Grammar Lesson 17:

Svenska ordspråk och talesätt (Swedish proverbs and sayings)

Here is your chance to dive deep into the Swedish spirit. Don't think that this is a long list - it could easily have been twice as long, since Swedes quite often use different sayings and expressions such as these in their everyday communication - and you'll get confused if you haven't at least some idea of their existence. 
  Some of them are moral lessons, some are very old and people have forgotten where they came from but still say them, and some are humourous while also kind of lecturing. You'll recognize many from English sayings and idioms, but some are very local and refers to old folklore from the Nordic/Scandinavian culture and history. You'll learn a lot about the Swedish, underlying mentality. If Finland has sisu, Sweden's "it"-thing would be "don't argue with people - find another way on the side"... and also "stay silent, maybe mutter a little here and there, until you've had enough - then let everybody everywhere know what you think and don't stop until things change".
 
Please note that it is not always appropriate to use these expressions, as they could easily be considered as "inconsiderate" if used in a more serious situation, and be interpreted as if you are not really invested in the outcome for the people involved in the situation. But this goes in any language, so simply use your common sense and normal empathy.
 
Also, sayings, or idioms, in Swedish are not tossed around in every conversation, but during a year you will still have heard and read a lot of them - the trick is to say them with such a sense of nuance and accuracy for the actual situation, that others hardly notice you just used a saying, it just found its place seamlessly. It is easy to use them in a bit of a clonky way, if not knowing both them and the Swedish ways to communicate well enough. And many young ones are not using most of these sayings, or are even much aware of them. They will be as surprised as you when hearing them from someone, unless you get yourself a head-start here!
 
Please note that when there is a parantheses around the other half of the expression, people often (but not always) just say the first part, and the rest is implicated.
 
Det knallar och går - (As a reply to "How are things going/Hur är det?", from two Swedish expressions for "going/walking")
Ta i trä - Knock on wood
Peppar peppar - (From an old superstitious belief that you had to throw salt or pepper over your shoulder to prevent bad luck), also "Peppar peppar, ta i trä"
Den som lever får se - Those who live /long enough/ will find out
Mycket vill ha mer - /Those who have /much wants more
Lika barn leka bäst - You get along better with people similar to you (Children alike play the best)
Tala är silver (men tiga är guld) - Speaking is silver, but being silent is gold
Ingen rök utan eld - No smoke without a fire
Bättre fria än fälla - It is better to see someone as not guilty (until proven otherwise)
Den som gapar efter mycket mister ofta hela stycket - If you try to get too much, you could easily lose it all
Surt, sade räven (om rönnbären) - Old fable, The fox couldn't reach the rowanberries, so he called them sour
Rik som ett troll - Rich as a troll/ogre, from old folklore tales
När man talar om trollen (så står de i farstun) - When speaking of the trolls, they show up in the doorway
Har man tagit fan i båten (får man ro honom i land) - If you've taken the devil in your boat, you have to row him to land
Först till kvarn (får först mala) - The ones coming first to the mill are the first to do the milling
Ju fler kockar (desto sämre soppa) - The more chefs, the worse the soup
Det är ingen ko på isen (så länge rumpan är på land) - There's no cow on the ice, as long as its butt is still on land (basically meaning, you need some more progress done before you can begin calling it progress)
Tomma tunnor skramlar mest - Empty barrels make the most noise
En ulv i fårakläder - A wolf in sheep's clothing
Bergtagen - To be enchanted, under a spell (from old folklore tales with trolls, literally "taken to the mountain")
Den som sade det var det - Young children's comeback to someone calling them something mean (The one who said it is it)
Trägen vinner - Stubbornness/Stoicity wins
Gå inte över ån efter vatten - Do not cross the river to get water
Hellre be om förlåtelse än om tillåtelse - Rather say sorry than ask for permission
Upp som en sol, ner som en pannkaka - Up like a sun, down like a pancake
Där vinet går, in går vettet ut - Where wine enters, wisdom exits
Spill inte krut på döda kråkor - Don't use gunpowder on dead crows
Bättre att stämma i bäcken än i ån - Rather try things out small than big
Ärlighet varar längst - Honesty lasts longer
Skam den som ger sig - Shame on those who give up
Den enes död är den andres /leve/bröd - One person's death is the other one's bread (livelihood, possiblity)
Så länge det finns liv finns det hopp - As long as there is life, there is hope
Bara döda fiskar följer med strömmen - Only dead fish follow the stream
I krig och kärlek är allt tillåtet - In war and love, all is allowed
Alla är vi barn i början - We are all children in the beginning
Smid medan järnet är varmt - Forge while the iron is hot
Nöden har ingen lag - Emergency has no laws
Ett gott samvete är bästa huvudkudden - A good conscience is the best pillow to sleep on
Man lär så länge man lever - You learn as long as you live
Gräset är alltid grönare på andra sidan staketet - The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder - There is no bad weather, only bad clothing
Alla kan vara kapten i lugna vatten - It is easy to be a captain in calm waters
Alla sätt är bra utom de dåliga - All ways are good except the bad ones
Kärt barn har många namn - Loved child has many names
Bättre sent än aldrig - Better late then never
Alla känner apan, apan känner ingen - Everybody knows the monkey, the monkey knows noone
Bra karl reder sig själv - A good man manages his own doings
Man kan inte lära gamla hundar sitta - You can't teach an old dog to sit
Bättre lyss till den sträng som brast, än aldrig spänna en båge - Rather hear a string that breaks, than to never draw a bow
På rullande sten växer ingen mossa - On rolling stones there grows no moss
Många bäckar små blir en stor å - Many small streams will become a large river
Rom byggdes inte på en dag - Rome wasn't built in one day
Alla vägar leder till Rom - All ways lead to Rome
Kasta inte ut barnet med badvattnet - Don't throw out the baby with the bathing water
Girigheten har ingen botten - Greedyness has no bottom
Den som viskar han ljuger - Those who whisper lies
Man kan inte både ha och äta kakan - You can't both eat and have the cake
Gråt inte över spilld mjölk - Don't cry over spilled milk
Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum - If there's room in your heart, there is room in your house
Den illa gör han illa far - The one that do bad will experience bad
Skadeglädjen är den enda sanna glädjen - Gloat/schadenfreude is the only true joy
Genvägar är senvägar - Shortcuts will take longer
Hellre brödlös än rådlös - Rather without bread than without good ideas
Äpplet faller inte långt från trädet - The apple does not fall far from the tree
Av barn och dårar får man höra sanningen - From children and fools one hears the truth
Allting har en ände utom korven som har två - Everything has an end, except the sausage that has two
Stor i orden, liten på jorden - Big in words, small on Earth
Undantaget som bekräftar regeln - The exception that confirms the rule
Hellre förekomma än förekommas - Rather forestall than be forestalled
En fågel i handel är bättre än tio i skogen - A bird in the hand is better than ten in the forest
Sent ska syndaren vakna - Late the sinner realizes his sins
Man blir inte profet i sitt hemland - You don't become a prophet in your own home country
Äras den som äras bör - Give credits to the one who did it
Hoppet är det sista som lämnar människan - Hope is the last thing that leaves a human
Den fege dör tusen gånger, den modige bara en - The coward dies a thousand times, the brave only once
Allt är lätt när man kan det - Everything is easy when you know it
Inget ont som inte har något gott med sig - Nothing bad that does not bring something good with it
Alla sätt är bra utom de dåliga - All ways are good except for the bad ones
Delad glädje är dubbel glädje (delad sorg är halv sorg) - Shared joy is double joy, shared grief is half the grief
Vägen till mannens hjärta går genom magen - You reach a man's heart through the belly
I de blindas rike är den enögde kung - In the kingdom of blind people, the one-eyed person rules
Kommer tid, kommer råd - As time goes, we will know what to do
Allt är inte guld som glimmar - All is not gold that glimmers
Droppen urholkar stenen - Drips will make a hole in the stone
Alla är sin egen lyckas smed - Each one forges their own happiness
Efter regn kommer solsken - After rain comes sunshine
Av skadan blir man vis - You get hurt, you get wise
Snålheten bedrar visheten - Stinginess betrays wisdom
Morgonstund har guld i mund - The morning moment has gold in its mouth
Det är mänskligt att fela (och gudomligt att förlåta) - It is human to make mistakes, and divine to forgive them
Köp inte grisen i säcken (Don't buy a pig if it is still in the bag/unseen)
Titta inte given häst i mun (If you are gifted a horse, don't be picky about it's teeth)
Det börjar med en knappnål och slutar med en silverskål (It starts with a needle and ends with a silver bowl, meaning, if you start stealing little, you will soon steal big)



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