The Swedish language contains a huge number of verb phrases consisting of a verb and a small word called a particle. The particle can look like a preposition (på, in, upp) but it can also be a word that is only used in combination with a verb (ihjäl).
When you discover the particle verbs and eventually learn to both understand them and use them, your vocabulary will expand enormously since you can be very precise in what you are expressing with a little help of these verb phrases. Let me show you what I mean using the particle “till”. When used as a particle “till” could mean that we are doing something for just a moment. If I take “skrattar” (laugh) for example and ad “till” it together means “is laughing for a few seconds”. See, you can express yourself very exact with these particles.
The tricky part with the particles is that it is the stress that tells us if it is a particle or not. To get the particle meaning of the phrase you have to stress the particle. So, to say that you “like” something you have to say “Jag tycker om glass”, stressing “om”. Otherwise it will sound something like “I think if ice cream”.
There are about 45 different particles and each of them can be used in many different ways, meaning different things depending on the context and the creativity of the speaker. It is impossible to go through all of them here (and you would probably fall asleep) but I wanted to share with you some of the most common ones. Here we go:
“om” often means that you are doing something over again. For example:
“Filmen var jättebra. Jag vill se om den. ”
The movie was really good, I want to see it again.
“Jag klär om mig innan jag går på fest.”
I change clothes before I go to a party.
It can also mean that you are passing someone or something:
“Gubben i Volvon var så långsam så jag körde om honom.”
The old man in the Volvo was driving slow, so I passed him.
“På” often means to switch something on, your TV for example:
“Sätt på TV:n! Melodifestivalen börjar snart. ”
Turn the TV on! Melodifestivalen is about to begin.
“Sätt på” also means something dirty, you can ask your girlfriend/boyfriend/colleague about that one 😉
The most common meaning of “till” is, like I just mentioned, that something happens suddenly or for a very short while. An example:
“Jag blev rädd och hoppade till.”
I got scared and jumped.
“Kan du titta till bäbisen?”
Can you check on the baby?
Sometimes “till” means that you are adding something:
“Huset är för litet nu när vi är många i familjen, så vi ska bygga till ett rum.”
The house is too small now when the family is growing, so we are going to add a room.
The best way to interpretate “bort” is probably English “away”. We use it for expressing that someone is leaving or something is removed.
“Jag ska resa bort i helgen. ”
I am going out of town this weekend.
“Tvättmedlet tar bort alla fläckar från kläderna.”
The washing detergent removes all stains from your clothes.
“Igång” is similar to English “get going” or “get started” with something. At a meeting at work your boss might say:
“Jaha, ska vi sätta igång då? ”
Well, shall we get started then?
Another for using “igång” is:
“Jag har kommit igång med träningen igen. ”
I’m back to exercisning again.
“Ihop” expresses direction or that something or someone belongs together:
“Min flickvän och jag har flyttat ihop.”
My girlfriend and I have moved in together.
“In” expresses direction in a more or less abstract way:
“Tala in ett meddelande efter tonen.”
Leave a message after the tone.
“Spring in och hämta jackan.”
Run inside and get your jacket.
“Ur” means to remove something or to empty something:
“Har du druckit ur ditt kaffe?”
Have you finished your coffee (have you emptied your coffee cup)?
“Upp” can be used in many ways as a particle, I will show you a couple. First of all it means the direction “up”:
“Han går upp för trappan.”
He is walking up the stairs.
“Upp” can also have the meaning that you are finishing something like food, a drink or money for example:
“Jag festade upp alla pengarna i lördags.”
I spent all my money on drinks last Saturday.
“Jag åt upp all maten som låg på tallriken.”
I finished all the food that was on my plate.
“Ut” means, except for the direction, that you are doing something til it is completely finished. Two examples:
“Boken var jättebra, Jag läste ut den på en helg.”
The book was really good. I finished it over a weekend.
“På lördagarna sover jag alltid ut.”
On Saturdays I always sleep in.
Well, that was just a few of the great amount of particle verbs that we can find in the swedish language. If you are a geek like me you can study them further in the book “Se upp!” . If not, I advise you to start listen carfully when you hear Swedish being spoken and you will discover a whole lot of them that way.
The Swedish Teacher