1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Finnish
  4. >
  5. "What kind of pet is Musti?"

"What kind of pet is Musti?"

Translation:Millainen lemmikki Musti on?

June 30, 2020



I do not understand why it is "Musti on", and not "on Musti". Similar sentences keep tripping me up too. Can someone help?


I don't have a clear answer for you, I can only say that's just how it goes and I'm not sure why, but Finns apparently prefer having the verb at the end in sentences like these. The latter is also possible and I already wrote in another thread that that doesn't sound that good to the ears of a native Finn (which I am) but if you happened to use that in real life, you would not become misunderstood just because of a weird placement of the verb.

I tried googling this a lot now and I think the secret here is that the phrase is a question. It starts with the interrogative word and ends in the verb and I see that happening in all (or most of the) simple questions (with interrogatives) now as I think of it, and the verb seems to be there always after the subject and the word order is not changed due to an interrogative word.


That actually helps a lot, even for how vague it is :) Thank you!


I made the same mistake, and I think it's English that's confusing us. In SVO languages like English and Finnish, the default order is Subject - Verb - Object. But in English we mark questions by changing the order of the subject and auxiliary verb ("is Musti?" instead of "Musti is"). If it weren't a question, we'd leave it as "Musti is": "I wonder what kind of a dog Musti is."

Finnish doesn't mark questions with inversion, but with the suffix "-ko." Hence the default order stays "Musti on," even in a question.

I hope that helps.


that does help. I've studied many other languages, but this particular bit keeps tripping me up.


That made sense, until I came to 'Ovatko he nyt naimisissa?'.


If there is a question word (mikä, missä, miksi, kuka...), the word order stays the same (SVO).

If the question is a yes/no question made using the -kO suffix, whichever word gets the suffix becomes the "question word" and thus comes first. For neutral questions, the word getting the -kO suffix is the verb. Using any other words emphasise that word.

Hekö ovat nyt naimisissa? (Are THEY now married?)

Nytkö he ovat naimisissa? (Are they NOW married?)

Naimisissako he ovat nyt? (Are they now MARRIED?)


'He' is a pronoun here, and not a verb like 'on' is.


I think both are fine, so "Millainen lemmikki on Musti?" should be added to correct translations if it's not one. I asked my mother for assurance (we're both native Finnish), and she answered "Of course you can ask that. Musti is usually a dog."

By the way, there are two possible meanings to the English "What kind of pet is Musti?" They are "What (pet) animal is Musti?" and "what is Musti like as a pet?" You could assume that "...on Musti?" would be the first one and "...Musti on?" be the latter one, but they're actually pretty much the same. Without any context I'd lean to "what animal" and other general qualities of a dog called Musti, such as black colour, and with a certain Musti around it would be more about Musti's behaviour etc. I think.


Both are just fine. The first is more common. To me they have no difference in meaning. Many times the word order changes the meaning, but in this case I don't think so.


A dog I think.


"Millainen lemmikki on Musti" was accepted in a previous exercise. Which is better?


Millainen lemmikki Musti on?


It is funny, but intuitively I ask this type of questions right in Finnish, from my first lessons of this language. Actually I make mistakes when I need to write an English version. I often write something like: "What kind of pet Musti is?" and lose a heart. Maybe because for me it sounds harmonical, melodic (when the verb goes in the end of this short questions). Also as I could guess, in this sentence logically the strongest emphasis (stress) goes on the begging of this question (the word "millainen") and then the emphasis is gradually weakening. So the intonation of a man, asking this question, sounds a bit like decrescendo (diminuendo) in music. So the begging of question ("millainen") pronounces with more power and with the lower tone of voice. The middle of question ("lemmikki", and then "Musti") graduately becomes less loud and with a higher voice tone. And finally, the end of question (the verb - "on") is the most quiet and high-pitched word in this question. This is only my opinion, my intuitive feeling, but maybe it will help someone.

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