On Location Swedish – 23 Nov 2012

121123-ailieHej allihopa! It’s been quite an eventful week up here in the North – I had a friend visiting during his October break from his teaching post in France, with the results being that we got frozen walking around an Uppsala shrouded in freezing fog, seeing ‘Skyfall’ (reading the Swedish subtitles and marking the differences between the English being spoken and the Swedish translation, of course), and missing the last train back from Stockholm and luckily managing to sleep on the floor of a friend of a friend! So this weekend you can imagine I am quite looking forward to being able to “ta det lugnt” (“take it easy”).

This week’s article focuses on something many learners of Swedish, myself included, often find confusing: the difference between Swedish’s two words for “good”, bra and god. God is most frequently used as an adjective, meaning good, kind, nice, or tasty. Being an adjective, it agrees with the noun it describes, giving us three variants; for example, “en god vän” (“a good friend”), “ett gott vin” (“a good wine”), and “(tre) goda vänner” (“three good friends”). It is most often found in set phrases – such as “God dag/morgon/natt” (“good day/morning/night”) – and when referring to food: “god mat” is used to mean food which tastes good, as opposed to “bra mat”, implying that it is healthy. So, to compliment somebody on a meal they have given you, saying “Maten är jättegott!” (“The food is delicious!”) rather than implying it is simply very healthy.

Bra, on the other hand, is most often used as an adverb, although it can be found as an adjective too, meaning well and good. It can be heard almost daily in phrases such as “Vad bra!” (“That’s good!”), “Det är bra så” (“That’s enough”, “that’ll do”), and of course, in asking someone if they are feeling alright (“Mår du bra?”). Luckily for Swedish learners, bra does not change its form to agree with the subject and in most cases can be used in place of god if you are unsure which to use – although do expect some strange looks if you start saying “bra natt” to Swedes by way of saying goodbye at night! Otherwise, it is generally acceptable to use – for example, you would say “Han spelar bra” to say “He plays well”, or “Hon ser bra ut” to mean “She’s good looking”.

Hope this has cleared up some questions you might have had about the differences here – it was definitely something I made mistakes with all the time when I first started learning Swedish! Until next week – ha det bra!

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