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 Owned thing 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 house.
Meillä on vanha puhelin. We have an old phone.
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”. In the past tense, you will likewise use the third person singular of the verb olla (e.g. Minulla oli oma huone “I had my own room”).

2. Not Having Something

Person + lla Verb Owned thing 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. More examples

Finnish English English
Minulla on yksi lapsi. I have one child. Basic form: one child.
Minulla on kaksi lasta. I have two children. Partitive case: after numbers higher than one.
Minulla on lapsia. I have children. Partitive plural case: unspecified amount of children
Onko sinulla vaimo? Do you have a wife? A ko/kö-question, basic form: one wife
Minulla on vaimo. I have a wife. Basic form: one wife
Minulla on kaunis vaimo. I have a beautiful wife. Basic form: one wife
Minulla ei ole vaimoa. I don’t have a wife. Partitive case: negative sentence
Minulla oli vaimo. I had a wife. Basic form: one wife, imperfect tense
Minulla on puhelin. I have a phone. Basic form: one phone
Minulla on uusi puhelin. I have a new phone. Basic form: one phone
Minulla ei ole puhelinta. I don’t have a phone. Partitive case: negative sentence
Minulla ei ole uutta puhelinta. I don’t have a new phone. Partitive case: negative sentence
Minulla ei ollut puhelinta. I didn’t have a phone. Partitive case: negative sentence, negative imperfect tense
Minulla on omena. I have an apple. Basic form: one apple
Minulla ei ole omenaa. I don’t have an apple. Partitive case: negative sentence
Minulla on omenoita. I have apples. Partitive plural case: unspecified amount of apples
Minulla ei ole omenoita. I don’t have apples. Partitive plural case: negative sentence
Minulla ei ollut omenaa. I didn’t have an apple. Partitive case: negative sentence, negative imperfect tense

4. 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).

5. 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 case.

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.


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.

Inge (admin)

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!

Inge (admin)

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.


Hi! I have a question about Duolingo. In Section 2 Unit 9 (vacation, hobbies), I’ve encountered a different word order of the possessive.

Example 1: “Pyyhe on hänella.”
DL translation: “She has the towel.”

Example 2: “Passit ovat minulla.”
DL translation: “I have the passports.”

Am I correct in the assumption that it’s simply about emphasis? “She has the towel, I don’t.” “I have the passports, they don’t.” That sort of thing. And in this sentence structure, the “olla” gets conjugated according to the object.

Would love to have your input!

Inge (admin)

Great analysis, yes! In addition, note that in your explanation, you’re using “the” rather than “a”. “She has the towel” versus “She has a towel”. We’re talking about a specific towel that either I have or she has.

I wasn’t aware Duolingo also has examples which the plural in this context. That must be throwing off even more students as an extra complication!


Hei, Haluan tietää, mikä on oikein. Minulla on maitoa tai minulla on maito. Kiitos!

Inge (admin)




I am a little bit confused about this. Why is the object not in the genitive case if it´s not an “ainesana” like it is in other sentences with objects? In a sentence like “Minulla on auto” the object is the cat right? Why is “auto” not a genetive object like in the sentence “Minä ostan auton”?

Finnish grammar is so hard, but thank you for sharing your knowledge! 🙂

Inge (admin)

Hi Jenni!

This is a a terminology issue, as these are not objects grammatically speaking. We aren’t doing anything to the car, like we would when we buy, sell or look at a car. The thing you “have” in a possessive sentence can be in the basic form or in the partitive, never in the genitive case.

I will have to rephrase some sections in this article, because I’ve obviously been using the term “object” wrong here. Linguists would tell you that the car is the subject in the sentence “Minulla on auto”, which I find somewhat unintuitive, so I think I’ll just opt for rephrasing these without using the terms “subject” and “object”.

Thanks for commenting 🙂


good lesson pls go on