• Sweden edition
 

The Swedish Teacher

If you want the answers, you just have to ask!

Åt, till eller för?

Hej!

Carlos has a question about how and when to use the prepostions “åt”, “till” and “för” and today we are going to take a closer look at that. Here is the question:

“Hi,

I would appreciate if you would provide me with the use of these words: åt, till, för when meaning “for” and in other cases.”

I am not going to list all cases of when to use “till” and “för” since it would just be a very long list and in my opinion not so interesting reading. In this post I will rather focus on when to use åt/till for English “for” and when to use “för” for English “to”.

till

“Till” is often used when we have an addressee of some kind. In other words, we give, say, send, buy, sell etc something to (till) someone. We also turn to someone, speak to someone or wave to someone. In all these cases we would use “till” in Swedish. Take a look at some examples:

- Vad ska du ge till Anna när hon fyller år?

(What are you giving Anna on her birthday?)

- Jag har köpt ett halsband till henne, men du får inte säga det till någon.

(I have bought a necklace for her, but you cannot tell anyone.)

So in Swedish, just like we are giving something to (till) Anna,  we are also buying something “to” (till) her and saying something “to” (till) someone. I like to think that just like the gift is handed over from me to Anna, when I say “köper till” (buy for) it is more focus on that the gift is going from point A (me) to point B (Anna). In English, it seems to me, that using “for” makes things focus more on the receiver of the gift – the gift is for her, while in Swedish there is more focus on the transaction of the gift – jag köper en present till henne. We would use “för” (for) in Swedish when we say something like “Det är bra för dig” (it is good for you).

More examples of using till:

Kan du skicka det här brevet till huvudkontoret?

(Could you send this letter to the main office?)

Jag ska skänka en del av mina kläder till Myrorna.

(I am going to donate some of my clothes to the Salvation Army.)

Det är telefon till Lasse!

(There is a phone call for Lasse.)

åt

“Åt” can be used instead of “till” in some cases, but the meaning is slightly different. When we use “åt” instead of “till” it means that we are helping someone or doing someone a favor. Examples:

- Kan du göra min läxa åt mig? Den är så tråkig.

(Can you do my homework for me? It is so boring.)

- Nej, den får du göra själv!

(No, you’ll have to do that yourself!)

Jag ska handla mat åt morfar. Han har brutit benet och kan inte gå till affären.

(I’m going grocery shopping for my grandfather. He broke his leg and can’t make it to the store.)

för

“För” is used with “berätta” (tell) and other verbs that in English would be combined with “to”. Yes, that is confusing and I guess we just have to live with it ;-) Here are some examples when you use “för” in Swedish and “to” or no preposition in English:

berätta för, tala om för

(tell)

förklara för

(explain to)

visa för

(show)

läsa för

(read)

 

Carlos, who posted the question about this subject, also wrote some examples that he wanted me to explain. We will take a look at some of them here, and I’ll do my best to explain what to use.

English: He always cooks for me.

Swedish:

1. Han lagar alltid mat åt mig.

2. Han lagar alltid mat till mig.

In the first example with “åt” the cooking is considered being help or a favor – this person is not capable of cooking. About the second example with “till” I’m thinking that it is a child we are cooking for. The child wouldn’t normally cook for herself/himself, so it is not really a favor. Note that it is a very fine line in this example, and you don’t really go wrong saying that you cook “åt” your children.

English: I baked a cake for you.

Swedish:

1. Jag bakade en tårta till dig.

The cake is a gift and a surprise. You were not planning to bake yourself.

2. Jag bakade en tårta åt dig.

Baking the cake is a favor. You were planning to bake, but didn’t have time. In this case we could also say:

Jag bakade tårtan åt dig.

(I baked the cake for you.)

English: She cleaned the house for me.

Swedish: Hon städade huset åt mig.

Well, if it is your house it is absolutely a favor that she cleaned it ;-) so here we have to go for “åt”.

A little test on “till”, “för” and “åt” will be up soon, keep an eye out!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

Report abuse »

Tags: ,

One response to “Åt, till eller för?”

  1. Carlos says:

    Hej Sara och tack så mycket för ditt svar!!

    I really like your explanations (not only to my question but the others as well). They are very clear and straight to the point. I really like that! Thank you!

    With regard to the same matter (the use of åt), I found some other instances where it is a bit more tricky. I know that in some of those cases, you can either use åt or till. However, the idea changes a little bit.

    For instance when you say, jag ska till (åt) affären.
    It is my understanding that if you use till in that sentence, you are going straight to the shop (without making any stop along the way). Whereas, if you use åt, you may make a stop in the barber shop, the bakery, etc, for instance.

    Here are other sentences where I would appreciate you could provide me with some information that would help me decide which preposition to use in order to give the exact idea I want or to understand the exact idea they are trying to communicate whenever I hear it or read it somewhere.

    ge en annan tolkning åt ngt
    säga ngt åt ngn
    det är ingenting att göra åt det
    det är rätt åt honom
    ägna sig åt ngt (åt att (+ inf.))

    • i riktning mot angiven plats etc.

    ta av åt höger framme vid torget

    han pekade åt järnvägen till

    hon vek av åt vänster

    lågtrycket rör sig vidare åt nordost

    fartyget hade slagsida åt styrbord

    visaren slog över åt andra hållet

    han tog sig åt hakan

    ge ngt åt ngn

    • med inriktning på ngn el. ngt som utgör målet för handlingen etc.

    ägna sig åt affärer

    publiken buade åt honom

    han lyfte på hatten åt damerna

    detta gav dödsstöten åt projektet

    han ropade åt dem att de skulle sätta sig i säkerhet

    de svor åt varandra

    • till att tas om hand av ngn person etc., för närmare behandling

    mötet uppdrog åt styrelsen att utarbeta ett detaljerat förslag

    en uppgift som vi kan anförtro åt henne

    ansvaret för idrottshallen kan överlämnas åt föreningarna

    • såsom naturligt uppkommande svar på viss (yttre) händelse etc.

    man har roligt åt pjäsen

    han ruskade på huvudet åt repliken
    äv. ngt allmännare med anledning av
    det är svårt att glädjas åt hans framgångar

    hon var inte särskilt glad åt berömmet

    • i ett uttr. vid varje upprepning av viss typ av förekomst e.d.

    tvättanläggningen tar hand om fyra bilar åt gången

    de fick komma in en åt gången till rektor

    Thank you in advance for your help in this matter.

    Best regards from Costa Rica,

    Carlos

    Report abuse »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Blog updates

21 November

Editor’s Blog, November 21st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello from Stockholm, Our week started with reports another Russian plane had been spotted in Sweden’s airspace,..." READ »

 

21 November

Exclusive Interview with Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"Most of us will agree that actions speak louder than words. But when the two are..." READ »

 
 
 
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

823
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
aa-europe.org/sweden
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description