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The Swedish Teacher

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Sämre eller värre?

As you might know already there are two ways to express “worse” in Swedish – sämre and värre. My blog reader Caroline has asked me to explain the difference between those two.

Comparison of adjectives

To answer this question I’ll take a step back and quickly go over how we can make comparisons in Swedish. The basic form of the adjective has the grammar terms positiv. For example:

glad
(happy)

Anders är glad. Han har vunnit 100 kronor på lotto.
(Anders is happy. He has won 100 SEK on the lotto.)

dyr
(expensive)

Diamantringen är dyr.
(The diamond ring is expensive.)

When we want to express that someone is happier or that something is more expensive, we use the komparativ form of the adjective. In Swedish it looks like this:

gladare
(happier)

Åsa är gladare än Anders. Hon har vunnit 1 000 kronor på lotto.
(Åsa is happier than Anders. She has won 1 000 SEK on the lotto.)

dyrare
(more expensive)

Diamantarmbandet är dyrare än diamantringen.
(The diamond bracelet is more expensive than the diamond ring.)

When we want to express who is the happiest, most expensive, biggest, smallest etc, we use the superlativ form of the adjective:

gladast
(happiest)

Lena är gladast av alla. Hon har vunnit 100 000 kronor på lotto.
(Lena is happiest of them all. She has won 100 000 SEK on the lotto.)

dyrast
(most expensive)

Diamanthalsbandet är dyrast. Lena tänker köpa det.(The diamond necklace is the most expensive of the all. Lena is going to buy it.)

dålig – sämre – sämst and dålig – värre – värst

So now when we have cleared out how to make comparisons we will take a look at sämre, sämst and värre, värst. Both sämre/sämst and värre/värst are komparativ/superlativ of “dålig” (bad). Apparently there are two kinds of “bad” when speaking Swedish, a bit strange one might think. As a matter of fact something can be bad in itself, always bad, or it could be bad just sometimes. Diseases are good examples of things that are bad in themselves:

Hostan har blivit värre de senaste dagarna.
(My cough has got worse the past couple of days.)

We use “värre” here because a cough is never considered being something good or positive, it is always a negative thing. Another good example of when to use “värre” is from Dagens Nyheter:

Oljekatastrofen är värre än befarat.
(The oil disaster is worse than first feared.)

A disaster is a negative thing of course, and therefore we use “värre” and not “sämre”.

To make sure this is all clear I’m now going to share an example of using “sämre”:

Patienten mår sämre idag.
(The patient is feeling worse/weaker today.)

Here we can see that the patient himself/herself is not a bad thing, like the cough is. Therefore we should use “sämre”.

Also those of you who have spent this summer in Sweden know that:

Vädret var sämre förra sommaren. Det var inte alls lika varmt som i år.
(The weather was worse last summer. It was not as warm as this year.)

So, the Swedish weather is not something bad in itself, even if it might feel like that sometimes ;-)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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10 responses to “Sämre eller värre?”

  1. Angela says:

    Så…värre är värst än sämre/sämst.

    Great explination of these!
    Thanks for posting this topic!

    Report abuse »

  2. Angela says:

    Whoops! what I meant was: värre/värst är värre än sämre/sämst.

    Report abuse »

  3. brainstorm says:

    Great post and blog ! Thank you for your writings, keep on it :)

    Report abuse »

  4. TomP says:

    Brilliant explanation – thanks!

    Report abuse »

  5. AdamF says:

    Extremely helpful!

    A sincere thanks for taking the time to explain it so clearly!

    Report abuse »

  6. Jason says:

    Tack Sara! Det här är en av dem saker som man aldrig fick någon förklaring om när man läste SFI och SAS.

    Report abuse »

  7. Jason says:

    …jag menar ju just det här med skillnaden mellan sämre och värre. det var värst! ;)

    Report abuse »

  8. Eric says:

    Generally speakng, sämre is worse in the sense of less ability or quality, värre is worse as in a greater or more negative quality.

    In other words: sämre: less. värre: more negative

    Worse at riding a bike than you: sämre
    Worse hurricane than we thought: värre

    Report abuse »

  9. w r stone says:

    Your blog reader Caroline HAS asked you to… Your differentiation between sämre and värre was, however, very helpful to non-native Swedish speakers

    Report abuse »

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