nollapersoona with obligations or prohibitions?

Discussion in 'Suomi (Finnish)' started by Gavril, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    In another thread, I wrote,

    Peltosilla ei syö kyynärpäät pöydällä!

    Where ei syö is the nollapersoona form (i.e., the “impersonal” 3rd person form) of syödä.

    Grumpy Old Man corrected this, replacing ei syö with the passive/impersonal form ei syödä.

    This brings up a question: can the nollapersoona form generally be used when you are expressing an obligation or a prohibition? E.g., if you wanted to say,

    “In this house, one washes one's hands before eating” (= One must wash one’s hands before eating)
    “Here, one does not wear shoes indoors.” (= One mustn’t wear shoes indoors here)

    could you translate them (respectively),

    Tässä taloudessa pesee kätensä ennen kuin syö.
    Ei tule tänne sisään kengät jalassa.


    Last edited: Apr 23, 2013
  2. MaijaPoppanen Senior Member

    You have to use passive/impersonal forms.

    Tässä taloudessa pestäändet ennen syömistä/kuin syödään.
    Tänne ei tulla sisään kengät jalassa.
  3. altazure Member

    Using nollapersoona instead implies for example possibility, ability or suitability. In these cases, "kyllä" or "ei" is often added:

    Kyllä tällä saippualla kätensä pesee. > This soap is good (enough) for washing your hands (but not the best).
    Vaikka Britanniassa onkin vasemmanpuoleinen liikenne, samalla tavalla siellä ajaa kuin täälläkin. > can drive the same way there as you do here. (= driving is the same even though the rules are different)

    This reminded me of how in old Finnish movies you can still hear older language use, where one polite way of referring to other people and, indeed, asking them to do something, was the third person: "Rovasti on hyvä ja ottaa kahvia!" "Elisa siivoaa nyt tämän sotkun." The verb form resembles nollapersoona, but the construction is actually active ("rovasti...ottaa", "Elisa siivoaa"). Nowadays, this is still used sometimes, but in a sarcastic or condescending manner.
  4. MaijaPoppanen Senior Member

    Actually, this is also used in retirement homes (at least in those where my great grandmothers are) and then it's not sarcastic or condescending. Old people are probably used to that kind of language.
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Thanks for the responses. One more question that occurred to me: can you use the nollapersoona form to describe a general practice, in which case it would have a meaning similar to "on tapa [tehdä jtk]"?

    E.g., could you say,

    Tässä maassa antaa yleensä tipin tarjoilijalle
    . "In this country, one generally leaves a waiter a tip"
    Täällä päin ei yleensä anna tippiä syömisen jälkeen. "Around here, one doesn't usually leave a tip after a meal."

    Neither of these are "commands" in the way that the earlier sentences (Tässä taloudessa pestään kädet ...) were: they're just descriptions of how things are normally done in different places.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  6. DrWatson

    DrWatson Senior Member

    You can see this article of VISK for differences and comparisons between passive and zero person constructions.

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