Suomen kieli ulkomaalaisille/Sisältö/Tahmaiset kirjaimet

This page is in development. Some of the material written here will be moved to other sections of the book in due course.

Introduction edit

The so called "sticky" consonants in Finnish are L N R and S and they behave in a particular "sticky" manner when adjacent to the powerful vowel E. The properties of these letters cause pronunciation effects in Finnish and these pronunciation effects are very regular and are reflected in Finnish orthography (i.e. the spelling of the written word)

Learning about the properties of these letters will help you to understand more about consonant gradation and the changes that occur, especially in verbs.

Types of effects edit

Consonant degradation effects in consonant clusters edit

LT > LL consonant degradation - T drops but sticky L retains a memory of the T as a long LL

so aalto wave becomes aallot the waves (e.g. the beach) in the nominative plural.

NK > NG consonant degradation - K drops but sticky N retains a memory of the K as NG

so Helsinki becomes Helsingin in the genitive

RT > RR consonant degradation - T drops but sticky R retains a memory of the T as a long RR

so parta beard but parran väri beard colour.

ST = ST does not degrade - Sticky S holds the T completely and prevents ST from degrading to SD

so rakastaa to love forms rakastan I love (and definititely not 'rakasdan' as it would if we followed the usual t to d degradation pattern).

We can see that S is slightly different and is somehow more 'sticky' than N, L or R.

In Nouns edit

In Verbs edit

Type 3 verbs edit

Sticky L N R and S are implicated in the special group of verbs dubbed as Verbs Type 3. This group includes verbs like mennä, tulla, purra, and päästä. These verbs have stem forms ending in L, N, R or S.

We will begin, not by thinking of how the verb is used when conjugated for person and only later will we consider how the infinitive is formed.

This requires us to think of the verb as having two parts, a stem containing the basic verb meaning and an ending containing information about the person performing the action considering

men- stem of the word go
tul- stem of the word come
pur- stem of the word bite
pääs- stem of the word get to/from or be allowed to get to/from

The present/future tense stem forms add -e- before the personal ending or -i- in the imperfect or simple past tense.

men- Go so menen I go/I will go, hän meni He went
tul- come so tulet You go/You will go he tulivat They came
pur- bite so puretko kynsiäsi ? do you bite your nails? purin kieleni I bit my tongue
pääs- get to/from so pääsen kotiin sunnuntaiaamuna. I'll get (to) home on Sunday morning soitin Timolle heti kun pääsin tänne I called (to) Timo as soon as I got here.

SO you can see that in the present tense we add e to the stem before adding the personal ending and in the past tense or imperfect we add i before adding the personal ending.

The dictionary forms of these verbs are made by adding a or ä to the stem according to the standard rules of making the first infinitive, but the sticky nature of the L N R and S can have one further effect on the stem which will now need to examine.

With stems ending N L or R, the letter is doubled before adding the first infinitive a or ä, so in effect we get a rather strong consonant at the end of the dictionary forms.

men- becomes MENNÄ to go
tul- becomes TULLA to come
pur- becomes PURRA to bite

S is again a little exceptional but perhaps for obvious reasons. It does NOT double the S before adding the infinitive -a or -ä (that would make -ssa or -ssä and thus appear like a nominal in the inessive case!) BUT INSTEAD ADDS T before adding the -a or -ä.

pääs- becomes PÄÄSTÄ to get to/from or to be allowed to get to/from

So all these verbs with stems ending in N L R or S form consonant clusters at the end of the dictionary forms which are therefore either NN LL RR or ST followed by the first infintive -A or -Ä according to standard vocal harmony rules.

So far this has been relatively easy to follow.

Now it gets little more complicated.

Whenever this strong cluster appears in the infinitive ending, it can weaken the last strong consonant or consonant cluster in the stem. This is because Finnish does not allow two strong consonants or consonant clusters to be separated by a single vowel. This is, more or less a phonetic rule rather than a grammar rule, but because it affects the phonetics, it carries over into the spelling.

TyöskeNTelen suomen kielen opettajana I am working as a Finnish language teacher
TyöskeNTelin suomen kielen opettajana I worked as Finnish language teacher
Haluaisin työskeNNeLLä suomen kielen opettajana I'd like to work as Finnish Language teacher

The strong LL cluster weakens the immediately preceeding NT cluster to NN.

So in summary:-

RULE: When the verb stem has a final consonant L, N, R or S, followed by e (present) or i (past tense), adding the infinitive end -A/Ä will cause the N L or R to be doubled and S will add T before the infinitive A/Ä.

And one other rule applies in this case

RULE: When forming the double LL NN RR or ST cluster to make the infinitive form of the verb, a preceding strong consonant before the stem ending is weakened.

A useful fact about all these verbs is that this rule is reversible and so it can also be said that

RULE: if the dictionary verb form ends NN RR SS or ST followed by -A/-Ä, then the A/Ä is dropped as well as the immediately preceding consonant. Before adding the personal ending add e for the present/future tense or i for the past tense. If, to the left of the N L R or S there is a weak form consonant or consonant cluster, it is strengthened in all of the present/future/imperfect forms.
PHONETIC RULE: Finnish does not allow two strong consonants or consonant clusters to be separated by a single vowel. If grammar rules create a strong consonant in the final syllable of a word, preceding strong grade consonant or consonant cluster will be weakened.

However, as we shall see below, the participle forms that are used to form certain past tense forms have weak rather than strong grade rather like the infinitive. However, we can use the phonetic rule to predict the form of the participle with absolute certainty, so there is no need to panic!

The past participle ending for most verbs is -NUT (or -NYT according to vocal harmony, or -NEET if plural). But if the verb stem ends in sticky L R or S, it will have the ending -LUT -RUT -SUT (or LYT -RYT or SYT according to harmony). So sticky S L N and R strike again! Because the verb stem also ends in L R N or S, in practice all verbs in Type 3 have past participle endings -NNUT -LLUT -RRUT -SSUT (or -NNYT, -LLYT, -RRYT or -SSYT) or -NNEET -LLEET -RREET or -SSEET if plural. (The past or second participle form is used when forming the negative imperfect, the perfect and the pluperfect forms),

Mennä > Mennyt Olen jo mennyt kaupassa I've already been to the shop
Tulla > Tullut Olin jo tullut kaupasta kun... I had already come from the shop when...
Purra > Purrut En purrut kynsiäni I did not bite my nails
Päästä > Päässyt Valitettavasti emme päässeet kävelemään Unfortunately, we didn't go walking

Because these forms all carry NN LL RR or SS, we can use the phonetic rule we learned earlier to predict with certainty that any verb carrying a strong grade stem form will have weakened form in the participle - i.e. it will be weak grade in the participle as we as the infinitive but strong in the forms with personal endings.


Työskennellä to work
Työskentelin I worked
En työskennellyt I did not work

Double LL forces the adjacent NT cluster to weaken to NN in both the sticky infinitive ending "-LLÄ" as well as the sticky participle ending "-LLYT". The same rule applies to all the verbs in this group where N L R or S is doubled to form either the participle or the infinitive ending.

Type 1 verbs - past tense edit

Type 1 verbs (where the first infinitive ends in two vowels) have a special subgroup in the formation of the past tense due to the influence of one of these sticky letters.

The subgroup applies to verbs that have a letter l, n, or r followed by t and aa or ää when followed by a t in Some behave differently to others in the way the simple past tense is formed.

Type 1 Verb (standard form) -

Aikoa To Intend

'Minä aion I intend
Minä aioin I intended

Leipoa To Bake

Minä leivon I (will) bake
Minä leivoin I baked

Type 2 Verb (with sticky l, n, r affecting the simple past tense)

Lentää To Fly

Minä lennän I (will) fly
Minä lensin I flew
NT > NN > NS in past tense

Hiertää To Rub

Minä hierrän I (will) rub
Minä hiersin I rubbed
RT > RR > RS in past tense