Finnish for busy people

Abstract Nouns in Complement Sentences – Predikatiivi

This article deals with abstract nouns in complement sentences. It’s an important topic to familiarize yourself with when you’re studying the complement. Please first study the main rules for the complement.

It’s been challenging to write this, because there are very few sources available that look at abstract nouns in detail. Finnish sources seem to mostly take for granted that the reader knows which words are abstract and which ones aren’t. Sources for language learners generally keep this topic fairly superficial. As such, I’ve been relying on extensive Google search results to find the tendencies that are related to abstract nouns.

Table of Contents
  1. What is an abstract noun?
  2. What is a complement (predikatiivi)?
  3. Showing Human Qualities or Characteristics
    1. Character traits as concepts
    2. Character traits as personal qualities
  4. Showing Emotions or Feelings
    1. General rule
    2. Specific feelings
    3. Feelings that only last a moment
  5. Activities and actions
    1. General rule
    2. Process versus result
    3. Countable result of an action
  6. Periods and States
    1. Periods of time
    2. States of being
  7. Concepts and Ideals
  8. Countable Abstract Things
    1. Obvious countable abstract things
    2. Less obvious countable abstract things
  9. Things that are measurable
  10. Things there are only one of
  11. Unexplained
  12. A strategy for if you’re not sure

1. What is an abstract noun?

Don’t scroll past this! It’s not as obvious as you might think. Different languages consider different words abstract. In English, you are usually instructed to consider if a noun can “a” or “the” (e.g. “a thought” versus “creativity”).

Abstract nouns can express many things, e.g. a feeling, a property or a state. English and Finnish don’t match up perfectly when we’re talking about abstract nouns. Take the word “advice” for example. In English, it’s impossible to say “one advice”. In Finnish, it’s common to form phrases such as “Annan sinulle yhden neuvon” which means “I give you one (piece of) advice”.

The most important thing to take away from the article is that there is a difference between ABSTRACT and UNCOUNTABLE. For example, thoughts are abstract, but you can count them. As such, the complement won’t have to be in the partitive when your subject is the word ajatus “thought”.

2. What is a complement (predikatiivi)?

Complement sentences typically consist of a subject, the verb olla and a complement. The most typical complement sentences will express what the subject is like, which means they will contain an adjective as the complement.

  1. If your subject is a concrete, countable noun, you will use the nominative for the complement.
  2. If your subject is a mass noun (ainesana), you will use the partitive case for the complement. (learn more)
  3. If your subject is plural, you will usually use the plural partitive for the complement.
  4. If your subject is a plurale tantum word, you will use the T-plural for the complement. (learn more)
  5. If your subject is an activity or expresses a process, you will use the partitive case for the complement.
  6. If your subject is abstract but countable, you will use the nominative for the complement.
  7. If your subject is an abstract concept, you will generally use the partitive case for the complement.

Read more about the complement in general here.

# Finnish English
1 Omena on pyöreä. An apple is round.
1 Minä olin nuori. I was young.
2 Kahvi oli kuumaa. The coffee was hot.
2 Sähkö voi olla kallista. Electricity can be expensive.
3 Opiskelijat olivat fiksuja. The students were smart.
4 Häät olivat tylsät. The wedding was boring.
5 Käveleminen on mukavaa. Walking is pleasant.
5 Etäopiskelu on vaikeaa. Distance learning is difficult.
5 Ajattelu voi olla vahingollista. Thinking can be harmful.
6 Ajatus oli loistava. The thought was brilliant.
7 Onni on katoavaista. Happiness is fleeting.

The article you’re currently reading deals with numbers 5, 6 and 7.

3. Showing Human Qualities or Characteristics

This section contains subjects such as kindness, beauty, generosity, weakness and greed. These human qualities and personality traits are considered abstract. When we describe what these are like, we are doing so in general.

Main rule: “X on Y:.”

  • If you’re unsure what case to use when talking about character traits, use the partitive case.
  • Are we considering the character trait as a concept in general? → use the partitive case (3.1.)
  • Are we explaining the intensity of a character trait in one person? → use the basic form (3.2.)

3.1. Character Traits as Concepts

When the subject of our sentence is a character trait, the complement will apear in the partitive case. Important in this first table is that we’re talking about the quality as a concept in general.

We could avoid the partitive here by saying “X on arvokas ominaisuus” (X is a valuable quality).

# Finnish English
Huolellisuus on tärkeää. Carefulness is important.
Arin avuliaisuus oli epäilyttävää. Ari’s helpfulness was suspicious.
Avoimuus on välttämätön. Transparency is essential.
Arin anteliaisuus oli epäitsekäs. Ari’s generosity was selfless.
Ahneus on inhimillis. Greed is human.
Heikkous on inhimillis. Weakness is human.
Arin huomaavaisuus oli yllättävää. Ari’s thoughfulness was surprising.
Hallituksen jääräpäisyys on surullista. The stubbornness of the government is sad.
Nokkeluus on seksikäs. Wit is sexy.
Arkuus on ymmärrettävää. Shiness is understandable.
Luonnon kauneus oli mykistävää. The beauty of nature was stunning.
Pahuus on parantumatonta. Evil is incurable.
Rehellisyys on tärkein. Honesty is the most important.
Uteliaisuus on vaarallista. Curiosity is dangerous.
Reiluus on tärkeää kuluttajille. Fairness is important to the customers.

3.2. Character Traits as Personal Qualities

We can also talk about these human characteristics as a personal character trait. For example, instead of saying that “self-confidence is sexy”, we could say that “my self-confidence is bad”. In these cases, we will use the partitive case for the complement when we talk about the character trait in general, and the basic form when we mean a certain person‘s character trait.

# Finnish English
Miksi itsehillintä on niin vaikeaa? Why is self-restraint so difficult?
Itsehillintäni on olematon. My self-control is nonexistent.
1 Itsevarmuus on seksikäs. Self-confidence is sexy.
1 Itsevarmuuteni oli erittäin huono. My self-confidence was very poor.
Kärsivällisyys on vaikeaa. Patience is difficult.
Kärsivällisyyteni on huono. My patience is poor.
2 Sinnikkyys on tärkeää. Tenacity is important.
2 Oppilaan sinnikkyys on korkea. The student’s perseverance is high.
3 Tytön itsetunto oli vahva. The girl’s self-esteem was strong.
1. Itsevarmuus

The word itsevarmuus “self-confidence” can both be approached as a character trait in general and as a specific characteristic of a person.

  • Itsevarmuus on seksikäs. “Self-confidence is sexy” is a general statement, so we use the partitive case.
  • Itsevarmuuteni on nyt vahvempi. “My self-confidence is stronger now” describes the quality of a specific person, so we use the basic form.
2. Sinnikkyys

Sinnikkyys is a tricky one as you will see from the examples below. If this one confuses you, you’re not the only one. I’ve had some trouble with this one too.

  • Sinnikkyys on tärkeää. “Tenacity is important” refers to the quality as an unspecific abstract concept, so we use the partitive case.
  • Opiskelijan sinnikkyys oli korkea. “The student’s perserverance was high” refers to the quality as a measurable thing (see section 9). In this situation it’s being measured as high.
  • Miehen sinnikkyys on poikkeuksellista. “The man’s tenacity is exceptional” refers to the a specific person’s tenacity, but the partitive is used. It’s an assessment, a comparison to other people’s performance on this particular quality. (thanks José in the comments!)
3. Itsetunto

I’m adding itsetunto “self-esteem” to this group, but in reality it doesn’t really fit in very well. Itsetunto always seems to come with a basic form complement.

  • Ammatillinen itsetunto oli heikko. “Professional self-esteem was low” refers to self-esteem in a specific area and is, thus, a whole and requires the basic form.
  • Varusmiesten itsetunto oli vahva.The soldiers’ self-esteem was strong.” refers to multiple people, yet we use the basic form. This is a deviation from the general tendency.

Maybe this is one of those words that fit better in the “things that are measurable” section of this article, however unsuitable it feels.

4. Showing Emotions or Feelings

This section contains words such as jealousy, anxiety, fear, contempt, disappointment and shame. You can talk about feelings in general as well as a current episode of a feeling: we can talk about fear or about the fear we felt in a situation.

Main rule: “X on Y:.”

  • If you’re unsure which case to use, use the partitive case for feelings.
    • Are we considering the feeling as a quality in general? → use the partitive case (4.1.)
    • Are we considering the feeling as a process that lasts? → use the partitive case (4.1.)
    • Are we considering the feeling as something someone undergoes? → use the partitive case (4.2.)
    • Are we considering the feeling as a whole? → use the basic form (4.2.)
    • Is the feeling tied to a specific situation? → use the basic form (4.2.)
    • Is the feeling very short-lived, momentaneous? → use the basic form (4.3.)

4.1. General Rule

Generally, when your subject is an emotion, it will require the complement to be inflected in the partitive case.  All of these feelings are the type that last for a while and won’t be over in a second. This is important to note because when a feeling is very short-lived, it’s possible to use the basic form.

Note how the words in this table ONLY get the partitive case, no matter if they’re somehow specific or not!

# Finnish English
1 Ahdistus on usein epämääräis. Anxiety is often general/unspecified.
1 Ahdistus oli voimakasta. The anxiety was intense.
Avuttomuus oli kamalaa. The helplessness was horrible.
Kateellisuus on minulle täysin vierasta. Jealousy is completely alien to me.
Katkeruus on rumaa ja inhottavaa. Bitterness is ugly and disgusting.
Ihailu oli yksipuolista. The admiration was one-sided.
Kiinnostus on alussa ollut vähäis. Interest has been low in the beginning.
Kunnioitus oli molemminpuolista. The respect was mutual.
Pieni mustasukkaisuus on normaalia. A little jealousy is normal.
Liisan myötätunto oli vilpitön. Liisa’s compassion was sincere.
Onnellisuus on suhteellista. Happiness is relative.
Onni on katoavaista. Happiness is fleeting.
Optimismi oli perusteetonta. The optimism was unfounded.
Ajoittainen alakuloisuus on normaalia. Occasional depression is normal.
Halveksunta oli syvää. The contempt was profound.
1. Ahdistus

We can talk about ahdistus “anxiety” both on a general level and when referring to one person’s anxiety. Both of these circumstances will require you to use the partitive case for the complement. This is due to the fact that the feeling of anxiety is not really tied to one specific situation.

  • Ahdistus on usein epämääräis. “Anxiety is often general” is something a doctor could say without talking about anyone or any situation in particular.
  • Ahdistus oli voimakasta. “The anxiety was intense” could be a patient describing the experience of their feeling.

4.2. Specific Feelings

Sometimes feelings are specific to a certain situation, or specific for an individual. These are deviations from the normal rule. As such, you can always rely on the partitive case if you’re unsure.

# Finnish English
1 Ilo oli suurta eri puolilla Kroatiaa. There was great joy throughout Croatia.
1 Lapsen ilo oli valtava. The child’s joy was immense.
2 Jännitys on edelleen voimakasta. The tension is still strong.
2 Jännitys oli sietämätön. The tension was unbearable.
3 Suru on jokaiselle yksilöllis. Grief is unique to each person.
3 Äidin suru oli pohjaton. Mother’s grief was bottomless.
4 Syyllisyys on hyödyllis. Guilt is useful.
4 Syyllisyys on kiistaton. The guilt is indisputable.
5 Sosiaalisten tilanteiden pelko on yleis. Fear of social situations is common.
5 Pelko voi olla todella voimakas. The fear can be really strong.
6 Usko oli vahvaa. Faith was strong.
6 Uskoni on vahva. My faith was strong. My belief was strong.
7 Katumus oli myöhäis. Repentance was late.
7 Paulin katumus oli aito. Paul’s remorse was genuine.
? Kiukkuni oli aiheetonta. My anger was unfounded.
? Kiukku oli aiheellinen. The anger was warranted.
Masennus on yleis. Depression is common.
Masennus oli lievä. The depression was mild.
1. Ilo

The word ilo “joy” is one that I haven’t been able to fully grasp the difference of. As such, this is speculation: it seems to me that when the joy is caused by doing something, we use the partitive case. If the joy is caused by something less active (say by getting a present) then you can find the basic form. I think it comes down to how “active” the joy is. In addition, if the joy is shared by many people, it’s logical that we use the partitive form.

  • Lapsen ilo oli suuri. “The child’s joy was great” because she got a new toy, so joy without an action.
  • Lapsen ilo oli suurta. “The child’s joy was great” because she was baking cookies with grandma.
  • Pelaamisen ilo oli suurta. “The joy of playing was great”, the joy of an action so partitive.
  • Oppilaiden ilo oli suurta. “The pupils’ joy was great”, more than one person so partitive.
2. Jännitys

The word jännitys “excitement, suspense, tension” seems to differ based on whether the excitement is short and centered around a single event (basic form), or whether it’s stretched out over a longer period or less specific (partitive). The number of people feeling the excitement also affects the case used (basic form for one person, partitive for groups).

  • Jännitys oli sietämätön ottelun aikana. “The suspense was unbearable during the match” helps express that the suspense lasted for a longer period of time.
  • Jännitys oli suurta kaikilla pelaajilla. “The tension was great for all players” expresses a feeling shared by multiple people.
  • Jännitys oli kova, ääni särisi ja poistuin itkien lavalta. “The tension was high, my voice cracked and I left the stage crying” refers to the tension one person felt during a very short moment.
3. Suru

The word suru can be translated as sadness, grief, sorrow or mourning. When looking at these words in English, you can recognize that these words each have a different level of intensity, duration and quality.

  • Suru on salattua ja sanatonta. “Sorrow is secret and speechless” explains on an abstract level what sorrow is like, it’s generalized, so the partitive case works well here.
  • Suru oli niin fyysis, että oksetti ja pyörrytti. “The grief was so physical that I felt nauseous and dizzy” refers to what the feeling actually felt like to a certain person, which is abstract, partitive.
  • Suru oli niin syvä, että millään ei ollut mitään väliä. “The grief was so deep that nothing mattered anymore” expresses the amount of grief, making it somehow countable.
  • Isän suru oli suunnaton. “Father’s grief was immense” also expresses the amount of grief.
4. Syyllisyys

The word syyllisyys “guilt” can refer to the feeling of guilt, and to whether someone is guilty of a crime. I haven’t been able to sort out the reasons for variation with this word, so I’m including some unexplained examples below.

  • Syyllisyys voi olla hyödyllis. “Guilt can be helpful” is a generalized statement about the phenomenon of guilt: e.g. sometimes guilt can be useful because it can lead to certain actions.
  • Syyllisyys oli sietämätön. “The guilt was unbearable” refers to how the feeling is experienced.
    — BUT Joskus syyllisyys voi olla niin kestämätön. I have no explanation for this one. —
  • Rikollisen syyllisyys oli kiistaton. “The guilt of the offender was indisputable” expresses that the offender is indisputably guilty of a specific, countable crime.
    — BUT Tuomarin mukaan syyllisyys oli aivan selvää. I have no explanation for this one. —
5. Pelko
  • Pelko voi olla hyödyllis. “Fear can be useful” talks about fear in general, so we use the partitive case.
  • Pelko oli vahva. “The fear was strong” refers to the experience as a whole, and likely refers to the fear in a specific situation, so we use the basic form.
  • Pelkoni oli turha/turhaa. “My fear was pointless” will generally appear with the basic form when we’re talking about a specific fear of short duration in a specific situation. The partitive is used for fears that drag out for a longer period over time, when I’m fretting over something.
6. Usko

The word usko can refer to faith (aka belief in a god) and also to trust or confidence in a situation.

  • Usko jumalaan oli tärkeä meille. “Faith in god was important to us” refers to faith as a whole, a thing that we either have or don’t have, so basic form.
  • Usko tulevaisuuteen oli vankka. “The belief in the future was solid” refers to belief as a phenomenon as well, so basic form.
  • Kansan usko oli vahvaa. “The people’s faith was strong” refers to the act, the process of believing, so partitive.
7. Katumus

The word katumus “repentance, remorse” is used both with complements in the basic form and in the partitive case. This is another tricky one.

  • Katumus oli myöhäis. “The regret came too late” refers to feeling regret, so we use the partitive.
  • Katumus oli suuri kun tajusimme… “The regret was great when we realized” refers to the feeling as a whole in a certain situation, which is being measured in this situation as great.
  • Paulin katumus oli aito. “Paul’s remorse was genuine” is used in the same situation as “suuri”.

4.3. Feelings that Only Last a Moment

When you’re dealing with an emotion that generally doesn’t last longer than a moment, you will use the basic form for the complement. These all refer to a sudden emotion that’s tied to a specific situation.

# Finnish English
Helpotus on lyhytaikainen. The relief is short-lived.
Huojennus oli valtava. The relief was huge.
Hämmästys oli suuri. The astonishment was great.
Häpeä oli miltei sietämätön. The shame was almost unbearable.
Pettymys on valtava. The disappointment is huge.
Epäusko oli valtava. The disbelief was huge.

5. Activities and Actions

Main rule: “X on Y:.”

  • If you’re unsure which case to use, use the partitive case for actions.
    • Are we talking about the action in general? → use the partitive case (5.1.)
    • Are we focusing on the action as a process? → use the partitive case (5.1.)
    • Are we focusing on the action’s finished result? → use the basic form (5.2.)
    • Are we talking about the countable result of an action? → use the basic form (5.3.)
    • Are we talking about other abstract, but countable things? → use the basic form (5.3.)

5.1. General Rule

One fairly reliable rule is that nouns that express an activity or movement will be considered abstract. This is obvious for words such as kävely “walking” and hiihtäminen “skiing”, but can also sometimes be less obvious.

When you make a noun out of a verb (e.g. luistella “to skate” > luisteleminen “skating”) you use the fourth infinitive. In addition, many verbs also have a second option, which is less regular. For example, käveleminen and kävely “walking”; matkustaminen and matkustus “traveling”, and kierrättäminen and kierrätys “recycling”. Think of them as the difference between “thinking” and “thought”, or “use” and “consumption”. All these nouns way describe an action or activity.

When one of these words is the subject of a sentence, the complement will appear in the partitive case.

# Finnish English
Adoptio oli silloin yleis. Adopting was normal during the time.
Aivopesu on tehokasta. Brainwashing is effective.
1 Looginen ajattelu on tarpeellista. Logical thought is necessary.
2 Anteeksianto oli vaikeaa. Forgiveness was difficult.
Tulevaisuuden arvailu on vaikeaa. Guessing the future is difficult.
Desinfiointi on vaivatonta. Disinfection is easy.
Liikunta on tärkeää. Exercise is important.
3 Matkustus on raskasta. Traveling is rough.
Tupakointi on kallista. Smoking is expensive.
4 Työnteko oli tehokasta. Working was efficient.
Alkoholin käyttö on vaarallista. Alcohol consumption is dangerous.
Hauskanpito oli tärkein. Having fun was most important.
Taudin hoito on tehokasta. The treatment of the disease is effective.
Vanhustenhoito on vaativaa. Elderly care is demanding.
Leikin havainnointi on tärkeää. Observation of play is important.
Häirintä oli tahallista. The harrassment was intentional.
Kidutus oli raakaa. The torture was cruel.
5 Opetus oli realistista. The education was realistic.
Opiskelu oli hyödyllis ja mielekäs. Studying was helpful and meaningful.
Yksilön palvonta on turhaa. Worship of the individual is useless.
Anatomian tuntemus oli vähäis. There was little knowledge of anatomy.
Edistys oli hyvin hidasta. Progress was very slow.
Kierrätys on tärkeää. Recycling is important.
Kiristys on aina laitonta. Extortion is always illegal.
Silmukan kiristys on helppoa. Tightening the loop is easy.
Seuranta on luotettavaa ja avointa. Monitoring is reliable and transparent.
Kehitys oli vahvaa Ruotsissa. The development was strong in Sweden.
1. Ajattelu

The nouns ajattelu “thinking” and ajatus “thought” belong to different groups:

  • Ajattelu on hyödyllis. “Thinking is useful” refers to the activity.
  • Ajatus on hyödyllinen. “The thought is useful” refers to one specific thought.
2. Anteeksianto

I don’t think you’ll have trouble recognizing that “forgiveness” is an abstract noun. However, it’s interesting how you can recognise this based on the form of the word.


The Finnish word for forgiveness, anteeksianto, has a clear relation to the action. Anto comes from the verb antaa, so we could literally translate anteeksianto as “sorry giving”. “Giving” is an action, and thus, forgiveness is an abstract noun.

3. Matkustus

The words matkustus and matka form another clear pair:

  • Matkustus on raskasta. “Traveling is rough” refers to the activity.
    (We could rephrase with as Matkustaminen on raskasta.)
  • Matka on raskas. “The journey is rough” refers to the trip as a whole.
4. Työnteko

The word työnteko refers to the act of working (we can translate the word literally as “work-doing”).

  • Työnteko on tehokasta. “The work / Work(ing) is efficient” refers to the activity.
    (We could rephrase with as Työskentely on tehokasta).
  • Työ on tylsä. “The job is boring” refers to the whole job rather than the work you’re doing.
  • Työni on valmis. “The work is done” refers to a finished product.
  • Työni on mielenkiintoista. “My work is interesting” refers to the process of doing my job.
5. Opetus

The word opetus “teaching” is interesting because we can compare it to koulutus “education”.

  • Opetus oli käytännönläheis. “The teaching was practical” refers to the way the activity was done.
    (We could replace opetus with opettaminen without changing the meaning).
  • Koulutus oli erittäin antoisa. “The course/training was very rewarding” refers to the course as a whole.

5.2. Process versus Result

With some verb-based nouns, we can use both the partitive and the nominative for the complement. Which form you use depends on how you view the action. On the one hand, you could be referring to the process, so to the action taking place. On the other hand, you could also refer to the end result of the action.

When you use the subject to refer to the process of the action, you will use the partitive case for the complement. When you use the subject to refer to the end result, you will use the basic form for the complement.

# Finnish English
1 Parketin asennus on nopeaa. Parquet installation is quick to do.
1 Parketin asennus on valmis. The parquet installation is done.
2 Asiakaspalvelu on raskasta. Customer service is strenuous.
2 Asiakaspalvelu on erinomainen. The customer service is excellent.
Analyysi oli aineistolähtöis. The analysis was data-driven.
Analyysi oli osuva. The analysis was apt.
3 Maailmankaupan kasvu oli maltillista. The growth in world trade was moderate.
3 Väkiluvun kasvu oli pienin 50 vuoteen. Population growth was the lowest in 50 years.
4 Tuho oli järjestelmällis. The destruction was systematic.
4 Kaupungin tuho oli nopea. The destruction of the city was fast.
5 Talon ilmanvaihto oli puutteellista. The ventilation of the house was inadequate.
5 Talon ilmanvaihto oli puutteellinen. The ventilation of the house was inadequate.
Koko myymälän jäähdytys on tasaista. The cooling of the whole shop is even.
Pakastimen jäähdytys on tehokas. Freezer cooling is effective.
Muutos on jatkuvaa. The change is ongoing, continuous.
Muutos on valtava. The change is huge.
6 Nöyryytys oli epäsuoraa ja sanatonta. The humiliation was indirect and non-verbal.
6 Nöyryytys oli täydellinen. The humiliation was complete.
7 Ulkomaille muutto oli hankalaa. The move abroad was difficult.
7 Muutto oli välttämätön. The move was unavoidable.
8 Yleisön nauru oli taukoamatonta. The audience’s laughter was incessant.
8 Naurusi on niin tarttuva. Your laughter is so contagious.
Perehdytys oli selkeää. The orientation was clear.
Työhön perehdytys oli laadukas. The job orientation was of high quality.
Kysyntä oli heikompaa Euroopassa. Demand was weaker in Europe.
Palvelun kysyntä oli kova. The demand for the service was strong.
? Nuhtelu oli armotonta ja ankaraa. The rebuke was ruthless and harsh.
? Nuhtelu on kohtelias mutta tiukka. The rebuke was polite but firm.
1. Asennus

The word asennus can refer to both the activity or process of installing something, or to the finished result; the installation.

  • Asennus on nopeaa. “The installing/installation is quick to do” refers to the activity
    (We could rephrase this as Asentaminen on nopeaa).
  • Asennus on valmis. “The installation is finished” refers to the finished installation.
2. Asiakaspalvelu
  • Asiakaspalvelu on raskasta. “Customer service is strenuous” is something the employee doing the action might say. They’re referring to the act of helping customers.
  • Asiakaspalvelu on erinomainen. “The customer service is excellent” could be the opinion of the customer of a specific company, who is considering the customer service as a thing, a whole, and not so much an action.
3. Kasvu

Kasvu “growth” is normally seen as a process. That’s why in the large majority of sentences, you will see the partitive case. However, you can come across the basic form as well. In these cases we’re talking about the growth as a number.

  • Kasvu oli nopeaa/voimakasta/hitaampaa. “The growth was fast/strong/slower” refers to the process of growth.
  • Kasvu oli pienin moneen vuoteen. “The growth was the smallest in many years” refers to the end result, the growth as a digit or percentage.
4. Tuho

Tuho “destruction” is common both with the partitive and with the nominative form.

  • Tuho oli järjetön. “The destruction was insane” refers to a destruction that happened over time.
  • Tuho oli totaalinen. “The destruction was total” refers to the end result of the destruction.
5. Ilmanvaihto

The word ilmanvaihto can refer to the end result or to the process. Generally, you can pick whichever of the two, as there is little difference in the meaning in most situations.

  • Talon ilmanvaihto oli puutteellista. “The ventilation of the house was inadequate” means that the process of ventilating the house isn’t working as it should.
  • Talon ilmanvaihto oli puutteellinen. “The ventilation of the house was inadequate” means that the end result is unsatisfactory.
6. Nöyryytys

The word nöyryytys can be used both as a description of the action, and a description of the feeling. In addition, the feeling can also be seen as a concrete thing.

  • Nöyryytys on usein sanatonta. “Humiliation is often nonverbal” describes the act of humiliating people. We could replace nöyryytys with nöyryyttäminen in this context.
  • Nöyryytys on häpeällis ja halventavaa. “Humiliation is shameful and degrading” describes the emotions attached to the feeling.
  • Turistin nöyryytys oli täydellinen, kun hän huomasi… “The tourist’s humiliation was complete when he noticed…” refers to the experience as one whole thing.
7. Muutto

The word muutto is one of those that causes confusion. It’s based on the verb muuttaa but not considered a noun that expresses the action or process of moving. Instead, it refers to the change of apartments as a countable thing. If you want to talk about “one move”, use the basic form. You can find some examples utilizing the partitive case, but those are the exception and definitely not the rule.

  • Muutto oli helppo. “The move was easy” refers to the change of apartments as a whole, which was easy.
  • Muutto oli välttämätön. “The move was necessary” refers to one specific move.
  • Ulkomaille muutto oli hankalaa. “The move abroad was tricky” refers to a longer process than just a move from one apartment to another. In this case we can use the partitive case.
  • Muutto voi olla usein raskasta. “Moving can often be tough” is a general statement about the nature of moving houses. We can replace the word muutto with muuttaminen.
8. Nauru

The word nauru can be used both to describe the laugh of a certain person, and the concept of laughter or laughing. This end result is generally countable: we can’t count laughing (nauraminen, nauru), but we can count a laugh (nauru).

  • Miehen nauru oli vapautunut ja heleä. “The man’s laugh was liberated and light” refers to a specific person’s laughter.
  • Yleisön nauru oli taukoamatonta. “The laughter of the audience was incessant” refers to laughter that’s spread out over a longer period.
  • Nauru on terveellis. “Laughter is healthy” refers to laughter in general.
    (Here, we could replace nauru with nauraminen).
? Nuhtelu

I don’t know how to explain nuhtelu.

5.3. Countable Result of an Action

Just like the words in the list above, the following words are clearly derived from a verb. They will, however, not be used with a partitive complement. This is due to the fact that these nouns don’t express the action as a process, but rather as the end result of said action.

For example, loukkaus “insult” clearly comes from the verb loukata “to insult” and muistinmenetys “memory loss” from the verb menettää “to lose”. However, we’re talking about a specific occurrence. Often these nouns are countable (e.g. three insults, one ban).

# Finnish English
Solvaus oli tehokas. The insult was effective.
Loukkaus oli vakava. The insult was serious.
Uhkaus oli vain sanallinen. The threat was purely verbal.
1 Arvonta on liian satunnainen. The draw is too random.
2 Muistinmenetys oli tilapäinen. The memory loss was temporary.
3 Kielto oli pysyvä. The ban was permanent.
4 Mainosten esto on tehokas. Ad blocking is effective.
Väkivallan uhka oli suuri. The threat of violence was great.
5 Teko oli tahallinen. The act was deliberate.
6 Liike oli hidas ja varovainen. The movement was slow and cautious.
Valaistus oli kirkas ja miellyttävä. The lighting was bright and pleasant.
1. Arvonta

The word arvonta “draw, lottery” comes from the verb arpoa “to draw, to raffle”. However, arvonta will always refer to a specific draw. If you want to refer to the act of drawing lots, you use the word arpominen.

  • Arvonta oli satunnainen. “The draw was random” refers to a specific draw/raffle.
  • Arpominen on tasapuolista. “Drawing lots is fair” refers to the action or the process of performing a lottery.
2. Muistinmenetys

The word muistinmenetys (memory loss) is tricky, because the relation to the phrase “menettää muisti” (losing memory) is so clear. Memory loss won’t require a partitive complement. You can interpret it like this: memory loss is something that happens quickly. It’s not a process over time. Thus, the relation with the verb is less important and won’t make the complement partitive.

  • Muistinmenetys oli tilapäinen. “The memory loss was temporary”
3. Kielto

The word kielto (prohibition) is clearly derived from the verb kieltää, but isn’t considered a process or action. As such, we will use the basic form for the complement. If we want to refer to the act of prohibiting things, we will use the word kieltäminen.

  • Kielto oli ehdoton. “The ban was absolute” refers to the ban as a concrete, countable thing.
  • Asian kieltäminen on mahdollista, mutta vaikeaa. “Prohibiting the thing is possible but difficult” refers to the act of banning something.
4. Esto

The example in the table above is the only one there where I’m not using the pronoun “the”. This should show you that we can’t always rely on comparisons with English.

  • Mainosten esto on tehokas. “As blocking is effective” refers to the end result where all ads are blocked.
  • Mainosten estäminen voi olla vaikeaa. “Ad blocking can be difficult” refers to the process of blocking the ads.
5. Teko

The word teko refers to one act or action. Something that’s seen as a countable thing. You will come across teko often  in the context of the law: an act (a crime) can be planned and purposeful. 

  • Miehen teko oli suunnitelmallinen. “The man’s act was planned” refers to one specific action, so we use the basic form.
  • Tekoni oli välttämätön. “My action was necessary” refers to one act I performed, so basic form.
  • Keksien tekeminen oli kivaa. “Making cookies was nice” refers to the process, so partitive.
6. Liike

The word liike is tricky, because – while it refers to an action – it’s not considered an action in itself. The word liike is concrete and countable. We can compare it to the words liikunta and liikkuminen.

  • Liike on hidas ja varovainen. “The movement is slow and cautious” refers to one specific movement.
  • Metsässä liikkuminen oli hidasta. “Moving in the forest was slow” refers to the process of moving oneself.
  • Liikunta on tärkeää. “Exercise is important” refers to the activity of working out.

6. Periods and States

Main rule: “X on Y:.”

  • If you’re unsure which case to use for periods, use the partitive case for actions.
    • Are we talking about the period in general? → use the partitive case (6.1.)
    • Are we focusing on the period as a process? → use the partitive case (6.1.)
    • Are we referring to the period as a whole? → use the basic form (6.1.)
    • Are we referring to the period after it is over with? → use the basic form (6.1.)
  • States of being will always have the partitive case (6.2.).

6.1. Periods of Time

# Finnish English
Arki oli sujuvaa ja mukavaa. Everyday life was smooth and comfortable.
1 Elämä oli ihanaa. Life was wonderful.
2 Lapsuus on lyhyt ja korvaamaton. Childhood is short and priceless.
3 Aikuisuus on ahdistavaa. Adulthood is distressing.
4 Nuoruus on huoletonta. Youth is carefree.
Vanhemmuus oli meille luontaista. Parenting was natural for us.
5 Isyys on vaativaa. Fatherhood is demanding.
5 Lapsen isyys on selvä. The child’s paternity is clear.
Äitiys voi olla rankkaa. Maternity can be tough.
? Ystävyys oli helppoa lapsena. Friendship was easy as children.
1. Elämä

The word elämä “life” generally refers to life in general, or life as a process. That’s why we use the partitive case. However, we can also look at someone’s life as a whole. This generally requires the person to be dead.


Even so, it is common to use the partitive case for both a life that’s currently going on and a life that has reached its end. This is due to the fact that we do see life as a process, even after it has finished.

  • Elämä on vaarallista. “Life is dangerous” refers to life in general. This is the most stereotypical way to use the word “life”.
  • Elämä on ollut vaiheikas. “Life has been eventful” is a phrase that is considering a specific life as a whole. It gives an impression of what life has been like.
  • Elämäni on nyt hiukan rauhallisempaa. “My life is a little calmer now” refers to one person’s life in general, but the life is going on right now. We’re looking at it as a process.
  • Hänen elämänsä on ollut kurja ja lyhyt. “Her life has been miserable and short” refers to one person’s life, which has most likely ended when we are expressing this sentence.

We can also include the words elämänkulku “the course of life” and elämäntapa “lifestyle” here. Both of these words are considered concrete things.

  • Elämänkulku oli suoraviivainen. “Life’s path was straightforward.”
  • Elämäntapa oli silloin erilainen. “The lifestyle was different then.”
2. Lapsuus

The word lapsuus is usually used to describe the period as a whole by adults. That’s why the basic form is used.

  • Lapsuus on lyhyt. “Childhood is short” is referring to childhood as a whole.
  • Lapsuuteni oli onnellinen. “My childhood was happy” is referring to childhood as a period that’s over.
3. Aikuisuus

While lapsuus “childhood” is usually described as a time period that is over, aikuisuus “adulthood” is usually the state someone is in while talking. As such, the complement will generally get the partitive case, because we’re thinking adulthood as an ongoing process.

  • Aikuisuus on ahdistavaa. “Adulthood is distressing” expresses that the process of being an adult is distressing.
4. Nuoruus

For nuoruus “youth”, we can think of it both as an (ongoing) process or as a whole that we’re considering afterwards.

  • Nuoruus voi olla huoletonta. “Youth can be carefree” refers to youth as a process, or youth in general.
  • Mannerheimin nuoruus oli levoton. “Mannerheim’s youth was troubled” expresses that his youth as a whole was troubled.
5. Isyys

The word isyys can have two meanings: it can mean “fatherhood” or “paternity”.

  • Isyys oli minulle luontaista. “Fatherhood was natural for me” refers to the act or the process of being a father.
  • Lapsen isyys oli epävarma. “The child’s paternity was uncertain” is clearly concrete.
? Ystävyys

I will just present a list of Google search results below to give you an overview. This word has been difficult to explain.

  • Lapsena ystävyys oli helppoa
    Nuorempana ystävyys oli vähän erilaista
    Matin ja Annan ystävyys oli syvää
  • Voin sanoa yhtään liioittelematta, että ystävyytemme oli täysin ainutlaatuista.
    Ystävyytemme oli ainutlaatuista vaikka ikäeroa oli 22 vuotta
    Meidän ystävyytemme oli helppoa ja luonnollista.
  • Ystävyytemme oli raikas, rehellinen ja pyyteetön,
    mutta ystävyytemme oli intensiivinen ja tärkeä mutta lyhyt.
    Meidän ystävyytemme oli niin outo ja ihana
    Ystävyytemme oli niin kummallinen ja ihmeellinen.
  • Mike Sierran ystävyys oli myrskyisä

6.2. States of Being

There are some nouns (generally ending in -us) that express a state, something that lasts. Unlike many other nouns on this page, they don’t express a process or action. It’s just a state of being (e.g. uneployment or childhood).

We will use the partitive case for the complement of such a subject.

# Finnish English
Kodittomuus oli alueella harvinaista. Homelessness was rare in the area.
Taloudellinen osaamattomuus on yleis. Financial incompetence is widespread.
Työttömyys oli usein tilapäis. Unemployment was often temporary.
Köyhyys on Suomessakin todellista. Poverty is real in Finland, too.
Rikkaus on henkis tai aineellista. Wealth is spiritual or material.
Orjuus oli tavallista. Slavery was commonplace.
Rikollisuus oli yleis. Crime was widespread.
Vapaus on arvokasta. Freedom is valuable.

7. Concepts and Ideals

Concepts and ideals will get a partitive complement. I haven’t been able to find many such words that appear in complement sentences. For all of these, the example sentences I found had a complement that express a certain attitude towards the idea or concept. As such, the partitive case could be both due to the abstract subject or due to the fact that we’re expressing judgement.

# Finnish English
Politiikka on tylsää. Politics are boring.
Hyväntekeväisyys on nyt helpompaa. Charity is easier now.
Altruismi on tärkeää. Altruism is important.
Ekologisuus on meille tärkeää. Ecology is important to us.

8. Countable Abstract Things

8.1. Obvious Countable Abstract Things

The following are things that can be considered abstract but which you can count. I’m only including these because if you google abstract nouns in English, some of these keep showing up. However, all these nouns (except one) are used in English when the demonstative pronoun “the”. This is usually a good indicator that a word is countable.

# Finnish English
Matka on raskas. The journey is difficult.
Tämä perinne on suhteellisen uusi. This tradition is relatively new.
Järjestelmä oli loistava. The system was great.
Sairaus on erittäin harvinainen. The disease is extremely rare.
Jokainen raskaus on erilainen. Every pregnancy is different.
Sävelmä on traditionaalinen. The melody is traditional.
1 Oikeusistunto oli tunteikas. The trial was emotional.
Koulutus oli mielestäni erittäin antoisa. I found the course very rewarding.
Tilaisuus on avoin kaikille. The event is open to all.
Tilanne on erittäin vaikea. The situation is very difficult.
Tunnelma oli loistava. The atmosphere was great.
Maisema oli kaunis. The landscape was beautiful.
Näköala oli huikaiseva. The view was breathtaking.
2 Sota on väistämätön. War is unavoidable.
Syksyn sato oli runsas. The autumn harvest was plentiful.
Tulva oli ollut katastrofaalinen. The flood had been catastrophic.
Arvoitus oli helppo. The riddle was easy.
Ilmastointi on ollut viallinen. The air conditioning has been defective.
Keino oli tehokas. The method was effective.
Ikkunan somistus oli upea. The window decoration was magnificent.
Miehen ulkonäkö oli moitteeton. The man’s appearance was impeccable.
Ensimmäinen vaikutelma on tärkeä. The first impression is important.
3 Rike oli selvä. The offense was clear.
3 Rikkomus oli vain vähäinen. The offense was only minor.
3 Rikos oli raaka ja julma. The crime was raw and cruel.
1. Oikeusistunto

The word oikeusistunto “trial” is clearly countable. It’s important to add the word oikeuskäynti “litigation; trial” here as comparison, which can be both specific and general.

  • Oikeusistunto oli tunteikas. “The trial was emotional” refers to a specific trial.
  • Oikeudenkäynti oli historiallinen. “The trial was historic” also refers to a specific trial.
  • Oikeudenkäynti on kallista. “Litigation is expensive” refers to trials in general and their cost.
2. Sota

In English, sota “war” is often an abstract noun. We can talk about the war in Iraq, but also about war in general. I find that it’s fairly rare to talk about war in general. We’re almost always referring to the war happening somewhere.

  • Sota on väistämätön. “War is unavoidable” refers to a specific war in a country. Note how in English we can drop the pronoun even when we’re talking about a specific war.
  • Sota on aina poliittista. “War is always political” refers to war in general, so partitive.
3. Rike

It’s interesting to compare the words rike, rikkomus and rikos to the word rikollisuus. The first three all refer to a specific offense or crime, while rikollisuus means crime.

  • Rikkomus means doing something against the rules (e.g. in traffic), it’s a violation, you usually get a fine.
  • Rike is a slight violation, an offense, sometimes these first two are used as synonyms.
  • Rikos is a crime, it’s serious and has serious consequences such as prison.
  • Rikollisuus oli yleis. “Crime was common” refers to crime as a phenomenon, not a specific occurrence.

8.2. Less Obvious Countable Abstract Things

There are lots of countable things going on in our head: ideas, estimates, memories, decisions, and guesses. While you can’t touch a thought (ajatus), it’s still one thing, and you can have multiple of them. This makes it a concrete countable thing, and thus not abstract.

This group isn’t much different from the one above in Finnish, but might give you more trouble.

# Finnish English
Aavistukseni oli oikea. The hunch I had was right.
Epäily oli aiheeton. The suspicion was unfounded.
Ajatus oli naurettava. The idea was ridiculous.
Arvelu on perusteeton. The guess is unfounded.
Arvio on realistinen. The estimate is realistic.
Idea oli toimiva. The idea was workable.
Ensimmäinen arvaus on ilmainen. The first guess is free.
1 Havainto oli merkittävä. The observation was significant.
Jokainen mielipide on yhtä arvokas. Every opinion is equally valuable.
2 Muisto oli kaunis. The memory was beautiful.
2 Ihmisen muisti on epäluotettava. Human memory is unreliable.
3 Neuvo oli tosi yksinkertainen. The advice was really simple.
Periaate oli varsin ongelmallinen. The principle was quite problematic.
4 Päätös on lainvoimainen. The decision is final.
5 Tieto oli virheellinen. The piece of information was wrong.
6 Uskomus oli hyvin yleinen. The belief was very common.
7 Huoli oli turha. The worry was unnecessary.
Henkilöstön motivaatio oli erinomainen. The staff’s motivation was excellent.
Tiimin asenne oli positiivinen.
The team’s attitude was positive.
Häiriö oli lyhytaikainen. The disturbance was short-lived.
Hyvä aloite on selkeä. A good initiative is clear.
Tulos oli loistava. The result was great.
Saavutus on valtava. The achievement is huge.
Seuraamus on asianmukainen. The penalty is appropriate.
Kuntoutuksen hyöty oli pieni. The benefit of rehabilitation were small.
Arvioitu haitta oli vähäinen. The estimated disadvantage was minor.
Tämä kyky on synnynnäinen. This ability is innate.
1. Havainto

You can translate “observation” to Finnish in two distinct ways: if you mean the act of observing, we use havainnointi, while the result of the action is called havainto. One is abstract, the other is concrete.

  • Havainto oli merkittävä. “The observation was significant” refers to one specific occurrence that was observed.
  • Havainnointi on tärkeää. “Observation of play is important.” refers to the process or the act of observing something.
2. Muisto vs. muisti

You can translate “memory” to Finnish in two distinct ways: if you mean one specific memory, we’ll say muisto, while memory in general is muisti. Neither of these is considered an abstract noun in Finnish!


  • Muisto oli kaunis. “The memory was beautiful” refers to one specific memory, which we can have multiple of.
  • Ihmisen muisti on epäluotettava. “Human memory is unreliable” refers to the immaterial uncountable thing that is your memory.

Following the general logic of Finnish, this should mean we use the partitive with muisti. However! Your memory is one whole and we all have one each. That’s enough of a reason for this word to be non-abstract in Finnish.

3. Neuvo

In English, “advice” (neuvo) is an abstract thing because you can’t count it (e.g. one advice, two advices). In Finnish, you CAN count advice, because the noun neuvo means “a piece of advice” (e.g. two pieces of advice). You can say “the advice was really simple” in English as well.


However, in object sentences, you will see the difference more clearly: “Give me advices” don’t work in English because advice isn’t countable. In Finnish, on the other hand, you can say “Anna minulle neuvoja” just fine. Advice can be counted in Finnish.

4. Päätös

Päätös “decision” is countable: we can make many decisions. If we want to refer to the act of making said decisions, we can use the noun päätöksenteko.

  • Päätös oli horjumaton. “The decision was unwavering” refers to the end product of the decision making process. It’s a concrete thing so we use the basic form.
  • Päätöksenteko oli hyvin vaikeaa. “The decision-making was very difficult” refers to the process of making decisions, so we use the partitive case.
5. Tieto

The noun tieto can mean both “knowledge”, “information” and “piece of information”.

  • Tieto oli virheellinen. “The piece of information was wrong” refers to one specific piece of information.
  • Tieto on ristiriitaista. “The information is contradictory” refers to a larger chunk of information, which doesn’t form a whole.
  • Tieto on kullanarvoista. “Knowledge is precious” refers to the abstract concept.
6. Uskomus

The noun uskomus refers to a specific belief people have, something that they consider to be true but which hasn’t been proved. If we mean “belief” as in faith, we will use the noun usko, which does come with its own set of complications.

  • Uskomus oli hyvin yleinen. “The belief (e.g. about black cats) was very common” refers to one specific thing that people believe.
  • Usko on vahva. “The belief/faith (e.g. in the future, or that we’re winning) is strong”, the belief is tied to one concrete event.
  • Usko on vahvaa. “The belief/faith (e.g. in God) is strong”, the general life-long process of believing, having faith.
7. Huoli

The word huoli can be used both to talk about a specific concern someone has, and in general. Worries can be counted (minulla on paljon huolia “I have many worries”).

  • Huoli oli turha. “The (specific) concern was unnecessary” refers to a certain thing someone is worrying about.
  • Huoli oli suurta. “The concern was great”, for example among parents that heard of a problem.

As seen above, concern can also be an abstract concept. It’s more common, however, to use ahdistus “anxiety” when we mean the general feeling: ahdistus “anxiety” is always in the partitive:

  • Ahdistus oli turhaa. “The anxiety was unnecessary”, both anxiety related to a certain topic and anxiety in general will require a partitive complement.

9. Things that are measurable

This group might either make perfect sense to you or confuse you to no end! All the things in this group are in some way measurable: things that can be small or large, bad or good, strong or weak.

This isn’t an official rule that I’ve come across anywhere online or in books. It’s just that these words do seem to all have something in common. All these words will get a complement in the basic form.

# Finnish English
Järvien välinen etäisyys on pieni. The distance between the lakes is short.
1 Lämpötila on tasainen koko hallissa. The temperature is constant in the hall.
Kuvien laatu on huono. The picture quality is poor.
Ajoneuvon nopeus oli suuri. The speed of the vehicle was high.
Mailan pituus on sopiva. The racket’s length is suitable.
Lapsen ruokahalu on heikko. The child’s appetite is weak.
Makujen sopusointu oli täydellinen. The harmony of the flavors was perfect.
2 Sää on sateinen. The weather is rainy.
Tarve on suuri. The need is great.
Toleranssi on korkea. The tolerance is high.
3 Työttömyysaste oli alhainen. The unemployment rate was low.
4 Eläke on riittävä. The pension is enough.
4 Palkka on sopiva. The salary is appropriate.
Asuntolainan korko oli korkea 1990-luvulla. The mortgage rate was high in the 1990s.
Sairauspäivärahan korotus oli pieni. The increase in sickness allowance was small.
Suomen joukkueen suoritus oli hyvä. The Finnish team’s performance was good.
Äidin mielenterveys oli epävakaa. Mother’s mental health was unstable.
Muuten terveys on ollut hyvä. Apart from that, health has been good.
Asuntoni kunto on loistava. My apartment’s condition is excellent.
Minun omatunto on puhdas. My conscience is clean.
1. Lämpötila

The words lämpö “warmth” and lämpötila “temperature” are two words that you might wonder about. They are indeed a little hard to grasp if you don’t know how to look at them in Finnish.

  • Lämpötila on tasainen koko hallissa. “The temperature is constant in the whole hall” refers to something that is measurable.
  • Lämpö on tasaista vuorokauden ympäri. “The heat is constant around the clock” refers to something more abstract.
2. Sää

Another tricky word pair is sää and ilma. Sää “weather” is always considered a concrete thing in Finnish. Ilma can mean both “weather” (concrete) or “air” (mass noun).

  • Sää on sateinen. “The weather is rainy” is generally considered a concrete thing in Finnish.
  • Ilma on kaunis. “The weather is beautiful” is the same as sää.
  • Ilma on puhdasta. “The air is clean” refers to the mass noun “air”, which is uncountable.

This is also a good point to add the word ilmakehä “atmosphere”.

  • Marsin ilmakehä on myrkyllinen. “The Martian atmosphere is toxic.” Just like we only have one sky, we only have one atmosphere in Finnish. If you have only one of something, it’s considered concrete in Finnish!
3. Työttömyysaste

The työttömyysaste “unemployment rate” is something that’s measurable, so we will be using the basic form. In contrast, työttömyys “unemployment” is considered a state, which means we will use the partitive for the complement there.

  • Työttömyysaste on alhainen. “The unemployment rate is low” refers to something that can be measured.
  • Työttömyys oli usein tilapäis. “Unemployment was often temporary” refers to the state of unemployment.
4. Palkka

Palkka “wages, earnings, pay” and eläke “pension” are things that can be measured.

  • Palkka on matala. “The pay is low” refers to the monthly sum, which can be measured.
  • Eläke on pieni. “The pension is small” refers to the monthly sum as well.
  • Raha on välttämätön. “Money is essential” refers to the uncountable concept of money.

10. Things there are only one of

I’m only including these because, in English, you could think they are abstract nouns. In the rule as I see it is that – if only one of them exists – it is (in a way) countable.

Finnish English
Taivas on sininen. The sky is blue.
Avaruus on ääretön. Space is infinitive.
Marsin ilmakehä on myrkyllinen. The Martian atmosphere is toxic.
Ihmisen mieli on hauras. The human mind is fragile.

11. Unexplained

The following words are ones that I gave up on. This article has been a major time drain and, at some point, it’s just time to publish. As such, I have no explanation for the following words and will not attempt to explain them at the current time. I will probably get back to them when I feel a need to get super frustrated with something again 😉

I’m providing you with the results of sifting through Google search results. In cases where both the basic form and the partitive case seem common, I am listing both options. If only one option seems prevalent, I only list that one option.

Finnish English
Rakkaus on sokea. Love is blind.
Kiire on kova. The rush/hurry was strong.
Ammatin arvostus on vahva. The appreciation of the profession is strong.
Hänen asemansa on horjumaton. His position is unshakable.
Mobiilipelien elinkaari on lyhyt. The life cycle of mobile games is short.
Minun hajuaistini on erityisen tarkka. My sense of smell is particularly accurate.
Temppelin loisto oli suunnaton. The temple’s splendor was immense.
Yleisön hälinä oli kova. The commotion in the audience was loud.
Haju on voimakas. The smell is strong.
Löyhkä oli sietämätön. The stink was unbearable.
Näky oli yllättävä / yllättävää. The sight was surprising.
Melu on kova / kovaa. The noise is loud.
Meteli oli sietämätön / sietämätöntä. The noise was unbearable.
Kutina oli sietämätön / sietämätöntä. The itching was unbearable.
Vaiva on yleinen / yleistä. The ailment is common.
Kipu on kova / kovaa. The pain is severe.
Liikenne oli ruuhkainen / vilkasta. The traffic is congested/busy.
Menestys on heikko/heikkoa. The success is weak.
Kuolema on lopullinen / lopullista. Death is final.
Luottamus on molemminpuolinen/-puolista. The trust goes both ways.
Luonto on kaunis / kaunista. Nature is beautiful.
Musiikki on kaunis / kaunista. Music is beautiful.
Valo oli kirkas / kirkasta. The light was bright.
Matematiikka on tärkeää mutta vaikeaa. Math is important but difficult.

12. A Strategy For if You’re Not Sure

Here’s one way to cheat your way out of making mistakes! This sentence type allows you to get around the complement system if you’re not sure.

X on YZ – Nominative

We can avoid the question “is this word abstract or not” by adding a noun at the end of our complement phrase. More often than not, nouns will appear in their basic form, so we can just match the adjective we want to use with it.

# Finnish English
Lapsuus on arvokas / arvokasta?
1 Lapsuus on [arvokas aika]. Childhood is [a precious time].
1 Lapsuus on [arvokas asia]. Childhood is [a precious thing].
1 Lapsuus on [arvokas vaihe]. Childhood is [a valuable stage].
Adoptio on epäitsekäs / epäitsekästä?
2 Adoptio oli [epäitsekäs teko]. Adoption was [a selfless act].
2 Adoptio oli [epäitsekäs päätös]. Adoption was [a selfless decision].
2 Adoptio oli [epäitsekäs vaihtoehto]. Adoption was [a selfless alternative].
2 Adoptio on [epäitsekäs prosessi]. The adoption is [a selfless process].
Ahneus on inhimillinen / inhimillistä?
3 Ahneus on [inhimillinen ominaisuus]. Greed is [a human quality].
3 Ahneus on [inhimillinen piirre]. Greed is [a human trait].
3 Ahneus on [inhimillinen tunne]. Greed is [a human feeling].
Avuttomuus oli karmea / karmeaa?
4 Avuttomuus on [karmea tunne]. Helplessness is [a gruesome feeling].
4 Avuttomuus oli [karmea asia]. Helplessness was [a gruesome thing].
4 Avuttomuus oli [karmea kokemus]. Helplessness was [a gruesome experience].

Read more elsewhere

I haven’t been able to find any sources that give very detailed information about abstract nouns in complement sentences, but here are some useful links.

And that’s all for now about abstract nouns in complement sentences. I hope this will help you on your journey towards mastering Finnish!

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José Luis Ortiz Berenguer

Yet another try, may I? When describing feelings, states or characteristics we may be referring either to the “quality” or to the “quantity” of such ones. Quality-reference triggers partitive, whereas quantity-reference nominative( as though it were an “annos” of an “ainesana”).

José Luis Ortiz Berenguer

Revisiting this issue, I came across the insight that a partitive adjectival complement can regularly be paraphrased as “something + adjective”, whereas this does not seem to be the case with nominative ones, e.g. “his perseverance is high (nominative in Finnish)” vs. “His perseverance is exceptional (= something exceptional) (partitive in Finnish). This would apply to most other cases of partitive/nominative alternance in complements.

Hmmm, my grasp on English doesn’t seem to be good enough to reliably use this trick. However, it could potentially be a valuable addition to use to determine the case needed. Any trick is better than no trick!

José Luis Ortiz Berenguer

Let us turn to German, then: etwas Ausserördentliches. Notice that the partitive object can be rephrased as “some + noun” in English; so it would be quite natural for the partitive complement to be rephrased as “something+ adjective” or at least “an+ adjective + thing”, in this case “an extraordinary thing”. Thanks for your attention.

I don’t speak any German! 🙂 Thank you though! Nice to hear that it’s a wider phenomenon in other languages too.


Muutos and Muutto are a bit different. Both represent 2 of the many meanings of muuttaa(to move, to change(modify). An easy way for me to remember is that when using muuttaa for ‘change(modification), the context will always be abstract(because vaihtaa is a physical change).

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasikko
José Luis Ortiz Berenguer

“Nuhtelu” as an action that implies an intention on the rebuker’s side: this intention is described with the partitive.
As for the actual performance of that intention with words and gestures, the nominative is used.
At least I gave it a shot, didn’t I ?