The Swedish Teacher

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Posts Tagged ‘i’

What about “i”?

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Hej igen!

I hope that everyone had a good Easter weekend and that you got a chance to speak some Swedish :)

A previous post about “på” brought up the question about when to use “i”, so today I will take a closer look at that.

First of all we use “i” when someone or something is inside a volume of some kind. For example being in a room:

Eleverna sitter i klassrummet.

(The pupils are sitting in the classroom.)

Anders fru sitter i köket och bläddrar i tidningen.

(Anders wife is sitting in the kitchen flipping through the newspaper.)

Anders sitter i soffan och tittar på TV.

(Anders is sitting on the couch watching TV.)

Now it might sound to you, according to my previous explanation, as if Anders is actually inside of the couch. Well, of course he is not. But, sitting on a couch, or sofa if you like, we are in a way surrounded by it and in such a case you should use “i” in Swedish. This also applies to armchairs:

Det är skönare att sitta i en mjuk fåtölj än på en på en stol.

(It is more comfortable to sit on an armchair than on a chair.)

Speaking of furniture and rooms, using “i” instead of “på” also makes the difference between “ceiling” and “roof”. You see, in Swedish there is only one word for both of these – “tak”. A couple of examples will show what I mean:

Det hänger en lampa från IKEA i taket.

(There is a lamp from IKEA hanging from the ceiling.)

Katten sitter på taket och kan inte klättra ned.

(The cat is sitting on the roof and can’t come down.)

The volume could also be a part of your body:

Det kliar i näsan.

(My nose is itching.)

Hon fick tårar i ögonen.

(She got tears in her eyes.)

Vad har du i munnen?

(What have you got in your mouth?)

Det kan göra ont i öronen när man flyger.

(Your ears might hurt when you are flying)

Peter Forsberg skadade sig i knät under den viktiga matchen.

(Peter Forsberg hurt his knee during the important game.)

Man får lätt ont i huvudet om man inte dricker tillräckligt med vatten.

(You easily get a headache if you don’t drink enough water.)

Jag är så trött i armarna! Skulle du kunna bära min väska?

(My arms are so tired! Could you carry my bag?)

Speaking of body parts, we also use “i” for holding something. My American husband always thinks it sounds funny when you say something like this:

Håll mamma i handen när du går över gatan!

(Hold mommy’s hand when crossing the street!) To him it sounds like the first person is sitting in the hand of the other person :)

Here is another example of holding or grabbing:

Aj! Sluta dra mig i håret!

(Ouch! Stop pulling my hair!)

Less surprisingly we also use “i” when someone or something is in a country, part of a country or in a city or village. For example:

Jag har bott i Uppsala i många år.

(I have lived in Uppsala for many years.)

Uppsala ligger i Sverige.

(Uppsala is in Sweden.)

You should also use “i” when talking about a volume in an abstract sense, as in a situation or condition. Like this for example:

Vi befinner oss i en allvarlig situation.

(We have found ourselves in a serious situation.)

En stor del av världens befolkning lever i fattigdom.

(A big part of the world’s population live in poverty.)

Anitas moster dog i cancer.

(Anita’s aunt died of cancer.)

Actually you can also say “dog av cancer”, but then you are rather focusing on what caused her death than on what condition she was in. The message is more or less the same though.

A number of expressions for time also use “i”. For example telling the time:

Klockan är fem i halv fyra. 😉

(It is fem minutes to half past three.)

Also most time expressions that shows past time use “i”:

i lördags

i eftermiddags

i februari

i vintras

i påskas

But also some expressions for future time:

i morgon

i november

i sommar

Some expressions for ongoing time:

i dag

i kväll

i sommar

i år

And finally when we tell for how long we have been doing something:

Vi  pratade i flera timmar.

(We were talking for hours.)

Koka potatisen i 20 minuter.

(Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes.)

Least but not last it is good to know that you should use “i” for positive feelings you have for someone or something. First take a look at this example:

Jag galen i dig!

(I’m crazy about you.)

Now, let us change “i” for “på”:

Jag blir galen på dig!

(You drive me cray!)

Here are more examples of positive feelings:

Det är många som är förtjusta i choklad.

(Many people likes chocolate.)

Daniel är kär i Åsa.

(Daniel is in love with Åsa.)

Well, that was all I have to share with you today. Good luck with “i” and “på” everyone!

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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