Infinitive marker "att" in Swedish

How do you use "att in Swedish and When to use 'att' before a verb?

One of the biggest confusions in the Swedish language for English speakers is when to use the infinitive maker “att” which is equal to English “to” like in “to do”, “to eat” or “to be”. Even though “att” corresponds to English “to”, it is not used in Swedish in the same way as in English. Remember that another confusion is when “att” is a subordinating conjunction in Swedish which is equal to English “that”.  

  • I think that he is hungry
  • Jag tror att han är hungrig
Att as a subordinating conjunction is positioned after the verb. Att as the infinitive marker is positioned before the verb but it is not always used in Swedish, as in the same way as in English. For example in English you can say:
  • I want to eat
In Swedish you can not say:
  • Jag vill att äta (It is not correct!)
The correct way of saying “I want to eat” in Swedish is without att:
  • Jag vill äta
Now you might wonder why we omit the infinitive marker att in this case. The answer is that in the Swedish language, we don’t put att ( as an infinitive marker ) before the auxiliary verbs (hjälpverb)

What are the auxiliary verbs in Swedish?

  1. behöva – behöver – behövde – (to need – need – needed)
  2. bör – bör – borde – (to should – should – should [past tense])
  3. börja – börjar – började – (to begin – begin – began)
  4. brukar – brukar – brukade – (to usually do – usually do – used to)
  5. få – får – fick – (to may, to receive, to be allowed to – may, get, be allowed to – got, was allowed to)
  6. hinna – hinner – hann – (to have time – have time – had time)
  7. kunna – kan – kunde – (to can – can – could)
  8. måste – måste – måste – (to must – must – had to)
  9. ska – ska – skulle – (to shall, will – shall, will – would)
  10. sluta – slutar – slutade – (to end – end – ended)
  11. vilja – vill – ville – (to want – want – wanted)
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