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"Joni, do you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend?"

Translation:Joni, onko sinulla tyttöystävää tai poikaystävää?

June 24, 2020



This could also be translated as: "Joni, onko sinulla tyttöystävä vai poikaystävä?" in which case it would assumably be already known that he is dating someone, and one is just asking for further details.


Agreed, I believe that grammatically both are correct.


"Vai" is also accepted.


Good to know: a native Finnish speaker would probably shorten the question to "Joni, onko sinulla tyttö- tai poikaystävää?"


Does "tai" imply that Joni can have both? Would "vai" acceptable too in the sense that he has either one or the other?


"Tai" doesn't necessarily imply that Joni could have both (that could of course be an option regardless of what question you ask). It more just means that having either a girlfriend or a boyfriend would mean that the answer is yes. Having neither would mean the answer is no. Someone who assumes Joni is heterosexual might just say Joni, onko sinulla tyttöystävää? but adding tai poikaystävää is an acknowledgement that it's also possible that he has a boyfriend. Either way, the speaker basically wants to know if Joni is in a relationship. It's not really asking Joni to say which gender his partner is though, it's more of a yes or no question. (Of course, people often give more information after answering yes/no questions.)

It's a bit like asking in English "Do you have either a girlfriend or a boyfriend?" It is of course less emphatic than "either ... or ..." and Finnish has a way of saying that too (joko ... tai ...), but it is similar in that "either ... or ..." in a question just asking a yes or no question, not asking which option.

The sentence Joni, onko sinulla tyttöystävä vai poikaystävä? is a "which one" question. The speaker knows or suspects that Joni is seeing someone and wants to know if it's a woman or a man.


Thanks for the explanation!


I think tai was used because he might have neither.

From my understanding, vai is used if the answer is expected to be in the list of options provided, and only be one answer.


That's good to remember, thanks!


Why is tyttöystävää sometimes partitive and sometimes not? Sometimes tyttöystävä is called a typo and sometimes tyttöystävää is called a typo.


I agree with Delton Hump's message below - why is this question translated with -vää endings and the following question which looks grammatically identical has only the -vä ending?


If you try to replace "a" with "any" in translations that are using partitive, it might help you to get the idea.

An example with partitive [any amount/number is possible]:
-Onko sinulla takkia tai villapaitaa? (Do you have a coat or a sweater? / Do you have any coat(s) or sweater(s)?)
-Kyllä, yksi takki ja monta villapaitaa. (Yes, one coat and several sweaters.)
-Ei. (No.)

An example without partitive [pick just one]:
-Onko sinulla takki vai villapaita? (Do you have a coat or a sweater? / Which one do you have, the coat or the sweater?)
-Villapaita. (A sweater. / The sweater.)
-Mitä? Nyt on kesä. (What? It is summer now.)

In Finnish there is a clear difference but in English both questions could be translated "Do you have a coat or a sweater?"


So if both are grammatically correct, shouldn't both be accepted? Sometimes, without background information and context, we don't know for sure the intended meaning.


I think there's no simple answer, but I'll try... In this case if you use 'vai' you need to have -ystävä. If you use 'tai' both -ystävä and -ystävää are okay and the meaning is quite the same.

The same here: Onko sinulla koira vai kissa? Onko sinulla koira tai kissa? Onko sinulla koiraa tai kissaa?

But: Onko sinulla vadelma vai mansikka? (assuming sb has one raspberry or one strawberry and not both) Onko sinulla vadelmaa vai mansikkaa? (assuming sb has undefined amount of either raspberry or strawberry and not both) Onko sinulla vadelma tai mansikka? (person asking doesn't know whether sb has one raspberry or strawberry or neither one) Onko sinulla vadelmaa tai mansikkaa? (person asking doesn't know whether sb has undefined amount of one of those, or not)


“Vai” was marked as a typo 16/5/21.

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