|Introduction to Swedish© by Urban Sikeborg, Stockholm (1997-98)
  Chapter 2
Greetings & goodbyes
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On this page Introduction 
Salutary phrases 
'How are you' phrases 
Suitable answers 
How to say goodbye
Introduction It has been said that the first impressions last. If that is true, it may be valuable to know how to greet somebody in a proper way (Swedes are not, for instance, very given to cheek-kissing). Here is a list of some salutary phrases in Swedish. Try to find a couple you think could be useful and memorize them.
Salutary phrases
Hej! This is the most common way of greeting someone, be it in a formal or informal situation, and can be used as an equivalent of ‘How do you do’ as well as ‘Hi (there)’.
Tjéna[re]! Informal and friendly. Actually an abbreviation of 17th and 18th century phrases like ‘Jag förbliver Eder ödmjukaste tjänare’ (I remain your most humble servant).
Tja! Very informal and cool. An abbreviated form of ‘tjenare’, often in combination with ‘ba’ (tjá'ba), a reduced form of ‘bara’ (only), which in Swedish can be used like the English ‘sort/kind of’ as a filler without a real meaning.
God mórgon! 
Good morning!
Used in both formal and informal situations.
God dag! 
Good day!
This equivalent to ‘How do you do’ is mostly used to people you call ‘Ni’, e.g. elderly people, and on formal occasions.
God kväll! 
Good evening!
The Swedish ‘good evening’ salute is nowadays mainly reserved for somewhat formal meetings or to people you address with the ‘Ni’ pronoun. The synonymous expression ‘God afton’ is rather antiquated by now.


‘Tj’ is pronounced a bit sharper than the English ‘sh’ sound - as in ‘shut’, but with the middle part of the tongue pressed more towards the palate further back in the mouth (cp. German ‘ch’ in ‘ich’). 

Like in English some consonants change sound when they are followed by certain vowels (café - city; guest - gist). These so-called soft vowels in Swedish are: e, i y, ä, ö. The ‘g’ in ‘angenämt’, which preceeds the soft vowel ‘e’, is therefore pronounced like ‘y’ in ‘yes’, not like ‘g’ in ‘good’. Read more about the rules for pronounciation in chapter 9! 

If you just have been introduced to someone you might add: 

Trévligt att rå´kas/trä´ffas! 
Nice to meet [you]!
Demonstrating that you are a polite and well-behaved person.
Pleasant/nice [to meet you]!
This equivalent to German ‘Angenehm’ and French ‘Enchanté’ is definitely old-fashioned, but could be popular among mature ladies.
'How are you' phrases To ask for someone's health and well-being is always appropriate: 
Hur står det till? 
How stands it to?
Has got a slight formal touch, but can also be used in informal situations.
Hur är det? 
How is it?
Informal, very common.
Hur har du det? 
How have you it?
Informal, very frequent.
Hur är lä´get? 
How is the situation?
A bit more informal, very common.
The situation?
An abbreviated and more informal form of "Hur är läget?". A common combination is: "Tjá'ba'! Lä´get?".
Hur går det? 
How goes it?
Could refer to life in general, but also to a specific task or job.
Hur mår du? 
How feel you?
Showing concern, focusing on the health/well-being of somebody.
Hur är det med [famíljen]? 
How is it with [the family]
Showing more personal interest when including someone else.
Suitable answers
Tack, [bára] bra! 
Thanks, [just/only] fine!
Very common. Can be used no matter how you feel ...
Fairly well/Decent
With the Swedish avoidance of superlatives. Quite frequent.
Så där/Det kunde vara bättre. 
So there/It could be better.
Two variants of the same theme: "Not very well, but I'll survive".
Inte så bra, tyvärr. 
Not so good, unfortunately.
(You are expected to show genuine concern when somebody tells you this.)

After having answered, you can return the initiative by asking him/her: "Och du/[du] själv?" ["And you/(you your-) self"]. After his/her reply, the greeting procedure would probably be considered finished.

How to say goodbye
Hej då! 
Hello then!
Very common, can be used anywhere.
Adjö´! Formal, dismissive. When used alone equivalent to ‘good day’.
Adjö´ så lä´nge! More informal than just ‘adjö’: ‘goodbye for now’, ‘so long’.
God natt! 
Good night!
Informal, very frequent.
Outmoded, often used in a melodramatic way.
Ha det så bra! 
Have it soo good!
Informal, very common, like ‘take care’. Often in combination with ‘hej då’.
Vi ses: 
We see [each other] 
See you! Used alone or together with any of the following alternatives:
i mórgon 
in morning
i kväll 
in evening
om en stund 
within a moment
in a while
nä´sta vécka 
next week
next week

Copyright Urban Sikeborg,
Stockholm 1997-1998.

Stockholm School of Economics, Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm
Phone +46-8-736 90 00, Fax +46-8-31 81 86
This page was updated on 21 December 1998.