Swedish Language Blog

How to Impress Your Swedish Friends: Abbreviate Your Clauses Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Grammar

As you get more and more comfortable with Swedish, you’ll start to notice that some of those pesky bisatser, or subordinate clauses, are being shortened by Swedish speakers. In Swedish, it’s called a satsförkortning. In English, it just means that you’re abbreviating the clause. For example:
Han såg att hon sjöng. He saw that she sang.
Han såg henne sjunga. He saw her sing.

That second sentence there has been abbreviated just a bit. Luckily, there are some very simple steps to follow to make this work for you.

First, you need to be paying attention to the verb in the sentence. There are a few different ways of abbreviating clauses and a few different reasons why you might do it, we’re just going to focus on abbreviating clauses with the verbs se (see), höra (hear), be (ask or pray), and känna (feel). If you see one of those four verbs in the main clause of a sentence, there’s a good chance you’ll have the opportunity to abbreviate the subordinate clause. Exciting, huh?

So in our example from above, såg is the past tense of se so we are off to a good start.

Once you’ve identified the verb, you’ll need to identify the subject in the subordinate clause. It’s important to do this, because you’ll need to change the subject to the object of the main clause. This sounds super grammatical, but it’s quite easy. Just remember your subject and object pronouns:
Subjekt –>Objekt
Jag –> Mig
Du –>Dig
Han –>Honom
Hon –>Henne
Hen –>Henom
Den –>Den
Det –>Det
Vi –>Oss
Ni –>Er
De –>Dem

Again, in our example from above hon is the subject of the subordinate clause. We’ll want to change that to henne to make it the object of our main clause.

So right now we have a very ungrammatical sentence: Han såg att henne sjöng.

That’s not going to work so we need to keep going with our transformation. This step involves changing the verb in the subordinate clause to the infinitive form.

In our example, that means we have to change sjöng, the past tense of sing, to the infinitive form. Sjöng becomes sjunga in the infinitive.

Now we have: Han såg att henne sjunga.

Still not great, but we’re close.

Finally, just remove the bisatsinledare (conjunction).

In our not-quite-there sentence “han såg att henne sjunga,” att is the bisatsinledare.

So, remove that att and we have: Han såg henne sjunga. Ta da!

One more time:
First, does the main clause include the verb se, höra, be, or känna?
Second, change the subject of the subordinate clause to the object of the main clause.
Third, change the verb of the subordinate clause to the infinitive.
Fourth, remove the conjunction.
Fifth, say or write the sentence and amaze all of your Swedish-speaking friends.

No problem, right?

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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.


  1. Tjeckisktjej:

    We have exactly this abbreviating in czech language.. So I am happy I can use it in swedish as well!

  2. Marcus Cederström:

    Good to hear!