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  5. The Swedish Struggle...


The Swedish Struggle...

I didn't think that Swedish would be the one to start this confusion!

Ni -> My French feels that a pronoun starting with "N" is "we"... but it's "you (pl.)"
Vi -> my French (pronoun starting with "V") AND 1st gen. Russian tells me it's "you (pl.)" but it's "we" similar to German "Wir"...

And for the Swedish definite articles... my German goes against me in assuming that things ending in -n (most Swedish definite nouns I've encountered so far) are plural... but obviously are not. x_x

Nevertheless I'm enjoying Swedish so very much now! I have two native Swedish friends who help a lot already and have much thanks to the Swedish course contributors for bringing this wonderful language to Duolingo!

November 18, 2014



Not that I want to confuse you even more, but "Ni" can also mean "You (polite)", it's not necessarily plural.

But the polite form is used way less in Swedish than, say, in German or Dutch, so it's probably OK for a learner to just recognize it, not learn it actively.


And let's not even mention the archaic third-person polite form... oops, sorry, looks as though I mentioned it!


I had to google that one: is that the one described by Wikipedia as "third person singular pronoun only"? I'm thinking along the lines of Moberg and Strindberg.


Yes -- I was actually thinking of third-person address forms in general (including the various title/name combinations) but since we're talking about pronouns here I suppose that's the relevant one :-). Now I come to think of it, I haven't seen "han" or "hon" as much as the name- and title-based third-person address forms. But you can certainly find "han" in Hemsöborna, and even in Pappan och Havet.


Oh, that one where it is impolite to refer to the person directly so you just wonder aloud to yourself whether Mister Duo Admin might want a cup of coffee? (older Finnish does that a lot)


Yes, that's the one... but as Annika reminded me there can be important differences between wondering aloud about Mister Duo Admin, Duo Admin, Duo Admin Rémy, etc. or just plain "him".

I like the fact that Swedish and Finnish decided that this was all a bit too direct and confrontational, and moved on to just wondering aloud whether the coffee itself has permission to exist.


You people are killing me! :-)

I had to think about hdcanis' wondering aloud for a few minutes before I got the right rotund-old-lady-in-1950's-film thing going, and understood it. Then it was another couple of minutes before I (for the first time in my life!) reflected on the absurdity of the existence of coffee...

Either I am getting slow, or things are getting complicated (or both).


Yes, Ni = "You (pl.)" or "You (polite)", same in French, German, Russian... bach! So many languages!


Not to be nitpicking, but contemporary German actually uses the third person plural to be polite ("Sie"), just like Danish ("de"), where it is, however, not commonly used.

German usage of the second plural ("Ihr") as a polite form of addressing a single person is archaic (and used to be reserved to nobility mostly).

Using the second plural, however, is actually what the English do all the time as the former second singular ("thou") is considered archaic today.


It is better to avoid using the (supposedly) polite singular ”Ni” altogether, as it will make you sound either as a two hundred year old housewife or as a clueless twenty year old phone salesman.


...or a person working in a conservative field of business addressing a customer who is older than they are. I use ni every day (not with a capital letter, though, I do find that stilted).


Still, a lot of people actively dislike to be called ”ni”. Especially older people, as they are more likely to remember that ”ni” actually was condescending, and only used to people below yourself in rank.



This is exactly my experience, so it is probably like annika_a says, that it differs a lot between regions.


I haven't had that experience. And the article you link to does state that this differs a lot between different geographical areas and different social settings.

Some older people do enjoy the whole almost gamelike thing whereby they "invite" a younger person to call them du, and thereby simultaneously bring the conversation to a less formal and more friendly level while also showing that they are the one making this decision (ie. they are the one held in higher regard of the two of you).


All I have to say is that "ni" is "you" in Chinese. Zai jian!


Having been on the Danish course for a while, I was not that much confused by "ni" and "vi". But what really bothers me particularily with this language combination is a certain shift in the meals of the day.

"breakfast" -> "morgenmad" (Danish, literally "morning food"), "frukost" (Swedish)

"lunch" -> "frokost" (Danish), "lunch" (Swedish)

"dinner" -> "aftensmad" (Danish, literally "evening food"), "middag" (Swedish, means "noon" in Danish (and Swedish?))

Is there a cultural thing behind this or is it just like it is?


IKR! Why the HELL does middag mean dinner if it means midday?


Apparently, because the main meal used to be eaten at lunch time, whereas most people nowadays eat their main meal in the late afternoon or early evening. So the name of the main meal stayed the same but the timing changed.

(It's like the usage of "dinner" in the UK: it depends on the area and the (subjective) social class, but dinner tends to mean the main / warm meal, whether it's eaten at lunch time or later.)

I would never mean lunch when I say middag, but as you see from Helen's answer, the usage varies. I think in this course, though, middag = main evening meal and lunch = lunch.


I don't know and I (as a Swede) hate to use middag as dinner.


I use "middag" when talking about lunch with some people, else they will think I am snobbish.

I use "lunch" when talking about lunch with most people, else they will misunderstand me.

It is confusing.


Glad I'm not the only one mixing up Vi and Вы!


I feel this. When I try to learn swedish and spanish at the same time I get och and o mixed up, since they're pronounced similarly, but one means "and" and the other means "or" x__x


THIS. Oh man I thought I was the only one.


Learning French, I have had now a couple of hey, wait -moments with "en" when I quickly glance at a Swedish sentence...and so far only once I have put in "et" instead of "och" even though I of course know the difference, it just takes a while for the brain to rewire itself :)


haha I once almost put Danke for thanks in Swedish and sie for hon.


When I was learning Dutch possessives, I sometimes put "dijn" for your because my is "mijn"


I learned a little Esperanto recently, and there ni / vi have the direct opposite meaning to the Swedish... very confusing :)


Oh yeah! I did a bit of Esperanto too, but I remembered those for the same reason, French nous/vous, from which I suspected Dr. Zamenhof drew inspiration for ni/vi in the first place.


Being Dutch, another Swedish thing causes some of my mistakes when I don't pay attention.. Swedish has "en" and "ett" as indefinite article. However, in Dutch, "een" is the indefinite article (all genders) and "het" is.. the definite article for the neuter gender. /:


Historically, you (pl) in Swedish was I (cognate with English ye, Dutch jij, German ihr) and verbs with I as their subject took the person agreement suffix -en. Thanks to the frequent inversion of second person subjects and verbs, -en I gradually became reinterpreted as -e ni. Scandinavian has a similar etymology; it comes from Old Norse upp á 'up on/in'.


In Danish the second person plural is still I.


Very interesting, have a linglot!


So many courses all at once while youre just starting others @.@ I'm learning 4 but I worked on the first two separately for a while before adding anymore. It might help you to pick one or two to start with, finish those tree and add another. But, mainly do what works best for you. :)


Och (and) was a struggle for a long time because in Spanish, y (long e sound) means "and" and o (long o) means "or".

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