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A Way With Words specializes in translation, writing, and editing, with a focus on the Scandinavian languages.

Copyright (c) 2008-2012 A Way With Words. All rights reserved.

Test Your Swenglish


There are some mistakes that Swedish-speakers commonly make when writing or speaking English. Look at the following ten sentences and try to fix the Swenglish mistakes.

  1. I always have a funny time at parties.
  2. When are you born? I am born January 20.
  3. I like to travel to London. When I'm there, I live at the Hotel English.
  4. Where are you coming from? I am coming from Sweden.
  5. This is Karen, a friend to me. We first met for five years ago.
  6. I need to lend a pen from you.
  7. Sam is interesting in sports, but Maria is boring by them.
  8. At half seven we're going to eat dinner.
  9. Joey learns children math.
  10. My father just got a new work. He controls passports at the airport.



Correct Answers, Explanations, and Examples


Here are the correct sentences, explanations, and examples.

1. I always have a fun time at parties.

Explanation: The Swedish words “rolig,” “roligt,” and “roliga,” can be translated to English as either “fun” or “funny.” “Fun” means that something is enjoyable, while “funny” means humorous.

Examples: That movie was so funny I couldn't stop laughing.

Studying English is fun.

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2. When were you born? I was born January 20.

Explanation: Swedish uses the present tense verb “är” when referring to people who are still alive, such as in “När är du född?” or “Han är född i Helsingborg.” The past tense “var” in Swedish is only used for people who are no longer alive, such as in “Han var född 1874.” English, however, always uses the past tense “was” or “were” whether a person is still alive or not.

Examples: Where were you born? I was born in Toronto.

When was George Washington born? He was born in 1732.

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3. I like to travel to London. When I'm there, I stay at the Hotel English.

Explanation: When talking about temporary situations, such as travel, the Swedish word “bo” should be translated as “stay” and not “live.” “Live” should be used for your permanent residence.

Examples: She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.

He stays at the Danish Hotel in Copenhagen.

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4. Where are you from? I am from Sweden. or Where do you come from? I come from Sweden.

Explanation: The English present continuous form (you are coming, he is working, I am talking, and so forth) is generally used when talking about things that change or that are only true for a certain period of time. So when talking or writing about things that are permanent or usually true, such as a person's nationality or where someone works, you should use the present simple form (you come, he works, I talk, and so forth). In other words, if something is true now or is happening at the moment, but will not be true or will no longer be happening later, the present continuous should be used, and when something is true often or always or happens regularly, the present simple should be chosen instead.

Examples: Are you writing a letter to your mother right now?

I write a letter to my mother every week.

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5. This is Karen, a friend of mine. We first met five years ago.

Explanation: The Swedish "en vän till mig" should be "a friend of mine" in English. Also, in English you don't use "for" the way you would in Swedish phrases such as "för fem år sedan” or "för sju dagar sedan."

Examples: Meet Joyce, a relative of mine. We're cousins.

Joyce started to work at this company three months ago.

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6. I need to borrow a pen from you.

Explanation: The Swedish word "låna" means both "lend" and "borrow" in English. You should use “lend” in the sense that Person A lends something to Person B. "Borrow" is used when Person A borrows something from Person B. Other Swedish words that are translated by two different words in English are "klia," which is "itch" and "scratch," and "lära," which is both "teach" and "learn." Something, such as a rash or an insect bite, itches and so the person has to scratch the itch. Teach and learn will be explained in question nine.

Examples: Can I borrow some money from you?

She always wants me to lend her money!

A mosquito bit my arm and it itches.

I have to scratch the mosquito bite.

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7. Sam is interested in sports, but Maria is bored by them.

Explanation: The Swedish adjectives “intressant” and “intressanta” are “interesting” in English and the adjectives “intresserad,” “intresserat,” and “intresserade” are “interested.” Similarly, the Swedish adjectives “tråkig,” “tråkigt,” and “tråkiga” are translated as “boring” in English and “uttråkad,” “uttråkat,” and “uttråkade” are “bored.” Something is interesting or boring, and a person is either interested in it or bored by it.

Examples: Nina thinks going to the opera is boring. She is bored by it.

This book is really interesting. I'm interested in the topic.

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8. At six-thirty we're going to eat dinner. or At half past six we're going to eat dinner.

Explanation: The ways we tell time in Swedish and English are generally the same, but there are some important differences. For example, the Swedish time “halv två” is “one-thirty” or “half past one” in English. Also watch out for “fem i halv två,” which should be “one twenty-five” or “twenty-five past one,” and “fem över halv två,” which is either “one thirty-five” or “thirty-five past one.”

Examples: Let's meet at the restaurant at seven-thirty.

The play starts at half past eight.

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9. Joey teaches children math.

Explanation: As mentioned in number six, the Swedish word “lära” can be either “teach” or “learn.” Person A teaches Person B, and Person B learns.

Examples: Rachel teaches Latin at a high school.

Carl is one of Rachel's students. He is learning Latin.

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10. My father just got a new job. He checks passports at the airport.

Explanation: “Work” is an uncountable noun in English and can not be used with “a.” “Job” is a countable noun and should be used with “a.” Also, the Swedish verb “kontrollera” should be translated as “check” or “inspect” when referring to tickets, passports, or other such items. To “control” something means to have power over it.

Examples: Alfred is looking for a new job.

The train conductor checked our tickets.


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A Way With Words specializes in translation, writing, and editing, with a focus on the Scandinavian languages.

Copyright (c) 2008-2012 A Way With Words. All rights reserved.