In grammar, the essive case, or similaris case, (abbreviated ESS) is a grammatical case.[1] The essive case on a noun can express it as a definite period of time during which something happens or during which a continuous action was completed. It can also denote a form as a temporary location, state of being, or character in which the subject was at a given time. The latter meaning is often described as the equivalent of the English phrase "as a __".[2]


In Finnish, it is marked by adding "-na/-nä" (depending on the vowel harmony) to the stem of the noun.[2]

lapsi "child" → lapsena "as a child", "when (I) was a child".
Veljeni on säveltäjänä "My brother is a composer (at somewhere or a certain kind of)."
cf: Veljeni on säveltäjä (Nom) (My brother is a composer) vs. Veljeni on säveltäjänä (Ess) (My brother works/acts as composer (somewhere))
säveltäjä "composer" → säveltäjänä "state of being a composer (the given time is the present)"[2]
Example: 'Veljeni on säveltäjänä orkesterissa "My brother is a composer in an orchestra".
Example: 'Veljeni on säveltäjänä ainutlaatuinen "As a composer my brother is unique".

In Finnish, the essive case is technically categorized as an old locative case, a case that, in some way, indicates spatial location. However, in the present language, the case has lost the majority of its spatial meaning. The case instead typically denotes a state that is temporary or inclined to change.[2]

Some fixed expressions retain the essive in its ancient locative meaning, however: "at home" is kotona.

Example: Luen lehtiä kotona. "I read newspapers at home."

If the inessive were used, kodissani, it would distinguish the activity from reading the papers, such as in the garage or in the garden (of the home).

  • Minulla on kylpyhuone kodissani. "I have a bathroom in my home" (not in the garage or garden).

The essive case is also used in a temporal sense with certain nouns, notably the names of weekdays, and vuosi (year), aamu (morning), ilta (evening), and (night), as well as dates.[2]

viime maanantaina "(on) last Monday."
kuudentena joulukuuta "on 6 December".
tänä päivänä "on this day"
viime vuonna "(during) last year"

When marking something that cannot literally change states, the essive case can implicate the presence of alternative states, even two individual, differing "worlds".[3] That can be seen in the following example:

Example: Ostin helmen aitona. "I bought the pearl thinking it was genuine [but later found out that it was not]."[3]

The example above illustrates the process by which marking of the essive case can be seen as creating two differing "worlds": one real and one illusionary. The "temporary" component of the meaning encoded by marking of the essive case on the Finnish word for "genuine" (aito) makes a distinction between the perceived state of the subject, as genuine at the time of purchase, and the actual state of subject, as not genuine as it is now perceived or at the time of the moment of speech.[3]


In Estonian, it is marked by adding "-na" to the genitive stem.[4] Marking of the case in Estonian denotes the capacity in which the subject acts. The essive case is used for indicating "states of being" but not of "becoming", which is instead marked by the translative case, the elative case, or the nominative case.[4]

laps "child" → lapse "of child" → lapsena "as a child", "when (I) was a child".
Ta töötab insenerina "He works as an engineer."[4]

Further readingEdit

  • Karlsson, Fred (2018). Finnish - A Comprehensive Grammar. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-82104-0.
  • Anhava, Jaakko (2015). "Criteria For Case Forms in Finnish and Hungarian Grammars". Helsinki: Finnish Scholarly Journals Online.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ O'Grady, William, John Archibald, Mark Aronoff, and Janie Rees-Miller. "Morphology: The Analysis of Word Structure." Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010. Print.
  2. ^ a b c d e Niemi, Clemens. Finnish Grammar. 3rd ed. Duluth, MN: C.H. Salminen, 1945. Print.
  3. ^ a b c Salminen, Taru. "Retention of abstract meaning: The essive case and grammaticalization of polyphony in Finnish." New Reflections on Grammaticalization. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2002. Print.
  4. ^ a b c Moseley, Christopher. Colloquial Estonian: The Complete Course for Beginners. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008. Print.