This is the second post in the “Super Scary Prepositions” series. The first, written around Halloween inspired the name. Since prepositions are scary at any time of the year, I’m going to stick with the title and just call it a series.
Anyway, if you missed the first one, it was about the preposition till and was, appropriately, titled: Super Scary Prepositions: Till. This time, let’s take a look at the preposition under.
Under is actually a relatively simple preposition to deal with. Under, like so many prepositions, helps to indicate location and time. It also helps us indicate measurement. That gives us three rules or guidelines to start with:
- To indicate the location of something as being below or under something else
- To indicate the duration of a certain time period
- To indicate the measurement of something as being below or under something else
To indicate the location of something as being below or under something else
Location is relatively easy when it comes to under. That’s because it’s so similar to the English “under,” underneath, “below,” or “beneath.” In fact, if you want to describe the location of something and you’d use the word “under” in English, you can feel fairly confident in using the word under in Swedish. A few examples:
Tre troll bor under bron. Three trolls live under the bridge.
Hunden sover under bordet. The dog is sleeping under the table.
To indicate the duration of a certain time period
This one is a bit trickier, but under is used to describe a duration of time that corresponds to the English word “during” or the phrase “in the course of.” So if you want to describe something that happened during an entire time period, under is the word you’re looking for. Here are some examples:
Jag lärde mig svenska under sommaren. I learned Swedish during the summer.
Vad ska du göra under påsklovet? What are you going to do during Easter break?
To confuse you just a bit, under can be used to replace i when responding to the question hur länge. I and no preposition at all is most common when responding to this question. Just in case, though, here is an example:
Hur länge har du varit borta? Under hela sommaren!
How long have you been away? (During) the whole summer!
To indicate the measurement of something as being below or under something else
Using under as a form of measurement corresponds nicely with the English usage as well. You’ll especially see this when people are describing temperature, age, or height. For example:
Barn under 18 år får inte köra i Sverige. Children under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to drive in Sweden.
Medeltemperaturen under juni är under 25 grader. (Two unders in one sentence!) The average temperature during June is below 25 degrees Celsius.
Now you have three ways of using the preposition under. As with most prepositions, there are exceptions and nuances and phrases where this word will pop up. You might see it used to describe silence (under tystnad) or to describe something under construction (under byggnad), for example. But keep in mind the three guidelines you learned above and you should get the hang of the word under in no time.
As always, good luck!