Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Alisha: How are questions made in Swedish?
Jesper: And what about question tags?
Alisha: At SwedishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine this situation: Linnea Lundin is asking her neighbor whether they'll join their party. Mark Lee wants to join, but seeks confirmation from his wife. Linnea asks,
"Are you coming to our party?"
Linnea Lundin: Kommer du till vår fest?
Dialogue
Linnea Lundin: Kommer du till vår fest?
Mark Lee: Vi kommer, eller hur?
Alisha: Once more with the English translation.
Linnea Lundin: Kommer du till vår fest?
Alisha: "Are you coming to our party?"
Mark Lee: Vi kommer, eller hur?
Alisha: "We're coming, aren't we?"

Lesson focus

Alisha: In this lesson, you will be learning how to form questions in Swedish. The easiest questions to form are those where the only required response is a "yes" or a "no." Questions that use the usual question words such as "what," "where," "when" and so on are a little more difficult to learn, but they are still relatively easy because they don't differ that much from the way questions are formed in English. We'll also have a brief look at question tags in Swedish.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Linnea Lundin says "Are you coming to our party?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Jesper as Linnea Lundin: Kommer du till vår fest?
Alisha: Here, Linnea is asking "Are you coming to our party?" and the other person is only required to reply with "yes" or "no." As I mentioned previously, understanding how to form these questions in Swedish is pretty easy. In English, one might need an auxiliary verb like "do" in order to form a "yes" and "no" question, but not in Swedish. In Swedish, all you have to do is put the verb at the beginning of the sentence. It really is that simple. Let's take a simple statement like "It is raining," or
Jesper: Det regnar
Alisha: and then put the verb at the beginning of the sentence. Now, it sounds like this:
Jesper: Regnar det?
Alisha: and it has become the question: "Is it raining?" So simple. As a further example, let's break down the question in our dialogue in the same way. First, we'll look at it as a statement:
Jesper: Du kommer till vår fest.
Alisha: This means "You are coming to our party." Next, we take the verb, which is "coming" or
Jesper: kommer
Alisha: and put it at the front of the sentence.
Jesper: Kommer du till vår fest?
Alisha: And there you have it, now it means: "Are you coming to our party?" So, again, a simple "yes" and "no" question has been constructed simply by starting the sentence with the verb. It would be a good idea to practice doing this on your own with a few easy sentences.
[Recall 2]
Alisha: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Mark Lee says "We're going, aren't we?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Jesper as Mark Lee: Vi kommer, eller hur?
Alisha: Here, Mark Lee is asking "We're going, aren't we?" The words "aren't we," at the end of the sentence comprise what is called a question tag.
A question tag is a word or phrase that is added, usually at the end of a declarative sentence, in order to convert that sentence into a question. Swedish people don't make as frequent use of question tags as English speakers do. There are Swedish words that one can insert into a sentence to perform a function similar to question tags in English, but understanding how these work would require a lesson on its own. For now, let's stick to the tag you heard in the dialogue. It was
Jesper: eller hur?
Alisha: Translated directly into English, this means "or how?" but the meaning is more akin to the English "or what?" Sometimes, the word "right," as in "We're going, right?," would also be an appropriate English equivalent. That's because this Swedish question tag usually converts a statement into a question that is more or less rhetorical. The person is asking for confirmation, but they are pretty sure you are going to agree with them. They might be so sure that you would not even have to answer. For instance, in the dialogue, Mark is asking his wife if they are going to the party, but he is already pretty sure that they are. He is simply seeking confirmation.
Another way in which one can use part of this tag is to place it after a question. For instance, if Mark had asked,
Jesper: Kommer vi, eller?
Alisha: he would have been less sure of the answer. Swedish people use
Jesper: eller
Alisha: after a question when they are not one hundred percent sure about something. In this case, the tag means something akin to "or" in English. One can almost imagine an ellipsis, or three dots, at the end of the sentence. In other words, the person asking the question is leaving it open, waiting for the other person to confirm. Imagine you approach a line of people waiting outside the bank, and are unsure if the last person is in the queue or not. This would be the kind of situation in which you could use this tag. For instance, you could ask:
Jesper: Är du i kö, eller ...?
Alisha: which translates to "Are you in the queue, or…?"
As I mentioned earlier, using
Jesper: eller hur
Alisha: is not the only way to form a question through the means of a question tag in Swedish, but it is by far the simplest. For now, if you are not sure how to use question tags, this is the best one to use.
Now that you have learned a bit about "yes" and "no" questions, as well as question tags in Swedish, it's time to get down to learning how to form questions with question words. As I mentioned earlier, these are words like "what," "where," "when," and so on.
In order to give you a quick overview of these, I am going to list ten of them and Jesper will repeat the Swedish form of each. We will pause briefly after each one in case you'd like to repeat them after him. The first one is "what" or
Jesper: Vad
Alisha: [pause] The next one is "which"—the singular version,
Jesper: Vilken
Alisha: [pause] and following that is "where" or
Jesper: Var
Alisha: [pause] We also have "when"
Jesper: När
Alisha: [pause] and "who"
Jesper: Vem
Alisha: [pause] This next one sounds a lot like the last one, so it should be easy to remember. It means "whose":
Jesper: Vems
Alisha: [pause] We can't forget about "why" of course. It sounds like this:
Jesper: Varför
Alisha: [pause] And then there's the plural version of "which" or
Jesper: Vilka
Alisha: [pause] This next one is quite useful when you are making introductions and want to know where someone is from. It means "from where":
Jesper: Varifrån
Alisha: [pause] I'm sure you will remember this next and final one from our discussion of question tags. It is "how" or
Jesper: Hur
Alisha: [Pause] Naturally, you won't be able to memorize all of these at once, so we will discuss a few of the more important ones. They are the ones you are more likely to use if you meet a Swedish person for the first time, for instance. One of those I have already mentioned in the context of making introductions. It was
Jesper: Varifrån
Alisha: or "from where." And a common question in which you will find this question word is:
Jesper: Var kommer du ifrån?
Alisha: As you can hear, the question word has been broken into two, and the part that translates to "where" has been placed at the beginning of the sentence, while the part that translates to "from" has been placed at the end. Translated directly into English, this sentence would be "Where come you from?" Hopefully, the way that this question word is broken up will help you to remember that Swedish question words always come at or near the beginning of the sentence. What I mean to emphasize is that "where" is a question word, while "from" is not.
Speaking of "where," let's use that as our next example of a useful question word. We can use it to ask "Where do you live?" or
Jesper: Var bor du?
Alisha: The word
Jesper: var,
Alisha: as I'm sure you know by now, means "where." You can hear that, just as in the previous example, it was placed at the beginning of the sentence.
And while we're on the subject of beginnings, next we have one of the first questions one usually asks when meeting someone for the first time.
Jesper: Hur mår du?
Alisha: Did you recognize that first word? It means "how" of course and the sentence means "How are you?" You can use it during an introduction, or with someone you already know. Another one of these introductory questions is
Jesper: Vad heter du?
Alisha: The first word in that sentence was
Jesper: vad
Alisha: Did you recognize it too? It means "what" and the sentence means "What is your name?" Obviously, this is a question that, hopefully, you will only have to ask when meeting someone for the first time.
Let's conclude our exploration of question words here. With the words you have learned thus far, as well as the questions you learned, you should now be able to navigate your way through introductions to Swedish strangers with relative ease.
[Summary]
Alisha: In this lesson, you learned how to form questions in Swedish. This included learning how to form "yes" and "no" questions by simply putting the verb first in the sentence. It also included learning about the question tag,
Jesper: eller hur
Alisha: which translates, loosely, to "or what?" but is used as the English "right?" It is one of the only question tags in Swedish that is used in more or less the same way that question tags are used in English.
You also learned how to form questions with question words such as "where," "when" and "what." Remember to always put the question word at the beginning of the question, just as in English.
Expansion
Alisha: Another thing we focused on was that, with question word questions, the question word always comes first in the sentence. What you might find useful to know is that the rest of the sentence is also structured in a uniform way. When a question word is used to form a question, it is always first, and then it is followed by the verb, which, in turn, is followed by the subject. Listen to this example:
Jesper: Vad äter hon?
Alisha: This means, "What does she eat?" Let's assume we are talking about what someone has for a snack every day. If you were listening carefully, you will have noticed how the question word was followed by the verb
Jesper: äter
Alisha: or "eat" and that this was then followed by the subject
Jesper: hon
Alisha: or "she." The direct translation of the sentence would be "What eats she?" Listen to another example, this time using the Swedish word for "when":
Jesper: När äter hon?
Alisha: This means, "When does she eat?" I'm sure you heard that the word order was exactly the same as in the previous question. There is an exception to this rule which you should probably take note of, but it is not one that is difficult to remember or understand. It happens when there is no subject because the subject is implied by the question word. Consider this example:
Jesper: Vad hände?
Alisha: It means "What happened?" The order is actually still the same as in other questions with question words; the only difference is that the subject is omitted. If you can remember the rule about word order in question word questions, and this exception to that rule, then you will be able to form just about any Swedish question word question that you need to.
Practice Section
Alisha: Let's review what we heard in this lesson. I will say the target sentence in English, then you should respond by saying the sentence out loud in Swedish. Jesper will then model the correct answer. Listen to him carefully, with the focus on pronunciation, and then repeat.
The first sentence is "Are you coming to our party?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Jesper: Kommer du till vår fest?
Alisha: Did you get it right? Listen to Jesper again, and repeat.
Jesper: Kommer du till vår fest?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Jesper: Kommer du till vår fest?
Alisha: The second sentence is "We're coming, aren't we?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Jesper: Vi kommer, eller hur?
Alisha: How did you do this time? Again, listen to Jesper and repeat.
Jesper: Vi kommer, eller hur?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Jesper: Vi kommer, eller hur?
Cultural Insight
Alisha: You now know how to ask a few introductory questions in Swedish so let's quickly look at one or two ways to answer some of those questions. How could you answer, for instance, if someone asks you, "How are you?" or
Jesper: Hur mår du?
Alisha: Well, you could say,
Jesper: Jag mår bra, tack! Hur mår du själv?
Alisha: which means, "I am well, thanks! And how are you?" Or you could say,
Jesper: Inte så illa
Alisha: which means "Not too bad." There are other ways to respond if you are not feeling good or even okay, but we won't get into those now. Generally, if you are meeting someone for the first time, you will not be wanting to overshare from the outset and will stick to the conventional formalities.
One of the next questions you are likely to be asked would then be, "What is your name?" or
Jesper: Vad heter du?
Alisha: to which you could then reply, "I am Alisha," or whatever your name is, of course. Jesper would answer like this:
Jesper: Jag heter Jesper.
Alisha: One of the other questions that you learned in this lesson was "Where are you from?" or
Jesper: Var kommer du ifrån?
Alisha: If you are from Australia, for example, you could answer, "I am from Australia. Where are you from?" or
Jesper: Jag är från Australien. Var kommer du ifrån?
Alisha: Finally, let's look at how to answer the question, "Where do you live" or
Jesper: Var bor du?
Alisha: The answer to this would depend, of course, on where you live. In this example, the respondent lives in Stockholm and replies with, "I live in Stockholm" or
Jesper: Jag bor i Stockholm.
Alisha: Now you know a few questions to ask when meeting people for the first time as well as how to answer them. They're so easy, right?
Jesper: De är så enkla, eller hur?

Outro

Alisha: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Jesper: Vi ses!
Alisha: See you soon!

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