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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: eller hur

Today's Swedish word of the day is actually a short phrase, and it's a crucial one if you hope to sound like a native.

Swedish word of the day: eller hur
Swedish is a great language, eller hur?! Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Eller hur literally means 'or how'. 

It's used at the end of a sentence and is roughly equivalent to saying 'right?', or 'isn't it/doesn't it/don't you think) – basically you're seeking confirmation from the listener. But when you use eller hur?, you're almost always expecting agreement, so it's a rhetorical question.

If you're genuinely wondering if what you said is correct, you should add eller? to the end of your statement instead, but in this case, you would usually change the word order of your statement, just like in a normal question. Compare the two sentences: Tycker alla om kaffe, eller? (Does everyone like coffee, or…?) and Alla tycker om kaffe, eller hur? (Everyone likes coffee, am I right?). If someone said the first example, it's more of a genuine question, so someone might respond Nja, jag föredrar te (Well, I prefer tea); you could simply ask tycker alla om kaffe? but adding eller? makes it clear you want a response. Someone who said the second example would be intending it as a rhetorical question.

An alternative to eller hur? is inte sant? (literally 'not true'). These kinds of phrases, added onto a statement to turn it into a question, are called question tags in linguistics, and in English they are complicated because they change based on the question, for example: 'he's Swedish, isn't he?', 'you're Swedish, aren't you?', 'you aren't Swedish, are you?' 'you moved to Sweden, didn't you?'. 

As you can see, in English tag questions, the subject (in this case, 'he' or 'you') usually matches the subject of the phrase, and the verb needs to agree with the subject and tense of the verb (aren't/didn't). If the statement is positive, the tag question will be in the negative form (he is Swedish, isn't he), and if the statement is negative, the tag question will be positive (he isn't Swedish, is he?). It can be a headache for English language learners, many of whom opt to use 'yes?' as a question tag instead. In fact, you'll often hear Swedish speakers add 'or?' to statements, inspired by eller?, because it's simply snappier. Stay in Sweden long enough, and even native English speakers might pick up this habit!

In Swedish, eller?eller hur? or inte sant? can be added to any statement to turn them into a question, without any agreement or conjugation. This is similar to 'right?' or 'correct?' in English; the two differences are that 'right?' can be used both for genuine and rhetorical questions, and that English 'right?' is generally informal and 'correct?' is formal. You can use eller? and eller hur? in most contexts in terms of formality, but as described above, eller? is mostly used for genuine questions and eller hur? for rhetorical ones.

You can also use eller hur on its own as an emphatic response, expressing your agreement. For example, if someone says kanelbullar är så goda! (cinnamon buns are so tasty), you can reply Eller hur?! (Right?!) as an alternative to another emphatic agreement, like ja, absolut! (yes, absolutely!) In this sort of situation, eller hur sounds much more colloquial and natural.

Examples

Vi borde åka på semester tillsammans.  
Kanonidé! 
Eller hur?!

We should go on holiday together.
Great idea!
Right?!

Det var en jättebra film. 
Eller hur!

That was a great film.
It was, wasn't it!

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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