The Finnish 3rd infinitive: verb stem + -MAAN, -MASSA, -MASTA

You may have seen Finnish verb forms like syömään, syömässä and syömästä. These are the 3 most common ones out of the 5 different varieties of the 3rd infinitive.

These three cases (yes, Finnish verbs can take cases) that I will talk about in this post are illatiivi, inessiivi and elatiivi.

  • ILLATIIVI answers to mihin? / where to?
  • INESSIIVI answers to missä? / where?
  • ELATIIVI answers to mistä? / from where?

How do you form it?

If you know how to use the verb with he ('they', third person plural), you'll know how to work with the 3rd infinitive. Just remove the personal ending -vat/vät and replace it with -maan/-mään, -massa/-mässä, -masta/-mästä. For example:

  • juosta - he juoksevat - juoksemaan/juoksemassa/juoksemasta 
  • tavata - he tapaavat - tapaamaan/tapaamassa/tapaamasta
  • lukea - he lukevat - lukemaan/lukemassa/lukemasta
  • käydä - he käyvät - käymään/käymässä/käymästä

Ok, so forming the 3rd infinitive is quite straightforward if you know the conjugation of the he form. But when do you use it?


Let's take the verb ripustaa, 'to hang' (washing/laundry) as an example.
He ripustavat --> the stem is ripusta-. See the image below for the endings:


And here are a couple of little example dialogues:

1: Mihin sinä menet?
(Where are you going?)
- Menen ulos ripustamaan pyykkejä.
(I'm going out to hang the washing.)

2: Missä sinä olet?
(Where are you?)
- Olen ulkona ripustamassa pyykkejä.
(I'm outside, hanging the washing.)

3: Mistä sinä tulet?
(Where are you coming from?)
- Tulen ripustamasta pyykkejä.
(I'm coming back from hanging the washing/"I've been outside hanging the washing")

This last one is quite hard to translate. Just think of it all as a timeline. This -MASTA is what you would say you "came from" when you come back from the garden where you have just been hanging the washing.


Other examples...

That was the usage of -MAAN-MASSA-MASTA in a nutshell. My example was quite a concrete one, however, there are some common expressions with these forms, especially with -MAAN and -MASTA, that are more abstract in meaning:

Hän oppi nopeasti puhumaan suomea.
(He/she quickly learned to speak Finnish.)

Auta minua nostamaan tämä laatikko.
(Help me lift this box.)

Me aloimme seurustelemaan viime vuonna.*
(We started dating last year.)
*This used to be considered puhekieli, even "bad Finnish", and Me aloimme seurustella was preferred over it. However, in the recent years, the -MAAN form has been accepted as standard Finnish.

Lakkaa puhumasta!
(Stop talking!)

Hän kielsi minua kertomasta kenellekään.
(She/he forbade me from telling anyone.)


Any questions, let me know in the comments!