Swedish Language Blog

Swedish Helping Verbs Posted by on Nov 1, 2010 in Grammar, Swedish Language

A couple of weeks ago a commenter was asking about the use of “vill,” so we thought we would put together a quick overview of some other helping verbs used in Swedish.

Below you will find a quick list of some common helping verbs:
Vill = to want to
Behöver = to need to
Ska = to have to
Kan = to be able
Får = to be allowed to
Brukar = usually (used to)
Måste = to have to (must)

Usually when making simple statements in Swedish, we follow the simple SVO word order (Subject, Verb, Object). When we begin using helping verbs, we follow that general pattern but add a second verb. That second verb is used in the infinitive. For example:

Subject – Verb – Verb (Infinitive) – Object
Han vill åka till Sverige.
He wants to travel to Sweden.

“Vill” is in the present tense and “åka” is in the infinitive form.

If we are writing short questions in Swedish, we follow the VSO word order (Verb, Subject, Object). When using a helping verb, we once again follow a similar pattern with a slight addition. The helping verb is used in the present tense to start the sentence and the second verb is put in the infinitive form between the subject and the object. For example:

Verb + Subject + Verb (Infinitive) + Object
Vill han åka till Sverige?
Does he want to travel to Sweden?

Again, “vill” is in the present tense and “åka” is in the infinitive form.

And finally, sometimes we like to add the classic question words to the question like who, what, when, where, why, and how. In that case, we follow the above formula Verb + Subject + Verb (Infinitive) + Object and just add the question word to the beginning of the question. Pretty straightforward really. So, using the same example sentence as above:

Question Word + Verb + Subject +Verb (Infinitive) + Object
Varför vill han åka till Sverige?
Why does he want to travel to Sweden?

You’ll notice that the sentence is exactly the same as above with “vill” in the present tense, “åka” in the infinitive form. The only addition is the question word “varför” at the beginning of the sentence.

Now you’re ready to start putting together more complex sentences with more than one verb. Good luck!

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Hakim:

    I am soo pleased with this particular post. Its been soo spectacular and has helped me understand why certain grammer is written just the way it is. I now understand that this set of Help verbs has some roll of changing around how we shall be writing our swedish. Thank you very much…1000 times…keep it up…please bring us more grammer posts

  2. stuart:

    Fantastic. i’ve had 3 weeks of sfi trying to explain this. and you have done it in 2 minutes

  3. laura:

    Wow so amazing how you have been able to help me with this already 1 month of sfi and it is now that i’m able to understand this more thank a lot

  4. Marcus Cederström:

    glad this was helpful