Swedish: sluta / avsluta

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Gavril, Apr 16, 2014.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    How would you distinguish between the verbs sluta and avsluta?

    For example, what would be the difference of meaning between these two sentences? (I made them up, so they may contain mistakes.)

    - Han slutade skriva brevet.
    - Han avslutade brevet.

  2. Ogago Member

    If he 'slutade skriva brevet' when he he was finished with it, then the two sentences are synonyms.
    But if he 'slutade skriva brevet' in the middle of the process, i.e. he abandoned the rest, then they are different in meaning.

    But still - when he wrote it and took a pause, then he 'slutade skriva brevet', momentarily. Later he perhaps 'avslutade brevet'.
  3. sansserif Member

    Swedish – Sweden
    Du kan avsluta ett brev, ett möte, en middag ... "Han avslutade brevet med sin signatur.", "De avslutade middagen med ost och vin.", "Mötet avslutades klockan 14". Liknande eng. ended.

    Om du med avsluta ofta fullföljer något till sitt slut, så upphör du med aktiviteten när du slutar att skriva "Han slutade skriva, funderade över hur han skulle avsluta brevet och fortsatte skriva ...", "Han fick ett tråkigt svar från sin brevvän. 'Sluta skriv till mig', stod det".
  4. Raigeki Member

    Sluta = to stop
    Avsluta = to finish

    I think this is the best and shortest way to explain the difference.
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Is it common for sluta to be used in the context of finishing something? According to Google Translate, "He stopped mowing the lawn" and "He finished mowing the lawn" would both be translated "Han slutade klippa gräsmattan", but maybe this is an inaccuracy on their part.
  6. Raigeki Member

    Well, I'm not Swedish, but as far as I know, both of them can actually be used to say "finish". Sluta is just.. much more common and used more often, because avsluta can't be used in many cases. Avsluta can ONLY mean to finish something, whereas sluta simply means to "stop", which, as in English, can kind of mean both.
    Also, I don't think you can use avsluta when you talk about the act of mowing the lawn because:
    - You use sluta when you stop doing something / end an action. (Han slutade skriva brevet)
    - You can only avsluta nouns which have a "hidden timeline". Meetings, letters, dinners, flights, drives, movies, educations, school and so on. (Han avslutade brevet)

    So in short, avsluta means "to finish", but can only be used in certain situations.
    Sluta means "to stop", "to end", "to quit" etc., and thus vaguely carries the meaning of "finish".
  7. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I think the overlap between finish and stop in English is somewhat limited. E.g., to finish mowing the lawn means that you mow the whole lawn, whereas to stop mowing the lawn suggests that you abruptly stop mowing for other reasons than because you completed the task.

    But how does writing a letter have a timeline in a way that mowing the lawn doesn't?
  8. MattiasNYC Senior Member

    New York
    I don't think it does, I think it's the same. You can stop mowing your lawn just as you can stop writing a letter while neither is finished. Similarly, you stop in both cases when you in fact are finished.
  9. Raigeki Member

    A letter = a noun with "a hidden timeline" because it takes time to write a letter and it requires effort and thougt.
    >Mowing< the lawn = a verb / action.

    That's what I'm trying to say: Avsluta is only used with nouns. You need to turn "klippa gräsmattan" into a noun to be able to use avsluta. Klippa is a verb so you cannot use avsluta. Have you noticed that in your example with the letter, there is no "skriva" in the sentence with avsluta? He finished the letter itself, the noun :) han avslutade >brevet<.

    Avsluta carries a feeling of completeness. It's like saying "wrapping up the xxx", "putting an end to the xxx", "getting done with the xxx", "finishing the xxx" and so on.

    Sluta can be used in so many different way in so many different situations that I simply can't explain it.
  10. Raigeki Member

    I think this is why you are confused. I never said WRITING a letter has a timeline that mowing the lawn doesn't have. It's the noun "brevet" itself I'm talking about. The noun. It has a a concept of time/effort which I just called a timeline :)
    You can never use avsluta with verbs and actions.
  11. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Thanks, I think I understand what you mean now. So if you were to turn klippa gräsmattan into a noun phrase, such as klippning gräsmattans (not sure if that word order is correct?), then perhaps you could use it with avsluta?
  12. sansserif Member

    Swedish – Sweden
    Han avslutade gräsklippningen.

    Yes, that's possible.
  13. Raigeki Member


    Han avslutade gräsklippningen = he finished / completed the lawn mowing
    Han slutade klippa grässet = he stopped mowing the lawn :)

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