The Swedish Teacher

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Archive for October, 2010

Indefinite and definite form. Article or no article?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010


In this post I will try my best to answer a question from Cecile:

“When do you use a preposition before your nouns? Specifically en or ett. Because in English you always use a this, or a that, or at least the before an object […] What are the rules for that in Swedish?”

What I think Cecile is asking about here is actually when to use indefinte form or definite form of the noun, and when to use a indefiite/definte article. “This” and “that” are pronouns that I will deal with in a later post since I have another question about that on my list.

To use the right form of the noun (indefinite or definite) is, next to word order, one of the more important things when it comes to the Swedish language. It is not so hard to master if you speak English, Spanish or German, but the whole thing is a lot more vague if you speak Russian or Finnish.

The form of the noun (the person, the book, the buss, the desease, the job etc) is detrmined by if it is new or old information to you or to the person you are talking to.

We use indefinite form (obestämd form) of the noun:

* when we are introducing new information, we have not talked about it before. The listener does not know exactly who or what we are talking about. The information can of course also be new to the person who is talking. Here are a couple of exmples:

Kalle: Var bor du?

(Where do you live?)

Olle: I en lägenhet på Storgatan.

(In an apartment on Storgatan.)

Here the speaker use indefinte form (en lägenhet) since it is the first time he/she is mentioning this apartment. When you use the indefinite form you are in most cases also supposed to use a indefinite article (obestämd artikel), better known as “en” or “ett”. We also use the indefinite form after many other words:

någon, något, några (some/any)

Vet du om det ligger någon bra restaurang i närheten?

(Do you know if there is any good restaurant in this area?)

ingen, inget, inga (no)

Nej, det finns inga bra restauranger här i Askersund.

(No, there are no good/there are not any good restaurants here in Askersund.)

annan, annat, andra (other, another)

Då måste vi åka till en annan stad. Hur långt är det till Örebro?

(The we will have to go to another town. How far away is Örebro?)

varje/var, varje/vart

Anders åker till Stockholm varje vecka.

(Anders goes to Stockholm every week.)

vilken, vilket, vilka (literally translates to “which”, but in English constructions it is common with “what”)

– Vilket är ditt favoritprogram på TV?

(What is your favorite TV-show?)

“Bonde söker fru”! Jag sitter som klistrad vid TV:n varje onsdag.

(“Bacherlor farmers”! I’m glued to the TV every Wednesday.)

sådan, sådant, sådana (such a, one like this)

Jag vill ha en sådan, en sådan och en sådan! sa Anna till sin pappa och pekade i leksakskatalogen.

(“I want one like this, one like this and one like this!”Anna said and showed showed her father the toystore catalog.)

samma (the same, of the same kind)

De är födda på samma dag och går i samma skola.

(They were born on the same day and go to the same school.)

possessiva pronomen (possessive pronouns)

Kan jag få din email-adress?

(Can I have your email address?)


Kalles pappa bor i Östersund.

(Kalle’s father lives in Östersund.)


Nästa sommar ska jag åka till Sverige.

(Next summer I will go to Sweden.)

So far so good, but as some of you readers have already discovered you sometimes use the indefinite form of nouns without an article (en, ett, flera or många)! I think the best way to explain that is that you in these situations rather are referring to the activity than the location. A few examples hopefully clarify what I am trying to say:

Jag ska gå på fest på lördag.

(I am going to a party on Saturday.)

In this example the fact that I’m going is more important than the party itself. Therefore I use “fest” without “en”. If I say:

Jag ska gå på en fest på lördag.

the party itself is more interesting than the fact that I’m going. More examples with nound without article:

going to concerts, visiting museums

går på museum

(visiting a museum)

musical instruments

spelar piano

(plays the piano)

spelar trumpet

(plays the trumpet)


är lärare

(is a teacher)

är läkare

(is a doctor)

diseases, medical condiotions

har huvudvärk

(has a headache)

ha influensa

(has the flu)

But hey, it is not over yet! If we throw in a description, an adjectice, to the noun we all of a sudden need to ad the article (en or ett). Like this:

Jag har huvudvärk idag.

(I have a headache today.)

Compare that to:

Jag har en fruktansvärd huvudvärk idag.

(I have a terrible headache today.)


Jag ska gå på museum i London.

(I am going to visit a museum in London.)

compared to:

Jag ska gå på ett berömt museum i London.)

(I am going to visit a famous museum in London.)

Anders är lärare.

(Anders is a teacher.)

compared to:

Anders är en mycket kompetent lärare.

(Anders is a very competent teacher.)

The definite form (bestämd form) we use when the person listening to us knows what person or thing we are talking about. An example:

Anders är lärare. Klassen är stor men barnen är snälla.

(Anders is a teacher. The class is big but the children are nice.)

Since we know that Anders is a teacher, we must say “the class” and “the children” since we know that teachers have classes and children in the classes.

Other good examples of the definite form are streetnames, hospitals, governmental offices and state owned liquor stores:


(The queen’s street)


(the tax bureau)


(the immigration bureau )


(the customs)


(the state owned liquor store in Sweden)

In Swedish we also use definite form when talking about body parts, our own or others:

Jag har ont i ryggen.

(My back hurts.)

So you can see here that in Swedish you are literally saying “the back hurts”. Another example:

Lisa bröt benet när hon åkte snowboard.

(Lisa broke her leg went she went snowboarding.)

Same thing here, Lisa breaking “the leg” means it is “her leg”, although that isn’t really said.

Also when it comes to definite form there are certain words after which we just have to use definite form:


Annika har två barn. Båda barnen går i skolan.

(Annika has two children. Both her children go to school.)


När jag hade ätit halva pizzan var jag jättemätt.

(When I had finished half the pizza I was really full.)


Jag orkade inte äta upp hela pizzan.

(I couldn’t manage to finish the whole pizza.)


Förra veckan var det varmt i Kalifornien, men den här veckan det svalare.

(Last week it was warm in California, but this week it is cooler.)


Första tåget till Stockholm går klockan 05.00.

(The first train to Stockholm leaves at 5 am.)


Sista tåget till Uppsala går kl 24.00.

(The last train to Uppsala leaves at midnight.)

I hope I have been able to clear things out in this matter! Please help me find out if I did by taking my quiz:

Test yourself!

Thank you everyone for reading the blog :-)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Åt, till eller för?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010


Carlos has a question about how and when to use the prepostions “åt”, “till” and “för” and today we are going to take a closer look at that. Here is the question:


I would appreciate if you would provide me with the use of these words: åt, till, för when meaning “for” and in other cases.”

I am not going to list all cases of when to use “till” and “för” since it would just be a very long list and in my opinion not so interesting reading. In this post I will rather focus on when to use åt/till for English “for” and when to use “för” for English “to”.


“Till” is often used when we have an addressee of some kind. In other words, we give, say, send, buy, sell etc something to (till) someone. We also turn to someone, speak to someone or wave to someone. In all these cases we would use “till” in Swedish. Take a look at some examples:

Vad ska du ge till Anna när hon fyller år?

(What are you giving Anna on her birthday?)

– Jag har köpt ett halsband till henne, men du får inte säga det till någon.

(I have bought a necklace for her, but you cannot tell anyone.)

So in Swedish, just like we are giving something to (till) Anna,  we are also buying something “to” (till) her and saying something “to” (till) someone. I like to think that just like the gift is handed over from me to Anna, when I say “köper till” (buy for) it is more focus on that the gift is going from point A (me) to point B (Anna). In English, it seems to me, that using “for” makes things focus more on the receiver of the gift – the gift is for her, while in Swedish there is more focus on the transaction of the gift – jag köper en present till henne. We would use “för” (for) in Swedish when we say something like “Det är bra för dig” (it is good for you).

More examples of using till:

Kan du skicka det här brevet till huvudkontoret?

(Could you send this letter to the main office?)

Jag ska skänka en del av mina kläder till Myrorna.

(I am going to donate some of my clothes to the Salvation Army.)

Det är telefon till Lasse!

(There is a phone call for Lasse.)


“Åt” can be used instead of “till” in some cases, but the meaning is slightly different. When we use “åt” instead of “till” it means that we are helping someone or doing someone a favor. Examples:

Kan du göra min läxa åt mig? Den är så tråkig.

(Can you do my homework for me? It is so boring.)

– Nej, den får du göra själv!

(No, you’ll have to do that yourself!)

Jag ska handla mat åt morfar. Han har brutit benet och kan inte gå till affären.

(I’m going grocery shopping for my grandfather. He broke his leg and can’t make it to the store.)


“För” is used with “berätta” (tell) and other verbs that in English would be combined with “to”. Yes, that is confusing and I guess we just have to live with it 😉 Here are some examples when you use “för” in Swedish and “to” or no preposition in English:

berätta för, tala om för


förklara för

(explain to)

visa för


läsa för



Carlos, who posted the question about this subject, also wrote some examples that he wanted me to explain. We will take a look at some of them here, and I’ll do my best to explain what to use.

English: He always cooks for me.


1. Han lagar alltid mat åt mig.

2. Han lagar alltid mat till mig.

In the first example with “åt” the cooking is considered being help or a favor – this person is not capable of cooking. About the second example with “till” I’m thinking that it is a child we are cooking for. The child wouldn’t normally cook for herself/himself, so it is not really a favor. Note that it is a very fine line in this example, and you don’t really go wrong saying that you cook “åt” your children.

English: I baked a cake for you.


1. Jag bakade en tårta till dig.

The cake is a gift and a surprise. You were not planning to bake yourself.

2. Jag bakade en tårta åt dig.

Baking the cake is a favor. You were planning to bake, but didn’t have time. In this case we could also say:

Jag bakade tårtan åt dig.

(I baked the cake for you.)

English: She cleaned the house for me.

Swedish: Hon städade huset åt mig.

Well, if it is your house it is absolutely a favor that she cleaned it 😉 so here we have to go for “åt”.

A little test on “till”, “för” and “åt” will be up soon, keep an eye out!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Vem är du?

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Hej igen!

I’ve been thinking :) It would be really fun for me to know a little more about my blog followers, so I’m inviting you to write a little presentation of yourself in the comment field. In Swedish of course! 😉

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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“Ska” or “kommer att” for future tense?

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Hej igen,

Today we will take a closer look on different ways of constructing/expressing future tense. Karen had the following question on that matter:

“I have a basic question:
Explain when you use “komma att ” and “ska”. I’m running along forever here using “ska” and realize suddenly everyone uses “komma att” this and that all the time( flew right over MY head!) There seem to be a million idiomatic phrases for “komma att”- help!”

In Swedish there is no specific ending that you ad to the verb to create future tense the same way as you ad for example -ade to create past tense. Although there are three different ways to express future tense and they are not always interchangable so we will take a closer look at the differences.

present tense + time adverbial

The most simple way to express future tense in Swedish is by using present tense and a time adverbial (time expression). Here is an example:

Katarina flyttar till London nästa vecka.

(Katarina is moving to London next week.)

ska + infinitive form of the verb

This is also common way to express future tense. “ska” translates to English “will” and should be followed by another verb, this one in infinitive form. So, no “åker” with “-er” after “ska”.

Vad ska du göra på lördag? Jag ska åka till Stockholm på lördag.

(What are you up to on Saturday? I will go to Stockholm on Saturday.)

Fredrik ska söka jobb på ABB.

(Fredrik will apply for a job at ABB.)

Hon ska sluta röka.

(She will quit smoking.)

So what is up with this “ska”? It is quite common for Swedish language learners to use “ska” a bit too much, just like the questioner recently realized she has been. Well, using “ska” not only means that something will happen in the future but also that this particular action is decided to happen. In other words someone has decided, promised, instructed or maybe even ordered what will happen. There is some sort of thinking and decisionmaking behind the future action.  We can look at the examples again:

Vad ska du göra på lördag? Jag ska åka till Stockholm på lördag.

Constructing the question and answer with “ska” gives us the undertone of that the person makes his/her own decision about the Saturday activities. To compare we can also put the question this way:

Vad gör du på lördag? Jag åker till Stockholm på lördag.

Here the subject of the sentence has slightly less power over the situation. It might be the case that someone else made the weekend plans this time. We can see this difference more clearly with the example about smoking:

Jag slutar röka nästa år.

Jag ska sluta röka nästa år.

There is nothing grammatically or vocabularily (?) wrong putting it like I do in the first sentence, but I would be a lot more convinced that the smoker actually will quit if he/she used the second sentence. The “ska” implies that the person really has made up his/her mind to quit smoking.

kommer att + infinitive form of the verb

Alright, what about “kommer att” then? As you might have figured out by now, “kommer att” does not imply that their is a mind, a decisionmaker behind the future action. No, “kommer att” expresses a prognosis or prediction, any development that we can’t have control with our minds like the weather or body functions. Hmm, I think we need some examples to make this clearer:

Det kommer att regna hela nästa vecka.

(It’s going to rain next week.)

It will rain wether we like or not, and the weatherman has no power over the forecast 😉

Du kommer att bli frisk om du tar antibiotika.

(You will get well if you take antibiotics.)

The doctor has no power over your body, he/she can only predict. The same thing goes for your parents:

Du kommer att vara jättetrött imorgon om du inte går och lägger dig nu!

(You will be very tired tomorrow if you don’t go to bed now!)

I hope this cleared things up! Why not test yourself with my quiz:

Lycka till!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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