Finnish for busy people

Minulla on – Possession (Having Something) – Finnish

Finnish doesn’t have a separate verb for “to have”. Instead it uses a different sentence construction, centered around the verb “olla”, “to be”, combined with the adessive case. This construction creates e.g. minulla on, sinulla on and hänellä on.

1. Having Something

Person + lla Verb Object Translation
Minulla on yksi lapsi. I have one child.
Sinulla on oma huone. You have your own room.
Hänellä on vanha talo. He has an old building.
Meillä on vanha talo. We have an old building.
Teillä on kaksi lasta. You (plural) have two children.
Heillä on kissa. They have a cat.
Miialla on punainen kynä. Miia has a red pen.
Mikolla on silmälasit. Mikko has glasses.

It’s interesting to note that the “minulla on” literally means “on me there is”. Furthermore, you can see from the sentences above that the olla-verb doesn’t get conjugated! It is always written in the third person singular “on”.

2. Not Having Something

Person + lla Verb Object Translation
Minulla ei ole poikaystävää. I don’t have a boyfriend.
Sinulla ei ole omaa huonetta. You don’t have your own room.
Hänellä ei ole parveketta. He doesn’t have a balcony.
Meillä ei ole perhettä. We don’t have a family.
Teillä ei ole autoa. You (plural) don’t have a car.
Heillä ei ole kissaa. They don’t have a cat.
Miialla ei ole punaista kynää. Miia doesn’t have a red pen.
Mikolla ei ole maitoa. Mikko doesn’t have milk.

Again, just as in affirmative sentences, the olla-verb will stay the same in every person; you don’t conjugate the verb. The object of a “minulla ei ole” sentence will be written in the partitive case.

3. Exceptions

There are five exceptions to the rule that negative sentences will have a partitive object. You will always use the basic form in these phrases: both in affirmative and in negative sentences. The object of the following five “minulla ei ole” sentence will not be written in the partitive.

Note also that these are phrases that are very different from English: in English you say “I am hungry”, not “I have a hunger” in everyday language for example.

Affirmative Translation Negative Translation
Minulla on kiire. I’m in a hurry. Minulla ei ole kiire. I’m not in a hurry.
Sinulla on nälkä. You’re hungry. Sinulla ei ole nälkä. You’re not hungry.
Hänellä on jano. She’s thirsty. Hänellä ei ole jano. She’s not thirsty.
Meillä on kuuma. We’re hot. Meillä ei ole kuuma. We’re not hot.
Heillä on kylmä. They’re cold. Heillä ei ole kylmä. They’re not cold.

Another exception (for advanced learners) is the following type: “Onneksi minulla on sinut” means “Luckily I have you.” In an affirmative sentence, you will have the accusative case when the object is a personal pronoun (e.g. minut).In a negative sentence, you will use the partitive case (e.g. sinua).

Finnish English
Onneksi minulla on sinut. Luckily I have you.
Hänellä on minut. He has me.
Jos minulla ei olisi sinua If I didn’t have you
Voi meitä, kun meillä ei ole teitä. Poor us, we don’t have you (plural).

4. Things that Have Something

Important to notice is that objects that have something don’t always follow the above pattern. If a room has 2 windows, in Finnish you will say “In the room there are two windows.” For these we use the inessive.

Affirmative Translation 1 Translation 2
Asunnossa on ikkuna. In the apartment there is a window. The apartment has a window.
Kirjassa on yli 300 sivua. In the book there are over 300 pages. The book has over 300 pages.
Autossa on neljä rengasta. In the car there are four wheels. The car has four wheels
Pöydässä on neljä jalkaa. In the table there are four legs. The table has four legs.
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Hey! I have but one question: what case should be used in a sentence like “They have beautiful accents” or ” They have ripe apples”? I generally understand the difference between plural partitive and T-plural, but with (pronoun)-lla on constructions I sometimes get confused, for instance the translator would translate “Heillä on kauniit aksentit”, however it would also translate “Heillä on kypsiä omenoita”. Would be immensely grateful for any clarification!

Inge (admin)

The rule of thumb is to use the plural partitive, unless there’s a specific reason to use another form.

So “Heillä on siniset silmälasit” would use the T-plural because eyeglasses is a word that’s always plural. That’s a specific reason. In contrast, “Heillä on sinisiä juomalaseja” uses the plural partitive “They have blue drinking glasses”. This sentence follows the rule of thumb because there’s no specific reason why another form should be used.

Translators don’t understand this difference, so don’t trust them on this 🙂

PS: Your “they have beautiful accents” is a bit of a weird sentence… You could say “Heillä on kauniita aksentteja/korostuksia“, which would mean that multiple people have different accents which are all beautiful.

Heillä on kaunis (eg. amerikkalainen) korostus” would be if multiple people have the same (eg. American) accent that is beautiful. However, I’d rather say the sentence differently: eg. Heidän puheessaan on kaunis korostus. or Puheessasi on ranskalainen korostus.


The whole construct is better explained by admitting that what you call object is in fact the subject of the sentence, and olla is conjugated according to normal rules. E.g. Heillä on kissa — “on them is cat”, or “cat is on them”.

Inge (admin)

In a very basic sentence like that, it works, yes.

However, if you think of “kissa” as the subject, negative sentences are a problem. The subject of a sentence in Finnish doesn’t inflect in the partitive case in a negative sentence (Heillä ei ole kissaa). Objects do. It follows the normal object rules.

The same is true for the plural, because the subject of a plural sentence will appear in the T-plural, which sets it apart from “Heillä on kissoja”. In addition, this is a plural sentence, yet the verb is in the singular.

Your trick works for basic, affirmative, singular sentences.