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The supernatural realm in Finnish

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Nouns in Finnish are declined in four or five realms, with three aspects to each realm and a few other cases.

There are realms of the whole, the part, inner and outer locality, and a kind of formal instrumentation subject to miscellaneous extra grammatical rules.

There are aspects of departure, sojourn, and arrival, respectively, for each realm.

  • the whole: nominative, accusative, genitive
  • the part: partitive, essive, translative
  • inner locality: elative, inessive, illative
  • outer locality: ablative, adessive, allative
  • instrumentation: abessive, instructive, comitative

There is another realm that only exists for a few pronouns that are not fully nouns in their own right.

  • supernatural: excessive, superessive, superlative

In Finnish, yli means “over,” ylä means “above,” and ylös means “up.” These words are thought to be suggestive or imitative of a wolf howling at the moon.

When the Bible says that the Lord ascended up far above all heavens, the superlative case is used in the Finnish language because that is considered so high as to be entering the supernatural realm.

  • Herra on noussut ylhäälle.

Now the wolf's ears are laid all the way back and she is howling toward the heavens in abject fright and terror of her life. When it is said in English, “God dwells on high,” the superessive case is used.

  • Jumala asuu ylhäällä.

Human beings are mortified and crumble to dust before anything that high. God is so high that He has to come down, but then it is said,

  • Jumalan viha ilmestyy ylhäältä.

The wrath of God is revealed from on high.

The Finnish word alas means down, suggestive of a cry of regret. In the superlative it is put alhaalle, suggesting the hideous scream of one falling into the underworld, condemned to eternal torment.

(There is something called “Pimpnet” and a malicious Android app called “RC Collect.”)

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Finnish verb infinitives are declined somewhat like nouns.

The first infinitive “-ä/a/tä/ta/dä/da” occurs only in the translative case, although that case ending “-ksi” is not used unless a possessive suffix is appended after it in the so-called “long form.”

The second infinitive “-e/te/de/i/ti/di-” is like the first, but it only occurs in the instructive and inessive cases to denote a “side action,” something that may be said to occur “by the way,” but more formally than that.

The third infinitive “-mä/ma” denotes the “main action” and the fourth infinitive “-minen” denotes the “process” or “function” of a verb.

For some reason, the partitive, essive, and translative cases (the realm of the part) of the third and fourth infinitives are not used: instead the elative, inessive, and illative cases (the realm of inner locality) are substituted. The instructive case, used almost exclusively in a formal plural for nouns, is used in the singular for the third infinitive, and not at all for the fourth.

A fifth infinitive, “-mäisillään/maisillaan,” is rarely used in the adessive case in a poetically emphatic repetition of a conjugated main verb. The possessive suffix is mandatory and matches the subject.

Certain verbs are “absolute” in meaning and lack some of the infinitives: elää, to live, and kuolla, to die, are among them. The adessive and inessive cases of the third infinitive are substituted for the instructive and inessive of the missing second infinitive of these verbs, and the fourth and fifth infinitives are not used. The verb olla, to be, has the second and third infinitives, but not the fourth or fifth, and generally not the long form of the first.

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The short form of the first infinitive in Finnish is used unchanged in the passive voice, as in English.

  • That's a good book to read. (passive infinitive)
  • That's a good boy to read the book. (active infinitive)

However, the long forms of the first and fifth infinitives and the instructive of the second are reserved for the active voice.

On the other hand, there seems to be a distinct passive voice for the third and fourth infinitives, and the inessive case of the second. The distinct forms of infinitives for the passive voice, which use the hard grade of the passive stem, are sometimes a little bit awkward and they tend to sound overconstructed and overeducated, and as in English, it is often better style to rephrase the clause to use the active voice. In Finnish, it is often as simple and usually quite correct to use the active form of the infinitive in place of the passive.

The passive voice of the verb olla, to be, is not used in correct Finnish.

And when I think about it something very strange happens to the verbs elää and kuolla in the passive voice. They seem to be “lifted” to a causative form by the insertion of an extra syllable, which seems automatic.



There is something unnatural or premeditated, and almost progressive about these passive forms: to say that people are living when they should be dead, or else they are being murdered or deadened or mortified by an unknown human agent.

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the progressive tenses in Finnish

Finnish has progressive tenses, much as English does, but there are some differences.

The progressive is limited to the present and imperfect, as it does not indicate a completed action. It is somewhat archaic and informal, poetic, perhaps, and it is a mistake to try to be too proper or correct with it: the conjugation is singular only and never pluralized. For the verb puhua, to speak:


  • minä olen puhuva // en ole puhuva
  • sinä olet puhuva // et ole puhuva
  • hän on puhuva // ei ole puhuva
  • me olemme puhuva // emme ole puhuva
  • te olette puhuva // ette ole puhuva
  • he on puhuva // ei ole puhuva
  • on puhuttava // ei ole puhuttava


  • minä olin puhuva // en ollut puhuva
  • sinä olit puhuva // et ollut puhuva
  • hän on puhuva // ei ollut puhuva
  • me olimme puhuva // emme olleet puhuva
  • te olitte puhuva // ette olleet puhuva
  • he oli puhuva // ei olleet puhuva
  • oli puhuttava // ei ollut puhuttava

The third person plural conjugation is rather rudely dropped to singular, which some people object to, but the «-vat» or «-vät» ending is much too formal, and more than redundant and unnecessary for the progessive tenses.

The meaning is not exactly the same as that of the progressive tenses in English, that something is happening, but more that something is supposed to happen or expected to happen or about to happen.

  • Laki on sitova. == The law is binding.
    • Not that one is already being arrested or placed in handcuffs, but that one can fully expect to be if one is doing anything wrong.
  • Pojat on alkava käymään koulussa. == The boys are supposed to start going to school.
    • Not that they aren’t playing hooky or being held back by their mothers for some cause or another.
  • On satava tänään. == It’s raining today.
    • In the sense that one might have just checked the weather forecast and expect it to rain; not a comment on present continually pouring rain.
  • Ei ollut satava tänään. == It wasn’t raining today.
    • That is, not according to the forecast; but now it’s pouring.

the potential mood

  • Koira puree. == The dog bites.
  • Koira purree. == The dog might bite.
  • Minä puhunen. == On a peur que je ne parle…
  • Minä en puhune. == On a peur que je ne parle pas…

Might or might not. A fine distinction, actually little more than a mark of hesitation or fear in the conjugation of the verb.

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I had to correct the table above. My memory is vague, recalling the speech patterns of the old ones from when I was a child, as a tape recorder, although I did not understand the words and grammar at that time, and those who now ought to know better do not tell the truth. It is:

he eivät olleet puhuneet = they had not spoken


he ei olleet puhuva = they were not [supposed] to speak

This seems correct, as I have heard it before, but it sounds rather rude to me to say,

he ei ollut puhuva

as I put it initially on the table, although this form is probably as acceptable as the other anymore these days.

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