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  5. "There are only two people on…

"There are only two people on the metro."

Translation:Metrossa on vain kaksi ihmistä.

July 24, 2020



I assume it's ihmistä instead of ihmiset for being a partitive sentence. But could someone enlighten me about the reason why partitive is used here?


I'm not sure what you mean by "partitive sentence", but I have the suspicion that it's a feature of your Finnish interlanguage rather than actual Finnish. I would classify this sentence as an existential clause, where the subject can be in nominative case too. However, it's in partitive singular because there's a numeral in the same noun phrase, and numerals are treated as amounts. By the way, if we removed the numeral and were still talking about several people, it would have to be in the partitive plural form "ihmisiä" and not in the nominative plural form "ihmiset". This is because partitive plural is used for countable nouns in existential clauses and ownership clauses when their number is unspecified. The nominative singular form "ihminen" would be used if we were talking about just one person instead. This would apply even if there were "yksi" in the same noun phrase because it's technically a pronoun and not a numeral in grammatical sense.


Cheers for helping us all out so often! (I have screenshotted many of your detailed replies to reread!)


First a little about the sentence. Finnish uses a lot more than English so called existential clauses ("something is somewhere"). See my explanation in another discussion. Existential clauses usually take a form of "There is/are…" in English.

For the numerical expression see "Unofficial" grammar tips for all Finnish learners, chapters "Numerals as the subject" and "Partitive case".


It's Kaksi(two).


Why can this not be the other way round: "Vain kaksi ihmistä on metrossa"?


From a grammar point of view that's a perfectly correct sentence and fully comprehensible, but…

On other courses Duolingo follows a principle, that the language to be taught is the original one and thus always correct at least sense-wise. I have no reason to assume other with this course.

The case system frees the word order in Finnish, so you can say

  1. Metrossa on vain kaksi ihmistä.
  2. Vain kaksi ihmistä on metrossa.

(plus likely a couple others)

The trick is that the word order in Finnish shows emphasis or focus. Usually a sentence proceeds rather straightly from theme to rheme or from a topic to a comment. Therefore

  • in the sentence (1) the topic is the metro and the comment is the number of people there
  • in the sentence (2) the topic is the low number of people and the comment is the location where they are

In comparison English has an extremely strict word order, almost always subject-verb-object (SVO). That's the reason why it has those formal subjects ("It is…", "There is/are…"). Furthermore in English the theme-rheme is not so prevalent structure and sentences can be quite convoluted in that regard.

I'm not sufficiently versed in English to say, where exactly the focus is with the given answer "There are only two people on the metro", but I assume it is on the metro as in the Finnish sentence. Should the Finnish sentence be the (2), the English translation should probably be different.


Thank you, that is a really helpful explanation.


Thanks for sharing your expertise! I love how free the Finnish word order can be! I'd can't contribute to the discussion, except to say that, just reading the English, I feel the stress to be on the low number of people (wow, only TWO?), but I could also easily be misunderstanding what we're on about -- I ain't technical! :)


A good explanation of why the Finnish public transport is perfect.

[deactivated user]

    Kaksi Porukkaa better here?


    No, as said "porukka" refers to a group of people (I think it comes from Russian but the meaning's changed quite a bit). It can also be used to refer to your family, be it the one you were born into or the one that you found. You could translate it as "folks" if you mean your family, relatives etc.

    "Menen porukoille tänä viikonloppuna" - I'm visiting my family this weekend.


    Remark: Using porukka in the sence of one's family is not part of the standard speech. It's highly colloquaial and not used or even understood by all.

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