Swedish verbs: “vill” does not mean “will”

Posted on 27. Aug, 2015 by in Grammar, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

There’s a lot that Swedish and English have in common. There is plenty of similar vocabulary – dag means “day”, skyskrapa means “skyscraper” – and plenty of similar expressions as well. One word that is a false cognate – a faux ami – is the Swedish verb vilja. Its present form is vill, and it does not mean “will”.

The Swedish verb vilja actually means “to want”. So, if you hear someone say:

a. Jag vill åka till Spanien nästa sommar.

they don’t mean “I will go to Spain next summer.”. They actually mean to say:

b. “I want to go to Spain next summer.” √

The verb vilja is conjugated like so:

infinitive: (att) vilja
present: vill
past: ville
present perfect: har velat
past perfect: hade velat

Vilja takes no infinitive marker (att) before the verb that follows it. The example (a.) above illustrates this perfectly:

c. Jag vill åka till Spanien nästa sommar.

As you can see, we say vill åka and not vill att åka.

So far, we have talked about wanting to do something. This is really all you need, because vill must (almost) always be followed by a verb. In English, both of these sentences are correct:

d. “I want to go to Spain.”
e. “I want a car.”

In example (e.), “want” is followed by a noun. This is not allowed in Swedish. To say you want something (or someone), you have to add the verb ha, “to have”. So, examples (d.) and (e.) are translated to Swedish like this:

f. Jag vill åka till Spanien.
g. Jag vill ha en bil.

In other words, with (g.), you are really saying “I want to have a car.”. The best way to memorize this is to learn vill as meaning “to want to“, rather than just “to want”. It will remind you that you need a verb after it, since you can’t say “I want to a car.” – no, you “want to have a car“.

Lycka till! :)

Super Scary Prepositions: Vid

Posted on 25. Aug, 2015 by in Grammar, Swedish Language

This is the third post in a very infrequent series about prepositions. We’ve covered the preposition till and the preposition under in the past, and now it’s time for vid. Prepositions are incredibly difficult to get right when learning a new language. Unfortunately, they’re also very important to greater levels of understanding. But don’t worry! No one ever said language learning was easy. Actually, plenty of people have probably said that, but for the vast majority of people, learning a new language takes a lot of work and can be very frustrating, so don’t worry if you get stuck. Especially when working with prepositions like vid.

Vid is generally used to describe a closeness to something. There are a lot of ways to translate that into English, so you’ll sometimes see vid translated as at, by, near, with, on, around, about, etc. You get the idea. That’s why instead of focusing on just a translation, we’re going to focus on a few examples that will demonstrate how to use the word. Remember, vid is going to be used to describe closeness, nearness, proximity, adjacency, and that can mean either location or time.

Let’s look at a few examples using location first:
Hon står vid dörren. = He’s standing by the door.
Vi går vid vägen. = We’re walking by the road.
Jag sitter vid datorn. = I’m sitting at the computer.
De bor i en stad vid kusten. = They live in a town on the coast.
Har ni sett slottet vid parken? = Have you all seen the castle by the park?
Undervisar du vid ett stort universitet? = Do you teach at a big university?


Helsingborg är en stad vid kusten! By Georg Braun (Civitates orbis terrarum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll notice that in the first five examples, vid could be translated as “close to” and the sentence still makes sense. But what about that last one? It’s a kind-of exception. The sentence is still describing a location—the university—but the sentence is asking if you teach AT the university. Just like the sentence about sitting AT the computer, you can work AT or vid a big university. Think of it as a broad definition of closeness—working at or studying at a university is as close as you can get.

Now let’s take a look at a few examples using time:
Ska vi träffas vid lunchdags? = Should we meet around lunchtime?
Hon kommer vid sjutiden. = She’s coming around 7:00.
Jag brukar lägga mig vid midnatt. = I usually go to bed around midnight.
Han flyttade hemifrån vid 18 år. = He moved away from home at the age of 18.
Jocke var 80 år vid sin död. = Jocke was 80-years old at his death.

All of the examples above describe some sense of time. There’s lunchtime, 7:00 time, midnight time, 18-year old time, and even death time. While the first three examples might be very obvious, time can be extended out to years and even a lifetime, as long as it conveys some sense of closeness. So along with translating vid as around or at when talking about time, you could also translate it as about or even –ish.

There are, as always, exceptions. Sometime, vid can be used to mean “when it comes to, ” like:
Jag måste vänja mig vid att äta grönsaker. = I need to get used to eating vegetables.

Sometimes it can mean that you’re alive or in good health:
Hon är fortfarande vid liv! = She is still alive!
Han är vid god hälsa. = He is in good health.

But even though there are exceptions, if you keep in mind the use of vid to describe closeness, whether it’s place or time, you’ll be just a little bit closer to mastering the use of this super scary preposition.

Good luck!

Back to School (to Learn Swedish)

Posted on 17. Aug, 2015 by in education, Swedish Language

A while back we wrote a post about back-to-school vocabulary titled School in Sweden Vocabulary List. It’s maybe not the most exciting title ever, but it describes what you’re getting. With school starting up again in the next few weeks, we thought it might be time to write another post about language learning in Swedish. This time, we’ll focus on a few useful phrases that can come in handy in a classroom setting as you learn Swedish.

Stockholms Stadsbibliotek by Marcus Cederström

That’s Stockholms stadsbibliotek, a public library in Stockholm and a wonderful place to ask some of the questions you’re learning in this post.

Let’s start with a couple of common questions for beginning students:
Vad betyder _______? = What does _______ mean?

For example: Vad betyder “törstig”? = What does “törstig” mean?

So our curious student might say:
Vad betyder “törstig”?

And our helpful teacher might respond:
Det betyder _______. = It means _______.

Or, more specifically:
Det betyder “thirsty”.

Sometimes, as we learn a new language we get stuck on a word and can only think of it in our native language. It can be really frustrating, which is why it’s super helpful to be able to ask how to say something in, for example, Swedish.

Our student above happens to be hungry and ready for lunch, but just can’t think of the word in Swedish. The student might ask:
Hur säger man “hungry” på svenska? = How do you say “hungry” in Swedish?

The teacher, who is also starting to think about lunch at this point, might respond:
Man säger “hungrig” på svenska. = You say “hungrig” in Swedish.

The student, still thinking about lunch, has begun writing a short essay. But spelling is hard in Swedish sometimes (and very important. Remember that ful and full mean two very different things. That one “l” is the difference between describing a person as ugly or as drunk.). The student is stuck and can’t remember how to spell the word for “chicken” in Swedish and asks:
Hur stavar man “chicken” på svenska? = How do you spell “chicken” in Swedish?

The teacher, with growling stomach, might respond:
Man stavar “chicken” k-y-c-k-l-i-n-g på svenska.

Now it’s time for the student to read the essay outline. But pronunciation is tricky for some words, especially kyckling with that soft k. So the student might ask:
Hur uttalar man “chicken” på svenska? = How do you pronounce “chicken” in Swedish?

The teacher will probably respond:
Man uttalar “chicken”, kyckling på svenska.

Now you should be able to ask what something means, how to say something, how to spell something, and how to pronounce something. A quick recap:

Vad betyder _______? = What does _______ mean?
Hur säger man _______ på svenska? = How do you say _______ in Swedish?
Hur stavar man _______ på svenska? = How do you spell _______ in Swedish?
Hur uttalar man _______ på svenska? = How do you pronounce _______ in Swedish?

Good luck to everyone starting classes (especially if you’re lucky enough to be taking a Swedish course)!