Swedish Language Blog

Partikelverb Part 1 Posted by on Aug 29, 2008 in Grammar

Adrienne asked a question about partikelverb, and because I’m such a good sport, I decided to blog about it today. Now say, I know it’s an impossible task to make partikelverb interesting, but hey, we can give it a shot, right?

So, what’s a partikelverb anyway? As the name suggests, it’s a verb and a particle put together. Those nasty little things are known as phrasal verbs in English.

The problem in Swedish is that you can have a genuine verb with a particle, and then you can have a verb followed by a preposition. And wouldn’t you know it? There’s a difference! Now, isn’t that special?

So how can you tell them apart? Well, since it’s Swedish, it’s gotta be by which word is being stressed. As I’m sure you know, Swedish is really big on the whole stress thingie.

With verbs and particles it works like that: the verb is not stressed, but the particle is.
With verbs followed by prepositions it works the other way round: the verb is stressed and the preposition is not.

Confused yet? No worries, it will only get worse. Remember when we were talking about the preposition “? I didn’t tell you back then that “” can be both a preposition AND a particle. Like in this example:

  • hälsa (stress on hälsa) = greet someone
  • Since the verb is stressed that means we’re talking here about a verb followed by a preposition


  • hälsa (stress on ) = visit
  • Since the particle “på” is stressed, we are talking here about a real partikelverb

This tiny little bit of stress on a different word can totally change the meaning of the phrase, as you’ve just seen above.

  • Jag hälsade på Adrienne (with the stress on the verb) = I greeted Adrienne. (as in: said hello to her)


  • Jag hälsade Adrienne (with the stress on “”) = I visited Adrienne. (as in: went to her house and had fika together)

Fortunately, this is just the only one of the more extreme examples I can come up with right this moment. Your average, normal partikelverb are rather boring. And sadly, there’s only one way to learn them – you need to sit down, make a list and memorize those little suckers.

If you want, we can do it together. Every so often I can prepare a batch of partikelverb and their English equivalents and while I can’t promise you that it will be exciting, I’ll try to do my best to make it fun. Sort of fun. Because really, how fun can phrasal verbs be?

If you can get it, this might be of help:

“Se Upp!: Svenska Partikelverb” by Hans Holmgren Ording and published by Natur och Kultur in 1998 (supposedly re-released in 2002).
# ISBN-10: 9127504735
# ISBN-13: 978-9127504738

Sadly, the book is out of print. But if you can dig it up somewhere, it could be useful. It discusses 169 Swedish phrasal verbs and also distinguishes between true phrasal verbs and verbs followed by prepositions (just like I showed you above).

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  1. nick:

    Hej, Anna,
    I wonder if you could clear up something about these partikel verbs. In the bizarre language that is English, as you know we have two systems of grammar that come into play with partikel verbs, or phrasal verbs / prepositional verbs as you say. We can either use ‘that’ or ‘which.’ Example, using the verb ‘to count on’ : The solution THAT I am counting on. The solution on WHICH I am counting. The second version is basically like French, and is usually used as the written form, as most speakers would use ‘that.’ My question is – is there a similar choice in Swedish for relative pronouns? I didn’t think there was any snooty concept in Swedish of ‘not ending a sentence on a preposition’ like in English, but I do know you have words like ‘vilken,’ so I’ve always been very vague in this area. Thanks!

  2. Adrienne:

    Hej Anna! Tack så mycket! Jag tror jag ska behöva den bok.

    For anyone who is interested, I ran a google search on the ISBN and found 3 online bookstores in Sweden that have it in stock. I’m not sure if it is available anywhere else.

  3. Anna:

    Hi Nick!
    I don’t think it’s so much the question of partikelverb, as it is of relative clauses. At least that’s what it looks like to me. In Swedish, the little word you are looking for is “som”- it replaces “which”, “that”, “who” and a couple of other words used to describe relative clauses.
    So, in your example: “lösning SOM jag litar på” or “lösning SOM jag räknar med”. In some very formal written texts “vilken” (or “vilket”, “vilka”) can be used, but really, nobody talks like that anymore. And yes, in Swedish you can end a sentence with a preposition! yay! 😉 No snooty stuff here!

    Hi Adrienne!
    Glad I could help. 🙂

  4. Stanley Edin:

    I enjoy your blog very much. I am of Swedish ancestry and have been to Sweden four times including a 2 week stay this last June.

    Would you care to comment on the Swedish concepts of “Lagom” and “Yantelagen”?

    I and I’m sure others would appreciate your insight!

    Stan in Minnesota

  5. Hofnug:

    could you please tell us some of the legal ways of coming (and staying) in sweden? thanks! =)

  6. Anna:

    Hi Stanley, and thank you for your comment. I’ve been thinking to write a post about Lagom and Jantelagen, actually I’m even re-reading Aksel Sandemose’s book right now.

    all the information about coming to Sweden and staying here legally can be found on the Migrationsverket website – http://www.migrationsverket.se
    There’s even an English language option on there. Or alternately, visit the website of your nearest Swedish embassy.

  7. Anna:

    Thank god, some one out there understands how hard and sometimes boring the Swedish lingo is to learn….

    and Anna love the humour in your blog.

    I see it has been a while since you have been on, please come back and make me smile while I am learning!!!