v20: provat

Swedish, like English, is a Germanic language. The Germanic languages derive from a common ancestor, proto-Germanic, which is thought to date from around 500 BCE. By around 200 CE, proto-Germanic had split into three branches: West Germanic (now English, German, Dutch, Frisian), North Germanic (now Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Faroese), and East Germanic (eg Gothic; now all extinct).

One feature of Germanic languages is the presence of a class of verbs (so-called weak verbs) that form the past tense by addition of a dental suffix (d or t), as opposed to strong verbs, which have a change in vowel sound to indicate past tense:

Jag arbetar. I work.
Jag arbetade. I worked.
Jag har arbetat. I have worked.


Jag dricker. I drink.
Jag drack. I drank.
Jag har druckit. I have drunk.

Note that in English, the two past tense forms of weak verbs are identical and end in d, whereas in Swedish the simple past tense has a d, but the supine has a t. One exception is the class 2b verbs, such as köpa, to buy, which have a simple past tense form with t:

Jag köper. I buy.
Jag köpte. I bought.
Jag har köpt. I have bought.

In English, the following is quite ungrammatical to me, although it may be OK in some dialects (as it is obvious what meaning is intended)?:

*I seen a lot of movies.

And so I thought something similar would be true in Swedish, which was why I suspected a typo when I read (something like) the following:

… för dig som provat på orientering tidigare …
… for you who already tried orienteering…

That is, the bare supine form of the verb prova, where I was expecting har provat. But after trying to learn all these grammar rules, a colleague tells me this is quite acceptable in spoken Swedish, and even passable in written Swedish, so *sigh*.

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 17:25  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sigh indeed. 🙂

    • I’m learning Swedish, and came across my first instance of this today in written form. Got a bit confused for a minute or two. I love your blog, very entertaining for those of us learning Swedish 🙂 I like you take a very logical approach to learning Swedish. It’s much more fun that way don’t you think!

      • Upon further investigation, har is only optional in subordinate clauses.

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