Finnish for busy people

Täytyy Sentence Types – Syntax of Necessity Sentences

This article deals with the syntax of Finnish necessity sentences. The goal is to give you a closer look at täytyy-sentence types. You can read the basics of expressing necessity in this article about täytyy, pitää and on pakko.

1. Necessity Sentences with an Explicit Subject

1.1. Human subject

Most often, sentences will include the subject who must do the specified action. This subject will appear in the genitive case. The subject can be a person or group of people (a team or an organization).

Finnish English
Minun täytyy opiskella enemmän. I need to study more.
Sinun täytyy keskittyä! You have to focus!
Lapsen täytyy mennä nukkumaan. The child has to go to sleep.
Jonkun täytyy olla ensimmäinen. Somebody has to be the first.
Miesten täytyy olla ymmärtäväisiä. The men have to be understanding.
Leicesterin täytyy voittaa. Leicester has to win.
Henkilökunnan täytyy saada palkkansa. The staff must get their salaries.
EU:n täytyy rangaista Kreikkaa. The EU has to punish Greece.

1.2. Things as subjects

The genitive case subject can also be a thing.

Finnish English
Kirjeen täytyy saapua tiistaihin mennessä. The letter has to arrive by Tuesday.
Tietokoneen on pakko toimia. The computer really has to work.
Sairauden pitäisi parantua itsestään. The illness should heal on its own.
Tämän täytyy olla huono vitsi. This has to be a bad joke.
Ruoan pitäisi olla pian valmista. The food should soon be ready.
Kauppojen täytyy olla auki 24/7. The stores have to be open 24/7.
Liikennevalojen täytyisi kohta vaihtua. The traffic lights should change soon.
Vaalien tulee olla rehelliset ja salaiset. Elections must be fair and secret.
Sen on pakko olla totta!
It has to be true!

2. Necessity Sentences without a Subject

The following sentences are examples where there is no explicit subject. More often than not, however, there is an implicit subject in these sentences, which is clear from the context. I have marked possible implicit subjects between brackets in the translations.

Finnish English
Täytyy sanoa, että… (I) have to say that…
Täytyy keksiä jotain. (I/We) have to do something.
Täytyy kuitenkin muistaa, että… (One/You) must remember, however, that…
Täytyy kuitenkin myöntää, että… (I) have to admit, however, that…
On pakko huomauttaa, että… (I) really have to point out that…
On pakko olla jokin selitys sille. There has to be some explanation for that.
On pakko olla jokin toinen tapa. There has to be another way.
Onko pakko puhua siitä? Do (we/you) really have to talk about this?
Onko pakko? Do (I) have to?
Pitäisi siivota. (I/We) should clean.

3. Necessity Sentences with an Object

It’s fairly common to have necessity sentences that don’t have a subject but do have an object. This object will follow the regular object rules for täytyy-sentences: they will appear in their basic form or partitive case, but never have the genitive’s -n ending.

This makes sense because the genitive case is reserved for the do-er of a necessity sentence. For example, the sentence [Antin täytyy tappaa Maija] (“Antti has to kill Maija”) has the subject Antti. In contrast, in the sentence [Antti täytyy tappaa] (“Antti has to be killed”) Antti is the object and, thus, appears in its basic form.

Finnish English
Vanki täytyy vapauttaa välittömästi. The prisoner must be released immediately.
Testamentti täytyy löytää. The testament has to be found.
Masennus täytyy tunnistaa ja hoitaa. Depression must be identified and treated.
Hänet täytyy tappaa. He/She has to be killed.
Ydinvoimalat täytyy purkaa. The nuclear power plants must be dismantled.
Mielipiteet täytyy ottaa huomioon. The opinions have to be taken into consideration.
Paperit olisi pitänyt skannata. The papers should have been scanned.
Henkarit on jätettävä pöytiin. (pic) Coat hangers must be left on the tables.
Uhria täytyy kuunnella. The victim must be listened to.
Autoa täytyy huoltaa säännöllisesti. The car has to be serviced regularly.
Jotain on pakko tehdä. Something has to be done.
Kissoja on pakko rakastaa.
Cats must be loved.
Maskeja täytyy käyttää myös ulkona. Masks must be used outside as well.

Small note: Even Finns make mistakes in this from time to time: subjects and objects can be confused, thus causing the speaker to use the genitive or nominative accidentally. In the following table you can find a couple of examples where the same word is used both as a subject  (S) and as an object (O). Note how this influences the case it’s inflected in.

O/S Finnish English
S Koulutuksen täytyy olla laadukasta. The education has to be of high quality.
O Koulutus täytyy toteuttaa heti. The education must be implemented immediately.
S Lapsen täytyy siivota huoneensa. The child has to clear his/her room.
O Lapsi täytyy ottaa huostaan. The child has to be taken into custody.

4. Necessity Sentences with Another Element

We can also add another element to these sentences rather than a subject in the genitive case.

This is especially common when you want to say that someone must have something. For example, “You must have a password” will be translated to Finnish as “Sinulla täytyy olla salasana.” This is necessary because in Finnish we express possession with the “minulla on” -sentence construction.

  • Minulla on salasana. “I have a password.”
  • Minulla täytyy olla salasana. “I must have a password.”
  • Compare: Minun täytyy olla salasana. “I must be a password.”
Finnish English
Minulla täytyy olla kerrankin rohkeutta. I need to have the courage for once.
Heillä täytyy olla työkokemusta. They must have working experience.
Sinulla täytyy olla matkalippu. You must have a travel ticket.
Minusta piti olla kirjailija. I should have become a writer.
Hänelle täytyi tehdä leikkaus. A surgery had to be done on him.
Heille täytyy kertoa totuus. They must be told the truth.
Sille on pakko olla jokin selitys. There has to be some explanation for that.
Muutoksiin täytyy reagoida nopeasti. Changes have to be reacted to quickly.
Ilmiöön täytyy tarttua useilla keinoilla. The phenomenon must be tackled in several ways.
Tässä täytyy olla jokin virhe. There has to be some mistake here.

You can read more about necessity sentences in these related articles:


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Great article!

A bit of a trivial question but I was just curious:

Why does the sentence “Minulla täytyy olla salasana” use olla, instead of on or even nothing at all? (Minulla täytyy on salasana / Minulla täytyy salasana)

Kiitos paljon!

Inge (admin)

Minä SYÖN puuroa. > Minun täytyy SYÖDÄ puuroa.
Minulla ON salasana. > Minulla täytyy OLLA salasana. You can’t get rid of the verb there, it’s part of the “minulla on” construction. Removing “olla“, eg. “Minulla täytyy salasana” translates as: “On me must password”. It doesn’t mean “I (must) HAVE” until you add olla.

It’s in the basic form OLLA because the verb of a täytyy-sentence is always in the basic form. Hope this helps! 🙂


Thanks for the quick reply, this is exactly the answer I was hoping for but the explanation really helps it stick in my head!

Funny how quickly and easily I forgot that olla is the verb, so of course it makes perfect sense haha – live and learn!


Moi Inge

After reading point 3. Necessity Sentences with an Object, I see this as if it were a kind of passive, but there’s no need to use it at all because the very structure, i.e. object in nominative or partitive case functions like a passive….more or less or am I in the wrong way ?


Inge (admin)

You could definitely look at it like that! 🙂


Hi. I really appreciate all the work you’ve done on this website. There is one thing on this page that doesn’t sit quite right with me though. You say that there is a genitive subject e.g. “Minun täytyy opiskella enemmän.” but, at least in my mind, in order to be the subject of the sentence, the verb needs to be conjugated for that person. In this case, täytyy is conjugated in the hän/se form so the subject is some other implicit thing. It is true that “I” am the subject in English, but in Finnish, to me, it is something like “of me it is required to study more”. What do you think?


Inge (admin)

It’s indeed less common to have a genitive subject (Minun täytyy opiskella) or a partitive subject (Minua väsyttää, Sinua ei näkynyt). This has been the topic of much debate among linguists. Certain issues make this devision muddy at times, espectially with partitive subjects. For most situations, the consensus is that these are indeed genetiivisubjekti and partitiivisubjekti.

Your translation of “of me it is required to study more” works pretty well because “of me” is usually minun. You can certainly think of it like that, if it helps you remember or understand it better. However, from a linguistic perspective, the problem often remains what to call this minun if it’s NOT the subject. It’s not an object either.

VISK has several pages about different types of subjects, if you’re ready to dive into the deep end. This source is only Finnish.

Krishna Sharma

Hänet täytyy tappaa. Vs Antti täytyy tappaa. In the first sentence hän become hänet, is it because it is a personal pronoun and a total object in this sentence.

Correct! The genitive won’t be used for the object in täytyy-sentences, but the accusative form hänet is used.