On Location Swedish – 2 Nov 2012

121102-ailieHello! It’s Ailie here in Uppsala and this week’s post is inspired by a conversation I had with a Swedish friend who actually lives on the other side of Sweden, in Gothenburg, whilst he was helping me go over some work for my Swedish classes. He was telling me that it is sometimes quite easy to tell when I write in Swedish that it isn’t my first language (although it is getting better), because – he finds at least – Swedish has a more concise vocabulary in comparison with English and so I quite often resort to using quite old-fashioned words in Swedish in order to try and find the meaning I am aiming for. This got me thinking about the differences between Swedish and English vocabulary, and it was this thinking that led me to what I find a quite interesting exception to the rule – translating the verb ‘to think’ into Swedish.

In English, ‘to think’ can mean many different things and we normally pick up the correct meaning from context. However in Swedish there are at least three different verbs, all of which have a slightly different connotation: att tro, att tänka, and att tycka. Att tro has elements of both belief and uncertainty, and it is what I most often use, especially for example to answer questions in class with “Jag tror så…” (“I think/believe so…”). With it, it is not as if you are declaring something to be certain, merely only as far as you are aware. Att tänka however is more concrete and concerned with the actual mental activity of thinking or imagining, and as such is the verb used for phrases like “Vad tänker du på?” (“What are you thinking about?”); “Tänk efter en gång till!” (“Think again!”); and “Det får en att tänka efter” (“It makes you think”).

Att tycka is somewhere in between and I have found generally used with opinions, as in “Jag tycker vi ska gå ut” (“I think we should go out”, a phrase often used when discussing plans for a Friday night in Uppsala). However, we also find the construction “att tycka om” in Swedish, which can be considered a separate verb, meaning “to like”, and which can be used with just about anything: “Jag tycker om kaffe/Sverige/du” (“I like coffee/Sweden/you”). You can probably see by now that knowing the differences between these verbs can be quite important – I have come pretty close before to telling people that I believe (tror) in coffee instead of saying I like it (tycker om)!

So for now:
jag tror det räcker med tänkande på tänkande för idag!
I think that is enough thinking about thinking for today!

Tills nästa gång, hej då! (“Until the next time, bye!”)

Leave a Comment