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Partitive case

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The partitive case is a grammatical case which denotes "partialness", "without result", or "without specific identity".

In the Finnish language, this case is often used to express unknown identities and irresultative actions. For example, it is found in the following circumstances, with the characteristic ending of "a" or "ta":

  • After numbers, in singular: "kolme taloa" -> "three houses" (cf. plural, where both are used, e.g. sadat kirjat "the hundreds of books", sataa kirjaa "hundred books" as an irresultative object.)
  • For incomplete actions and ongoing processes: "luen kirjaa" -> "I'm reading a book"
    • Compare with accusative case: "luen kirjan" -> "I will read the (entire) book"
  • After certain verbs, particularly those indicating emotions (as they are irresultative): "rakastan tätä taloa" -> "I love this house"
  • For tentative enquiries: "saanko lainata kirjaa?" -> "can I borrow the book?"
  • In places where English would use "some" or "any": "onko teillä kirjoja?" -> "do you have any books?"
    • Compare with accusative case: "onko teillä kirjat?" -> "do you have the (specific) books?"
  • For negative statements: "talossa ei ole kirjaa" -> "there is not a book in the house"

Where not mentioned, the accusative case would be ungrammatical. For example, the partitive must always be used after singular numerals.

As an example of the irresultative meaning of the partitive, ammuin karhun (accusative) means "I shot the bear (dead)", whereas ammuin karhua (partitive) means "I shot (at) the bear" without specifying if it died. Notice that Finnish has no native future tense, so that the partitive provides an important reference to the present (luen kirjaa) as opposed to the future (luen kirjan). The latter means "I will read the book", as a result ("the book has been read") indicates action in the future.

The case with an unspecified identity is onko teillä kirjoja, which uses the partitive, because it refers to unspecified books, as contrasted to accusative onko teillä (ne) kirjat?, which means "do you have (those) books?"

External links

es:Caso partitivo fr:Partitif fi:Partitiivi sv:Partitiv

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