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Posts Tagged ‘Vocabulary’

“Örngott”, “luttanpluttan” and “chokladglass”

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


How is your Swedish coming along? I have received many questions on the Facebook page and in my email lately and it seems like a good idea to post the answers here. Enjoy!

Question 1 – “får inte” or “måste inte”

Could you please clarify for me which is the most commonly used phrase in Swedish for “you must not…”. I have seen “du får inte” used in one book but have also tried “du måste inte” in google translate with the same resulting translation.  Can they both be used or is one style preferred in Sweden?

My understanding of the English “you must not” is “you are absolutely not allowed to” and if you want to express that in Swedish you should say “du får inte”. “Du måste inte” rather means “du behöver inte”/”du slipper” which is like “you don’t have to” or “you don’t need to” in English. Here are a couple examples to illustrate the difference:

Du måste inte äta upp spenaten.

(You don’t have to finish your spinach.)

Du får inte cykla på motorvägen.

(You must not/are not allowed to ride a bike on the freeway/motorway.)

Question 2“lite” and “liten”

What is the difference between “lite” and “liten”?

“Lite” means “a little” and “liten” means “small”. It might also help think of “lite” as the opposite of “mycket” (a lot) and “liten” as the opposite of “stor” (large, big). Hopefully these examples will help clarify the difference:

Jag talar lite tyska.

(I speak a little German.)

Jag dricker mycket kaffe.

(I drink a lot of coffee.)

Min mamma har en liten hund.

(My mother has a small dog.)

Min syster har en stor katt.

(My sister has a big cat.)

Question 3 – “varann” or “varandra”

What is the difference between “varann” and “varandra”.

It is common to sat “varann” when speaking but one should always use “varandra” when writing.

Question 4 – “luttanpluttan”

What does the word “luttanpluttan” mean?

Hmm, I have never heard the exact word “luttanpluttan” before. Only “pluttan” is used more often and it’s smililar to the endearment phrase “lilla gumman”. You can call a little girl “pluttan” and a little boy “plutten”. Svenska Akademiens Ordbok (SAOB) doesn’t suggest any etymological origin of the word “plutt” or “plutta” but explains that it means a little boy or girl who is helpless and pitiful.

Quesion 5 – “i”, “på” and “om”
What are the differences between “i en timme”, “på en timme” and “om en timme”.
“I en timme” tells us for how long you have been doing something.  “På en timme” tells us how long it takes to do something.”Om en timme” is like English “in an hour” as in “an hour from now”. Here are some examples:
- Hur länge har du väntat?- I en timme.
(-How long have you been waiting for? -For an hour.)
Jag kan köra till Stockholm på en timme.
(It takes me an hour to drive to Stockholm. I can drive to Sthlm in one hour.)
Jag läste boken på en timme.
(I read the book in one hour. It took me one hour to read the book.)
- När börjar filmen? -Om en timme.
(-When does the film/movie begin? – In an hour.)

Question 6 – “chokladglass” or “choklad glass”

How does one know when a word is a compound word, for example “chokladglass”? (The original question written in Swedish was “Hur vet man när man ska skriva ihop ord, t ex “chokladglass?”)

This is a hard question to answer but the guideline to follow is that one should more or less always write these type of words as compound words (written as one word, not two), especially if the word if you are dealing with two nouns. If you write “choklad glass” (chocolate ice cream) it will mean “chocolate and ice cream”, not “ice cream with chocolate flavor”. It might also help to think of that if you in other languages would use the genitive case (possessive case), like “children’s book”, or a preposition phrase (a book for children), it is most likely the case that you would use a compound word in Swedish (barnbok). More difficult cases are words that consists of a noun and an adjective. It is for example correct to say both “en svensk lärare” and “en svensklärare”. “En svensk lärare” is a teacher from Sweden teaching any subject. “En svensklärare”, on the other hand, is a person teaching Swedish.  Jag kan alltså vara en svensk lärare i franska.

Question 7 – “örngott”

Why does “örngott” (pillowcase) sound like “örn” (eagle)?

I know, it is quite funny that  “pillowcase” sounds like “eagle snacks”. I did some research and it turns out that “örn” in this case is related to “öron” (ears) and  “gott” most likely a form of an old verg “gita” that means “få” (get) or “uppfånga” (catch). The conclusion is that “örngott” roughly means “something that cathches your ears” or “something you put rest your ears on”. :)

Have fun learning Swedish!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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“Känner sig” eller “mår”

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Hej på er!

Thank you all for all the interesting questions you’ve sent me. Keep on asking! Today I’ll try to answer Deaw’s question about the difference between “mår” and “känner sig”. Deaw is wondering why you say “jag mår inte bra” but “jag känner mig sjuk” when both “mår” and “känner sig” mean “feel” in English.

Well, the easiest way to deal with “mår” is to look at it as set phrase and only use it together with the two adjectives “bra” and “dåligt”. This is how we can use “mår”:

Jag mår (inte) bra.

(I’m (not) feeling well.)

Jag mår dåligt.
You can also use “mår” with synonyms to “bra” and “dåligt”:

Jag mår finfint!

Jag mår prima!

Jag mår kanon!

Jag mår fantastiskt!

Jag mår utmärkt!


Jag mår uselt!

Jag mår förskräckligt!

Jag mår förjävligt!

One thing that is important to mention here is that the expression “Jag mår illa” means “I’m sick” as in motion sick.

Another way to distinguish “mår” from “känner sig” is that  “mår” only gives information about physical condition, it doesn’t say anything about your emotions. We can for example NOT use “mår” like this:

Jag mår arg.

(arg = angry)

Jag mår stark.

(stark = strong)

The conclusion here is that “känner sig” is a much wider expression than “mår” and we can use it in all kinds of situations. Let me give you some more examples:

Jag känner mig glad.

(glad = happy, in a good mood)

Jag känner mig trött.

(trött = tired)

Jag känner mig upprymd.

(upprymd = excited)

Jag känner mig nere.

(nere = low)

Jag känner mig avslappnad.

(avslappnad = relaxed)

Jag känner mig lurad.

(lurad = fooled)

Jag känner mig uppskattad.

(uppskattad = appreciated)

‘Til next time!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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“Mer”, “mera”, “fler” or “flera”

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Hej hej!

Today I will try my best to clarify something that I know many Swedish learners struggle with. I’ve had a question about this before and today another blog follower reminded me that I haven’t answered this question yet. Here is what Carlos (and many others) are wondering about:


Would you be so kind as to explain to me what is the difference between mer and mera, fler and flera?



Parts of this question, the difference between “mer” and “fler” and the difference between, “fler” and “flera”, are easy to answer, but the difference between “mer” and “mera” is more complicated and there are different opinions out there about what is correct.

mer vs fler

“Mer” (more) is used when we’re talking about the volume of something rather than counting it. For example we wouldn’t count things like coffee, butter and hair and say we drink “many coffee” or put “many butter” in the food. Therefore when expressing “more” in these and similar cases we have to use “mer” instead of “fler”. Here’s a couple of examples:

Lars dricker mer kaffe än Bengt.

(Lars drinks more coffee than Bengt.)

Kanelbullarna blir godare om du har på mer smör.

(The cinnamon buns will be tastier if you add more butter.)

As you probably have figured out by now we should use, “fler” instead of “mer” when talking about something that we can count like “sandwiches”, “lakes” or “vowels”:

Bengt äter fler smörgåsar till frukost än Anders gör.

(Bengt eats more sandwiches for breakfast than Anders does.)

Det finns fler sjöar i Finland än i Egypten.

(There are more lakes in Sweden than in Egypt.)

Det finns fler vokaler i svenska än i engelska.

(There are more vowels in Swedish than in English.)

fler vs flera

The rules for using “fler” and “flera” are not very strict and this might be the reason why it’s a little bit confusing. However, all grammar experts agree on one thing and that is that “flera” is used when we mean “många” or several in English. Here’s a couple of examples with “flera”:

Anita har varit på semester i Italien flera gånger.

(Anita has been to Italy for vacation/holiday several times.)

Elisabeth skrev SFI-provet flera gånger innan hon blev godkänd.

(Elisabeth took the SFI exam several times before she passed.)

When you are comparing it is accepted to use either “fler” and “flera” (personally I mostly use “fler” when comparing). Here’s a couple of examples of comparison and how we can use “fler” and “flera”:

Gunilla har varit i Italien fler gånger än Anita.

Gunilla har varit i Italien flera gånger än Anita.

(Gunilla has been to Italy more times than Anita.)

Elisabeth fick fler poäng på SFI-provet än Anna.

Elisabeth fick flera poäng på SF-provet än Anna.

(Elisabeth got more points/marks on her SFI exam than Anna.)

mer vs mera

Also when it comes to  “mer” and “mera” it’s more or less up to every person which one to use. In grammar books and other official guides of Swedish,  “mer” is more recommended for more formal and for written Swedish while, “mera” is perfectly fine in spoken Swedish and in less formal written texts. When doing my research on this subject I came across a Finnish Swedish (finlandssvensk) language recommendation site and, to my surprise, the recommendations for mer/mera for Swedish in Finland were more or less the opposite – use “mera” in more formal and especially in written Finnish Swedish and “mer” in spoken and in other ways less formal Swedish. Here’s a link to the article for those who are interested: Med mera i Finland?

I hope I have been able to bring some light to this subject. Thank you for reading :-)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Samma, lika eller annorlunda?

Thursday, November 4th, 2010


When learning a foreign language you often struggle with the words and expressions that seem to mean almost the same. When you speak you get it almost right, but not quite. Speaking Swedish it might be tough to master the expressions for “the same”, “different”, “a difference” etc. It is not always easy to get “samma”, “annorlunda” and “skillnad” and therefore we will take a closer look at these expressions today.

We will start with some expressions tu use when expressing that someone is like someone or looks like someone.

är lik, likt, lika

lik/likt/lika is a type of  adjective  and can either mean that you look like someone or that you act like someone. A couple of examples:

Anna är lik sin mamma. Hon har ljust hår och blå ögon precis som sin mamma.

(Anna looks like her mother. She has blond hair and blue eyes just like her mother.)

Anna är lik sin mamma. Hon är glad för det mesta precis som sin mamma.

(Anna is just like her mother. She is happy most of the time just like her mother.)

ABBA-Benny och ABBA-Björn är lika. Båda har brunt hår och skägg.

(ABBA-Benny and ABBA-Björn look the same/are alike. They both have brown hair and a beard.)


“Liknar” is a verb and it also means “looks like” or in Swedish “ser ut som”. You can use “liknar” instead of “är lik” and get more or less the same meaning. Like this:

Anna liknar sin mamma både till utseendet och sättet.

(Anna both looks like and acts like her mother.)

It is not only for people we use “liknar” but also for things, like cars for example:

Det där liknar din bil. Du har väl en röd Volvo?

(That looks like your car. You have a red Volvo, don’t you?)

The same content can be expressed with “ser ut som”:

Det där ser ut som din bil. Du har väl en röd Volvo?

(That looks like your car. You have a red Volvo, don’t you?)

likadan, likadant, likadana

Another way to say “similar” or “identical” is to use likadan/likadant/likadana. As you can see this is an adjective and you need to think of en/ett/plural of the noun. A few examples:

Lisa har en likadan tröja som Annika. Båda två har köpt sina tröjor på H&M.

(Lisa has exactly the same sweater as Annika; they’ve both bought them at H&M.)

Jag bor i ett likadant hus som min granne. Båda husen är byggda på 70-talet.

(My house looks exactly like my neighbor’s. Both houses were built in the seventies.)

Det är vanligt att tvillingar har likadana kläder.

(It is common for twins to wear identical clothes.)


When something (or someone) is not just identical but actually the exact same object or person, we should use the word “samma” (the same one) instead of “likadan”. Because it’s common also for native speakers to say “samma” when they actually mean “likadan” there is no reason to be embarrassed if you make the same mistake. Here are a couple of examples when you should use “samma”:

Jonas och Rikard är födda på samma dag.

(Jonas and Rikard were born the same day.)

Jag hade samma historielärare som min syster.

(I had the same history teacher as my sister did.)

In the examples above no native speaker would make the mistake and use “likadan” instead of  “samma” but let us take a look a couple of sentences when one easily could. We can put it this way:

Lena och Katrin hade samma klänning på sig på festen igår kväll.

(Lena and Katrin wore  the same dress at the party last night. )

or we can put it this way:

Lena och Katrin hade likadana klänningar på festen igår kväll.

(Lena and Katrin wore  identical dresses at the party last night.)

Well both scenarios are possible I guess. In the first sentence Lena and Katrin actually only have one dress to share so either they take turns wearing it or it is a very large dress ;-) In the second example Lena and Katrin have one dress each but identical copies. Maybe they  both did some last minute shopping  ;-) You can therefore see that there is no big harm done if you mix up “samma” and “likadan” only it can be a little bit funny.

All right but what about when things are different? Yes, there are a few different words for that too. We have “annorlunda”, “annan”, “olik” and “skillnad” to deal with here.

skillnad (en)

First of all there is the noun “skillnad” which means “a difference”.  One example of how to use “skillnad”:

Det är skillnad på/mellan svenska och norska.

(There is a difference between Swedish and Norwegian.)


olik/olikt/olika are adjectives and mean “different” in English. Just like in many other words “o-” is a prefix that means “inte” which makes “olik” being the opposite of “lik” – “unlike” or “different”. Just like we can use “lik”/”likt”/”lika” to describe looks and character we can use “olika”. Like this:

ABBA-Agneta och ABBA-Frida är olika. Agneta är blond och Frida är brunhårig.

(ABBA-Agneta and ABBA-Frida look different/have different looks. Agneta is blond and Frida has brown hair.)

Norska och svenska är två olika språk.

(Norwegian and Swedish are two different languages.)


When using “olika” you do not put any value in the word. It is only a statement about a difference but you do not say anything about the difference being good or bad or that one is the norm and the other one is the deviation from the norm. (Thank you Phil for your suggestion of how to use ‘deviation’.) When you want to express that someone or something is not only different but actually abnormal or exceptional in some way you should use “annorlunda” instead of olik/olikt/olika. Like this:

När jag flyttade till USA var det mycket som kändes annorlunda.

(When I moved to the US a lot of things felt different to me.)

I prefer to use “annorlunda” in this case since Sweden is my reference point as it’s what is normal to me. It also happens that Swedish speakers use “annorlunda” as a polite way to express “konstigt” (odd, weird)  ;-) My dear mother for example, often uses “annorlunda” as a judgement of food that is exotic to her :-) She would in such a case say:

Hmm, det här var ju … annorlunda.

(Hmm, this was … different.)

Thank you for reading!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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What on earth is “ju”?

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

My dear reader B have asked me about the word “ju”. What does it mean? How can I use it?

“Ju” is a so called sentence adverbial, or in Swedish – satsadverb. Sentence adverbials are little words that changes the whole meaning of a sentence. Those of you that have read the post about stress in sentences might remember that the sentence adverbials in most cases are unstressed, and therefore hard to discover in spoken language. Before digging deeper into the meaning of “ju” I want to show you a couple of other sentence adverbials to clarify what I’m talking about.

First we can take a look at a sentence without a sentence adverbial:

Jag kommer på festen i kväll.

(I’m coming to the party tonight.)

Now I’m going to ad a few different sentence adverbials to show how they change the content of the sentence:

Jag kommer kanske på festen i kväll.

(I’m maybe coming to the party tonight.)

Jag kommer inte på festen i kväll.

(I’m not coming to the party tonight.)

Jag kommer absolut på festen i kväll.

(I’m absolutely coming to the party tonight.)

We can also have two sentence adverbials. Look at this:

Jag kommer absolut inte på festen i kväll.

(I’m absolutely not coming to the party tonight.)

Well, it is quite clear what the sentence adverbials above mean, but in the Swedish language we also have a couple that have a more diffuse meaning and can not really be translated into a sentence adverb in English. One of those is “ju” and another one is “väl”. “Ju” is used when the speaker is somewhat confirming the information given in the sentence, or the speaker wants the other person to confirm what is said. I think you will better understand if I illustrate this:

The girlfriend talking to the boyfriend on a Friday evening:

- Ska du gå ut med dina kompisar? Vi ska ju träffa mina föräldrar i kväll!

(Are you going out with your friends? We are seeing my parents tonight!)

What “ju” ads to the message spoken here, is that the boyfriend already knew that he and his girlfriend are visiting her parents tonight. The girlfriend told him ages ago ;-) The closest translation I can give you is “as you know” or “as I told you”.  Let’s do another example:

A meeting at work starts at 2pm and Anna shows up at 3pm. Anna’s colleagues might say:

- Kommer du nu? Mötet började ju klockan 3.

(Are you coming now? The meeting started at 3.)

We have the same meaning of “ju” here, the colleagues are assuming that Anna have got the same information about the meating as they did. They are fishing for her confirming that she knew about the time for the meeting, and also for a explanation for being late. Anna might then answer:

- Ja, jag vet. Det var snökaos och tunnelbanan stod helt stilla.

(Yes, I know. It was snow chaos so I got stuck in the subway.)

Yet another example, a dialogue between a parent and a teenager:

- Ska du gå ut utan mössa? Det är ju 15 grader kallt!

- Jag vet. Hej då!

Studying the examples above you might think that we use “ju” only when someone else is making a mistake or forgetting something ;-) Well, that is quite common, but far from the only case. The word is also useful when talking about your own actions. In the example below, the speaker suddenly remembers that he/she had booked the tvättstuga (and is now out doing something else):

- Åh nej, jag hade ju bokat tvättstugan i dag.

(Oh no, I forgot that I had booked the laundry room today.)

Alright, I really hope this cleared at least some of the confusion about “ju”. It is a tough one to explain, since the more you think of it, the more  ways of using it you find. Next time I will look into another sentence adverbial  – “väl”.

Keep on learning!

Sara the Swedish Teacher


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