Finnish for busy people

The Partitive Plural – Monikon Partitiivi

This article describes the usage and the formation of the partitive plural case, aka monikon partitiivi.

Nouns (e.g. koulu) can be inflected in the plural of each of the Finnish cases. We have the T-plural (koulut), plural missä (kouluissa), mistä (kouluista), mihin (kouluihin), plural genitive (koulujen), etc. Generally, the plural partitive will be the FIRST plural case you learn after the T-plural. Take these cases one at a time. They can be overwhelming!

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Plural Partitive Case
    1. Generally after the word paljon
    2. To express indefinite amounts
    3. To express indefinite amounts of time
    4. To express the plural of numbers
    5. For the complement (predikatiivi) of a plural subject
    6. With negative sentences
    7. With partitive verbs
  2. The Formation of the Plural Partitive Case
    1. Words ending in -u/-y, -o/-ö
    2. Words ending in
    3. Words ending in -a
      1. Words of two syllables (kissa-words)
      2. Words of two syllables (koira-words)
    4. Words ending in -i
      1. New words ending in -i
      2. Old words ending in -i
    5. Words ending in an -e
    6. Words ending in -nen
    7. Words ending in two vowels
    8. Words ending in diphthongs -ie, -uo, -yö
    9. Longer words ending in two different vowels
    10. Words ending in a consonant
      1. Words ending in -s
      2. Words ending in -ton/tön
      3. Words ending in –tar/tär
      4. Words ending in -in
    11. The plural partitive of long words
  3. Consonant Gradation in the Plural Partitive Case

1. Use of the Partitive Plural

1.1. Generally after the word “paljon”

The general rule goes that the singular partitive is used after “monta“, while the plural partitive is used after the word “paljon“. There isn’t always a big difference between those two, e.g. “monta kirjaa” and “paljon kirjoja” generally mean the same thing.

Finnish English
Minulla on paljon hyv ystäv. I have a lot of good friends.
Metsässä on paljon puita. There are a lot of trees in the forest.
Maija on ostanut paljon vaatteita. Maija has bought a lot of clothes.

There are certain exceptions to the “paljon + plural partitive” rule (e.g. paljon rahaa, paljon rakkautta), when the main word of the phrase is something abstract or uncountable. In addition, paljon isn’t used for the subject of a sentence (e.g. Paljon ihmisiä myöhästyvät. > Monet ihmiset myöhästyvät.) Learn more about paljon and monet.

1.2. To express indefinite amounts

If you want to express that there are many of something, but don’t want to get into the specifics of how many, you can use the partitive plural. You can do that in several sentence types.

  • In the existential sentenceTorilla on ihmisiä“, the partitive expresses that there are multiple people, but doesn’t give any information about the quantity of said people.
  • In object sentences like “Ostan omenoita“, the partitive plural expresses that you buy multiple apples without specifying the amount.
Finnish English
Ostan perunoita. I buy potatoes.
Metsässä on pien eläim. There are small animals in the forest.
Syön mansikoita. I eat strawberries.

1.3. To express indefinite amounts of time

Finnish English
Hän on ollut Suomessa vuosia. She’s been in Finland for years.
Hän oli sairaslomalla kuukausia. He was on sickness leave for months.
Hän oli kadoksissa useita päiv. She was missing for several days.

1.4. To express the plural of numbers

Yes, numbers can also be inflected into the partitive plural! This is mostly the case for 10, 100, 1000 etc.

Finnish English
Festareissa oli satoja naisia. At the festival were hundreds of women.
Hän käveli kymmen kilometrejä. She walked tens of kilometers.
Tokiossa asuu tuhansia ihmis. Thousands of people live in Tokyo.

1.5. For the complement (predikatiivi) of a plural subject

You can read more about the complement elsewhere. Below you can find some examples of sentences with their complement in the plural partitive.

Finnish English
Miehet ovat komeita. The men are handsome.
Me olimme väsyneitä. We were tired.
Mansikat olivat tuoreita. The strawberries were fresh.
Ihmiset olivat hiljaisia kirkossa. The people were quiet in church.

1.6. With negative sentences

Regular negative object sentences always have their object in the partitive. That can be the partitive singular when we’re dealing with a singular thing, or the partitive plural when there are multiple things.

Finnish English
En osta uusia kenk. I don’t buy new shoes.
Me emme avaa ikkunoita talvella. We don’t open windows in winter.
Antti ei halunnut syödä lätty. Antti didn’t want to eat pancakes.
Ari ei ymmärrä ulkomaalaisia. Ari doesn’t understand foreigners.

1.7. With partitive verbs

Some verbs always require the object to appear in the partitive case. These are called “partitive verbs“. You will need to learn these by heart, because English doesn’t have anything comparable. You can use both the singular and the plural partitive with partitive verbs, depending on the amount of the object.

Verb Singular Plural
rakastaa Minä rakastan suklaata. Minä rakastan makeisia.
odottaa Sinä odotat bussia. Sinä odotat kavereita.
pelata Hän pelaa tennis. Hän pelaa tietokonepele.
pelätä Minä pelkään pimeää. Me pelkäämme hevosia.
opiskella Te opiskelette suomea. Te opiskelette reaaliaineita.
auttaa Me autamme hän. Autamme kodittomia ihmis.

2. The Formation of the Plural Partitive Case

In general, the plural marker is -i-. For the partitive plural, this ending can be -ia/-iä, ita/-itä or -ja/-jä. What follows is the plural partitive formation for short words. The partitive plural of long words will be addressed in another article.

2.1. Words ending in -u/-y, -o/-ö: add -ja/jä

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
talo taloja tyttö tyttö
katu katuja hylly hylly
pallo palloja aamu aamuja
helppo helppoja sato satoja

2.2. Words ending in: replace the with -iä

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
kynä kyn metsä mets
isä is kesä kes
leipä leip kylmä kylm
pöytä pöyt ystävä ystäv

2.3. Words ending in -a

I call the two groups of words ending in -a by the names “kissa-words” and “koira-words”. These two words are easy to remember and each belongs to a different group of words ending in -a. If you can remember “kissa – kissoja” and “koira – koiria” and apply that rule to other, similar words, you’re on your way to mastering the partitive plural!

2.3.1. Words of two syllables (kissa-words)

Kissa-words are words of two syllables. Their final letter is -a. In the first syllable, you will have either -e-, -i- or -a-. In other words, the vowels of these words can look like:

  • a…a (kana, maksa, sana, marja)
  • e…a (herra, tela, teema, leija)
  • i…a (kissa, tina, hinta, silta)

When you inflect these words in the plural partitive, you will replace the final -a with -oja.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
sana sanoja hinta hintoja
kala kaloja kissa kissoja
teema teemoja marja marjoja
kirja kirjoja herra herroja

2.3.2. Words of two syllables (koira-words)

Koira-words are also words of two syllables. Their final letter is also -a. They differ when it comes to the first syllable: for koira-words you will have either -o-, or -u- in the first syllable. In other words, the vowels of these words can look like:

  • o…a (koira, konna, honda, nokka)
  • u…a (kukka, sukka, suora, juoma)

For koira-words, you will replace the final -a with -ia.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
koira koiria kukka kukkia
tukka tukkia muna munia
loma lomia oja ojia

2.4. Words ending in -i

Finnish has many groups of words ending in -i. Not all of them behave same way when you inflect them. Please read this separate article on old and new words ending in -i if you’re not familiar with this concept.

2.4.1. New words ending in -i: replace the -i with -eja/ejä

Please note that not all new words ending in -i belong to this category. This rule is specifically for two syllable words ending in -i. Longer words will not always follow this same rule. For example, paperi and lääkäri will become papereita and lääkäreitä (see section 2.1.)

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
tiimi tiimejä pankki pankkeja
posti posteja maali maaleja
tili tilejä tyyli tyylejä

2.4.2. Old words ending in -i: add -a/-ä to the basic form

All old words follow the same rule, regardless of any other factors.

For the singular partitive, you learned that there’s separate rules for old words ending in -si, and old words ending in -li, -ni or -ri. Luckily, in the plural partitive, all these words are grouped together and simply get an -a/-ä added to their basic form.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
järvi järviä ovi ovia
sieni sieniä kivi kiviä
sormi sormia nimi nimiä
uusi uusia vuosi vuosia
si käsiä reisi reisiä
sieni sieniä meri meriä
kieli kieliä tuli tulia

Find out more about the inflection of the different types of words ending in –i!

2.5. Words ending in -e: add -ita/itä

The above “add -ita/itä” is a little inaccurate, but it’s the easiest way to think of it. If you want to be technically correct, you should think of it as adding -ta/tä to the strong plural stem of the word.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
huone huoneita perhe perhei
kappale kappaleita kirje kirjei
lentokone lentokoneita taide taiteita
parveke parvekkeita lahje lahkeita
tuote (pic) tuotteita koe kokeita

2.6. Words ending in -nen: replace the -nen with -sia/-siä

Again, this rule can also be rephrased by saying that you

  1. add -ia/iä to the consonant stem of the word (e.g. nais-, sinis-, ihmis-) OR
  2. add -a/ä to the plural stem for the word (naisi-, sinisi-, ihmisi-)

I think the concept of having all these different stems just makes things more complicated. We’re here to learn how to use Finnish, not purely learn grammar. I think removing the -nen and adding -sia is much easier to remember.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
nainen naisia hevonen hevosia
suomalainen suomalaisia eteinen eteisiä
iloinen iloisia ihminen ihmisiä
sininen sinisiä tavallinen tavallisia

2.7. Words ending in two vowels: remove the last vowel and add -ita/-itä

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
maa maita sää itä
DVD DVD:itä suu suita
kuu kuita harmaa harmaita
vapaa vapaita jää itä
vihr vihreitä pim pimeitä
korkea korkeita lev leveitä

2.8. Words ending in diphthongs -ie, -uo, -yö: drop the first vowel + ita/itä

This rule only applies to words of one syllable. You will remove the first vowel of the diphthong, so for the word työ, you will remove the -y- and then add -itä to the end: töitä.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
tie teitä v vöitä
suo soita öitä

2.9. Longer words ending in two different vowels -io, -iö, -eo:

These words would actually belong on the page where I talk about the plural partitive of long words, but some of these words are so common that they are usually taught at the same time as short words. For these, you just add -ita to the end of the word without making any changes to the word itself.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
televisio televisioita museo museoita
radio radioita stereo stereoita
keitt keittitä video videoita

2.10. Words ending in a consonant

2.10.1 Words ending in -s

Please look at this overview of words ending in -s: here.

  1. Words ending in -us, -ys, -os, -ös: -ksia
  2. Words ending in -is: -iita (small group, section 1)
  3. Words ending in -is: -iksia (more common, section 2)
  4. Words ending in -as: -aita (more here)
  5. Words ending in -as: -aksia (small group, last section)
# Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
1 keskus keskuksia kysymys kysymyksiä
1 uutuus (pic) uutuuksia vastaus vastauksia
2 kallis kalliita kaunis kauniita
2 valmis valmiita ruumis ruumiita
3 kasvis kasviksia kirppis kirppiksiä
3 fiilis fiiliksiä julkkis julkkiksia
4 hammas hampaita varas varkaita
4 saapas saappaita tehdas tehtaita
5 ananas ananaksia lihas lihaksia

2.10.2 Words ending in -ton/-tön

Words ending in -ton/-tön will get -ia added to their stem, which ends in -ttoma- (e.g. rahattoman, rahattomassa, rahattomalle). Note that we use the strong form of the word.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
työtön työttöm koditon kodittomia
rasvaton rasvattomia järjetön järjettöm

2.10.3. Words ending in -tar

Words ending in -tar have a stem that ends in -ttare- (e.g. kuningatar : kuningattaren : kuningattarella). In the plural partitive, you will get -ttaria. Note that these words get the strong grade.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
kuningatar kuningattaria papitar papittaria
ystävätär ystävättäria kaunotar kaunottaria

2.10.4. Words ending in -in

Words ending in -in have a stem that ends in -ime- (e.g. puhelin : puhelimessa : puhelimeen). In the plural partitive, you will get -imia. Note that these words get the strong grade.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
puhelin puhelimia kahvinkeitin kahvinkeittim
puhallin puhaltimia kiharrin kihartimia

2.10.5. Words ending in -ut

Words ending in –ut can belong to two groups. The smaller of the two are words such as olut, kevyt and ohut. In the plural partitive, these words will end in -uita.

The much larger group are NUT-participles, such as väsynyt, kuollut, mennyt and juossut. These words will have –eita in the plural partitive. As you can see, the ending of both wordtypes ending in -ut is -ita, but the vowel right before the plural -i- is different.

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
olut oluita väsynyt väsyneitä
kevyt kevyitä tottunut tottuneita
lyhyt lyhyitä kuollut kuolleita

2.11. The partitive plural of long words

Long words follow their own set of rules. Read more about the plural partitive of long words!

Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
mansikka mansikoita insinööri insinöörejä
lääkäri lääkäreitä asema asemia
ravintola ravintoloita ohjelma ohjelmia
palvelu palveluita opettaja opettajia

3. Consonant Gradation in the Plural Partitive

The partitive plural will always be strong, both for wordtype A and wordtype B. That’s different than the partitive singular, where wordtype B words functioned with the weak grade.

Wordtype A
Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
tyttö tyttöjä pankki pankkeja
puku pukuja pöytä pöyt
hattu hattuja kauppa kauppoja
silta siltoja kampa kampoja

I have a separate article on wordtype A.

Words with 3+ syllables (which end in -kko or -kka) are exceptions: they can have both a weak (e.g. mansikoita, tekniikoita) and a strong (e.g. mansikkoja, tekniikkoja) plural partitive form.

Wordtype B
Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
savuke savukkeita tavoite tavoitteita
soitin soittimia opas oppaita
rakas rakkaita puhallin puhaltimia
keitin keittimiä hammas hampaita

I have a separate article on wordtype B.

Related articles

5 5 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Citadel

A great topic and discussion. I use Wiktionary to check the declensions of nominals, and have found many words have two or more versions of the Partitive plural. And there can be three or even five versions of the Genitive plural for some words. Some examples:

Mansikka – Partive plural: mansikoita / mansikkoja
Mansikka – Genitive plural: mansikoiden / mansikoitten / mansikkojen / mansikkain *
Omena – Partive plural: omenia / omenoita / omenoja *
Omena – Genitive plural: omenien / omenoiden / omenoitten / omenojen * / omenain *

The options with the asterisk are flagged in Wiktionary as being rare. Some of these are old fashioned and/or less common dialectical / regional variations. I suspect the words with multiple versions are older words, while words with no variants are newer loanwords, e.g. taksi has no variants for the above cases.

There is no need to memorise the different variations for each word; it’s just a case of recognising these case forms if you come across them. And a native Finn would recognise any of these forms, so no need to worry about being understood, whichever version you choose to use.

I recommend Wiktionary as a reference source to check noun and adjective declensions as well as verb conjugations. You can simply google the Finnish word and add “Wiktionary” to the search field, and this takes you straight to the relevant page.

Inge (admin)

Words with many options are (always?) long words! The words omena and mansikka for example each have three syllables. You can read more about long words here: https://uusikielemme.fi/finnish-grammar/grammatical-cases/plural-partitive-of-long-words/

Wiktionary is a good source, and so is Kielitoimiston sanakirja.

Citadel

Thanks, I haven’t yet read the info on the long words. I would be interesting to see if these multiple options apply only to long words. If so, that would mean the oldest Finnish words (said to be of two syllables) had only one form for this plural case, and it was later words that gained multiple versions, perhaps because Finns in different regions came up with different plural forms because of local preferences. I will do some research because I love digging up the etymology of words.

Citadel

Back again.

After some quick analysis from my Finnish database, I found the following which support your theory that these variations apply to long words:

  • Words with more than one Partitive plural form are indeed almost exclusively long words of 3+ syllables.
  • Any 2-syllable words with multiple Partitive plural forms are clear loanwords, e.g. cover, weber.
  • Words with multiple Partitive plural forms also typically have multiple Genitive plural forms.
  • Words with multiple Genitive plural forms can have any number of syllables.
  • Such words of one syllable are much rarer than 2- or 3-syllable words (e.g. tie, puu, voi, pää, työ – these have only the -den / -tten variants).
  • Words of two syllables tend to have only two Genitive plural forms.
  • Words of three syllables can have two to five Genitive plural forms.

Very recent loanwords seem to end up with the most variations, probably because so many people were guessing which plural form to use when these words first came into use. The very modern kännykkä provides a good example:

Partitive plural – kännyköitä, kännykköjä
Genitive plural – kännyköiden, kännyköitten, kännykköjen, kännykkäin (rare)

So the bottom line is that when it comes to such words, there is really no “right” or “wrong” version, and there is no need to learn every single version. I would go with the versions that are easiest to pronounce, given that they usually involve long ass words. I rather like the first version in each kännykkä list, because there is a sort of poetic flow in pronouncing them.

Thao

Hei, Se on hyvää selvista. Kyllä sanotaan paljon kiitoksia. Mutta luulin, että ”paljon” käytetään yleensä enen epämääräistä substantiivia; esimerkiksi monia ihmisiä, monia metsiä, mutta paljon rahaa. Voitteko oikaistaa jos minun ymmärykseni on vääri. Paljon kiitoksia.

Inge (admin)

Ei, näin ei ole. Sanaa “monia” ei käytetä kovin usein suomessa. Se on harvinaisempi, mutta tarkoittaa ihan samaa kuin “paljon”. Molempia voi käyttää samoissa tilanteissa, mutta suosittelen, ettet käyttäisi “monia” jatkuvasti.

Paljon ihmisiä, paljon metsiä ja paljon rahaa ovat kaikki kolme yleisiä ilmauksia. Onko mahdollista, että joku on ehkä selittänyt sinulle, miten “paljon” ja “monta” eroavat toisistaan, ja muistat sen vain hieman väärin? On nimittäin niin, että voit sanoa “monta ihmistä” ja “monta metsää”, mutta epämääräinen substantiivi “rahaa” ei voi saada “monta” sanaa. Eli monta ihmistä, mutta paljon rahaa.

Ei kannata käyttää “monia” sanaa kovin usein, se on tosiaan harvinaisempi kuin “paljon”.

iliya

Hello and thank you so much for the great and amazing job putting all this information together (in the whole Uusi kielemme).
I’m just a beginner, but one of my studying methods is learning Finnish nouns, adjectives with their four basic dictionnary forms (nominatiivi, genetiivi, partitiivi yksikkö ja monniko). And before even I knew about this great site, I was putting in an excel all of these. Then when I found Uusi Kielemme, I realized that this distinction basically fits with the here described rules.
There’s at the moment one word that is an exception – suola, according to all of the sources I checked, becomes suoloja instead of suolia, even though it seems to be a “koira“-word. So I should assume that’s it’s an exception and my question is – is it really one? If it is, what more exceptions can I come across? And if it’s not, what I’m missing? Maybe the -la ending changes the situation? But then again, it doesn’t become suoloita as long words do, so it doesn’t seem to be the answer….

Inge (admin)

That’s a very good question! Suola does indeed look like a koira word. The reason why it’s different is to remove confusion with another word: suoli, which means “guts, intestine”.

suola : suoloja
suoli : suolia

It’s much more common to talk about your intestines in the plural and that it is to talk about several different types of salt. Suola normally only appears in the singular (eg. Syön paljon suolaa). The word suola has thus gotten a different conjugation. I’m sure you can recognise how disgusting it would feel to say you put different types of salt on your food, using a word that sounds very much like “intestines”!

While your strategy of learning these specific forms for each noun is admirable, please note that some words just don’t appear in their plural form except in very nieche situations.
Suola is one of these, as is vesi, for example. Just like it’s unusual for you to want to say you drink several different kinds of waters (eg. seawater and sweet water), it’s also uncommon to run into a situation where you would use different types of salt (eg. table salt and kosher salt).

As to whether there are other exceptions like this. Yes, I suppose there are. It’s hard to think of any though.

iliya

Hi! Here I am again, this time with some exceptions for short words (yes, I’m a pain in the neck, I know :-p)

I know a couple of words (or more :D) in -e that don’t behave as such, but as words ending in –o instead (only adding the case suffix to the stem, WITHOUT doubling the -e). For Partitive plural they just add -ja.

  1. Examples 2-syllables: aleja, nalleja, saameja, turreja, polleja
  2. Examples more-syllables: karaokeja, ukuleleja

For the last two they are obviously new or lound words, as far as I can say…ale, nalle and polle have informal/pretty colloquial use. (I’m just trying to work out some tendencies, even being wrong xD). But then I don’t have a clue how to explain the exceptions for nalle and saame (and there will surely be more words like these).

Last edited 7 months ago by iliya
Inge (admin)

I’ve had a draft about this small group of nouns for a very long time, but there are always other articles i’ve rather worked on xD

Quote: “Nykysuomen sanakirja mainitsee 68 nalle-tyypin nominia, mutta niitä on nykyään enemmän, sillä kieleemme omaksutaan jonkin verran vieraista kielistä uusia e-loppuisia sanoja, ja ne asettuvat juuri tähän ryhmään, esim. college, joule, mobile, single.”

Daniel Kelly

For these, you just add -ita to the end of the word without making any changes to the word itself.

I saw an example : miniä -> miniöitä
But you said, only add the ending without making changes to the word itself. I think even pyöreä -> pyöreitä. So this is probably a mistake. Worthy of a point I suppose ? 🙂

Inge (admin)

Yeah, miniä slipped into the wrong category: it belongs here.

Adjectives like pyöreä, pimeä and vihreä were completely missing. I added them to section 2.7 on this page. Thank you! Worthy of two points.