The Swedish Teacher

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Do you ever get confused about the word ”om”? You’re not alone :) I often get questions about this little word with several different functions and meanings. As we soon will see, “om” can be used as a conjunction, a preposition or a particle in a particle verb (“partikelverb” in Swedish).

“Om” as a subjunction

Let us begin with when “om” is a subjunction, i.e. the linking word between a main clause (“huvudsats” in Swedish) and subordinate clause (“bisats” in Swedish). Our first example is a conditional clause:

Vi ska åka till stranden om det är fint väder.

(We will go to the beach, if the weather is good.)

It is also possible to place the subordinate clause first:

Om det är fint väder ska vi åka till stranden.

(If the weather is good, we will go to the beach.)

In more informal Swedish it is also common to replace ”om” with ”ifall”, which literally means ”in case”. Here’s an example with “ifall”:

Du måste ringa ifall du inte kan komma till jobbet.

(You have to call if/in case you can’t come to work.)

Another situation when we use “om” is in indirect questions. Also in this case “om” is a subjunction and can be translated to English “if”. Here’s a couple of examples:

Göran undrar om du vill komma till Göteborg nästa vecka.

(Göran is wondering if you want to come to Göteborg next week.)

Läkaren frågade Lena om hon hade slutat röka.

(The doctor asked Lena if she had quit smoking.)

”Om” as a preposition

As I mentioned earlier, “om” sometimes functions as a preposition. As you will see “om” is used in several situations, for example when we are going to do something r how often we do something:

Jag ska åka till Västerås om två veckor.

(I’m going to Västerås in two weeks.)

Anna röker ett paket cgaretter om dagen.

(Anna smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.)

Hans åker hem till Tyskland två gånger om året.

(Hans go home to Germany twice a year.)

It’s important to remember that we only use “om” in “om dagen” and “om året”. For other time phrases for frequency we use “i”, for example “i veckan”, “i månaden” and “i minuten”.

Another use for “om” is to express something like “around”. Here are a few examples:

Nils glömde vantarna hemma och nu fryser han om händerna.

(Nils left his mittens at home and now his hands are cold.) Literally “fryser om händerna” means “he is cold around the hands”. This way of using “om” is especially common when talking about parts of the body. More examples:

Fryser du inte om fötterna i de där skorna?

Tvätta dig om händerna innan du lagar mat!

Polisen tog ett hårt grepp om hans arm.

Anna blev alldeles röd om kinderna.

Sometimes the use of “om” is more similar to how “about” is used in English. Take a look at this example:

Affären ligger om hörnet.

(The store/shop is around the corner.)

There are cases when the preposition”om” in Swedish corresponds to English “of”:

Den röda bilen är parkerad till höger om den gröna.

(The red car is parked to the right of the green one.)

Stina sköter om/tar hand om sin gamla mamma.

(Stina is taking/takes care of her old mother.)

Finally, we will take a look at some examples when “om” means “about”:

Vad handlar filmen om?

(What is the movie about?)

Vad rör det sig om?

(What is that about?)

Vad pratar ni om?

(What are you talking about?)

Bengt drömmer om att flytta till Italien.

(Bengt is dreaming/dreams about moving to Italy.)

Stefan bryr sig alltid om andra.

(Stefan always care about others.)

Vad bråkar ni om?

(What are you fighhting about?)

Vad tycker du om det?

(What do you think about that?)

”Om” in particle verbs

Sometimes ”om” looks like a preposition but actually is a particle in a particle verb (partikelverb). My first two examples illustrate when the particle “om” means “again”:

Boken var jättebra. Jag vill läsa om den.

(The book was very good. I want to read it again.)

Det gick inte så bra på provet. Jag ska göra om det i november.

(I didn’t do very well on the test. I will do it again in November.)

As a particle “om” can also mean “by” as in “pass by”. Take a a look at these examples:

Han körde om den stora lastbilen.

(He drove by/passed the large truck.)

Usain är jättesnabb. Han springer om alla andra löpare.

(Usain is really fast. He passes all other runners.)

Last but not least ”om” is part of the particle verb ”tycker om” as in “gillar” or in English, “like”.

Jag tycker om dig.

(I like you.)

Have fun learning Swedish!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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