Looking good in Swedish: “att se ut”

Posted on 11. Feb, 2016 by in Grammar, Swedish Language


Hejhej, Swedish learners!

One of many things that we generally need to know how to talk about in a language is how something or someone looks. In English, there are two common patterns with “look” which are very much alike:

Pattern 1:  That cloud looks like a dog.
Pattern 2:
  That cloud looks dark.

As you can see, the first pattern uses “like” and a noun to describe how the cloud looks, whereas the second pattern uses a simple adjective.

Well, great news! Swedish uses the very same patterns. There is one difference, though, and it has to do with clause structure relating to the verb meaning “to look/appear”. Let’s take a look!

The verb which means “to look” or “to appear” in Swedish is att se ut. At first glance, it might look like a three-part verb, but it’s only really a two-part verb – att simply means “to”. Att se, as you may very well know already, means “to see”, and ut means “out”. So technically, att se ut literally means “to see out” – but no Swede hears it that way. Two-part verbs (also known as phrasal verbs) are very common in Swedish and consist of one verb and one verb particle, which can take the form of a preposition (such as  “on”) or an adverb (such as ut “out”). Don’t fret, though – we have them in English, too! “Throw out” and “hold on” are examples of phrasal verbs in English.

(German speakers: If you know German, I’m sure you recognize the similarity to aussehen. The main difference is that in Swedish, it’s not *utse, but se utUtse means something else!)

So, se ut works the same way as “look” in English, but the grammar is different, because se ut is a phrasal verb and “look” is not. At first glance, there appears to be no difference. Let’s take Pattern 1 as an example:

Det där molnet ser ut som en hund.
That cloud looks like a dog.

But what happens if we make this a question?

Ser det där molnet ut som en hund?
Does that cloud look like a dog?

Se and ut split from each other! Blasphemy! But wait – isn’t that exactly what happens to “does” and “look” in the English translation? Think about it for a second.

Pattern 2 also features a split verb:

Det där molnet ser mörkt ut.
That cloud looks dark.

Whenever you are making a statement with Pattern 2, i.e. not using inverted word order such as in direct questions, the verb se and the verb particle ut are separated by the adjective. So what happens if you turn it into a direct question?:

Ser det där molnet mörkt ut?
Does that cloud look dark?

When you make a direct question with a phrasal verb, the only thing that moves is the verb part of the phrasal unit. You’ll notice that this is the same for both Pattern 1 and Pattern 2. In fact, the verb part of a phrasal verb unit works just like a normal verb – it’s the particle you have to keep track of. In most cases, the particle will be placed as in Pattern 1. Se ut is a special case, and what you really have to keep track of is where to put the ut.


This is kind of a complicated matter, so here’s a simple summary:

1.  When you’re saying something looks “like a dog” (i.e., “like” + noun), the formula is se + ut + som + [noun].
2.  When you’re saying something looks “dark” (i.e., adjective only), the formula is se + [adjective] + ut.

Keep in mind that moln “cloud” is of neuter gender, so the adjective mörk “dark” gets a -t (mörkt). If the subject is hunden “the dog”, the adjective, for example glad “glad, happy”, remains in common gender form: Hunden ser glad ut (not glatt).

Deep breaths. Lycka till!

Going places without a “go” verb in Swedish

Posted on 05. Feb, 2016 by in Grammar, Swedish Language

Swedish loves to cause lots of confusion when it comes to talking about going to places. There are lots of verbs which correspond to the English “to go”; to name a few: , åka, farastickage sig iväg, and even dra (“to pull”) in some cases.

But since there apparently aren’t enough verbs to talk about “going”, Swedish even lets you talk about it without using a “go” verb at all.

“What?! That’s cray!” You bet. But it’s true – albeit only in certain cases.

Let me explain: When you have plans to go somewhere in the future, even the very near future (for example, right away) – you don’t need a verb. That’s the first criterion. The second is that you have to specify a destination, and you have to use ska “will” or its past tense skulle.


In other words, the following sentences are fully grammatical in Swedish:

Jag och Fredrik ska på bio imorgon. – Fredrik and I are going to the movies tomorrow.
Martin ska till Morocko nästa år. – Martin is going to Morocco next year.
Nu ska jag hem. – Now, I am going home.

It would be just as correct to use a “go” verb in both of these examples; though, in that case, you have to know which one to use:

Jag och Fredrik ska gå på bio imorgon. – Fredrik and I are going to the movies tomorrow.
Martin ska åka till Morocko nästa år. – Martin is going to Morocco next year.
Nu ska jag gå/åka/dra hem. – Now, I am going home.

You can also talk about “future” plans to go somewhere from the perspective of some time in the past. That’s when you use skulle:

Jag och Fredrik skulle på bio imorgon, men han är sjuk. – Fredrik and I were going to go to the movies tomorrow, but he’s sick.
Martin skulle till Morocko förra året, men sedan fick han ett nytt jobb. – Martin was going to go to Morocco last year, but then he got a new job.
När jag skulle hem började hon prata med mig. – When I was going to go home, she started talking to me.

Remember that you should only use ska without a “go” verb if you’re talking about the future and you specify a destination. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense in Swedish.

This pattern can also be used with vill “to want” and måste “must/have to” (instead of ska/skulle).

Jag vill hem nu! – I want to go home now!
Jag måste hem nu, eftersom min far lagar middag. – I have to go home now, since my father is making dinner.

Note that vill and måste, like ska, also imply that the “going” hasn’t happened yet.

So much for all those verbs meaning “to go”! You’ll still need them, but beware that leaving out the “go” verb is very common, so Swedish learners should at least learn to recognize it.

Good luck! – Lycka till!

Prepositions used with days of the week in Swedish

Posted on 03. Feb, 2016 by in Grammar, Swedish Language


Prepositions are a pain. When I first started learning Swedish, I found Swedish prepositions so frustrating, because they often didn’t always match the English ones exactly. Or the Spanish ones. Or the German ones.

Well, worry not! I’m here to save you from your preposition misery! This time, we’ll cover prepositions used with the days of the week.

First, let’s start with a quick review of the days of the week:

måndag – Monday
tisdag – Tuesday
onsdag – Wednesday
torsdag – Thursday
fredag – Friday
lördag – Saturday
söndag – Sunday

In that order! The Swedish week, like in most of Europe, starts with Monday, not Sunday.

Also noteworthy is the fact that all days of the week are common gender (-n-gender), following the gender of dag “day”, and that they are not inherently capitalized.


So, first of all, each day of the week can be used as an ordinary noun. For example:

Fredag är den bästa dagen i veckan.Friday is the best day of the week.

If you want to talk about your plans for this Friday or “on Friday”, use the preposition :

Jag och Elina ska ut och festa på fredag. – Elina and I are going out to party on Friday.

What about next Friday? Just like in English, you don’t use a preposition; just nästa “next” and the day of the week:

Vi ska upp till Örnsköldsvik nästa fredag. – We’re going up to Örnsköldsvik next Friday.


Now to the past. How do we talk about last Friday? Unlike in English, we don’t say *sista fredag “last Friday”; the Swedes say “in Friday’s”. It may sound weird to non-Swedes, but in Swedish it’s totally normal:

Min svärmor lagade middag till oss i fredags. – My mother-in-law made dinner for us last Friday (this past Friday).

The formula for last Friday is this: i + [day of the week]+-si måndags, i onsdags, etc.

Next, if you want to say the Friday before last, you can say förra fredagen. Note that fredagen is in definite form – i.e., “the Friday”:

Petter hade sin första konsert förra fredagen. – Petter had his first concert the Friday before last.


Finally, if you’re talking about a week somewhere in the distant past or distant future, you say på fredagen “on the Friday”. Take a look:

Jag åkte till Malmö en vecka förra året. På onsdagen såg jag Turning Torso, och på torsdagen åt jag skånsk äggakaka.
I went to Malmö for a week last year. On the Wednesday I saw Turning Torso (see the image above), and on the Thursday I ate Scanian egg cake.


Hope you’ve found this post helpful! Now get practicing. 😉 And don’t forget to check out our other posts!