10 Swedish sayings that are guaranteed to confuse English speakers

Ever met by baffled expressions when you try to use Swedish sayings when speaking English? Using proverbs shows linguistic skill but can also go badly wrong. Some Swedish sayings are international while others just don’t translate at all to English. As part of our “Borta med svengelska” series we’ve compiled some Swedish proverbs that work in English as well those that don’t and those that just need a little translating polish to make them sound right. First up is a list of 10 Swedish proverbs that you should avoid altogether, or better still, learn the English equivalent if you would really like to impress. Don’t forget to like us on facebook and linkedin to make sure you catch the rest of the series. 

1. Gör inte en höna av en fjäder
Direct translation: Don’t make a hen out of a feather 
English equivalent: Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill 

2. Lika barn lekar bäst
Direct translation: Similar children play best 
English equivalent: Birds of a feather flock together 

3. Arga katter får rivet skinn
Direct translation: Angry cats get scratched skin 
English equivalent: Quarrelsome dogs come limping home 

4. Smaken är som baken, delad 
Direct translation: Taste is like the buttocks, divided 
English equivalent: There’s no accounting for taste, or alternatively, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder 

5. Den enes död, den andres bröd
Direct translation: The death of one, the bread of the other 
English equivalent: One man’s meat is another man’s poison 

6. Köp inte grisen i säcken
Direct translation: Don’t buy the pig in the bag 
Closest English equivalent: Let the buyer have a thousand eyes for the seller wants only one 

7. Lagt kort ligger
Direct translation: Laid card lies 
English equivalent: You can’t un-ring a bell 

8. Eget beröm luktar illa 
Direct translation: Self-praise smells bad 
English equivalent: Don’t blow your own horn 

9. Först till kvarn får först mala 
Direct translation: First to the mill will grind first 
English equivalent: First come, first served 

10 Man ska inte döma hunden efter håren 
Direct translation: You should not judge a dog by its fur 
English equivalent: Never judge a book by its cover 

If you need help with swinglish issues or guidance on professional international communications, please do not hesitate to contact us at The London School of English on tel. +46 8 5999 4000 or email us at info@londonschool.se.

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