Sunday, January 27, 2013

Plural partitive or t-plural?

When to use the plural partitive and when the plural nominative, the one that ends with t? It kind of depends on the sentence type, but it also matters if you're talking about some things, certain things, or things that are always in pairs.

To refresh your memory, the two different plurals look like this:

Monikon partitiivi:

(Of course, there's more plural forms, but this post is just about these two.)

To make the plural form, add the plural i and the partitive a, ä, ta or to the basic form or to the stem, depending on the word type. The i might cause previous vowels to change or disappear, and it becomes j between two vowels. For more specific rules, check out this link from Uusi kielemme website.

When to use it?

1. Describing multiple people and things

  • Nämä keksit ovat tosi hyviä. - These cookies are really good.
  • Pähkinät ovat terveellisiä. - Nuts are healthy.
  • Suomalaiset ovat kohteliaita. - Finns are polite. (If you disagree, say epäkohteliaita.)
  • Pojat ovat poikia. - Boys are boys.

The first plural, the subject of the sentence, is in the t-form. The plural in the end of the sentence is in the partitive form.

If the word is something that always comes in pairs or just happens to be used in the plural form, then both plurals are in the t-form.

  • Nämä kumisaappaat ovat tosi lämpimät. - These rubber boots are really warm. 
  • Victorian ja Danielin häät olivat ihanat! - Victoria's and Daniel's wedding was lovely!

In spoken language, we usually say on instead of ovat: Nää keksit on tosi hyviä. Victorian ja Danielin häät oli ihanat!

2. Having, wanting, eating, buying (and so on) something in plural

  • Minulla on porkkanoita. - I have carrots.
  • Ostitko tulitikkuja? - Did you buy matches?

Again, if you're talking about a certain group or something that is always in plural, use the t-plural:

  • Onko sinulla uudet silmälasit? - Do you have new glasses?
  • Otitko ne kirjat mukaan? - Did you take the books with you?

3. Describing what is where

  • Suomessa on paljon metsiä ja järviä. - There are a lot of lakes and forests in Finland.
  • Aalto-yliopistossa on paljon ulkomaalaisia opiskelijoita. - There are many foreign students in the Aalto university. 

Plural partitive in the beginning of the sentence

Notice that sometimes, but not very often, we use plural partitive in the beginning of the sentence.

  • When explaining how many you are: 
    • Meitä oli viisi. - There were five of us
  • The object of a passive sentence: 

If this was useful, you might also like my post 100 words in plural partitive. Also, you can check out this Memrise course about plural partitive. If you got interested in the last example sentence, you can read this post about the passive. 

Selkokirjoja - (Some) books in easy Finnish

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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 and follow this blog, if you want to be the first one to know when I post something new. 


Anonymous said...

Minulla on porkkanat for some specific (batch or item of) carrots that you have, e.g. when you're getting ready for a picnic or buying groceries.

Hanna said...

Exactly! :)

Anonymous said...

Can you please explain use of monikon/yksikön partitiivi and nominatiivi/päätteetön akkusatiivi in imperative mood and passive voice.
I've been studying Finnish for over 6 years and still can not get the idea of "the rules".
For example:
1)Täydennä lauseet/lauseita. Kirjoita lauseet/lauseita vihkoon. Näytä kuvat/kuvia???
2)Kirjoitetaan lauseet/lauseita. Näytetään kuvat/kuvia ???

Hanna said...

Yes, I can.:)

1) Täydennä lauseet. = Complete the sentences.
'Täydennä lauseita.' doesn't really work, because 'lauseita' means some sentences, and usually, in an exercise like this, you should complete all the sentences.:)

2) Näytä kuvat. = Show (all) the pictures.
Näytä kuvia. = Show some pictures.

3) Kirjoitetaan lauseet. = Let's write the sentences.
Kirjoitetaan lauseita. = Let's write some sentences.

If there is a reason, even just one reason to use partitive, use it. The reason ('some') to use partitive beats the rule that you need the basic form with imperative and passive.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, all this seems reasonable ... but there are still some occasions (don't remember examples) when I can not decide which case is the best to use.

When I started studying Finnish I was taught that passiivissa ja imperatiivissa objekti on aina päätteettömässä akkusatiivissa. But now, then I know that it depends on the type of the object, verb and situation it makes "the choice" even more complicated.

Hanna said...

It's really all about the object case. Just remember that the partitive always wins! :) Have you read this post about it?

Oops I just noticed that the post doesn't cover your question! I just added this section to the post:

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!

Hanna said...

Oops, I forgot 'Kirjoita lauseet /lauseita' and 'Näytetään kuvat/kuvia', but they follow the same logic: use partitive, if you want to say 'some' instead of 'all the'.

Hanna said...

Partitive is always a good guess! At least it is usually grammatically correct even if the meaning won't be quite what you meant.:)

Anonymous said...

The use of plural partitive or not has obvious similarities with the definite/indefinite plural in other languages.
Someone with more expertise maybe be able to tell what the differences are or if there are any.

Also note, that although there is some abstract resemblance of singular partitive and singular definite/indefinite form, they are not at all the same.

zoeker said...

Hi. First I would like to thank you for this blog, a great source of information!
Then I would like to delve deeper into the question of the case and number of the predicative. I'm going to use the examples from "A Grammar Book of Finnish" by Leila White. It's going to take three posts, for which I apologize, but the number of characters is limited...

We've got the following rules:

1. If the predicative is telling us the owner of the subject then it is in the genitive.
Kirja on Liisan. - The book is Liisa's.
Sanakirja on opettajan. - The dictionary belongs to the teacher.
Se on minun. - It's mine.
Tämä on hänen. - This is his/hers.

Above we can see proper and common nouns used as the predicative as well as pronouns. To exhaust all possibilities, is the following valid?:
Etu on nopeamman. - The faster one has an/the advantage.

2. When the subject is a physical [countable and indivisible] thing [or person] in the singular the predicative is in the nominative singular [unless the predicative tell us the material it's made of]
Kirja on kallis/hyvä. - The book is expensive/good.
Hän on Liisa. - She is Liisa.
Liisa on mukava/suomalainen. - Liisa is nice/a Finn.
Onko hän opettaja? - Is he/she a teacher?
Tuo kissa on pieni. - That cat is small.
Matti on insinööri. - Matti is an engineer.
Maija ei ole lääkäri. - Maija is not a doctor.
Martti on iloinen. - Martti is happy.
Yritän olla ahkerampi. - I'll try to work harder.
Tämä on kuppi. - This is a cup.
Kassi on sininen. - The bag is blue.
Onko tuo auto amerikkalainen? - Is that car American?
Kuinka kallis tuo auto on? - How expensive is that car?

Again, another sentence to consider for validity and correctness:
Minä olen sinä ja sinä olet minä. - I am you and you are me.

3. When the clause is a generic one[, stating a generally valid truth or fact or an opinion not bound to any particular concrete situation and the subject is countable and singular] the predicative is in the nominative singular
Jos on ahkera, oppii nopeasti. - If you work hard, you learn fast.
Kun on sairas, täytyy levätä. - When you are ill, you must rest.
Leijona on eläin. - The lion is an animal.

4. When the subject is a pair[, a plurale tantum or a noun that in its plural form indicates] one object or one set, the predicative is in the nominative plural
Liisan uudet kengät ovat italialaiset. - Liisa's new shoes are Italian.
Jannen silmät ovat ruskeat. - Janne's eyes are brown.
Leenan hiukset ovat punaiset. - Leena's hair is red.
Kasvot ovat pyöreät. - The face is round.
Sakset ovat terävät. - The scissors are sharp.
Nuo lastenvaunut ovat aika kalliit. - That pram is pretty expensive.
Nämä silmälasit eivät olleet halvat. - This pair of glasses was not cheap.
Nämä saappaat saisivat olla vähän pienemmät. - These boots could be a little smaller.

zoeker said...

Now comes the part where I get lost...
5. When the subject means a definite, unique quantity, the predicative is in the nominative plural
Makuuhuoneen seinät ovat valkoiset. - The bedroom walls are white.
[Fine, there are four of them, or it might be an oval bedroom but in any case we know how many walls there are...]

He ovat tämän kaupungin (ainoat) ulkomaalaiset. - They are the (only) foreigners in this town.
[Since we know how many of them there are and their number is limited and unique, let's say I got that too... in theory there should be another sentence possible, namely:
He ovat tämän kaupungin ulkomaalaisia. - They are from the foreigners in this town[, but there are others too].
And I'm at a loss how to just say that "They are foreigners in this town." Anyway...]

Suomessa (kaikki) hinnat ovat korkeat. - (All) prices are high in Finland.
[Now, this one beats me, how are "all prices" a "definite, unique quantity"???]

Tämän pelin säännöt ovat helpot. - The rules of this game are easy.
[I don't get this one either. Yes, they are not just any rules but the ones *of this game* but still???]

6. When the subject is a material word or an abstract word (such as lukeminen 'reading' or opiskelu studying), and the predicative is an adjective the predicative is in the partitive singular
Kahvi on kallista/kuumaa. - Coffee is expensive/hot.
Lukeminen on mukavaa. - Reading is nice.
Kirjallisuus on mielenkiintoista. - Literature is interesting.
Opiskeleminen voi olla joskus ikävää. - Studying can sometimes be boring.
Tämä on valkoviiniä. - This is white wine.
Jäätelö oli hyvää. - Ice-cream was good.
Tämän viinin täytyy olla ranskalaista. - This wine must be French.
Kahvin pitää olla kuumaa. - The coffee must be hot.
Sokeri on makeaa. - Sugar is sweet.
Minkämaalaista tuo tee on? - Which country does that tea come from?
Onko tämä kahvi brasilialaista? - Is this coffee Brasilian?
Elämä on ihanaa. - Life is wonderful.
Kaikki oli kivaa. - Everything was nice.

NB! However, the words ilma 'weather', sää 'weather', taivas 'sky' are an exception to this rule and instead of the partitive singular use the nominative singular for their predicative:
Ilma/sää oli lämmin. - The weather was warm.
Taivas on sininen. - The sky is blue.

NB! When the word kaikki denotes a set of countable things, the predicative is in the partitive plural:
Kaikki (ihmiset, kirjat) olivat kivoja. - All (people, books) were nice.
[Now, this one loses me again... Above, in 5. the example was like this:
Suomessa (kaikki) hinnat ovat korkeat. - (All) prices are high in Finland.
Is it that when kakki is part of a noun group with a countable noun in plural, the predicative is in nominative plural, but when kaikki is alone, then even if it denotes a set of countable things the predicative is in partitive plural???]

NB! When the predicative is not simply an adjective but a noun group including an adjective, then it is in the nominative singular:
Lukeminen on hyvä harrastus. - Reading is a good hobby. Cf. Lukeminen on hauskaa. - Reading is nice.
Vesi on hyvä ruokajuoma. - Water is a good drink with food. Cf. Vesi on kylmää. - The water is cold.

zoeker said...

7. Clauses without a subject describing the atmosphere or weather of a time or place use the partitive singular. Such clauses usually start with an adverbial, either local (where?) or temporal (when?):
Italiassa oli ihanaa. - It was nice in Italy. Cf. Italia on ihana (maa). - Italy is (a) nice (country).
Heinäkuussa oli sateista. - It was rainy in July. Cf. Heinäkuu oli sateinen. - July was rainy.
Talvella on kylmää. - It's cold in the winter. Cf. Talvi on kylmä. - The winter is cold.
[Hmm, I wouldn't consider heinäkuu and talvi physical countable things. Well, they might be countable at least, but they are by no means physical. Yet the predicative in 'Heinäkuu oli sateinen.' and 'Talvi on kylmä' is in the nominative singular. Why??? ]

8. When the predicative is a noun and it tells us the material, sort, quality and nature, or style of the subject, it is usually in the partitive singular (but might sometimes come in the partitive plural to agree in number with the subject)
Laukku on nahkaa. - The bag is made of leather.
Tuolit ovat muovia. - The chairs are made of plastic. [part. pl.]
Ovatko nämä sormukset kultaa vai hopeaa? - Are these rings made of gold or silver?
Pusero on silkkiä. - The blouse is made of silk.
Suomalaiset ovat usein vaaleatukkaisia. - Finns have often fair hair. [part. pl.]
Housut ovat sinistä samettia. - The trousers are made of blue velvet.
Ovatko tuon kirjan kannet aitoa nahkaa? - Are the covers of that book made of genuine leather?
Huonekalut ovat rokokoota. - The furniture is rococo.
Minihameet ovat nyt suurta muotia. - Mini-skirts are now in fashion.

9. When the predicative tells us that the subject is a part of something, it is in the partitive singular
Kallio on Helsinkiä. - Kallio is a part of Helsinki.
Onko Jakomäki Vantaata? - Is Jakomäki a part of Vantaa?
Me olemme samaa kansaa. - We are a part of one people [nation].

10. When the subject is in the plural and does not satisfy any of the items so far, the predicative is in the partitive plural
Kirjat ovat kalliita. - Books are expensive.
Oletteko te opiskelijoita? - Are you students?
He eivät ole suomalaisia. - They are not Finns.
Nämä ovat vaikeita lauseita. - These are difficult clauses.
Minkävärisiä nuo omenat ovat? - What color are those apples?
Ne ovat punaisia. - They're red.

NB! When the predicative is a passive participial adjective both the nominative plural and the partitive plural are possible:
Seinät ovat maalattuja/maalatut. - The walls are painted.
Such passive participial adjectives should not be confused with the passive voice of the perfect tense:
Seinät on maalattu. - The walls have been painted.

I've left out a couple of constructions but the above pretty much covers the case variation in regard to the predicative. I would be very thankful, Hanna, if you could comment on these and point out inaccuracies.

Unknown said...

If you have some knowledge of French the plurial partitive can often be replaced by "de" in French. In English it would be replaced by of/Ø
I guess a good example would:

Täällä ovat kuvia. Here are pictures
Täällä ovat kuvat. Here are THE pictures

I'm not sure my example is correct tho!

sanjeeb said...

Hi Zoeker,
Well done!

Unknown said...

Moi Hanna! Great post! Really helpful.
Just wanted to say that this explanation validates what my finnish teacher told. Nominative forms is like using article "a" and "the" in english. Without these, it we have to use partitive form. Right? :)

My little Finnish page said...

Hei, minulla on pieni kysymys.

Victorian ja Danielin häät olivat ihanat! - Victoria's and Daniel's wedding was lovely!
So, is this just a typo, or is it something that I don't seem to understand clearly?

My understanding of the Finnish version is that Victoria and Daniel are two separate people, who had two separate weddings, and not that they are married to each other. Shouldn't the translation be "Victoria's and Daniel's weddings were lovely!"

Thank you.

Random Finnish Lesson / Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Hei Meri! Juhlat ovat usein monikkosanoja suomeksi. Esim. häät - wedding, hautajaiset - funeral, bileet - party (wild), valmistujaiset - graduation party.

My little Finnish page said...

Kiitos Hanna, en tiennyt.

So, can we say this applies to all kinds of organized events because a funeral is not juhla (or at least in most cultures that I know of)?

Thank you!

Rafał said...

Kiitos, se on hyödyllinen. But which case we need to use when we are not forming a sentence, but just a title?

Random Finnish Lesson / Hanna Männikkölahti said...

For titles, use the t-plural. Otherwise it sounds like "just some random x's." :)