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 ice berg!

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.

Singular Plural
Finnish English Finnish English
Kuka pelaa? Who is playing? Ketkä soittavat? Who are playing?
Kuka osaa auttaa meitä? Who can help us? Ketkä osaavat auttaa meitä? Who can help us?

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 genetive case.

Ketä and keitä are used when:

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

3. Genetive: Kenen? Keiden? Whose?

You could start by reading about the genetive 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:

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

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?).

Singular Plural
Finnish English Finnish English
Kenellä on kysymys? Who has a question? Keillä ei ole tätä paperia? Who doesn’t have this paper?
Kenellä oli eilen koe? Who had a test yesterday? Keillä olisi aikaa minulle? Who 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?)

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

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?)

Singular Plural
Finnish English Finnish English
Keneltä sait sen? Who did you get it from? Keiltä varastit tämän? Who did you steal this from?
Keneltä lainasit rahaa? Who did you borrow money from? Keiltä perit rahat? Who did you inherit the money from?
Keneltä pyysit apua? Who did you ask help from? Keiltä sinä kuulit huhun? From who 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 elative case in general first. These interrogatives are mainly used with certain verbs (see: rections)

Singular Plural
Finnish English Finnish English
Keneen sinä rakastuit? Who did you fall in love with? Keihin sinä tutustuit? Who did you meet?
Keneen sinä tormäsit? Who did you bump into? Keihin sinä luotat? Who do you trust?
Keneen hän on ihastunut? Who is he infatuated with? Keihin sinä nyt viittaat? Who 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)

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

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