"What books are you reading?"

Translation:Vilka böcker läser du?

February 22, 2015

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Why duolingo used vilka instead of vad ?


In English, the meanings of which and what have merged somewhat, and you can use both for this purpose. But in Swedish, their corresponding words - vilka and vad - still function differently. You have to ask vilken bok and vilka böcker. You use vad in the sense of what do you think? - vad tror du?


Excellent explanation!


In my head: if you can change the question to be "which of (all of the X in the world) are you Y" without changing the meaning of the question, use vilka. In this case, "Which books, of all books in the world, are you reading?" is essentially the same question, so go with vilka.


In English there can be a difference between "what books" (answer : biographies, novels, poetry, fantastic...) and "which books" (answer : those on the table etc...). Is there such kind of distinction in Swedish or does vilka cover both meanings ?


Yes but it could have been worded as "Which books are you reading?", which would have made the translation clearer...


I think "which books are you reading" is a question I do not ask as commonly in conversational english. I ask "what are you reading?" or if I know they also read journals and so on, "what books are you reading?" If I were to ask "which", to me that question indicates I already have some knowledge about the reading material, and I am asking for more specific information (ie which among the titles of said author). I think the question as posed here is a much more 'of all books, what ones are you reading' sort of flavor.


Oh my gosh, how wrong I read. I misread this sentence as "What books are you stealing" lol


Why doesn't the verb need to be second in this instance?


It's a question. The V2 rule only applies to main clauses that are not questions.

In questions, the verb goes first and the subject right after that. The only thing that can go before the verb are question words (like what or who) or, as in this cases, phrases that fulfill the same function. (what books has the same function in the sentence as just what could have had).

More about word order here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8970470


Ah I see - because you could replace it with "What are you reading?" just as easily, which would be "Vad läser du?"

Is there a verb-first variation of this that would be appropriate as well? Like "Läser vilka böcker du?" or "Läser vad du?"

Those both sound wrong to me but I notice you said that the following would be correct in your example, so I'm wondering if the same is appropriate when asking what someone is reading: Läser hon? 'Does she read?'


Late answer, but: normal question word order without a question word would be e.g. Läser du de här böckerna? 'Are you reading these books?' Since vilka is a question word here, it wants to go first.


I don't understand why the question isn't 'which books are you reading?'


We accept that as well. English can use either here, as noted above. :)


Is there any explanation for the plural of "bok" being "böcker"?


It's through a process called "umlaut", or "vowel mutation", in which vowels change over time to accomodate for other things, mostly other vowels. All Germanic languages have this, which is why you get e.g. one foot but two feet in English.

In this case, bok - böcker in Swedish is consistent with Buch - Bücher in German. And in fact, Saxon did have a word béc which would likely have turned into the "ee" vowel sound in Old English. Now, even though this specific vowel shift didn't happen in English - its separate one did. The word "book" is derived from a word for the tree "beech", and you can see that the vowel change did happen here. Weirdly, it didn't in Swedish (en bok - två bokar), nor in German (eine Buche - zwei Buchen).

Languages are weird sometimes. :)

(Edit: Actually, I lied. All Germanic languages except for excibit this phenomenon - Gothic is the odd one out!)


Sorry - I asked the wrong question. I'm familiar with umlaut: what I'm curious about is not that very major topic, but the very minor one of how a C got into the spelling of the Swedish plural! Re umlaut, the English pural "books" is actually unhistorical: Old English had fot - fet, gos - ges, giving modern foot - feet, goose - geese; and similarly boc - bec - but the latter was pronounced BAYTCH, not BAYK, the C being palatalised by the front vowel, so that in modern English the plural of "book" should be "beech"!


Exactly! That's why I wrote "the 'ee' vowel" rather than "beek". :)

Sorry that I misunderstood your question. When the Swedish vowel shifted from o to ö, it also changed character from long to short, and short vowels are marked with an extra consonant much like many (predominantly Germanic) words are in English. Since Swedish doesn't have the kk cluster, we use ck instead.

(I should note that this is a general spelling rule and not one that is 100% true. But I assume you already know that.)


What is the difference between vilka, vilken, and vilket?


Plural, singular en-word, singular ett-word, respectively.


I've left a bunch of comments today, so sorry! But I have vilka written down as who (plural) and which (plural), so it can mean what too? I have what written down as vad. (:


Yes, that's correct. :)


Please can this question be changed to 'Which books are you reading' since that is what is being asked and it has been established in the above threads that there is a distinct difference in English and in Swedish between Which books and What books.

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