Finnish for busy people

The Finnish Object – Objekti

The object is very important in Finnish. The lack of certain elements in the Finnish language is covered by the object.

For example, since Finnish doesn’t have a future tense, you can use the object to express whether something is going on right now, or sometime in the future. The object also is a way of differentiating between the English “the” and “a”; the definite and indefinite pronouns. Because of these reasons, the object is crucial in Finnish.

The object can appear in the following cases:

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Finnish Object
    1. Countables vs. uncountables
    2. Expressing completion vs incompletion
    3. Expressing intent
  2. The Different Finnish Object Types
    1. The Partitive Object
    2. The Total Object
    3. The Accusative: History and Controversy
  3. Comparison Between the Cases
    1. Partitive vs. Genitive
      1. Negative vs. affirmative sentences
      2. Partitive verbs
      3. Countable vs. uncountable objects
      4. Abstract objects
      5. Currently happening vs intention
    2. Genitive vs. Nominative
      1. The object of an imperative sentence
      2. The object of a necessity sentence
      3. The object of a passive sentence
    3. Plural Partitive vs. Plural Nominative

1. The Use of the Finnish Object

1.1. Countables vs. Uncountables

Firstly, the object is used to express countable (e.g. a glass, steak, table) and uncountable (e.g. water, love, intellect) quantities.

  1. When the object is uncountable, we use the partitive case. In English, when something is uncountable, you generally can use the word “some” rather than “a”. For example, you will be eating some cheese, not a cheese. (#1)
  2. The genitive case is used when your object is countable. You can, for example, count cups even though you can’t count the coffee in them. (#2)
# Finnish English
1 Me juomme kahvia. We are drinking coffee.
1 Antti syö juustoa. Antti is eating cheese.
1 Haluan vain rakkautta. I only want love.
1 Ostan maitoa. I buy milk.
1 Tarvitsen rahaa. I need money.
2 Me juomme kupin kahvia. We are drinking a cup of coffee.
2 Antti syö pihvin. Antti is eating a steak.
2 Haluan vain vaimon. I only want a wife.
2 Ostan maitotölkin. I buy a carton of milk.
2 Tarvitsen ystävän. I need a friend.

1.2. Expressing Completion vs Incompletion

The object is also used to differentiate between completed and incompleted actions.

  1. The partitive is used when the action is currently incomplete or has been abandoned and will, thus, never be completed.
  2. The genitive is used to express that the action is completely done.
# Finnish English
1 Luin kirjaa. I was reading (some of) a/the book.
2 Luin kirjan. I read the (whole) book.
1 Katsoimme elokuvaa. We watched (part of) a/the movie.
2 Katsoimme elokuvan. We watched the movie (until the end)
1 Ammuin karhua. I shot (at) a/the bear.
2 Ammuin karhun. I shot a/the bear (dead).

1.3. Expressing Intent

Finnish doesn’t have a future tense. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t express future events or intent. You can learn the different ways to express intent more closely on our page about the future tense. On this page, we’ll just look at the object’s role in doing that.

The verb in all the sentences below is conjugated in the present tense. However, the sentences with the object in the genitive refer to intentions for the future.

  1. The partitive is used when the action is currently happening and, thus, incomplete.
  2. The genitive is used to express that our intention is to complete the action that is currently happening.
# Finnish English
1 Luen kirjaa. I’m reading a/the book (currently happening)
2 Luen kirjan. I will read the book (finishing the whole book)
1 Katsomme elokuvaa. We’re watching a movie (currently happening)
2 Katsomme elokuvan. We will watch the movie (watching the whole movie)
1 Rakennan taloa. I’m building a house (currently happening)
1 Rakennan talon. I am building / will build a house (completely)

2. The Different Object Types

You will get a more detailed overview of when to use a partitive object or a total object below. However, let’s first take a look at what both are.

2.1. The Partitive Object

The partitive is used for many things, e.g. after numbers, in negative sentences and to express that something is incomplete. Our page on the partitive case should give you a nice overview about all these different situations.

2.2. The Total Object

The “total object” (totaaliobjekti) has gotten that name because it expresses that something is happening to “the whole” object (e.g. syön omenan – I eat the whole apple). The total object can appear in several different forms. Depending on the sentence type, it can appear in the genitive case (omenan), the nominative case (omena) or the plural nominative (omenat).

2.3. The Accusative: History and Controversy

The case called “the accusative” has been the cause of many arguments among linguists. Originally, the accusative was seen as a case that could have several different-looking endings based on the context. These endings were: -n (which looks like the genitive), -t (which looks like the T-plural) or no ending at all (which looks like the nominative). The reason these were all grouped under the accusative name was purely semantical: it was used to mark the total object of a sentence.

However, some linguists (and Finnish teachers) found that basing a case on its function was not the most logical way to look at it. Much easier would be to base it on its looks. Hence:

  • When a total object looks like a genitive (Ostan auton), we will call the case the genitive.
  • When a total object looks like the nominative (Osta auto), we will call the case the nominative.
  • When a total object looks like the T-plural (Ostan autot), we will call the case the plural nominative.

This leaves the “accusative” with a role that is much smaller than before. These days, the accusative is usually only used as a term to indicate personal pronouns, when they appear as a total object in a sentence.

  • Sinä kutsut minut juhliisi.
  • Minä kutsun sinut juhliini.
  • Me valitsemme hänet.
  • Pomo lomauttaa meidät.
  • Teidät on valittu meille töihin!
  • Hän näki heidät eläintarhassa.
  • Kenet valittiin puheenjohtajaksi?

Read more about the accusative!

3. Comparison Between the Cases

Let the battle of the cases begin! This is where the fun begins. If you have a very analytical mind, this will all make sense to you. However, don’t despair if you can’t grasp all of this at once. This is a complicated matter that will haunt you for a long time. Many immigrants will still be recognizable as non-native speakers by their object mistakes.

If you want to cheat a little bit, you could do what I did in the beginning, and just use the partitive whenever you’re not 100% sure which case is the right one. The partitive case is the most common form for objects to appear in, so you minimize your rate of error by going for the partitive in cases of doubt.

3.1. Partitive vs. Genitive

First and foremost: the partitive is the STRONGEST of all the case. By that I mean that — if there is any reason at all in the sentence to use the partitive, you should do so. It trumps all the other cases.

As such, the rules below should be seen as a HIERARCHY.

3.1.1. Negative vs. Affirmative Sentences

No matter what kind of an object sentence you are dealing with, it will have a partitive object as soon as the sentence is negative. This rule trumps over all the other rules.

Finnish English Negative?
En syö omenaa tänään. I won’t eat an apple today. Negative Sentence
Syön omenan. I’m eating an apple. Positive Sentence
Saara ei avannut ikkunaa. Saara didn’t open the window. Negative Sentence
Sami avasi ikkunan. Sami opened the window. Positive Sentence

3.1.2. Partitive Verbs

If the verb in your sentence is a partitive verb, you will put your object in the partitive case. This is true for both affirmative and negative sentences.

Finnish English Why?
Minä rakastan tä taloa. I love this house. Partitive verb: rakastaa
Minä ostan tämän talon. I buy this house. Object verb: ostaa
Liisa vihaa tietokonetta. Liisa hates the computer. Partitive verb: vihata
Liisa käynnistää tietokoneen. Liisa turns the computer on. Object verb: käynnistää

3.1.3. Countable vs. Uncountable Objects

If your sentence is a) affirmative and b) has an object verb, you will use the genitive for objects you can count (a cup, a chair, a glass or an apple). If the object is an uncountable (wine, cheese, rice or milk), you will use the partitive. Object verbs are for example: avata, sulkea, käynnistää, sammuttaa, ottaa, myydä, laittaa, antaa, syödä, juoda, ostaa, nostaa, and maalata.

For negative sentences refer to 3.1.1. and for partitive verbs refer to 3.1.2. — Eg. Me syömme pihvin vs Me emme syö pihviä.

Finnish English Why?
Me juomme viiniä. We are drinking wine. Uncountable: you drink SOME wine
Me juomme kupin kahvia. We are drinking a cup of coffee. Countable: you can count cups
Nainen syö juustoa. The woman eats cheese. Uncountable: she eats SOME cheese
Antti syö pihvin. Antti eats a steak. Countable: you can count steaks

Read more about uncountable objects in these articles:

3.1.4. Abstract Objects

When an abstract noun is the object of your sentence, you will use the partitive case both in affirmative and negative sentences. To learn about these in more detail, read about abstract nouns here.

Finnish English Why?
Tarvitset rakkautta. You need love. Abstract
Tarvitset sydämen. You need a heart. Concrete
Tarvitsen unta. I need sleep. Abstract
Tarvitsen sängyn. I need a bed. Concrete

3.1.5. Currently Happening vs. Intention

In a) an affirmative sentence with b) a countable noun, you will use the genitive when the sentence is referring to an intent to finish something, and the partitive when the action is currently happening.

Finnish English Why?
Luen kirjaa. I’m reading a/the book. Not completed: currently happening
Luen kirjan. I will read the book. Completed: intent is to finish the whole book
Katsomme elokuvaa. We’re watching a movie. Not completed: currently happening
Katsomme elokuvan. We will watch the movie. Completed: intent is to watch the whole movie

3.2. Genitive vs. Nominative

According to the old rule, a total object that looks like a genitive or a nominative, are both called the accusative (see 2.3.). However, we will not use that term “accusative”, as explained in 2.3.

In some sentence types where you would expect the object to look like a genitive (“Ostan auton”), the nominative (the basic form) trumps the genitive (“Osta auto!”). Let’s look at those situations below!

3.2.1. The Object of an Imperative Sentence

In imperative sentences, you will remove the -n from the object. If the object is a personal pronoun, it will appear in the accusative case no matter what.

Genitive Imperative Type of Imperative
Minä ostin auton. Osta auto! “Buy the car!” Singular imperative
Me avaamme oven. Avatkaa ovi! “Open the door!” Plural imperative
Sinä muistat ystävän. Muista ystävä! “Remember the friend!” Singular imperative
Sinä muistat hänet. Muista hänet! “Remember him!” Singular imperative

3.2.2. The Object of a Necessity Sentence

There is a whole range of ways to express necessity. They all have in common that their object will not appear in the genitive. The accusative case (used for personal pronouns) will keep its case.

Genitive Necessity
Minä ostin auton. Minun täytyy ostaa auto.
Me avaamme oven. Meidän on pakko avata ovi.
Sinä myyt tietokoneen. Sinun on myytävä tietokone.
Antti ottaa lasin. Antin kannattaa ottaa lasi.
Sinä unohdat miehen. Sinun pitää unohtaa mies.
Sinä unohdat hänet. Sinun pitää unohtaa hänet.

3.2.3. The Object of a Passive Sentence

Passive sentences will also come with an object that looks like the nominative. A regular sentence with a genitive object will lose the genitive as soon as you change the verb to a passive form. You can learn more about the present passive, the past passive and the passive conditional elsewhere. If you’re dealing with a personal pronoun (e.g. sinut), you will retain the accusative case.

Genitive Passive
Minä ostin auton. Me ostettiin auto.
Me avaisimme oven. Ovi avattaisiin.
Sinä myyt tietokoneen. Myydään tietokone!
Antti ottaa lasin. Baarissa otetaan lasi.
Muistan opettajan. Opettaja muistetaan.
Muistan sinut. Sinut muistetaan.

3.3. Plural Partitive vs. Plural Nominative

When your object is a plural, you have two cases to choose from: the plural partitive (omenoita) and the plural nominative (omenat). Luckily, the base rule is fairly easy: you use the T-plural when you’re talking about all the things and the partitive plural when you’re talking about many but not all.

In some cases you can also use the T-plural to refer to a plural subject you were talking about earlier. Eg. “Ostan kaupasta vaatteet.” usually doesn’t mean that you buy ALL the clothes in the store, but rather that you buy the clothes you were talking about earlier.

One other trick to figure out which one of the two you should use: the T-plural will usually have “the” in front of the object when translated to English.

Finnish English
Syön omenat. I eat (all) the apples.
Syön omenoita. I eat (several) apples.
Siirrän tietokoneet varastoon. I move (all) the computers to the storehouse.
Siirrän tietokoneita varastoon. I move (several) computers to the storehouse.
Tässä kaupassa myydään puhelimia. In this store they sell phones.
Tässä kaupassa myydään puhelimet. In this store they sell the phones (we talked about before).
Ostan kaupasta T-paitoja. I buy T-shirts from the store.
Ostan kaupasta T-paidat. I buy the T-shirts from the store.

I have a separate article which goes over the different ways to use the T-plural and the plural partitive. That page doesn’t focus on object sentences. Rather, it gives a broader view of the usage of both cases.

4. There is more…

Once you’re familiar with the object rules in this article, you could move on to my article on the object for advanced learners. Please note that the article in question is really long and definitely not meant to be studied in one go with the content of this article. They’re different levels of the same topic.

PS: used to have a really helpful flow chart to help you figure out what case to use for the object. Unfortunately that website is no longer available but I salvaged their image.

That’s it for the Finnish object! Do you have any questions?

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¨Tähän rakennettiin talo.¨

SHould it not be:

¨Tähän rakennettiin TALON¨?


A passive sentence won’t have a genetive object (see 3.2.3.)

¨Me ostettiin auto.¨
Is this passive?
cause there is a subject


It’s the past passive as appears in spoken language -> It’s not a passive as far as MEANING goes, but the form is the past passive. Great questions! 🙂


Michael Hämäläinen

This is already a very complicated topic, but since I noticed some additional aspects covered in Korpela’s Handbook of Finnish, I’ve copied them below:

[partitive verbs]

…such verbs might be used with a “total” object, e.g. Rakastan sinut kuoliaaksi is the Finnish name of the movie title “I Love You to Death”. [Here, sinut is in accusative case and kuoliaaksi is in translative case (-ksi) indicating “change of state” of *kuolias, from kuolla (to die) +‎ ias (suffix forming adjectives and nouns).]

[plural objects]

English uses plural for the object in statements like “They shook their heads”, but in Finnish we say He ravistivat päätään, where päätään is a singular form of pää (head), with partitive suffix – and possessive suffix –än . We can say that in Finnish we use the singular because each person has only one head. Consistent with this, we say He heiluttivat käsiään [käsi in partitive plural] when we mean that people waved both hands and He heiluttivat kättään [käsi in partitive singular] when each person used just one hand; in English, both are are expressed “They waved their hands”.

[use of partitive in questions to express doubt]

In a question, the object is usually in genitive singular or nominative plural when it is definite, e.g. contains the demonstrative pronoun tämä. Examples: Oletko lukenut tämän kirjan? (Have you read this book?) and Oletko lukenut nämä kirjat (Have you read these books?). It is possible to use the partitive, too, but then the meaning or at least the tone changes: Oletko lukenut tätä kirjaa? [partitive singular] expresses doubt and often expects a negative answer, and Oletko lukenut näitä kirjoja? [partitive plural] means “Have you read any of these books?”

[verb taking genitive and partitive with different meanings ]

The verb naida means “to marry” in standard language and takes an object in genitive or accusative or (in plural) in the nominative, e.g. Hän nai nuoren tytön (He married a young girl). In spoken language, the verb is also used in vulgar style with an object in the partitive, and then the verb means sexual intercourse, e.g. Hän nai nuorta tyttöä (He f—ed a young girl).



Could somebody explain why in a sentence “Minulla on koira” the word koira is in nominative? Or why the object is in genitive in “Minä tarvitsen uuden takin”? I can not find rules explaining those nuances.

Thanks in advance 🙂

Inge (admin)

Hei! “Minulla on” sentences aren’t object sentences. When the verb is “olla”, you never have an object! That’s why those sentences don’t follow the object rules.


Hey, I am currently trying to figure out if all these rules apply in phrases when the verb is in it’s 1st active infinitive form or is there a separate rule for that. F.e. we would say to a student “to drive a car” as a simple example of a phrase with a verb and an object in it, keeping it as abstract as possible – no pronouns, no particular time tense, neutral. Would it be “ajaa auto” (nominative) or “ajaa autoa” (partitive). Another example, “to receive a pay”, would that be “saada palkan” (genitive) or “saada palkka” (nominative)?

I would really appreciate your help with this one. Thanks!

Inge (admin)

The issue here is that you’re not building a sentence if you just look at the verb in its basic form and nothing else. This is basically only done in dictionaries or word lists. That said, in those sources, you will find that the partitive is always marked, while total objects appear in their basic form.

The verb saada in kielitoimiston sanakirja has the following examples:
* saada kirje
* saada viesti
* saada rangaistus

The verb ajaa includes the following examples:
* ajaa autoa
* ajaa kaivinkonetta

I’ve picked the most simple, stereotypical examples. Both of these verbs have a lot of meanings.


Thanks a lot for your prompt reply!

This is exactly what confused me. Now I understand the principle behind those examples! 🙂

Thank you very much for this detail article. This help me very much to understand when using which

Qingyang Li

Hello, I wonder why in this sentence partitiivi is used rather than genetiivi: Opiskelijat menevät kirjastoon, jossa he voivat käyttää tietokonetta. Thank you beforehand!

Inge (admin)

The verb käyttää is a partitive verb.

Qingyang Li

Thank you very much! For some reason, I missed that from your partitive verb list. 🙂

Miguel Barberi

Hello. I’ve been learning Finnish for some time, and I really don’t understand the need to “break down” the accusative from its “traditional” definition. The definition of grammatical case is basically tied to that of semantic function, and I see the “let’s call it like it like it looks” explanation a nonsense (no offense intended). Having studied both ancient Greek and Latin, I can argue otherwise. In both languages there’s a vocative case which is only different to other cases in one single set of words, how do you tell it appart? Because of its function in the sentence. Secondly, in proto-Finnish, the 1-infinitive of verbs was -dak (like in puhudak) and the partitive ending was -ta, but then the ending -dak evolved into -ta (and the partitive -ta became -a in just cases). Are we going to call the 1-infinitive ending a “partitive lookalike”? Certainly not. Why? Because of its function in the sentence. That is just my point of view. 😉

Miguel Barberi

I must say that it’s also my intention to move to Finland to study Finnish at a university level. Is it a hot topic the “controversy accusative yes or no”? I’m planning on going to Helsinki or Turku (more inclined on the latter, but have not decided yet). You said somewhere else you studied in Tampere. Can you / Did you write in a page your experience studying Finnish at University? I’ve read that you have to have a “native level” to study it as a degree…

Sorry for my late reply. The “accusative yes/no” debate is especially common in courses meant to qualify you for teaching Finnish as a second language. In the main studies as a Finnish language major it’s only shortly discussed. Only a small percentage of my visitors have studied Latin or other languages that have an accusative case. For them, the concept of the accusative case can be hard to grasp. I’m very glad I wasn’t taught this case in the beginning, hehe!

Near-native level is indeed required for university studies. However, at the time when I went to study (in 2009), they had no specific requirements for how to prove you were indeed at near-native level. It’s very possible that they require YKI-test’s highest level these days, I don’t know. I was about level B2.2-C1.1 when I started my studies, I think, but I didn’t have any papers proving so. I participated in the regular entrance exam that all Finnish applicants take as well.


Well, since the majority of Slavic languages and also the German language have an accusative case, I think that quite a lot of your visitors may be familiar with that either through their native language or a language they studied. However, I think the main motivation for leaving out the accusative case in Finnish is that for nouns and adjectives it never has a unique form, it is always equivalent to some other case. And cases do not exactly match their semantic functions one to one, that is, depending on the context the same case may have several different semantic functions, but we still use the same name for the case. For instance, elative (-sta/stä) can sometimes be translated as from and sometimes as about but it is still the same case. On the other hand, for personal pronouns one needs to introduce the accusative case as it has a unique form.


As a mid-level adult student of Finnish, I am in favor of retaining the concept of an accusative case in that language, at least for instructional purposes, even if it does not comport with the theoretical musings of the linguists. . It has not been a problem for me to remember that the singular and accusative object word endings are the same, respectively, as the singular genitive and the plural nominative.

It is more useful to use the concept of a case to identify the function of the word in the sentence rather than the noun ending used to express that function. When one identifies the singular “accusative” object form as genitive, I find myself trying to wonder who the possessor of the object is, or whether there is a postposition somewhere in the sentence.


Moikka taas,
I tripped over a tricky one (tricky for me at least), I apologize in advance if this is covered elsewhere and I just haven’t found it. (Or if it turns out that this isn’t even an object sentence!).

In a language exchange, I wrote the incorrect sentence “kesti kauan kirjoittaa tuon viestin“, which was corrected by my (native finnish) exchange partner to “kesti kauan kirjoittaa tuo viesti“. We were not able to clearly identify the underlying grammatical rule here, though they pointed out that the long version of this would be (in this case) “Minulla kesti kauan kirjoittaa tuo viesti”. They suggested that the whole thing works more like a possessive sentence.

I’m still struggling to figure out why “tuo viesti” has to be in nominative here. It looks a little bit like the case “Minulla on + noun + infinitive + object type” from the finterest object-rule-flowchart, but there is no “on” here and “kesti” is obviously not a noun.

The longer I look at it, the more I’m starting to question if “tuo viesti” even is an object in this case or maybe rather part of the subject? But even if the subject, the thing that lasted long in this case, is the “writing of the message”, wouldn’t that still leave “tuo viesti” as some kind of an object of “kirjoittaa”?

I’m gonna stick with “tuon viestin kirjoittaminen” next time, but I would still love to fully understand the structure here 🙂

Kiitos paljon!

Inge (admin)

It does have to do with the “minulla”. Even though it’s not a typical “omistuslause”, it has similar qualities. “Minulla on”, “minulla kesti kauan tajuta”, “minulla riittää töitä myös ensi viikolla” and “minulla loppuu ymmärrys” are all syntactically omistuslauseita.

The main thing is that the object of this “minulla on” sentence is located so far from the “minulla” that you’ll use the basic form. The sentence type here is “Minulla + kestää + infinitive + object”, which is so rare that you can’t really extend this rule to other sentences.


Thank you!
Always nice to happen upon rarities.


So is it related just to how far the object is located from the subject (I guess we can still say that minulla is the subject even if it’s not in nominative)? I thought that it is due to the fact that the subject is not in nominative, which also happens for instance in necessity sentences, where the subject is in genitive (for instance minun) while the object is in nominative. Of course in such cases the subject and the object are quite distant from each other because there is some additional verb between them (such as täytyy, pitää, on pakko).


you translated “luen kirjan” as “i will read THE book” but what if one were to say “i will read A book” (as in, expressing the intent to read a book, but not knowing which specific book to read)? would it still be in the genitive?

Inge (admin)

It would still be genitive, yes. If there’s no specific book, you could specify that by saying “Luen jonkin kirjan” (I will read some book).


1.1 Tarvitsen rahaa. I am pretty sure money is countable


Countable and measurable are not the same.
How many moneys do you have?…


I mean that neither in English it does not behave like countable things and the plural is not really used.
But the coins and money units can have real plural.