Using the construction “Det känns som …”

Posted on 29. Nov, 2012 by in Grammar, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Greetings, readers! I hope you enjoyed my previous post about Göteborg. (If you haven’t checked it out, you’re missing a personally-filmed video!) This time around, I would like to discuss a certain construction found in the Swedish language, namely sentences that start or end with the phrase Det känns som … . It is a very useful and commonly used construction, so you won’t want to miss this!

To begin, I should perhaps explain what the phrase means. Det känns som … can be translated to English as It feels like … or It seems like … . So, for example,

Jag är inte säker, men det känns som [att] han verkligen vill ha ett eget exemplar.I’m not sure, but it feels like he really wants his own copy (i.e. of a book).

The att in brackets is optional, though it is considered more ‘slangy’ to leave it out. (This construction is rather slangy to begin with, though, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.)

The känns in the phrase literally means ‘feels’, though in the passive voice, perhaps better equating ‘is felt’. So, literally, you’re saying “It is felt like …”. Sure, it sounds weird in English, but it’s totally normal in Swedish!

This phrase can also come at the end of the sentence, but with certain rules. First, you might notice that the adverb verkligen in the example sentence comes before the verb vill. This is typical word order for dependent clauses in Swedish (more information on dependent clauses here!). When you switch the sentence around, though, what it ‘feels like’ takes on the word order typical for independent clauses – verkligen will instead come after vill. Secondly, the word order of the phrase itself will have to be changed – Det känns som … will become … känns det som. So, here is the entire sentence reversed!

Han vill verkligen ha ett eget exemplar, känns det som. Men jag är inte säker.He really wants his own copy, it feels like. But I’m not sure.

(Note: Men jag är inte säker at the end there doesn’t have to be its own sentence – it could just as easily come after a comma (,) and be part of the sentence before it, as it was in the first example. I only wrote it as its own sentence in order to avoid confusing you after promising that the example would end the sentence with känns det som.)

Remember this phrase in both its forms! It will come in handy, whether you’re saying it yourself or just trying to interpret. It can also come up in past-tense, in which case you would say Det kändes som … or … kändes det som.

Have fun telling people how it feels!

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