Swedish prepositions: på Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Grammar

Alright, time to get down and dirty with “På”. I wrote earlier this week that Swedes seem to love “Till”, but we have a pretty good love affair with “på” as well. I have bee thinking, reading, asking and googling to find as many ways as possible to use “på” and I am pretty sure I have missed out on some. But let’s start off with these, if you can master at least a few you are definitely on the right track!

1.First and foremost and nice and easy, we use “på” when we are talkig about something that is placed on a surface, just like “on” in English.

Nycklarna ligger på bordet
(The keys are on the table)

Jag gillar tavlan på väggen
(I like the painting on the wall)

2. A bit more tricky: We use “på” when we talk about at place where everyone is doing the same thing, like work, school, public places etc, where and when the activity or the function is more important than the place itself. In this case “på” is better compared to English “at” rahter than “on”. Does it make it any sense? Some examples:


Janne jobbar på kexfabriken
(Janne works at the cookie factory)

Jag är på jobbet
(I am at work)


Jag läser historia på universitetet.
(I study history at the University)

When you talk about school in general, you use “i skolan”.
Han går i skolan
(He goes to school)

Commercial facilities and public officies:

Jag gick runt på varuhuset hela dagen
(I walked around the departement store all day)

Sedan var jag på banken
(Then I went to the bank)

Jag halkade och fick ligga på sjukhus
(I slipped and had to stay in the hospital)

We say “i affären” (in the store):
Jag hittade ingenting i klädaffären
(I couldn’t find anything in the clothes shop)

Public transportation:

Det är kallt på tåget
(It is cold on the train)

Jag träffade Lena på bussen
(I met Lena on the bus)


Jag gillar att gå på bio
(I like going to the cinema)

Vill du följa med på fest?
(Do you want to come to a party?)

Ska vi ta en fika på kaféet?
(Shall we take a coffee on the coffee shop?)

I helgen ska vi på bröllop
(We are going to a wedding this week)

Courses an meetings:

Jag ska gå på ett möte i London.
(I’m going on a meeting in London)

Time off:

Klockan 12 går jag på lunchrast
(At 12 o’clock I will go for a lunch break)

I december åker jag på semester
(In December, I am going on holiday)

3. Nice and easy again: We also use “på” when we talk about festive holidays, like “on” in English.

Jultomten kommer på julafton
(Santa is coming on Christmas Eve)

Vi dansade på Midsommarafton
(We danced on Midsummer eve)

4. “På” is also used when expressing negative feelings:

arg på
(angry about/angry with)

besviken på
(disappointed at)

trött på
(tired of/sick of)

förbannad på
(furious about)

galen på
(mad about)

irriterad på
(annyoed with/at)

5. We also use “på” when talking about what we can do with our five senses:

Jag tittar på Eurovision Song Contest
(I am watching Eurovision Song Contest)

Smaka på lanagen, var den god?
(Taste the lasanga, was it good?)

Lyssna på mig!
(Listen to me!)

Lukta på denna parfym
(Smell this parfume)

Känn på mitt hår, visst är det mjukt?
(Touch my hair, isn’t it soft?)

6. Some other verbs are also always used togehter with “på”, but it doesn’t seem to be any rule regarding these. You just have to learn them by doing, unfortunately.

Satsa på = Bet on
Vilken häst ska vi satsa på?
(What horse shall we bet on?)
If you use “satsa” on its own, it’s more like an imperative, Satsa!

Lita på = trust
Jag litar inte på någon
(I don’t trust anyone)

Heja på = Cheer
Jag hejar på Sverige!
I am cheering for Sweden!
If you use “heja” on its own, it’s more like an imperative, Heja!

Phew, let’s leave there for tonight shall we? But as always, please feel free to add more ways to use “på”. Now: Time to rösta på (vote for) Anna Bergendahl in The Eurovision Song Contest Semi final! Go Anna! Heja Sverige!

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  1. Marta:

    Very useful! Thanks!

  2. Coedwig:

    Nice, covered pretty much everything 🙂
    Just a little correction: Lukta på denna parfymen = den här parfymen / denna parfym. 🙂

  3. Ankan:

    Thanks for shedding some lite onto this! I love prepositions in any language… looking forward to the next one! :>

  4. Ahmed:

    thank you for putting your effort to come with useful article that for sure will be utilized.

  5. Letícia:

    Wow, this list is really impressive. It’s fascinating how a two-letter word can be used in so many ways.
    Sometimes it can also be compared to English “to”, right? Like in “hej på dig”, “krya på dig” (this one is a bit odd, but not that hard to understand). 🙂

  6. jennie:

    @coedwig: Ah, thank you!! I will take care of this immediately! 🙂

    @leticia: You are right, very good point! Perhaps I shall try to put togehter a list of expressions where prepositions are used?

  7. Amber:

    I’ve been looking for something like this for a month now!!!! Thank you so much!!! all of the examples were so helpful that i plan on memorizing them.

  8. Ricardo:

    Thank you very much for these explanations!

    I step in this site because I was searching for an interesting using of på that I just heard.

    “Kaffe på maten”, which gives me the feeling that someone is having coffee during lunch. But my swedish friend told me that it actually means coffee after lunch. So shouldn’t it be “kaffe efter maten”?

    Other swedish friends confirmed that “kaffe på maten” is the correct usage but nobody has a good explanation for it.

    Could it be some of those lovely exceptions?

  9. habitom:

    thank you for all.but i have one question ,i ett skolkök and på en bilverkstad can you give me about ;i ett and på en why we use like this?