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  5. "Minulla on opettaja, joka os…

"Minulla on opettaja, joka osaa tanssia."

Translation:I have a teacher who can dance.

July 19, 2020



I keep seeing this comma -- we wouldn't use one here in English, but is it really correct in Finnish?


English would not use a comma to separate a restrictive relative clause, but Finnish would, so yes, it is correct in Finnish.


The comma rules in Finnish are different to those of English and quite complex. Duolingo teaches the basics, so it doesn't take up those rules. Here it's enough to say that the basic rule is that every clause with a predicate verb is separated with a comma.


I assume Finnish also has restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, just like English -- the man who left versus the man, who left, i.e., "of the men, the one who left" versus "of the people, the man, who is among those that left". The punctuation in English reflects a difference in pronunciation which I imagine Finnish has as well: there is a notable pause in the case of the non-restrictive relative, for one thing, but the intonation differs as well. Is this represented some way in Finnish orthography?


Well, eh, no. I think, I'm not sure. First, I don't even understand what restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses mean. I never learnt the comma rules in English, they seemed to me to be totally arbitary. Second, Finnish does not use intonation for anything else than emphasising (and since the topic is usually in the beginning of a sentence the intonation is falling in almost every sentence).

Advanced topic warning! Out of scope of the Duolingo course!

I'm probably not answering your question, but…

The relatively free word order enables to put the word to which a relative subclause refers just before the subclause. If it is elsewhere, it's a reference error. Let's take an example.

In English you can say

I visited the palace of the queen of England

… which is called Windsor.

… who is called Elizabeth II.

… which is part of the United Kingdom.

Those relative subclauses can be expressed in Finnish

jota kutsutaan Windsoriksi.

jonka nimi on Elizabeth II.

joka on osa Yhdistynyttä kuningaskuntaa.

but you have to make sure that the just preceeding word, the last one in the main clause is palace, queen resp. England. Or you have to use two sentences.



About restrictive versus non-restrictive relative clauses, the first is specifying which of a set of things referred to is intended and the second is adding additional information about a sufficiently specified referent. One can understand the difference most easily with a phrase that necessarily specifies a unique referent, like "my biological father". "My biological father, who is an idiot" uses a non-restrictive relative clause, and necessarily so, because one only has one biological father. The phrase "my biological father who is an idiot" uses the punctuation of a restrictive relative clause, which is a common enough mistake. But if one reads it with the intonation and timing of a restrictive relative clause one is implying that one has more than one biological father and intends to refer to the idiotic one.

Most people aren't taught the rules of intonation in their own language or in languages they study aside from maybe "intonation rises in a yes-no question". When I referred to intonation in English I was just introspecting. It occurred to me that the difference was just a matter of there being a pause. The intonational contour resets to a higher pitch in a non-restrictive relative clause in English and it doesn't for a restrictive relative. Also, there is a rise, or less of a fall, in a restrictive relative clause whereas the intonational contour in a non-restrictive relative clause falls as it does in an ordinary main clause.


Hm, let me see if I understood correctly.

Non-restrictive clause

The man, who left, had a red coat : one man left and he happened to have a red coat

There are two possible ways to express this:

  • Miehellä, joka lähti, oli punainen takki.
  • Lähteneellä miehellä oli punainen takki.

The former uses a relative clause to describe the leaving. The latter uses a participle to describe the leaving. I would say that both are equally frequent ways.

Restrictive clause

The man who left had a red coat : several men left but we speak about the one with a red coat

To me this pretty much requires additional info, what the man did after leaving, so

The man who left and had a red coat is my father.

There are again two possible ways to express this:

  • Miehellä, joka lähti ja jolla oli punainen takki, on isäni.
  • Punatakkinen lähtenyt mies on isäni : (lit.) The read coat wearing departed man is my father. (This is the usual order where you put the participle closer to the main word.)

Piling up relative clauses is often considered heavy, so here I would say that most opt for the latter.


For some reason I cannot reply directly to you, Jukka_Metsakallas, so I am replying to myself. Kiitos! That was very interesting. You've got the terms reverse -- restrictive relatives are the ones that narrow down who you're referring to and non-restrictives are more or less an aside -- but your examples made it clear.


Glad I could help you! I was afraid, that I mix up my explanation somehow. I swapped the headers. Is the text now ok?

When it comes to "no reply button", it's a known bug (in all courses) in Duolingo. Once a thread is deep enough the reply button vanishes. There is a trick to get it back:

Press "reply" on the last comment one level up. Type something, a single letter will do, like "a", and post it. Now the reply button becomes visible at the lower level. Write your comment in the normal way, post it and delete the extra "a" comment.


Yep, it looks good. And thanks for the bug workaround.


What is the difference with "kuka" and "joka"?


I think joka is the relative pronoun used as a connection between clauses or ideas. Example: I know who it is. (kuka) I know a girl who dances with a moose. (joka) The second sentence is made up of two ideas, "I know a girl." and "This girl dances with a moose." (please someone correct me if this is not accurate)


No need to correct, this is accurate.


I'm using my layman understanding here, but "kuka" is g e n e r a l l y used in questions, whereas "joka" is used in statements. "Kuka" also translates strictly as "who", as in a person, whereas "joka" can mean either "who" or "that".

These definitions are by no means absolute and I'm simplifying a lot, but they work as a rule of thumb.

Some examples: "Who are you?" = "Kuka sinä olet?" "Think about who you are." = "Ajattele kuka sinä olet." "Who farted?" = "Kuka pieraisi?" "Someone who can sing." = "Joku joka osaa laulaa." "A cat that claws furniture." = "Kissa joka raapii kalusteita." "A pain that won't go away." = "Kipu joka ei katoa."

As a sidenote, in spoken language "kuka" is sometimes used in place of "joka" when talking about people, but this won't fly in written form.


Thank you for explaining the differerence.


What is the difference of "kuka" and "joka" when both mean "who". Can someone explain please.


Is joka the same as som in swedish or norwegian?


More like "vem som", i.e. the just preceeding word must denote a person.


How do I know if it is I have or I am


The form of "I" reveals that:

  • (minä) olen… : I am…
  • minulla on… : I have…

In the first case you have the basic form, nominative, of the pronoun for the sg. 1st person, minä. But this can be left out and you can just olen, where the last ending -n denotes sg. 1st person. This applies to all verbs.

In the second case, the pronoun for the sg. 1st person is in the adessive case, minulla, which literally means "by/next to me". In this possessive sense the verb is always in sg. 3rd person form, on, for all persons in the present (and future) tense. Here you may not omit the pronoun. In other words

  • minulla on… : I have…
  • sinulla on… : you (sg.) have…
  • hänellä on… : they (sg.) have…
  • meillä on… : we have…
  • teillä on… : you (pl.) have…
  • heillä on… : they (pl.) have…


I know DL strives for literal accuracy, but why can't I tranlate this as 'my teacher can dance'


That would be

  • Opettajani osaa tanssia.

which information-wise is identical. It all depends on the context.

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