Introduction to Estonian: Lesson 2

We have mostly learnt to deal with verbs by dealing with the word olema (to be). This can be generalized to other forms and works pretty well because a lot Estonian infinitive forms end in ma. There are deviations from this pattern but they usually make sense easily and even if they don’t, you usually just have to remember the I form. You can look up these forms in a dictionary.

Let’s have a few examples which will come in handy.

Estonian for to work is töötama.

Don’t you love these ö there? Anyway, recall that the contraction for they is nad and say:

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Cool. If you recall, the word for is or (they) are was on. Well, that’s because it’s somewhat of an irregularity. It should have been oleb and olevad.

The personal ending for tema is b.

How would you say:

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Then the personal ending for nemad (or nad) is vad.

The form nad can help you again to remember this because if you turn n around you sort of get the letter v so nad has the ending vad. Thus you have the complete collection and can say:

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Now sometimes there are a couple of changes in writing (and they are slightly noticeable in speech) after removing the ma. There are two kinds of changes only one of which occurs:

1. Double consonants usually become single (kk become k, pp become p and tt become t).

2. Single consonants change in a way that k becomes g, p becomes b and t becomes d.

This comes naturally and in speech you would still probably be understood a lot of time so this is not so crucial to remember. Still, look at some examples:

Estonian for to study is õppima.

Think I study to become a cõppima.

Notice that the first rule applies. Thus you can say:

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The word for there is seal.

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Let’s have another example.

To speak is rääkima.

We have k here so the second rule applies and this k becomes a g. How would you say:

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We now know four words which we can conjugate: olema, töötama, õppima and rääkima. We will use these words again so don’t worry very much about forgetting them. Don’t be afraid of these ä, õ, ö signs by the way: this is almost all there is.

Finally, let’s learn how to say negations in Estonian because it is useful and easy.

To negate, you simply add ei in front of the word and do not add any personal endings.

Let’s have an example. To work would be töötama. How would you say:

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Let’s form it again by using the negative. You say nemad ei and simply remove that ma from töötama to get tööta and don’t add any personal endings because this is the negative. So you get nemad ei tööta. Try this yourself with olema and õppima:

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And finally (note: the double p turns into a single p in õppima to make it simpler):

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Cool.

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