"Which purpose does it have?"
Translation:Vilket syfte har den?
both 'den' and 'det' are accepted forms. Are they both nominative?
Why are they both ok?
Both are nominative, yes. We're speaking about an unknown object here, which could be either neuter or common gender, so both are accepted.
"Syfte" is an ett-word, so that is why you have to say "vilket syfte". Something har ett syfte, but since we don't know if this something is an ett-word or an en-word "Vilket syfte har det?" should be accepted as well. Isn't it?
In questions, the rule is that the verb goes before the subject, and the only thing that can go before the verb are question words (like vad 'what' or vem 'who') and like here, question phrases (vilket syfte works the same way as 'what' or 'who' would have).
This English translation sounds weird to me. Doesn't "What is its purpose?/What is the purpose of it?" better?
Arguably, yes, but that construction exists in Swedish as well, so that would be Vad är dess syfte?
"Which" implies a defined number of possible responses whereas "what" allows for an unknown number of undefined possibilities. Both are grammatically correct depending on the circumstances.
That's not a Swedish word. :) Or, rather: it used to be in the 19th century but it meant something completely different then.
Perhaps not completely? Föremål (with an 'e') means object. In English, object can mean purpose (particularly when attributed to an endeavour of some kind). I get the impression from my sv-en dictionary that the same might apply to föremål, but I'm not sure.
Only in one sense: vara föremål för = being the object of. Note that it's in the sense of e.g. being the object of appreciation, rather than being the object of a mission. It's not exactly common, but you are indeed right about that. :)
The older förmål, however, meant "pre-meal meal", and förmåla could mean either "paint" or "paint a future event even though it hasn't happened yet", so they appear to be completely unrelated to föremål.
When purpose means "point of", that can translate to mening. But when it's about intention of quality in regards to something, it cannot. For instance:
- What's the point of this soap opera? = Vad är det för mening med den här såpoperan?
- What's the purpose of this chair? = Vad är det för syfte med den här stolen?
Added it. :) Please note that it's not the most idiomatic way of phrasing it.
Along these same lines, would you say that the main answer "Vilket syfte har den" is more idiomatic than "Vad/vilket har det för syfte"?
Both are generally perfectly fine. I might opt for the former when talking about a specific object, and the latter when talking about a more abstract concept. But that's just me. :)
What are the differences between ändamål, mål and syfte? Which ones could we use here?
ändamål and syfte are pretty much synonymous, but you tend to use ändamål for the end goal of something, and syfte for the reason of starting it. Granted, this is usually the same thing.
mål just means goal, so it's synonymous at times but usually not.