Swedish Verbs, part 1 Posted by Transparent Language on Sep 12, 2008 in Grammar
Long, long time ago, I think in one of my earliest posts, I said that Swedish verbs are easier than English. And for the most part, that is indeed true. There is no goofy “–s” in the third person singular, no irregular “to be”, the auxiliary “do” is gone altogether, and “have/has” is simply “har”. Easy peasy. For the most part.
The biggest and probably most confusing difference is that in Swedish, the infinitive form of a verb (that would be the form preceded by “to” in English, the basic form you’d find in a dictionary) is actually different from the form you would use when combined with a noun or a personal pronoun.
It works like this:
- att jobba – to work
- Jag jobbar. – I work, or – I am working.
It’s fairly easy from here on – you, he, she, we, you, they – are all followed by the same form “jobbar”.
And as you can see, there is only in present tense, which could be translated as either present simple, or present continuous (the one with the –ing form) in English. It does make things a lot less complicated, wouldn’t you say?
For many, many verbs that’s all you need to do to make their present tense forms. Just stick an –r at the end of the infinitive and your work here is done.
And quite logically, such verbs are called “ar verbs”. And they are mostly nice, regular verbs in all other tenses.
There is another group, which through some very odd coincidence, for the most part (but not always) corresponds to irregular verbs in English. You know, those that get all funky in the past tense, like buy-bought-bought, for example.
Those verbs in Swedish behave like this:
- att köpa – to buy
- Jag köper. – I buy, or – I am buying.
See? Instead of tacking “r” at the end, first you remove the “a” of the infinitive, and then add “er”. Tah-dah! Done!
Again, quite logically, these verbs are called “er verbs”. And for the most part, they are nasty, irregular little suckers in the past tense.
There is a third group of short, little guys that behave in a whole different manner, and we will talk about them next time. For now, this is what you need to remember:
- Some verbs acquire “r” at the end of their infinitive form and become “ar” verbs in the present tense. (“AR” VERBS)
- And some verbs, FIRST drop the “a” of their infinitive form, and THEN add the ending “er” in the present tense. (“ER” VERBS)
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