Using examples from Swedish to clarify and disambiguate - yay or nay?

To help disambiguate similar words on the four-part course, 8,000+ Most Common Swedish Words, I have started to make entries that look like this:

en affär

1. a shop; 2. [en järn~] a hardware store, an ironmonger’s; 3. (a) business; 4. [ett ~smöte] a business meeting

The only problem with this method is that it gives away some information about the word that is sought, in this case that it is an “en” word and not an “ett” word.

I wanted to ask if anybody had any serious objections to this policy because, personally, I find it very helpful to learn a few little phrases along the way and I find it helps me remember the words better if I already learn them with a bit more context.

But I know that there are people who would argue that the English part of the course should only contain English and no Swedish hints at all.

I was just curious what people thought about this, although you would have to have some really really good arguments to convince me to do it differently :smiley:


I have no objections.

I do have a question and not sure if it is ok to put here. If I am reading that correctly järn gets added before the affär (järnaffär) while smöte would get added afterwords (affärsmöte). Are there any rules as to how they get added or is that something we just memorize as we go?


I think because järnaffär is ‘a shop which does hardware’ whereas affärsmöte is ‘a meeting about business’. The affär bit is the root in one but the modifier in the other. An example in English would be ‘football’ and ‘ballgame’.


Your question is fine, by the way, WildSage :slight_smile:

Yes, you understood correctly, the compounds are “järnaffär” and “affärsmöte” - a meeting of business??? :slight_smile:

There are rules for these compounds, but I have never really understood them!

I know ONE of them and that is if you make a compound out of a word which is itself a compound, then you put an “S” between them, as in “fotbollsspelare”. Fotboll (fot + boll) is already a compound, so when it is tacked on to “spelare”, the extra S gets added. I sometimes try to remember this by saying to myself things like “a player OF football” and explain the added S as a genitive S, but I have no idea if this is correct.

I am trying to teach myself Swedish with a strong lexical focus and don’t worry about grammar too much. But maybe I can find you some links. I am just trying to remember them as I go.

Oh, by the way, you wrote: [quote=“WildSage, post:2, topic:9242”]
I have no objections.

Do you find the examples distracting or helpful?


Welcome to the thread, Thomas! I haven’t seen you around here before, but I must say it is nice to see a new face! Are you doing the memrise Swedish courses?

Interesting theory! But I have no clue if it is correct, LOL :smiley:

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Personally I like the example because I feel like I’m learning more than the 8000 words.


I am so happy to hear this! That is my thought, too, that adding the examples makes the course content-richer.


Hi Amanda, yes indeed I’m working my way through the courses. Nearly finished Swedish 2 and enjoying it so far. :slight_smile:


There are rules, but they are quite obscure and don’t help that much anyway.

Yes, if you add a new word to an already existing compound word (or a word which has a suffix, like -ing or -het) there will be an S as fugemorfem. One of my favourites is the painted wolf and its offspring. The animal itself is called vildhund. A puppy is called hundvalp. A young painted wolf is… drumroll please: vildhundsvalp. The same thing happens with elavdelning and sportavdelning and parfymavdelning and finally livsmedelsavdelning in any given department store.

There are quite a few possibilities too: sometimes there is no fugemorfem; or maybe there is an S, an E, an O, in same weird cases U; maybe the last letter of the first part is left out, all in all it’s a mess. (They have their roots in the old Swedish genitive/dative case-endings, I believe.) But there is a bright side to it too.

First: in about 99,9999999% of the time the compound noun inherits the gender of the last word. (Notable exception: ett ögonblick.)

Second: the first part of the compound always behaves the same way (because of the old cases): so if you know that en kvinna + ett öde = ett kvinnoöde, then you know also that it’s going to be kvinnoförening and kvinnorättigheter. You know that en pojke + en vän = en pojkvän, so you know that the E does a disappearing act every time it meets a new word: pojkaktig or ett pojknamn. And as you know that en affär + ett möte = ett affärsmöte you can comfortably use words like ett affärsbrev, en affärsmodell, en affärsidé or maybe simply en affärsman, So if you learn just a few compound words confidently, then you will know how to put new ones together, and THEN your vocabulary is going to magically multiply.

(Be very, very careful though - sometimes these little rascals mean something totally different than you’d expect. Case in point: en nyckelpiga or en jordgubbe and several other surprising combinations.)


Fantastic explanation! Your Swedish must be pretty top-hole by now, judging by the wealth of knowledge you display here.

Din svenska lär vara grymt bra :smiley:


Jamen tack :slight_smile: Det har ju varit tre år svenska på universitet nu, två års deltagande i ett ordboksprojekt, och en termin till i Sverige som stipendiat / utbytesstudent – förutom kurserna här på Memrise. Det är väl dags att börja bli kompetent i språket.



So you have been studying Swedish, wow! Where have you been studying Swedish, if I may be so bold as to ask? There was a “Scandinavian Studies” course available at “my” uni, the University of East Anglia, but I ended up doing German Studies there. I felt I needed to get my German to a good level before tackling anything new.

How long were you in Sweden as an exchange student? Where did you study?

I am really impressed.

Now that I am editing the four-part vocab course here, “8,000+ Most Common Swedish Words”, I have also become an amateur lexicographer, too. It certainly is a good way to learn vocabulary, that’s for sure!
What dictionary did you work on?

If these questions are too nosy, or the information is too private, feel free to either not answer them at all, or to answer me in a private message on the forum here.

On the “nyckelpiga” and “jordgubbe” - I found these particularly easy to learn as they are such curious little words - but they are completely impenetrable if dissected, you are absolutely right!

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It’s no secret (if it were I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it), I’m just not sure if it belongs here. Oh, well.


Well, I studied Swedish at my university (ELTE, Hungary), but it wasn’t my course, I was in the Library and Information Studies program. I started it just for fun, for extra credit, it was this weird hobby I had. A weird hobby, which finally added up to 75 credit points, by the way :slight_smile: And while it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, it was a long and absolutely not straightforward process, it ended up taking over my life. I was mentoring freshmen students and after a few years was involved in pretty much everything.

It was also in school I got acquainted with the dictionary project: it’s a Swedish-Hungarian dictionary. The thing is, that there is none in this pairing – okay, there is one, but it was complied in the 50s and hasn’t been updated since, nor published since the late 90s. Ours is edited by students and teachers and linguists in the department, by now it has a bit over 32000 entries and counting. Obviously it is curated, controlled and corrected by the community and by the head of the department who is in charge. There is professional guidance and opportunities to learn and grow. We have some audio files (voiced by our native teacher, recorded in one office in school), there are thematic lists, grammar summaries, and lots of interesting stuff behind the scenes. It’s called SVEA and can be accessed here, but I’m not sure how informative it is for you. We’ve been talking about an inversion (a Hungarian-Swedish version) and maybe a print version as well, but there is no rush, and in all honesty, we are not even sure if there would be a market for it. I’m looking very much forward to rejoin the group and continue working on it.

It helps a great deal with my Memrise course as well, which was built from scratch, and doesn’t quite follow the same principles and guidelines as the dictionary does. I made some unorthodox decisions and choices when equating, considering how it is a course for memorizing vocabulary and not a dictionary for looking up precise meanings, etc. (I could go on all day about this, don’t let me.)

As for the exchange: there is a joint scholarship between Svenska instutitet and the Folkhögskola-network and they offer places for students who have been studying Swedish for at least two years at one of their partner universities abroad. There are limited places (a maximum of two applications are allowed per school) and long selection process of several rounds – but you might end up in a random folkhögskola somewhere in Sweden. I landed in a tiny village called Önnestad right in the middle of dialectal Skåne… well, that was a challenge :slight_smile: I was there one semester, this past fall, and found out that I can actually survive speaking Swedish full-time, which was quite the empowering experience after only three years (the first of which was nothing more than constant struggle.)

Does this answer your questions?
And what is your Swedish story?



I like the examples and find them very useful. It’s helpful to know how some of the more common phrases are put together. And for me, the small amount of info that’s given away by this approach isn’t a problem. I much prefer it over being given a single word that could have several correct translations – that had been a source of increasing frustration for me in the official courses.


Glad to hear it, Daisywreath!

When I first started on this course, this problem cropped up all the time, too! Back then there was a “report” button for each and every entry in the course, so it was very easy to tell the course creator that there was a problem. I racked my brains trying to think of a good way to disambiguate some of the words and the idea with the everyday phrases seemed to be a win-win situation to me.

The more Swedish I read (crime books for the most part, but also “regular” fiction), the more I notice these 3,000 most common words cropping up in everyday phrases. I write them down in my notebooks with a little note to myself “Check on 8K+, part 1” and so on.

So expect to see more! :smiley:


I think I’m starting this sequence in the latter part of the year (once my Norwegian has settled, so I don’t end up speaking Norwedish); and I’m tingly excited for words culled from novels! thanks again for all the work.

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I am sorely tempted to try learning how to read Norwegian now, especially as one of my favourite books of all time - since I was a child - is the “Mrs Pepperpot” series of books. It would be so cool to read them again in the original Norwegian!

But I still feel I need to work on my Swedish a bit longer. It has been almost three years now, but I have the feeling that I would need at least another year of intensive studying to feel that I had reached any kind of oral fluency. I wouldn’t study Norwegian to speak it, though, just to be able to read it. I would be able to communicate with Norwegians in Swedish, I do believe, if I were to ever come across a Norwegian who spoke no English, that is!

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yeah, yeah, yeah, the four features of fluency: writing, speaking, reading, listening. Reading’s the best :heart_eyes:. I should make an attempt to not sound like a stumbling buffoon in French while I’m reading Claude Simon, haha.

I think you’d be surprised at how easily you pick up Danish and Norwegian. It might be because Norwegian is considered the best in-between of the three, but someone sent me a link to this Swedish youtuber ( I turned on the Swedish CC… and, yes, very, very easy to make the switch.

I think with your ~C1 in Swedish you’d be able to read Teskjekjerringa already. Speaking of which, some Norwegians listed that as one of the 25 best children’s books published between 1865-1997! (

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And I just copied in “Teskjekjerringa” to YouTube and found an ancient cartoon series there!

And, yes, you are right, I could actually understand bits and pieces. I heard something like, “jag gråter aldrig” (I never cry), said by a little boy who was crying.

So “Mrs Pepperpot” is the “tea-spoon-old-lady”???

Genius translation to make that into “Mrs Pepperpot” in English, because it has such a lovely ring to it!