Beginner #30 - Till, åt, för

Print lesson
Anders: Varför kommer din post till mig?
Why am I getting your mail?
Markus: Säkert någon som skickat till fel lägenhetsnummer. Du bor ju i lägenheten bredvid.
I'm sure it's just someone that sent it to the wrong apartment number. You are living in the apartment next door.
Anders: Det har kommit ett brev till dig. Från skatteverket.
There is a letter for you. From the tax authority.
Markus: Skatteåterbäring! Tack.
Tax returns! Thanks.
Anders: Säg inte det till mig.
Don't say that to me.
Markus: Jag sa det bara högt.
I just said it out loud.
Anders: Kan du inte säga åt dem att ändra din adress, så slipper jag få dina brev. Varför fick inte jag något sådant brev förresten?
Can't you tell them to change your address, so that I don't have to get your letters? Why didn't I get that kind of letter though?
Markus: Inte vet jag. Du kanske inte berättade tillräckligt för Skatteverket om vad du tjänat och spenderat på.
I have no idea. Maybe you didn't tell the tax authority enough about what you've made and sepnt.
Anders: Finns väl ingenting att berätta för dem. Kan inte du deklarera åt mig nästa år?
I don't think there is anything to tell. Couldn't you do my taxes next year?
Markus: Ja, visst kan jag det. Men då måste du göra någonting för mig. Du kanske kunde laga mat åt mig eller något?
Sure, I can do that. But then you'll have to do something for me. Maybe you could cook for me or something?
Anders: Men jag lagar ju alltid mat åt dig.
But I always cook for you.
Markus: Jo, men du kan hjälpa mig att laga mat till min fest nästa år.
Yeah, but you could help me to cook for my party next year.
Anders: Ja, just det, du fyller ju 25! Fast är det inte bättre att beställa catering till festen. Du bjuder säkert många. Det kan bli svårt att laga mat till så många.
Yeah, that's right, you are turning 25! But isn't it better to hire catering for the party? You are inviting so many. It could be hard to cook for so many.
Markus: Du har rätt, som vanligt. Ska vi dra och ta en öl?
You're right, as always. Do you want to get out of here and grab a beer?
Anders: Ja, visst! Vilken pub ska vi gå till? Den som ligger till höger eller till den man kommer till om man går åt vänster.
Yeah, sure! To which pub are we going? The one to the right or the one you get to when you go left?
Markus: Vi tar vänsterpuben idag. Betalar du för ölen åt mig?
Let's take the lefty pub today. Are you paying for my beer?
Anders: Igen?
Again?
Markus: Jag har använt alla pengar till skolböcker. Och bärs.
I've used up all my money for text books. And beer.
  
deklarera
prepare one's tax return
  
fylla
fill, turn
  
lägenhet
flat, apartment
  
skatteåterbäring
tax return
  
slippa
be excused, not have do
  
tjäna
earn, serve

Till

Till is the general translation for “to” and is used for direction, when you are going somewhere, or used in the same way as “for” in English, when something is for someone.

Vi gick till höger.
We walked on the right side.

Lena går till affären.
Lena is walking to the store.

Sven åker till Danmark på semester.
Sven is going to Denmark on vacation.

Det ligger ett brev till dig på bordet.
There is (“lies”) a letter for you on the table.

Jag vill säga något till dig.
I want to tell you something.

Han vill ge pengar till välgörenhet.
He wants to give money to charity.

Jag bakar en tårta till Mias födelsedag.
I’m baking a cake for Mia’s birthday.

If you want to do something for someone without them knowing or without them asking, you usually use till as a rule of thumb. This is however a very blurry rule and should be viewed as a guideline instead. If you perform some kind of action on and for an inanimate object, you also use till.

Jag köper ett halsband till min flickvän.
I’m buying a necklace for my girlfriend.

Markus lagar mat till mig. Vilken överraskning!
Markus is making me food. What a surprise!

Jag bakar en tårta till Mia.
I’m baking Mia a cake.

Kenny köpte nya däck till bilen.
Kenny bought new tires for his car.

Hon gjorde en brevlåda till det nya huset.
She made a mailbox for for the new house.

Till is also used with verbs that has a certain goal when the action is done or verbs that brings you closer or directing your attention to the object:

Frans studerar till lärare.
Frans is studying to become a teacher.

Håkan friade till Sara.
Håkan proposed to Sara.

Jag vinkade till dig men du vinkade inte tillbaka.
I waved at you but you didn’t wave back.

Han tvingade henne till att äta ketchup.
He forced her to eat ketchup.

Åt

This preposition is used for directions, just like till, however this means that you are going in a certain direction but not necessarily with any intent to arrive there. You are just going that way.

Vinden blåser åt väster.
The wind is blowing west.

It is also used when doing things for a person, who asked you for a favor because they are unable to perform the task themself at this point or because they don’t want to. Once again, this is a loose guideline and some people are just using till and åt interchangably in this case.

Jag köper ett halsband åt min flickvän.
I’m buying a necklace for my girlfriend.

Konstnären målar en tavla åt köparen.
The artist is painting a painting for the buyer.

Frisören klipper håret åt kunden.
The hairdresser is cutting the hair for the customer.

We also use åt with a few set emotional verbs:

Mormor skrattade åt barnens kläder.
Grandma laughed at the children’s clothes.

Jan-Olof svor åt de höga priserna.
Jan-Olof cursed because of the high prices.

And with some verbs till and åt can be interchangable, like in the following examples:

Han sade till/åt mig.
He told me off.

Han sade till/åt mig.
He told me off.

Vi gick till/åt höger.
We walked right.

För

A lot of Germanic speakers use för wrong, since you would use the equivalent in their languages as a translation for till and åt. The tendency is however to use för with verbs that transfer/deliver something (however with clear exceptions, like with säga) or as a particle with certain verbs.

Emma sjunger för kungen.
Emma is singing for the king.

Jan-Olof berättade en historia för barnen.
Jan-Olof told the children a store.

Jag kan inte rå för det.
I can’t help it.

In Swedish, för is also used with time:

För fem år sedan.
Five years ago.

För några dagar sedan.
A few days ago.

För sista gången.
For the last time.

This means that för is also an adverb and conjunction with several other usages that we aren’t covering in this lesson.

Some verbs can take all three of theses prepositions but change their meaning depending on which one you use, so beware.

Vad kan jag göra för dig?
What can I do for you?

Vad kan jag göra åt det?
What can I do about it?

Vad kan jag göra till det?
What can I do to it? (What can I make to add to it?)

Kungen skrek åt soldaterna.
The king screamed at the soldiers.

Kungen skrek till/åt soldaterna.
The king yelled to the soldiers.

Kungen skrek för soldaterna.
The king screamed for the soldiers.

And lastly, to really show the difference between åt and till, regard the following sentence:

Nicole sade det till mig åt Lovisa.
Nicole told me that for Lovisa.

So here Nicole “said” something “to” me, she told me something, that Lovisa didn’t dare to say herself, so Nicole works as a representative here.

Remember that prepositions can be fun but are a tricky business. In abstract cases they are mostly not interchangable with their equivalents in other languages. So if “to” literally means till, it is mostly not possible to translate it literally. Most importantly for you if you’re learning from English is that “for” and för are seldom the same word. Don’t get discourage, you will learn the proper use of prepositions over time. Try to learn the verbs together with their prepositions!