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  5. "Eläin puraisee sientä."

"Eläin puraisee sientä."

Translation:The animal bites the mushroom.

July 17, 2020



Why can't you have "is biting" as well as "bites" for "puraisee"?

  • 1316

Because there are two different verbs to express each of this meanings, purraista and purra.

"purraista", the verb used in this sentence, is the momentane aspect of the verb "purra". I.e. it describes a one time event, whereas purra describes an ongoing event.

cf. Wiktionary for "purra":

(transitive) To bite (more or less continuously, with the moment temporally not confined).


*puraista, not "purraista"


I don't understand why sometimes it only accepts the gerund form and sometimes it doesn't like this one


There are a lot of different reasons depending on the sentence. In this case, the difference is between purraista (to bite once) and purra (to bite repeatedly). Because purraista is used, it's virtually impossible to imagine that you say this sentence during the time it takes the animal to bite the mushroom. Eläin puree sientä could be said during the middle of the animal's repeated biting and that could thus also be translated as "The animal is biting ..."

In other cases, the case of the object indicates whether we're talking about the action as a completed whole or as an unfinished process.

Luen kirjaa. I'm reading a/the book. (Partitive: unfinished process)
Luen kirjan. I'll read a/the book. (Accusative: finished process)


Thanks for the detailed explanation, it really helps. I think the problem it that the present continuous form, although it notionally refers to a process that takes time and is not yet finished, can also be used - grammatically - to refer to something instantaneous.

"What is the animal doing in the video?"/"It is biting a mushroom." and "What does the animal do in the video?"/"It bites a mushroom." can both refer to the same action.

I think perhaps in future revisions of the course, this distinction in Finnish verbs (potkaista also comes to mind) could be made more explicitly, because the distinction is not at all obvious to English speakers, when for most verbs, the present continuous and simple present are identical in Finnish.

Thanks again.


By the way, if purraista is instantaneous, why is the noun in the partitive? That usually indicates an unfinished process, no?


"Puraista" has only 1 "r" so your spelling seems incorrect.


bites or is biting both have the same meaning . please give me an example sentence he is biting as well as he bites


Bites and is biting most definitely do not have the same meaning. In many cases, Finnish doesn't make the distinction between what these two verb forms express in English, but in this case it does.

Is biting means that we are describing the action while it is underway. Bites does not. In Finnish, there are two verbs: puraista (to bite once, to take a bite of) and purra (to bite repeatedly/continuously)

They're not exact equivlants, but more or less we can say:

Eläin puraisee sientä. = The animal bites the mushroom (once).
Eläin puree sientä. = The animal is biting the mushroom.

The only way you could really express the sense of puraisee in English as is biting would be if it is a very, very slow single bite or we're watching it on a video in slow motion, allowing you to describe the action from the middle in its unfinished state.


I think the problem is rather because of the difference between simple (bites) and continuous (is biting) in English. The sentence "The animal bites the mushroom" could be seen as a single event if it were some sort of commentary, e.g. in a nature documentary. But most of the time, I would interpret it as a repeated action: "The animal (usually/always/regularly/...) bites the mushroom." Wouldn't that then rather be purra instead of puraista?

Thus, I'd definitely argue for accepting continuous is biting, slow-mo or no slow-mo. It's just not the same distinction.

  • 1316

The main problem is the lack of context and maybe also that present tense is used to describe an event, which makes it seem like it’s happening at the moment. If you’d tell the story to your friends in past tense, you’s probably not even think of using the continuous form. Yesterday, that stupid dog from my neighbors bit me!

If a dog bites you, it is in many cases a single bite. In some cases the dog might set its teeth into your leg and not let go for a while. Two different situations. One single short bite vs. a long lasting bite or a serious of bites. In the first scenario, if you’d describe the scene in present tense as some authors like to do, it would go like this: The dog bites me (once) in my leg before its owner manages to pull it away from me. In the second scenario, you could say something like: Hey, your dog is biting me. Call it off!

Or in a question: A dog attacks and bites you. What do you do to avoid serious injuries? I.e. the use of simple present is definitely possible in English and the distinction between both forms is similar in both languages.

Finnish makes this distinction, English makes this distinction. So maybe put your personal interpretation of a contextless sentence aside and translate the Finnish words based on their actual meaning. You’re here to learn Finnish, not English, and the simple present form is definitely not incorrect. How will you learn the important semantic difference between the two different words in Finnish, if you translate both verbs the same all the time?


I can't reply to your last comment, but I think I understand a little better. If a dog bites me once, I'd still probably say "That dog is biting me!" (or, as you said, just use the past) in English, because my view is focused on that moment and English continuous is used for unfinished events rather than any continued actions. But of course that grammatical perspective and aspect changes immediately if I add that little word "once" or give a commentary or whatever. So I'm still not convinced by Duolingo's exclusively simple translation (and that mushroom example in particular). But I see why they chose it to express "purraista" and as long as I focus on the Finnish and remember what that word expresses, hey, why not.


Just to clarify: I'm not arguing the simple is incorrect, I'm saying the continuous should also be accepted.

Yes, I'm here to learn Finnish. But I'm learning Finnish with an app that is limited in its teaching methods, in this case having to translate a Finnish sentence into English that is then marked as either correct or incorrect. And as your examples show, without context there are different interpretations of simple/continuous. That's why I think that only allowing the simple form as correct is not the best solution. "bites/is biting" may be similar to the difference between purra and puraista (as far as I understood your explanation), but it is still not the same difference, and then us non-native speakers will still not learn the difference between the Finnish words, at least not without looking for an explanation in the comments.

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And as your examples show, without context there are different interpretations of simple/continuous.

Only if you were to look at and interpret the English side in isolation. The Finnish side doesn’t give you much context, but it does give you one essential and clear hint by using ”puraista”, which does not leave a doubt that what we need in the translation is an English verb form that expresses a one time action - just like the Finnish source does - and not a continuous one.

I was just trying to show you that English does make the same distinction as Finnish.


“The animal is biting the mushroom” is already an example, meaning it is happening now.


and how do you say the animal bites the mushroom?

  • 1316

Eläin puraisee sientä.


The hint also says 'takes a bite' which actually makes more sense


And here it is again: some sort of "suomalainen eläin" who either spends its time biting mushrooms or devours one entire mushroom at every bite... or both. The funny part of learning! (For those who, like me, are confused)

For whi is confused and frustrated, just think about learning Finnish. For that it is inevitable to, sometimes, twist English for the sake of adjusting to the intnded Finnish translation - not the other way around.

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