Åka or Gå? Posted by Transparent Language on Oct 12, 2008 in Grammar, Vocabulary
Today’s topic is one that confuses many Swedish learners – those pesky verbs that are deceptively similar, have pretty much the same meaning in English, yet in Swedish are used in a completely different context. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Actually, Swedish has quite a few such verb combinations. But today we’ll start with the one that causes the most grief when you’re learning Swedish – gå and åka.
Both of those verbs can be translated as “to go” in English and that’s the beginning of confusion. My dictionary says that:
- Gå means: to walk, to march, to go, to travel, to depart, to pass, to sail, to run, and that’s just the first few definitions.
But then again, my dictionary says that:
- Åka means: to go, to travel, to drive.
Not very helpful, wouldn’t you say? Fortunately, the Swedish-Swedish dictionary offers some more constructive suggestions:
- gå (går, gick, gått) – flytta sig med hjälp av fötterna på vanligt sätt, röra sig åt något håll, lämna en plats.
- åka (åker, åkte, åkt) – röra sig med hjälp av något, resa.
While on the surface this is a bit more helpful, I think the only way to see how it works in practice is to give you some practical examples. Which may or may not confuse you further.
So, basically åka means to move from place to place with a help of something, like for example, a car, or a bus, or a pair of skis. Take a look:
- åka bil – to go by car
- åka cykel – to go by bike
- åka buss – to go by bus
- åka skidor – to ski
When you travel someplace, you åker there, for example:
- åka till fjällen – to go to the mountains
- åka utomlands – to go abroad
So far so good, seems simple enough. Enter gå and things get a lot more complicated.
- Går det här tåget till Malmö? – Does this train go to Malmö?
- Vart går den här vägen? – Where does this road go (lead) to?
- Hoppas att resan går bra. – Hope the trip goes well.
- gå i skolan / gå i kyrkan = to go to school / to go to church
- gå på bio = to go to the movies
- ha svårt (för) att gå = to have difficulty walking (to walk)
- Ljus går mycket snabbare än ljud. – Light travels much faster than sound.
So, basically, when it comes to people, if you schlep the old-fashioned way on foot, you går. If you jump on a train, bus or bike, you åker.
I hope this was a tiny wee bit helpful. 🙂