Yes, Swedish has a rule known as the BIFF rule. This is spelt and pronounced in speech the same way as the word biff, which means “beef”, so I like to call it the “beef rule” in English. Fortunately enough, the language doesn’t regulate beef, however — the BIFF rule, in Swedish biff-regeln, has to do with word order in Swedish sentences.
BIFF stands for I bisats kommer “inte” före det finita verbet. Or, in English, “In subclauses, inte comes before the finite verb”.
Does this sound like a bunch of scary high-level grammar lingo? Don’t worry, it’s not extremely crucial that you master all the fancy linguist jargon! Let me simplify it. A subclause (Swedish bisats) is basically any “sentence” within a sentence, usually introduced by “that” or a pronoun. We also have these in English. Compare:
Main clause: “Anna wants a car.”
Subclause 1: “Peter says that Anna wants a car.”
Subclause 2: “Peter says what Anna wants.”
It’s not so hard to identify subclauses with a bit of practice.
Let’s translate this to Swedish then:
Main clause (huvudsats): “Anna vill ha en bil.”
Subclause (bisats) 1: “Peter säger att Anna vill ha en bil.”Subclause (bisats) 2: “Peter säger vad Anna vill ha.”
As you can see, positive statements are the same in main clauses and subclauses. But what happens if you negate the clause?
Main clause: “Anna vill inte ha en bil.”
Subclause 1: “Peter säger att Anna inte vill ha en bil.”
Subclause 2: “Peter säger mig vad Anna inte vill ha.”
Here, you’ll notice that the negator inte “not” comes after the main verb in main clauses. By contrast, inte comes before the main verb in subclauses.
And the same pattern goes for clause adverbs. Let’s use verkligen “really” as an example :
Main clause: “Anna vill verkligen ha en bil.”
Subclause 1: “Peter säger att Anna verkligen vill ha en bil.”
Subclause 2: “Peter säger vad Anna verkligen vill ha.”
This is a rule that all native speakers follow in nearly all cases, but everyone will understand you even if you don’t master it. But it’s good to learn for the sake of better fluency!
Good luck, or lycka till! 😉