Scandinavian language challenge day 29

Today I worked through chapter 9 of Swedish in three months, covering:

  • indefinite and negative pronouns and adjectives
  • formation of adverbs
  • comparative and superlative
  • infinitive with and without att
  • other words

Indefinite and negative pronouns and adjectives

The following are both pronouns and adjectives:

  • någon (neuter: något, plural: några): something, someone, some, anything, anyone, any
  • ingen (inget, inga): nothing, no-one, no

Någon and ingen are followed by the indefinite form of adjectives.

Note also:

  • någonting (something); ingenting (nothing);
  • någonstans (somewhere, anywhere); ingenstans (nowhere).
  • lite, an indeclinable word for a small quantity: Vill du ha lite vin? Nej, tack, men jag kanske kan få lite vatten?
    (Would you like some wine? No, thanks, but perhaps I can have some water?)

In normal speech (and sometimes in informal writing), the above are abbreviated to: nån; nåt; nåra; nånting; nånstans.

In two cases, inte någon (något, några), inte någonting, inte någonstans must be used instead of ingen (inget, inga), ingenting, ingenstans:

  • in a main clause: when they are the object of a verb in a compound tense (perfect, pluperfect or modal auxiliary) in a main clause:
    • Han har inte sagt någonting
      (he hasn’t said anything)
    • Vi ska inte köpa några kläder
      (We shan’t buy any clothes)
  • in a subordinate clause: when they are the object of verb in a any tense:
    • Han sade att han inte hade sett någon
      (he said he hadn’t seen anyone)
    • De säger att de inte ska köpa några nya kläder
      (they said they won’t buy any new clothes)
    • Han såger att boken inte ligger någonstans i rummet
      (he says the book isn’t anywhere in the room)

These two restrictions on using the forms with ing- seem to be related to word order. Some syntactic theories treat the forms prefixed in ing- as a compound of inte någ- that can be ‘spelled out’ (pronounced) as ing- but if the two components are adjacent. However, in the two cases mentioned, the two components are not adjacent:

  • inte must go after an auxiliary, but before the main verb, whereas the object (containing någ-) must follow the main verb)
  • in a subordinate clause, inte must go before a finite verb (the auxiliary if there is one, the main verb if there is no auxiliary), whereas the object must follow the main verb.

Formation of adverbs

Many adverbs are the same as the neuter form of the correspodning adjective: dåligt (badly); varmy (warmly); knappt (scarcely); ovanligt (unusually); vackert (beautifully).

Of the adjectives ending in -lig, a few can also add -en to the common gender form or -vis to the neuter form to form a clausal adverb that modifies the whole clause. The related adverb in -t modifies one element of the clause to express its manner, place, time, cause or degree:

  • troligen kommer han till Stockholm imorgen
    (he is probably coming to Stockholm tomorrow)
  • hon har en ovanligt vacker röst
    (she has an unusually beautiful voice)

Some more adverbs have 3 separate forms for place, motion towards a place, motion from a place. Example: var (where), vart (to where), varifrån (from where). Similarly:

borta (away)
framme (at the front)
inne (inside)
nere (down)
uppe (up)
ute (out)



Other adverbs: långt (a long way); länge (a long time); egentligen (actually, really); lyckligtvis (luckily); naturligtvis (naturally)

Comparative and superlative

Comparatives of adjectives and related adverbs are mostly formed by adding -are and superlatives by adding -ast.

  • example: enkel (simple); enklare (simpler); enklast (simplest)
  • adjectives ending in -el, -l, -en drop the -e

A few common adjectives change the vowel before adding -re, -st.

  • låg (low); längre; lägst;
  • lång; längre; längst
  • trång (narrow); trängre; trängst
  • få (few); färre, –
  • ung (young); yngre; yngst
  • tung (heavy); tyngre; tyngst
  • stor (big); större; störst
  • grov (coarse); grövre; grövst
  • hög (high); högre; högst

Irregular comparatives and superlatives:

  • god /bra (good); bättre; bäst
  • dålig (bad); sämre; sämst
  • dålig/ond (bad); värre; värst
  • gammal (old); äldre; äldst
  • liten/lite(t) (little); mindre/minst
  • månge (many); flre; flest
  • mycket (much); mer; mest

God/bra have the comparative godare and superlative godast when the say how something tatses:
Min syster bakar godare bakelser än du
(my sister bakes better (better tasting) cakes than you.

Sämre/sämst imply there is less of some good quality, whereas värre/värst imply there is more of some bad quality:

  • Göran är den sämsta studenten
    (Gäran is the worst (ie least competent) student)
  • Brita är den värsta studenten
    (Brita is the worst (ie most badly behaved) student)

Mer/mest express amount but fler/flest express number:

  • Flere studentar studerar tyska än svenska
    (more students study German than Swedish)
  • Hon dricker mer kaffe än jag
    (She drinks more coffee than me)

än expresses than in comparisons. Lika som expresses as as and inte så …. som expresses not as … as

As in English, many adjectives form their comparative with mer and their superlative with mest. This includes all adjectives ending in -isk (eg mer typisk); all present participles (mer spännand, more exciting) and all past participles (mest intresserad, most interested)

Comparatives in -are do not change endings:
en finare bilen, den finare bilen, finare bilen

Superlatives ending in -ast, -st add endings only when the adjective precedes a noun in the definitive form. -ast forms add -e, but -st forms add -a:
den finste bilen; det finaste huset; de finaste husen
den största bilen; det störsat huset; de största husen

but: de stora husen är finast (the big houses are nicest, adjective follows noun, so no agreement)

Comparatives with mer and superlatives with mest add the normal adjective endings.

Common phrases with superlatives (many have nouns with no article): i bästa fall (at best); i första hand (in the first place); i sista hand (In the last resort); i högsta grad (highly, to the highest degree)
Infinitive with and without att

Adverbs formed from adjectives form their comparative and superlative in the same way as the adjective.

Some other adverbs have comparatives and superlatives: fortare; fortast (from fort, quickly; hellre; helst (from gärna (willing); oftare; oftast (from ofta, often)

Infinitives with and without att

The infinitive is used without a preceding att if the infinitive depends on a modal auxiliary (få, måste, kunna, skola, vilja, böra (ought, bör, borde, bort) or låta (let, or have something done, låter, lät, låtit)
de lät bygga ett nytt hus bredvid det gamla
(they had a new house built alongside the old one)

Att is also not used in verb constructions in which the first verb is equivalent to a model. Such verbs include behöva (need); bruka (be in the habit of); börja (begin); försöka (try); lova (promise); sluta (stop); tänka (think); vägra (refuse)
Eva brukar resa till England varje år
(Eva travels to England every year)

Att is used to link the two verbs in other two-verb constructions:
de tyckte om att gå i fjällen
(they like to walk in the mountains)

För att = in order to:
Vi sprang hem för att lyssna på nyheterna
(we ran home to listen to the news)

Some of the other words in this chapter

Compass directions:

  • i norr; i söder; iöster; i väster (in the north etc)
  • norr om; söder om etc. (north of, etc)
  • norrut; söderut etc (northwards etc)
  • norrifråan (from the north etc)
  • norra; södra; östra; västra (northern etc, ie adjectives)
  • landets norra (the North, ie the northern part of the country)
  • Prefix: nord-; – syd; väst; öst (northern etc)

Nouns: et bröd (bread); en del (-ar, part); fönster (window); samtal (conversation); semester (holiday); en älg (-ar, elk); et kätt (meat) et skogsbryn (edge of the forest); vatten (vattnet-, water); et öl (-, beer)

Verbs: mena (think, have an opinion); gå bort (pass away, die); hända (happen)

Adjectives: bosatt (resident); möjlig (possible); rätt (right, really); stadig (steady, stable); trolig (probable)

Other: förstås (of course); genom (through); mot (towards)

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