På And More På Posted by Transparent Language on Jul 21, 2008 in Grammar, Vocabulary
I went to the movies tonight with my friend and we saw “Hancock”, it was actually pretty good. Yes, I know, I know. This movie is old news in the US, but here it’s just opened and the theatre was packed. I didn’t even know there were that many people left in my town on a Sunday night in July. And they all decided to go “på bio”.
Yes, it’s preposition time today! And I thought since we already used “på” last time, when talking about being “på semester”, which of course means “on vacation”, that we could continue with these “på” phrases some more.
“På” is a very pesky word. It has many meanings. Too many, if you want to know my opinion. And because of that, it can be translated into English in many different ways. Too many different ways, actually.
- Jag gick på bio.
So in this example, “på” means “to”.
But in the vacation example, “på” meant “on”.
And if you want to say “on the table” – you’d say:
- på bordet
And there’s more.
In English, you wait FOR someone or somebody. So, if you’re standing next to a bus stop sign, I can safely assume that you’re waiting for a bus.
And in Swedish?
- Du väntar på bussen.
So here, “på” means “for”.
In English, you look AT something or someone. In Swedish, you:
- titta på
I just checked my Swedish-English dictionary, and it basically lists every possible preposition as the English translation of “på”. The confusion works both ways, and you frequently notice that Swedes also confuse this particular word when they speak English.
Here are some other instances when you can see “på” being used:
- namnet på gatan = name of the street
- gång på gång = over and over, time after time
- en räkning på 500 kr = a bill for 500 crowns
- på 1900-talet = in the 20th century
- på detta sätt = in this way
- jobba på = to keep working (when something is not done)
- på lördag = on Saturday
There are tons of others. But it just shows you what a versatile, busy little word this “på” is. And how much pain it inflicts upon people who try to learn Swedish.
PS. I forgot about the most important “på“!
- På svenska, of course! Which naturally means “in Swedish”.
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