Going places without a “go” verb in Swedish Posted by Stephen Maconi on Feb 5, 2016 in Grammar, Swedish Language
Swedish loves to cause lots of confusion when it comes to talking about going to places. There are lots of verbs which correspond to the English “to go”; to name a few: gå, åka, fara, sticka, ge sig iväg, and even dra (“to pull”) in some cases.
But since there apparently aren’t enough verbs to talk about “going”, Swedish even lets you talk about it without using a “go” verb at all.
“What?! That’s cray!” You bet. But it’s true – albeit only in certain cases.
Let me explain: When you have plans to go somewhere in the future, even the very near future (for example, right away) – you don’t need a verb. That’s the first criterion. The second is that you have to specify a destination, and you have to use ska “will” or its past tense skulle.
In other words, the following sentences are fully grammatical in Swedish:
Jag och Fredrik ska på bio imorgon. – Fredrik and I are going to the movies tomorrow.
Martin ska till Morocko nästa år. – Martin is going to Morocco next year.
Nu ska jag hem. – Now, I am going home.
It would be just as correct to use a “go” verb in both of these examples; though, in that case, you have to know which one to use:
Jag och Fredrik ska gå på bio imorgon. – Fredrik and I are going to the movies tomorrow.
Martin ska åka till Morocko nästa år. – Martin is going to Morocco next year.
Nu ska jag gå/åka/dra hem. – Now, I am going home.
You can also talk about “future” plans to go somewhere from the perspective of some time in the past. That’s when you use skulle:
Jag och Fredrik skulle på bio imorgon, men han är sjuk. – Fredrik and I were going to go to the movies tomorrow, but he’s sick.
Martin skulle till Morocko förra året, men sedan fick han ett nytt jobb. – Martin was going to go to Morocco last year, but then he got a new job.
När jag skulle hem började hon prata med mig. – When I was going to go home, she started talking to me.
Remember that you should only use ska without a “go” verb if you’re talking about the future and you specify a destination. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense in Swedish.
This pattern can also be used with vill “to want” and måste “must/have to” (instead of ska/skulle).
Jag vill hem nu! – I want to go home now!
Jag måste hem nu, eftersom min far lagar middag. – I have to go home now, since my father is making dinner.
Note that vill and måste, like ska, also imply that the “going” hasn’t happened yet.
So much for all those verbs meaning “to go”! You’ll still need them, but beware that leaving out the “go” verb is very common, so Swedish learners should at least learn to recognize it.
Good luck! – Lycka till!
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And then there’s the fact that “gå” also means “walk”, so you get some sentences that sound odd to English-speakers. “Han kom gående över gatan.” “He came walking across the street.” But it always sounds to me like “He came going…”
Works just like that in Croatian too 🙂 But yeah, must be very strange to native English speakers!
Thanks for this! It was very helpfull. Nicely explained.
Tack; jätte nyttig!
Så mycket hjälpsam!