Suomen kieli ulkomaalaisille/Eksistentiaalilause

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What is an Existential Clause?[edit]

An existential clause is one using the verb to declare the existence or place (or movement to or from a place) of some SUBJECT not previously spoken about. So it would be impossible to use a pronoun in an existential clause because pronouns require that we know what the noun is.


Format of an Existential Clause[edit]

Existential clauses always begin with the declaration of place, followed by the verb (usually OLLA but not necessarily).


So typically the format is

  • ADVERB VERB SUBJECT
  • MISSÄ ON MIKÄ (or MITÄ)
At some place IS something

Note: There is never an object in an existential statement.

Learning examples[edit]

Pihalla on kaksi polkupyörää

Literally On the yard there is two bikes
Standard English There are a couple of bikes in the yard

Equally the existential sentence can be negative in meaning, in which case the verb is negative

Asunnossamme ei ole saunaa

Literally In our apartment not is sauna
Standard English There is no sauna in our apartment

And the verb does not have to be OLLA

Kouluun tulee pari vierailijaa

Literally To the school comes two visitors
Standard English There are two visitors coming the school


Some Important Things to Note[edit]

Despite the similarity to English, there are several strong difference here.

1. The strong preference in English for SUBJECT to come before the VERB means that English puts the adverbial aspect at the end, whereas Finnish ALWAYS puts the adverbial place first when the sentence is introducing a new subject in an existential clause. So although Finnish is often more relaxed than English about word order, the existential clause word order is always ADVERB-VERB-SUBJECT.

2. English moves the verb according to the subject (IS or THERE ARE according to number). Finnish existential sentences the verb is ALWAYS IN THE THIRD PERSON SINGULAR even when there is more than one SUBJECT.

Hence the use of the verbs form ON and TULEE not OVAT and TULEVAT in the examples above.