The Swedish Teacher

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“Är” or “blir”?


During a lesson the other day my student asked me about when to use “är” and when to use “blir”. I thought this was a very interesting question so I wanted to share the answer with you all.

att bli – blir – blev – har blivit

This verb expresses a change of a condition or a turn in some way. The literal translation to English of “bli” is “get” or “become” but in some cases it makes more sense to use “make” as in “it makes me happy”.  We are going to take a look at some examples to see when to use “bli”.

Min cykel blev stulen när jag var på semster.

(My bike got stolen when I was on vacation./My bike was stolen when I was on vacation.)

In Swedish we have to use “blev” in this case since it expresses the transition from the bike not being stolen to it being stolen. If I said “min cykel var stulen när jag var på semester” it means that my bike was stolen only when I was gone but the thief got second thoughts and returned it.

Ta på dig regnjackan så att du inte blir blöt.

(Put a rain coat on so that you don’t get wet.)

This example is quite clear, the rain makes us wet  and we use “blir” to express that change.

Jag blev jätteglad för blommorna! Tack!

(The flowers made me really happy! Thank you!)

Since the flowers are the cause for the person being happy we use “blev”. Before receiving the flowers the person was not happy but now she (or he) is. The following day, if the person is still very happy over the flowers she/he would say:

Jag är jätteglad för blommorna. De är så fina!

(I am so happy over the flowers. They are so beautiful!)

Jag blir galen på den här trafiken!

(This traffic makes me crazy!)

I wasn’t upset before getting in to traffic, but now I am.

Lasse blev röd i ansiktet.

(Lasse turned red.)

Lasse probably got embarrassed or angry over something and therefore changed color. Compare to the following example:

– Varför är Lasses så röd i ansiktet?

(Why is Lasse’s face so red?)

Han har varit ute i solen hela dagen.

(He has been out in the sun all day.)

In this case Lasse will probably stay red for a while, it is more of a condition he is in rather than a quick change.

Ingvar har blivit rik på att sälja möbler.

(Ingvar became rich from selling furniture./Ingvar made a lot of money on selling furniture.)

Also here we are expressing a change, from not being rich to being rich, as well as how Ingvar made his money.

att vara – är – var – har varit

Just to compare “blir” to “är” I’m going to show a few more examples:

Min cykel är stulen så nu måste jag promenera till jobbet.

(My bike is stolen so now I have to walk to work.)

– Varför är du så blöt? – Det regnar ute.

(Why are you so wet? -It’s raining outside.)

Vad fina blommorna är! Tack!

(These flowers are so pretty! Thank you!)

Det är alltid mycket trafik i Los Angeles.

(It’s always a lot of traffic in Los Angeles.)

Ingvar är en av Sveriges rikaste män.

(Ingvar is one of the richest men in Sweden.)

Tack för idag!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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