The Swedish Teacher

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Posts Tagged ‘ju’

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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What on earth is “ju”?

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

My dear reader B have asked me about the word “ju”. What does it mean? How can I use it?

“Ju” is a so called sentence adverbial, or in Swedish – satsadverb. Sentence adverbials are little words that changes the whole meaning of a sentence. Those of you that have read the post about stress in sentences might remember that the sentence adverbials in most cases are unstressed, and therefore hard to discover in spoken language. Before digging deeper into the meaning of “ju” I want to show you a couple of other sentence adverbials to clarify what I’m talking about.

First we can take a look at a sentence without a sentence adverbial:

Jag kommer på festen i kväll.

(I’m coming to the party tonight.)

Now I’m going to ad a few different sentence adverbials to show how they change the content of the sentence:

Jag kommer kanske på festen i kväll.

(I’m maybe coming to the party tonight.)

Jag kommer inte på festen i kväll.

(I’m not coming to the party tonight.)

Jag kommer absolut på festen i kväll.

(I’m absolutely coming to the party tonight.)

We can also have two sentence adverbials. Look at this:

Jag kommer absolut inte på festen i kväll.

(I’m absolutely not coming to the party tonight.)

Well, it is quite clear what the sentence adverbials above mean, but in the Swedish language we also have a couple that have a more diffuse meaning and can not really be translated into a sentence adverb in English. One of those is “ju” and another one is “väl”. “Ju” is used when the speaker is somewhat confirming the information given in the sentence, or the speaker wants the other person to confirm what is said. I think you will better understand if I illustrate this:

The girlfriend talking to the boyfriend on a Friday evening:

Ska du gå ut med dina kompisar? Vi ska ju träffa mina föräldrar i kväll!

(Are you going out with your friends? We are seeing my parents tonight!)

What “ju” ads to the message spoken here, is that the boyfriend already knew that he and his girlfriend are visiting her parents tonight. The girlfriend told him ages ago 😉 The closest translation I can give you is “as you know” or “as I told you”.  Let’s do another example:

A meeting at work starts at 2pm and Anna shows up at 3pm. Anna’s colleagues might say:

Kommer du nu? Mötet började ju klockan 3.

(Are you coming now? The meeting started at 3.)

We have the same meaning of “ju” here, the colleagues are assuming that Anna have got the same information about the meating as they did. They are fishing for her confirming that she knew about the time for the meeting, and also for a explanation for being late. Anna might then answer:

Ja, jag vet. Det var snökaos och tunnelbanan stod helt stilla.

(Yes, I know. It was snow chaos so I got stuck in the subway.)

Yet another example, a dialogue between a parent and a teenager:

Ska du gå ut utan mössa? Det är ju 15 grader kallt!

– Jag vet. Hej då!

Studying the examples above you might think that we use “ju” only when someone else is making a mistake or forgetting something 😉 Well, that is quite common, but far from the only case. The word is also useful when talking about your own actions. In the example below, the speaker suddenly remembers that he/she had booked the tvättstuga (and is now out doing something else):

Åh nej, jag hade ju bokat tvättstugan i dag.

(Oh no, I forgot that I had booked the laundry room today.)

Alright, I really hope this cleared at least some of the confusion about “ju”. It is a tough one to explain, since the more you think of it, the more  ways of using it you find. Next time I will look into another sentence adverbial  – “väl”.

Keep on learning!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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