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  5. "Pesen onnellista koiraa."

"Pesen onnellista koiraa."

Translation:I am washing a happy dog.

June 23, 2020



For onnellinen and surullinen, why does it sometimes change to -sta? Is there a way to tell which it will be, e.g. pesen onnellista koiraa / olen onnellinen - not sure the exact reason


Finnish nouns/adjectives (can) have several stems:

  • the vowel stem that ends with a vowel,
  • and the consonant stem that ends with a consonant.
  • One noun or adjective can have either or both of them.

And for the singular partitive case that we often use for the object of the verb, we attach '-ta / -tä' to the consonant stem - if the noun and/or the adjective that modifies the noun has it. In Finnish, we also conjugate the adjective when we conjugate the noun that the adjective modifies.

And nouns or adjectives that end with '-nen' have the consonant stem: '-s', so their singular partitive case will be '-sta.'

  • nainen (woman) -> v.: naise-, c.: nais- -> naista
  • sininen (blue) -> v.: sinise-, c.: sinis- -> sinista

So, in short,

  • we often use the partitive case to mark the direct object of a verb,
  • and we attach '-A' or '-tA' to the stem of an adjective and/or a noun,
  • specifically, if the word has the consonant, we attach '-tA,'
  • and all the nouns or adjectives that end with '-nen' have the consonant stem, which is '-s,'
  • so, we get their singular partitive case: '-sta.'

  • words that have the consonant stem: -tA (sister: sisar -> sisarta)
  • most words that end with '-e': -ttA (room: huone -> huonetta)
  • words without the consonant stem that end with two consecutive vowels: -tA (country: maa -> maata)
  • words without the consonant stem that end with one vowel: -A (house: talo -> taloa)


This describes the grammar of the partitive case very well, but does not answer the question asked which is about how to tell when to use partitive and when not to. Figuring out exactly when to use partitive case is one of the trickiest things in Finnish, and I'd like a good answer to that question too!


This course, so far, has taken the easier route to teach basics of Finnish - it only teaches the partitive as the sole object case. It makes everything immensely easier, because not only you don't have to deal with the question when to use partitive and when accusative/genitive/nominative, but you don't have to deal with consonant gradation in the object: "Etsin tyttöa ja poikaa, mutta löydän tytön ja pojan."

I wonder how the course creators are going to deal with all this once the course gets expanded.


Partitive is used in some situations for:

  • direct objects indicating atelic action (action performed within that time frame only on part of the object, i.e. incomplete, atelic actions, contrasting with the accusative case indicating complete actions)
  • predicate complements (indicating a portion of an uncountable quantity, contrasting with the nominative case)
  • complements of quantities (including measure words as well as numbers higher than one)


"I wash a happy dog" should be correct as well imho, Finnish preesens tense can correspond to both English present simple and continuous tenses when there is no context given


No, the partitive ending (onnellista koiraa) makes it an unfinished action, so it has to be taking place right now - that's why the natural translation is "I am washing".

To say "I wash a happy dog" (and also "I will wash a happy dog" if context allows) would normally require the accusative case: "Pesen onnelisen koiran." - the action is unfinished both in present simple and in future tense.


Yes, but the -ing sounds way more natural here. Way, way more natural.

I (a native Finnish speaker) would never translate this as "I wash" when there is no context that would justify or require that.


Agreed. In English, we don't use the simple present very much - usually for facts that are always true (e.g. the ocean is blue) or for habitual things (e.g. every Saturday I wash our dog). I think it is very, very improbable that a native speaker would ever say "I wash a happy dog."


There being no context is what justifies using the present simple in English, because there could easily be a context where the present continuous would be wrong (eg: "What do you do in the mornings?", "I wash a happy dog"). The context could be anything. Let's not forget that people are here to learn Finnish, not English, and accepting the shorter English forms when they could actually be correct (as in this example) is, if nothing else, an important quality of life feature for a Duolingo course.


It's wrong to say there is no context or that "the context could be anything". The rest of the sentence, "onnellista koiraa", IS the context. Because it is in the partitive case, it tells us that this is referring to an ongoing, in-progress action. It means I am still in the process of doing it. In English, we use -ing to express this. In Finnish, the partitive case of the object is used.

Pesen onnellista koiraa. (partitive) = I am washing a happy dog.

Pesen onnellisen koiran. (genitive) = I wash a happy dog.

This is one of the uses of the partitive case.

In English it is the verb ("I wash" versus "I am washing") that changes to show this difference in meaning. In Finnish the verb does not change; it remains "pesen" in either case. In Finnish it is the noun (koiraa v. koiran) and any adjectives associated with it (onnellista v. onnellisen) that change to show whether the action is ongoing or a one-time, completed (or going-to-be-completed) action.


What if your job is to partially wash a particular happy (and always dirty) dog? This example is a bit of a hypothetical, but I'd like to understand the grammar. If it's a partial action you do everyday, then it's an on-going action and in partitive, right?

A better example would probably be "I paint the Golden Gate Bridge". That's a full time job that will never be completed. There's always a team of painters working on painting that bridge as the paint deteriorates at the same speed they paint it. Would that be partitive or genitive in Finnish?


Also a beginner here, just throwing in my two cents: I once read an article that talks about the various reasons to use partitive object or not (found it: https://randomfinnishlesson.blogspot.com/2012/10/object.html?m=1), and she said: "If there is any reason to use the partitive, use it". So I guess in your Golden Bridge painting scenario, partitive will still be used even if it's not a present ongoing action (since the "only part of it" condition is met)? And then context will probably fill in the rest, or you can add words like "every day" "regularly" etc... Waiting for a native speaker to confirm.


This explanation is very helpful. I'd say it's even more so because it shows what happens if we do NOT use the partitive case. The course at this early stage kinda presents the partitive as the only option, and if it really were the only option, either translation should work. By showing how another case (even one we haven't yet learned!) can be used here with a slightly different meaning, this example helps my understanding greatly. Thanks!


Well explained K_M !!


The problem is that the Finnish sentence really means "I'm washing a/the dog right now" because of the partitive case of the object (onnellista koiraa). We are here to learn Finnish, but we would learn wrong Finnish, it we thought that this sentence could express something like "I wash a happy dog every day."


Why "a happy dog" and not "the happy dog"? How would one translate "I am washing the happy dog"?


It's the same


why is " I wash a happy dog" not accepted?


Since the noun is in a partitive not a genitive it tells you the action is unfinished, which means in English you use a progressive tense.


If the partitive case is used for both ongoing actions and for plural items, how would you say that you are washing happy dogs, for example, instead of just one dog?


I don't think that partitive is always used for plural items, since plural partitive also exists? My guess is that "I am washing happy dogs" would be "Pesen onnellisia koiria.", using the plural partitive.

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