Estonian Verbs: Intro
Can't say much of anything without verbs, can you? Let's jump right in...
All Estonian verbs end in ~ma:
küsima: to ask
soovima: to wish
jalutama: to walk
What you are seeing is the infinitive (like in English how we'd say, 'I want to eat' - "to eat" is an infinitive, governed by the verb "want"). Estonian verbs conjugate depending on who is performing the action. The ending ~ma is removed, and a new ending is added:
I: add "n"
you (informal): add "d"
he, she, it: add "b"
we: add "me"
you (formal/plural): add "te"
they: add "vad"
Now we can see this in action:
(ma) küsin: I ask
(sa) küsid: you ask
(ta) küsib: he asks, she asks, it asks
(me) küsime: we ask
(te) küsite: you ask
(nad) küsivad: they ask
Not too hard, eh? It should be mentioned that although the verb makes the subject of the sentence clear, pronouns are still normally used in front of the verb. So, both "küsin" and "ma küsin" mean "I ask." (We'll do pronouns in-depth later.)
Even easier is the negative form of the verb - all you do is remove ~ma to get the verb stem, and then put the word "ei" in front of it: küsima -> küsi -> ei küsi. Of course, "ei küsi" can mean I don't ask, you don't ask, he doesn't ask, we don't ask, etc. This is where using pronouns becomes quite important. If I said "ma ei küsi", now it's clear that "I don't ask."
Naturally, there are exceptions in the verb world that don't conjugate so perfectly. The most important verb, olema (to be), is irregular:
olen: I am
oled: you are
on: he is, she is, it is
oleme: we are
olete: you are
on: they are
In this instance, he, she, it, and they all fall under the same irregular word, "on." But the negative follows the rules - "ei ole." A synonym for "ei ole" is "pole", something you might hear/see every now and then:
Sa ei ole... You are not...
Sa pole... You are not...
You'll find other irregular verbs based on pronounciation. Some general rules for verb mutations include:
kk -> k / pp -> p / tt -> t
k -> g / p -> b / t -> d
the letters k, t, g, b, d may disappear
If that made no sense to you, I'll give you some examples:
rääkima (to speak) - the "k" in this verb changes into a "g" when conjugated:
räägin: I speak
räägid: you speak
räägib: he speaks, she speaks, it speaks
räägime: we speak
räägite: you speak
räägivad: they speak
ei räägi: don't speak
kukkuma (to fall) - loses a "k" (kukun, kukud, kukub...)
leidma (to find) - loses its "d" (leian, leiad, leiab...)
And so on...
The irregularities just take some practice with the language, and I'll post a lesson on irregular verbs.
Many verbs can also be found as compound verbs. They have a normal infinitive, plus a noun. For example, the word "aru saama" is "to understand." Although you'll find these listed with the helping noun first, when they're conjugated, the order gets switched:
(ma) saan aru: I understand
(sa) saad aru: you understand
(ta) saab aru: he understands, she understands, it understands
(me) saame aru: we understand
(te) saate aru: you understand
(nad) saavad aru: they understand
ei saa aru: don't understand
As you can see, besides the addition of a word, the verb follows the same rules as any other verb. The only thing to watch out for is that the two words might not be side by side in a sentence:
Ma saan sind aru: I understand you.
Handling this okay so far? I'm going to drop a bombshell now. Every Estonian verb (including the compound verbs above) has a counterpart called the ~da infinitive. These always end in ~da, ~ta, or ~a. For example:
olema & olla: to be
küsima & küsida: to ask
rääkima & rääkida: to speak
maksma & maksta: to pay
jooma & juua: to drink
tegema & teha: to do, make
aru saama & aru saada: to understand
While some of them follow a simple pattern, others look completely different from each other, and again, it's just a matter of learning what's what. But the good news is that you don't need to conjugate the ~da form like we discussed above with the ~ma verbs. 90% of the time, you'll just be using it in the infinitive. Generally, this form of the verb is used to express wishes or feelings, rather than the ~ma form. Each verb form is also used with particular words. But the ~da verbs are going to have their own lesson, so that's why I'm going to leave off here.