Swedish Language Blog

Basic “maybe” sentences in Swedish: “kanske” Posted by on Feb 17, 2016 in Grammar, Swedish Language


Maybe it’s a bird. Maybe it’s a plane. Or maybe it’s Superman!

Knowing how to use “maybe” is very important in English. Likewise, knowing how to use kanske is very important in Swedish. Swedes use their kanske all over the place, so make sure you know it!

Kanske is an easy concept, but the grammar is a little weird. Let’s start with the very simplest use, which isn’t so weird:Kanske, like “maybe”, can stand on its own as a reply to something:

Kommer du hit imorgon? – Are you coming here tomorrow?

When you put it into a sentence, though, that’s when the grammar of kanske gets a little strange. When you use kanske in a sentence, the word order changes to subclause word order. Don’t fret; it sounds scarier than it actually is! Take a look:

Han kanske inte vill prata om det.Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it.

The first thing you should pay attention to is that kanske generally does not come first in a sentence. This differs from “maybe”, as in this example. The standard usage of kanske is as in the example.

The other thing to notice is that even though the example sentence is a main clause (i.e. not a subclause), it has subclause word order. In other words, adverbs in kanske sentences (e.g. kanske itself, inte) come before the first verb. This is not fully obligatory; you will hear some people put kanske and other adverbs after the first verb in kanske-sentences. However, the most common structure with kanske is the one provided here, i.e. with kanske and other adverbs before the verb.

It sounds a little complicated, but it’s such a frequently used structure that after hearing and seeing it all over the place, you’ll learn it in no time. It’s just a matter of absorbing the pattern.


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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.