1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Finnish
  4. >
  5. "Viisi villiä pöllöä sanoo hu…

"Viisi villiä pöllöä sanoo huhuu."

Translation:Five wild owls are saying hoot.

June 24, 2020



In English owls just hoot. They don't say hoot.


In Finnish too, actually. :)

"Pöllöt huhuilevat."

"Viisi pöllöä huhuilee."

The "sanoo huhuu", "sanoo muu", "sanoo..." thing is something you'd mainly use with young children.


Pointing out the singular partitive subject representing a plurality of owls.

Much yet to learn in Finnish...


Not necessarily. I've definitely heard people say "the owls say hoot". Maybe it's a regional thing.


Why is it "sanoo" and not "sanovat"? Does "viisi" count as singular?


Yes, it does. :) The "pöllöä" is in singular partitive because of the numeral. The owls are counted a single unit.

"pöllö" - an/the owl (partitive: pöllöä)

"pöllöt" - owls (partitive: pöllöjä)

"Pöllöt sanovat huhuu/huhuilevat"

"Viisi pöllöä sanoo huhuu/huhuilee"


Kiitos. I've been studying Finnish for over two years and still get caught up on the partitive.


Like in Hungarian, when you have already an adjectif showing a plural (here, a numeral), you don't also have to put the rest at plural. Neljä is enough. So everything to the adjective, is singular, pin that case.


I don't think the English text is correct. And owl doesn't "say hoot" it "hoots" or is "hooting"


I think it wants us to translate puhua, even if the english is wrong. There are other sentences where the english sounds weird because it's a litteral translation from finnish


Actually this course is much better in that regard than some others. I think the authors go out of their way to suggest different idiomatic translations. This is an exception and should be removed and replaced with some other animal sound that has a conventional, accepted spelling, like "baa" or "arf."


An owl goes hoot hoot.


That's not bad. Duo should accept that we use the verb "go" for what animals "say."


This is probably going to be explained in the future Tips section, but is the reason why you use "sanoo" here and not "sanovat", because "pöllöä" is in the partitive singular form and the verb has to match that? Just making sure I understand.


So, numbers bigger than one have a plural meaning but in Finnish they are grammatically singular when they are in the basic form, the nominative singular (yksi, kaksi, kolme...).
The singular partitive is used after numbers (except after one):

yksi villi pöllö - one wild owl
kolme villiä pöllöä - three wild owls
viisi villiä pöllöä - five wild owls

Otherwise the number and the noun (+ adjectives) are put in the same case (numbers can be put in all the cases too):

kolmen villin pöllön huhuilu - the hooting of three wild owls

The verb is usually in the singular, even if the subject is just the number:

Kaksi pöllöä huhuilee.
Two owls are hooting.
Meillä on viisi pöllöä. Kolme nukkuu tuolla.
We have five owls. Three are sleeping over there.

The singular verb gives the subject an indefinite sense, or that we're only talking about a part of a group, not the whole group. The plural verb form is used in a definite or exhaustive context:

Kaikki viisi pöllöä nukkuvat.
All five owls are sleeping.
Nuo kaksi kuorsaavat.
Those two are snoring.

Above, all five of the owls are sleeping and specifically those two are snoring.

Apparently it's technically correct to say just "Viisi pöllöä nukkuvat." but it sounds unnatural without some word, phrase, context or general knowledge that specifies the subject as something definite.

Hope that helps!


Thanks for the explanation. I think that is something I can now get my head around, different as it may be from typical Indo-European syntax. Every language has its own logic.


Thank you so much for such a great explanation !


I hope this appears in hints and tips one day :)


oooh, that might be it! Until I read your comment, it hadn't clicked in my head that there was a number followed by the partitive, so it's more like saying 5 of wild owls and not 5 wild owls.


I left a longer comment but just to add a bit:
Viisi villiä pöllöä does mean "(the) five wild owls"

To say "five of the wild owls" you'd use the elative case:
Viisi villeistä pöllöistä

  • 1322

Finnish is just a huge Pandora's box. We'd better not ask any questions... :P


This makes so much more sense!!! Sounds as if that could be true, yes!

[deactivated user]

    Owls say twit twoo in English or they hoot, but they don't say hoot


    Notwithstanding other queries above, "Five wild owls say hoot" should be allowed too?


    Why “are saying” and not just “say”?


    I'm a slow learner. I've asked this in other "animals make made-up noises" exercises but why can't I just use the Finnish word since the whole point is that in Finland animals make these unique noises that are different from all other languages? Why am I forced to translate huhuu into something that is not used in English? Duo is basically telling me: "you're going to get this wrong and there is no logical reason behind it. We all know owls don't actually say hoot, dog don't say bow wow and cows don't say moo moo ... but until you accept that huhuu must be translated as hoot we'll keep marking it wrong." So, I'm getting it wrong, again.


    I agree, these animal noises are not very useful either and i find the tone patronising


    Why are saying and not say???


    An owl doesn't "say hoot", as in respect of an owl "hoot" is the verb describing the process of an owl making a noise.

    The noise an owl makes when it hoots is "hoot hoot" or "twit twoo".


    I submitted an error report on this by mistake - the error is mine. Please disregard.


    Mitä kettu sanoo ?

    Learn Finnish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.