1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Swedish
  4. >
  5. "What books are you reading?"

"What books are you reading?"

Translation:Vilka böcker läser du?

February 22, 2015

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amasarany

Why duolingo used vilka instead of vad ?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

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?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amasarany

So i can switch between (vilken/vilket/vilka) and (vad) like when i switch sometimes in English between (which) and (what) ?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

No, I'm trying to make the opposite point. :) In English, you can mostly use either which or what, it doesn't really matter. But in Swedish, vilka and vad have different meanings, and you cannot substitute one for the other.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jarrettph

If you say Which book are you reading? in English you are implying a known list of options as opposed to what where you have no idea what they're reading. So there is a difference, but it's subtle.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

Well, it can't really make it, since vilken and vad mean different things entirely.

Vad läser du för böcker is a well-formed and perfectly idiomatic phrase. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

... aaaaand it's accepted. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

That's true. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jarrettph

Does Swedish make that distinction? Also is it possible to say Vad läser du för böcker or something similar?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jarrettph

Great, I reported it as it was not accepted.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amasarany

ok, so the sentence we are discussing is originally swedish and translated to English but not the opposite :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usman.Burki

i still feel then it should be, in English, written as Which. In English Which/What means same thing (for this case) but in Swedish they don't so it matters what word of English we use here. What -> vad and Which -> vilka ... otherwise we end up guessing if originally in Swedish we had which or what that eventually got translated to a generic form thus losing the distinction


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

Yes, that's a way to look at it. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kita0912

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 ?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mike173182

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Immortalist

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/thebeckinator

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Arnauti

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/thebeckinator

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?'


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Arnauti

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rachel574816

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DerrickMcClure1

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

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!)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DerrickMcClure1

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"!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

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.)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/v.fadaei.n

The question should be revised in this way: Which books are you reading? or What kind of books are you reading?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CRJS1380

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/devalanteriel

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

Learn Swedish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.