The Complement – Predikatiivi

Table of Contents
  1. What is the Complement?
  2. What Case Should You Use?
    1. Singular Nominative Complements
      1. With concrete subjects
    2. Singular Partitive Complements
      1. With abstract subjects
      2. With subjects expressing an activity
      3. With complements expressing a material
    3. T-plural Complements
    4. Partitive Plural Complements
  3. Some Subtle Differences

1. What is the Complement?

A complement is the part of a sentence, that tells what, or what kind, the subject is or isn’t. The complement can be either a noun or an adjective. The sentence verb is always ”olla.”

Finnish English
Ihminen on erehtyväinen. A person is fallible.
Hän ei ole enää kansanedustaja. He isn’t a member of parliament anymore.
Olut oli lämmintä. The beer was warm.
Lukeminen on hauskaa. Reading is fun.
Ovatko nuo turistit kiinalaisia? Are those tourists Chinese?
Hänen kätensä ovat sirot. Her hands are graceful.
Suomalaiset ovat hiljaisia. Finns are quiet.

2. What Case Should You Use?

The complement can appear in the following cases:

  • The singular nominative: ”Talo on punainen.”
  • The singular partitive: ”Viini on punaista.”
  • The plural nominative: ”Minun kengät ovat punaiset.”
  • The plural partitive: ”Mansikat ovat punaisia.”

The case you use can be both dependent on the type of subject you have in the sentence AND the type of complement you’re using. For example, ”Tämä kuppi on valkoinen.” will have valkoinen in the basic form because ”kuppi” is a concrete subject. However, ”Tämä kuppi on posliinia.” will have posliini in the partitive because the complement is a material.

2.1. Singular Nominative Complements

2.1.1. With Concrete Subjects

If the subject of a sentence is a concrete thing and singular, the complement is in the singular nominative. Please note that even in a negative sentence you will be using the singular nominative rather than the partitive.

Finnish English
Englannin parlamentti on kaksihuoneinen. The English parliament is two-roomed.
Ohjelma ei ole valmis. The program is not finished.
Elokuva oli sekava. The movie was confusing.
Päivä ei ollut aurinkoinen. The day wasn’t sunny.

2.2. Singular Partitive Complements

2.2.1. With Abstract Subjects

When the subject is an abstract noun (something uncountable), the complement is in the singular partitive.
In addition to abstract nouns, I’ve also included ”abstract” foods (eg. kahvi, riisi, maito). These foods are uncountable.

Finnish English
Ydinjäte on vaarallista. Nuclear waste is dangerous.
Ilma on radioaktiivista. The air is radioactive.
Suklaa on epäterveellis. Chocolate is unhealthy.

2.2.2. With Subjects Expressing an Activity

When the subject expresses an activity, the complement will be partitive singular. Words expressing an activity are pretty often recognisable by the -minen at the end of them. Eg. ”uida” is ”to swim”, while ”uiminen” and ”uinti” are translated as ”swimming”.

Finnish English
Silittäminen on ikävää. Ironing is unpleasant.
Veneily on ihanaa. Boating is lovely.
Uinti on rentouttavaa. Swimming is relaxing.

2.2.3. With Complements Expressing a Material

When the complement refers to the material or substance the subject is made of, you will use the partitive for the complement. In these cases it doesn’t matter whether the subject is countable. For example, ”pusero” is definitely countable, but because we’re talking about the material, ”silkki” will appear in the partitive case.

Compare: ”Tämä pöytä on korkea.” vs. ”Tämä pöytä on puuta.”

Finnish English
Onko tämä pusero silkkiä? Is this sweater made of silk?
Ei, tämä pusero on puuvillaa. No, this sweater is made of cotton.
Tämä pöytä on puuta. This table is made of wood.

2.3. T-Plural Complements

The T-plural (aka plural nominative) won’t be used extremely often with complements, but it does have its uses with subjects that naturally only occur in the plural.

Your complement will get the -t ending when the subject is a word that expresses a single entity but (nearly) always appears in the plural. This is the case for:

  • Most celebrations: häät (wedding), hautajaiset (funeral), ristiäiset (christening), tupaantuliaiset (housewarming party), etc.
  • Things that can be perceived as containing two mirrored identical parts: housut (pants), silmälasit (glasses), tikapuut (ladder), sakset (scissors), kasvot (face), rintaliivit (bra), aivot (brain), etc.
  • Things that (almost) always come in pairs: sukat (socks), kengät (shoes), keuhkot (lungs), munuaiset (kidneys), sieraimet (nostrils), sukset (skis), etc.
Finnish English
Housut ovat liian lyhyet. The pants are too short.
Tupaantiliaiset olivat ihanat. The housewarming party was lovely.
Keuhkot olivat heikot. The lungs were weak.
Silmälasit ovat olleet tarpeelliset. Glasses have been necessary.
Sukat ovat punaiset. The socks are red.
Sakset olivat terävät. The scissors were sharp.
Häät olivat stressaavat. The wedding was stressful.

2.4. Partitive Plural Complements

If the plural subject doesn’t mean one pair or entity, the complement is in the plural partitive.

Finnish English
Omenat ovat homeisia. The apples are moldy.
Lapset ovat energisiä. The children are energetic.
Jotkut talot olivat korkeita. Some buildings were tall.
Miehet ovat olleet nuoria. The men have been young.
Pöydät ovat ruskeita. The tables are brown.

3. Some Subtle Differences

While the above rules might seem clear at first, upon closer insection there are some things that we still need to look into. Firstly, a subject can be abstract or uncountable and still have a singular nominative complements.

Finnish English
Suklaa on makeaa. Chocolate is sweet.
Suklaa on hyvä jälkiruoka. Chocolate is a good dessert.
Rakkaus on ihanaa. Love is lovely.
Rakkaus on ihana tunne. Love is a lovely feeling.

Secondly, a subject that is usually abstract can also be seen as a concrete thing when we’re talking about one of its kind. This is usually only the case with food.

Finnish English
Jäätelö on herkullista. Ice cream is delicious.
Tämä jäätelö on herkullinen. This specific ice cream is delicious.

That’s it for the complement! Do you have any questions?
Let me know in the comments below!


  • In section ”2.3. T-Plural Complements”: ”Sukat ovat punaiset.” – ”The socks were red.” It should be ”are red” or maybe otherwise ”olivat punaiset”, I guess 🙂

    • Corrected, thank you 🙂

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