Introduction to Estonian: Lesson 1

Estonian does not make a distinction between he and she: they only have one word.

Estonian for he or she is tema.

Then let’s learn the word for is:

Estonian for is is on.

You could now say he is but we need to learn more words to be able to make something useful out of it.

Estonian for here is siin.

How would you thus say:

1 translation: She is here.

Alright, then. Let’s learn some more words.

Estonian for good is hea.

Thus you can say:

2 translation: He is good.

Same for:

3 translation: She is good.

Estonian for they is nemad.
Think they are nomads to remember that they is nemad.

The word nemad for they gets shortened in casual speech to nad.

A good way to think about this is that you have nemads i.e. nomads and you get rid of the nemad with the name Em and you are left with the contraction i.e. what’s left of the group: nad.

We will be using nemad here but keep nad in mind because it will come to use in a few moments.

First, the Estonian word for is is by coincidence the same as the Estonian word for are in they are. Thus, how would you say:

4 translation: They are here.

Thus we have tema for he and nemad or nad for they. Well, the word nad is indeed very useful for us because it dictates us the forms for I am and you are.

Let’s first learn the words, though.

Estonian for I is mina.
Estonian for you is sina.

There is nice symmetry here: mina, sina, tema: I, you, he/she. Well, tema kind of ruins things for us but it’s still not hard to remember. Just like nemad to nad, these words also get contracted respectively to ma, sa and ta, making it very simple for us.

Now the big word:

Estonian for to be is olema.

When you have olema, you can put it to use immediately because the other forms are deriver from it.

Look at the contraction for the word nemad which is nad. We have n which actually stands as the person ending for I and d which stands as the person ending for you.

To make to be into I am, you are or whatnot, you simply get rid of the ending (ma) and add the person endings.

For example, we have nad and we have olema. Let’s make olema to be into I am. We get rid of that ma so we have ole and then if you go with I, you add n and you have mina olen for I am.

Guess what you are would be:

5 translation: You are here.

You can also say:

6 translation: I am good.

Let’s squeeze two more words in here. Don’t worry if it’s coming too fast, we will repeat most of the material afterwords.

Estonian for we is meie.
Estonian for you (plural) is teie.
Mina, sina, meie, teie: see the symmetry here? Of course, these words also can get contracted to me and te.

So we have: mina, sina, tema, meie, teie, nemad or using contractions: ma, sa, ta, me, te, nad.

The person endings for meie and teie are very easy to remember because they are the same as the contractions of these words: me and te.

So you had olema for to be. How would you say:

7 translation: We are here.

What about:

8 translation: You (plural) are here.

So if you are talking to one dude, you say sina oled (or sa oled) and if you are talking to more than one dude, you say teie olete (or te olete if you like).

Awesome! We have just learned all the main personal pronouns and we have learned the basics of dealing with Estonian verbs in the present. Also we have learned all the contractions of these words and words like here and good. Aren’t you excited yet? Well, wait for the next lesson!

Answers to Lesson 1

1 answer: Tema on siin.
2 answer: Tema on hea.
3 answer: Tema on hea.
4 answer: Nemad on siin.
5 answer: Sina oled siin.
6 answer: Mina olen hea.
7 answer: Meie oleme siin.
8 answer: Teie olete siin.