v40: vore

I’d like to finish off talking about verbs with a couple of strange verbs that you might come across. The first relates to my earlier discussion about modality. Specifically, I want to talk about the subjunctive mood, which is about possibility. It’s related to the optative mood, which is about expressing a wish. As I mentioned earlier, in English and Swedish, grammatical mood is usually expressed with modal verbs. In other languages however (for example, Romance languages such as Italian, Spanish, Portugese and French) there are specific subjunctive forms of the main verb. This is much less common in Germanic languages, but there is at least one good example of the subjunctive in both English and Swedish.

In English, I find the following acceptable (although it may not be in all dialects):

If I were you, I’d keep quiet.

In this example, were is the subjunctive form of the verb, expressing a hypothetical situation; “I were” is otherwise ungrammatical. I think the above construction is pretty widely acceptable, but what do you think of the following alternatives:

If I were rich, I’d buy a new car.
If I was rich, I’d buy a new car.

Even if you prefer was, it’s still subjunctive, since it’s not referring to an event in the past, the normal use of was.

In Swedish, the common example is the verb vore, the subjunctive of vara, to be, which has a somewhat broader range of use than the English equivalent, expressing hypotheticals and also politeness forms. Note that alternative expressions exist also in Swedish:

Om jag vore (var) rik…
If I were (was) rich…

Jag vore glad om du kom.
I would be happy if you came.

Det vore (skulle vara) trevligt.
That would be nice.

Other Swedish examples are genarally so-called fixed expressions, such as Leve konungen! (Long live the King!).

Next time, some odd Swedish verbs you may never have known existed.

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Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 17:13  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Uh oh, I used “vore” wrong in a letter to my teachers last week!

  2. Hej, Gott nytt år!
    Tack för din hjälpen.
    Nu jörstår jag!

  3. Nu förstår jag!


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