Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How many grammatical cases are there in Finnish?
Kati: And how do they work?
Michael: At FinnishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Ben Lee is confused about the number of cases in Finnish. He asks a befriended teacher, Salla Salo:
"How many cases are there in Finnish?"
Ben Lee: Kuinka monta sijamuotoa on suomen kielessä?
Dialogue
Ben Lee: Kuinka monta sijamuotoa on suomen kielessä?
Salla Salo: Sijamuotoja on 15.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Ben Lee: Kuinka monta sijamuotoa on suomen kielessä?
Michael: "How many cases are there in Finnish?"
Salla Salo: Sijamuotoja on 15.
Michael: "There are 15 cases."

Lesson focus

Michael: Finnish is one of the languages with the most number of noun cases, with a total of fifteen. In this lesson, we'll go through the most popular ones, starting with the four grammatical cases, the first one being,
Kati: nominatiivi
Michael: or the "nominative" case. The next one is
Kati: genetiivi
Michael: or the "genitive" case. And then there's the
Kati: akkusatiivi
Michael: or the "accusative" case. And, finally, we have the
Kati: partitiivi
Michael: or the "partitive" case. So, how do each of these cases work? Let's start with the nominative case. This case is used for a noun when it is the subject in a sentence. Also, the noun in this case is in its most basic form, which means no prefix or suffix is attached to it. Here's an example:
Kati: Talo on kaunis.
Michael: "The house is beautiful." Here, the word for "house" is in the nominative case,
Kati: talo
Michael: Next, here's an example for the genitive case:
Kati: Talon katto on punainen.
Michael: "The roof of the house is red." The genitive case is used for showing possession. In this case, the word for "house" is in the genitive case. Notice how a suffix
Kati: -n
Michael: was added to the base word, so that it now becomes
Kati: talon
Michael: Next, let's take a look at the "accusative case."
The accusative case is the most complex one among the four as it has three variants. There's the true accusative where the noun receives the suffix -t, there's the second variant where the noun is identical to the nominative, and then there's the variant where the noun is identical to the genitive. Here's an example of the first variant:
Kati: Minä näin hänet.
Michael: "I saw him." This is an example of a true accusative case where the subject receives the suffix -t. Let's try an example of the variant that's homophonous to the genitive:
Kati: Minä näin auton
Michael: "I saw the car." This variant emerges if the object in the sentence is not a pronoun and is in the singular. This is also known as the n-accusative, as it takes the suffix -n just like it does in the genitive form. Now, Let's take a look at the "partitive" case:
Kati: Hänellä on useita taloja.
Michael: "He has several houses." The Finnish partitive case has no equivalent in English and most languages. In this example, it is used with a word that expresses quantity and takes the suffix
Kati: -ja.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Now, let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Ben says "How many cases are there in Finnish?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Kati as Ben Lee: Kuinka monta sijamuotoa on suomen kielessä?
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Salla Salo says, "There are 15 cases."
(pause 4 seconds)
Kati as Salla Salo: Sijamuotoja on 15.
Michael: With 15 noun cases, The Finnish language has the third most in the world. We've covered four cases, so far, but it also has six locative cases, two essive cases, and three marginal cases.
[Summary]
Michael: In this lesson, you've learned that Finnish has a total of fifteen noun cases, which includes the four grammatical cases we've already covered, which are,
Kati: nominatiivi
Michael: the "nominative" case,
Kati: genetiivi
Michael: the "genitive" case,
Kati: akkusatiivi
Michael: the "accusative" case,
Kati: partitiivi
Michael: and the "partitive" case.
Expansion/Contrast
Michael: With the exception of the accusative case, these are the most commonly used cases used in Finnish, covering 70% of all occurrences. The fifteen cases can be divided into three categories by how frequently they are used. The second most used categories belong to the locative and essive cases. The accusative is sometimes considered as part of the locative, but since we've covered it already, let's just focus on the rest starting with
Kati: inessiivi
Michael: The "inessive" case carries the basic meaning of "in," with the noun taking the suffix
Kati: -ssa or -ssä
Michael: such as in
Kati: talossa.
Michael: or "in the house." The next one is
Kati: elatiivi
Michael: The "elative" case carries the basic meaning of "out of" or "from a," with the noun taking either of the suffixes
Kati: -sta or -stä
Michael: as in
Kati: talosta
Michael: or "from the house." The next one is
Kati: illatiivi
Michael: The "illative" case carries the basic meaning of "into," with the noun taking either of the suffixes
Kati: -Vn, -seen or -siin
Michael: as in
Kati: taloon
Michael: or "into the house." The next one is
Kati: adessiivi
Michael: The "adessive" case carries the basic meaning of "on" or "at," with the noun taking either of the suffixes
Kati: -lla or -llä
Michael: as in
Kati: talolla
Michael: or "at a house." The next one is
Kati: ablatiivi
Michael: The "ablative" case is used to express motion away from something, with the noun taking either of the suffixes
Kati: -lta or -ltä
Michael: as in
Kati: talolta
Michael: or "from a house." Next, we have
Kati: allatiivi
Michael: The "allative" case indicates movement to the surface of something with the noun taking the suffixes
Kati: -lle
Michael: as in
Kati: talolle
Michael: or "to the house." Now, onto the essive cases starting with
Kati: essiivi
Michael: The "essive" case denotes a temporary state of being or expresses a period of time during which something took place. The noun, in this case, takes either of the suffixes
Kati: -na or -nä
Michael: as in
Kati: talona
Michael: or "as a house." Next, we have
Kati: translatiivi
Michael: The "translative" case denotes a change in the state of the noun, such as when someone or something becomes another person or thing. With this case, the noun taking either of the suffixes
Kati: -ksi or -kse
Michael: as in
Kati: taloksi
Michael: or "to a house." The three remaining cases are referred to as "marginal" cases and are mostly used in special phrases only. The first of these three is
Kati: instruktiivi
Michael: The "instructive" case carries the basic meaning of "by means of," with the noun taking the suffix
Kati:-n
Michael: as in
Kati: taloin
Michael: or "by means of a house." The next one is
Kati: abessiivi
Michael: The "abessive" case expresses the lack or absence of the noun, with the noun taking either of the suffixes
Kati: -tta or -ttä
Michael: as in
Kati: talotta
Michael: or "without a house." And, finally, we have
Kati: komitatiivi
Michael: The "comitative" case denotes accompaniment, with the noun taking the suffix Kati: -ine
Michael: as in
Kati: taloineen
Michael: or "with my house."
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: It's important to note that there are differences in opinion as to whether the Finnish accusative case should be considered a grammatical case at all. This is due to the fact it coincides with both the nominative and genitive cases, except for the personal interrogative pronoun
Kati: kuka
Michael: the equivalent of "who" in English, and the personal pronouns.
A Finnish grammar publication,
Kati: Iso suomen kielioppi
Michael: or "The Large Grammar of Finnish," does not list the accusative as a part of the fifteen cases, although it doesn't invalidate the traditional view at the same time. It's safe to say then that whether or not an accusative case exists in Finnish depends on one's opinion.

Outro

Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Kati: Hei hei!
Michael: See you soon!

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