Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Different forms of the object in Finnish

The Finnish object is no doubt tricky. If you're struggling with it, you're not alone! I'll try to keep this as simple as possible. Because it's the apple season in Finland, the object in all the sentences is omena.

Kind of weird thing about the object is that new terminology was introduced a few years ago as Iso suomen kielioppi was published. If you search for objekti in the digital version of ISK, you'll find no less than 131 articles about object! Iso suomen kielioppi is an awesome book, but the only problem is that it weights  almost 2,5 kilos so you don't want to carry it around. I'm also using A Grammar book of Finnish by Leila White as a reference.

These are the five different forms of the object:

  • Minä haluan omenan
  • Haluatko maistaa tätä omenaa
  • Syö tämä omena
  • Minä haluan omenoita
  • Kuka söi kaikki omenat?

Here are the translations and explanations:

  • Minä haluan omenan. - I want an apple. (A whole, countable apple.)
  • Haluatko maistaa tätä omenaa? - Do you want to taste (some of) this apple?
  • Syö tämä omena. - Eat this apple. (The whole apple, and the verb is in imperative mood.)
  • Minä haluan omenoita. - I want apples. (A lot of apples, but I don't specify how many.)
  • Kuka söi kaikki omenat? - Who ate all the apples? (All the apples, apples that we know.)

There are two kinds of objects:

Total object: omena (nominative), omenan (genitive), omenat (plural nominative)
Partitive object: omenaa (partitive), omenoita (plural partitive)

If there is a single reason to use the partitive object, then use it. Here are the reasons for a partitive object:

  1. Minä en halua omenaa /omenoita. - I don't want an apple / apples. (The sentence is negative.)
  2. Osta omenoita! - Buy apples! (Indefinite quantity.)
  3. Saako teidän vauvalle antaa omenaa? - Is it ok to give apple to your baby? (The object is also an indefinite quantity, in this case some pureed apple)
  4. Mitä sinä teet? - Syön omenaa ja kuorin omenoita. - What are you doing? -  I'm eating an apple and peeling apples. (The process is not finished.)
  5. Rakastan omenoita! - I love apples! (The sentence has a partitive verb; a verb that requires partitive no matter how illogical it sounds.)
  6. Haluatko maistaa tätä omenaa? - Do you want to taste this apple? (Another partitive verb, but there's also an idea of some apple, an indefinite amount.)
  7. Haluan kolme omenaa. - I want three apples. (Partitive because of the number. Actually, I guess the number kolme is the object and omena is something else, but let's not focus on that. Just remember that you need a singular partitive after numbers bigger than 1.)

Otherwise, use the total object.

  1. Haluan omenan. - I want an apple. (One whole, concrete apple.)
  2. Otetaan nämä omenat ja mennään. - Let's take these apples and go. (Certain, known apples.)
  3. Saanko antaa teidän vauvalle omenan? - Can I give an apple to your baby? (One, concrete apple.)
  4. Kuorin omenat ja lähdin baariin. - I peeled the apples and went to a bar. (All the apples, completed action.)
  5. Pesen omenat. - I'll wash these apples. (All the apples, and I'm planning on finishing the washing.)
  6. Haluatko viedä tämän omenan isoäidille? - Do you want to take this apple to Granny? (One, concrete apple.)
  7. Haluan yhden omenan. - I want one apple. (Just one.)

Notice that sometimes you have to use the singular nominative instead of the singular genitive!

  1. Syö omena. - Eat an apple. (The verb is in imperative.)
  2. Otetaan tuo omena. - Let's take that apple. (The verb is in passive.)
  3. Onko minun pakko syödä tämä omena? - Do I have to eat this apple? (A sentence expressing necessity.)
  4. Olipa kivaa saada omena tuolta mieheltä! Aina on aikaa syödä omena. - Wasn't it nice to get an apple from that man! There's always time to eat an apple.  (The sentence has olla + an adjective or a noun + a verb in the basic form.)

However, if there is any reason to use partitive, use partitive. Usually the reason is some or that the verb just happens to be a partitive verb.

  • Ota omenaa! - Take some apple! (Apple is pureed, so an indefinite amount, and therefore partitive even if the verb is in imperative.)
  • Maistetaan tätä omenaa! - Let's taste this apple. (Sure, the verb is in passive, but maistaa is a partitive verb.)

Notice the difference between these plural sentences:

  • Ota omenat mukaan. - Take the apples with you. (We talked about the apples earlier. We both know which apples we're talking about.)
  • Ota omenoita mukaan. - Take some apples with you. 

  • Syödään omenat ulkona. - Let's eat the apples outside. 
  • Syödään omenoita! - Let's eat some apples!

Tämä omena on meidän puutarhasta. (Ja tässä lauseessa ei ole objektia. )

What about the accusative, then?  According to the new approach to the object in Finnish, there are only seven words that have the accusative case: the personal pronouns and the question word kuka, who, whose accusative is kenet. Accusative is one of the three cases of a total object. (The others were genitive and singular/plural nominative.)

Here are the accusative and partitive forms of the personal pronouns. The shorter ones are the pronouns in spoken language.

  • me                  minut, minua  (mut, mua)
  • you                 sinut, sinua  (sut, sua)
  • him/her           hänet, häntä (se, sitä)
  • us                    meidät, meitä
  • you                 teidät, teitä
  • them               heidät, heitä (ne, niitä) 

The last example sentences of this post!  If these were negative, the pronouns would be in partitive.

  • Vie minut kotiin. - Take me home. 
  • Minä näen sinut. - I see you.
  • Olen tuntenut hänet jo kolme vuotta. - I've known him for three years already.
  • Herättäkää meidät kuudelta. - Wake us up at six.
  • Minä voin heittää teidät. - I can give you a ride. (heittää = to throw)
  • Tapasin heidät viime viikolla. - I met them last week.

Useful posts and links:

About the author of Random Finnish Lesson: 

My name is Hanna Männikkölahti. I am a professional Finnish teacher who gives private online lessons and simplifies books into easy Finnish. Please read more in www.linktr.ee/hannamannikkolahti and follow this blog, if you want to be the first one to know when I post something new. 


Crystal said...

This is fantastic! Thanks for the explanations and the great examples!

Jouni said...

This is the hardest part of finnish for me to understand right now, thank you a lot for explaining this so easy!
All the grammar books and sites makes it so much harder than it need to be :)

puudyyni said...

So clear, thank you!

One small typo to correct, near the end :
I met (then-->them) last week

Hanna said...

Oho, kiitos!

Anonymous said...

Kiitos,i can understandore.

Unknown said...

great explanation, I had a look at the partitive/genitive/nominative/accusative use before, but that was not very clear, this definitely closed a loooooot of gaps!

Kiitos paljon!

Anonymous said...

No one has ever explained the object as comprehensive and simple as you. Thanks a lot, I really enjoy your blog.

Ylli Mustapippuri said...

Thank you, it is much clearer now :-) I just did not understand what a "hauskaa" type sentence is.

Fazlix said...