"There was a doctor on the boat."
Translation:Det fanns en läkare på båten.
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If "det fanns" indicates a permanent location and "var" something more movable and temporary, how does this work for a person on a boat? As a passenger: permanent (at least until the trip is over) or temporary (from the point of the boat and the crew). Or perhaps a cruise line with en läkare on staff as a permanent position?
I think the difference is that in Swedish, when you're talking about a person and want to describe their profession (in sentences of the form like "I am a doctor" or "he wants to be a teacher"), that profession-word actually works like an adjective. Just like you could say "He is tall" or "he is kind", you say "he is doctor."
In sentences like "is there a doctor on board?" or "I met this really nice, tall doctor," you aren't describing someone's profession, you're referring to the person by the name of their profession, so in those cases you can treat it just like any other noun.
That's my understanding of it, I hope it helps.
"där" mean "there", as in location, not "there" as in "there is". "Det" is an impersonal pronoun, equivalent to "it", in other words, a subject pronoun. For this reason, we need "det" before "fanns". In Swedish, a verb requires a subject in a sentence, and "det" is the subject in this sentence. I hope this helps.
Whilst the English sentence is certainly technically ambiguous, when using the word doctor in everyday English (British English at least, I can't speak for US English) without qualification, it will almost always be referring to a medical doctor as opposed to an academic one; if you work on that assumption you will be correct much more often than not. For example, it did not cross my mind that one would be referring to an academic doctor with this sentence until I read the comments, such is the commonality of its use to refer to a physician.
That said, I don't work in academia, so maybe it is different there, though I suspect not!