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  5. "Onko tuo juustoa vai maitoa?"

"Onko tuo juustoa vai maitoa?"

Translation:Is that cheese or milk?

June 28, 2020



If you have to ask, it probably isn't milk anymore.


Where is the -a coming from here? Is it possible to say 'onko tuo juusto vai maito?'


As the other comment said, this is the partitive case. This is one of the unique features of Finnish which is hard to translate directly into English.

In this case in particular, it's partitive because it's referring to "cheese" and "milk" in the sense of them as a category, not as a single object. The object is "part" of the category of objects that are cheese or milk.


It's hard to translate in English but those of you who know French already know this: C'est du fromage ou du lait? (de = partitive case)


Thank you. So, I'm wondering, in an hypothetical scenario where, say, cows have become extinct, and there exists only a single piece of cheese and bottle of milk, could you then ask 'onko tuo juusto vai maito?' and have it be considered grammatical by your futuristic, Finnish-speaking interlocutor?


Yes, then you could indeed ask that. Or when you know that there's a package of cheese and a carton of milk (we usually have them in cartons) on the table, and for whatever reason you're uncertain about which is which, then you could also ask "Onko tuo juusto vai maito?" In either of these scenarios you'd be referring to the packages, that is, to the cheese and the milk as whole entities, rather than to "cheese” or "milk" as substances.


That has to do with the partitive case, as I understand. I was confused as well, but it apparently it is like this (for both nouns and adjectives): Juusto - Juustoa; Maisto - Maistoa; Iso - Isoa; and so on... If the word contains ä or ö, then it seems that ä instead of a is added. Hyvä - Hyvää; Jäätelö - Jäätelöä; Kylmä - Kylmää; Pirtelö - Pirtelöä. These are the rules of partitive endings: https://thefinnishteacher.weebly.com/partitiivi--the-partitive.html It gets quite difficult. In these situations partitive must be used: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partitive_case


You're right about the a/ä - that's called vowel harmony and hasn't been explained in the tips yet from what I can tell.

The simplest rule is that if the word contains a/o/u, all endings use a/o/u as well. Those are the back vowels. Compound words muck this up a bit. The last word in the compound determines the vowel harmony of the endings.


maito – maitoa
jäätelö – jäätelöä

Suomen kieli → Fonotaksi


Thank you for the links. I am familiar with the partitive in Russian (and thought it might work a little like that), but clearly it is vastly more complicated in Finnish.


You seem to be forgetting about the -ta or -tä partitiivi, which appears after the double vowel words, eg maa - maaTA or jää - jääTÄ (again vowel harmony is always OBLIGATORY in Finnish) also NEN - STA, so eg punainen - punaista Just saying :)


If the milk is solid, please don't eat it


Maybe it's runny cheese.

It's a bit runny, sir.... Well, as a matter of fact it's very runny, sir.... I think it's runnier than you like it, sir... Oh... the cat's eaten it.


I'm just wondering why this course's usual obsession with "the" hasn't turned this sentence into "Is this the cheese or the milk".


I might be wrong, but i think thats the exact reason it's juustoa/maitoa instead of juusto/maito. "Is this the cheese or the milk" would be "onko tuo juusto vai maito"

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