Hjälpverb part 1

When learning a new language, you sometimes feel that you can’t express different shades of meaning. Something that can be a little help on the way to a more nuanced Swedish is the so-called “hjälpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English). So today I wanted to share with you ten useful “hjälpverb”. Varsågoda!

1. ska (will)

This verb has many functions. First of all, we can use to express future tense:

Jag ska åka på semester snart.

(I’m going on vacation soon.)

We can also use “ska” for expressing a demand or a must, it can be compared to English “have to”:

Du ska borsta tänderna innan du går och lägger dig.

(You have to brush your teeth before going to bed.)

If we combine the past tense of “ska” – “skulle” and combine it with “kunna” (infinitive of “kan”), we get the meaning of English “could”. Like this:

Skulle du kunna hjälpa mig med en sak?

(Could you help me with something?)

2. bör (shall)

“Bör” is used for giving advice or recommendations. That is the verb your doctor would use when telling what to do or not do. An example:

Du bör sluta röka om du vill bli frisk.

(You should quit smoking if you want to get well.)

We can also use “bör” when we are assuming something:

Anders bör vara framme i Göteborg nu, han åkte för tre timmar sedan.

(Anders should have arrived in Göteborg now, he left three hours ago.)

3. kan (can)

“Kan” expresses knowledge, ability or possibility:

Jag kan simma 1 000 meter.

(I can swim 1 000 meters.)

Jag kan inte komma till mötet.

(I can’t come/make it to the meeting.)

We might also use “kan” when giving a suggestion or offering something:

Kan jag hjälpadig på något vis?

(Is there anything I can do to help you?)

4. får

“Få” has so many meanings there is no point trying to translate it to one word in English. First of all “få” expresses permission or allowance:

Manfår röka utomhus.

(Smoking is allowed outdoors.)

Du får låna min bil idag.

(You can/you’re allowed to borrow my car today.)

To express English “mustn’t” or “it’s forbidden to,” you should use Swedish “får inte”:

Man får inte kasta snöboll på skolgården.

(You mustn’t throw snowballs at each other in the school yard.)

“Får” is also common to use when expressing politeness, for example when you want to pay for a dinner. I guess this is equivalent to English “may”:

Får jag bjuda på fika?

(May I buy you some fika?)

In combination with certain verbs “få” is equivalent to “got”:

I går fick Olle veta att han ska få löneförhöjning.

(Yesterday Olle got to know that he will get a raise.)

5. brukar

“Brukar” has the same meaning as English “usually,” although it is important to remember that “brukar” is a verb while “usually” is an adverb. The meaning is the same. Take a look at this example:

Jag brukar dricka kaffe på morgonen.

(I usually drink coffee in the morning.)


Sara the Swedish Teacher