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Fronting – Swedish Style Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Grammar

We’ve talked about adverbials before (Swedish Sentence Adverbials), they are those super handy words and phrases that help modify our sentences. Tibor has done an amazing job writing about some of the different types like Time Adverbs with certain tenses and RUMSADVERBIAL (Adverbs of place). Definitely check them out for more information.

Today, I’m going to write about words like “today” at the start of sentences. It’s often referred to as fronting, because, the adverbial word or phrase is moved to the front of the sentence. First though, let’s take a couple of looks at different sentences in their most common form.

In Swedish, we usually follow the subject-verb-object format. It’s similar to English really:
Han gillar mig. He likes me.
We’ve got our subject, han, our verb, gillar, and our object, mig. Just like in English. Super easy.

Here’s one more for good measure:
Hon åt lunch. She ate lunch.

But what if we want to add one of those place or time adverbials? Let’s take that last sentence. Hon åt lunch. But where did she eat lunch? Hon åt lunch i köket. She ate lunch in the kitchen. When did she eat lunch? Hon åt lunch klockan tolv. She ate lunch at 12:00. Or maybe, how often did she eat lunch? Hon åt lunch ibland. She ate lunch sometimes. Again, pretty straight forward.

Sometimes though, you really want to focus on the place or time something happened. That’s when you might want to use fronting. If we take that first sentence, hon åt lunch, we can use it to demonstrate how fronting works in practice. The adverbial phrase is underlined and the verb is bolded.

What did she do?
Hon åt lunch.

Where did she eat lunch?
Hon åt lunch i köket.
I köket åt hon lunch.

When did she eat lunch?
Hon åt lunch klockan tolv.
Klockan tolv åt hon lunch.

How often did she eat lunch?
Hon åt lunch ibland.
Ibland åt hon lunch.

So what do we see happening? The verb is always in the second position in the sentence. I know, I know, it’s not always the second word. But remember, adverbials can be a word or a phrase. So i köket, while technically two words, is still just one adverbial phrase. The verb DOES NOT MOVE. Instead, the adverbial phrase moves to the front. Your subject, in this case, hon, will follow your verb.

Just a few more sentences to drive the point home:
When does he work?
Han jobbar klockan tio.
Klockan tio jobbar han.

What do they do in the evenings?
De tittar på TV ibland på kvällen.
Ibland på kvällen tittar de på TV.

When did she go to bed?
Hon gick och la sig igår.
Igår gick hon och la sig.

Do the sentences mean the same thing? Yes. For the most part. The emphasis of the sentence may have changed a bit, but we still get the same information. Fronting is a great way to, again, add emphasis to the where or when aspect of a sentence. It’s also a great way to vary your sentence structure when speaking and writing Swedish. Good luck!

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.