Estonian: plurals

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Tere kõigile!

I'm not officially studying this language but just asking out of curiosity.

When I use the "Eesti keele süntesaator" ( on a word, e.g. taevas and put it in adessive plural, it gives me two alternatives, taevail and taevastel. Another one is sõna: this time I get sõnul and sõnadel. Google reveals that both alternatives are used. What's the difference between these forms, if there is any?

Aitäh vastuste eest!
  • Kassikakk

    Estonia, Estonian
    The shorter form is the so-called i-plural (though in some cases there is no explicit -i- addition in the middle, like sõnul). It's mostly just a shorter form that can in principle be formed for every noun for all cases in plural starting from the illative. However, for many words it sounds too 'exotic' to be used in practice (and maybe these forms are not even suggested in textbooks or other sources). Generally, I think that the i-plural is more used in written language whereas in speaking the longer form is preferred. Sometimes there may also be slight differences in usage and sõnul is a good example here: one would use it mostly in connections like kellegi (minu, sinu...) sõnul -'according to somebody's (my, your,...) words', but substituting sõnadel here wouldn't sound right. It should however be used in all other situations where plural adessive is needed.
    For learners, I think, using the longer form is safer until they get the feeling what this phenomenon is about.
    Aitäh Kassikakk! Väga huvitav :)

    As a Finn, it was new to me that in some grammatical cases in Estonian there are two alternative plurals. My logic would actually have preferred the i-plural in taevas (Fin: taivas -> taivailla (, but now I know better. The de-plural seems to be easier to form, too.
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