Swedish Supines and Past Participles and More Grammar Posted by Transparent Language on May 22, 2009 in Grammar
You know how I always tell you that Swedish is so similar to English that learning it should be a cake-walk really?
Well, today, I will break with this long-standing tradition and instead I’m going to tell you that Swedish is not like English at all and that it can be quite hard to get it right.
I’ve never even thought about this issue, because well, frankly, it’s never even crossed my mind. Until I had to help someone deal with supines and past participles. And the trouble began.
“Wait!” I hear you say, “isn’t it, like, pretty much basic and easy in English?”
Yes it is. But it’s not so easy in Swedish. Especially for an English speaker (hence I kindly ask all native Swedes reading this blog post to please consider this fact while commenting, thank you).
You see, the English supine is the bare naked infinitive form, the kind we stick “to” in front of.
But in Swedish, the supine is the stuff we use to construct perfect tenses – as in “jag har/hade + Swedish supine.
So, it looks like the Swedish supine is what in English we’d call a past participle.
So, what’s a past participle in Swedish? Hmmm… It’s also a verb form, but it’s used as an adjective. And it also follows the same rules as all normal adjectives do.
So, let’s take a look at this:
- skriva – to write
and in all the tenses:
- skriver – write (present tense)
- skrev – wrote (past tense)
- skrivit – written (used in perfect tenses – this “skrivit” is the Swedish supine)
- skriven – “written” as an adjective – this is the Swedish past participle, this form is used with “en” nouns
- skrivet – “written” as an adjective – this form is used with “ett” nouns
- skrivna – “written” as an adjective – this form is used with plural nouns.
“Ouch!” I hear you say and I don’t blame you. Maybe these very simple examples will make it clearer:
- Någon har skrivit ett brev. – Someone has written a letter. – That’s our garden variety present perfect tense. Nothing complicated here. “Skrivit” is the Swedish supine.
- Detta brev var skrivet på engelska. – This letter was written in English. – “Brev” is an “ett” noun and the past participle form we need to use here is “skrivet”.
- Denna text var skriven i december 2008. – This text was written in December 2008. – “Text” is an “en” noun and the past participle form that matches it is “skriven”.
- Alla gamla böcker var skrivna på latin. – All old books were written in Latin. – “Böcker” is a plural noun, and so we need to use the plural form of past participle, which in this case is “skrivna”.
Of course I made it difficult for you by choosing an irregular verb for these examples, so next time I’ll show you how this Swedish past participle stuff works with normal, boring, regular verbs, OK?