It means I am reading the book (or am planning to start it), and it takes me 15 minutes to finish it. The English means the same.
If I were to say that I will start reading the book in 15 minutes, I'd probably say "Jag börjar läsa boken om en kvart.". If I wanted to express that I will be reading the book for the next 15 minutes, I'd probably say "Jag läser boken en kvart.", although that sounds a bit strange, and would sound better with some other construction, such as "Jag tillbringar en kvart med att läsa boken." = I spend 15 minutes reading the book.
I don't think it's so clear that that is what the English means - I am a native English speaker, and "I read the book in 15 minutes" sounds decidedly strange to my ear. (Or, more precisely, "I read the book in 15 minutes" sounds fine if "read" is in the past tense, but odd if it's in the present.) I think we would use some additional words here to make the meaning clear: "I can read it in 15 minutes" "I will read it in 15 minutes" "I am going to start reading it in 15 minutes", or "I am going to read the whole thing in 15 minutes." But not just: "I read (present tense) it in 15 minutes."
But the problem here probably isn't in the en kvart, it's in the verb. läser is very ambiguous here. I think I might prefer to translate it as I will…, but in Swedish it's actually really unclear whether this is future, present, habitual or what. Most likely future though, if I have to pick one.
@AlexHirsch1 & Arnauti: I agree that "will read" makes it more likely to be understood as "om en kvart".
I think part of the problem here is how unnatural it apparently sounds to be reading a book in 15 minutes. Could the sentence be changed altogether to Jag läser tidningen på en kvart or Jag äter smörgåsen på en kvart och something that doesn't confuse learners as much? (Maybe in a later version of the tree?)
The grammatical structure would of course still be the same, but I think it might be easier to "accept" it for what it is if learners didn't get so stuck on the meaning.
Being a beginner learner, and not having learned future tense yet..... Duolingo has only shown me the present tense up to this time..... so I think translated in present tense is what it "should be" at this point in time if it's what it can be translated as. If you included future tense as being correct and that's what I mistakenly translated as... and duolingo said it was correct... that would only confuse the heck out of me, I think.
I was wondering if laser and other verbs are the same no matter what tense you are speaking in? I translated laser to "I will read the book in fifteen minutes," and it was marked correct, but the suggestion at the bottom said "I read the book in fifteen minutes," suggesting that laser can be used in past and present tenses. Is that correct for all verbs, or is laser a special case?
In response to your comment on mine, "read" is past and future (it's only present if it's "to/can etc. read" or "reading"), each example I noted can only be read in individual tenses, first future and then past.
My point was that the phrasing of the suggested translation (I read the book in fifteen minutes) can only be past tense, that cannot be said in present tense.
I also understand that the structure of the Swedish sentence is incompatible with both the past and future tenses, this is why I said it's misleading to have this suggested translation. The only way to phrase this sentence in present tense therefore, is "I am reading the book for 15 minutes."
I think the issue is that while it's technically correct in English, it's not really how we speak, unless you're reciting your actions. "I pick up the book. I read the book in fifteen minutes. I put down the book." Otherwise we'd say "I will read the book in fifteen minutes" to say you will start in fifteen minutes, or "I can read the book in fifteen minutes" to say you are capable of completing it in that time. With no context, it's just odd.
"Jag läser boken om en kvart" is a bit strange, since it means that you will read it pretty exactly 15 minutes from now, which doesn't make much sense with a book (not even one you'd read in 15 minutes). You could say "Jag ringer dig om en kvart." = I'll call you in 15 minutes from now. It would make sense, since the action of calling is pretty instantaneous. Or "Jag läser brevet om en kvart." = I'll read the letter in 15 minutes. But reading a book is not something occurring in a very short space of time, 15 minutes from now.
"Jag läser boken i en kvart" ... I guess this would be a pretty good way of expressing the "I'll be reading the book for 15 minutes." that I struggled with above. Although for some reason it sounds better in my ears when talking about an action that you are more likely to measure the length of time for, such as "Jag joggar i en kvart" = I'll jog for 15 minutes.".
Here are indeed some good examples of "i en kvart" being used for "for 15 minutes": http://sv.bab.la/lexikon/svensk-engelsk/i-en-kvart.
We generally can't use nouns in the singular without an article, so it's rather that the cases when you can do that which require an explanation. If you compare with English, you would never say It takes me week, you'd always say It takes me a week. It's the same phenomenon.
What does "I read the book in 15 minutes" mean in English?
I can't think of a case where I'd say this using just "read" in the present tense. "I will read...", "I want to read..." etc. sure, but to me, the accepted translation doesn't seem like natural English, so I don't think that I'm getting what the intended sense is in Swedish.
The sensible English that I've tried: "I read the book for 15 minutes.", which I find better but still not entirely natural, is rejected as a translation.
BTW. Is "Jag läser boken på en kvart." common/typical/idiomatic Swedish or is it an artificial construction for the purposes of this lesson?
If it's not artificial, what is a real world scenario where someone would actually say it?
Please read the whole discussion before posting your own question. This sentence means I am reading the book (or am planning to start it), and it takes me 15 minutes to finish it. You might say this just before you start reading it, so it could also be translated as "I will read", or while you're actually busy reading it.
It is indeed a slightly strange sentence because books are rarely read from start to finish in 15 minutes, but there's nothing wrong with it as such. A very cocky person at a speed reading course might say it. ;-)
As you will see from the discussion, reading the book for 15 minutes is a whole different thing, that's why that answer was rejected.
Would "Jag läser boken på en kvart." be an appropriate response to "How long will it take you to read this?" where "this" is a small, pamphlet sized, book?
Something like this: Alice, handing Bob a small book "How long will it take you to read this?". Bob: "Jag läser boken på en kvart."
As far as I understood, 'kvart' means quarter, or kvarono in e-o, or 'чверть' in Ukrainian. But if you're talking about a quarter, it means you're talking about relative amount. In order to get the absolute value, you either have to specify the quarter of WHAT you're talking about, or just silently assume something. In this particular sentence, 'Jag läser boken på en kvart' you're silently assume quarter of an hour. In russian language the same sentence (я читаю книгу за четверть) will silently assume quarter of a year, and you HAVE to specify 'quarter of-an-hour' (четверть часа) if you mean 15 minutes. Thus, the question arise. How do you specify a quarter of a year, a quarter of a 24-hour period of time, a quarter of a minute? What if I want to be precise in this matter and say '...in quarter of an hour' ?
In Swedish 'en kvart' is always 15 minutes. If you want to specify, say '15 minuter'. A quarter of a year is 'ett kvartal'. 24 hours are in Swedish 'ett dygn', a quarter of 'ett dygn' is 'sex timmar'. "om en kvart" (i.e. 15 minutes later), e.g. Jag ska ringa henne om en kvart (= I will call her in a quarter of an hour = If the time now is 12, I will call her at 12:15.)
- It's common as a shorter version of kvartsfinal, as in a quarterfinal.
- In music, it's equivalent to a "fourth", i.e. a four-degree interval on a diatonic scale.
- In the genitive, it works in the "one fourth" sense like it does in English: en kvarts miljard = "a quarter of a billion".
- It's the fourth drink in traditional shots ordering, especially in the definite: helan, halvan, tersen, kvarten, kvinten, etc.
- It's a bookbinding format, although kvarto is probably more common today.
- And as you say, a kvart is a colloquial term for a tiny apartment. It's slang but it's in use, not only in knarkarkvart. :)
Additionally, it's a term in various sports, card games and die games.
@Steph: It's always en kvart, kvarten in the singular. Strictly speaking, I believe it's then kvartar, kvartarna for the room sense friswing mentioned and the quarterfinal one - and kvarter, kvarterna for the rest. But I would hesitate to call those spellings fixed rules. The plurals are very rare anyway, and I suspect a lot of people just use kvartar/kvarter regardless of sense, just going by what they think sounds best.
You might want to get a notebook and write down the situations you run into where you use each one. Creating your own reference will help you to remember it - and unfortunately that's what you have to do with prepositions, get familiar with which pops up when you phrase a certain idea. You already did it for your first language, you can do it again!
Those are pretty frustrating. Every time I get one of them I wish there was a lesson dedicated to just them.
This is just how prepositions are though, including in English - you just don't notice because you're used to the phrases they appear in, so the familiarity makes them feel natural. You probably never even think about them!
The trouble with trying to learn them in isolation, is that you end up with a huge collection of rules describing the possible phrases they can appear in. That can help a bit, but it can also be really complicated - look at at, on and in. You live at an address, in a house but on a street in a town. Something can happen on a Monday in January in the afternoon or at night.
You might be able to draw up some consistent system of rules that explains all these differences and why each one (and not another) is used in each situation, but that's hard to do and hard to remember. And most importantly - native English speakers just don't do that, in general. We just say the preposition that goes with the phrase. It's 'at night', or 'in the night', that's just what you say!
Same with Swedish, you just need to learn that when you express a certain idea, you phrase it like this. And don't try to apply English rules to it! Sometimes i works in the same way as in (like with 'in January'), other times it doesn't, you can't rely on it. Just try to focus on learning the phrases, and it'll get easier with familiarity
Why not om en kvart? I finally got the pattern with sentences like Om ett ögonblick, or Hans kostym kommer om en månad, but why is på being used here? Is it because the action of reading for fifteen minutes is continous until its finished, while other sentences talk of the action to be started in that period of time? Help!
Since no one else has asked: why is it just kvart? (quarter). Would "femton minuter" be wrong? The literal English translation for this makes no sense because you're not specifying that the fraction is of. Quarter of what? A minute? An hour? A day? Even if did specify it, who speaks like that? "I'll be there in a quarter of an hour" in English technically isn't wrong but no one would say it like this, ya know?
Well, you know how English uses "hour" and nobody would say "sixty minutes" - Swedish does the same for fifteen minutes, our word for it is simply kvart and that's the regular term for it.
Of course, femton minuter would be understood, and kvart is a cognate of "quarter". But since English "quarter" doesn't have the fifteen minutes sense - as you say - we have to translate it less literally.