Finnish for busy people

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. Abstract nouns

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 verb of the sentence 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.

For example, a couch (sohva) is one concrete thing. That’s why we say Sohva on uusi, pehmeä ja punainen, using the basic form of all three adjectives.

Finnish English
Sohva on pehmeä. The couch is soft.
Ohjelma ei ole valmis. The program is not finished.
Elokuva oli sekava. The movie was confusing.
Omena on pyöreä. The apple is round.
Päivä on aurinkoinen. The day is sunny.
Pöytä ei ole tyhjä. The table isn’t empty.
Auto ei ollut punainen. The car wasn’t red.
Internet on nopea. The internet is fast.
Tietokone on uusi. The computer is new.

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. Examples of abstract nouns are love, hate and friendship.

As such, we will say Sohva on ihana “the couch (a concrete thing) is wonderful”, but Rakkaus on ihanaa “love (an abstract thing) is wonderful”. In English, abstract subjects will usually appear in the sentence without a pronoun: “The love is wonderful” doesn’t work.

Finnish English
Ydinjäte on vaarallista. Nuclear waste is dangerous.
Rakkaus on ihanaa. Love is wonderful.
Ilo on tarttuvaa. Happiness is contagious.
Ystävyys on tärkeää. Friendship is important.
Elämä on ihanaa. Life is wonderful.
Värisokeus on perinnöllis. Color blindness is hereditary
Kuolema oli hidasta. Death was slow.
Musiikki on rentouttavaa. Music is relaxing.
Taide on luovaa. Art is creative.
Ilma on radioaktiivista. The air is radioactive.

2.2.2. With Uncountable Foods

In addition to abstract nouns, I’ve also included “abstract” foods (eg. kahvi, riisi, maito). These foods are “uncountable”; you can’t talk about “one rice” (you can talk about one GRAIN of rice, but not count the rice itself). These sentences can in English both have a definite pronoun the or appear without any pronoun.

Subject English Finnish
Uncountable Suklaa on makeaa. Chocolate is sweet.
Countable Suklaalevy on iso. The chocolate bar is large.
Uncountable Maito on hapanta. The milk is sour.
Countable Maitotölkki on tyhjä. The milk carton is empty.
Uncountable Riisi on terveellis. Rice is healthy.
Countable Riisijyvä on pieni. A grain of rice is small.
Uncountable Ruoka oli valmista. The food was ready.
Countable Ateria oli valmis. The meal was ready.
Uncountable Juusto on rasvaista. The cheese is fatty.
Countable Juustoviipale on ohut. The cheese slice is thin.
Uncountable Leipä on kovaa. The bread is hard.
Countable Sämpylä on kova. The bun is hard.
Uncountable Kahvi on kuumaa. The coffee is hot.
Countable Kahvipaketti on kallis. The coffee package is expensive.
Uncountable Kangas on hienoa. The fabric is delicate.
Countable Mekko on ohut. The dress is thin.
Uncountable Kakku on herkullista. Cake is delicious.
Countable Kakkupala on herkullinen. The piece of cake is delicious.

The following isn’t a rule that always holds true, but it can help you in many situations: When trying to decide if something is countable or uncountable, it is often a good idea to ask yourself what happens if you cut the subject into pieces. Things that are uncountable can be divided into pieces without losing their identity.

For example, fabric can be cut into pieces, but the end result will still be fabric. In contrast, cutting a dress in pieces doesn’t leave you with a dress. As such, dresses are countable and fabric is uncountable. Likewise, cake is still cake when you cut it into pieces (uncountable), but a piece of cake just turns into cake (countable) when you do the same there.

2.2.3. 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.
Uiminen on rentouttavaa. Swimming is relaxing.
Käveleminen on kivuliasta. Walking is painful.
Siivoaminen on tylsää. Cleaning is boring.
Television katsominen on hauskaa. Watching television is fun.
Jalkapallon pelaaminen on terveellis. Playing soccer is healthy.
Sohvalla makaaminen on mukavaa. Laying on the couch is pleasant.
Tangon tanssiminen ei ole väsyttävää. Dancing the tango isn’t tiring.
Samban tanssiminen on väsyttävää. Dancing the samba is tiring.
Laulaminen on vaikeaa. Singing is difficult.

2.2.4. 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 puuta.” vs. “Tämä pöytä on korkea.”

Type Finnish English
Material Onko tämä pusero silkkiä? Is this sweater made of silk?
Property Onko tämä pusero pehmeä? Is this sweater soft?
Material Tämä pusero on puuvillaa. This sweater is made of cotton.
Property Tämä pusero on paksu. This sweater is thick.
Material Tämä pöytä on puuta. This table is made of wood.
Property Tämä pöytä on pyöreä. This table is round.
Material Tuo pöytä on muovia. That table is made of plastic.
Property Tuo pöytä on liian pieni. That table is too small.
Material Tämä kuppi on lasia. This cup is made of glass.
Property Tämä kuppi on tyhjä. This cup is empty.
Material Tuo kuppi on posliinia. That cup is made of porcelain.
Property Tuo kuppi on täysi. That cup is full.
Material Meidän matto on plyysiä. Our carpet is made of plush.
Property Meidän matto on uusi. Our carpet is new.

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:

  1. Most celebrations
  2. Things that can be perceived as containing two mirrored identical parts
  3. Things that (almost) always come in pairs
# Finnish English
1 Tupaantuliaiset olivat ihanat. The housewarming party was lovely.
1 Häät olivat stressaavat. The wedding was stressful.
1 Hautajaiset olivat surulliset. The funeral was sad.
1 Ristiäiset olivat kauniit. The christening was beautiful.
1 Synttärit olivat yllättävät. The birthday party was surprising.
1 Markkinat olivat suositut. The market was popular.
1 Läksiäiset olivat ikimuistoiset. The goodbye party was memorable.
1 Avajaiset olivat pitkät. The opening ceremony was long.
2 Housut ovat liian lyhyet. The pants are too short.
2 Silmälasit ovat olleet tarpeelliset. Glasses have been necessary.
2 Sakset olivat terävät. The scissors were sharp.
2 Tikapuut olivat pitkät. The ladder was long.
2 Hänen kasvot ovat pyöreät. His face is round.
2 Rintaliivit olivat epämukavat. The bra was unpleasant.
2 Aivot olivat turponeet. The brain was swollen.
2 Hohtimet ovat vanhat. The pincers are old.
2 Kirkon urut ovat huonot. The church’s organ is bad.
3 Sukat ovat punaiset. The socks are red.
3 Keuhkot olivat heikot. The lungs were weak.
3 Kengät olivat liian pienet. The shoes were too small.
3 Munuaiset ovat pienet. The kidneys are small.
3 Sieraimet olivat suuret. The nostrils were large.
3 Sukset ovat uudet. The skis are new.
3 Saappaat ovat lämpimät. The boots are warm.
3 Silmäsi ovat siniset. Your eyes are blue.
3 Korvamme olivat punaiset. Our ears were red.

2.4. Partitive Plural Complements

If the plural subject doesn’t mean one pair or entity (like in 2.3), the complement is in the plural partitive. These sentences are marked as “regular” in the table below because the partitive plural is the default form for plural subjects. I have added some examples with the T-plural to allow you to compare sentence types.

Type Finnish English
Regular Pöydät ovat ruskeita. The tables are brown.
Pair Housut ovat ruskeat. The pants are brown.
Regular Omenat ovat punaisia. The apples are red.
Pair Saappaat ovat punaiset. The boots are red.
Regular Lapset olivat pieniä. The children were small.
Pair Sukat olivat pienet. The socks were small.
Regular Nämä talot ovat korkeita. These buildings are tall.
Entity Nämä tikapuut ovat korkeat. This ladder is tall.
Regular Miehet olivat hauskoja. The men were fun.
Entity Häät olivat hauskat. The wedding was fun.

3. Abstract Nouns

3.1. X on YZ – Love is a great feeling

A subject can be abstract or uncountable and still have a singular nominative complements. This is the case when there’s a noun in the complement (eg. dessert, feeling).

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

3.2. X on Z – Love is a mystery

Finnish English
Rakkaus on mysteeri. Love is a mystery.
Onnellisuus on valinta. Happiness is a choice.
Avoimuus on välttämättömyys. Transparency is a necessity.
Armottomuus on selviytymiskeino. Ruthlessness is a means of survival.
Huolellisuus on hyve. Diligence is a virtue.
Huostaanotto oli helpotus. Custody was a relief.
Muistinmenetys oli siunaus. Memory loss was a blessing.
Demokratia on välttämättömyys. Democracy is a necessity.
Yhteistyö on avain menestykseen. Teamwork is the key to success.
Juokseminen on nautinto.
Running is a pleasure.
Todellisuus on illuusio.
Reality is an illusion.

 3.3. X on Z:tä – Love is gratitude

Finnish English
Rakkaus on kiitollisuutta. Love is gratitude.
Demokratia on vapautta. Democracy is freedom.
Diplomaattisuus on viisautta. Diplomacy is wisdom.
Altruismi on vain piilotettua egoismia. Altruism is just hidden egoism.
Onnellisuus on yksinkertaisuutta. Happiness is simplicity.

3.4. X on V – Love is to give

Finnish English
Rakkaus on antaa vaikkei saisi. Love is to give even if you won’t get.
Rakkaus on olla epäitsekäs. Love is to be selfless.
Rohkeus on olla oma itsensä. Courage to be yourself.
Rohkeus on ottaa asiat puheeksi. Courage is to speak up.
Rohkeus on näyttää särönsä. Courage is to show one’s cracks.

Also note how 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!

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aleksandr
aleksandr

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 🙂

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

Corrected, thank you 🙂

Adam
Adam

When reading this the following sentence comes to mind: Pelin säännöt ovat helpot. What’s the rule behind this? For some reason I think Pelin säännöt ovat helppoja sounds weird, but I don’t know why or if my Finnish is just bad.

I’m somewhat confused, as you can see 🙂

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

There’s a limited group of rules to a game, so they form kind of a “whole”, which means the T-plural fits better. However, jotkut tämän pelin säännöistä ovat helppoja is perfectly fine of course 🙂

Michael Hämäläinen
Michael Hämäläinen

The null subject (cf. Sentences Without a Subject) has an interesting pattern.  Korpela writes that the partitive is used by default, but nominative is used for describing the temperature of the air:

  • Täällä on meluisaa It is noisy here
  • Täällä on kuuma It is hot here
F1randokalbus22
F1randokalbus22

Suggestion : as this may be one of the most difficult topics (in my most humble opinion) Wouldn’t it be good to have CERATAIN example sentences, which show
“exactly” where to not use it

E.g the Partitive Plural Complements section – there should be some example sentences which show in which sentences you should not use it, not the description –

“When the plural subject doesn’t mean one pair or entity, the complement is in the plural partitive”

I think it would be cool to have a sentence(s) there (crossed out, but still visible) that’s it’s wrong and you can’t use it here…

That goes for the whole article

Kind regards

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

Hmmmm… I understand what you mean with having sentences crossed out but visible, but I’m not sure how to make that work. I added some more contrasting examples.