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  5. "What kind of cat is it?"

"What kind of cat is it?"

Translation:Millainen kissa se on?

July 5, 2020



Could someone pick this apart for me? I'm a bit lost, especially about that millainen.

  • millainen = what kind of
  • kissa = cat
  • se = it
  • on = is

Was this what you meant with your question? Do you need more help with understanding this phrase?


I understand the sentence structure in general, but I was curious about the millainen in particular. There seems to be a lot packed into that one word, and I was wondering if it was compounded of different, unexpected elements, the way minulla on is a structure unusual to English speakers.


Ah, I see!

Well, there's also a synonym that might explain "millainen" a bit more: minkälainen and basically "millainen" is just a compressed version of this. This I can pick apart even more:

  • There's two words in this: minkä + -lainen.
  • "Minkä" is a genetive case of "mikä", meaning "of what/of which".
  • -lainen/-läinen is a suffix that means something is "like something" or "kind of", that is pretty hard to explain in English because English doesn't have words with identical meaning and because "like" is also a verb and has nothing to do with this one, but sounds weird without a context.
  • ^It's also not only that but is used in nationalities, too, e.g. "a Finn" is "suomalainen", literally makes an adjective out of "Suomi" to mean a Finnish person. But you can add that to some other words too and you get adjectives: e.g. minä -> minunlainen/minunlaiseni = "like me".
  • -nen is also a suffix that is often found in adjectives, but not in all of them. But it can help figuring out which one is an adjective and which is not. (Note: -nen is also very common ending in Finnish surnames for some reason, so if the word is written with a big capital and ends in -nen, it's most likely a surname!)

"Millainen" and "minkälainen" can also have "sellainen" as an answer, that is again basically two words in one: sen_lainen which means "like it" (and just in case: "like" the adverb, not the verb.)


Hurrah! That's just the reply I was hoping for. Kiitos!

To address the awkwardness of "like" which you wrote of, try "akin to".

So stretched out into its componants, millainen would be a query something like "of what is it akin to?"

Side note: I thought I smelled an adjective in that -nen suffix, what with rehellinen and hiljainen, and yes, just as you warn, ujo then threw me off the scent.

Again, kiitos.


@Dylan600886: Finnish is a so called agglutinating language, which means that relationships between words are expressed by changing parts of the words. As an expression of that you should know that Finnish has over a dozen cases, where f/i German has four. As a consequence Finnish has less propositions like at, on, in, to, etc. (Aug 2020)


Thank you for your thorough explanation! Kittoksia!


Are animals always an "it" in Finnish or is that just how the lesson writer made it?


Yes they are, in written Finnish we use "hän" only about people.

Fun fact: in the spoken language it's more like the opposite. Everyone uses "se" to refer to people as well and some people might use "hän" about animals instead :D


Hei! Could anyone explain to me why this, being a question, doesn't make use of 'onko' vs 'on'?

Is it a matter of millainen doing all the work of asking the question, so the -ko suffix isn't needed? Whereas -ko would indeed be used if we were taking a statement like 'Se on kissa' into a question??


You pretty much answered your own question already :) So whenever there is already an interrogative pronoun or word in the sentence, the verb doesn't need the -ko suffix. But when there's none, then the verb becomes one instead and takes the -ko/-kö suffix.

  • What is a cat? = Mikä on kissa?
  • Is it a cat? = Onko se kissa?


Btw, you don't have to attach the -ko/kö interrogative suffix to the verb either, it could just as well attach to a noun, pronoun etc. It just depends on what you really want to ask/emphasise in your question. :)

"Kissako se siinä on?" - Is it a CAT that's there?

"Hänelläkö on kissa?" - Is SHE the one who has a cat?

"Väinökö oli kissan nimi?" - Was VÄINÖ the name of the cat?



That's true! But I feel like those are a lot more common in spoken language than written language, they give a bit similar feeling like "mikäpä" or "mikäs", kinda make the sentences... lighter? I don't know how to explain it but I guess you know what I mean as I guess we both are native Finns :D


Jep, näinhän se on. :)

Duolingo does introduce the -kO suffix in relation to nouns as well (kahviko?), but I feel like that isn't the perfect example of the usage. Many people did comment that it'd feel more natural to just say "kahvi?" or "kahvia?" instead, in that context.


My answer was "Minkalainen kissa on se?" I transposed the "se" and the "on". Is this sentence structure incorrect?


It is possible but a bit unnatural, something like that can be found in poems and lyrics, for example. (And then of course the letter ä in "minkälainen", just pointing this out in case it's not because of the keyboard.)

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