Finnish for busy people

Expressing Necessity with a Participle – On Mentävä, On Odotettava

There are several options in Finnish to express necessity (eg. täytyy, pitää, on pakko). This article deals with a more advanced way to express necessity: expressing necessity with a participle: on mentävä kotiin, on oltava hiljaa. This construction always uses the verb olla. If the sentence has a subject, it will appear in the genetive case. It’s also possible to not use a subject.

In this article, you can find phrases expressing necessity with a participle around three topics: school, traffic and restaurant rules. The examples are actual sentences I’ve picked from the internet. Note for the translation of the subject in these sentences: while they appear in the singular in Finnish, I have translated them to English in the plural. This is due the nature of the Finnish sentences, where the singular carries the meaning of “any person who belongs to this category”. The plural sounds more natural in English. Maybe I’m nitpicking but that’s how I decided to handle it!

Each topic contains three types of sentences:

  • Necessity sentences with an explicit subject
  • Necessity sentences with a location case
  • Necessity sentences with an object

Thank you to

1. School

1.1. Necessity sentences with an explicit subject

Most often, sentences will include the subject who must do the specified action. This subject will appear in the genetive case, as is the case with other types of necessity sentences as well.

Finnish English
[Oppilaan on tultava] kouluun ajoissa. Pupils have to come to school on time.
[Oppilaan on huolehdittava] omista tavaroistaan. Pupils have to take care of their own things.
[Oppilaan on kunnioitettava] toisten omaisuutta. Pupils have to respect the belongings of others.
[Oppilaan on käyttäydyttävä] asiallisesti. Pupils have to behave properly.
[Opettajan on tiedettävä] oppilaiden osaamisen taso. Teachers must know the pupils’ level competence.
[Opettajan on oltava] ymmärtäväinen. Teachers have to be understanding.
[Opettajan on osattava] kannustaa kaikkia. Teachers must be able to encourage everyone.
[Opettajan on huomioitava] lapsen ikä. Teachers must consider the child’s age.
[Rehtorin on tunnettava] opettajiensa taidot. Principles must know the skills of their teachers.
Suomessa [rehtorin on itse oltava] opettaja. In Finland principles must be teachers themselves.

1.2. Necessity sentences with a location case

In some cases, the subject of the sentence has been omitted. The context of the sentence will tell you who should be performing the action. These sentences often become really clunky when translating them to English.

Typically, these sentences start with a word in the location case that either fulfills the rection of the verb (eg. ilmoittaa + mistä; selvitys + mistä), or expresses a location.

Finnish English
[Poissaoloista on ilmoitettava] opettajalle. Absences must be reported to the teacher.
[Myö­häs­ty­mi­ses­tä on teh­tä­vä] sel­vi­tys. A clarification must be made about late arrival.
[Poissaoloon on pyydettävä] lupa. Permission for absense must be requested.
[Oppitunneille on tultava] täsmällisesti. One has to come to the lessons on time.
[Huoltajalta on tultava] selvitys. From the guardian has to come a clarification.

1.3. Necessity sentences with an object

Similarly to the sentences above, when the subject is missing, we fill the space the subject should have been with another word; in this case the object of the sentence.

Finnish English
[Kou­lun omai­suut­ta on kä­si­tel­tä­vä] huo­lel­li­ses­ti. School property must be handled with care.
[Lokero on pidettävä] siistinä ja lukittuna. The locker has to be kept neat and locked.
[Poissaolopyynnöt on tehtävä] sähköisesti. Absence requests must be made online.
[WC-käynnit on hoidettava] välitunneilla. Toilet visits must be taken during breaks.
[Sääntöjä on noudatettava]. The rules must be followed.
[Roskat on laitettava] roskakoreihin. Trash must be put in the bins.

2. Traffic regulations

2.1. Necessity sentences with an explicit subject

Finnish English
[Polkupyöräilijän on ajettava] pyörätiellä. Cyclists must ride the bike path.
[Pyöräilijän on noudatettava] liikennemerkkejä. Cyclists must obey traffic signs.
[Jalankulkijan on oltava] varovainen. Pedestrians must be careful.
[Jalankulkijan on käytettävä] heijastinta. Pedestrians must use a reflector.
[Jalankulkijan on huolehdittava] näkyvyydestään. Pedestrians must make sure they’re seen.
[Autoilijan on pysähdyttävä] suojatien eteen. Drivers must stop in front of the crosswalk.
[Autoilijan on väistettävä] pyöräilijää. Drivers must yield to cyclists.
[Autoilijan on tarkastettava] rengaspaineet. Drivers must check the tire pressure.
[Autoilijan on tunnettava] liikennemerkit. Drivers must be familiar with road signs.

2.2. Necessity sentences with a location case

The subject of the sentence can be omitted. The context of the sentence will tell you who should be performing the action. These sentences often become really clunky when translating them to English.

Typically, you will start this type of sentence with a word in the location case that either fulfills the rection of the verb (eg. käyttää + mihin), or expresses a location.

Finnish English
[Pyörässä on oltava] etu- ja takaheijastimet. On bikes must be front and rear reflectors.
[Vauvan kuljetukseen on käytettävä] istuinta. For carrying a baby a car seat must be used.
[Suojatiellä on oltava] varovainen. On the crosswalk one must be careful.
[Liikenteessä on varauduttava] kaikkeen. In traffic one must be prepared for everything.

2.3. Necessity sentences with an object

Similarly to the sentences above, when the subject is missing, we fill the space the subject should have been with another word; in this case the object of the sentence.

Finnish English
[Kypärä on poistettava] käytöstä iskun jälkeen. The helmet must be discarded after an impact.
[Kypärä on kiinnitettävä] huolellisesti. The helmet must be fastened carefully.
[Turvaistuin on asennettava] oikein. The car seat must be installed correctly.
[Talvirenkaat on vaihdettava] alle tänään. Winter tires must be changed today.
[Moottori on sammutettava] odottaessa. The engine must be turned off while waiting.
[Liikennesäännöt on tunnettava]. The traffic rules must be known.

3. Restaurant rules

3.1. Necessity sentences with an explicit subject

Finnish English
[Kokin on tunnettava] keittiön laitteita. Chefs must know the kitchen devices.
[Kokin on huolehdittava] hygieniasta. Chefs have to take care of the hygiene.
[Kokin on pestävä] kätensä hyvin. Chefs have to wash his hands well.
[Tarjoilijan on osoitettava] osaamisensa. Waiters must demonstrate his expertise.
[Tarjoilijan on tiedettävä] paljon eri ruoista. Waiters must know a lot about different foods.
[Tarjoilijan on osattava] esitellä tuotteita. Waiters must be able to present the products.

3.2. Necessity sentences with a location case

The subject of the sentence can be omitted. The context of the sentence will tell you who should be performing the action. These sentences often become really clunky when translating them to English.

Typically, you will start this type of sentence with a word in the location case that either fulfills the rection of the verb (eg. pitää huolta + mistä; asentaa + mihin), or expresses a location.

Finnish English
[Keittiössä on oltava] vähintään 3 vesipistettä. There must be at least 3 water points in the kitchen.
[Käsienpesupisteessä on oltava] saippuaa. There must be soap at the hand washing station.
[Keittiöön on asennettava] lisää pistorasioita. More sockets must be installed in the kitchen.
[Hygieniasta on pidettävä] hyvää huolta. Hygiene must be well taken care of.

3.3. Necessity sentences with an object

Similarly to the sentences above, when the subject is missing, we fill the space the subject should have been with another word; in this case the object of the sentence.

Finnish English
[Ruoat on säilytettävä] +60 asteen lämpötilassa. Food must be stored at +60 degrees.
[Tuotteet on jäähdytettävä] ennen pakkaamista Products must be cooled before packaging.
[Lihaa on käsiteltävä] omilla työvälineillä. Meat must be handled with its own tools.
[Makea viini on tarjoiltava] todella kylmänä. Sweet wine must be served really cold.
[Siivousvälineetkin on puhdistettava]. Cleaning equipment must be cleaned as well.

Related, more advances reading:

Do you understand now how expressing necessity with a participle works? Feel free to give me some feedback in the comments!

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Rando Kalbus

Hehe, I find it actually quite easy, I think a useful tip for anyone learning this and being from a non-native language group is that you could literally translate it in your head as

on tultava > has to come, must come
on osattava – has to able, must be able

And a fun fact, in estonian to this day we still use the necessity sentences as Finnish did in 1600-s
Esim.
pitää tekemän – peab tegema
tulee ym. tehdä – tuleb teha

Inge (admin)

Interesting that Estonia retained that sentence construction!