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Posts Tagged ‘particle verbs’

More about “ordföljd”

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Hej igen!

I have been silent for a while. That is because I have been thinking of how to attack the questions about word order that have been coming in :) Four different readers have put detailed questions about word order. Shortly, what these and other Swedish language learners mostly struggle with when it comes to word order are the following questions :

1. Where do I place the sentence adverbial(for example “inte”)?

2. When do I use inverted word order?

3. What on earth do I do with the “particle” in the “particle verbs?

The sentence adverbial is, as you maybe know already, small words with great impact on the whole sentence. I am sure that you recognize “inte” (not), “kanske” (maybe), “bara” (only) and “tyvärr” (unfortunately). Why not take a look at a simple sentence and how the sentence adverbial changes the meaning of it:

Jag ska arbeta imorgon.

(I will work tomorrow.)

Jag ska inte arbeta imorgon.

Jag ska bara arbeta imorgon.

Jag ska tyvärr arbeta imorgon.

Alright, now we know what a sentence adverbial is. Next step is to be sure of where to place it, which is different for the huvudsats (the independent clause) and the bisats (the subordinated clause that needs to be together with a huvudsats to make sense). We will look at the huvudsats first.

Jag har inte gjort läxan.

(I have not done my homework.)

In this simple statement the construction is exactly the same in Swedish and English. The sentence adverbial is placed after the verb, before the object. If we construct a question with a question word it will look like this:

Varför har du inte gjort läxan?

(Why have you not done your homework?)

In a question with a question word, and in other constructions when anything else than the subject is in the first position, the sentence adverbial is placed after the subject (in this case “du”). If we ask a yes/no-question we get the following word order:

Har du inte gjort läxan?

(Have you not done your homework?)

As you can see, the sentence adverbial is put after the subject also in this case. Here we have to verbs and the sentence adverbial is placed between the two.

Another example when we need to place the particle kind of in betweeen words is when we are dealing with a particle verb. Two common particle verbs are “tycker om” (like) and “kommer ihåg” (remember).

Jag tycker om kaffe.

(I like coffee.)

Jag tycker inte om läxor.

(I do not like homework.)

Jag kom inte ihåg att vi hade läxa.

(I did not remember that we had homework.)

So you can see that we need both “tycker” and “om” to express English “like”, but when we ad a sentence adverbial, the sentence adverbial always separates the main word and the particle (which means it is incorrect to say “jag kommer ihåg inte”). That is why it sometimes is hard to know that you are dealing with a particle verb, it is not always completely obvious that the particle belongs to the verb.

So, it is incorrect to say “jag kommer ihåg inte”, but we are allowed to say:

Jag känner henne inte.

(I don’t know her.)

Why?! This is about what information in the sentence is more important or more interesting. Generally you don’t stress the sentence adverbials in Swedish, they are more or less mumbled through and can actually be hard to hear for a non native speaker. Let’s play around with the word order here to discover how it makes a difference for what information is stressed. Look at this:

Jag känner inte henne.

(I don’t know her.)

The stress/melody in this sentence is something like this:

Jag känner inte henne.

Here we have an example of the most common structure. The “jag” is placed first and therefore most in focus.

Henne känner jag inte.

(Her I don’t know.)

The stress/melody in this sentence is:

Henne känner jag inte.

In this case the object, “henne”, is more in focus than “jag”. We are pointing out the object, making her different from others. It is like saying “I know everyone here, but I don’t know her” or “I don’t know her, but I know him”.

If we want to stress the sentence adverbial, in this case “inte”, it is a little complicated. If you go like this:

Jag känner inte henne.

You are definately risking to sound aggressive, like if she was a person you don’t want to know, don’t want to have a connection to or like you said it hundreds of times before. It sounds like:

Jag känner INTE henne!!!! :( :(

So what can you do if you still want to put emphasis on the sentence adverbial without sounding all mad? You place it after all the other words. This is the only case you can do this though.  A few examples:

– Känner du Lena?

– Nej, jag känner henne inte.

– Träffar du Anders någon gång?

– Nej, jag träffar honom aldrig.

– Läser du tidningen på morgonen?

– Ja, det gör jag alltid.

Alright, so far we have only been looking at “huvudsats”, and no we are going to get into something more complicated – “bisats”. Like I said, a bisats is a subordinated clause, dependent on the huvudsats. If i just said “so that you don’t get cold” or “that he is leaving now” it wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

The bisats have a little different construction than the huvudsats. Like this:

subjunction – subject – sentence adv. – verb  – verb – particle -object – place – time

Compare that to huvudsats:

starter – verb – subject – sentence adv. verb – particle – object -place – time

This makes more sense with a couple of examples. First a huvudsats:

Jag ska kanske hälsa på farmor i helgen.

(Maybe I will visit my grandmother this weekend.)

In this example “jag” is the starter, so the subject spot is empty. “Kanske” is the sentence adverbial and “på” is the particle belonging to “hälsa” (together they mean “visit”). Let’s use the same example and turn it into a bisats:

Sara säger att hon kanske ska hälsa på farmor i helgen.

(Sara says that maybe she will visit her grandmother this weekend.)

What you can see here is that “kanske” (the sentence adverbial) ends up before both the verbs. “Inte” is, as you remember, also a sentece adverbial:

Sara säger att hon inte ska hälsa på farmor i helgen.

So far so good, when many Swedish language learners get in trouble is when they start constructing longer and more complicated sentences, like starting  the sentence with bisats or having more than one bisats. Let me show you what I am talking about.

Jag ska inte gå på festen eftersom jag inte mår bra.

(I’m not going to the party since I’m not feeling well.)

So, first there is a huvudsats:

Jag ska inte gå på festen.

Then comes the bisats:

eftersom jag inte mår bra.

Now we are going to move things around and put the bisats first.

Eftersom jag inte mår bra ska jag inte gå på festen.

Now I want you to look at the whole sentence as a huvudsats – from “Éftersom” to “festen”. The bisats is now just not a bisats, but also the starter of the sentence, the big huvudsats. (The “starter” is called different things in different grammar books – fundament, base, X  etc.) So the word order we get here is just like a more simple huvudsats:

Jag                                                          ska          –            inte    gå      på festen

eftersom jag inte mår bra      ska         jag       inte    gå      på festen


When you construct a sentence with many subordinated clauses, you just have to keep track of them. This is of course hard to do when you are out in the real world speaking Swedish, people rarely have patience for someone checking their bisatsordföljd, but when in class or when writing it is good to take an extra look. I’m going to borrow an example from a student of mine. The example is about “Erik” who bought a new noiseless electric handmixer :)

Jag tror att Erik köpte den så att grannarna inte kunde höra att han bakade något gott.

(I think that Erik bought it so that the neighbours couldn’t hear that he was baking something tasty.)

In this case the huvudsats is:

Jag tror

and the subordinated clauses (bisats) are:

att Erik köpte den

så att grannarna inte kunde höra

att han bakade något gott

What happened to this student was that he på the “inte” in the wrong spot, because he first didn’t think of that part of the sentence as a bisats, since it was a bit far away from “jag tror”.

When do I use inverted word order? Well, answering this question is quite easy – anytime you start your sentence with something else than a subject. To do it right when you are using more complicated sentences is much more difficult, I know. A simplified schedule of a huvudsats looks like this:

starter/base  –  verb – subject – sentence adv. – verb – object – place – time

Now we are going to play around with some short and simple examples.

Jag                                    åker             till Malmö           på lördag.

starter (subject)          verb            place                           time

På lördag                      åker           jag              till Malmö.

starter (time)                verb            subject       place

Jag                                    köpte           den här boken.

starter (subject)          verb               object

Den här boken           köpte               jag.

starter (object)               verb                  subject

Basically, whatever you wish to emphasize (the time, the place, the object, the subject) you put as the starter of your sentence. What is not always clear is that time, place and object are many times a whole bisats and not just a word or two. Let me show you:

Eva fick sitt drömjobb nästan direkt efter att hon hade tagit sin universitetsexamen.

(Eva got the job of her dreams almost directly after she graduated from university.)

If you take a close look at the sentence you will discover that “nästan” and everything after that is the time part. So if I want to emphasize the time it will look like this:

Nästan direkt efter att hon hade tagit sin universitetsexamen fick Eva sitt drömjobb.

We can break it down to see the structure more clearly:

Nästan direkt efter att hon hade tagit sin universitetsexamen


fick       Eva          sitt drömjobb.

verb       subject    object

Well, I hope I didn’t forget anything. If you still have questions or, even better, examples of sentence structure that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to put them in the comment field.

Til next time! :)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Håller med, håller i, håller på …

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Thank you everyone for your questions! I’m working on them all and today I will answer one from Rach:

“Hi there!

What about a post or series of posts about the common words that go together but then mean something else compared to when the word is by itself. I see håller with different things and by itself in so many different ways and I never know what it means…  […] These are sneaky as you need to know the combinations so that the sentence makes sense.”

The teacher term for these sneaky words are “partikelverb” and I posted an introduction to some months ago. http://www.thelocal.se/blogs/theswedishteacher/2010/02/)

I think it’s a brilliant idea to put up a series of posts with the most interesting “partikelverb”. I will start today with the verb that Rach asks specifically about – different ways of using “håller”. In this post I will go through some of the most frequent ones. You are more than welcome to ask about different “håller” that I don’t mention here.

håller (höll – har hållit/hållt) med

Stressing “med” this phrase does not mean “hold with” but agree. Anna tyckte att de vita gardinerna var snyggast och Anders höll med.

(Anna thought that the white curtains were nicer and Anders agreed.)

Anders höll med om att de vita gardinerna var snyggast.

(Anders agreed that the white curtains were nicer.)

The “med” will sometimes be separated from its main word for instance when the sentence contains a  sentence adverbial (like “inte”).

Anders höll inte med om att de vita gardinerna var snyggast, han föredrog de gula.

(Anders did not agree that the white curtains were nicer; he preferred the yellow ones.)

håller i

Stressing “i” makes “håller i” mean that you are holding something hard so that you won’t drop it. An example:

Den lilla flickan höll hårt i sin nalle.

(The little girl was holding on to her teddy bear.)

håller i sig

“Håller i sig” looks quite similar to “håller i” but the reflexive pronoun “sig” makes a difference to the meaning. “Sig” makes the verb reflexive which means that whatever activity the verb describes we are doing to ourselves, to our own body. Håller i sig “means” that you are holding on to something so that you don’t fall.

Anna höll i sig hårt när hon åkte berg-och dalbana.

håller igång

This is an expression for being active in different ways. A couple of examples:

Morfar håller igång trots att han är gammal. Han cyklar, snickrar och går på fotokurs.

(Grandpa is very active even though he is old. He goes bike riding, does carpentry and takes photography classes.)

Grannarna festade och höll igång hela natten.

(My neighbors went on partying all through the night.)

håller ihop

One of the most common ways to use “håller ihop” is with the meaning to stay together as a couple or a family. Like this:

Rikard och Annika har hållit ihop i flera år nu. De planerar att köpa en lägenhet tillsammans.

(Rikard and Annika have been a couple for several years now. They are planning to buy an apartment together.)

håller om

“Håller om” is synonymous with “kramar” wich means hugs. An example:

Lilla Karin håller om sin nalle hela natten.

(Little Karin hugs her teddy bear all night.)

Det unga paret tittade på solnedgången och höll om varandra.

(The young couple were watching the sunset and hugging each other.)

håller till

“Håller till” is another way to express “befinna sig” which means to be somewhere. It’s a common expression when you are looking for someone, for example at an office. Take a look at this:

– Ursäkta, vet du i vilket rum Börje Andersson håller till?

(Excuse me, do you know where I can find Börje Andersson.)

– Ja, han sitter i rum 305. Det är på höger sida lite längre ner i korridoren.

(Yes, he’s in room number 305. You’ll find it on your right hand side further down the hallway.)

håller upp

“Håller upp” has two different meanings. First of all it can be close to the English “hold up something” meaning showing something. Like this:

Håll upp bilden så att jag kan se den!

(Hold up the picture so that I can see!)

“Håller upp” also means hold as in “open”. Like this:

Är du snäll och håller upp dörren? Jag har så mycket att bära.

(Could you please hold the door? I have my hands full.)

håller kvar

“Håller kvar” means that you are making someone stay, simply “keep” in English. The difference is that “håller kvar” is about people, if you are keeping things you would use “behåller” in Swedish. An example of “håller kvar”:

Polisen höll honom kvar över natten.

(The police kept him over night.)

håller ut

First of all “håller ut” means “hold out” as in reach out, for example your hand:

Blunda och håll ut handen så ska du få en överraskning!

(Close your eyes and hold out your hand and you will get a surprise!)

Secondly “håller ut” means hold on. As a teacher you might say:

Håll ut tio minuter till så tar vi lunch sedan.

(Hold on for ten more minutes and then we will take a lunch break.)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Ever heard of “partikelverb”?

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Hej igen!

The Swedish language contains a huge number of verb phrases consisting of a verb and a small word called a particle. The particle can look like a preposition (på, in, upp) but it can also be a word that is only used in combination with a verb (ihjäl).

When you discover the particle verbs and eventually learn to both understand them and use them, your vocabulary will expand enormously since you can be very precise in what you are expressing with a little help of these verb phrases. Let me show you what I mean using the particle “till”. When used as a particle “till” could mean that we are doing something for just a moment. If I take “skrattar” (laugh) for example and ad “till” it together means “is laughing for a few seconds”. See, you can express yourself very exact with these particles.

The tricky part with the particles is that it is the stress that tells us if it is a particle or not. To get the particle meaning of the phrase you have to stress the particle. So, to say that you “like” something you have to say “Jag tycker om glass”,  stressing “om”. Otherwise it will sound something like “I think if ice cream”.

There are about 45 different particles and each of them can be used in many different ways, meaning different things depending on the context and the creativity of the speaker. It is impossible to go through all of them here (and you would probably fall asleep) but I wanted to share with you some of the most common ones. Here we go:


“om” often means that you are doing something over again. For example:

“Filmen var jättebra. Jag vill se om den. ”

The movie was really good, I want to see it again.

“Jag klär om mig innan jag går på fest.”

I change clothes before I go to a party.

It can also mean that you are passing someone or something:

“Gubben i Volvon var så långsam så jag körde om honom.”

The old man in the Volvo was driving slow, so I passed him.

“På” often means to switch something on, your TV for example:

“Sätt TV:n! Melodifestivalen börjar snart. ”

Turn the TV on! Melodifestivalen is about to begin.

“Sätt ” also means something dirty, you can ask your girlfriend/boyfriend/colleague about that one 😉


The most common meaning of “till” is,  like I just mentioned, that something happens suddenly or for a very short while. An example:

“Jag blev rädd och hoppade till.”

I got scared and jumped.

“Kan du titta till bäbisen?”

Can you check on the baby? 

Sometimes “till” means that you are adding something:

“Huset är för litet nu när vi är många i familjen, så vi ska bygga till ett rum.”

The house is too small now when the family is growing, so we are going to add a room.


The best way to interpretate “bort” is probably English “away”. We use it for expressing that someone is leaving or something is removed.

“Jag ska resa bort i helgen. ”

I am going out of town this weekend.

“Tvättmedlet tar bort alla fläckar från kläderna.”

The washing detergent removes all stains from your clothes.



“Igång” is similar to English “get going” or “get started” with something. At a meeting at work your boss might say:

“Jaha, ska vi sätta igång då? ”

Well, shall we get started then?

Another for using “igång” is:

“Jag har kommit igång med träningen igen. ”

I’m back to exercisning again.


“Ihop” expresses direction or that something or someone belongs together:

“Min flickvän och jag har flyttat ihop.”

My girlfriend and I have moved in together.



“In” expresses direction in a more or less abstract way:

“Tala in ett meddelande efter tonen.”

Leave a message after the tone.

“Spring in och hämta jackan.”

Run inside and get your jacket.


“Ur” means to remove something or to empty something:

“Har du druckit ur ditt kaffe?”

Have you finished your coffee (have you emptied your coffee cup)?


“Upp” can be used in many ways as a particle, I will show you a couple. First of all it means the direction “up”:

“Han går upp för trappan.”

He is walking up the stairs.

“Upp” can also have the meaning that you are finishing something like food, a drink or money for example:

“Jag festade upp alla pengarna i lördags.”

I spent all my money on drinks last Saturday.

“Jag åt upp all maten som låg på tallriken.”

I finished all the food that was on my plate.


“Ut” means, except for the direction, that you are doing something til it is completely finished. Two examples:

“Boken var jättebra, Jag läste ut den på en helg.”

The book was really good. I finished it over a weekend.

“På lördagarna sover jag alltid ut.”

On Saturdays I always sleep in.

Well, that was just a few of the great amount of particle verbs that we can find in the swedish language. If you are a geek like me you can study them further in the book “Se upp!” . If not, I advise you to start listen carfully when you hear Swedish being spoken and you will discover a whole lot of them that way.

Lycka till!

The Swedish Teacher


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