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Archive for March, 2010

10 useful “hjälpverb”

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

When learning a new language you sometimes feel that you can’t express different shades of meaning. Something that can be a little help on the way to a more nuanced Swedish is the so called “hjälpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English). So today I wanted to share with you 10 useful “hjälpverb”. Varsågoda!

1. ska (will)

This verb has many functions. First of all we can use to express future tense:

Jag ska åka på semester snart.

(I’m going on vacation soon.)

We can also use “ska” for expressing a demand or a must, it can be compared to English “have to”:

Du ska borsta tänderna innan du går och lägger dig.

(You have to brush your teeth before going to bed.)

If we combine the past tense of “ska” – “skulle” and combine it with “kunna” (infinitive of “kan”) we get the meaning of English “could”. Like this:

Skulle du kunna hjälpa mig med en sak?

(Could you help me with something?)

2. bör (shall)

“Bör” is used for giving advice or recommendations. That is the verb your doctor would use when telling what to do or not to do. An example:

Du bör sluta röka om du vill bli frisk.

(You should quit smoking if you want to get well.)

We can also use “bör” when we are assuming something:

Anders bör vara framme i Göteborg nu, han åkte för tre timmar sedan.

(Anders should have arrived in Göteborg now, he left three hours ago.)

3. kan (can)

“Kan” expresses knowledge, ability or possibility :

Jag kan simma 1 000 meter.

(I can swim 1 000 meters.)

Jag kan inte komma till mötet.

(I can’t come/make it to the meeting.)

We might also use “kan” when giving a suggestion or offering something:

Kan jag hjälpa dig på något vis?

(Is there anything I can do to help you?)

4. får

“Få” has so many meanings there is no point trying to translate it to one word in English. First of all “få” expresses permission or allowance:

Man får röka utomhus.

(Smoking is allowed outdoors.)

Du får låna min bil idag.

(You can/you’re allowed to borrow my car today.)

To express English “mustn’t” or “it’s forbidden to”  you should use Swedish “får inte”:

Man får inte kasta snöboll på skolgården.

(You mustn’t throw snowballs at each other in the school yard.)

“Får” is also common to use when expressing politeness, for example when you want to pay for a dinner. I guess this is equivalent to English “may”:

Får jag bjuda på fika?

(May I buy you some fika?)

In combination with certain verbs “få” is equivalent to “got”:

I går fick Olle veta att han ska få löneförhöjning.

(Yesterday Olle got to know that he will get a raise.)

5. brukar

“Brukar” has the same meaning as English “usually”, although it is important to remember that “brukar” is a verb while “usually” is an adverb. The meaning is the same. Take a look at this example:

Jag brukar dricka kaffe på morgonen.

(I usually drink coffee in the morning.)

6. orkar

“Orkar” is a verb that expresses physical or mental strength. In English we would express the same thing with “being able to”, “being capable of”,  “manage” or “stand”. Here are some examples:

Det är bra att äta frukost så att man orkar jobba hela förmiddagen.

(It is good to have breakfast, so that you have energy to work all morning.)

Jag orkar inte studera mer svensk grammatik nu.

(I’ve had enough of Swedish grammar for now.)

Ät så mycket du orkar!

(All you can eat!)

7. vågar (dare)

With “vågar” you can express if you have the courage to do something or not:

Vågar du åka berg-och dalbanan?

(Do you dare to go on the roller coaster?)

Lisa vågar inte sova med lampan släckt.

(Lisa is afraid to sleep with the lights turned off.)

8. hinner

“Hinner” means that you have enough time to do something, as in that you will make it. There is not any single word in English that expresses the same thing (as far as I know), but I think a couple of examples will make the meaning clear to you:

Jag hann inte ringa dig igår.

(I didn’t have time to call you yesterday.)

Om vi springer nu så hinner vi med sista tåget till Uppsala.

(If we run now we will make it to the last train to Uppsala).

Hur långt hann vi i grammatikboken sist?

(How far did we get in the grammar book last time?)

9. slipper

Another favorite of mine! “Slipper” means that you don’t have to or not need to, in a positive sense. An example:

På sommaren slipper barnen gå i skolan.

(In the summer the children don’t need to go to school.)

It is important to be aware of that it is a positive experience to “slippa”, so in the example above we understand that the children don’t always like to go to school. You could unintentionally hurt people’s feelings if you use “slipper” the wrong way. Let’s say that you were supposed to meet a colleague to go through some paper work, but the two of you talked over the phone and don’t really have to meet up anymore. In this case it is more proper to say:

Då behöver vi inte träffas. (Then we don’t need to meet up.)

rather than:

Då slipper vi träffas. (Great, we don’t have to see each other then!)

The colleague might think you don’t like him/her. 😉

10. råkar

“Råkar” expresses that you are doing something unintentionally or by chance. Again, this is a verb in Swedish. Take a look at these examples:

Jag råkade slå sönder mormors dyra Orrefors-vas.

(I accidently broke my grandmother’s expensive crystal vase.)

Jag råkade springa på Anna på stan idag!

(I ran into Anna in the city center today!)

Good luck with your “hjälpverb” and don’t forget to post questions!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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“Sin”, “sitt” & “sina” – correct answers

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I figured I should give you the correct answers to the sin,sitt & sina -exercise. Here we go:

1. Erik gillar sitt jobb.

It is Erik’s own job (ett jobb). You couldn’t really say that you like someone else’s job :)


2. Man måste lyssna på sina föräldrar.

We listen to our own parents, and therefore – “sina”.


3. Johan och hans flickvän ska flytta ihop.

The “och” makes Johan and his girlfriend the subject of the sentence. Only the object can be “sin”.


4. Johan köper ofta blommor till sin flickvän.

In this sentence the girlfriend is the object and hopefully Johan is buying flowers for his own girlfriend – therefore “sin” is the correct answer.


5. Tomas och Björn bor fortfarande hemma hos sina/hans föräldrar.

In this case we have we have two possibilities. If we assume that Tomas and Björn are brothers and still living at home, we would use “sina”. If we assume that Tomas and Björn are a couple, we could use “hans” but that wouldn’t really tell us if they live at Börn’s or Tomas’ parents.

6. De ska låna ut sin sommarstuga till sin dotter och hennes pojkvän.

They are letting their own dotter borrow their summer house. The boyfriend of the daughter will also stay in the summerhouse. If we would say “sinpojkvän” in this case the boyfriend (the object) would belong to the parents (the object) 😉


7. Annas mamma säger att Anna kan låna hennes bil.

This is a tricky one. It is Anna’s mum’s car we are talking about, but since the car is the object of the subordinated clause (the part after “att”) and Anna (not her mum) is the subject of the sub. clause we have to use “hennes”.


8. Anna får låna bilen, eftersom hennes bil är på verkstaden.

In this case “hennes bil” is the subject in the subordinated clause.


9. Hon är ute och går med sin hund.

She is out walking her dog. I was thinking it was the person’s own dog, therefore we use “sin”.


10. Hon och hennes man är ute och går.

Here we have the same situation as in example #3. She and her husband together make the subject, and therefore we can not use “sin”.


Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Sin, sitt & sina

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Some parts of the Swedish language are more important than others to master. I mean even though it is good to know which words are “en” and which are “ett”, there isn’t really a disaster if you happen to say “en hus” or “ett bok”. Using the wrong pronoun (such as “han”, “hon”, “den”) could definitely cause more confusion. Take a look at this classic example:

1. Patrik kysser sin fru.

2. Patrik kysser hans fru.

In English both sentences translates to “Patrik is kissing his wife”. In Swedish however, you make a distinction between “his own wife” = sin, and his as in someoneelse’s wife. This might get more clear if we change “sin” and “hans” for names:

1. Patrik kysser Patriks (sin) fru.

2. Patrik kysser Henriks (hans) fru.

In other words,  if Patrik is the subject of the sentence and he is also the owner (excuse me Patrik’s wife 😉 ) of the object, then we express that ownership by using “sin” instead of “hans”.

It is of course not only “hans” that sometimes should be replaced with “sin”. This is also the case for “hennes”, “dess”, “ens” and “deras”. It is also good to know that “sin” changes to “sitt” if the object is an ett-word, and to “sina” if the object is plural. Like this:

Patrik har målat sitt hus i sommar.

(Patrik has painted his house this summer.)

Patrik ska hämta sina barn på dagis.

(Patrik is going to pick up his children at kindergarten.)

Now we are going to take a look at some more complicated sentences, because that is when it usually gets a little tricky with the “sin” and “hans”. Take a look at these sentences:

Patrik tycker om maten som sin fru lagar.

(Patrik likes the food that his wife cooks.)

Olle sitter uppe, eftersom sin dotter inte har kommit hem än.

(Olle is waiting up, since his daughter is not home yet.)

Anna och sin pojkvän ska äta på restaurang ikväll.

(Anna and her boyfriend are going out for dinner tonight.)

All three sentences are wrong! We mustn’t use “sin” instead of “hans” or “hennes” in any of them! At this point in class some students are ready to leave the classroom 😉 “Why not “sin” all of a sudden? You just said that when you are the owner of the subject… ” The explanation for example one and two is that we can not look at the whole sentence an figure out subject and object, we have to look at each clause of the sentence. So let’s do that:

“Patrik tycker om maten”

is our main clause (huvudsats) in which “Patrik” is subject.

“som hans fru lagar”.

is a subordinated clause (bisats) and “hans fru” is the subject in it. Only an object can use the pronoun “sin”, “sitt” or “sina”. The same explanation goes for example number two:

“Olle sitter uppe”

is the main clause (huvudsats) and “Olle” is the subject.

“eftersom hans dotter inte har kommit hem än.”

is the subordinated clause (bisats) in which “hans dotter” is the subject, and therefore cannot be “sin”.

I know that it is hard to analyze the sentence structure when you are out there speaking Swedish, so to make it simple – don’t use “sin”, “sitt” and “sina” after common subjunctions (bisatsord) such as “som”, “att”, eftersom”, “därför att” , “om” etc.

But what about the third example? Again we should take closer look and find out if we really are dealing with an object and an owner of that object:

Anna och hennes pojkvän…

The thing here is that “Anna” is the subject of the sentence and since “och” is a conjunction, which combines two things of the same kind (a subject with another subject or an object with another object) “pojkvän” is also a part of the subject and can not use “sin” for a pronoun.

OK, so now everything is clear, right? Why don’t we take a little test:

1. Erik gillar … jobb.

2. Man måste lyssna på … föräldrar.

3. Johan och … flickvän ska flytta ihop.

4. Johan köper ofta blommor till … flickvän.

5. Tomas och Björn bor fortfarande hemma hos … föräldrar.

6. De ska låna ut sin sommarstuga till … dotter och … pojkvän.

7. Annas mamma säger att Anna kan låna … bil.

8. Anna får låna bilen, eftersom … bil är på verkstaden.

9. Hon är ute och går med … hund.

10. Hon och … man är ute och går.

How did it go? Put your answers in the comment field :)

Til next time!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Word order part 2

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Hej alla!

Are you ready for the more complicated part of word order? I hope so, because today we will look into how to construct some subordinated clauses –  “bisats”.

Do you remember that a “huvudsats” (main clause) is the independent clause? It can be a question, a statement or a command. It can be very short as in “Jag äter.” or quite long as in “På sommaren äter jag alltid glass i parken.” Do you also remember the different parts of the main clause and their functions? If not, let me refresh your memory:

subject  – Who is doing something?

verb/action – What is happening?

object – Who/what is affected by the action?

place – Where is the action taking place?

time – When is it happening?

sentence adverbial – The little word that changes the meaning of the  sentence.

Alright, now we need to understand what a “bisats” really is. Personally I think the English term “subordinated clause” is a more clear description, since a “bisats” is a subordinated part of the “huvudsats”. The “bisats” can for example be the object or time in the main clause. Let me show you what I mean. First we can take a look an example when the object is the subordinated clause:

Lars vill veta när bussen går.

(Lars wants to know when the bus is leaving.)

Let me break the sentence down for you:

Who wants to know something? Lars does. So “Lars” is the subject.

What is happening? Lars wants to know something. So “vill veta” is the action/the verbs.

What does Lars want to know? He wants to know when the bus is leaving. Therefore “när bussen går” is the object of the sentence. You can easily identify the object of the sentence by asking “what+subject+verb”.

The object in this sentence is not just a single word, it is a separate clause – a subject and a verb (bussen + går). But it is not a independent clause, if someone said only “när bussen går” we wouldn’t understand, because it is just half a sentence – a subordinated clause.

One more example:

Lisa säger att hon har ont i magen.

(Lisa says that she has a stomach ache.)

What is the object (the subordinated clause) here? That’s right – “att hon har ont i magen”.

Now a couple of examples when the time is the subordinated clause:

Jag läser tidningen medan jag äter frukost.

(I read the newspaper while I’m having breakfast.)

What is happening? Someone is reading (läser). Who is reading?  – “Jag” What am I reading? The newspaper (tidningen). And finally, when am I reading? While I’m having breakfast (medan jag äter frukost). “medan jag äter frukost” – that’s our subordinated clause.

Anna fick ett jobb när hon hade tagit examen.

(Anna got hired when she had graduated.)

Here “Anna” is the subject, “fick” is the action, “ett jobb” is the object and “när hon hade tagit examen” is the time and at the same time a subordinated clause.

Alright, now I’m going to upset you. We are going to ad sentence adverbials, the little words that change the meaning of the sentence, to the subordinated clause. And it will not end up in the same place as in a main clause. You might remember that the main clause construction looked like this:

Hon åker kanske till Stockholm i morgon.

subject + verb + sentence adverbial + object + place + time

Now let me turn that sentence into a subordinated or indirect clause:

Hon säger att hon kanske åker till Stockholm i morgon.

(She says that she maybe goes to Stockholm tomorrow.)

As you can see, in the subordinated clause, the sentence adverbial (in this case “kanske”) is placed before the verb and we get the following structure:

subject + verb

+ subjunction

+ subject + sentence adverbial + verb + place + time

The good news here  is that the subordinated clause is more similar to how a sentence would be costructed in English. The hard part when you are speaking Swedish out there, is to keep track of main clauses and subordinated clauses. The best way to do that is to learn the subjunctions, but that I will save for another post.

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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When to use “på”

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Dear blog readers,

I’m so happy to be able to help you learn . I really appreciate all the feedback and the questions I get, without them I wouldn’t know what you want to read about. So thank you for contributing to this blog.

Today I will share with you some of the most common examples of using  the preposition “på”. Here we go:

On a surface

First of all we use “på” when we are talking about something that is placed on some sort of surface. This usage of “på” is similar to English. Take a look at a few examples:

Tidningen ligger på bordet.

(The newspaper is on the table.)

Det hänger en tavla på väggen.

(There is a painting on the wall.)

Jag bor på Gotland.

(I live on Gotland.)

Place where everybody is doing the same thing

In this case Swedish “på” is better compared to English “at” than “on”. In Swedish we therefore use “på” when we are talking about a place where everyone is doing  the same thing, so when we use “på” the activity or the function of the place is more important than the place itself. There are many situation that this applies to:

– work

Jag jobbar på en fabrik.

(I work at a factory.)

Jag är på kontoret.

(I am at the office.)

Jag är på jobbet.

(I am at work.)


Jag läste svenska på SFI.

(I studied Swedish at SFI.)

Han gick på KTH.

(He went to/studied at KTH.)

Note that there is an exception to this rule: i skolan. It does happen though that people say “på skolan” in spoken Swedish.

-commercial facilities and public offices

Anna letade julklappar på NK hela dagen.

(Anna were Christmas shopping at NK all day.)

Sedan var hon på banken, på Systembolaget och på Skatteverket.

(Then she were at/went to the bank, Systembolaget and Skatteverket.)

Förra veckan låg Anders på sjukhus.

(Anders was hospitalized last week.)

-public transportation

Alla är tysta på bussen.

(Everyone is quiet when on the bus.)

– parties and entertainment

Det är kul att gå på bio.

(It’s fun to go to the movies.)

Vill du följa med på fest?

(Do you want to come to a party with me?)

På vintern träffas svenskar gärna på kafé.

(Swedes love meet up at a café in the winter time.)

-courses an meetings

Jag ska gå på ett möte så jag kan inte ha telefonen på.

(I’m going to be in a meeting so I can’t have my phone turned on.)

Note that we still say “i affären” (in the store).

– time off

Klockan 10 går alla på kafferast.

(At 10 o’clock everyone takes a coffee break.)

I juli är all personal på semester.

(In July the whole staff is on vacation.)

“På” is also used when expressing negative feelings:

arg på

(angry about/angry with)

förbannad på

(furious about)

galen på

(mad about)

irriterad på

(annoyed with/at)

besviken på

(disappointed at)

trött på

(tired of/sick of)

We also use “på” when talking about what we can do with our five senses:

Lars tittar på TV.

(Lars is watching TV.)

Lyssna på mig!

(Listen to me!)

Kom och lukta på blommorna.

(Come here and smell the flowers.)

Vill du smaka på kakan som jag har bakat?

(Do you want to try/taste the cake I have made?)

Känn på kattens mjuka päls.

(Touch (and feel) what a soft fur this cat has.)

There are of course many many more situations when you should use “på” , but the list above should at least get you started on using it. Good luck and look out for the upcoming post about “i”.

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Word order, part 1

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

One of my readers have challenged me with a question about word order:

“I know word order might be boring… but I cannot find anywhere an easy to understand explanation or chart…

Not just huvudsats, but I mean word order in a sentence when it starts with a question or bisats ord and combinations…and then of course the word order changes… but when does it change and why does it change.”

Word order is a quite complex thing, so I will write several posts about this to guide you through step by step.

We will start with word order, or sentence structure if you prefer, in main clauses (in Swedish “huvudsats”). But, what is a main clause then? It is so to speak a complete or independent sentence. We have four types of main clauses:

1. Statements

På söndagar går jag och fikar med mina kompisar.

(On Sundays I meet my friends for coffee.)

2. Questions beginning with a question word

När kommer du hem?

(When are you coming home?)

3. Questions beginning with a verb – yes/no-questions

Kommer du på mötet i morgon?

(Are you coming to the meeting tomorrow?)

Kan du komma på mötet i morgon?

(Can you come to the meeting tomorrow?)

4. Requests and orders

Öppna fönstret, är du snäll!

(Open the window, please!)

So now when we now what a main clause (huvudsats) is, we are going to see how it can be constructed. A main clause an be very simple or very complex, we will here start with a simple one and step by step add more parts.

Hon äter.

(She is eating/she eats.)

This is the most simple way to construct a sentence in Swedish, first comes the subject and after that a verb in present tense.  Now we can add another part – an object – to our sentence:

Hon äter glass.

(She is eating/eats ice cream.)

Now, let’s ad a word for place:

Hon äter glass i parken.

(She is eating/eats ice cream in the park.)

And why not have an expression for time as well:

Hon äter glass i parken på sommaren.

(She eats ice cream in the park in the summertime.)

And a sentence adverbial:

Hon äter alltid glass i parken på sommaren.

Our main clause construction now looks like this:

subject + verb + sentence adverbial + object + place + time

We can also if we want put the object, the place or the time in first position:

Glass äter hon alltid i parken.


I parken äter hon alltid glass.


På sommaren äter hon alltid glass.

As you can see, and as many of you probably heard before, the verb stays in its place even if we change the word/words in first position. In a Swedish grammar mind (if there is such a thing 😉 ) the first spot of the main clause is considered “the base” and we are free to place almost whatever we want there, but we have to keep the verb (verb in present or simple past) in the second spot. If we follow English word order and say

“På sommaren, hon äter alltid glass.”

it sounds like “the summer” and “she always eats ice cream” are two separate things, like if they had nothing to do with each other. It almost sounds like you start saying one sentence and then start over with another one.

Questions starting with a question word actually follows the same pattern as the statements:

Vad äter du?

For English speaking people it might be interesting to look at the fact that Swedish does not have a do/does-construction for questions. So, the question above actually translates to “What eat you?”. The question word is in position number 1, it is our base, the verb comes second and, since we don’t have the subject in position one it ends up after the verb. If we construct a yes/no-question there are two ways to look at it.

Äter du glass?

Either you could consider the first spot empty:

base         verb        subject    object

Äter       du              glass?

Or you could look at it as if you had just switched spots with the statement:

Du äter glass.

Äter du glass?

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, word order is a very complex thing so I will continue with the subject in later post.

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Sunday, March 14th, 2010

” Now I know why Swedes don’t talk so much!” That’s what one of my previous students said after about one hour of pronunciation practice. We had just gone through all the 9 long vowels sounds and he had cramp in his face.

When it comes to pronunciation I want to encourage you by telling you that it takes a lot of work to reach a good level. I usually compare it to other physical exercise – I mean if you start with figure skating today, you would probably not be ready for the Olympics tomorrow. And even if you theoretically understood how to make the the quadruples and the triple toe loops, you still would be a little shaky on your skates. Right? So, don’t be too hard on yourselves in the beginning, practice makes perfect :)

There will never be any exact rules when it comes to the spoken part of a language. There are so many factors that have an effect on how we talk. Is the person speaking a man or a woman? Is the person young or old? Does he/she live in Skåne, Göteborg, Umeå, Uppsala, Linköping…? An /ö/ pronounced by a young woman in Norrköping most likely sound very different from an /ö/ pronounced by an old man in Kiruna. So, don’t get frustrated because your teacher sounds different from the language course tape or from your wife 😉 because we can count to 20+ different vowels sounds in the Swedish language.

I am going to try my best to give you some guidelines about the vowels, and I will focus on the so called long ones. In my opinion it is not much gained talking about short vowels, because if you stretch the consonant in a stressed syllable the vowel will more or less automatically become short. Other teachers might say something else, but this is the approach that has worked out best for me and most of the students I have taught so far.

There are three things you need to do to produce the different vowels :

1. Put your tongue in the right position. Say /a/ and try to feel where the tip of your tongue. Now say /i/ (Swedish i) and try to feel where your tongue is.

2. Open or close your mouth. When we say /a/, /ä/ or /ö/ your mouth is supposed to be wide open. When we say /i/ it is more or less closed and the air is pushed out through your nose.

3. Shape your lips correctly. When we say /o/, /u/ or /y/ your lips are round. Otherwise an /y/ is not an /y/ but an /i/.


A long (stressed) /a/ is produced very far back in your mouth. You press your tongue down towards the bottom of your mouth. Your lips are round and should have long shape. One should not see your teeth when you say /a/.

A short or unstressed /a/ sounds more or less the same. An /a/ in an unstressed syllable is not as loud as a short /a/ in a stressed syllable.


If we lift our tongue just a little bit from /a/ and at the same time close our mouth a little, so that it stays about half-open we will produce a long /å/. /a/ and /å/ are very close to each other in your mouth and therefore get confused. I’ve had students who spelled my name “Såra”. Letter I long is clear. The long /å/ can be compared to the English /aw/, but not to the English /oe/ since the /oe/ consists of two vowel sounds which /å/ doesn’t.


We lift our tongue even more (still far back in our mouth) and form a very round and very small mouth – shaped just like the letter “o”. The long Swedish /o/ can be compared to the English /oo/ as in cool. It can not be compared to the /o/ in “book”, “book” sounds more like the short Swedish /o/ as in “bott”. Note that the letter “o” sometimes is pronounced /o/ as and sometimes /å/. I have searched through a lot of material for a rule, but have so far not found any.


If we relax as much as we can, let our tongue just rest in the middle of our mouth and push the underlip slightly forward we get a /u/. Many are the students who try to hard and get to tensed in their face muscles when they try to produce /u/. You will get the best result if you try to relax. Have you ever seen a grumpy child? That’s the underlip you should have when you make /u/! Or you can pretend that you’re blowing out a candle. Don’t whistle, it’s only the underlip that is supposed to be pushed out, keep the upper lip still.  /u/ is quite unique for Swedish and does not really have an equivalent sound in English.


If we move forward with the tip of our tongue, and let the sides of our tongue touch the teeth in the upper jaw, we can produce a Swedish /i/. The Swedish /i/ can be compared to English /ee/ , but it is produced even further up in your mouth and is more nasal that English /ee/. You also need to spread your lips more for Swedish /i/. Show all your teeth 😀


It is very important to differentiate /i/ from /y/. For instance, the word “bi” means “bee”, but the word “by” means “village”.

The position of your tongue is the same as when saying /i/, but when you say /y/ you got to have rounded lips. You have to lift your upper lip a little. It takes a little bit of practice, so before you get the hang of it you can try to squeeze a pen between your nose and your upper lip. Does the pen stay? Good, then you have made an /y/. If you don’t have a pen close you can always use your finger. Does your lip touch your finger? Good! You have made an /y/ 😉


The tongue is still in the front of our mouth but the mouth is semi open. There are many variations of /e/ in different dialects, so don’t be surprised if a Stockholmer’s /e/ is different from a Malmöit’s.


We get an /ä/ if we keep our tongue kind of in the front of our mouth and open even more in comparison to /e/. Your mouth should be about as open as if you were about to eat something. It is actually even more open in certain dialects – Värmländska for example, ans also in the Uppland area when followed by an /r/.


The ninth and last vowel is /ö/. Again it is time to relax, let your tongue rest in the bottom of your mouth and make a big round open lip. You can compare the sound to the American /er/ as in “her”, only without the /r/ sound. Just like /ä/, /ö/ is pronounced more or less open depending on your dialect.

OK, now I have face cramps. How about you?

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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På lördag? I lördags? What’s the difference?

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Thank you everyone for posting questions! I will start answering the one about expressions for time:

“I spend a lot of time sorting out time – not clock time – but things like next Sunday, last Sunday, on Sunday, every Sunday, etc. And of course, tomorrow, the day before yesterday, etc.”

This is actually a very interesting subject, the expressions for time might seem easy when you first hear about them, but it takes a lot of practice to get them right.

1. Past time

i går – yesterday

Use it with simple past tense or pluperfect:

Jag arbetade igår.

(I worked yesterday.)

När jag hade kommit hem igår ringde telefonen.

(Yesterday when I had got home the phone rang.)

i förrgår the day before yesterday

Note that we don’t say “i förre går” or something like that, “förrgår” is one word. Use it with past tense:

Det regnade både i förrgår och i går, men i dag skiner solen.

(It was raining both the day before yesterday and today, but today the sun is out.)

i måndags last Monday

It is very important to get that -s in the end, since that is the signal that we are talking about the past. If you say “i måndag” the listener gets confused wether you are talking about “i måndags” or “på måndag” (on Monday does not have an -s). An example:

Jag åkte till Stockholm i måndags.

(I went to Stockholm last Monday.)

i morse this morning

Remember to articulate the whole word, don’t say /imosh/ without the -e in the end.

Jag åkte till jobbet klockan 8 i morse.

(I went to work at 8 o’clock this morning.)

i natt last night as in nighttime

For last night as in “evening” you should say i går kväll. This could also mean “tonight” so you have to show with the correct tense (preteritum) that you are talking about past time.

Jag kunde inte sova i natt.

(I couldn’t sleep last night.)

I natt ska jag hålla mig vaken och titta på vinter-OS.

(Tonight I’m going to stay up and watch the winter Olympics.)

Jag var på bio i går kväll.

( I went to the movies last night.)

i januari – in January

This could also mean January coming up, so again, make sure that you use the correct tense. If we talk about January last year, we would express it as i januari förra året.

I januari var det snökaos i hela Sverige.

(In January it was snow chaos all over Sweden.)

i somras – last summer

This is another one that requires an -s to be understood. In case it is summer at the time we are speaking we would rather use the expression förra sommaren for talking about the summer last year.

I somras hyrde vi en stuga på västkusten.

(Last summer we rented a cottage on the west coast.)

förra veckan last week

You can also combine förra with året, våren, gången etc etc. Note that you need to use the definite form in Swedish, you actually say “the last week”.

Jag köpte nya möbler på IKEA förra veckan.

(I bought some new furniture at IKEA last week.)

för två år sedantwo years ago

It is extremely important that you say both för and sedan. If you happen to say “för två år” the listener might think that you are trying to say “for two years”, which in Swedish is “i två år”. If you are saying “två år sedan” the listener might think that you are trying to say “since two years”, which is “sedan två år” in Swedish. Again, using the correct tense also helps you out.

Jag flyttade till Sverige för två år sedan.

(I moved to Sweden two years ago.)

2.Present time

i dag today

Use it with present, perfect or future tense for different meanings.

I dag börjar jag jobba klockan åtta.

(Today I start working at eight o’clock.)

I dag har jag ätit pasta till lunch.

(Today I’ve had pasta for lunch.)

I dag ska jag sitta i ett möte.

(Today I will be in a meeting.)

i  kväll tonight

Can be used for present time and future.

I kväll är det Let’s Dance på TV.

(Tonight Let’s Dance is on.)

Såg du Let’s Dance i kväll?

(Did you watch Let’s Dance tonight?)

i sommar this summer

Means this summer as in present time and in the summer coming up. We can also say “nästa sommar” (next summer) if we are talking about the following summer or summer next year.

I sommar ska jag vandra i fjällen.

(This summer  I’m going hiking in the mountains.)

Det är varmt i sommar.

(It is warm this summer.)

på sommaren/på somrarna/varje sommar – “in the summer” or “every summer”

Use this when you want to express something that happens every summer. For being extra clear it is better to use the “på somrarna” version or “varje sommar”. Use them all with present tense.

På sommaren är alla barn lediga från skolan.

(In the summer all children are out of school.)

På somrarna äter svenskar mer glass än vanligt.

(In the summer Swedes eat more ice cream than they normally do.)

på lördagar/på lördagarna/varje lördag – on Saturdays/every Saturday. Same story as with the seasons.

3. The future

i morgon tomorrow

Should be written separately even though it sounds like one word when spoken. Sounds like “imorron”.

Det är torsdag i morgon.

(It’s Thursday tomorrow.)

i morgon bitti tomorrow morning

Jag börjar jobba tidigt i morgon bitti.

(I start working early tomorrow morning.)

i övermorgon the day after tomorrow

This expression is used quite a lot. Let’s say it is Monday today, then I would rather use “i övermorgon” when I’m talking about Wednesday, instead of saying “på onsdag”. Using “på onsdag” in such a situation might make the listener think that you are talking about Wednesday next week.

– Börjar kursen i morgon?

– Nej, den börjar på onsdag.

– Menar du onsdag nästa vecka?

-Nej, jag menar i övermorgon.

(-Does the course start tomorrow? – No, it starts on Wednesday. – Do you mean Wednesday next week? No, I mean the day after tomorrow.)

på lördag on Saturday.

Note that there isn’t any -s on this one.

Vill du gå och ta en öl på lördag?

(Do you want to go out for a beer on Saturday?)

nästa vecka – next week

Jag kommer att vara bortrest nästa vecka.

(I will be out of town next week.)

om två månader in two months

This is different from English and it is common to make a mistake. If you say “i två år” it means “for two years”, so it is important to separate these two.

Om månader måste man ha deklarerat.

(In two months from you must have filed your taxes.)

4. How often?

om dagen/per dag a day/per day. You could use any of these, although “om dagen” is more common in spoken Swedish and sounds less formal. Note that you need to use the definite form “dagen” after “om”.

Jag dricker två koppar kaffe om dagen.

( I drink two cups of coffee a day.)

Jag dricker två koppar kaffe per dag.

(I drink two cups of coffee per day.)

om året/per år a year/per year

Jag går till frisören tre gånger om året.

( I get a haircut three times a year.)

Jag går till frisören tre gånger per år.

(I get a haircut three times per year.)

i veckan/ per vecka a week/per week. For “veckan”, “timmen”, “minuten” and “sekunden” we use “i” instead of “om”. Still definite form.

i timmen/per timme an hour/per hour

i minuten /per minut a minute/per minute

i sekunden/per sekund a second/per second

5. For how long?

i 10 minuter for 10 minutes. English “in 10 minutes” is “om 10 minuter” in Swedish.

Hon duschade i tio minuter.

(She was in the shower for ten minutes.)

en stund, ett tag for a while

Not a specific length of time, although ett tag can be used for both longer periods of time such as a couple of months, while en stund is not used if we’re talking about more than an hour.

Vänta här en stund.

(Wait here for a while.)

Jag bodde utomlands ett tag.

(I lived abroad for a while.)

inte på … not in...

This one is worth noticing. If we have not done something for a period of time, we have to say “inte på” instead of “inte i”.

Jag har inte studerat svenska på länge.

(I haven’t studied Swedish for a long time.)


The little “s” is important, without it we get the meaning “to” (till).

Vänta där tills jag kommer.

(Wait there till I get there.)

inte förrän not until

I Sverige får man inte handla på Systembolaget förrän man är 20 år.

(In Sweden you’re not allowed to shop at Systembolaget until you’re 20 years old.)


Use this expression with perfect tense:

Carl Gustaf har varit kung sedan 1973.

(Carl Gustaf has been king since 1973.)

Phew, that was a lot of writing. Let me know if I left anything out! :)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Challenge The Swedish Teacher

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Being a teacher you often follow a standard structure and in class you talk about the word order, the plural endings, the indefinite and definite forms. the different tenses and then you talk about the word order again 😉 In a big group there is unfortunately not much time for individual questions, questions that everyone in the class would learn a lot from.

So now I want to know what questions you have! Challenge The Swedish Teacher!

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When to use “till”

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Prepositions  (on, at, in, to) is something that is always hard to master when you are speaking a foreign language. But with a lot of attention to native speakers and a lot of practice, you will one day get that feeling for what preoposition to use. I would say that the correct usage of prepositions comes when you start think more in the foreign language and translate less from your mother tounge.  But maybe you are not quite there yet, so I’m going to help you out with a preposition that sometimes causes confusion – till.

First of all we will use till when we are talking about direction. A couple of examples:

Jag ska flytta till en ny lägenhet.

(I am moving to a new apartment.)

Jag brukar cykla till jobbet.

(I usually ride my bike to work.)


We will also use till when we are talking about direction in a more abstract sense, you are so to speak moving closer to the target (in this case the course):

Jag har anmält mig till en kurs i svenska.

(I have applied for a Swedish language course.)


Jag sparar pengar till en resa.

(I’m saving money for a trip.)

We also use till when our action involves some kind of change:

Jag vill byta till en större lägenhet.

(I want to change for a bigger apartment.)

Anders utbildar sig till läkare.

(Anders is studying to become a doctor.)


Another situation when using till is when you are sending or giving something away:

Vad ska du ge till Pelle på hans födelsedag?

(What are you going to give Pelle for his birthday?)

Säg ingenting till någon.

(Don’t tell anyone.)

Pelle, jag har en present till dig.

(Pelle, I have a present for you.)


We use till when describing different types of usage:


Vad använder du den här till?

(What do you use this one for?)

Jag tror att pengarna räcker till hyra och mat.

(I think I have enough money for my rent and for food.)

For any accessories, attachments and side dishes (all these things are just calles “tillbehör” in Swedish):

Kan jag få mjölk till kaffet?

(Can I have some milk with my coffee?)

Jag kan inte hitta locket till burken.

(I can’t find the lid for this jar.)

Vilket vin passar till fisken?

(What wine goes with the fish?)

Jag bor i en förort till Stockholm.

(I live in a suburb of Stockholm.)

I hope I haven’t made you even more confused now. Don’t be afraid to post questions if something is unclear. Keep on learning!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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