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Question Word: Kuka? Who? – Interrogative Pronoun

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the question word kuka, which is translated in English as “who”. This issue is much more complicated than in English due to all the cases words can be inflected in.

“Kuka” is one of the interrogative pronouns aka question words. These are one of the many different types of pronouns that exist. The question word kuka is just the tip of the iceberg!

1. Nominative: Kuka? Ketkä? Who?

The nominative forms of “who” are kuka in the singular and ketkä in the plural. You use these forms when the question word kuka is the subject of your sentence. Subjects generally express who is the do-er or experiencer of the sentence.

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Kuka pelaa? Who is playing?
Plural Ketkä soittavat? Who (plural) is playing?
Singular Kuka osaa auttaa meitä? Who can help us?
Plural Ketkä osaavat auttaa meitä? Who (plural) can help us?
Singular Kuka tuli juhliin? Who came to the party?
Plural Ketkä tulivat juhliin? Who (plural) came to the party?

2. Partitive: Ketä? Keitä? Who?

You can start by reading more about the partitive itself to get some background on this issue.

The singular partitive form of kuka is ketä and the plural keitä. These are used pretty rarely. Most of the time, the partitive form of kuka is used for certain types of objects. However, not all objects are automatically put in the partitive. Some of them are also put, for example, in the genitive case.

Ketä and keitä are used when:

  1. the sentence’s main verb is a partitive verb (Ketä sinä rakastat? Keitä sinä odotat?)
  2. with feeling verbs (Ketä suututtaa niin paljon? Keitä oikein naurattaa näin surullinen asia?)
  3. they’re the object in a negative sentence (Ketä sinä et halua ystäväksesi? Keitä ei ole kutsuttu?)
# Sg/Pl Finnish English
1 Singular Ketä sinä rakastat? Who do you love?
1 Plural Keitä sinä odotat? Who (plural) are you waiting for?
2 Singular Ketä suututtaa tänään? Who’s angry today?
2 Plural Keitä naurattaa nyt? Who (plural) feels like laughing now?
3 Singular Ketä et halua ystäväksesi? Who don’t you want as a friend?
3 Plural Keitä ei ole kutsuttu? Who (plural) haven’t been invited?

3. Genitive: Kenen? Keiden? Whose?

You could start by reading about the genitive case in general first. Kenen and keiden are translated to English as “whose” when they have their possessive meaning, but in other cases it can also be simple “who”. This is one of the things that makes the question word kuka so complicated.

Kenen and keiden are used when:

  1. they’re inquiring about the possession of items (Kenen takki tämä on? Keiden asunto tuo on?)
  2. they’re the word connected to a postposition (Kenen kanssa juttelet? Keiden mukaan menet kotiin?)
  3. we’re dealing with a necessity sentence (Kenen täytyy siivota tänään? Keiden on pakko tehdä ryhmätyötä yhdessä?)
# Plural Finnish English
1 Singular Kenen takki tämä on? Whose coat is this?
1 Plural Keiden asunto tuo on? Whose (plural) apartment is that?
2 Singular Kenen kanssa olet? Who are you with?
2 Plural Keiden mukaan menet kotiin? With whom (plural) do you go home?
3 Singular Kenen täytyy siivota tänään? Who has to clean today?
3 Plural Keiden pitää tehdä tämän yhdessä? Who (plural) has to do this together?

4. Adessive: Kenellä? Keillä? Who has?

You could start by reading about the adessive case in general first. Kenellä and keillä are often translated as “who has” or “who have”.

They’re used when we’re talking about possession (Kenellä on nälkä? Keillä ei ole tätä paperia?).

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Kenellä on kysymys? Who has a question?
Singular Kenellä oli eilen koe? Who had a test yesterday?
Singular Kenellä on oma auto? Who has their own car?
Plural Keillä on oma auto? Who (plural) has their own car?
Plural Keillä ei ole tätä paperia? Who (plural) doesn’t have this paper?
Plural Keillä olisi aikaa minulle? Who (plural) would have time for me?

5. Allative: Kenelle? Keille? To whom?

You could start by reading about the adessive case in general first. The question words kenelle and keille are usually translated as “to whom”.

Kenelle and keille are mainly used with certain verbs (see: rections) (Kenelle sinä annat paperin? Keille sinä valehtelin?)

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Kenelle annat paperin? Who do you give the paper to?
Singular Kenelle lainaat rahaa? Who do you lend money to?
Singular Kenelle puhut? Who are you talking to?
Plural Keille soitat näin myöhään? Who (plural) are you calling to this late?
Plural Keille valehtelit? Who (plural) did you lie to?
Plural Keille kirje on osoitettu? Who (plural) is the letter addressed to?

6. Ablative: Keneltä? Keiltä? From whom?

You could start by reading about the ablative case in general first. The question words keneltä and keiltä are usually translated as “from who”.

These interrogatives are mainly used with certain verbs (see: rections) (Keneltä sinä sait paperin? Keiltä sinä varastit tämän?)

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Keneltä sait sen? Who did you get it from?
Singular Keneltä lainasit rahaa? Who did you borrow money from?
Singular Keneltä pyysit apua? Who did you ask help from?
Plural Keiltä varastit tämän? Who (plural) did you steal this from?
Plural Keiltä perit rahat? Who (plural) did you inherit the money from?
Plural Keiltä sinä kuulit huhun? From who (plural) did you hear the rumor?

7. Inessive: Kenessä? Keissä? In who?

It’s hard to find any use for this form. It exists, but mostly as a theoretical option. I suppose you could ask “Kenessä rakkaus asuu?” (In who does love live?) but even that seems awkward.

8. Illative: Keneen? Keihin? To whom?

You could start by reading about the illative case in general first. These interrogatives are mainly used with certain verbs (see: rections).

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Keneen sinä rakastuit? Who did you fall in love with?
Singular Keneen sinä tormäsit? Who did you bump into?
Singular Keneen hän on ihastunut? Who is he infatuated with?
Plural Keihin sinä tutustuit? Who (plural) did you meet?
Plural Keihin sinä luotat? Who (plural) do you trust?
Plural Keihin sinä nyt viittaat? Who (plural) are you referring to now?

9. Elative: Kenestä? Keistä? From / about who?

You could start by reading about the elative case in general first. The question words kenestä and keistä are usually translated as “about whom”. These interrogatives are mainly used with certain verbs (see: rections)

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Kenestä te puhutte? Who are you talking about?
Singular Kenestä te riitelette? Who are you arguing about?
Singular Kenestä sinä tykkäät? Who do you like?
Plural Keistä sinä pidät? Who (plural) do you like?
Plural Keistä te huolehditte? Who (plural) do you take care of?
Plural Keistä te olette kiinnostuneita? Who (plural) are you interested in?

10. Accusative: Kenet? Ketkä? Whom? Who?

The accusative form of kuka is kenet in the singular. The plural looks the same as the T-plural form. You use the accusative case for total objects.

Sg/Pl Finnish English
Singular Kenet tapasit? Who did you meet?
Singular Kenet kutsuimme juhliin? Who did we invite to the party?
Singular Tapan kenet haluan. I kill who I want to kill.
Plural Ketkä tapaat huomenna? Who (plural) will you meet tomorrow?
Plural Ketkä näit bussiasemalla? Who (plural) did you see at the bus station?
Plural Ketkä haluat herättää? Who (plural) do you want to wake up?

Please also check out how to say “nobody“!

That’s all for the question word kuka in its inflected form. Hopefully you found this useful!

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Michael Hämäläinen

It’s great to see the pronouns and case forms presented in this question-answer style — an excellent way to learn in context!
Wiktionary has a nice entry for kuka that goes into historical usage and more rare case forms, such as the following tidbits:

Interesting, the relationship between kuinka and kuka! Never thought of that before!

Learning Finnish

An example for kenssä …”kenessä on pyhä henki”..