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This guide is for you if you understand the sentences "Professoril on kolm telefoni" and "Ministrid restoranides ei tantsi" but you do not know which of the following 30 sentences are correct (10 of them are):
|Olime pangas.||Olime pankas.||Olime pangades.||Olime pankades.||Olime pangates.|
|Haka lugema!||Hakka lugema!||Hakake lugema!||Hakkake lugema!||Hakka loema!|
|Tule restorani!||Tule restoranis!||Olin restoranis.||Olesin restoranis.||Olisin restoranis.|
|Me ei lähe kooli.||Me ei läheme kooli.||Me ei mineme kooli.||Me ei mine kooli.||Me ei läks kooli.|
|Koolis ei lugeta.||Te ei luge.||Te ei loe.||Te ei lugete.||Te ei loete.|
|Koolis ei istuda.||Tahan istuda.||Koolis mitte istuta.||Koolis ei istuta.||Tahan istuta.|
Here we pay most attention to those regularities that are hard to notice when one learns Estonian by example (e.g., at Livemocha or using Ilya Frank's Reading Method). The aim is to present the necessary theoretical knowledge as concisely as possible. In some sections, the exposition closely follows that in the excellent textbook by Juhan Tuldava.
The stem is the part of a word form that remains if we remove from the end the parts that show the case, number, person, mood, etc. Many words have two or more stem forms. This guide explains which forms of a word should be memorized and how to construct the other forms.
In this guide, an overlong syllable is indicated by a dot before it (for example, pro.fessoril), unless the word contains only one syllable (see Estonian Pronunciation Guide). This is important for distinguishing strong and weak stem forms.
Estonian lacks both the definite article and indefinite article. Estonian lacks distinct words for 'he', 'she', and 'it'. Verb forms make no distinction between the present and the future tense. The 2nd person plural is used as the polite (formal) form.
The negative form has no personal ending. The negative particle used with the present indicative is ei.
Personal endings in the present indicative are the same for all verbs (-n, -d, -b, -me, -te, and -vad). The only exception is the (positive) form of the 3rd person singular and plural of the verb 'to be'.
Adjectives agree in case and number with the nouns they modify.
The nominative case is used for subjects of sentences and predicate complements.
To show possession, the possessor is named first, in the genitive. Some prepositions and most postpositions require the genitive case.
In its basic meaning, the partitive indicates an indeterminate whole, of which only a part is under consideration. In particular, it is used after words of quantity.
In a nominative noun group with a cardinal number except 'one', the noun following the number is in the partitive singular.
In sentences expressing an on-going, incomplete, or repeated action and in negative sentences, the direct object is in the partitive case; this is the so-called partial object. In other sentences, the direct object is in the genitive or nominative case (in plural it is always in the nominative case); this is the so-called total object.
Besides the nominative, genitive, and partitive, there are 11 more cases (sometimes called semantic cases). They are formed from the genitive by adding the endings -sse, -s, -st, -le, -l, -lt, -ks, -ni, -na, -ta, and -ga. The six locative cases can in certain instances be replaced by postpositional expressions, especially if one wants to emphasize the location or direction.
We illustrate some of the functions of these cases.
To translate a phrase with the verb 'to have' into Estonian one uses the verb 'to be' and marks the possessor with the case that ends in -l. In negative sentences of this kind, the subject is usually in the partitive case.
In this section, when counting syllables for determining the declension pattern, we ignore all syllables before the stressed syllable (therefore limo.naad "has one syllable", whence it is declined similarly to lamp).
We are going to describe six declension patterns, which are common for nouns and adjectives (moreover, many numerals and pronouns follow these patterns too). The cases are listed in the following order: nominative, genitive, partitive. For most words, it suffices to memorize the gentitive singular and the partitive singular.
The genitive always ends in a vowel. The genitive of most words is obtained by adding to the nominative a vowel (a, e, i, or u; most often i). No vowel is added if the nominative already ends in a vowel.
If the nominative ends in -ne, then usually in the genitive -ne is replaced by -se.
Some words that in the nominative end in r, l, or n, lose the previous vowel in the genitive.
Some words have an additional syllable in the genitive.
If a monosyllabic word in the nominative ends in a consonant, then the word is declined following the pattern of lamp. For the words that follow this pattern, in the geinitive the stressed syllable is long, sometimes short, but never overlong, as in the nominative.
Some words that follow the pattern of lamp lose a consonant in the genitive or replace a consonant by another one.
The words that follow the pattern of lamp form the partitive by adding to the nominative the final vowel of the genitive. Many nouns and adjectives ending in -ik follow the pattern of lamp and obtain additional stress in the partitive singular.
Most other words form the partitive by adding -t to the genitive. However, if the genitive form ends in -se preceded by a vowel, then in most words the partitive ends in -st instead of -set.
As a rule, the partitive is identical to the genitive if (1) the genitive has four syllables and the nominative ends in l, m, n, or r or (2) the genitive has two syllables and the stressed syllable is short. These words follow the pattern of telefon.
The partitive is obtained by adding -d if the nominative has one syllable and ends in a vowel. These words follow the pattern of puu.
Some words do not follow any of the four patterns listed above.
For all nouns and adjectives, the nominative plural is obtained from the genitive singular by adding -d.
The genitive plural is obtained by adding -te or -de to the partitive singular stem (the endings -t and -d do not belong to the stem).
Some words, for example habe, use irregular stem in the genitive plural and partitive plural.
Most nouns and adjectives follow one of the six patterns listed below (given more or less in the order of decreasing frequency). This classification is based on the relations between the genitive singular, the partitive singular, the nominative plural, and the genitive plural and on the partitive plural ending.
Which words follow the patterns of lamp, telefon, and puu was explained in the previous two sections. A word follows the pattern of roheline if the genitive singular ends in -se and contains four syllables. A word follows the pattern of auto if the genitive singular contains two syllables and the stressed syllable is long. Other nouns and adjectives mostly follow the pattern of muusika.
If the partitive singular stem of a word following the pattern of muusika ends in i, then in the partitive plural i is replaced by e (before the ending -id).
For a word that follows the pattern of lamp or telefon, the final vowel of the partitive plural can be e, i, or u (most often e). It is best to memorize the vowel for each word (although some general rules exist). The partitive plural must also be memorized for the words that do not follow any of the above patterns.
The remaining 11 cases in plural are formed from the genitive plural by adding the case endings (which are the same as in the singular).
For some words, there are parallel forms in semantic cases. These forms are based on the partitive plural. They are rather rare.
The case with the ending -sse is called illative. Many words following the patterns of lamp, telefon, and roheline have a short form of the illative singular. For these words, the short forms are used more frequently than the usual forms, which are obtained by adding -sse to the genitive singular. Usually, the short illative is identical to the partitive singular.
If a noun phrase is in one of the cases ending in -ni, -na, -ta, or -ga, then only the main word takes the case ending, whereas other words are in the genitive form.
In many cases, personal pronouns have two forms. The long form is used when one wants to emphasize the pronoun. For pronouns, we list the nominative, genitive, partitive, ablative (the case with the ending -le), and adessive (the case with the ending -l). Other cases are formed similarly to the adessive (but in some cases short forms do not exist).
For most adjectives, the comparative and superlative are constructed by adding -m and -im, respectively, to the genitive singular. Another (more common) form of superlative is obtained by placing the word kõige before the comparative. The genitive of a comparative or superlative form always ends in a.
For some adjectives ending in -a, in the comparative the vowel a is replaced by e, and in the one-word superlative form the vowel a disappears.
The infinitive of a verb has the ending -da, -ta, or -a (most verbs use -da). The infinitive is used after most modal verbs.
To express negation, one adds the particle .mitte before the infinitive.
Some verbs have gradational stems. In the weak grade, either the syllabic quantity is reduced or some consonant disappears or some short plosive (written as g, d, or b) is replaced by j or v. (Similar gradation occurs in many nouns and adjectives, for example lamp, pruun, tuba, aeg, and halb.)
For most verbs with gradational stems, the strong stem form is used in the infinitive and the weak stem form is used in the present indicative.
On the other hand, for several verbal stems that end in a, the strong stem form is used in the present indicative and the weak stem form is used in the infinitive (with the ending -ta).
After verbs of movement, the supine is used instead of the infinitive. The supine always ends in -ma. If a verb stem has two forms, then in the supine the strong form is used. In a dictionary, verbs are listed under the supine.
The negative particle used with the supine is .mitte.
The supine is also used after the verbs .hakkama (hakataInf) and pidama (peanPrs.1Sg).
The passive past participle ends in -tud or -dud (most verbs use -tud). This form is called the -tud participle. All verbs except the modal verb pidama have this form. If a verb stem has two forms, then in the -tud participle the weak form is used.
With a few exceptions, all forms of all verbs can be derived from the following base forms: the supine (also called the -ma infinitive), the infinitive (also called the -da infinitive), the present indicative (for example, the 1st person singular), and the -tud participle. For most Estonian verbs, it suffices to memorize the infinitive and the present indicative. The majority of verbs can be classified according to the following three patterns.
Most verbs follow the pattern of kirjutama (the stem does not change). However, some verbs do not follow any of the above patterns.
For almost all verbs, the positive forms of the simple past use the stem of the supine.
If the stem ends in a consonant, then in the 3rd person singular the vowel i is added after the stem.
Most verbs indicate the simple past tense with -si-, but some use -i-.
The negative form in the simple past uses the stem of the infinitive. The ending is -nud regardless of the person and number of the subject.
For some verbs, the choice of the stem in the -nud form is irregular.
If a stem ends in a consonant preceded by a short vowel, then this consonant is written by means of two identical letters before a vowel and by means of one letter (and pronounced shorter) before another consonant.
The 2nd person singular imperative uses the bare stem of the present indicative. The 2nd person plural imperative has the ending -ge or -ke and is usually based on the stem of the infinitive. The 1st person plural imperative is obtained from the 2nd person plural imperative by adding -m.
In the imperative, the negative particle is different from that of the indicative and changes according to the subject.
The present conditional is indicated by -ksi-. It uses the stem of the present indicative and the personal endings of the simple past.
The negative form has no personal endings.
The active present participle is based on the stem of the supine and ends in -v (if the stem ends in a consonant, then -e- is added before -v, but only in the nominative singular). The passive present participle is based on the stem of the -tud participle and ends in -tav or -dav. Both present participles are declined following the pattern of muusika (in genitive, the vowel a is added).
The active past participle is based on the stem of the infinitive and ends in -nud (this is the form used in the negative simple past). The passive past participle was considered above (among the base forms). Both past participles are indeclinable.
The negative particle used with participles is .mitte. The particle and the participle form one word.
The perfect expresses a process or action that has taken place up to the present moment. The perfect is composed of the present-tense form of the verb olema and the active past participle.
The pluperfect expresses a process or action that had taken place up to a certain moment in the past. The pluperfect is composed of the simple past form of the verb olema and the active past participle.
In Estonian, the gerund indicates some action or process that occurs at the same time as another. The gerund is always obtained from the infinitive by replacing the final -a by -es.
The verb minema ('to go') is rather exceptional. Its base forms are minema, .minna, lähen, .mindud.
In several forms of minema, the choice of the stem is irregular.
The base forms of the verb tegema ('to do', 'to make') are tegema, teha, teen, .tehtud.
In some forms of tegema, the choice of the stem is irregular.
The jussive (often called the 3rd person imperative) indicates an indirect order or wish issued to a third party. The jussive form is obtained from the 2nd person plural imperative by replacing the final -e by -u (also in the negative particle).
The oblique mood (also called the quotative) is used when the speaker retells something heard from someone else. The oblique mood is obtained from the stem of the supine by adding -vat (thus, it is identical to the partitive singular of the active present participle).
Impersonal verb forms are translated into English by using the passive voice or an "impersonal" subject such as 'one', 'they', or 'people'. Impersonal forms are used without a subject. They are based on the stem of the -tud participle (with a few exceptions in the positive present indicative form). For positive impersonal forms, the endings are -takse/-dakse/-akse in the present indicative, -taks/-daks in the present conditional, -tagu/-dagu in the jussive, -tavat/-davat in the oblique mood, and -ti/-di in the past indicative. For negative impersonal forms, the endings are the same, except for -ta/-da in the present indicative and -tud/-dud in the past indicative. There are no impersonal forms in the imperative.
We list some exceptional positive present indicative forms.
For the perfect and pluperfect tenses, the impersonal is formed by replacing the active past participle (ending in -nud) by the passive past participle (ending in -tud/-dud) and putting the verb olema in the 3rd person singular form.
Estonian has many verbs with adverbial particles.
The emphatic particle -ki/-gi can be added to almost any word (at the very end of the word).
As an alternative form for ei ole, the word pole is often used, with the same meaning. Similar alternatives exist for all those negative forms of the verb olema where the negative particle is ei.
Yes/no questions and alternative questions begin with the interrogative kas.
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Last modified 22.08.2011.