Swedish word of the day: jo

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: jo
Swedish isn't a difficult language, is it? Jo, it is! Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Jo and ja both mean yes. But when do you use one or the other?


Jo, like the word ja, means yes – but knowing which of the two to use is often tricky for Swedish learners.

A reasonably simple rule to remember is that ja is used for affirmative answers to positive questions...

Talar du svenska? Ja (Do you speak Swedish? Yes)

… and jo is used when answering negated questions in the affirmative:

Talar du inte svenska? Jo (Don't you speak Swedish? Yes [I do])

Jo is also often used as a more insistent yes: "I don't want fika." "Jooo, just a cinnamon bun!"

Or when arguing with someone: "Nej!" "Jo!" "Nej!" "Jo!"

In other words, it is used to mark that the answer to a negative question is not what might have been expected or to express an opinion which is different from what someone else just said, but it can also express reluctant agreement ("jo, men..." "yes, but...") or be used at the a start of a sentence to make sure you have people's attention before you get to the point, the same way an English speaker might use "well" or "so".

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Jo may be a short interjection, but it is full of nuances that can be interpreted differently depending on tone of voice, inflection or use of extra words: the more insistent joho, jojomen, jodå, jo visst, or the slightly less certain jovars. And an impressed "jo jo" can be used to mean "well, well".

To confuse matters further, in northern Sweden the word jo is used more frequently and in a wider range of contexts, and is often interchangeable with ja. It is often also inhaled, causing that strange yes that sounds more like a gasp.



Kommer du inte? Jo, jag ska bara göra en grej först

Are you not coming? Yes, I'm just going to do a thing first

Svenska är inte ett svårt språk. Jo, det är det!

Swedish is not a difficult language. Yes, it is!

Jo, det är så att min mamma kommer på besök i morgon

Well, you see, my mum is coming to visit tomorrow


I have nothing to say so I'm using this filler word to make the silence less uncomfortable (Literally: yes-then-so-that)

Looking for a good idea for a Christmas present?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to to read more about it. It's also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.


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