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Important Swedish verbs: att bli, “to become” Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Grammar, Swedish Language

Also known as bliva*, the Swedish verb bli is one of the most useful ones to know. It has several uses, but the main meaning is “to become”.

(*Bliva is an older variant of the word that you might see in older texts or songs. Bli is the variant used in modern Swedish, so this is the one you should learn.)

As you can see in the examples, the present tense of bli is blir. While English has two present tense forms of “to become” – “become” and “becomes” – the Swedish language only has one: blir. In other words, whether it’s jag, du, hon, vi, ni or de, the present tense conjugation is always blir.

In its most basic meaning, bli is used to indicate that something is becoming more of something:

Det blir svårare att hitta bostad allteftersom tiden går.
It is becoming/getting harder to find a place to live as time goes on.

Bli is also used to indicate that someone is taking on a new endeavor. This is often used in the future tense:

Jag ska bli pilot efter universitetet.
I am going to become a pilot after university.

But if it is something that will happen soon or is already in the process, the present tense is usually used. In this case, the meaning is similar to “will be” but with the specific meaning as bolded above:

Snart blir hon mamma.
Soon, she will be a mom. [Literally: “Soon, she becomes a mom.”]

Bli can also mean “would be” when used with an adjective describing a theoretical situation:

A: Ska jag hämta honom istället?
A: Shall I pick him up instead?

B: Nej, det behöver du inte. Det blir omständigt för dig.
B: No, you don’t need to do that. It would be inconvenient for you.

Finally, bli is used to form passive sentences. In this case, it is an auxiliary verb followed by a past participle:

Företaget blev grundat år 1952.
The company was founded in 1952.

Bli is conjugated as follows:
present: blir, “become(s)”
past: blev, “became”
present perfect: har blivit, “have/has become”
past perfect: hade blivit, “had become”

Have you seen any other uses of bli that aren’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!

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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.


  1. Chris McG:

    Thank you for this helpful post.

    Is bli(va) related to Dutch ‘blijven’ and German ‘bleiben’, which both mean ‘to stay’/’to remain’/ ‘to still be’? If so, how did it come to have the opposite meaning in Swedish?

    • Wana:

      @Chris McG Hi Chris,

      I am learning swedish also right now. Bleiben is not as same as att bli in the context as well as in the meaning, as for att bli in english would be the same as “werden” for example: I want to become a pilot after Uni. Ich werde einen Pilot nach der Uni or ich bin mude geworden nach dem Sport.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  2. Julia:

    Thank you very much! I’m learning Swedish and I’ve been wondering for some while now, what exactly the verb “bli” is all about.

  3. Mats:

    It can also mean “to remain” (in a place):

    – Bli där du är!
    – Stay where you are!

    This meaning is used in the expression “Skomakare, bliv vid din läst”.

  4. Stephan:

    Låt bli.

    Don’t do it.
    Leave it as it is.

  5. Jeffrey C:

    Thank you! I learn a lot of word usage in real situations by trying to read my Swedish friend’s Facebook posts.
    He had a photo under which he remarked, “Nu blev det så där skönt.” Google and FB both translated it as, “Now, it was so nice there”. That threw me since I always thought bli showed transition/change.
    For a native speaker, would he understand it to mean the day became progressively better up to that point when he took the photo of the sunny day? The translation gives the English speaker no clue other than it was a nice day. I’d think using became would’ve been more correct?
    Also, being a lover of etymology, the relation to bleiben is interesting. I’m always fascinated by how meanings of words change.