Five facts about the Estonian language

Like any language, Estonian has grammatical features that are familiar to experienced linguists, but will also be useful to those learning the language. Let’s try to understand the main subtleties of Estonian.

Vowel lengthening

In Estonian the vowels are divided into three groups based on lengthening:

extra long.

Longness has a direct impact on the meaning of a word. That is why in simultaneous interpreting, spoken language, longitude is given special attention.

Example: Kuri — evil and kuuri — barn, pudel — bottle and puudel — poodel.

Consonant lengthening

Consonants in Estonian also have a longitude which will determine the meaning of a word.

Example: Kana — chicken and kanna — verb meaning «to carry».

Absence of prepositions

In Estonian we replace prepositions with case forms of nouns, postpositions and other parts of speech.

There are 14 cases in the language. Most cases are modelled by postpositions, inflexions. Words are significantly changed in case formation.

Example: Tuba — room and toa — rooms.

The case system in Estonian is considered one of the most complex.

Lack of gender of nouns

In Estonian we cannot distinguish gender even in third person singular pronouns.

Example: the short form of Ta and the full form Tema correspond to ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’. The gender can only be distinguished by the context.

Absence of the future tense

In Estonian we use four tenses:

present tense;
three past tenses: simple, perfect, pluperfect.

To transmit the future tense, we use the present and the analytic form of the verb hakkama, meaning ‘to begin’.

Example: Ma hakkan kirjutama — I will start writing (immediately).

Also, Estonian does not use the article.