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  5. "Are they hungry?"

"Are they hungry?"

Translation:Onko heillä nälkä?

July 13, 2020



Why isn't this sentence something like this, instead? "Ovatko he nälkä?" Is there any grammar reason or something??


That would translate to "are they hunger".

In Finnish it's expressed as "they have hunger", so we say "heillä on nälkä", and when it becomes a question, it's "onko heillä nälkä?"

However, one could ask "Ovatko he nälkäisiä?", where the last word is an adjective describing someone feeling hungry (in plural form - singular is nälkäinen).

  • 1974

Ovatko he nälkä would mean "are they hunger". Instead, ovatko he nälkäisiä would be correct and means the same as the translation.

The grammar reason is that the whole Finnish language works by using correct conjugation and word forms so you can't skimp on using the right word endings. Different conjugation can and will change the meaning of the whole sentence.


Ok I see, thanks a lot!!


How does one determine the difference between Heilla They and ne They?


The most obvious difference is the fact that "heillä" has the -lla/-llä suffix, indicating that it's in adessive case, whereas "ne" is in nominative case. The adessive form of "ne" would be "niillä", so an alternative translation would be "Onko niillä nälkä?". While "hän" (singular) and "he" (plural) are the third person pronouns used for people and other personified beings, "se" (singular) and "ne" (plural) can also be used for people (at least in non-formal registers) even though they are also used for animals and inanimate things.

The adessive case is required here because it's an ownership clause, and yes, hunger is something that you can have in Finnish. Finnish does not have a verb that corresponds to "have", so instead ownership is typically expressed with the following structure: First is an adverbial in adessive case expressing the owner, then the "olla" (=be) verb in third person singular form and the appropriate tense, and lastly the subject either in nominative or partitive case expressing the owned thing. Since this is a question, the verb assumes first position and gains the interrogative particle -ko/-kö.

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