How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish (3)?

I have written before about:

  • the major cases in Finnish and Hungarian.
  • the local / spatial cases in those languages

In this post, I cover the minor cases in those languages.


Both Finnish and Hungarian have minor cases expressing:

  • accompaniment (comitative)—though in Hungarian, the case expressing accompaniment is more often the instrumental case rather than the comitative case.
  • destination (translative)

Finnish has 3 other minor cases, expressing:

  • temporary states (the essive case)
  • manner, means, instrument, location or time—mainly in fixed expressions (instructive)
  • lack of something (abessive)

Hungarian has 12 other minor cases, expressing:

  • instrument (instrumental)
  • manner (essive case, essive-formal case, formal case, model-essive case, modal case)
  • end point or duration (terminative);
  • time when (temporal) and frequency (iterative case and distributive case)
  • pupose (causal-final)
  • partitive numerals and partitive quantifiers (model-essive)
  • multiplication (multiplicative)

For both languages, some cases are becoming archaic and some have very restricted uses and distributions. Some grammarians treat some of them as means of deriving new words rather than as grammatical cases.

Writing convention used below
In both languages, case markings are typically suffixes added to the end of a word. To make it easier to identify the suffixes, in the examples below I separate the word from its suffix with a dash <-> and place the suffix in bold type. That dash does not appear in normal Hungarian and Finnish writing.

Minor cases in Finnish

Table 1 lists the 5 minor cases in Finnish.

Comitative -ineAccompaniment
Essive-na /
Temporary state
Instructive -nManner, means, instrument, location or time (mainly in fixed expressions)
Abessive-tta / -ttäWithout something
Table 1. Minor cases in Finnish


The comitative ends in the suffix -ine.The -i in the suffix is a fossilised plural, so the comitative singular and plural are identical.

The comitative marks an accompaniment.
Vaimo-ine-en (with his wife. The -en suffix is a possessive suffix). Rauma on mukava kaupunki vanho-ine talo-ine-en ja kape-ine katu-ine-en
(Rama is a pleasant town with its old houses and narrow streets)

The comitative is archaic and is used rarely, and only in the written language.


The translative ends in the suffix -ksi and marks:

  • nouns expressing a state into which something or someone enters.
  • the time by which (or during which) something happens, or the time until when something is postponed.
    Tulen kotiin joulu-ksi (I’ll come home for Christmas) vs
    Joulu-na olen kotona (essive: At Christmas, I’ll be at home)
  • the complement of some verbs.
    käänta englanniksi (translate into English);
    maalata seinä valkoise-ksi (paint the wall white);
    hyväksy Vanhanen presidenti-ksi (accept Vanhanen as president)


The essive ends in the suffix (-na /-ne). This case marks:

  • some time expressions referring to festivals and days of the week.
    Joulu-na (at Christmas); Sunnuntai-na; Vuon-na 1973 (in 1973)
  • some time expressions in which a pre-modifier precedes the head word: kahte-na yö-na] (on 2 nights).
    Unusually, the premodifiers ensi (‘next’) and viime (‘last’) do not agree with the head noun. –na ensi talve-na (next winter)
  • nouns referring to temporary states.  
    Sanna on opettaja-na (‘Sanna is a teacher now)
    Permanent states are marked by the nominative or partitive.
    Sanna on opettaja (nominative: Sanna is a teacher by profession)


The instructive case ends in the suffix -n. This case ending expresses manner, means, instrument, location or time.

In nominals, it occurs almost exclusively in fixed plural expressions with an adjective or pronoun as premodifier:
m-i-n silm-i-n (with (one’s) own eyes) [-i is the plural suffix];
sano-i-n ja teo-i-n (by words and deeds).

The instructive plurals of some words have become adverbs:
käsi-n (by hand); pääosin (mainly; pää = main / head; osa = part); samoin (in the same way sama = same); toisin (in another way; toinen = other, second); yksin (alone, yksi = one); paikoin (in some places; paikka = place).

In a few cases, nouns are in the instructive singular jala-n (by foot, jalka = foot)


The abessive ends in the suffix -tta. It expresses the lack of something. maksu-tta (free of charge)

The preposition ilman (+ partitive) often appears instead of the abessive. raha-tta (without money); ilman raha-a. The abessive is rare in the plural.

Minor cases in Hungarian

Table 2 lists the 14 minor cases in Hungarian

Essiveul / -ülCurrent state or capacity.
Forms some adverbs.
Essive-formal  -kéntState, manner
Formal-képp(en)Same as essive-formal
Modal-essive  -n / -an /-enForms adverb from adjective.
Also marks partitive numeral.
Modal-lag / -legForms adverb of manner
Instrumental-val /-velInstrument. Several other meanings
Comitative–stul /-stül /
–ostul /-estül /
Translative-vá /-véDestination
Terminative-igEnd point or duration
Temporal-korTime when
Iterative-nta/ -nte/
Period within which something usually happens
Distributive-nként /oként / -eként / -ökéntPeriod within which something usually happens [like iterative]
Causal-final-értGoal, price
Multiplicative-szor / -szer /
Table 2. Minor cases in Hungarian


The essive ends in the suffix -ul / ül. The essive (sometimes called essive-modal) can mark:

  • a noun expressing the state, capacity, task someone is in or is acting in:
    hasjutalm-ul kap (receive as a reward);
    vendég-ul lát (receive someone as a guest, literally as a guest receive);
    feleség-ül vesz (get married—of a man);
    példá-ul (for example)
  • some adverbs formed from adjectives denoting quality (mainly negative):
    rossz-ul (badly);
    váratlan-ul (unexpectedly)
  • a noun denoting the language in which an action is carried out: magyar-ul olvas (read Hungarian);
    nemet-ül tud (know German);
    nemet-ül ért (understand German)


The essive-formal ends in the suffix -ként. It can express:

  • state:
    turista-ként utazik (travel as a tourist);
    első-kent fut be a célbe (to reach the finish first)
  • manner:
    űzöttvad-ként (like a hunted animal)

The conjunction mint can replace the suffix-ként. Mint maganémber utazki (travel as a private person)


The formal ends in the suffix -képp(en). It means the same as the essive-formal. It can express:

  • state: példá-képpen idéz valamit (cite something as an example)
  • manner: mi-képpen (in what way); más-képpen (in a different way)


The modal-essive ends in the suffix -n/-an/-en. It forms adverbs from adjectives.

It also marks a partitive numeral (or other partitive quantifier) quantifying a noun governed by the preposition közul (‘from among’) if the noun refers to humans.
A fiuk közül kett-en szőkék (2 of the boys are blond, literally the boys from-among 2.ME [(are] blond)
For non-humans, the partitive numeral (or quantifier) is in the nominative.


The modal ends in the suffix -lag -leg, forming an adverb of manner:
A bírák egyhangu-lag döntöttek (the referees decided unanimously)


The instrumental ends in the suffix-val /vel. When the -v of the suffix immediately follows another consonant, the -v becomes identical to that consonant (assimilation). The instrumental marks:

  • means or instrument: villá-val (with a fork); (repülő-vel (by plane)
  • the causer in a causative expression: új ruhát csináltattam a Szabó-val (I had the dressmaker make a new dress)
  • an accompanying person: családjá-val (with his family)
  • time: tavas-szal (in spring), ős-szel (in autumn)
  • a period between the time of an action and another time:
    tíz év-vel ezelőtt (10 years ago)
  • manner; hármasával (three by three, in 3s) öröm-mel (with joy)
  • quantity, measure, degree:
    öt fok-kal csökkent a hőmérséklet the temperature fell by 5 degrees.);
    két meter-rel több (2 metres more)
  • the complement of some postpositions: együtt (together with); szembe(n) (opposite to); szemközt (facing)
  • the complement of some verbs: találkozik (meet); tartozik (owe), ellenkezik (contradict)
    Péter húsz dollár-ral tartozik nek-em (Peter owes me $20, literally Peter with $20 owes to me [dative])

The instrumental is sometimes called the instrumental-comitative because it is sometimes used instead of the comitative.


The comitative (sometimes called sociative) ends in –stul /-stül –ostul /-estül /-östül. The comitative suffix attaches only to the singular form of nouns. It can be ambiguous whether the suffixed noun is to be interpreted as singular or plural.

The comitative marks a noun expressing an accompanying:

  • person: feleség-e-stül (together with his wife)
  • state: Ruha-stul és cipő-stül ugrott be a vízbe (he jumped into the water with his clothes and shoes on)
  • manner: minden-estül (lock, stock and barrel, literally with everything)

The comitative case is not productive, being mainly used in fossilized adverbs of manner. The instrumental is often used instead: feleség-e-vél (with his wife)


The translative ends in the suffix -vá /-vé. When the -v of the suffix immediately follows another consonant, the -v becomes identical to that consonant (assimilation).

The translative marks:

  • nouns expressing the state, capacity, task, position into which someone or something gets or a state which has come about.
    valóssag-ga válik (become a reality).
    Kineveztevték egyetemi tanár-ra
    (he was appointed as a university professor, literally (they) appointed (him) university teacher);
    Verbs of appointment—such as (ki)nevez (appoint) and (meg)választ (elect) usually take:
    (a) a translative component if the verb has a perfective prefix (ki, meg-, fel-);
    (b) either a translative or a dative complement if the perfective prefix is not present.
  • the complement of the verb válik (turn into):
    A béka királyfi- vált (the frog turned into a prince)
    But the complement of the copular verb lesz (become) is marked with the nominative:
    Attila orvos lett (Attila became a doctor)

The sublative can sometimes replace the translative. való-ra válik (come true).


The terminative ends in the suffix -ig and marks a noun expressing:

  • the end point of an action: ház-tol ház-ig (from house to house)
  • an end point in time: reggeli-ig (until morning); nég-től öt-ig (from 4 until 5)
  • the time before which something will happen: Péntek-ig valami törtenni fog (something will happen before Friday)
  • the time until which something didn’t happen
    semmi nem törtent szardá-ig (nothing happened until Wednesday)
  • the duration of an action: harom nap-ig maradunk itt (we will stay 3 days here.)
    But the duration of an action to be completed is sometimes marked by the sublative:
    Nóra két hónap-ra ment Moszkvá-ba (Nora has gone to Moscow for 2 weeks)
  • degree, measure bőr-ig ázott (he is soaked to the skin).


The temporal suffix -kor marks a noun expressing time by time on the clock, by the noun éjfél (midnight), the name of a festival.
Két óra-kor (at 2 o’clock), mi-kor (when, literally ‘at what time’), Karácsony-kor (at Christmas).

The temporal is normally used only in the singular non-possessive form.


The Iterative case (sometimes called distributive-temporal) ends in the suffix -nta/ -nte/-onte/-ente/-önte. Like the distributive, the iterative marks a noun expressing how often an action regularly occurs. hav-onta / havo-nként monthly naponta / napo-nként (daily)

Distributive -nként /-oként / -eként / -öként

The distributive ends in the suffix -nként /-oként / -eként / -öként. This case marks a noun expressing:

  • manner helyen-nként (in some places, sporadically); feje-nként (per head); or
  • how often an action regularly occurs: hete-nként kétszér van magyár óra (there are 2 Hungarian lessons a week); a buszokat tíz perce-nkent indítják (busses run every 10 minutes)
  • For days of the week, only the distributive can be used, not the iterative.


The causal-final ends in the suffix -ért. It marks a noun expressing:

  • someone for whose sake something is done: Márta mindezt János-ért tette (Maria did everything for Janos)
  • the price or value in verbs expressing exchange, buying, selling or paying. 3000 forint-ért vettem a cipöt (I bought the shoes for 3,000 Forints.
  • a complement of some verbs or adjectives expressing the cause of a state of mind. Megbűnhődik valami-ért (suffer / pay the penalty for something);
    felelős valami-ért (responsible for something);
    szomorú valami-ért (sad about something)
  • a purpose. A haza-ért es a szabadság-ért harcol (he fights for freedom and his homeland)

Sometimes, purpose is marked by the sublative or allative cases instead.

Multiplicative -szor / -szer / -ször

The multiplicative ends in the suffix -szor / -szer / -ször. It expresses how often something occurs. Used only with times: háromszor (3 times) harmadszor (for the 3rd time)


Finnish and Hungarian have several minor cases. Most of them have very narrow meanings.

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