Estonian grammar

Estonian grammar

Estonian grammar is a grammar of the Estonian language.

Nouns

Inflectional endings as listed below are added to the stem of a noun, which is formed from:
* singular genitive: singular cases except nominative and partitive, plural nominative,
* singular partitive: plural genitive,
* plural genitive: plural cases except nominative and partitive.

Singular nominative, singular genitive and singular partitive are not predictable and have to be taken from the vocabulary (gradation may also apply).

Singular nominative can take the following endings: "-ja" (agent, from "-ma" infinitive), "-mine" (gerund, from "-ma" infinitive), "-la, -nna, -tar, -ur, -stik, -ndik, -nik, -ik, -k, -ng, -lane, -line, -kene, -ke, -e, -ndus, -dus, -us, -is, -kond, -nd, -istu, -u".

Singular genitive can take the following endings: "-a, -e, -i, -u".

Singular partitive can take the following endings: "-d, -t, -a, -e, -i, -u".

Plural partitive is formed from either singular genitive or singular partitive and can take the following endings (some words have two forms):
* "-id": one-syllable words with long vowels "aa, ee, õõ, uu, öö, ää", two-syllable words with long vowels or endings "-em, -en, -el, -er, -ar, -ur, -e, -ne, -s" or singular genitive with one or three syllables, three-syllable words with endings "-ne, -s",
* "-sid": one-syllable words with long vowels "ii, üü" or a diphthong, two-syllable words with short vowels, three-syllable words with endings "-um, -on, -er, -ar, -är, -ov, -nna",
* "-e": words with singular partitive endings "-i, -u, -j", or singular partitive ending "-a" with the preceding syllable containing "u",
* "-i": words with singular partitive ending "-e", or singular partitive ending on consonant with singular genitive ending "-e", or singular partitive ending "-a" with the preceding syllable containing vowels "e, o, ä, ö, ü" or a diphthong with one of these vowels as the first sound with the exception of "ei, äi",
* "-u": words with singular partitive ending "-a" with the preceding syllable containing vowels "a, i, õ" or diphthongs "ei, äi".

Singular illative has a short form in some words. It can take the following endings: "-de", "-he", "-hu", "-a", "-e", "-i", "-u". In case it takes the vowel ending, this vowel is the same as the ending vowel of the singular genitive form of the given word, but the vowel (if it is already long or a diphthong) or its preceding consonant (if the vowel is short and the consonant either short or long) is lengthened to the third degree and thus becomes overlong. If illative ends with "-sesse", then the short form is "-sse".

Plural illative, inessive, elative, allative, adessive, ablative, translative have a short form in some words. If the plural partitive ends with "-id", then the short plural stem is this form without "-d" (instead of plural genitive with "-de-"); if it ends with a vowel, then the short plural stem is this form; if it ends with "-sid", then the short plural cannot be formed.

Emphasis: noun + "-gi" (after a final voiced consonant or vowel) / "-ki" (after a final voiceless consonant).

Pronouns
* personal (nominative - genitive - partitive, singular / plural): "m(in)a - m(in)u - mind / m(ei)e - m(ei)e - meid" (I), "s(in)a - s(in)u - sind / t(ei)e - t(ei)e - teid" (you), "t(em)a - t(em)a - teda / n(em)ad - nende - neid" (he/she/it); reflexive: "ise - enese/enda - ennast/end / ise - eneste/endi - endid" (-self)
* demonstrative (nominative - genitive - partitive, singular / plural): "see - selle - seda / need - nende - neid" (this/that), "too - tolle - toda / nood - nonde - noid" (yonder)
* interrogative (nominative - genitive - partitive): "kes - kelle - keda" (who), "mis - mille - mida" (what), "milline - millise - millist" (which out of many), "kumb - kumma - kumba" (which out of two)
* existential (nominative - genitive - partitive): "keegi - kellegi - kedagi" (someone), "miski - millegi - midagi" (something), "mõni - mõne - mõnda" (some), "ükski - ühegi - ühtegi" (one)
* free choice (nominative - genitive - partitive): "mingi - mingi - mingit" (anyone/anything/any), "kumbki - kummagi - kumbagi" (either)
* universal (nominative - genitive - partitive): "kõik - kõige - kõike" (everyone/everything/each), "mõlemad - mõlema - mõlemat" (both)

Adpositions

Postpositions
* with the genitive case and declinable (illative/allative - inessive/adessive - elative/ablative): "alla - all - allt" (under), "ette - ees - eest" (in front of), "juurde - juures - juurest" (at), "järele - järel - järelt" (after), "keskele - keskel - keskelt" (in the middle), "kohale - kohal - kohalt" (above), "kõrvale - kõrval - kõrvalt" (beside), "kätte - käes - käest" (in the hand of), "lähedale - lähedal - lähedalt" (near), "peale - peal - pealt" (on), "sisse - sees - seest" (in), "taha - taga - tagant" (behind), "vahele - vahel - vahelt" (between), "äärde - ääres - äärest" (by)
* with the genitive case and non-declinable: "eest / jaoks" (for), "järgi" (according to), "kaudu" (via), "kohta" (about), "pärast" (on account of), "vastas" (vis-à-vis), "vastu" (against), "üle" (over), "ümber" (around)
* with the partitive case: "mööda" (along)
* with the elative case: "alla" (down), "läbi" (through), "peale / saadik" (since)

Prepositions
* with the genitive case: "läbi" (through), "peale" (besides), "üle" (over), "ümber" (around)
* with the partitive case: "alla" (down), "enne" (before), "kesk / keset" (amid), "mööda" (along), "piki" (alongside), "peale / pärast" (after), "vastu" (against)
* with the terminative case: "kuni" (until)
* with the abessive case: "ilma" (without)
* with the comitative case: "koos / ühes" (with)

Verbs

Inflectional endings as listed below are added to the stem of a verb, which is formed from:
* indicative mood active voice singular first person of positive present tense (by dropping "-n"): indicative mood active voice of present tense, conditional mood active voice of present tense, imperative mood active voice singular second person of present tense,
* "-ma" infinitive (by dropping "-ma"; if the stem ends with a consonant, an additional "-i-" is added in the singular third person of the imperfect or an additional "-e-" is added in the singular nominative of the participle, the consonant is doubled if it was short and preceding a short vowel; if the stem ends with "-e" while being two-syllable or if it ends with a long vowel, then the "-s-" is left out in all numbers and persons, "ei" is changed to "i", a long vowel becomes short and "o, ö" are changed to "õ"): indicative mood active voice of positive imperfect tense, oblique mode active voice of present tense,
* "-da" infinitive (by dropping "-da / -ta / -a"; long final "l, r" become short, in spoken language "-nud" is shortened to "-nd"): indicative mood active voice of negative imperfect tense, indicative mood active voice of pluperfect tense, imperative mood active voice of present tense except singular second person, active voice of perfect tense,
* participle of passive voice perfect tense (by dropping "-tud"): passive voice.

"-ma" infinitive and "-da" infinitive are not predictable and have to be taken from the vocabulary. Present tense form and "-tud" participle are derived from the infinitives on the basis of gradation.

"-ma" infinitive is used after verbs of motion and after participles. It can be declined: "-ma" (illative), "-mas" (inessive), "-mast" (elative), "-maks" (translative), "-mata" (abessive).

"-da" infinitive is used after verbs of emotion, after impersonal expressions, after "et" (in order to) and as a subject. It can be declined: "-des" (inessive).

Verb derivation: "-ta-" (transitive/passive), "-u- / -i-" (reflexive), "-el- / -le-" (reciprocal), "-ne-" (translative), "-ata-" (momentary), "-el- / -skle-" (repetitive), "-tse-" (continuous).

Emphasis: verb + "-gi" (after a final voiced consonant or vowel) / "-ki" (after a final voiceless consonant), verb + "küll" (positive), verb + "mitte" (negative).

Adverbs

Inflectional endings as listed below are added to the stem of an adverb, which is formed from:
* singular genitive of an adjective ("-sti, -ti, -ldi, -li, -kesi"): genetival type,
* singular ablative of an adjective ("-lt"; some are declinable in allative, adessive, ablative): ablatival type.

Some adverbs are special words - original or vestigial forms of an ancient instructive case.

Pro-adverbs
* demonstrative (illative/allative - inessive/adessive - elative/ablative): "siia - siin - siit" (here), "sinna - seal - sealt" (there), "nüüd" (now), "siis" (then), "seega" (thus), "seepärast" (therefore)
* interrogative (illative/allative - inessive/adessive - elative/ablative): "kuhu - kus - kust" (where), "millal" (when), "kuidas" (how), "miks" (why)
* existential (illative/allative - inessive/adessive - elative/ablative): "kuhugi - kuskil - kuskilt" (somewhere), "kunagi" (sometime), "kuidagi" (somehow)
* free choice (illative/allative - inessive/adessive - elative/ablative): "ükskõik kuhu - ükskõik kus - ükskõik kuht" (anywhere), "ükskõik millal" (anytime), "igatahes" (anyhow)
* universal (illative/allative - inessive/adessive - elative/ablative): "igale poole - igal pool - igalt poolt" (everywhere), "alati" (always)

yntax

Estonian is a Subject Verb Object (SVO) language. Conjunctions: "aga" (but), "et" (that), "ja" (and), "kas" (whether), "kui" (if), "nagu" (as), "sest" (because), "või" (or). Questions begin with an interrogative word (interrogative pro-forms or "kas" (yes/no-question), "eks" (yes-question), "ega" (no-question)), followed by the SVO word order (in spoken language, interrogative words are sometimes left out, but instead there is either a change in intonation or VSO word order); answers: "jah/jaa" (yes), "ei" (no). An adjective precedes the noun it modifies. An adverb of time precedes an adverb of place.

References

* Moseley, C. (1994). "Colloquial Estonian: A Complete Language Course". London: Routledge.
* Tuldava, J. (1994). "Estonian Textbook: Grammar, Exercises, Conversation". Bloomington: Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, Indiana University.


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