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There are important verbs in every language. One of them is almost always some sort of copula verb, as in the case of Swedish. Vara is a verb you simply cannot go without!
In this video I explain how to express “to be” in Swedish.
The verb vara, “to be”, has many uses. For example, it can be used to give a subject an identity or a property.
Rolf är lärare. – Rolf is a teacher.
Äpplena är röda. – The apples are red.
As you can see in the examples, the present tense of vara is är. While English has three present tense forms of “to be” – “am”, “are”, and “is” – the Swedish language only has one: är. In other words, whether it’s jag, du, hon, vi, ni or de, the present tense conjugation is always är.
Vara can be used to indicate when something is to occur or has occurred.
Proven var igår. – The tests were yesterday.
Hans födelsedag var tre månader senare. – His birthday was three months later.
The aforementioned rule also applies here: the simple past tense of vara is always var.
Vara can also indicate the location of someone or something.
Vi har varit hos min syster. – We have been at my sister’s.
Din papegoja har varit i sin bur. – Your parrot has been in its cage.
Vara can also be used to indicate that something is equal to something else.
En meter är hundra centimeter. – A meter is 100 centimeters. → (I made a mistake in the video: a meter is not 1000 centimeters! Thanks to those who pointed out the mistake!)
Låda är ”box” på engelska. – Låda is ”box” in English.
Finally, vara can be used to tell time.
Vad är klockan? – What time is it?
Hon är kvart i fem. – It’s a quarter to five (4:45/16:45).
As you can see, the Swedish verb vara, “to be”, has many uses, just as in English. Though several of them are mentioned here, you will likely come across even more ways to use the word as you study Swedish.
Lycka till! – Good luck!