Swedish word of the day: duktig



Do you know someone who’s duktig at languages? Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Today’s Swedish word is a compliment, but it’s worth paying attention to context if you want to avoid offence.


Duktig means skilled, capable, or hard-working. In phrases like Oj, vad duktig du är! (Wow, how skilled you are!) it’s a compliment.


You can use it on its own, in the same way as you might say in English ‘you’re such a hard-worker!’ or (to a child) ‘good girl/boy!’. But it usually refers to an action of some sort, whether that’s a job or a specific task.


It is often used before a noun to highlight that someone is skilled in a particular role or capacity, so you could say: hon/han är en duktig målvakt/författare/pappa/arbetare (he/she is a good goalkeeper/author/dad/worker).


Or you can combine it with the preposition and a verb or noun to praise specific duktighet (talent/skill): vad duktig du är på att rita/på svenska (how good you are at drawing/at Swedish). And as well as describing the person, you can also talk about the duktig things they’ve done: hon gjorde många duktiga saker (she did lots of good things), or use it as an adverb by adding ‘t’: han spelade duktigt (he played well).


Duktig comes from the verb duga, which means ‘to be good for/to be acceptable for’.


But the word is not without controversy. Some people argue that the word can be patronising when used about an adult, since it is best translated as “aren’t you good!” and is most often associated with parents or teachers talking to children (or even pet-owners talking to their dogs), rather than peer to peer conversations. So it’s a word where you need to pay close attention to context. 


With that said, if someone tells you you’re jåtteduktig på svenska, it is in all likelihood a sincere compliment.


Examples


Duktig hund!


Good dog!


De vill locka duktiga personal till företaget


They want to attract capable staff to the company

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.


 


 


 


 





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