• 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]
  • Partitive case in Estonian


    1. Exercise: Partitive singular Score -/-
    2. Exercise: Partitive plural Score -/-

    When to use the partitive case in Estonian?

    The partitive singular, like the genitive singular, is a basic form which is used to construct other cases. It is the root of most cases in plural. 

    The partitive case (osastav kääne in Estonian) answers the questions keda? 'whom?' and mida? 'what?'. In it's basic meaning, it indicates an indeterminate whole, of which only a part is under consideration. For example. klaas vett 'a glass of (some) water', tükk leiba 'a piece of (some) bread', etc.

    The partitive is used in many ways: 

    1) after words of quantity: 

    • Mul on kaks poega. --- I have two sons.
    • See võttis mul aega pool päeva. --- It took me half a day.
    • Karp šokolaadi. --- A box of chocolate.

    2) for the partial object:

    • Tüdruk sööb leiba. --- The girl is eating (some) bread.
    • Ma loen raamatut. --- I am reading a book.
    • Ta vaatab telekat. --- He is watching the TV.

    3) for the partial subject:

    • Lund sajab. --- It is snowing. (some snow is falling)
    • Ninast jookseb verd. --- (Some) Blood is flowing from the nose.
    • Korstnast tuleb suitsu. --- Smoke is coming from the chimney.

    4) for the predicate complement, when indicating the group or type which the subject belongs to.

    • Mis värvi on müts? --- (Of) What colour is the hat?
    • Kleit on punast värvi. --- The dress is (of a) red (color).
    • Mu isa on lühikest kasvu. --- My dad is (of a) short (height).

    ​5) quite a few prepositions require the partitive case after them:

    • Enne lõunat --- Before noon
    • Mööda teed --- Along the road
    • Pärast tööd --- After work
    • Vastu voolu --- Against the stream
    • Alla mäge --- Down the hill


    How to form the partitive singular?

    The partitive singular may end in -d, -t or a certain vowel (-a, -e, -i, -u). It often has a different stem than the genitive singular. Since it is one of the root cases, the partitive singular of a word is also given in the word lists in addition to the nominative and genitive. It is very complicated to give all the rules concerning the derivation of the partitive case, but in general there are three basic types of partitive forms, with various subtypes.


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    The ending -d

    After a double vowel or diphthong, the partitive singular ends in -d. This is added directly to the nominative form (which in these cases is the same as the genitive form).

    Nominative/Genitive Partitive English
    Maa Maad Earth
    Või Võid Butter
    Pea Pead Head
    Töö Tööd Work

    enlightened Exceptions: au 'honor' and nõu 'advice, utensil' do not take the -d ending! The partitive is the same as the nominative and genitive.


    The following five two-syllable words end in -d in the partitive singular, with the last vowel of the stem (-i in the nominative) being dropped before the -d is added:

    Nominative Partitive English
    Meri Merd Sea
    Veri Verd Blood
    Tuli Tuld Fire, light
    Uni Und Sleep, dream
    Lumi Lund Snow


    The ending -t

    When the partitive singular is formed with the -t suffix, it is usually added to the genitive form.

    Nominative Genitive Partitive English
    Raamat Raamatu Raamatut Book
    Lennuk Lennuki Lennukit Airplane
    Pudel Pudeli Pudelit Bottle
    Vihik Vihiku Vihikut Notebook


    In certain cases the -e at the end of the genitive stem may be dropped before adding -t in the partitive case.

    Nominative Genitive Partitive English
    Roheline Rohelise Rohelist Green
    Uus Uue Uut New
    Viis Viie Viit Five
    Õis Õie Õit Blossom

    enlightenedNote these unusual patterns:

    Nominative Genitive Partitive English
    Käsi Käe tt Hand
    Vesi Vee Vett Water
    Mesi Mee Mett Honey
    Süda Südame Südant Heart


    For some words that end in -l, -n, -r, -s the suffix -t is added directly onto the nominative form.

    Nominative Partitive English
    Keel Keelt Language
    Aken Akent Window
    Mees Meest Man
    Tütar Tütart Daughter


    Vowel endings

    For a large group of Estonian words, the partitive singular is formed by adding to the nominative form the vowel which is at the end of the genitive form.

    Nominative Genitive Partitive English
    Vend Venna `Venda Brother
    Leib Leiva `Leiba Bread
    Kukk Kuke Kukke Rooster
    Jõgi e Jõge River
    Riik Riigi `Riiki State
    Pink Pingi `Pinki Bench
    Lind Linnu `Lindu Bird
    Lipp Lipu Lippu Flag


    Sometimes the genitive and partitive are spelled alike, but the former is pronounced with second-degree (long) quantity and the latter with third-degree (overlong) quantity.

    Nominative Genitive Partitive English
    Loom Looma `Looma Animal
    Silm Silma `Silma Eye
    Asi Asja `Asja Thing
    Must Musta `Musta Black


    Many two-syllable words which end in -a, -i or -u remain unchanged in the genitive and partitive forms.

    Nominative Genitive Partitive English
    Isa Isa Isa Father
    Onu Onu Onu Uncle
    Karu Karu Karu Bear
    Vana Vana  Vana Old


    An adjective which modifies a noun in the partitive case must also be in the partitive.

    • Kolm väikest (par.) last (par.) --- Three small children.
    • Ma vaatan head (par.) filmi (par.) --- I am watching a good movie.
    • Ma söön maitsvat (par.) salatit (par.). --- I am eating a tasty salad.


    How to form the partitive plural?

    The construction of the partitive plural involves certain complications. Below is an overview of the three basic groupings into which partitive plural endings can be classified.


    The ending -id

    The ending -id (-aid, -eid, -uid, -äid, -öid) is used for most one-syllable words which end in a long vowel. It is also used for some words with two or more syllables.

    Nominative Singular  Gen. Sing.   Partitive Plural  English
    Maa Maa Maid Earth
    Puu Puu Puid Tree
    Aasta Aasta Aastaid Year
    Süda Südame Südameid Heart
    Sinine Sinise Siniseid Blue
    Tugev Tugeva Tugevaid Strong
    Hommik Hommiku Hommikuid Morning


    The ending -sid

    The ending -sid is used for two-syllable words which have a short vowel in the first syllable and end in a short vowel. It is also used for words with the feminine suffix -nna.

    Nominative Singular Partitive Plural English
    Ema Emasid Mother
    Küla Külasid Village
    Jõgi Jõgesid River
    Kõne Kõnesid Speech
    Kalju Kaljusid Cliff
    Õde Õdesid Sister
    Eestlanna Eestlannasid Estonian woman


    The vowel endings 

    The vowel endings -e, -i, -u are used for many different types of words. In their case, the partitive plural is derived from the stem of the partitive singular, with the plural suffix depending on the vowel which the partitive singular ends with.

    1) If the partitive singular ends in -i or -u, the partitive plural ends in -e.

    Nominative Singular Partitive Singular Partitive Plural English
    Poiss Poissi Poisse Boy
    Kool Kooli Koole School
    Lind Lindu Linde Bird
    Laul Laulu Laule Song
    Pilt Pilti Pilte Picture


    2) If the partitive singular ends in -e, the partitive plural ends in -i.

    Nominative Singular  Partitive singular   Partitive Plural  English
    Lill Lille Lilli Flower
    Järv Järve Järvi Lake
    Ajaleht Ajalehte Ajalehti Newspaper

    Among the words in this group are words that end in a consonant in the partitive singular and end in -e in the genitive singular. 

     Nom. Sing   Gen. Sing  Part. Sing  Part. Plural English
    Keel Keele Keelt Keeli Language
    Suur Suure Suurt Suuri Big
    Inimene Inimese Inimest Inimesi Person


    3) If the partitive singular ends in -a, the partitive plural ends in either -i or -u.

      a) The ending -i is used if the preceding syllable contains one of the following vowels: e o u ä ö ü, or a diphthong with one of these vowels. 

    Nom. Sing Part. Sing. Part. Plural English
    Mets Metsa Metsi Forest
    Poeg Poega Poegi Son
    Päev Päeva Päevi Day
    Püha Püha Pühi Holiday

      b) The ending -u is used if the preceding syllable ends in the vowels -a, -i, -õ or the diphthongs -ei or -äi.

    Nom. Sing. Part. Sing. Part. Plural English
    Maja Maja Maju House
    Viga Viga Vigu English
    Sõber Sõpra Sõpru Friend
    Väin Väina Väinu Strait


    enlightened Note: Some words have two forms of the partitive plural, one with the vowel ending and one with the suffix -sid.

    Nominative Singular Partitive Plural English
    Jalg Jalgu, jalgasid Foot
    Vaba Vabu, vabasid Free
    Põld Põlde, põldusid Field
    Tuba Tube, tubasid Room
    Pesa Pesi, pesasid Nest


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