Adessive case

In grammar, an adessive case (abbreviated ADE; from Latin adesse "to be present (at)": ad "at" + esse "to be") is a grammatical case generally denoting location at, upon, or adjacent to the referent of the noun; the term is most frequently used in Uralic studies. In Uralic languages, such as Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian, it is the fourth of the locative cases with the basic meaning of "on"—for example, Estonian laud (table) and laual (on the table), Hungarian asztal and asztalnál (at the table).[1] It is also used as an instrumental case in Finnish.

In Finnish, the suffix is -lla/-llä, e.g. pöytä (table) and pöydällä (on the table). In addition, it can specify "being around the place", as in koululla (at the school including the schoolyard), as contrasted with the inessive koulussa (in the school, inside the building).

In Estonian, the ending -l is added to the genitive case, e.g. laud (table) - laual (on the table). Besides the meaning "on", this case is also used to indicate ownership. For example, "mehel on auto" means "the man owns a car".

As the Uralic languages don't possess the verb "to have", it is the subject in the adessive case + on (for example, minulla on, "I have", literally "at me is").

The other locative cases in Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian are:


The Finnish adessive has the word ending -lla or -llä (according to the rules of vowel harmony). It is usually added to nouns and associated adjectives.

It is used in the following ways.

  • Expressing the static state of being on the surface of something.
Possible English meanings of on, on top of, atop
kynä on pöydällä the pen is on the table
This is the Finnish way to express the English verb to have
Meillä on koira we have a dog ('on our (possession, responsibility, etc.) is dog')
  • Expressing the instrumentive use of something
Possible English meanings of with, by, using
Hän meni Helsinkiin junalla he went to Helsinki by train
Hän osti sen eurolla he bought it for a euro
  • In certain time expressions expressing the time at which things take place
Possible English meanings of during in over
aamulla in the morning keväällä in the spring
  • Expressing the general proximity in space or time at which something takes place (where the more specific proximity case would be the inessive)
Possible English meaning of at
poikani on koululla my son is at school (c.f. inessive case: poikani on koulussa my son is inside the school)
hän on ruokatunnilla he is at lunch - literally on the lunch hour
(Although not strictly a use of the adessive this proximity difference is mirrored in adverbial forms such as täällä - around here and tässä - right here)


Other languages which employ an adessive case or case function include archaic varieties of Lithuanian,[2] some Northeast Caucasian languages such as Lezgian[3] and Hunzib,[4] and the Ossetic languages,[5] both ancient and modern.

Further readingEdit

  1. ^ However, unlike its Finnic relatives, the adessive in Hungarian does not specifically carry the meaning "on (top of)".
  2. ^ Likely developed under the influence of Uralic.
  3. ^ *Haspelmath, M. (1993). A grammar of Lezgian. (Mouton grammar library; 9). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. – ISBN 3-11-013735-6, p. 2
  4. ^ Berg, Helma van den, A Grammar of Hunzib (with Texts and Lexicon) (Lincom Europa, München 1995) ISBN 3-89586-006-9, pp. 44–49.
  5. ^ * Kim, Ronald. "On the Historical Phonology of Ossetic." Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 123, No. 1. (Jan.-Mar.,2003), p. 44.