Swedish False Friends

Posted on 29. Aug, 2014 by in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

A while ago, we talked about some of those words in Swedish that are the same in English in a creatively titled post English Words in Swedish. They’re the ones that make learning a language just a little bit easier. Of course, learning a language is always a challenge, no matter how many cognates there are because you also have false cognates. False friends if you will. We’ve posted a short piece titled Beware False Friends from a while ago.

Sometimes those false friends are spelled exactly the same as a word you know in English. Other times, the word might be close, so close, that you think you can guess it. You might be right. Or you might not be. So beware. Here are 20 false friends that you should learn, just to avoid any confusion:

Don't English grind on the Swedish grind. Photo credit: B. Marcus Cederström

Don’t English grind on the Swedish grind. Photo credit: B. Marcus Cederström

Svenska = Engelska

  1. bad (ett) = bath
  2. barn (ett) = child
  3. bra = good
  4. dog = died
  5. fart (en) = speed
  6. full = drunk
  7. gem (ett) = paper clip
  8. genus (ett) = gender
  9. grind (en) = gate
  10. gymnasium (ett) = high school
  11. kind (en) = cheek
  12. kiss (ett) = pee
  13. offer (ett) = victim or sacrifice
  14. personal (en) = staff/personnel
  15. pest (en) = plague
  16. semester (en) = vacation
  17. slut (ett) = end/finished
  18. smoking (en) = tuxedo
  19. stark = strong
  20. trams = nonsense

Of course, you can see the potential for problems here. If you’ve had enough to eat at dinner, don’t say you’re full. Unless you’ve also had too much to drink. With school starting, don’t say you’re dreading the start of the new semester. Unless you’re going on a horrible vacation. If you ask for a gem, don’t be surprised when someone gives you a paper clip. I think you understand how this works.

And those are just the ones that are spelled the same. There are plenty of others, like val. Kind of looks like whale. It does mean whale. Kind of. If it is EN val, it is a whale. If it is ETT val, it is an election. So right now in Sweden, there is ETT val coming up. Not EN val. We’ll be voting in elections, not whales.

Good luck and be sure to write more of your false friends in the comments below.

Boxes and hedgehogs: Expressing “there is/are” in Swedish

Posted on 13. Aug, 2014 by in Grammar, Swedish Language, Video, Vocabulary

Tjena! Let me present to you the next installment in the Swedish with Steve series: “Boxes and hedgehogs: Expressing ‘there is/are’ in Swedish”.

YouTube Preview Image

In a previous post, I told you about the Swedish verb vara and its different forms. This time, I’m going to teach you how to say “there is” or “there are”.

For this expression, you generally actually don’t use the verb vara. Instead, you use the verb finnas, which, directly translated, means “to exist”. The Swedish equivalent of “there is” or “there are” is det finns. Here are some example sentences:

Det finns en burk med tomatsås i skåpet. – There is a can of tomato sauce in the cupboard.

Det finns många igelkottar i Sverige. – There are many hedgehogs in Sweden.

Easy enough, right? Det finns means “there is” or “there are”. Putting det finns in past tense is easy. To say “there was” or “there were”, you say det fanns. Here are some examples of how one might use det fanns in a sentence.

Det fanns en tung låda i trappan. – There was a heavy box on the staircase.

Det fanns några ord på skärmen när jag gick in i rummet. – There were some words on the screen when I walked into the room.

So, det finns is present tense and det fanns is past tense. What’s left are the so-called “perfect” forms, the equivalents of “there has been” or “there have been”, and “there had been”. To express “there has been” or “there have been”, the construction is det har funnits.

Det har funnits en fågelbo i trädet. − There has been a bird’s nest in the tree.

Det har funnits fler militärläger i Sverige tidigare. − There have been more military camps in Sweden previously.

And finally, “there had been”: det hade funnits. It’s used like this:

Det hade funnits ett hus på tomten, men när vi kom tillbaka var det borta. − There had been a house on the lot, but when we came back, it was gone.

And that’s how you use the verb finnas to express “there is” or “there are” in all tenses.

Conjugation summary: finnas

det finns – there is, there are
det fanns – there was, there were
det har funnits – there has been, there have been
det hade funnits – there had been

Thanks as always for reading, and don’t hesitate to comment! ;) Vi ses!

English Words in Swedish

Posted on 31. Jul, 2014 by in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Languages change. There’s phonetic change and morphological change and lexical change. Sometimes they’re obvious and other times maybe a bit less so. But, for the most part, these changes do not mean that the language is dying or disappearing. You hear that a lot when people start wondering about the number of foreign words making their way into a language. Like English words in Swedish, for example.

There are a whole host of English loanwords that appear in Swedish. And that’s ok. Especially because the vast majority of people in Sweden are still speaking Swedish. Surprising, I know. Språkrådet, the organization that kind of watches over the Swedish language, even came out and reminded everyone that it’s ok to use some English words in Swedish and that it is not the downfall of Swedish. Loanwords come from all kinds of language. Swedish has loanwords from English, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, and the list goes on.

Plus, from a language-learning standpoint, loanwords can be very helpful. They can often act as cognates, those helpful words that have a similar etymology and make them easy to recognize. Because I speak English, I’ve put together a short list of words that have been borrowed into Swedish. They appear somewhat regularly and can be very useful in everyday speech. While it may seem silly to put together a list of cognates, it can be helpful in adding them in to your working vocabulary.

I’ve included 20 verbs below and you’ll notice many of them are related to technology. Some of them are more common in the speech of younger Swedes, others you’ll hear from Swedes of all ages. Hopefully, they’re all helpful.

Svenska English
googla to google
blogga to blog
klicka to click
skanna to scan
twittra to tweet on Twitter
skypa to skype
printa ut to print out something
uppdatera to update
kontakta to contact
facebooka to use Facebook
attacha to attach
logga in/ut to log in/out
starta to start
dejta to date
flirta to flirt
dumpa to dump someone
stressa to stress
chilla to chill out
studera to study
parkera to park

In the comments below, please add some more of the loan words and cognates you’ve come across.