Swedish Language Blog

På And More På Posted by 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 “” last time, when talking about being “på semester”, which of course means “on vacation”, that we could continue with these “” phrases some more.

” 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.

How do we say it in English? I went TO the movies, right? In Swedish we say:

  • Jag gick på bio.

So in this example, “” means “to”.
But in the vacation example, “” 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, “” 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 “”. 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 “” 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 “” is. And how much pain it inflicts upon people who try to learn Swedish.

PS. I forgot about the most important ““!

  • På svenska, of course! Which naturally means “in Swedish”.
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  1. Chris:

    My friend would always ask me “Vad tanker du pa?” and she would tell me what the translation was but when I started to learn swedish I was thinking to my self “what? This doesn’t sound right at all!” and not until recently did I understand the word “pa” and I still have to go over in my head what all of its definitions are.

  2. TinaRae McKay:

    From: TinaRae’s space
    Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2008 8:32 PM
    Subject: Letter to Anna

    I am sorry for loosing the letter I halfway wrote to you after reading the blog. An individual loved the Swedish language and wanted to lear more. I do not know if you are able to ref. me. I do teach Swedish incl. other languages. I do try to concentrate on the Skandinavians. I live in S.Ca. If this is the location of this induvidial, maybe I can help. My home land is Sweden. I am from Stockholm and find it very interesting to teach students, I now have, our beautiful language. Would you please let me know if I can help this individual. I have enjoyed the Blog’s that you have sent. However, I am just learning what it is to blog and I’m not sure if I’m doing it right or not but I will learn how to if I can get some help in a way that I can understand and I’m in hope that I’ll soon get the info as it looks like it would be fun to stay in touch with you and others.

    Thank you for your time. Hälsningar

    Ragna “Duvander” my e-mail at rjmac48@verizon.net or to tinarae.mckay@yahoo.com or to tinarae.mckay@live.com thank you! have a good day!

  3. ce:

    wow! very very interesting this place! i am an argentinian , with manage of english and learning swedish now! i know this would be very useful for me…tack! ce

  4. minkke:

    i dont know any swedish yet, but i hope to start my class soon, but what is so bad about the på word? i think it is great. use it anytime and its right! what more can i wish. 🙂