Finnish for busy people

The Partitive Case – Partitiivi – Finnish Grammar

This article deals with the partitive case, which answers the questions “mitä?” and “ketä?”. It’s a topic that will continue to be challenging for a very long time while you’re learning Finnish. My advice is to take it little by little and not try to learn it all at once.

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Partitive Case
    1. After numbers
    2. After words that express quantity
    3. With indefinite amounts
    4. With negative sentences
    5. With irresultative phrases
    6. With partitive verbs
    7. With prepositions
  2. The Formation of the Partitive Case
    1. The partitive of the personal pronouns
    2. Words ending in a single vowel
    3. Words ending in 2 vowels or 1 consonant
    4. Words ending in an –e
    5. Words ending in -nen
    6. Words ending in -i
      1. New words ending in -i
      2. Old words ending in -i
      3. Old words ending in -si
  3. Consonant Gradation in the Partitive Case

1. Use of the Partitive Case (mitä, ketä)

The partitive has no equivalent in English and many other languages. That makes it hard to understand what its function is. In some cases, the use of the partitive coincides with the plural form in other languages, but it’s not the same as the plural.

When a group of words all belong together (say: a pronoun, an adjective and a noun), all three of them will be put in the partitive.

  • “There are three [beautiful young women] in the room.” becomes “Huoneessa on kolme [kaunista nuorta naista].
  • “I buy ten [playful cats].” becomes “Ostan kymmenen [leikkisää kissaa].
  • “I have two [crying unhappy children].” becomes “Minulla on kaksi [itkevää surullista lasta].

1.1. After numbers

The partitive is used in connection with the numbers. Because of that, many new language learners assume the partitive is the plural form. This is not the case. There is a separate plural (the plural nominative) and in addition there is also a partitive plural.

You don’t use the partitive after the number “yksi”, but you do use it after the number “nolla”.

Yksi Finnish English
yksi kuppi kaksi kuppia two cups
yksi olut kolme olutta three beers
yksi nainen neljä naista four women
yksi talo nolla taloa zero houses

1.2. After words that express a quantity

The words below express a quantity, an amount. They’re very much like numbers in that sense. You can find more words that express quantity here.

Finnish English
monta banaania many bananas
kuppi kahvia a cup of coffee
kulho mysliä a bowl of muesli
pullo viiniä a bottle of wine
tölkki olutta a can of beer
metri köyt a meter of rope
litra maitoa a liter of milk

1.3. With indefinite amounts

Most of the time, when translating this kind of sentences, you could use “some” in English. You don’t know how much it is exactly; just some amount. These are mainly object sentences.

Finnish English
Juon kahvia. I drink some coffee.
Ostan maitoa. I buy some milk.
Syön makkaraa. I eat some sausage.
Lasissa on mehua. There’s some juice in the glass.
Syön keittoa. I eat some soup.

1.4. With negative sentences

In almost all sentence types, you will have the partitive in a negative sentence. Exception: complement sentences (predikatiivilause).

Finnish English
En osta tä puseroa. I won’t buy this sweater.
En avannut ikkunaa. I didn’t open the window.
Minulla ei ole autoa. I don’t have a car.
Täällä ei ole uima-allasta. There’s no swimming pool here.

1.5. With irresultative phrases

Irresultative means the action is incomplete (versus resultative, which is complete). When an activity is currently taking place, you will put the object in the partitive. The result of the action hasn’t been achieved yet. The partitive might also be meant like in part 1.3., where you plan to read some of the book, but not all of it. You can find similar examples here.

Finnish English
Luen kirjaa. I’m reading some of the book.
Luen kirjaa. I’m currently reading the book.
Luen kirjan. I’m going to read the whole book.

1.6. 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.

Verb Finnish English
rakastaa Minä rakastan sinua. I love you.
odottaa Sinä odotat bussia. You wait for the bus.
pelata Hän pelaa tennis. She plays tennis.
ajaa Minä ajan autoa. I’m driving a car.
opiskella Te opiskelette suomea. You’re studying Finnish.
auttaa Me autamme hän. We help her.

1.7. With prepositions

Prepositions are fairly uncommon in Finnish, but they do exist. Read more about them on my Finnish prepositions page.

Preposition Finnish English
ennen Tulin kotiin ennen sinua. I came home before you.
ilman Tulin kotiin ilman takkia. I came home without a coat.

2. The Formation of the Partitive Case

The ending of the partitive can be -a, -ta or -tta, depending on what kind of word they are attached to. In order to correctly choose between -a and , you will need to first learn about vowel harmony.

2.1. The partitive of the personal pronouns

The partitive of personal pronouns goes as follows:

PP Partitive Finnish English
minä minua Minua ärsyttää. I feel annoyed.
sinä sinua En rakasta sinua. I don’t love you.
hän hän Odotan hän asemalla. I wait for her at the station.
me mei Etkö nähnyt mei? Didn’t you see us?
te tei Tei väsyttää. You (plural) feel tired.
he hei Älä kuuntele hei. Don’t listen to them.
kuka ke Ke sinä rakastat? Who do you love?

2.2. Words ending in a single vowel (-a/-ä, -u/-y, -o/-ö): add -a/-ä

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
kala kalaa tyyny tyynyä
talo taloa seinä seinää
loma lomaa hylly hyllyä
melu melua sänky sänkyä
helppo helppoa homma hommaa

2.3. Words ending in 2 vowels or 1 consonant: add -ta/-tä

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
mies mies maa maata
hius hiusta sampoo sampoota
askel askelta elokuu elokuuta
rikas rikasta syy syy
keskus keskusta tie tie

2.4. Words ending in -e: add -tta/-ttä

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
huone huonetta perhe perhettä
kappale kappaletta kirje kirjettä
lentokone lentokonetta taide taidetta
parveke parveketta koe koetta

There are some words that end in -e that are exempt to this rule. These include names (Ville → Villeä), and some other words (kolme → kolmea, itse → itseä, nukke → nukkea).

2.5. Words ending in -nen: replace the -nen with -sta/-stä

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
nainen naista hevonen hevosta
suomalainen suomalaista eteinen eteistä
iloinen iloista ihminen ihmistä
sininen sinistä toinen toista

2.6. Words ending in –i

2.6.1. New words ending in -i: add -a/-ä

New words are often loanwords. Usually they’re recognisable because they resemble words in other languages, like pankki for “bank”, or paperi for “paper”. Loanwords are easier than Finnish words because they don’t undergo as many changes when you add endings.

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
banaani banaania paperi paperia
kahvi kahvia pankki pankkia
posti postia maali maalia
tili tiliä adverbi adverbia

2.6.2. Old words ending in -i: replace -i with -ea/-eä

Old words are very often nature words. After all, nature has been around for so long that Finns have had names for them since the very beginning. Some words’ age can be confusing, for example äiti “mother” is actually a new Finnish word, even though mothers have been around since the beginning of time!

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
suomi suomea ovi ovea
järvi järveä kivi kiveä
sormi sormea nimi nimeä
lahti lahtea lehti lehteä

2.6.3. Old words ending in -si: replace -si with -tta/-ttä

More old words, but this time with -si at their end. It’s also important that this rule is only for old words, which means new words like kurssi (kurssia) and marssi (marssia) are excluded from this rule.

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
uusi uutta vuosi vuotta
si ttä kuukausi kuukautta
vesi vettä reisi reittä

2.6.4. Old words ending in -li, -ni or -ri: replace -i with -ta/-tä

This rule is not 100 % foolproof. There are words that end in -hi, like lohi for example, that become lohta in the partitive. It’s also important that this rule is only for old words, which means words like lääkäri (lääkäriä), jonglööri (jonglööria) and konduktööri (konduktööria) are excluded from this rule.

Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
pieni pien meri merta
sieni sien suuri suurta
nuori nuorta hiiri hiir
kieli kiel tuli tulta

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


3. Consonant Gradation in the Partitive Case

The partitive is complicated in many ways, but when it comes to consonant gradation it’s simple: the partitive form of each word will have the same consonants as the basic form. For wordtype A that means always strong, and for wordtype B always weak!

Wordtype A
Basic Partitive Basic Partitive
tyttö tyttöä pankki pankkia
puku pukua pöytä pöytää
hattu hattua kauppa kauppaa
silta siltaa kampa kampaa
hiekka hiekkaa apu apua

I have a separate article on wordtype A.

Wordtype B
Nominative Partitive Nominative Partitive
puhallin puhallinta tavoite tavoitetta
soitin soitinta savuke savuketta
keitin keitin opas opasta
rakas rakasta hammas hammasta
allas allasta allas allasta

I have a separate article on wordtype B.


That concludes the article on the partitive case!

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Ulkem Aydin

This was the best online source for learning Finnish. Now it looks “modernized”, energetic and motivating. Thank you for all your efforts. All the best…

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

Thank you! 🙂

mr
mr

There’s a typo on the first “pankki” by the way.

AyeBoushaba
AyeBoushaba

This is by far the easiest Finnish grammar explanation I have encountered. Thank you for explaining everything in its most simple form. God bless you and keep doing what you do.