• Estonian grammar
  • 1 Estonian sentence structure [0/2]
  • 2 Estonian nouns [0/3]
  • 3 Estonian pronouns [0/3]
  • 4 Estonian cases [0/11]
  • 5 Estonian verbs [0/8]
  • 6 Estonian adjectives [0/1]
  • 7 Estonian prepositions and postpositions [0/1]
  • 8 Estonian adverbs [0/1]
  • Genitive case in Estonian

    When to use the genitive case in Estonian?

    The genitive case (omastav kääne in Estonian) is one of the basic case forms. It is used first and foremost to indicate the possessor or owner of something. In English, this would be indicated by adding 's to the end of a word: man's, child's, etc.

    The genitive case answers the questions kelle? 'whose, belonging to whom?' and mille? 'belonging to what?'. As in English, the possessive word comes before the object possessed.

    Genitive in Estonian English
    Kelle auto? Whose car?
    Ema auto. The mother's car.
    Mille kaas? The cover of what?
    Raamatu kaas. The book's cover.


    Estonian uses the genitive in many cases where English uses the preposition 'of''. 

    Genitive English
    Linna tänavad The streets of the town (the town's streets)
    Olukorra peremees The master of the situation (the situation's master)
    Maja katus The roof of the house (the house's roof)


    Two genitive forms can stand side by side. The adjective that modifies a noun must also be in the genitive case.

    Genitive English
    Suure (gen.) poisi (gen.) auto (nom.) The big boy's car (lit: the big's boy's car)
    Ilusa (gen.) maja (gen.) aed (nom.) The garden of the beautiful house (lit: the beautiful's house's garden)


    How to form the genitive singular in Estonian?

    The genitive singular always ends in a vowel. However, there are no set rules for which vowel a word will end with. Normally in the dictionaries the genitive form is also added and when you encounter a new word, you just have to learn both the nominative and the genitive. Fortunately, if you know the genitive form, you can construct all the remaining singular case forms (except the partitive). 


    Word ending with a consonant

    A word ending with a consonant in the nominative singular will always end with one of four vowels (a,e,i,u) in the genitive singular.

    Nominative Genitive English 
    Ilus Ilusa Beautiful
    Laps Lapse Child
    Noor Noore Young
    Kool Kooli School
    Tüdruk Tüdruku Girl
    Raamat Raamatu Book
    Ilm Ilma Weather


    Word ending with a vowel

    A word ending with a vowel in the nominative singular usually keeps the same vowel (the word remains the same).

    Estonian English
    Ema laulab (nom.sing) Mother sings
    Ema arvuti (gen.sing) Mother's computer

    enlightened However, there are quite a few exceptions.

    Nominative Genitive English
    Meri Mere Sea
    Nimi Nime Name
    Mari Marja Berry


    Words ending with -ne

    Most words ending with -ne in the nominative singular take the ending -se in the genitive singular.

    Nominative Genitive English
    Inimene Inimese Person
    Inglane Inglase English (nationality)
    Naine Naise Woman
    Oluline Olulise Important

    enlightened Some two-syllable words ending in -ne do not change.

    Nominative Genitive English
    ne ne Speech
    Eine Eine Meal
    Hoone Hoone Building


    Foreign names

    Foreign names ending in a consonant usually take the ending -i in the genitive singular.

    Nominative Genitive English
    London Londoni rahvastik London's population
    Boston Bostoni sadam Boston's harbor
    Smith Smithi korter Smith's apartment


    Foreign names ending in -s sometimes take the ending -e in the genitive singular. 

    Nominative Genitive
    Los Angeles Los Angelese
    Celsius Celsiuse
    Buenos Aires Buenos Airese


    How to form the genitive plural in Estonian?

    The genitive plural is generally derived from the stem of the partitive singular case. 

    There are two endings: -de or -te


    The -de ending

    If the partitive singular ends with a vowel, the genitive plural has the ending -de, which is added to the partitive singular form.

    Nominative Singular Partitive Singular Genitive Plural English 
    Vend Venda Vendade Brother
    Riik Riiki Riikide State
    Maja Maja Majade House
    Loom Looma Loomade Animal
    • Rooside sõjad. --- The wars of the roses. (lit: the roses' wars)
    • Vendade sõprus on tugev. --- The brothers' friendship is strong.
    • Nende majade aknad on suured. --- The windows of these houses are large. (lit: these' house's windows are large) 

    If the partitive singular ends in -d, the genitive plural has a -de ending in place of this -d.

    Nominative Singular Partitive Singular Genitive Plural English
    Maa Maad Maade Earth
    Pea Pead Peade Head
    Tee Teed Teede Tea, road
    Hea Head Heade Good
    • Teede kvaliteet Eestis on hea. --- The quality of roads in Estonia is good. (lit: the roads' quality)
    • Tartu on heade mõtete linn. --- Tartu is the city of good thoughts. (lit: goods' thought's city)
    • Puude lehed on rohelised. --- The leaves of the trees are green. (lit: the trees' leaves)


    The -te ending

    If the partitive singular ends in -t, this -t is replaced by the suffix -te in the genitive plural.

    Nominative Singular     Partitive Singular             Genitive Plural         English
    Raamat Raamatut Raamatute Book
    Uus Uut Uute New
    Arvuti Arvutit Arvutite Computer
    Pudel Pudelit Pudelite Bottle
    • Raamatute hinnad on kallid. --- The prices of the books are expensive. (lit: the books' prices)
    • Arvutite suurused on erinevad. --- The sizes of the computer are different. (lit: computers' sizes)
    • Uute inimeste CV-d on laual. --- The CVs of the new people are on the table. (lit: news' people's CVs)


    yes Congratulations! You have learned the most difficult case in Estonian. Train your skills with exercises!


    Exercise: genitive singular

    Exercise: genitive plural