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The Partitive Plural – Monikon Partitiivi

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

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
      3. Old words ending in -si
    5. Words ending in an -e
    6. Words ending in -nen
    7. Words ending in two vowels
    8. Words ending in diphtongs -ie, -uo, -yö
    9. Words ending in a consonant
      1. Words ending in -s
      2. Words ending in -ton/tön
      3. Words ending in -in
    10. 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, eg. “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 (eg. paljon rahaa, paljon rakkautta), when the main word of the phrase is something abstract.

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. Are 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) tuotteitä 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 (eg. 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

2.8. Words ending in diphtongs -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 diphtong, 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. Words ending in a consonant

2.9.1 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

2.9.2 Words ending in -ton/-tön

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

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

2.9.3 Words ending in -in

Words ending in -in have a stem that ends in -ime- (eg. 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

2.9.4. 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

2.10. 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.

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.


That concludes the article on the plural partitive case!

If you want a chance to compare the genetive plural to the partitive plural, you can do so! I also have a separate article on the inflection of long words in the partitive plural.

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Sarah

This is far too difficult. I just want to rip my hair out reading up on all of these lessons on Finnish. I love the country so much, and want to move there, and no, I don’t want to just rely on Swedish or English because I love the language too… But this is just awful.

Inge (admin)

I totally understand, Sarah! Keep in mind that you don’t have to learn everything at once! This specific topic you decided to comment on is quite advanced.

In my experience, at a certain point during the language learning process, you will have HEARD or READ certain forms enough for them to start SOUNDING correct. At that level, students just say “perunoita” and “kukkia” without even having to think about it. If you’re not at that point yet, don’t frustrate yourself with all the rules, okay?

The only rules on this specific page that will give you trouble even at that level are the “kissa” and “koira” words. Those you’ll probably have to come back to and read the rule for later.

Sarah

Inge, thank you! Sorry for getting upset, this is a truly wonderful site 🙂 So far I’ve been learning vocabulary, then trying to form sentences with them using your site as a reference guide. Do you think that’s a smart way to go about it, or is there possibly a better way?

Inge (admin)

The BEST way would probably to find yourself a Finnish course. If that’s not an option, then finding a book would be advisable. It’s not that you can’t learn Finnish online. The issue is to know the best order in which to study things and the pace you study them at. A book or a teacher would help you with that.

My website is not organized per level, because it’s meant as a place to look up specific grammar or a topic you want to learn vocab out. It’s not a lesson plan.

You might want to check out these, if you’re a beginner:
http://venla.info/lessons.php
https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2015/12/15/supisuomea
https://www.kotisuomessa.fi/web/site-45328/state-jurdgmbwei/page-82574
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWP3CErA21cgDJYggd7pK4AxI3shVZK9U

Sarah

Kiitos! 🙂 I guess I’m just wary, because it seems like there’s less of a… teaching standard, I suppose, when it comes to Finnish, since only roughly 5 million people speak it, and all in the same country. I just don’t want to learn anything the wrong way. For instance, I’ve already run into some trouble regarding “Tuntea” and how it means “To know” and “To feel,” but mostly “To know.”

Those links re quite helpful, thank you! I appreciate it!

Tri Lam

Thank you Inge for such thorough writing of this topic! It has always been a struggle for me with plurals. BTW, could you please explain a bit about plural partitive for words ending with a consonant? for example, kaunis, vihannes, … Is there any rules for these?

Inge (admin)

Thanks for your comment! The plurals are indeed tricky in Finnish. Of course there are rules for words ending in a consonant as well! Thanks for the article suggestion, I will be working on it in the near future.

lordgeyik

How about long words ending with -a, such as tavara? What is the partitiivi plural rule for those?

Inge (admin)

Check this article on the plural partitive of long words: https://uusikielemme.fi/finnish-grammar/grammatical-cases/plural-partitive-of-long-words/ 🙂

Ricardo

Hey Inge,

First, thank you so much for putting all this together! Your website has become a valuable reference for me and my acquaintances to learn Finnish!

I am currently studying this topic in my Finnish classes, and both the teacher and our coursebook suggest that there is one case in which the partitive plural might require the usage of the weak stem of a word. Such a case happens when the next conditions are met:

1. The basic form of the word has three syllables.
2. The last syllable of the basic form is either “-kka”, or “-kkä”.

Here are some examples:

basic form: “mansikka”,
singular stem: “mansikka-“,
plural stem: “mansikkoi-“,
partitive plural: “mansikoita”.

basic form: “kännykkä”,
singular stem: “kännykkä-“,
plural stem: “kannykköi-“,
partitive pural: “kannyköitä”.

Looking in Wiktionary, I’ve seen that most (or all) of these words are also compatible with the “-a”/”-ä” plural partitive suffix.

Inge (admin)

Hey Ricardo! Thanks for your detailed comment!

This is indeed the rule for words ending in -kka/-kkä, as well as words ending in -kko/-kkö.

Since there are long words, they are explained in my article that goes over the plural partitive of long words: https://uusikielemme.fi/finnish-grammar/grammatical-cases/plural-partitive-of-long-words/#three

Ricardo

AH! Sorry I didn’t see your article on plural partitive for long words! Thank you again for documenting all this!

¡Buena semana, Inge!

Rasikko

I discussed this with my wife, and at least for Mansikka, she prefers mansikkoja. I think some Finns wish to adhere to the somewhat solid rule of partitive plural being strong in speech. This topic was never discussed in my classes.

Inge (admin)

Really? Wow! She’s really the exception then 🙂

I decided to google it:
“Mansikoita” 474k results
“Mansikkoja” 1.7k results
– Edit: huh, I regoogled it and now there’s even less, only 615 “mansikkoja”.

Does she keep the same stance with puolukkoja, lusikkoja and lompakkoja?

I’m just a learner of Finnish myself, but to me, certain forms just sound “wrong”. Mansikkoja and palveluja are two of those for me. I am aware that palveluja is about equally common as palveluita. Yet I have a clear preference myself. I try not to force my personal preference onto others.

Rasikko

I had to check my notes from that discussion again as it didn’t look right to me either haha. She said mansikoita and that it’s ok to use either forms for words like the ones you listed above.

Inge (admin)

Ah! Sad that she isn’t the exception after all :p I would have liked to know how someone who says “mansikkoja” handles other similar words.

I remember how I felt way back when I was studying the plural partitive myself. I was so irked by the fact that there were at least two correct forms. I didn’t like the “freedom”, I wanted someone to tell me which one to use! :p

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.