Partitive case in Estonian
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.
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).
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:
The ending -t
When the partitive singular is formed with the -t suffix, it is usually added to the genitive form.
In certain cases the -e at the end of the genitive stem may be dropped before adding -t in the partitive case.
Note these unusual patterns:
For some words that end in -l, -n, -r, -s the suffix -t is added directly onto the nominative form.
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.
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.
Many two-syllable words which end in -a, -i or -u remain unchanged in the genitive and partitive forms.
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|
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|
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|
2) If the partitive singular ends in -e, the partitive plural ends in -i.
|Nominative Singular||Partitive singular||Partitive Plural||English|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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