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Posts Tagged ‘sentence adverbial’

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Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Hej igen!

I have been silent for a while. That is because I have been thinking of how to attack the questions about word order that have been coming in :) Four different readers have put detailed questions about word order. Shortly, what these and other Swedish language learners mostly struggle with when it comes to word order are the following questions :

1. Where do I place the sentence adverbial(for example “inte”)?

2. When do I use inverted word order?

3. What on earth do I do with the “particle” in the “particle verbs?

The sentence adverbial is, as you maybe know already, small words with great impact on the whole sentence. I am sure that you recognize “inte” (not), “kanske” (maybe), “bara” (only) and “tyvärr” (unfortunately). Why not take a look at a simple sentence and how the sentence adverbial changes the meaning of it:

Jag ska arbeta imorgon.

(I will work tomorrow.)

Jag ska inte arbeta imorgon.

Jag ska bara arbeta imorgon.

Jag ska tyvärr arbeta imorgon.

Alright, now we know what a sentence adverbial is. Next step is to be sure of where to place it, which is different for the huvudsats (the independent clause) and the bisats (the subordinated clause that needs to be together with a huvudsats to make sense). We will look at the huvudsats first.

Jag har inte gjort läxan.

(I have not done my homework.)

In this simple statement the construction is exactly the same in Swedish and English. The sentence adverbial is placed after the verb, before the object. If we construct a question with a question word it will look like this:

Varför har du inte gjort läxan?

(Why have you not done your homework?)

In a question with a question word, and in other constructions when anything else than the subject is in the first position, the sentence adverbial is placed after the subject (in this case “du”). If we ask a yes/no-question we get the following word order:

Har du inte gjort läxan?

(Have you not done your homework?)

As you can see, the sentence adverbial is put after the subject also in this case. Here we have to verbs and the sentence adverbial is placed between the two.

Another example when we need to place the particle kind of in betweeen words is when we are dealing with a particle verb. Two common particle verbs are “tycker om” (like) and “kommer ihåg” (remember).

Jag tycker om kaffe.

(I like coffee.)

Jag tycker inte om läxor.

(I do not like homework.)

Jag kom inte ihåg att vi hade läxa.

(I did not remember that we had homework.)

So you can see that we need both “tycker” and “om” to express English “like”, but when we ad a sentence adverbial, the sentence adverbial always separates the main word and the particle (which means it is incorrect to say “jag kommer ihåg inte”). That is why it sometimes is hard to know that you are dealing with a particle verb, it is not always completely obvious that the particle belongs to the verb.

So, it is incorrect to say “jag kommer ihåg inte”, but we are allowed to say:

Jag känner henne inte.

(I don’t know her.)

Why?! This is about what information in the sentence is more important or more interesting. Generally you don’t stress the sentence adverbials in Swedish, they are more or less mumbled through and can actually be hard to hear for a non native speaker. Let’s play around with the word order here to discover how it makes a difference for what information is stressed. Look at this:

Jag känner inte henne.

(I don’t know her.)

The stress/melody in this sentence is something like this:

Jag känner inte henne.

Here we have an example of the most common structure. The “jag” is placed first and therefore most in focus.

Henne känner jag inte.

(Her I don’t know.)

The stress/melody in this sentence is:

Henne känner jag inte.

In this case the object, “henne”, is more in focus than “jag”. We are pointing out the object, making her different from others. It is like saying “I know everyone here, but I don’t know her” or “I don’t know her, but I know him”.

If we want to stress the sentence adverbial, in this case “inte”, it is a little complicated. If you go like this:

Jag känner inte henne.

You are definately risking to sound aggressive, like if she was a person you don’t want to know, don’t want to have a connection to or like you said it hundreds of times before. It sounds like:

Jag känner INTE henne!!!! :( :(

So what can you do if you still want to put emphasis on the sentence adverbial without sounding all mad? You place it after all the other words. This is the only case you can do this though.  A few examples:

– Känner du Lena?

– Nej, jag känner henne inte.

– Träffar du Anders någon gång?

– Nej, jag träffar honom aldrig.

– Läser du tidningen på morgonen?

– Ja, det gör jag alltid.

Alright, so far we have only been looking at “huvudsats”, and no we are going to get into something more complicated – “bisats”. Like I said, a bisats is a subordinated clause, dependent on the huvudsats. If i just said “so that you don’t get cold” or “that he is leaving now” it wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

The bisats have a little different construction than the huvudsats. Like this:

subjunction – subject – sentence adv. – verb  – verb – particle -object – place – time

Compare that to huvudsats:

starter – verb – subject – sentence adv. verb – particle – object -place – time

This makes more sense with a couple of examples. First a huvudsats:

Jag ska kanske hälsa på farmor i helgen.

(Maybe I will visit my grandmother this weekend.)

In this example “jag” is the starter, so the subject spot is empty. “Kanske” is the sentence adverbial and “på” is the particle belonging to “hälsa” (together they mean “visit”). Let’s use the same example and turn it into a bisats:

Sara säger att hon kanske ska hälsa på farmor i helgen.

(Sara says that maybe she will visit her grandmother this weekend.)

What you can see here is that “kanske” (the sentence adverbial) ends up before both the verbs. “Inte” is, as you remember, also a sentece adverbial:

Sara säger att hon inte ska hälsa på farmor i helgen.

So far so good, when many Swedish language learners get in trouble is when they start constructing longer and more complicated sentences, like starting  the sentence with bisats or having more than one bisats. Let me show you what I am talking about.

Jag ska inte gå på festen eftersom jag inte mår bra.

(I’m not going to the party since I’m not feeling well.)

So, first there is a huvudsats:

Jag ska inte gå på festen.

Then comes the bisats:

eftersom jag inte mår bra.

Now we are going to move things around and put the bisats first.

Eftersom jag inte mår bra ska jag inte gå på festen.

Now I want you to look at the whole sentence as a huvudsats – from “Éftersom” to “festen”. The bisats is now just not a bisats, but also the starter of the sentence, the big huvudsats. (The “starter” is called different things in different grammar books – fundament, base, X  etc.) So the word order we get here is just like a more simple huvudsats:

Jag                                                          ska          –            inte    gå      på festen

eftersom jag inte mår bra      ska         jag       inte    gå      på festen


When you construct a sentence with many subordinated clauses, you just have to keep track of them. This is of course hard to do when you are out in the real world speaking Swedish, people rarely have patience for someone checking their bisatsordföljd, but when in class or when writing it is good to take an extra look. I’m going to borrow an example from a student of mine. The example is about “Erik” who bought a new noiseless electric handmixer :)

Jag tror att Erik köpte den så att grannarna inte kunde höra att han bakade något gott.

(I think that Erik bought it so that the neighbours couldn’t hear that he was baking something tasty.)

In this case the huvudsats is:

Jag tror

and the subordinated clauses (bisats) are:

att Erik köpte den

så att grannarna inte kunde höra

att han bakade något gott

What happened to this student was that he på the “inte” in the wrong spot, because he first didn’t think of that part of the sentence as a bisats, since it was a bit far away from “jag tror”.

When do I use inverted word order? Well, answering this question is quite easy – anytime you start your sentence with something else than a subject. To do it right when you are using more complicated sentences is much more difficult, I know. A simplified schedule of a huvudsats looks like this:

starter/base  –  verb – subject – sentence adv. – verb – object – place – time

Now we are going to play around with some short and simple examples.

Jag                                    åker             till Malmö           på lördag.

starter (subject)          verb            place                           time

På lördag                      åker           jag              till Malmö.

starter (time)                verb            subject       place

Jag                                    köpte           den här boken.

starter (subject)          verb               object

Den här boken           köpte               jag.

starter (object)               verb                  subject

Basically, whatever you wish to emphasize (the time, the place, the object, the subject) you put as the starter of your sentence. What is not always clear is that time, place and object are many times a whole bisats and not just a word or two. Let me show you:

Eva fick sitt drömjobb nästan direkt efter att hon hade tagit sin universitetsexamen.

(Eva got the job of her dreams almost directly after she graduated from university.)

If you take a close look at the sentence you will discover that “nästan” and everything after that is the time part. So if I want to emphasize the time it will look like this:

Nästan direkt efter att hon hade tagit sin universitetsexamen fick Eva sitt drömjobb.

We can break it down to see the structure more clearly:

Nästan direkt efter att hon hade tagit sin universitetsexamen


fick       Eva          sitt drömjobb.

verb       subject    object

Well, I hope I didn’t forget anything. If you still have questions or, even better, examples of sentence structure that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to put them in the comment field.

Til next time! :)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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-t or no -t? Adjectives and adverbials

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

There are many things in the Swedish language that can give you a grey hair or two, and when to put a -t on a word (eg “snabbt”) and when not to (eg “snabb”) sure is one of them. In this post I will try my best to sort this out for you all.


First of all there is something called an adjective. An adjective is, as you might already know, a grammar term for a word that describes or gives character to a noun. Like this:

Anna har en snäll hund.

(Anna has a friendly dog.)

In this example “snäll” is the adjective, it gives extra information about the noun (hund).

In Swedish there has to be so called “kongruens” or “likformighet” (congruity) between the noun and the adjective. That means that if the noun has the en-gender, the adjective stays in its base form, but if the noun has the ett-gender we have to ad a -t to the adjective. Here is a couple of examples:

en stor bil

(a big car)

ett stort hus

(a big house)

en dyr bil

(an expensive car)

ett dyrt hus

(an expensive house)

Also, if the noun is in plural form the adjective has to change into plural form as well:

dyra bilar

(expensive cars)

dyra hus

(expensive houses)


There are many words in a language that can fit in the category adverbials. Sometimes it almost feels like that “adverbial” is what you call something when you can’t sort it in under anything else 😉 I will go through the different type of adverbials one by one.

Frågande adverb (question adverbials)

The question adverbials are simply these words:

När (when)

Var (where)

Vart (where to)

Varifrån (where from)

Hur (how)

Varför (why)

Tidsadverb (time adverbials)

Time adverbial is a grammar term for what I usually call “time expressions”. The can in one or several words express the past, the present or the future. For example:

i går (yesterday)

häromdagen (the other day)

i dag (today)

i morgon (tomorrow)

snart (soon)

Rumsadverb (adverbial of place)

In class I usually simplify things and call these adverbials “place” or plats in Swedish. Common adverbials of place are:

här (here)

härifrån (from here)

där (there)

därifrån (from there)

hemma (at home)

hemfrån (from home)

Satsadverb (sentence adverbials)

The sentence adverbials are, as I have mentioned in a previous post, small words that change the whole meaning of a sentence. Here are a few examples of sentence adverbials:

inte (not)

bara (only)

nog (probably)

tyvärr (unfortunately)

kanske (maybe)

Sättsadverb (adverbials of manner)

Last but not least there are sättsadverb- adverbials of manner. These can easily be and often are mistaken for being adjectives. Although, when an adjective describes a noun a sättsadverb describes a verb – an action. It tells you how something is done. Take a look at this:

Han kör försiktigt.

(He drives carefully.)

Hon lär sig snabbt.

(She learns quickly.)

Han springer långsamt.

(He is running slowly.)

As you might have noticed already all the adverbials of manner has a -t. This t-ending is often confused for being a reference to a ett-word, but it is comparable to the English ly-ending as in quickly, slowly and carefully. Let us compare a couple of sentences to make this even more clear:

X2000 är ett snabbt tåg.

(X2000 is a fast train.)

X2000 åker snabbt.

(X2000 runs fast/quickly.)

Anders är försiktig.

(Anders is careful.)

Anders cyklar försiktigt.

(Anders rides his bike carefully.)

It might also be worth to know that since the sättsadverb says something about the verb, the action, it doesn’t change no matter what gender and number the noun has:

Anders kör sin bil försiktigt.

(Anders drives his car carefully.)

Anders kör sina bilar försiktigt.

(Anders drives his cars carfully.)

There are also a few sättsadverb that does not have a -t. A few of these are:

bra (well)

illa (badly)

sakta (slowly)

noga (precisely, carefully, closely)

annorlunda (otherwise)

All right, I hope I have straightened some things out for you when it comes to -t or no -t on words. :)

‘Til next time!

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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