
älköön suudelko! älkööt suudelko! älköön suudeltako!
älköön nousko! älkööt nousko! älköön noustako!
älköön tavatko! älkööt tavatko! älköön tavattako!
älköön pudotko! älkööt pudotko! älköön pudottako!
älköön valitko! älkööt valitko! älköön valittako!

3. The Usage of the Jussive

As explained above, the third person imperative is used to order someone who isn’t present to do something (e.g. Tulkoon vain ‘Just let him come’). The passive imperative is usually more stiff or celebratory. Both of these types of harder imperative forms are rare, and they appear most commonly in phrases.

3.1. Phrase-Like Third Person Imperatives

Finnish English
Onneksi olkoon! Congratulations!
Olkoon menneeksi. In for a penny in for a pound.
Olkoon miten oli, … Be that as it may, …
Olkoon mitä oli, … Whatever it was, …
Kauan eläköön kuningas! Long live the king!
Eläköön! Eläköön! Eläköön! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Olkoon se sinulle opiksi. Let it be a lesson for you.

3.2. Bible Phrases with Third Person Imperatives

The bible is filled with great third person imperative examples, because it’s been translated from Hebrew, where this verb form is apparently quite common. The jussiivi appears in many prayers, as well as other texts in the Bible.

Finnish English
Pyhitetty olkoon Sinun nimesi. Hallowed be Thy name.
Tulkoon Sinun valtakuntasi. May Your kingdom come.
Tapahtukoon Sinun tahtosi. Let Your will be done.
Herra olkoon teidän kanssanne. May the Lord be with you.
Herra olkoon teille armollinen. May the Lord be merciful to you.
Herra antakoon teille rauhan. May the Lord grant you peace.
Herra siunatkoon teitä. May the Lord bless you.
Siunatkoon meitä kaikkivaltias. Bless us almighty.
Jumala varjelkoon! God forbid!

3.3. Swears with Third Person Imperatives

The third person imperative has been used in swear word phrases.

Finnish English
Pahus soikoon! Hitto soikoon! Damn it!
Piru periköön! Damn it!
Menköön hittoon. Fuck him. Let him go to hell.
Painukoon hän helvettiin! Let him go to hell!
Piru hänet vieköön! Damn him! Let the devil take him!

3.4. Passive Imperative Phrases

Finnish English
Kutsuttakoon häntä vaikka nimellä Matti. Let’s say we call him Matti.
Viimeinen kävijä sammuttakoon valot! The last visitor turns off the lights!
Sanottakoon heti alkuun Let’s just say, let me say right away…
Olisin myönnettäköön voinut… I admittedly could have…

4. The Sentence Construction of the Jussiivi

4.1. Subjects and Objects are Possible

Unlike the regular imperative forms (Syö! Syökää!), these sentences can have a subject and an object. They function well without both as well.

Finnish English
Hän syököön sen! Let him eat it!
He syökööt ne! Let them eat them!
Syököön mitä syö! Let him eat what he eats!
Syökööt kotona! Let them eat at home!

4.2. The Subject’s Position in the Sentence

The subject of a third person imperative sentence won’t have a fixed position in the sentence. It can appear both before and after the verb without changing the meaning of the sentence.

In the passive imperative form, there will of course be no subject. However, as always with the Finnish passive, it does imply that there is a person doing it.

Finnish English
Kansa syököön leivoksia! Let the nation eat cakes!
Syököön kansa leivoksia! Let the nation eat cakes!
Se syötäköön! Let it be eaten!
Kummit astukoot esiin! Let the godparents step forward!
Astukoot kummit esiin! Let the godparents step forward!

4.3. The Object’s Inflection in the Sentence

In these versions of the imperative, the inflection of the object is different from in the basic imperative. As you know, the object in a regular imperative sentence will never appear in the genitive; instead it will look like the nominative (e.g. Syö omena! Avaa ikkuna!).

For the jussiivi, you will follow the basic object rules. This means that for the third person imperative forms, you will have a genitive total objects (e.g. Syököön omenan. Syökööt omenan.) In contrast, in a passive sentence, your total object will look like the nominative (e.g. Syötäköön omena).

Finnish English
Syököön omenan. Let him eat the apple.
Syökööt omenan. Let them eat the apple.
Syötäköön omena. Let the apple be eaten.
Avatkoon ikkunan. Let him open the window.
Avatkoot ikkunan. Let them open the window.
Avattakoon ikkuna. Let the window be opened.

4.4. The Object’s Position in the Sentence

In theory, just like the subject, the object can be placed both before and after the verb. In reality though, you will only run into sentences with the object before the verb when we’re dealing with the passive imperative. For the third persons, you will mainly find the object behind the verb.

Finnish English
Hänet jätettäköön sinne. Let him be left there.
Jätettäköön hänet sinne. Let him be left there.
Jättäköön minut rauhaan. Let him leave me in peace.
Jättäkööt minut rauhaan. Let them leave me in peace.

5. Advanced Discrepancies (B2+)

Usually the singular third person imperative is generally used when referring to one person (e.g. olkoon hän). Likewise, the plural is generally used with multiple people (e.g. olkoot he).

However, this pattern can and will be broken, as all rules can be broken to stress something. Using -koot/kööt when there is nothing plural present can for example give a sentence an additional affective touch.

5.1. Singular Instead of Plural

You can find tulkoon (when it should be tulkoot) forms with plural subjects even in newspapers; even in the title of the article (read more here). This is interesting, because you’d think breaking rules like this would be purely a phenomenon in spoken language.

  • Muut pitäköön suunsa kiinni.
    “Let the others keep their mouth shut.”
  • Kaupat pysyköön kiinni sunnuntaisin.
    “Let the stores stay closed on Sundays.”

5.2. Plural Instead of Singular

Likewise, you can find examples of tulkoot being used with a singular subject. This is more common in spoken language.

  • Jonkun kännykkä soi tuolla mutta soikoot.
    “Someone’s phone is ringing over there, but let it ring.” (one phone)
  • Yhteiskunta hoitakoot sairaansa.
    Let society take care of the sick.” (society is singular)

In addition, more commonly, some verbs are used this way when there isn’t a clear subject to be mentioned at all, be it singular or plural. This is especially apparent with olkoot, which has gotten the meaning of “I don’t care” when appearing on its own. This is also the case when repeating the same verb twice.

  • Olkoot, keskityn nyt toipumiseen.
    “Whatever, I will focus on recovering now.”
  • Takkiin tuli, mutta tulkoot.
    “Some of it got on my coat, but whatever.”
  • Huonosti menee mutta menkööt.
    “It’s not going well, but whatever.”
  • Halvalla menee, mutta menkööt.
    “Selling for way too cheap, but whatever.”

In certain dialects, you will find the third person marker to be -kohon/köhön. This can be explained by looking at the history of the Finnish language. We might have an article discussing this up at some later date. In any case, it is not uncommon to find forms like olkohon, tulkohon, and lähteköhön in some dialects.

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¨The third person imperative is used to give an order to someone who isn’t there to hear it ¨
I don´t quite understand, if you say: ¨Hän kertokoon sen. = Let him tell it.¨ you do talk to someone who is there to hear. you are telling to someone to let another person tell it, so the third person may not be there, but the person you are talking to is there definitely.

If you could please help me understand.
thanks a lot!

The thing is, you’re not ordering the friend who can hear you to go tell the other person that he can tell it. For examples, say that Matti tells you that Anna has been telling your secret to everyone. You can say “Hän kertokoon sen kaikille” to Matti.

This doesn’t mean that you’re sending Matti to give Anna that message. It’s more along the lines of “Pfft! Let her tell me secret to everyone! I don’t even care.” Matti is there, but you’re not ordering Matti.

I guess in some of these cases, it’s more of a giving permission than giving an order. This is reflected in the English “let him” translation. I’ll see if I can clarify that point in this article.

I understand now, thanks a lot for the clarification.

I was just confused cause I didn’t hear much that grammatical form in English (neither in Finnish)