Swedish: Vad var det för X

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Alessio89, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. Alessio89 Member

    Hallo everybody,

    I was reading a Swedish poem with an English translation, and I found this line:

    Vad var det för ord – var det långt eller kort

    translated as:

    What word was it – was it long or short.

    That "vad var det för X" sounded peculiar to me, so I googled it, and I found some examples like:

    "vad var det för dag när jag föddes"

    Thus, can I argue that "vad var det för X" corresponds to "which X was that"? :) Is there another way to say it or is this the most normal construction?

    P.S. I said "sounded peculiar" because it's quite a different structure from the English one, it literally translates as "what was it for X".


  2. brindo New Member

    I would say the translation depends heavily on your "X"...

    Vad var det för ord - Vilket ord var det
    The first one is asking for a description of the word while the other one is asking for a specific word.

    Vad var det för (vecko)dag - Vilken dag var det
    Again, the first one seems to ask what day of week it was while the other one seems to be asking for a specific date.
  3. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    "Vad var det för x" is the past form of "Vad är det för x", which is a quite common way to ask what or how something is/was in Swedish, for example "Vad är det för något?", "Vad är det för väder ute?", "Vad är/var det för fel på bilen?". I would translate "Vad var det för ord?" as "What kind of word was it?".
  4. Alessio89 Member

    Ok, so:

    "Vad är det för x" = "which kind of X is it?"

    "Vilken X är det ?" = "which/what X is it?"


  5. JohanIII

    JohanIII Senior Member

    It's as usual... complicated. :)

    The example "Vad är/var det för fel på bilen?" does not ask what kind of error, but anyone asking would be content with an answer giving the type of error - but would also be happy (happier) with a very specific answer.

    Likewise, with the word question, you could at least for starters be content with getting the kind/type (i.e. the length here), but eventually you'll want the specifics.

    I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it means both, or something in between.
    It's rather useful for asking, when you don't want to limit the answer unduly.
  6. Lugubert Senior Member

    Exactly. It's even more clear if you read the rest of the poem, which asks more questions (Du har tappat ditt ord ur Barfotabarn av Nils Ferlin),

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