Swedish: t.ex. (X) och (Y)

Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
Over time, I've noticed och being used in various contexts where it seems to me that the appropriate conjunction in English would be or, not and.

Here's an example, from a hospital brochure:

"Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor som rör din behandling, din sjukdom, dina symtom eller om du behöver hjälp med t.ex. recept och remisser."
=
"You are always welcome to contact us if you have questions about your treatment, your illness, or your symptoms, or if you need help with e.g. prescriptions or referrals."

I would only say "prescriptions and referrals" here if these two things were somehow clustered together as a single item (as in e.g. "breaking and entering", which is a specific class of crime in the United States).

Do you think that the author of the text thought of recept och remisser as a "single item" in this way?

Or, does this use of och simply reflect a difference between normal Swedish and English usage?

Thanks
 
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  • MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    My hunch is that you're analyzing this far more closely and logically than a speaker, and apparently writer, does in real life. I agree with your analysis and I'd expect exactly the same; either use "or", or use "and" in which case the two items are connected.

    However, I think maybe there's a logical case to be made for using 'and', and it's that it simply doesn't matter if the intention is NOT to connect the two. IF you want to connect "recept och remisser" then you need the "and", but just because you do use it that doesn't mean that it's the intended meaning. I think the key to that argument is in the sentence as a whole...

    In other words, pretend that we replace the comma with something that maybe equals it, but is a word instead;

    "your treatment, your illness, your symptoms" (no "or" there in the Swedish original btw) becomes
    "your treatment or your illness or your symptoms"
    "your treatment and your illness and your symptoms"

    If we were to read any of the above I'm guessing we'd all accept the meaning as being that we can contact them as long as any one or more of those issues are the concern. So even though it would say "or" it doesn't mean we can only contact them if only one of those items listed is a concern. And if it said "and" it doesn't mean we can only contact them if all are a concern.

    So if the above is true about the rest of the sentence then I'd say the same could be true for the end of it. It simply doesn't matter. I think another way of looking at it is simply omitting everything before "recipes": "Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor som rör din behandling, din sjukdom, dina symtom, (dina) recept och (dina) remisser." The gist of it is that if you have any concerns at all you can contact them. It's just a list. I do agree with you, "och" may intuitively seem less appropriate than "or", but we wouldn't take "or" literally either and the two words "recept" and "remisser" are by definition not connected in real life in practice and I think the assumption of the average reader is just that.

    So to me it looks like a list of items, and when listing them the word that connects them is "and". "What issues can I contact you about?", "You can contact us about anything regarding your case. Issues include treatment and illness and symptoms and recipes and referrals...."

    Maybe I'm the one overthinking this though!
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    "your treatment, your illness, your symptoms" (no "or" there in the Swedish original btw)
    Right, but in standard English, the "or" is needed to show that "your symptoms" is the last item on this list. (The following phrase "or if you need help ..." is the start of a separate list.)

    "your treatment or your illness or your symptoms"
    "your treatment and your illness and your symptoms"

    If we were to read any of the above I'm guessing we'd all accept the meaning as being that we can contact them as long as any one or more of those issues are the concern. So even though it would say "or" it doesn't mean we can only contact them if only one of those items listed is a concern. And if it said "and" it doesn't mean we can only contact them if all are a concern.
    To me (maybe not to everyone), the second phrase ("your treatment and your illness and your symptoms") suggests that this is an exhaustive list -- i.e., these are all of the questions that the clinic is able to help you with.

    That's why I would find it strange if this list began with "for example", which would imply that the list wasn't a complete one.

    (I seem to recall that languages like Japanese have separate words for "exhaustive and" versus "non-exhaustive and" -- is there anything equivalent in Swedish/Scandinavian?)
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Right, but in standard English, the "or" is needed to show that "your symptoms" is the last item on this list. (The following phrase "or if you need help ..." is the start of a separate list.)
    I think this is where we differ probably. To me there's a separation between the two parts of the sentence only in writing, in "linguistic theory" if you will, and not in actual intent. The way I look at it is that if you're right then we should be able to simply place a period at the end of the first part, so as you wrote:

    "Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor som rör din behandling, din sjukdom, dina symtom."
    =
    "You are always welcome to contact us if you have questions about your treatment, your illness, or your symptoms."

    To me that seems logical only in the English version. And so if I'm correct that it doesn't feel right in Swedish we're left with two options; either the author omitted "or" in Swedish by mistake, or the two parts are actually not really constituting separate lists. And on that note:

    To me (maybe not to everyone), the second phrase ("your treatment and your illness and your symptoms") suggests that this is an exhaustive list -- i.e., these are all of the questions that the clinic is able to help you with.
    See I think that when reading the entire sentence it again sort of doesn't entirely makes sense to parse it as finely as you are. If we think about it, needing help with prescriptions really means having questions about it, right? We call because we have a question about how to take our medication, or we call because we have a question about our referral. To me it all reads like one long list of examples despite being "split" into two parts. My hunch is that it's written somewhat closely to how people speak and with less care for what it might mean if we were to analyze it the way we're currently analyzing it. It all just seems to say: "Hey, if you have any questions regarding our care of you, just give us a call."

    Another way to explain what I mean is that the list is fairly exhaustive. I'm not sure why else I would call this hypothetical or actual caregiver, except with questions regarding for example billing. And that then begs the question if the intent of the sentence is to point out that I can not call with questions regarding billing. I don't think that's the intent. I would guess that of course I'm allowed to call with such issues as well, and if that's the case all of the listed items are just a bunch of items we can call regarding. The list isn't done, and because it isn't I'm not so sure we need to look at it as two separate parts either.

    Perhaps this isn't the best example to use.... or maybe I'm just confused in my insane membrane....
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I think this is where we differ probably. To me there's a separation between the two parts of the sentence only in writing, in "linguistic theory" if you will, and not in actual intent. The way I look at it is that if you're right then we should be able to simply place a period at the end of the first part, so as you wrote:

    "Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor som rör din behandling, din sjukdom, dina symtom."
    =
    "You are always welcome to contact us if you have questions about your treatment, your illness, or your symptoms."

    To me that seems logical only in the English version. And so if I'm correct that it doesn't feel right in Swedish we're left with two options; either the author omitted "or" in Swedish by mistake, or the two parts are actually not really constituting separate lists.
    I didn't mean to imply that the absence of eller in the *Swedish* version was wrong.

    I meant that, if the sentence is to be translated into formally-correct English, then the conjunction "or" has to be added, because the second "if ..." introduces a new list.

    If the author of the Swedish text meant for the second om clause to be part of the same list as what precedes it, then it has to be translated into (standard) English using a different wording entirely, without the "if ..." structure.

    It's clear to me (even from my limited experience working with Swedish texts) that Swedish has different conventions than standard English when it comes to conjunctions, and I wasn't disputing that. I'm just trying to get a better handle on what the differences are.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I understand. I see it as one long string of examples for why we can call for help, and it isn't a complete list. That's my take on it. I find "or if" and "eller om" to often really mean "as well as the following case(s)". So..... But we've probably exhausted our analyses of this example.

    Have you run into any other cases where you feel it's not obvious what's meant or where you feel it's written incorrectly? I'm curious to see if there are other examples that are more clearly showing what is correct / incorrect.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Have you run into any other cases where you feel it's not obvious what's meant or where you feel it's written incorrectly? I'm curious to see if there are other examples that are more clearly showing what is correct / incorrect.
    I haven't noted down any other examples, but I've definitely run into other Swedish sentences like this, where I would translate och with "or" rather than "and". I've also run into sentences where I had to insert a conjunction in the English version in order to make the parsing clear (as I did with "or" in the sentence we're discussing).
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Over time, I've noticed och being used in various contexts where it seems to me that the appropriate conjunction in English would be or, not and.

    Here's an example, from a hospital brochure:

    "Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor som rör din behandling, din sjukdom, dina symtom eller om du behöver hjälp med t.ex. recept och remisser."
    =
    "You are always welcome to contact us if you have questions about your treatment, your illness, or your symptoms, or if you need help with e.g. prescriptions or referrals."

    I would only say "prescriptions and referrals" here if these two things were somehow clustered together as a single item (as in e.g. "breaking and entering", which is a specific class of crime in the United States).

    Do you think that the author of the text thought of recept och remisser as a "single item" in this way?

    Or, does this use of och simply reflect a difference between normal Swedish and English usage?

    Thanks
    Interesting! After thinking about it for a good while, I think that item listing rules are falling apart in Swedish! In a list of more than 2 items, I would want 'eller' to be the last conjunction, as in English. However, we also have a stylistic component which makes us dislike too many repetitions. If we enforced the 'or' rule, we would get: "Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor som rör din behandling, din sjukdom eller dina symtom, eller om du behöver hjälp med t.ex. recept eller remisser."
    The writer probably wanted to avoid exactly this problem, and therefore resorted to a comma-separated list in one case, and a list with 'och' in the second case. It looks extremely clumsy with all the repetions of 'eller', however necessary, but so does the original sentence! The writer's intention is of course to narrow down the scope of issues that you may call the hospital about by giving examples, but whichever way you do it, it looks clumsy and odd to stack everything in one long sentence. At the same time, I have no issue with 'recept och remisser' in this context, I regard them as two separate items in spite of the conjunction 'och', perhaps because of professional habit - I work as a medical secretary and know that they are two different things.

    The dilemma here is to translate sloppy Swedish into good English, which is all too often not possible. I'll pick the sentence apart completely to illustrate what they are really telling you:
    You are always welcome to contact us in the following cases:
    1) you want to ask us about your
    • treatment (medication/operation/physiotherapy/other)
    • illness/diagnose
    • symptoms
    2) you want us to do something for you, e.g. to write/issue
    • prescriptions
    • referrals
    If we do away with most of the examples, it boils down to:

    "Du är alltid välkommen att kontakta oss om du har frågor, eller behöver hjälp med något, som rör din sjukdom."
    You are always welcome to contact us if you have questions, or need help with something, concerning your illness.
    (both subclauses refer to 'concerning your illness' but it's probably clearer to mark this with commas)
     
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    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    That's interesting, thanks for the explanation.

    Generally, if I'm translating sentences like these into English, I will accept a certain amount of clunkiness, if it's the price to be paid for making the structure of the original sentence clear.

    I also wonder if the clunkiness factor is a bit lower in the equivalent English sentence than in the Swedish one, because both and and or are monosyllabic words, whereas one of the Swedish conjunctions ("eller") is disyllabic?
     
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    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    ...
    I also wonder if the clunkiness factor is a bit lower in the equivalent English sentence than in the Swedish one, because both and and or are monosyllabic words, whereas one of the Swedish conjunctions ("eller") is disyllabic?
    I certainly agree, it looks way less clunky:
    You are always welcome to contact us if you have questions about your treatment, your illness, or your symptoms, or if you need help with e.g. prescriptions or referrals. :thumbsup:
    Just for the record I completely agree with Wilma.
    Thanks, Mattias!
     
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    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I've also run into sentences where I had to insert a conjunction in the English version in order to make the parsing clear (as I did with "or" in the sentence we're discussing).
    Here's another example I just happened upon (from documents relating to a construction contract):

    Intyget ska vara undertecknat av beställaren, ange vem beställaren är samt dennes kontaktperson.
    "The certificate should be signed by the purchaser, and should state who the purchaser is and the purchaser's contact person."

    From a standard English perspective, we have a main list with two items ("ska vara ..." and "(ska) ange ..."), and the second item contains a list of its own (vem beställaren är and dennes kontaktperson).

    There should be two conjunctions here in English: one marking the end of the main list, and another marking the end of the sub-list. In the Swedish version, only the sub-list has a conjunction (samt).
     
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    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Here's another example I just happened upon (from documents relating to a construction contract):

    Intyget ska vara undertecknat av beställaren, ange vem beställaren är samt dennes kontaktperson.

    "The certificate should be signed by the purchaser, and should state who the purchaser is and the purchaser's contact person."

    From a standard English perspective, we have a main list with two items ("ska vara ..." and "(ska) ange ..."), and the second item contains a list of its own (vem beställaren är and dennes kontaktperson).

    There should be two conjunctions here in English: one marking the end of the main list, and another marking the end of the sub-list. In the Swedish version, only the sub-list has a conjunction (samt).
    I interpret this sentence in a slightly different way. It is sloppy Swedish in terms of sentence structure - the first half is an instruction in the form of the auxiliary ska + verb phrase, the second half is an instruction in the form of a verb in the imperative form! I could quite simply translate it equally sloppily to:

    "The certificate should be signed by the purchaser, please state who the purchaser is and the purchaser's contact person."

    I don't know if this certificate is a pre-defined form or in letter format, but it doesn't matter, the important thing is to identify in clear text both the name of the purchaser (usually a company or similar) and the name of the person signing the certificate.
     
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    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I interpret this sentence in a slightly different way. It is sloppy Swedish in terms of sentence structure - the first half is an instruction in the form of the auxiliary ska + verb phrase, the second half is an instruction in the form of a verb in the imperative form! I could quite simply translate it equally sloppily to:

    "The certificate should be signed by the purchaser, please state who the purchaser is and the purchaser's contact person."
    That's a good point. Maybe I mistranslated the sentence.

    Is the verb ange normally used with a text or document as the subject? Or does it generally have to be a person who "anger" something?
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    That's a good point. Maybe I mistranslated the sentence.

    Is the verb ange normally used with a text or document as the subject? Or does it generally have to be a person who "anger" something?
    There are no such limitations with this meaning of the verb ange (*). I can easily understand how you interpreted the sentence differently, this could in fact have been the original intended meaning but in that case it is extremely sloppy Swedish. If I had written the original text myself, I would certainly have done it differently. Since I don’t know the original writer's intention with this sloppy sentence, I get two versions.

    1) Intyget ska vara undertecknat av beställaren och ska ange vem beställaren är samt dennes kontaktperson. (your interpretation - we could in fact omit the second 'ska' but here it's clear that the subject is 'intyget' for both coordinated clauses)
    2) Intyget ska vara undertecknat av beställaren. Var god ange vem beställaren är samt dennes kontaktperson. (In imperative clauses there usually is no subject other than implied (the person who is asked to perform the action?, I think...)

    (*) other meanings may prefer human subjects or objects.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Just for reference, I read the sentence as essentially meaning what Wilma's option #1 states, not #2.

    For me, on a first read it looks more likely that the writer sloppily omits "och ska" and replaces that with a comma, rather than sloppily fails to punctuate and then capitalize the next sentence. When I think about it I think Wilma's sentences are really good alternatives to how it was actually written. To me though, dropping "var god" gives the second version's second sentence a somewhat less polite or less soft tone. So for that reason it seems more likely that a writer would take a list like the one in Wilma's first example and just make "och ska" a comma, rather than very sloppily (more sloppily) issue a command without punctuation and a polite added "Var god".

    Also, when I think about it; the first sentence is actually more consistent in its sloppiness. All of the "list items" refer back to "intyget". Wilma's second sentence essentially switches between talking about it and talking to the reader. Perhaps by reading more of the text in general one can find if the writer of it has a tendency to tell the reader what to do or tell the reader what has to be done (i.e. telling the reader how to fill out the certificate versus telling the reader how the certificate has to be filled out).

    Hope that makes somewhat sense.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Just for reference, I read the sentence as essentially meaning what Wilma's option #1 states, not #2.

    For me, on a first read it looks more likely that the writer sloppily omits "och ska" and replaces that with a comma, rather than sloppily fails to punctuate and then capitalize the next sentence. When I think about it I think Wilma's sentences are really good alternatives to how it was actually written. To me though, dropping "var god" gives the second version's second sentence a somewhat less polite or less soft tone. So for that reason it seems more likely that a writer would take a list like the one in Wilma's first example and just make "och ska" a comma, rather than very sloppily (more sloppily) issue a command without punctuation and a polite added "Var god".

    Also, when I think about it; the first sentence is actually more consistent in its sloppiness. All of the "list items" refer back to "intyget". Wilma's second sentence essentially switches between talking about it and talking to the reader. Perhaps by reading more of the text in general one can find if the writer of it has a tendency to tell the reader what to do or tell the reader what has to be done (i.e. telling the reader how to fill out the certificate versus telling the reader how the certificate has to be filled out).

    Hope that makes somewhat sense.
    It makes sense. I have seen so much sloppy writing in my life, and usually, but not always, surrounding text and context may help to disambiguate the meaning of isolated passages. Sadly, it was my past experience of so much sloppy writing that made me go for the second interpretation with the imperative. You can expect anything these days when young people can’t even use the third person plural pronouns correctly! :eek::mad:
     
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