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The Swedish Teacher

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Sin, sitt & sina

Some parts of the Swedish language are more important than others to master. I mean even though it is good to know which words are “en” and which are “ett”, there isn’t really a disaster if you happen to say “en hus” or “ett bok”. Using the wrong pronoun (such as “han”, “hon”, “den”) could definitely cause more confusion. Take a look at this classic example:

1. Patrik kysser sin fru.

2. Patrik kysser hans fru.

In English both sentences translates to “Patrik is kissing his wife”. In Swedish however, you make a distinction between “his own wife” = sin, and his as in someoneelse’s wife. This might get more clear if we change “sin” and “hans” for names:

1. Patrik kysser Patriks (sin) fru.

2. Patrik kysser Henriks (hans) fru.

In other words,  if Patrik is the subject of the sentence and he is also the owner (excuse me Patrik’s wife ;-) ) of the object, then we express that ownership by using “sin” instead of “hans”.

It is of course not only “hans” that sometimes should be replaced with “sin”. This is also the case for “hennes”, “dess”, “ens” and “deras”. It is also good to know that “sin” changes to “sitt” if the object is an ett-word, and to “sina” if the object is plural. Like this:

Patrik har målat sitt hus i sommar.

(Patrik has painted his house this summer.)

Patrik ska hämta sina barn på dagis.

(Patrik is going to pick up his children at kindergarten.)

Now we are going to take a look at some more complicated sentences, because that is when it usually gets a little tricky with the “sin” and “hans”. Take a look at these sentences:

Patrik tycker om maten som sin fru lagar.

(Patrik likes the food that his wife cooks.)

Olle sitter uppe, eftersom sin dotter inte har kommit hem än.

(Olle is waiting up, since his daughter is not home yet.)

Anna och sin pojkvän ska äta på restaurang ikväll.

(Anna and her boyfriend are going out for dinner tonight.)

All three sentences are wrong! We mustn’t use “sin” instead of “hans” or “hennes” in any of them! At this point in class some students are ready to leave the classroom ;-) “Why not “sin” all of a sudden? You just said that when you are the owner of the subject… ” The explanation for example one and two is that we can not look at the whole sentence an figure out subject and object, we have to look at each clause of the sentence. So let’s do that:

“Patrik tycker om maten”

is our main clause (huvudsats) in which “Patrik” is subject.

“som hans fru lagar”.

is a subordinated clause (bisats) and “hans fru” is the subject in it. Only an object can use the pronoun “sin”, “sitt” or “sina”. The same explanation goes for example number two:

“Olle sitter uppe”

is the main clause (huvudsats) and “Olle” is the subject.

“eftersom hans dotter inte har kommit hem än.”

is the subordinated clause (bisats) in which “hans dotter” is the subject, and therefore cannot be “sin”.

I know that it is hard to analyze the sentence structure when you are out there speaking Swedish, so to make it simple – don’t use “sin”, “sitt” and “sina” after common subjunctions (bisatsord) such as “som”, “att”, eftersom”, “därför att” , “om” etc.

But what about the third example? Again we should take closer look and find out if we really are dealing with an object and an owner of that object:

Anna och hennes pojkvän…

The thing here is that “Anna” is the subject of the sentence and since “och” is a conjunction, which combines two things of the same kind (a subject with another subject or an object with another object) “pojkvän” is also a part of the subject and can not use “sin” for a pronoun.

OK, so now everything is clear, right? Why don’t we take a little test:

1. Erik gillar … jobb.

2. Man måste lyssna på … föräldrar.

3. Johan och … flickvän ska flytta ihop.

4. Johan köper ofta blommor till … flickvän.

5. Tomas och Björn bor fortfarande hemma hos … föräldrar.

6. De ska låna ut sin sommarstuga till … dotter och … pojkvän.

7. Annas mamma säger att Anna kan låna … bil.

8. Anna får låna bilen, eftersom … bil är på verkstaden.

9. Hon är ute och går med … hund.

10. Hon och … man är ute och går.

How did it go? Put your answers in the comment field :)

Til next time!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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10 responses to “Sin, sitt & sina”

  1. Monark 540 says:

    1. sitt
    2. sina
    3. sin
    4. sina
    5. deras hennes – it sounds “right”?
    6. hennes
    7. hennes
    8. sin
    9. hennes

    Good stuff before breakfast!

    Report abuse »

  2. Daniel says:

    1 sitt
    2 sina
    3.1 hans
    4 sin
    5 sin/hennes
    7 hennes
    8 sin
    9 hennes

    Report abuse »

  3. Daniel says:

    3.2 sin
    6 hennes

    Report abuse »

  4. devy says:

    1. sitt
    2. sina
    3. hans
    4. sin
    5. sina
    6. sin/hennes
    7. hennes
    8. hennes
    9. sin
    10. hennes

    Report abuse »

  5. londonboy says:

    Hey! Great blog! I’m just starting learning Swedish at the moment and although the grammar/vocabulary is no problem for me, I find pronunciation quite a lot more difficult than German. Sentences seem quite a mouthful. I’m gonna be a regular reader of your site ;)

    Report abuse »

  6. Nucifraga says:

    1. Erik gillar sin jobb.
    2. Man måste lyssna på hans föräldrar.
    3. Johan och hans flickvän ska flytta ihop.
    4. Johan köper ofta blommor till hans flickvän.
    5. Tomas och Björn bor fortfarande hemma hos deras föräldrar.
    6. De ska låna ut deras sommarstuga till deras dotter och deras pojkvän.
    7. Annas mamma säger att Anna kan låna hennes bil.
    8. Anna får låna bilen, eftersom hennes bil är på verkstaden.
    9. Hon är ute och går med hennes hund.
    10. Hon och hennes man är ute och går.

    Report abuse »

  7. Hanan Naeem says:

    I’m a regular user of user of your blogs. Really grateful for these. Made learning Swedish much more fun and easy for me. Thanks a lot :-)

    Report abuse »

  8. yenbee says:

    Hej Sara,

    Tack så mycket för din förklaring. Den är utmärkt.

    Kan du korrigera vårt ansvar?

    Kan du ge några exempel på “hennes”, “dess”, “ens” och “deras” också?

    Jag ser fram emot ditt svar. Tack på förhand!


    Report abuse »

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