Partitive case

Partitive case

:"Note: partitive case has to be distinguished from partitive meaning which refers to the selection of a part or quantity out of a group or amount, see Partitive."

The partitive case is a grammatical case which denotes "partialness", "without result", or "without specific identity".


In the Finnish language, this case is often used to express unknown identities and irresultative actions. For example, it is found in the following circumstances, with the characteristic ending of "a" or "ta":

* After numbers, in singular: "kolme taloa" -> "three houses" (cf. plural, where both are used, e.g. "sadat kirjat" "the hundreds of books", "sata kirjaa" "hundred books" as an irresultative object.)
* For incomplete actions and ongoing processes: "luen kirjaa" -> "I'm reading a book"
** Compare with accusative case: "luen kirjan" -> "I will read the (entire) book"
* After certain verbs, particularly those indicating emotions (as they are irresultative): "rakastan tätä taloa" -> "I love this house"
* For tentative enquiries: "saanko lainata kirjaa?" -> "can I borrow the book?"
* For uncountables: "lasissa on maitoa" -> "the glass contains (some) milk"
* In places where English would use "some" or "any": "onko teillä kirjoja?" -> "do you have any books?"
** Compare with nominative case: "onko teillä kirjat?" -> "do you have the (specific) books?"
* For negative statements: "talossa ei ole kirjaa" -> "there is not a book in the house"

Where not mentioned, the accusative case would be ungrammatical. For example, the partitive must always be used after singular numerals.

As an example of the irresultative meaning of the partitive, "ammuin karhun" (accusative) means "I shot the bear (dead)", whereas "ammuin karhua" (partitive) means "I shot (at) the bear" without specifying if it was even hit. Notice that Finnish has no native future tense, so that the partitive provides an important reference to the present ("luen kirjaa") as opposed to the future ("luen kirjan"). The latter means "I will read the book", as a result ("the book has been read") indicates action in the future.

The case with an unspecified identity is "onko teillä kirjoja", which uses the partitive, because it refers to unspecified books, as contrasted to nominative "onko teillä (ne) kirjat?", which means "do you have (those) books?"

The partitive case comes from the older ablative case. This meaning is preserved e.g. in "kotoa" (from home), "takaa" (from behind).

A Western Finnish dialectal phenomenon seen in some forms of spoken Finnish is the assimilation of the final "-a" into a preceding vowel, thus making the chroneme the partitive marker. For example, "suurii" → "suuria" "some big --".

Current status in Sámi

Of the Sámi languages, Inari and Skolt Sámi still have a partitive, although it is slowly disappearing and its function is being taken over by other cases.

kolt Sámi

The partitive is only used in the singular and can always be replaced by the genitive. The partitive marker is "-d".

1. It appears after numbers larger than 6:

* "kääu´c čâustõkkâd": eight lassos

This can be replaced with "unicode|kää´uc čâustõõǥǥ".

2. It is also used with certain postpositions:

*"kuä´tted vuâstta": against a "kota"

This can be replaced with "kuä´đ vuâstta".

3. It can be used with the comparative to express that which is being compared:

* "Kå´lled pue´rab" : better than gold

This would nowadays more than likely be replaced by "pue´rab ko kå´ll"

External links

* [ Kimberli Mäkäräinen] Words that require the use of the partitive in Finnish

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