Så så

Lately, several students have asked me about the little word ”så.” Good news – it’s really not that complicated.

As a conjunction, “så” can be exchanged for “and therefore.” It expresses a possible conclusion. Here are a couple of examples:

Arne har glömt matlådan hemma, så han ska äta lunch på restaurang.
(Arne has forgotten his lunch box at home, so he will have lunch at a restaurant.)

Anna har prov i engelska i morgon, så hon måste studera ikväll.
(Anna has an English test tomorrow, so she has to study tonight.)

Så (att), så … att
With the subjunction (bisatsinledare) “så” or “så … att”, the subordinate clause (bisats) will express a result or consequence. Examples:

Skynda dig så (att) du inte kommer för sent!
(Hurry up, or you will be late.)
In the example above you can leave out “att.”  In the example below where there is an extra word (“hungrig”) between “så” and “att,” we have to keep “att”:

Arne var så hungrig att magen kurrade.
(Arne was so hungry that his stomach was rumbling.)

Have fun learning Swedish!
Book a lesson with Sara the Swedish Teacher here

10 useful “hjälpverb”

I think the so-called “hjälpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get more nuance when you speak, so today I wanted to share with you ten useful “hjälpverb”. Varsågoda!

  1. ska(will)

This verb has many functions. First of all, we can use it to express future tense:
Jag ska åka på semester snart.
(I’m going on vacation soon.)

We can also use “ska” for expressing a demand or a must, it can be compared to English “have to”:
Du ska borsta tänderna innan du går och lägger dig.
(You have to brush your teeth before going to bed.)

If we combine the past tense of “ska” – “skulle” and combine it with “kunna” (infinitive of “kan”), we get the meaning of English “could”. Like this:
Skulle du kunna hjälpa mig med en sak?
(Could you help me with something?)

2. bör (shall or ought to)
“Bör” is used for giving advice or recommendations. That is the verb your doctor would use when telling what to do or not do. An example:
Du bör sluta röka om du vill bli frisk.
(You should quit smoking if you want to get well.)

We can also use “bör” when we are assuming something:
Anders bör vara framme i Göteborg nu, han åkte för tre timmar sedan.
(Anders should have arrived in Göteborg now, he left three hours ago.)

3. kan (can)
“Kan” expresses knowledge, ability or possibility:
Jag kan simma 1 000 meter.
(I can swim 1 000 meters.)
Jag kan inte komma till mötet.
(I can’t come/make it to the meeting.)

We might also use “kan” when giving a suggestion or offering something:
Kan jag hjälpa dig på något vis?
(Is there anything I can do to help you?)

4. får
“Få” has so many meanings there is no point trying to translate it to one word in English. First of all, “få” expresses permission or allowance:
Man får röka utomhus.
(Smoking is allowed outdoors.)
Du får låna min bil idag.
(You can/you’re allowed to borrow my car today.)

To express English “mustn’t” or “it’s forbidden to”  you should use Swedish “får inte”:
Man får inte kasta snöboll på skolgården.
(You mustn’t throw snowballs at each other in the school yard.)

“Får” is also common to use when expressing politeness, for example when you want to pay for a dinner. I guess this is equivalent to English “may”:
Får jag bjuda på fika?
(May I buy you some fika?)

In combination with certain verbs “få” is equivalent to “got”:
I går fick Olle veta att han ska få löneförhöjning.
(Yesterday Olle got to know that he will get a raise.)

5. brukar
“Brukar” has the same meaning as English “usually”, although it is important to remember that “brukar” is a verb while “usually” is an adverb. The meaning is the same. Take a look at this example:
Jag brukar dricka kaffe på morgonen.
(I usually drink coffee in the morning.)

6. orkar
“Orkar” is a verb that expresses physical or mental strength. In English, we would express the same thing with “being able to”, “being capable of”,  “manage” or “stand”. Here are some examples:
Det är bra att äta frukost så att man orkar jobba hela förmiddagen.
(It is good to have breakfast so that you have the energy to work all morning.)

Jag orkar inte studera mer svensk grammatik nu.
(I’ve had enough of Swedish grammar for now.)

Ät så mycket du orkar!
(Eat as much as  you can!)

7. vågar (dare)
With “vågar” you can express if you have the courage to do something or not:
Vågar du åka berg-och dalbanan?
(Do you dare to go on the roller coaster?)

Lisa vågar inte sova med lampan släckt.
(Lisa is afraid to sleep with the lights turned off.)

8. hinner
“Hinner” means that you have enough time to do something, as in that you will make it. There is not any single word in English that expresses the same thing (as far as I know), but I think a couple of examples will make the meaning clear to you:
Jag hann inte ringa dig igår.
(I didn’t have time to call you yesterday.)

Om vi springer nu så hinner vi med sista tåget till Uppsala.
(If we run now we will make it to the last train to Uppsala).

Hur långt hann vi i grammatikboken sist?
(How far did we get in the grammar book last time?)

9. slipper
Another favorite of mine! “Slipper” means that you don’t have to or not need to, in a positive sense. An example:
På sommaren slipper barnen gå i skolan.
(In the summer the children don’t need to go to school.)

It is important to be aware of that it is a positive experience to “slippa,” so in the example, above we understand that the children don’t always like to go to school. You could unintentionally hurt people’s feelings if you use “slipper” the wrong way. Let’s say that you were supposed to meet a colleague to go through some paperwork, but the two of you talked over the phone and didn’t have to meet up anymore. In this case, it is more proper to say:
Då behöver vi inte träffas. (Then we don’t need to meet up.)
rather than:
Då slipper vi träffas. (Great, we don’t have to see each other then!)
The colleague might think you don’t like him/her. ?

10. råkar
​“Råkar” expresses that you are doing something unintentionally or by chance. Again, this is a verb in Swedish. Take a look at these examples:
Jag råkade slå sönder mormors dyra Orrefors-vas.
(I accidently broke my grandmother’s expensive crystal vase.)

Jag råkade springa på Anna på stan idag!
(I ran into Anna in the city center today!)

Good luck with your “hjälpverb” and don’t forget to post questions!
Sara the Swedish Teacher

Även och ännu

Hej igen!
During a lesson the other day, the words “även” and ännu” came up. These words might be confusing, especially if you’re translating from English when speaking Swedish, so let me try to clear things up for you.


  1. Även – also. Swedish synonyms are ”också”, ”därtill” and ”likaså”. Here are a couple of examples when ”även” is synonymous with “också”:

Boken är spännande. Den är även lärorik.
(The book is exciting. It is also informative.)

An example from the newspaper:
Lärarkrisen är även en elevkris.
(The teacher crisis is also a student crisis.)

  1. Även om – even if

Lasse cyklar alltid till jobbet även om det regnar.
(Lasse always rides his bike to work, even if it’s raining.)

Ska man dricka även om man inte är törstig?
(Should you drink even if you’re not thirsty?)


  1. Ännu, än – still.  “Ännu” or “än”, can be replaced with “fortfarande”. The examples below are two song titles, the first one is by Marie Fredriksson, and the other one by Björn Afzelius.

Ännu doftar kärlek
Vi lever ännu

It is more common to use ”än” or ”ännu” than ”fortfarande”, when you also have a negation in your sentence:

  1. Inte ännu, än – not yet

Anna är inte här ännu (än).
Anna is not here yet.
You could also say:
Anna är fortfarande inte här.
(Anna is still not here.)

  1. Ännu längre, ännu större, ännu bättre, ännu starkare – still, even. You should use ”ännu” in comparisons.  Examples:

Världens största pasagerarplan blir ännu större.
(The world’s largest passenger plane will become even bigger.)

Another airline example:
Många nya flygplan gör det ännu billigare att flyga.
(Many new airplanes makes flying even cheaper.)

  1. Ännu en, ännu ett – another, else, in addition. A Swedish synonym is ”ytterligare”.  Here are a couple of examples from the news feed:

Nu är ännu ett oväder på väg.
(Another storm is on its way.)

Zikaviruset kan orsaka ännu en svår sjukdom.
(The Zika virus might cause another severe disease.)

Have fun learning Swedish!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

Både eller båda?

Både or båda?Hej och gott nytt år!
A reader has sent me a question:
Can you give an explanation for the use of “båda”  and “både”?
Thank you.
”Både … och” is a conjunction (”konjunktion” in Swedish). Here are a few examples:
Anna vill ha både jordgubbsssylt och vispgrädde på sina våfflor.
(Anna wants both strawberry jam and whipped cream on her waffles.)
Gösta talar både tyska och engelska.
(Gösta speaks both English and German.)
Restaurangen serverar både öl och vin.
(The restaurant serves both beer and wine.)

“Båda (två)” is a pronoun (“pronomen” in Swedish). A couple of examples:
Två bilar i krock. Båda började brinna.
(Two cars in crash. Both caught fire.)
Hur skriver jag ut på båda sidorna av papperet?
(How do I print on both sides of the paper?)
Do you have a question? Email me at
Have fun learning Swedish 2016!

Sedan eller då


Quite often I see students making mistakes when using the adverbs  ”då” and ”sedan”. Both words translate to English “then”, so today I’ll to straighten out when to use which one.

Då (when used as a time adverb), means ”at that time” or ”by the time”. Some Swedish synonyms are:

vid den tidpunkten

på den tiden

den gången

vid det tillfället

inte nu


Here are a couple of examples:

Jag var i Sverige i juli. Då regnade det mycket.

(I was in Sweden in July. It was raining a lot then.)

Lasse fyller 50 år i februari. Då ska han ha en stor fest.

(Lasse’s 50th birthday is in February. Then he will have a big party.)


Sedan, often pronounced, and sometimes spelled, sen (it should be pronounced “sänn”) means “therafter”, “after that” or “afterward”. Some Swedish synonyms are:




längre fram


Here are couple of examples of how to use “sedan”:

Först ska jag dammsuga. Sedan ska jag dricka kaffe.

(First I’m going to vacuum. After that (then) I will have a cup of coffee.)

När Göran kommer hem från jobbet brukar han laga middag. Sedan tittar han på TV.

(When Göran comes home from work, he usually make dinner. Then he watches TV.)

If you have questions about grammar or vocabulary, please post in the comment field!

Preteritum eller presens perfekt

Hello everyone,

It’s grammar time  ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present perfect tense of the verb:

I was wondering if you can address past tense vs. perfect tense in Swedish. It seems that the perfect tense is used much more often than in English.

For example, in Swedish people often say “Vad har hänt?” whereas in English it would typically be said “What happened?”

Another reader earlier posted this question about the –ing form in English, and how to express it in Swedish:

Have you done the difference in Swedish and English when it comes to using the present participle? That was one of the hardest things to wrap my head around when I first started learning Swedish, because I would want to construct sentences with the present participle all the time, but you don’t usually do that in Swedish.

For example: “I am running”, “I am singing”, “I am doing it” would be “jag springer”, “jag sjunger”, “jag gör det.” Which is a different tense and something that is important for English speakers learning Swedish to understand.

First it might seem like these two questions aren’t related at all, but since I started working on the first one, I realized that I was also getting closer to the answer of the second one.

I’m neither a native speaker of English, nor very educated in English grammar so I’m playing it safe and choose stay away from making a comparison between the two languages here. What I will do in this article is to explain when to use perfect tense (presens perfekt) and past tense (preteritum) in Swedish language. All comments on the differences between English (British or American) and Swedish are more than welcome!

Tense and aspect

Most of us know that tense (“tempus” in Swedish) is a grammatical category that defines the time for an action, when something happens. When speaking, Swedish, English, or any other language, we don’t only want to express when something happens, but also if the action is temporary, repeated, completed or continuous. This, is what we call the aspect of the verb. Aspect also represents time but has to do with the flow of the action compared to tense which locates the state in time.

The aspect of the verb is shown in different ways in different languages. In some languages there will be a certain ending on the verb and in other languages there are always two pairs of verb showing two different aspects. In French for example (this is one of few things I remember from French lessons in school) there are two forms of past – “passé simple” and “imparfait”. The first one is used when you talk about a completed action and the other one for a not completed action. If you look in an old Swedish grammar book you will find that “preteritum” is called “imperfekt”. There was a change of terms some years ago since “imperfect” isn’t a correct description – “preteritum” describes a completed action.

Perfect or past tense (perfekt or preteritum)

Speaking Swedish you should always use the perfect form to express a continuous action, continuous time or if we now have a result or continuation of the action that is interesting. Hopefully a few examples will show what I mean:

Göran har rökt i 15 år.

(Göran has been smoking for 15 years.)

This means that Göran has been smoking and still is, the action continues.

Göran har rökt 5 cigaretter idag.

(Göran has smoked 15 cigarettes today.)

In this case the action, smoking the cigarettes, is over but the time – today – continues, it is still today.

Har du tagit rökpaus ännu, Göran, eller vill du följa med ut och röka?

(Have you taken a smoke break yet Göran, or do you want to come along for a smoke?)

In this case you have to use perfect in Swedish since the action (har tagit paus) gives us a continuation or result (vill följa med och röka) that is interesting.

Here’s another example:

Jag har inte ätit så jag är hungrig.

(I haven’t eaten so I’m hungry.)

We have a result (I’m hungry) of the action (haven’t eaten).

The past tense (preteritum) should be used when we’re talking about a completed action in the past, meaning that the action both started and finished in the past. Sometimes the exact time is mentioned and sometimes it’s not. Here are a few examples:

Jag såg en film igår.

(I saw a movie yesterday.)

Olle tvättade bilen förra veckan.

(Olle washed his car last week.)

Anna studerade vid universitetet i Lund.

(Anna studied at the university in Lund.)

Other ways of expressing continuous or completed action in Swedish

Except for using perfect instead of present tense or pluperfect instead of past tense there isn’t any grammatical ways to express the aspect of the verb in Swedish. To do so you have to you use the vocabulary. In some cases the “partikelverb” come in handy to more clearly express a completed action. Take a look at this:



äta upp

(finsish eating, finish the food)



dricka upp

(finish the drink, empty the glass)

With the particle “upp” and “ur” we can get an aspect of the verb – we know that the action is completed.

When it comes to the English progressive aspect, the be– ing, it’s a little harder. It’s hard to clearly express the progressive aspect as clearly in the Swedish language. That’s probably why it’s a common mistake a Swedish speaking person will make when speaking English. Most of the time we would simply use the present tense in Swedish and don’t show any difference between the continuous and not continuous aspect. You will have to understand the aspect sense from the context. However you could use “håller på att” or some other paraphrase.

Vad gör Janne?

Han jobbar i trädgården.

(“He works in the garden./He is working in the garden.”)

Vad gör Janne?

Han är ute och jobbar i trädgården.

(“He’s out in the garden working.”)

Vad håller Janne på med?

Han håller på och jobbar i trädgården.

(“What is Janne up to? He’s working in the garden.”)

Thank you everyone for reading and have fun learning Swedish!

Vet, kan, känner eller känner till?


It happens every now and then that my students mix up the words “vet”, “kan”, “känner” and “känner till”, so I was thinking we should take a closer look at these verbs. The best way to explain the differences between these verbs is with examples:

Anders vet när bussen går.

Anders knows when the bus leaves.

vet = have the information

Anders kan köra buss.

Anders knows how to drive a bus./Anders can drive a bus.

kan = knowing how to

Anders känner busschauffören.

Anders knows the bus driver.

känner = being friends, are acquainted

Anders känner till busschauffören.

“Känner till”,  with emphasis on “till”, is a particle verb that means “know of” or  ”have heard of”.

A better way to explain the difference between “känner” and “känner till” :

Anders känner till statsministern.

This means that Anders have heard of the Prime Minister. Maybe Anders know the Prime Minister’s name, or what political party he represents. Now, compare that to:

Anders känner statsministern.

This means that Anders and the Prime Minister are acquainted, or maybe friends.

“Känner till” is also the verb you should use when you want to say something like “have you heard of” or “are you familiar with”. For example, you  should say “Känner du till Uppsala?”, instead of “Vet du Uppsala?”

Mysterious -s, part 1


I happened to read on a forum on The Local that someone was confused about when to use an -s on verbs in Swedish. There are three different occasions when there is an –s, and in this article we’ll learn about –s in passive voice.

-s expressing passive voice (passiv form)

Passive voice is used when we don’t know who is taking action or when it isn’t interesting who is doing it. In grammar terms we can express it as that we don’t have an agent in the sentence.

Passive voice is often used in newspaper articles and also news on TV and radio.  Here are a few examples from Dagens Nyheter today:

17 skadades efter busskrock utanför Piteå.

(17 were injured after a bus crash outside Piteå.)

Sprängämnesstoff hittades i flickans sko.

(Explosive materials were found in the girl’s shoe.)

Mordbrännare jagas i Eslöv.

(Fire-raiser is being chased in Eslöv.)

In the examples above we don’t know or perhaps don’t find it interesting who injured the 17 people, who found the explosives in the shoe or who is chasing the fire-raiser in Eslöv.

The passive voice is also used in instructions, recipes for example, and in formal language. You will find passive forms on a carton of milk or on a bill like this:

Öppnas här!

(To be opened here.)

Betalas senast 100831

(To be paid at the latest by Aug. 31, 2010).

As you have seen the passive voice can be used for different tenses (actually all tenses) and it’s not complicated to construct the passive version of the verb.  You more or less just ad a -s to the regular form except for the present tense where you need to remove the -r. It looks like this:

Present tense:

skadar (regular)               skadas (passive)

köper (regular)                 köps/köpes (passive)

syr (regular)                      sys (passive)

skriver (regular)              skrives/skrivs (passive)

Past tense:

skadade (regular)            skadades (passive)

köpte (regular)                 köptes (passive)

sydde (regular)                 syddes (passive)

skrev (regular)                  skrevs (passive)

We can also create the passive voice with something called “the perfect participle” which is more common in spoken Swedish and less formal Swedish. I will discuss this in a different post but I can show you what our s-passives would look like constructed with a participle:

skadades – blev skadad

(was hurt)

hittades – blev hittad

(was found)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

Do you have any questions?

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