"There are hundreds of lamps in the shop."

Translation:Det finns hundratals lampor i affären.

March 16, 2015

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I remain thoroughly perplexed about when to use är versus finns in these cases around the edges. (For this particular phrase, apparently är is not acceptable.) The explanations offered tend to boil down to the idea that for permanent things ("existence") we should use finns and for temporary things, use är. But this is not helping me understand.

There is another exercise in which the correct translation is är det lök i soppan?, for which finns det lök i soppan? is not an accepted answer. What is the onion going to do -- jump out of the soup? Surely if it's in there, it exists in there, and that's not going to change.

And there is another one where finns is not acceptable, along the lines of det är bara dåliga program på denna kanal. What is the difference between the programming on a TV station and the stock in a store? (I mean, the programming on a TV station essentially is the stock in a store, from a business point of view!) With a change in management, it might change, but for the foreseeable future, it will not change in either case.

What other, subtle questions is a native Swede subconsciously asking themselves when deciding whether är or finns sounds more natural? And just how unnatural does the alternative form sound in cases such as this one?


I've never seen a really good description of this, I'm not sure there is one. I agree with you that the existence/temporary thing doesn't quite catch it.

I often think it's hard to decide what we should accept or not, there are so many sentences and we can't see them all at once so we're probably not totally consistent.
In this specific sentence, I'd take det är hundratals lampor i affären to mean lamps that are not for sale. Actually I'm not sure I'd say it even if I meant that. It isn't grammatically wrong, but to be honest it does sound wrong to me. It sounds like the lamps came on an unexpected visit. Det är hundratals kackerlackor i affären 'There are hundreds of cockroaches in the shop' is a great sentence. Det är hundratals lampor … is not.

Finns det lök i soppan? also isn't grammatically wrong but it feels like you're looking for onions. Are there any onions in the fridge? no, under the bed, no, in the soup?

Det finns bara dåliga TV-kanaler i Sverige – here I'd prefer finns, but if you're speaking about what there is on a channel, I want är. Like, we always say Vad är det på TV i kväll? Not finns.

Sorry I can't be more helpful at the moment, maybe someone else has more to say.


Thanks for your explanation - it does help, a little. (And I do prefer it when Duo doesn't accept things that sound unnatural to a native speaker.)

As a matter of clarification, the one about TV programs was not about what was showing on any particular night, it was about a particular TV station never having any good programs on: not yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, or next year. In that case, it seems conceptually similar to your example Det finns bara dåliga TV-kanaler i Sverige, and finns seems more natural to me... would you agree?


I actually don't agree with that, that was sort of what I meant by adding that example. When talking about all channels that exist in Sweden, I want finns, and with what's on one channel, I want är. How would you feel about only bad programs exist on that channel in English? The way I see it, the programs on the channel may be there permanently in practice, but conceptually, they're not. If we're talking about all the channels in Sweden, we're talking about existence. If we're talking about the programs on a specific channel, we're talking about their presence there. Don't worry if this sounds moot, it doesn't even make sense to myself :D

the channel sentence is here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8510102 (incubator search didn't find it)


Thanks for clarifying that, because at least it helps me to have a good feel for what I don't know about this curious aspect of Swedish.

FWIW, I don't like only bad programs exist on that channel in English, but nor do I like hundreds of lamps exist in the shop, or indeed the more exact equivalent, only bad lamps exist in the shop (I assume you would still say det finns bara dåliga lampor i affären in that case too, right? - and my svenska-brain at least does intuitively prefer that sentence to one with är.)

On the other hand, I would find only bad programs can be found on that channel or hundreds of lamps can be found in the shop to both be perfectly good English sentences, and I guess this is why I like the idea of finns in both those cases, even though it's apparently only correct for one of them.

If more units are added to the course at some point, I would love to see a bunch of exercises around this theme to help build up an intuitive feel for it.


Yes, that's a good idea. (Btw I tried can be found in my head too, but I came to the conclusion that it could be used for everything :) ) I'll try to find some literature about this issue. Don't take what I said here too seriously, introspection is very unreliable as a source of grammar information generally so I could be very wrong. There's also this tendency that the longer you try to think of whether a sentence is acceptable or not, the less reliable your intution can get and sentences that are really acceptable can start to sound wrong, or the other way around, there's no telling.


I think only a mathematician would be likely to say "only bad programs exist on that channel" in English. :)


So since I am a mathematician: May I stick to "exist"? You saved my day ;)


I believe there is a similar distinction in German between 'es gibt' and 'es ist/sind'.

Instead of permanent vs temporary, I think in terms of essential/structural vs. accidental/incidental. (I hope that doesn't sound too pompous!)

So, for example, there are football stadiums in Germany (es gibt), but there are 500 spectators in the stadium today (es sind).


That doesn't sound too pompous to me; it sounds like it could be a useful way of thinking about it. Thanks.


Thank you so much for bringing this up, as i was going to, hadn't anyone else pointed it out yet. It seems to be used quite like the German examples you gave. And to anyone who knows German this might be very helpful.


This is the best explanation so far, thanks!


vad är skillnaden mellan en butik och en affär?


Butik is normally a bit smaller and focuses on selling one type of product.


so butiken should be a correct answer here!?


Yes, it’s also accepted.


If both butiken and affären are accepted, then it should be correct if i select both answers at the same time right? In the same fashion as those multiple choice answers using 'du' or 'eller'


Would "det står" work in this context? I'd at least assume the lamps were upright.


Nope, that was my answer and it was marked wrong.


Surprised det står is not accepted. The lamps position in the shop being temporary and vertical.


Why "det ligger..." is not working in this case?


I think it's because lamps commonly don't lie around at a store?


Why I can't say Det finns hundratals av lampor?


The short answer is that that is not how Swedish says it. A longer answer is as follows.

First note that the "of" construction is not used in Swedish even when a specific number is not involved. For example:
a box of chocolates = en låda choklad

In other words, when talking about quantities, Swedish (like Dutch and German) uses an appositive structure (one word immediately after another) rather than a partitive structure (one thing described as part of another).

Another thing to notice is that, even though the translation into English is typically "hundredS", the -s in "hudratals" is NOT a plural -s. It is genitive. So, even without the "av", the Swedish is already saying something like "There are a hundred-count's lamps in the shop". So no "av" is needed or appropriate.

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