Swedish Language Blog

Tänka, tycka, tro Posted by on Mar 4, 2010 in Grammar, Swedish Language

You guys have surely been wondering  what the differences are between these three words. It is nothing strange with them, since everyone can find similar words in their own languages. But sometimes it can happen that you would use a different verb in cases when tänka, tycka, tro are used in Swedish. It can be tricky. Sometimes the translation of these words can crossmatch with each other. And you get confused. But do not be afraid to ask the person you are talking to if they really have a strong opinion on something or just assume something.  

I would like to exemplify these words with some sentences:

1. Tänka=to think (where Swedish means imagine) or physically thinking (when in English you think about something) or to intend.

*Please note that tänka can be combined with different prepositions like ( tänka om, tänka på, tänka ut, tänka över etc.) that changes the meaning of the expression.

a,  Tänk om vi kunde flyga!/ Imagine if we could fly!

b, Jag kan inte tänka. Jag är för utmattad./I can´t think. I am too exhausted.

c, Jag tänker ta ett bad nu./I am going to take a bath now.

*Please note the translation. In these cases tänker works like a modal auxiliary/verb.


 Jag tänker åka till Stockholm./I intend

*Please note that Swedish means I have a plan to do something in the near future.

2. Tycka=to have an opinion about something (where English sometimes can use think).

 a, Jag tycker att han är snäll./(where Swedish means in my opinion/I have an opinion about him or in my understanding he is…) I think he is nice.


Jag tycker vi ska gå ut./I think we should go out. (opinion)


Jag tycker du har rätt./I think you are right. (opinion)

b, Jag tyckte du sa att du inte kunde komma på fredag./I thought you said, that you couldn´t come on friday. (out of my perspective I was certain about something)

* Please note that in constructions like these Swedish talks about missunderstandings, but the verb trodde can also be used.

Jag trodde du sa att du inte kunde komma på fredag./I thought you said, that you couldn´t come on friday. (I assumed but I wasn´t certain)

c, tycka om= to like

Jag tycker om dig./I like you

*Please note that tycka om is considered as a verb of its own.

3. Tro= to believe or think

a,  Jag tror på Gud/I beleive in God.

* Please note that when the verb is together with a preposition gives another meaning.

b,  Anna:Kommer han på festen ikväll? (Anna: Is he coming to the party tonight?)

     Per: Jag vet inte, men jag tror det/I don´t know but I think so.

c, Jag har aldrig varit i Grekland, men jag tror att det är fint där/I have never been to Greece, but I think (where Swedish means I assume or suppose) it is nice there. (innan du har sett den-before you have seen it)

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  1. Sophie:

    Hehe, I was just reading about this the other day, nice to have some more examples to look at. Tack för en bra blogg!

  2. T.R.L:

    Jag tror på ideologin <= This really feels like a forced construct in swedish. Mainly since it appears to lack a "possessivt pronomen/possessive pronoun" the way you have written it.

    While its not wrong to write or say it like this, it however is a very strange way to state something in swedish (unless it is an response to a statement or a question).

  3. Jovi:

    very helpful., and i had this confusing for a very long time, and i think put those words in conversation is easier for students to understand

  4. Alison:

    I’m still a beginner in Swedish, but just this week I was actually wondering about these three verbs and how to use them – so it’s lucky for me I found your blog! Thanks!

  5. Tibor:

    Hi Sophie and Jovi!

    That´s great. I wrote this post because I think Kenia or Luke had suggested to clear things up about these three words. Don´t forget guys. We write the blog for you. So, if you have any difficulties, please just let us know and we will try to do our best to explain it for you.

  6. Ildiko:

    Thank you, it was really useful, I was just about to ask my Swedish teacher about it! It would be nice to know more about the equivalents of “get/receive” which are a bit difficult to distinguish, at least for me… 🙂

  7. Tibor:

    Thanks Ildiko!

    It is coming, maybe next month, maybe earlier. We´ll see how we can work it out. Thanks for the input!

  8. Tibor:

    Hi Alison!

    It is cool that it was “good timing” for so many of our readers. Please, come with more questions and suggestions whenever you have.

  9. Kenia:

    Great post as usual Tibor! You explained the differences very well, and i hope i learned them now so i don’t confuse these verbs anymore! Just one question, i’ve heard also the verb “anta” which means “to suppose” according to my dictionary, but in certain contexts can it replace “tro”? Is this one a common verb to use in modern swedish? I ask because i’ve heard it mostly in lyrics. Thanks!

  10. Tibor:

    Thank you Kenia! Yes, anta is a synonym of tro. In everyday life people use both of them. Anta is a bit nicer for the ear, but both of them are used in everyday Swedish. If you don´t want to say tro all the time, then it is good to use anta sometimes.