Hej där! Well, this week the big excitement in Uppsala (and in other places too) was over some amazing sightings of the Norrsken, or Northern Lights, which lit up the sky with ribbons of amazing electric green – the photo is courtesy of my friend and very talented photographer James, who kindly let me use his photos, as they do the Lights a bit more justice than my camera could ever do! (He has more on Flickr, if you’re interested!) Seeing the Lights was an incredibly magical experience, and not something I was expecting to see in Uppsala given the number of people who had said I would have to go properly north – as in, Arctic Circle north – to see them.
Anyway, the linguistic subject for this week’s post is talking about the future in Swedish, because there are several ways of doing this and it wasn’t until I arrived in Sweden that I discovered that I had sort of been doing it wrongly, and sounding overly sure of things definitely happening when really, that was not how I wanted to sound. The first and most simple way of expressing the future is in using some kind of time marker with the present tense, e.g. “Imorgon åker jag till Stockholm”, literally “Tomorrow I go to Stockholm”, which sounds a little strange to English ears, but meaning “Tomorrow I’ll go to Stockholm”, or “Ikväll läser jag inte boken” (I’ll not read the book this evening).
The method I used far too much on arriving in Sweden was to use the modal verb “ska” followed by an infinitive, because of its similarity to the English “shall”. However, it more accurately equates to the English “will”, meaning that something is not only going to happen but it is decided upon and set in stone, no two ways about it, and so clearly much more definite in its use. For example, one might say “Jag ska åka till Stockholm på fredag” (I will travel to Stockholm on Friday) – and no snowstorms or delayed trains are going to stop me! A good comparison to demonstrate the use of ska comes in situations requiring real willpower; for example, “Nästa år ska jag göra den Stockholmska halvmaratonen” (“Next year I will do the Stockholm half marathon”) or “Nästa år gör jag den Stockholmska halvmaratonen” (“I’ll do the Stockholm half marathon next year (implied… or maybe the year after)”). So essentially, the trick is to be aware of using “ska” too much, as I did, and sounding like you are definitely very sure of a lot of things happening in the future, when really, your plans might well change.
“Komma att” plus an infinitive was really the way I should have been expressing my future ambitions, as it better expresses things which are essentially predictions; examples being “Det kommer att regna på tisdag” (It’s going to rain on Tuesday) or, “Jag kommer att vara jättetrött imorgon om jag inte lägger mig nu” (I’m going to be really tired tomorrow if I don’t go to bed now). As you can see, there is a lot less certainty involved, the actions can only really be expected to happen. And in fact, on that note, I probably will actually be very tired if I don’t go to bed now, all of this excitement over Norrskenen and Swedish future tenses is wearing my brain out! So, for now, godnatt och hej då!