Does this construction have to be correct as to the person's actual physical position?
If I am sitting and reading, and someone on the phone asks me what I am doing, might I say "jag står och läser" to mean "I am in the middle of reading"?
If my husband is in the other room reading, and my friend asks me over the telephone what he is doing, but I am not sure if said husband is sitting or laying down, which one would I use? Is it personal preference? Are they both correct?
Yes, it's only correct to say this if she's actually standing up. You can't say Jag står och läser if you were in fact sitting down while reading (or you could, but you would be lying :D )
For 2, you'd make an educated guess. Does he usually sit or lie down? It doesn't matter if your guess isn't correct. Since most people rarely stand up and read, you would never guess står och läser unless your husband really happens to be doing that a lot.
Thanks, Lundgren8. The argument in your reference is quite right of course. Things just are not said the same way in different languages. And that needs to be accepted. But it is also nice to try and convey the whole image. In this instance a similar sentence could be translated as: she just stood there crying, which would be quite acceptable English. Using a past tense make the construct more appropriate I believe. However, he present tense also works. Perhaps it needs the addition of -just- and -there-. An interesting consequence of your reference is that when going from English to Swedish: -he was crying- can become: -han grätt, han satt och grätt, han stod och grätt, han låg och grätt. Take your pick! Quite different images. One would have to use: -han grätt- (I think). How did the designers of this course take this into account.?
I had to translate this sentence from English to Swedish, but I have no idea about the physical position of "she". Can I use any position I want? I mean, would it be correct "Hon står och gråter" and also correct "Hon ligger och gråter" and also correct "Hon sitter och gråter"? I admit I just used "Hon gråter" just to be sure, hahaha
Yes, exactly. The normal form is just hon gråter, but if you use [spatial verb] och, the meaning turns continuous instead. In other words:
- Hon gråter = She cries / She is crying
- Hon står/ligger/sitter och gråter = She is crying
Which spatial verb you use just depends on how she's physically situated.
That's actually a really good example of when it's appropriate. "Hey, where's Brian?" "Oh, he's just putting a shirt on, he'll be out in a minute." That kind of sense.
Do note that it's håller på att ta på sig rather than tar, since it's not the main verb and hence takes the infinitive.
Swedish doesn't have a continuous, so "she cries" and "she is crying" both translate to hon gråter. However, since there can be a need to express the continuous, Swedish has other ways of expressing this instead.
One such way is står/sitter/ligger och [verb]. It's simply a way of stating that she's currently crying. Just saying hon gråter may sound more like "she cries" when it should be "she is crying". The construction is very idiomatic and very common, and you absolutely need to know it for honestly any level of speaking the language.
The problem is that teaching this construction using Duolingo's system is very difficult. The default English translation is always used automatically for the reverse "translate into Swedish" exercise. Hence, if "She is crying" was used for the default translation, you'd never be asked to translate into the continuous forms, because Hon gråter is much better as a translation in isolation. But on the other hand, being asked to translate "She is standing and crying" is obviously ridiculous.
Those who built the course decided that ridiculous English is better than not teaching an important Swedish construction well, and I agree. It's just a shame that it showcases what's arguably Duolingo's largest shortcoming.
You seem to have posted a few comments on this today so I'll reply here instead of everywhere.
As you know, Swedish doesn't have a continuous, meaning that "is crying" and "cries" both translate to just gråter. But we have other alternatives for constructing the continuous. One is to use a spatial verb and the word och to convey that it's something currently ongoing, i.e. a continuous.
In other words, in hon står och gråter, the standing part is irrelevant to the sentence content and the phrase should only be translated into "she is crying" rather than "she is standing and crying". It should never be translated into something that is not a continuous, as in "she stands and cries".
The verb still needs to be factually correct: if she's e.g. sitting you use hon sitter och gråter instead. But the purpose of the verb is only to convey a continuous.
The next time you do not understand a concept in Swedish, you can just ask nicely instead of repeatedly posting that we don't speak English.
My apologies, I did not mean to imply you didn't speak English, I was frustrated by the disparities in languages. Duolingo does not explain anything, just gives me a sudden long phrase that translates to a couple of words of English and my only choice is to memorize the phrase rather than understand the concepts. I have studied German, Spanish, and French, and in each case it was quite useful to know exactly what a phrase translated to, rather than an entire conceptual translation, because it helps understand what I am saying and how the meaning came together. I'm very sorry if I was offensive, maybe our COVID isolation is making us a little crazy over here on this side of the pond.
Thank you, Harley / Ron - apology gladly accepted.
I do understand your frustration. Duolingo's model is based on learning by exposure, like children do - and while this model does have its merits, its shortcomings are sometimes very blatantly obvious.
This construction in particular is possibly the worst one in Swedish to teach when we don't have great tools for doing so. As you say, it's borderline impossible to learn without explanation, and even then it's hard to know when you should translate a normal English continuous into this construction in Swedish. Still, it's an extremely common construction and one which every learner absolutely has to learn early. So... well, this is what we end up with.
Your criticism is absolutely valid and I hope that one day the system will be enhanced with better ways of teaching things like this construction properly. For now, it is what it is.
You are right, "och" = "and."
Translated word-for-word to English, it would be "I sit and read."
But that is not a good translation from Swedish to English because those four words put together like that mean something different in English than they do in Swedish.
In English, "I sit and read" would mean that sitting and reading is an activity that I do, but not necessarily one that I am doing right now.
"What do you do while you are waiting for the bus?"
"I sit and read."
"I sometimes sit and read at the kitchen table while Mom makes dinner."
"I often sit and read for hours."
To translate this properly, the English version would be, "I am reading."
Swedish likes to use "står och” (“stand and...") or “sitter och” ("sit and...") to mean "doing this right now."
To translate this to English, we can ignore the "sitter och" because it is just a way of indicating that the person is doing the activity right now.
The way to indicate this in English is to use the “to be” verb (am, is, are) and attach “-ing” to the end of the next verb.
“Jag sitter och läser” = “I am reading” (definitely doing the activity right now)
“Jag läser” = “I read” (something I sometimes do) or “I am reading” (right now)
Does this make sense? I hope I haven't confused you more!