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Swedish Expressions of Time – Round 1! Posted by on Feb 12, 2021 in Culture, Current Events

Credits: Tina Stafren/imagebank.sweden.se  Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall

På torsdag and i torsdags both mean “on Thursday.” So which one do I choose, when? This week we’ll sort it out with an intro to Swedish tidsuttyck (time expressions). I’ll share three things to keep in mind when using these phrases. Next week’s post will build on this!

Pay Attention to Your Prepositions

Many students loathe tidsuttryck because they contain prepositions. Swedish prepositions i, på, för, om are commonplace here. They are difficult to translate directly from Swedish to English so it’s easy to make mistakes. But to reach a more fluent level, you need to get them right. For example, here are some basic expressions you’ll recognize with i:

i dag  → today
i går → yesterday
i morgon → tomorrow
i morse → this morning, but in the past, which brings me to my next point…

Verb Tense Affects Tidsuttryck

Some tidsuttryck change depending on the tense you use. As I hinted in the introductory paragraph above, “on Thursday” is translated two different ways:

A. + the day of the week works for present tense and future tense applications
Ska vi fika hos dig på torsdag?     Shall we fika at your place on Thursday?

B. i + plus the day of the week + “s”
Fikade ni hos dig i torsdags?        Did you fika at your place on Thursday?

Here, i torsdags means “on Thursday” but in the past.

Another common expression of time in the past tense is för…sedan, to express English “ago.” This one works like this:

för + period of time + sedan för två år sedan → two years ago
 
Vi flyttade tillbaka till Karlstad för två år sedan.
We moved back to Karlstad two years ago.

Tidsuttryck Can Alter Word Order

In Swedish, you may begin or end a sentence with an expression of time. This is also acceptable in English. The sentence “The office is closing now,” and “Now the office is closing” are both grammatically correct and mean the same thing. The difference with Swedish is that adding a tidsuttryck to the beginning of a sentence will change the word order. In a main clause, our foundation or fundament comes first, and our verb follows like in the first example: 

 

     1                    2       3
Kontoret  stänger nu. → The office is closing now.

But if we choose to select nu as our fundament, the verb still comes second, pushing our subject kontoret to the end of the sentence.
  1                  2             3
Nu           stänger kontoret.Now the office is closing.

Det snöade även i Berlin förra veckan. → It snowed even in Berlin last week.
Förra veckan snöade det även i Berlin.  → Last week it snowed even in Berlin.

For more on Swedish word order, see Sentence analysis for Swedish Syntax (Main Clauses).

Practice these three principles and check back next week for Swedish Expressions of Time –  Round två!

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


Comments:

  1. Anup:

    Hi,
    Can we say Det snöade även i Berlin “sista” vecka?

    • Chelsea B:

      @Anup Hej Anup!
      “Sista veckan” works as “last week” in contexts like these:
      It’s the last week of the school year -> Det är sista veckan i skolåret.
      Even the last day of vacation. -> Det är den sista semesterdagen.

      Sista veckan doesn’t refer to the recent past phrase of “last week.” That’s where förra veckan is correct!


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