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Archive for June, 2010

Nog, väl and ju

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Hej alla!

It took me a while but finally I will try to explain how to use small words with big meaning – nog, väl and ju. A reader brought up the subject with the following question:

” Hi,

Just had a lesson on how to use Nog, Väl and Ju, but my teacher was no very clear on what is the meaning of them. She said it was impossible to translate them directly to Swedish. Nevertheless, I believe there should be some kind of rule or at lest trend, rather than just doing it by “feeling” as my teacher said.

First of all nog, väl, and ju are all so called satsadverb (sentence adverbials). Those of you who have read previous posts about word order and adverbials, know that a satsadverbial is a word that changes or specifies the meaning of the whole clause or sentence. Examples of satsadverb that might be more familiar to you are inte (not), kanske (maybe) and bara (only).


“Nog” is a troublesome little word since it has several different meanings and can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted, even by native speakers I dare to say. Myself I really had to think hard what nog really means in different examples. That might be an explanation to why teachers often say that it is a question of “feeling for it”.

I would say that a translation of “nog” goes from the weaker förmodligenprobably to the stronger visserligen – to be sure, it is true:

förmodligenprobably weak

säkerligen – no doubt, doubtless

helt säkert – certainly

visserligen  – to be sure, it is true strong

Here are a few examples of how “nog” can be used:

Det blir nog sent i kväll.

(It will probably be late tonight. I will probably come home late tonight.)

In this case “nog” has the weaker meaning as in “I’m not sure, but probably”.

Det ska du nog inte räkna med.

(I wouldn’t count on it.)

Here the speaker is not 100% sure, but pretty close. I would say that the “nog” in this sentence means that the speaker has some doubts, but is more sure than if using “probably”.

Det ordnar sig nog.

(It will be alright, for sure.)

This should not be interpreted as “It will probably be alright”, which would be a strange thing to say I guess, not that encouraging 😉 In this case “nog” means “I’m sure of it”.


Väl is a sentence adverbial that makes the sentence end up somewhat in between a statement and a question. I’ve had many students during the years being very frustrated over this. They ask me:  “Is it a question or not? I want to know!” And all I can answer is: “Well, it is sort of a question, but still not quite.” :)

Stäng fönstret!

(Close the window!)

This is a command. You will go and close the window.

Du kan väl stänga fönstret.

(Why don’t you close the window.)

This is a little softer, rather an expectation or a wish than a command.

Kan du stänga fönstret?

(Can you close the window?)

This is, as you can see, a plain question.

Here are a few more examples with “väl”:

Det är väl inte hela världen.

(That’s not the end of the world, is it?)

“Väl” here corresponds with the “is its?”

Nu ska det väl  snart sluta regna.

(It should stop raining soon, shouldn’t it?)

Det vore väl underbart om …

(Wouldn’t it be wonderful if…)

One thing that can be tricky with “väl” is that it is used when the speaker want to request something or give you an order so to speak, but still want to be polite. So the order can be mistaken for a question. This way of using “väl” is common in a work situation or in school. At work for example, your boss might say :

Du kan väl skriva klart den där rapporten till på måndag morgon.

This is a polite way to say “Finish this report, I want it in Monday morning.”

Your teacher might say:

Ni kan väl titta på den här artikeln till i morgon.

What the teacher really means is “Read this article for tomorrow.”


The turn has come to “ju”. As I explained in a previous post, “ju” expresses something like “as you know” or “I know that you know”. Actually it is used a lot when the speaker thinks that the listener should know better. Some examples:

Va?! Köpte du en sprillans ny BMW? De kostar ju en hel förmögenhet.

(What?! Did you buy a brand new BMW? You know they cost a whole fortune.)

– Du tog väl med dig ett paraply?

(You brought an umbrella, didn’t you?)

– Nej.


– Men, jag sa ju att det skulle bli regn.

(But I told you it was going to rain.)

– Vill du ha en cigarrett?

(Do you want a cigarette?)

Nej, jag har ju slutat röka.

(No, I told you I’ve quit smoking.)

Phew, this was a tough one! I hope a have clarified something for you. Please post questions if you have any!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Quiz on colours

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

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-t or no -t? Adjectives and adverbials

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

There are many things in the Swedish language that can give you a grey hair or two, and when to put a -t on a word (eg “snabbt”) and when not to (eg “snabb”) sure is one of them. In this post I will try my best to sort this out for you all.


First of all there is something called an adjective. An adjective is, as you might already know, a grammar term for a word that describes or gives character to a noun. Like this:

Anna har en snäll hund.

(Anna has a friendly dog.)

In this example “snäll” is the adjective, it gives extra information about the noun (hund).

In Swedish there has to be so called “kongruens” or “likformighet” (congruity) between the noun and the adjective. That means that if the noun has the en-gender, the adjective stays in its base form, but if the noun has the ett-gender we have to ad a -t to the adjective. Here is a couple of examples:

en stor bil

(a big car)

ett stort hus

(a big house)

en dyr bil

(an expensive car)

ett dyrt hus

(an expensive house)

Also, if the noun is in plural form the adjective has to change into plural form as well:

dyra bilar

(expensive cars)

dyra hus

(expensive houses)


There are many words in a language that can fit in the category adverbials. Sometimes it almost feels like that “adverbial” is what you call something when you can’t sort it in under anything else 😉 I will go through the different type of adverbials one by one.

Frågande adverb (question adverbials)

The question adverbials are simply these words:

När (when)

Var (where)

Vart (where to)

Varifrån (where from)

Hur (how)

Varför (why)

Tidsadverb (time adverbials)

Time adverbial is a grammar term for what I usually call “time expressions”. The can in one or several words express the past, the present or the future. For example:

i går (yesterday)

häromdagen (the other day)

i dag (today)

i morgon (tomorrow)

snart (soon)

Rumsadverb (adverbial of place)

In class I usually simplify things and call these adverbials “place” or plats in Swedish. Common adverbials of place are:

här (here)

härifrån (from here)

där (there)

därifrån (from there)

hemma (at home)

hemfrån (from home)

Satsadverb (sentence adverbials)

The sentence adverbials are, as I have mentioned in a previous post, small words that change the whole meaning of a sentence. Here are a few examples of sentence adverbials:

inte (not)

bara (only)

nog (probably)

tyvärr (unfortunately)

kanske (maybe)

Sättsadverb (adverbials of manner)

Last but not least there are sättsadverb- adverbials of manner. These can easily be and often are mistaken for being adjectives. Although, when an adjective describes a noun a sättsadverb describes a verb – an action. It tells you how something is done. Take a look at this:

Han kör försiktigt.

(He drives carefully.)

Hon lär sig snabbt.

(She learns quickly.)

Han springer långsamt.

(He is running slowly.)

As you might have noticed already all the adverbials of manner has a -t. This t-ending is often confused for being a reference to a ett-word, but it is comparable to the English ly-ending as in quickly, slowly and carefully. Let us compare a couple of sentences to make this even more clear:

X2000 är ett snabbt tåg.

(X2000 is a fast train.)

X2000 åker snabbt.

(X2000 runs fast/quickly.)

Anders är försiktig.

(Anders is careful.)

Anders cyklar försiktigt.

(Anders rides his bike carefully.)

It might also be worth to know that since the sättsadverb says something about the verb, the action, it doesn’t change no matter what gender and number the noun has:

Anders kör sin bil försiktigt.

(Anders drives his car carefully.)

Anders kör sina bilar försiktigt.

(Anders drives his cars carfully.)

There are also a few sättsadverb that does not have a -t. A few of these are:

bra (well)

illa (badly)

sakta (slowly)

noga (precisely, carefully, closely)

annorlunda (otherwise)

All right, I hope I have straightened some things out for you when it comes to -t or no -t on words. :)

‘Til next time!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Gånger, timmar, tid och dags

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Hej igen!

I hope everyone is having a great summer so far. Time has come to answer the question about  different phrases for English “time”. The question is:

“Hi hi,

Could you have a section explaining the different phrases for time? I’ve notice that in english we have “time”. . and in Swedish there’s , gång, timmer, dags, tid. . . so on. I feel like there might be more. But can you explain the different situations each word is used?”

en gång, många gånger

Let me beging with gång and gånger. Gånger is the type of time/times that we can count, we talk about one time, two times, three times and so on. I’ll show you what I mean with an example:

– Hur många gånger har du varit i Stockholm?

(How many times have you been to Stockholm?)

En gång.

(Once/One time.)

Jaha. Jag har varit där två gånger.

(I see. I’ve been there twice/two times.)

Not surprisingly we also use gånger when multiplying:

Vad är 5 gånger 5?

(What is 5 times 5?)

You can also find gång and gånger in some common phrases:

gång på gång

(time after time/over and over again)

Han misslyckades med provet gång på gång.

(He failed his test over and over again.)

på samma gång

(at the same time)

I Kalifornien får man inte köra bil och prata i mobiltelefon på samma gång.

(In California you are not allowed to drive and talk on the phone at the same time.)

för en gångs skull

(for once)

I kväll ska jag titta på fotboll för en gångs skull.

(Tonight I’m going to watch football (soccer ;-)) for once)

Det var en gång…

(Once upon a time…)

Det var en gång en liten flicka…

(Once upon a time there was a little girl..)

en timme, många timmar

A  word that is ofte mistaken for meaning “rime” is timme, probably because the two words look alike, but en timme, timmar simply means hour/hours. The correct written form is “timme” but in spoken Swedish it isn’t uncommon that timme is pronunced “timma”. A couple of examples using timme/timmar:

Hur lång tid tar det att åka från Uppsala till Västerås?

(How long does it take to travel from Uppsala to Västerås?)

-Ungefär en timme.

(About an hour)

Jag satt och väntade på akuten i flera timmar.

(I was waiting in the emergency room for several hours.)


Tid is time as in a period of time and is not countable. Examples:

– Hur lång tid tog det?

(How long did it take?)

Det tog bara 10 minuter.

(It only took 10 minutes.)

Tid is also often used when referring to a longer period of time, maybe several years or even longer.

Vi har haft en rolig tid tillsammans.

(We have had a good time together.)

– Ja, vi har känt varandra i 20 år nu.

(Yes, we have known each other for 20 years now.)

Therefore you shouldn’t really say:

Hade du en rolig tid i Stockholm på din semester?

Semester (vacation) is too short to be referred to as “tid“. To express “Did you have a good time in Stockholm?” you should simply say “Hade du roligt i Stockholm?” and completely leave out the word “time”.


Last but not least there is dags. Dags means time as in it is the right time to do something. Examples:

Det är dags att gå nu.

(It is time to leave now.)

Stäng av TV:n nu, det är lägg-dags.

(Turn off the TV now, it is bed-time.)

You can also talk about lunch-dags, kaffe-dags, middags-dags, städ-dags and other everyday activities.

Hur dags? means at what time, or simply when. In Swedish it can be replaced by “när”.

Hur dags börjar filmen?/När börjar filmen?

(At what time does the movie start?/When does the movie start?)

Thank you for reading and don’t forget to take my new quiz on Swedish plural forms:

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Quiz on common verbs

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

A new quiz is waiting for you. This time on common verbs.
Sara the Swedish Teacher

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