Swedish word of the day: kära

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: kära
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today's Swedish word of the day is kära, which roughly translates to 'dear' or 'beloved' in English.


Unlike "dear" in English, which can be used to address almost anyone in a letter or email in order to be polite, kära should really only be used as a greeting for people you are very close to.

Kära can in theory be used to address a close family member, friend or partner in Swedish as well.  But beware. It may come across as overly affectionate or outdated, so only use it if you're sure that it's appropriate. If in doubt, hej ("hi") is nearly always the best choice.

Kära originally comes from the adjective kär, translates as "in love". You can also hålla någon kär (hold someone dear) and be kär i (in love with) someone or something. You can also use kär in the plural, kärade blev kära och gifte sig (they fell in love and got married).

The "k" sound here is pronounced like a "sh" sound in English, so kär is pronounced more like "share" than "care".

Kär can be used as a suffix, such as in the word folkkär, meaning something loved by the people (similar to the phrase "national treasure" in English), and barnkär, someone or something which loves children, such as en barnkär hund (a child-loving dog).

If you want to say you love someone, you would usually say jag älskar dig (I love you).

Jag är kär i dig translates as "I am in love with you", and is more about romantic love than platonic or familial love. Stick with jag älskar dig when telling your mother, child or best friend that you love them, and save jag är kär i dig for your partner (although you can definitely tell your partner that you älskar them, too).

You can use kära as a verb, too, in the colloquial phrase att kära ner sig, which has a similar meaning to falling in love (although att förälska sig is more commonly used here.) But if you want to tell someone you're in love with them, don't say jag kärar dig (which is not correct Swedish), say jag är kär i dig.

If you want to talk about love as a noun in Sweden, you can use the word kärlek.


Kära as a verb can also mean "to indict" or "to sue", with the person submitting the claim or käromål referred to as the kärande, and att kära en båt describes the act of steering a boat close to some sort of obstacle, like a small island or a sea mark.

Example sentences:

Ulf Lundell blev folkkär efter han släppte plattan Kär och galen på 80-talet.

Ulf Lundell became a national treasure when he released the album Kär och galen ("In Love and Crazy") in the 80s.

Åh, mitt kära barn, vad jag har saknat dig!

Oh, my dear child, how much I've missed you!

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