Beginner #21 - May I? (Helper Verbs)

Print lesson
Anders: Jag vill ha chips till filmen. Ska du ha något från affären?
I want chips for the movie. Do you want something from the store?
Markus: Kan jag följa med?
May I come with?
Anders: Det brukar du ju aldrig.
You never do that.
Markus: Jag måste komma ut. Jag har inte varit ute på två dagar. Får jag välja film?
I need to get out. I haven't been outside for 2 days. Can I choose the movie?
Anders: Du bör välja film. Du vill aldrig se mina förslag.
You should choose the movie. You never want to watch my suggestions.
proposition, suggestion
komma ut
come out, get out
can, may
must, be going to, want, shall

Helper verbs

These verbs mostly stand together with other verbs without using the infinite particle att to connect them.

Kan du läsa?
Can you read?

The auxiliary verb here (kan, can) is conjugated and the next verb (läsa, read) is in its infinite form and without att (to).

This kind of verb could also stand on its own like the following example shows.

Kan du svenska?
Can you (do you know) Swedish?

All auxiliary verbs are irregular. In the table below you find all forms:

Infinite Present tense Simple past English
kunna kan kunde can, could, may
vilja vill ville want
får fick may, be allowed to
skola ska(ll) skulle should, will
böra* bör borde should
måste måste** must, have to

*opposed to ska, this word is rather used when you want to advice someone to do something. Ska works more like an order, a strong statement, that you might use with your children.

**Since all forms are the same, vara tvungen (to be forced to/to have to) is mostly used as a substitute when talking in past tense.

Example sentences

Joakim kan spela piano. Joakim can play the piano.
Kan jag komma in? Could/can/may I come in?
Jag vill åka hem nu. I want to go home now.
Får jag följa med? May I come with?
Du får prata lite mindre. You must/have to/need to talk a bit less.
Du ska inte stoppa köttbullar i näsan. You mustn’t/shouldn’t put meat balls into your nose.
I kväll ska vi gå på bio. We are going to go to the movies tonight.
Du bör klä på dig innan du går ut. You should get dressed before you go out.
Borde du inte vara i skolan nu? Shouldn’t you be in school right now?
Du måste tvätta händerna före maten. You must/have to wash your hands before dinner/lunch.
Jag var tvungen att slänga maten. I had to throw away the food.