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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: gärna

Interested in learning the history and usage of a different Swedish word each day? We'll gladly help you with that.

Swedish word of the day: gärna
Would you like a fika? Gärna! Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Gärna is a very useful Swedish word, which can often be literally translated as 'willingly' or 'gladly', but is used much more often and in more informal contexts than either of those words in English. Speakers of other languages might spot the similarity with German gern, Danish gerne and Icelandic gjarna, with all these words sharing a root in the Old Norse word gjarn ('willing' or 'eager').

So how do you use it? Gärna can be used as an adverb in sentences like 'jag tar gärna en kaffe' (literally 'I'll happily have a coffee' but closer to 'I'm happy to have a coffee/I'd like to have a coffee) or 'jag hjälper dig gärna' (I'm happy to help you).

You can also use it on its own, in which case it's a snappier alternative to 'yes, I'd like that' or 'yes please!' For example, you can reply to the question Vill du följa med? (would you like to come along?), with gärna!, meaning 'yes please' or 'I'd love to', or if someone asks Vill du ha mjölk och socker? (Do you want milk and sugar?), you can answer Gärna mjölk, tack (Milk, please). Gärna can also be used when you're talking about someone else, such as in the sentence hon talade gärna (she was happy to talk) or hon vill gärna följa med (she would like to come too).

It's also possible to use it to mean 'if you like', for example ta gärna kontakt ('feel free to get in touch' or 'please get in touch') or ta gärna med hunden (bring your dog if you like). In these examples, the use of gärna softens the requests: ta med hunden (bring your dog) is a command, while adding gärna emphasizes that the decision is up to the listener. This phrasing is particularly common in situations where the speaker is encouraging someone to do something they may think they aren't allowed to.

But combined with the verb (ought/can), you can phrase something as a command which isn't really optional, without being overly aggressive. Telling someone 'du får gärna ta kontakt' could gently urge them to get in touch, or even be a slightly passive aggressive reminder that they should already have been in touch.

Gärna can also be used when you're not implying any choice or pleasure linked to the action, but simply implying that something happens readily, easily, or often. This might mean you're talking about inanimate objects, for example den faller gärna sönder (it falls apart easily).

Finally, be aware of the set phrase lika gärna, which means something like 'just as easily' or 'just as well', so the phrase det hade lika gärna kunnat vara jag means 'it could just as easily have been me' and Hon använde inte ordet “ful”, men det hade hon lika gärna kunnat göra means 'she didn't use the word “ugly”, but she may just as well have done'. 

Examples

Visst, gärna det

Sure, I'd like that

Jag vill gärna träffa dig

I'd love to meet you

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

A word of the day which makes strange use of usury.

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

Ocker is the Swedish word for usury, and not the Australian for someone who “speaks and acts in a rough and uncultivated manner, using Strine, a broad Australian accent” for the Aussies out there who might recognise the term. 

Usury, of course, is when a lender makes monetary loans which unfairly enrich them. The term is used either in a moral sense, then as a condemnation of taking advantage of others’ misfortune, or in a strictly legal sense, where ocker refers to the crime of charging a higher interest rate for a loan than that which is allowed by the law. You might know an individual who does that not as a usurer, but a loan shark

But ockerhyra has nothing to do with loans or loansharks, at least not directly. The shark, however, might still be there, as you will see.

Hyra simply means ‘rent’ – in this case the rent you pay for an apartment or any other rental property. So ockerhyra means ‘usury rent’, but how can a rent be usurious? Well, it cannot since it is not a loan. What instead is meant here, is at least part of the moral sense of the word ‘usury’, whereby someone is taking advantage of another’s situation. 

Someone setting an andrahandshyra, a second hand rent, which is unreasonably high, would be setting an ockerhyra. This is a topic which The Local has previously dealt with, and there are instances to get help with that. The main reason people can get away with this is because many are desperate to find a place in the city, often Stockholm, and therefore will not alert the authorities. But also, owing to the fact that it is not a punishable crime, all that might happen is that the person subletting their place for more than is reasonable might be forced to pay some money back.

Furthermore, the word ockerhyra does not necessarily imply this type of scenario, it can also be used to generally complain about rents being too high. And many do complain about this.

Do you feel a bit upset about the sometimes absurd rents in Stockholm or in another city? Why not make use of the word ockerhyror in a conversation on the topic?

Just remember that the word is quite strong, so try not to accuse a friend of charging an ockerhyra – might be safer to just question whether they are charging a bit much. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Alltså, det är verkligen ockerhyror på nybyggnationer! Jag är sååå trött på den här skiten.

I mean come on, the rents on new builds are outrageous! I’m sick and tired of this shit.

Duncan, varför tar du ockerhyra på stället du hyr ut i andrahand?

Duncan, why are you charging an exaggerated rent on the place you’re subletting?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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