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.
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.
|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).
|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.||The car has four wheels|
|Pöydässä on neljä jalkaa.||The table has four legs.|
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!
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”.
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.
What about questions? In duolingo the sentence “Onko sinulla toista kampaa?” uses partitive but why? I just can’t find an explanation anywhere in the website.
That’s a good point, I don’t think I’ve addressed that anywhere, not even on the partitive page. The partitive case is used in many questions where you’d have the basic form or genitive case in non-questions. This is the case, for example, in “Onko sinulla” questions (Sinulla on toinen kampa > Onko sinulla toista kampaa?) and in “Oletko koskaan” questions (Sinä olet varastanut kirjan. > Oletko sinä koskaan varastanut kirjaa?).
I will have to add this to the partitive page and maybe to this page as well!
Hello, I also have a question about partitive. In Suomen kielioppia ulkomaalaisille are these example sentences: Onko sinulla siskoa tai veljeä? x Onko sinulla auto vai vene? Could you please explain the difference in partitive use? Why is it only in the first sentence? Thank you!
In this context, the difference lays in whether we already know part of the answer or not.
“Onko sinulla siskoa tai veljeä?” asks if you have any siblings, not specific ones.
“Onko sinulla auto vai vene?” assumes that you have either a car or a boat and I want to know which one of the two. The tai/vai carries a lot of weight here. If we’d use “tai”, it would become “Onko sinulla autoa tai venettä?”
“Onko sinulla autoa?” and “Onko sinulla venettä?” are good questions when you don’t know where you have one or not. In some contexts the partitive gives a hint that you would like to borrow or use it, as is most clear in the question “Onko sinulla kynää?”.
“Onko sinulla auto?” asks about a specific car, for example, do you have THE car today, or does your husband use it.
Thank you very much. This is actually the most useful explanation I have ever received.