Appendix:Finnish participles

Finnish has six types of participles which are treated like adjectives and can e.g. appear in both attributive and predicative positions.

Present participles


Present participles (also called "first participles" or "participles type I", particularly in older grammars) have two forms: active (-va) and passive (-tava, -ttava). The literal meaning of present active participles is "which does X" and of present passive participles is "which has X being done to it".

laulava lintua singing bird (a bird that sings)
nukkuva eläina sleeping animal (an animal that sleeps or is sleeping)
syötävä ateriathe meal that is eaten
puhuttava aihethe subject (that is being) talked about

Present passive participles can be further used to mean "which is to be X". They can also mean "which can be X", although that is more commonly expressed by taking the present passive participle, inflecting it into the plural inessive case (adessive plural for some verbs, like saada) and then using it like an adverb (or as an adjective with oleva).

tehtävä toimenpidethe action to be done
pelättävä asiaa thing to be scared of
ostettava tuote (~ tuote on ostettavissa)a buyable product (~ the product is buyable)

Many Finnish adjectives are etymologically present participles, such as osaava (capable), from osata (to have the ability or skill to).

Finnish present participles are used to form the present and past "prospective" tenses, which are restricted to formal or literary language.

Past participles


Past participles (also called "second participles" or "participles type II", particularly in older grammars) are similar to present participles in that they have two forms; active (-nut) and passive (-tu, -ttu). The literal meaning of past active participles is "which did or has done X" and of past passive participles is "which had or has has X done to it".

lähtenyt ihminenthe person that left
äsken tullut vierasthe guest that came recently
talon rakentanut yritysthe company that built the house
nähty elokuvathe movie (that was) seen
palkittu näyttelijäthe rewarded actor / the actor (that was) rewarded
viime vuonna rakennettu siltathe bridge built last year

Finnish past participles are also used for building some compound forms, such as the negative for the indicative past tense, as well as perfect and past perfect tense forms for all moods. Whether the active past participle or the passive past participle is used depends on the voice (active or passive). The active past participles of intransitive verbs and passive past participles of transitive verbs also have an adjectival sense; many Finnish adjectives are actually past participles.

Agent participles


Agent participles (-ma) are only used for transitive verbs, i.e. verbs that can take an object. They are used to form participial phrases with the literal meaning "which someone does X or did X". Agent participles are used like adjectives, and chiefly used with either a possessive suffix or a subject in the genitive case (placed before the participle). Agent participles do not distinguish between tense or aspect.

maalaamani talo(the) house which I painted / (the) house painted by me
miehen maalaama talo(the) house which the man painted / (the) house painted by the man
ostamani auto on halvempi kuin isän ostamathe car I bought is cheaper than the car my father bought

Negative participles


Negative participles (-maton) are used as adjectives and act as negative forms of any of the present or past participles, but most commonly for the passive participles (e.g. "which does not have X done to them", "which did not have X done to them"). The exact interpretation often depends on context.

kelpaamaton henkilöan incapable person (literally, “a person that does not suffice”)
kelpaamaton ajatusan unacceptable idea (literally, “an idea that is/was not acceptable”)
kokematon ohjaajaan unexperienced director (literally, “a director that has not experienced”)
kokematon tilannean unexperienced situation (literally, “a situation that has not been experienced”)
sietämätön asiaan intolerable matter (literally, “a matter that cannot be tolerated”)
sietämätön henkilöan intolerable person (literally, “a person that cannot be tolerated”)
arvostelua sietämätön henkilöa person that does not tolerate criticism
julkaisematon kirjaan unpublished book (literally, “a book that has not been published”)
julkaisematon kirjailijaan unpublished author (literally, “an author that has not published”)

Examples of participles

Examples of participles with maalata (to paint)
Type Example Translation
Present active participle maalaava mies a painting man, a man who paints or can paint
Past active participle maalannut mies a man who has painted
Present passive participle maalattava talo the house being painted, the house to be painted
Past passive participle maalattu talo the painted house, the house that was painted
Agent participle miehen maalaama talo the house painted by the man
Negative participle maalaamaton talo the unpainted house, the house not painted

Relative clauses


Each of the six types of participles can be replaced by a relative clause.

maalaava mies ~ mies, joka maalaathe man that paints
maalannut mies ~ mies, joka maalasithe man that (has) painted
maalattava talo ~ talo, jota/joka maalataanthe house that is being painted / the house that is to be painted
maalattu talo ~ talo, joka/jota maalattiinthe house that was (being) painted
maalaamani talo ~ talo, jonka maalaan/maalasinthe house that I paint/painted
(somewhat ambiguous, as agent participles do not distinguish between present/past)
maalaamaton talo ~ talo, jota ei ole maalattuthe house that has not been painted
(most ambiguous, as the negative participle could also be present or be an active participle)

Participle constructs

  • olla + present active participle: (literary, poetic) shall
    hän on huomenna ajava autoahe shall drive the car tomorrow
  • genitive + olla + passive present participle: have to, must
    minun on ajettava autoaI must drive the car.
  • olla + past active/passive participle: perfect/pluperfect tense
  • verb of realization or awareness + genitive singular of a present participle + possessive suffix: ...X will/would...
    hän pelkäsi joutuvansa...he/she was afraid he/she would end up (in)...
  • the inessive plural form of a past passive participle: that can be X-ed, -able, -ible (used adverbially; oleva for attributive use)
    koettavissathat can be experienced
    the adessive is used with some verbs, particularly ones denoting location: ulottua (to reach)ulottuvilla (reachable, attainable)
  • the inessive plural form of a negative participle: that cannot be X-ed, un-...-able, un-...-ible (used adverbially; oleva for attributive use)

The next three are kinds of absolute constructs (lauseenvastike), alongside infinitive constructs:

  • verbs of observation or apparent quality + genitive of the present active/passive participle (+ possible possessive suffix): to appear to be doing (present "referative construct")
    Hänellä vaikuttaa olevan kiire.
    It appears he/she is busy.
    Kuulin hänen tulevan.
    I heard him/her coming.
    Luulen matkustavani ulkomaille toukokuussa.
    I think I will travel abroad this May.
    Luulen tästä puhuttavan vielä.
    I think this will be talked about one day.
  • verbs of observation or apparent quality + genitive of the past active/passive participle (+ possible possessive suffix): to appear to have done (past "referative construct")
    Hänellä vaikuttaa olleen kiire.
    It appears he/she has been busy.
    Heikki kertoi voittaneensa suunnistusmestaruuden.
    Heikki told me he won the orienteering championships.
    Luulin tästä puhutun eilen.
    I thought this was talked about yesterday.
  • partitive singular of the past passive participle (+ possible possessive suffix): having done ... (past "temporal construct")
    saavuttuani kotiin...after I had come home...
    pormestarin puhuttua...after the mayor had spoken...



All participles are fully inflectable nominals.

  • Present participles (both active -va and passive -(t)tava) and agent participles (-ma) belong to inflection type 10 (koira).
  • Past active participles (-(n)ut) belong to their own inflection type, type 47 (kuollut).
  • Past passive participles (-(t)tu) belong to inflection type 1 (valo), possibly with gradation.
  • Negative participles (-maton) belong to inflection type 34 (onneton), with gradation.