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a grammar guideline

V2 syntax

Although Swedish and English are closely related languages, there are certain differences in the syntax and word order of the two languages. In Swedish, there is a V2 rule which states that the verb should always be the second clause element (in a main clause). This is not true of English, in which the subject almost always comes before the verb in declarative clauses.

No: Therefore should the introduction be short and clear.

"So" vs. "such"

Be careful of the distinction between “so” and “such”. Note that “so” is used to modify an adjective (so difficult), while “such” is used to modify a noun phrase (such difficulty), even when there is an adjective in the noun phrase (such extreme difficulty).

No: They live under so difficult conditions.

Yes: They live under such difficult conditions.

Existential expressions

Be very careful of the distinction between “it is” and “there is”. In English, only “there is” is an existential (as in det finns in Swedish):

No: It is a great deal of disagreement about this.

Yes: There is a great deal of disagreement about this.

Collective expressions with "the"

When we talk about groups of people using expressions such as “the rich” and “the poor”, these expressions are plural and are equivalent to “rich people” and “poor people”:

No: The rich is less careful with their money than the poor is.

Yes: The rich are less careful with their money than the poor are.

Choosing a relative pronoun

Choose carefully between that, which, and who.

As a general rule, use that when a relative clause is restrictive (without a comma), which when a relative clause is non-restrictive (with a comma), and who in either case whenever the antecedent is a person.

No: This is the main problem, which we must solve.

Yes: This is the main problem that we must solve.

No: She was wearing a coat, that was sky-blue.

Preposition choice

In the words of a famous author and translator, “Prepositions are hell”. They are one of the most difficult areas to learn. Nevertheless, we need to try to find the right preposition for each occasion. In most cases, there will be only one correct choice, and it often will not be the preposition that is most similar to the one you would choose in Swedish.

Here are some examples:

No: written on English

Yes: written in English

Use of the definite article

The definite article (the) is not used in English quite as often as it is in Swedish. In addition, there is only partial overlap between the ways it is used in the two languages. Therefore, be very skeptical about your own inclination to add “the” to sentences.

Here are some typical cases in which “the” is not used:

Generic nouns in English usually do not take the definite article:

No: The peace is preferable to the war.

Yes: Peace is preferable to war.

Subject-verb agreement

In English, a third-person singluar subject requires a verb form with an -s (in the present tense). Errors of agreement (also known as concord) sound particularly bad to native speakers.

No: Poverty affect us all in one way or another.

Yes: Poverty affects us all in one way or another.

No: In what ways are racism reproduced through language?

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