Introduction to Estonian:
Lesson 3

By Linas

Estonian actually has it pretty easy with possessive words too. Let’s learn the hard one. First, do you remember the Estonian word for they:


Answer: nemad
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Estonian for their is nende.

Estonian for father is isa.

Think my father needs a visa to remember that father is a isa (just too many ways to remember it).

How would you say:

Their father is here.

Answer: Nende isa on siin.
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So, their is nende. For your and my you just take the words mina and sina and change that a to u. How would you say:

My father works here.

Answer: Minu isa töötab siin.
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Another easy word is mother:

Estonian for mother is ema.

Think my mother’s name is Emma.

How would you say:

Your mother is good.

Answer: Sinu ema on hea.
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Thus we have nende (their) for nemad (they), minu (my) for mina (I) and sinu (your) for sina (you). That’s all we need to learn because:

All the other posessives (tema, meie, teie) are the same as the usual forms!

So, how would you say:

Her mother isn’t here.

Answer: Tema ema ei ole siin.
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Imagine talking to some kids and saying:

Your (plural) father doesn’t work here.

Answer: Teie isa ei tööta siin.
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Just like mina has a contraction ma and sina - sa, these possessive forms minu and sinu also have their contraction forms mu and su. Then the possive forms of some other pronouns (tema, meie, teie) are the same as their usual forms so the contractions of their possesive forms are also the same as the contractions of their regular forms. Oh, and finally nemad stands out because its possessive nende does not have a contraction.

Knowing these posessive words is pretty useful because if we add the letter l to them we have the adessive word which make these words into on me, on you, and so on (although the translation on cannot be taken too literally).

Why this is important is because:

Estonian does not have the word have and they use the adessive + is + something instead.

So, for example, if you wanted to say I have a father you would say on me is a father which would come out as minul on isa.

The Estonian word for do/does in questions is kas.

Ask the following questions:

Do you have a mother?

Answer: Kas sinul on ema?
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Does he have a father?

Answer: Kas temal on isa?
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You could also simply skip kas and simply ask sinul on ema? which would be the equivalent of the English you have a mother?. It’s a bit less formal but that’s okay. Try asking the same question like that:

You have a father?

Answer: Sinul on isa?
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They don’t have a father?

Answer: Nendel ei ole isa?
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Because you add that l to make posessive into adessive (to make your into on you: don’t worry about the terminology), you would expect that meie (our) would become meiel and teie (plural your) would become teiel. However, there is a very slight change and that e in the end is a bit hard to pronounce so it gets dropped out and we get meil for on us and teil for on you (plural). So, judging by pronunciation, you could say it’s mail and tail.

How would you say:

We have a father.

Answer: Meil on isa.
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And for something sad:

You (plural) don’t have a mother?

Answer: Teil ei ole ema?
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I don’t want to end this lesson on a sad note so I want you to imagine a kitten (by the way: a cat is kass). Okay, and while I’m on it, another similar word is kus.

The Estonian word kus means where.

Where is the cat?

Answer: Kus on kass?
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Now that’s a way nicer note.