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If – om, Adverbial Clauses Posted by on Feb 10, 2009 in Grammar

A couple of posts back Mo asked how to say stuff like “if you are….I am ….”
And since she asked, I thought it would be a good idea to talk today about adverbial clauses (adverbialsbisatser).

What is an adverbial clause? It’s when an entire subordinate clause sentence can act as an adverbial. Uh-huh, I hear you say. We’re moving into a heavy-duty grammar territory.

Not really. You use subordinate clauses every day in your normal conversations, you’ve just probably never realized that they have a fancy grammatical name.

Those subordinate clauses that are also adverbial clauses can be recognized by those typical opening words (bisatsord), such as:

  • när – when
  • innan – before
  • medan – while
  • därför att – because
  • om – if
  • trots att – although
  • eftersom – since, as

Mo had a question regarding a sentence construction with “if.”
So, let’s pick “if” from our list and see what happens.

  • Om – if

Jag blir arg om han kommer hit. – I get angry if he comes here.

See? Not so difficult.
It works just like in English.

Now, let’s take this example apart.

  • Jag – subject
  • Blir – verb
  • Arg – adjective
  • Om han kommer hit – adverbial

In English, you can flip the order without any problems, you can say either:
I get mad if he comes here.
If he comes here I get mad.

Either way is fine.

Well, it’s a tiny bit more complicated in Swedish.
Remember what we said about the word order in sentences? That you can front an adverbial? And that the verb always comes second in a sentence?

So now, instead of a one-word adverbial, we have a whole sentence that’s an adverbial:

  • Om han kommer hit (if he comes here)

Then must come the verb: blir.
Then the subject: jag
And finally, the adjective: arg.

So what do we get if we put it all together? This:

  • Om han kommer hit, blir jag arg.

So, remember: those pesky little bisatsord like om must be followed by a subject of the clause. (example: om HAN kommer hithan is the subject of this adverbial clause.)

If those pesky little bisatsord open a sentence, then you know that sentence is a long, huge adverbial clause that must be followed by a verb. (example: Om han kommer hit, BLIR jag arg.blir is the verb in the main sentence.)

If those pesky little words sit inside, or rather, between sentences, it’s easy peasy, nothing changes. (example: Jag blir arg, OM han kommer hit.)

Well, nothing changes as long as you don’t have a not/inte in that sentence. But we’ll talk about that next time.

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  1. ceci:

    hej anna! we are living in a mess! no computer at the moment, a kid with a broken arm…but yes, we ll be on lyckele on 16 th march, hope we can meet soon, we have another friend to meet in umea!
    see you soon, kramar,ceci

  2. Anders:

    “I get angry if he comes here” can mean “Every time I see that guy around here I get angry.” But then you would use when instead of if, which is conditional.

    If (when:) someone says “Jag blir arg om han kommer hit” the correct translation is usually “I will get angry if he comes here/should he come here”.

    Future tense statements are often expressed in present tense. That’s an important point about the Swedish language.