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The Swedish Teacher

If you want the answers, you just have to ask!

Plural endings

Hej igen!

I have already received a number of questions and I want to thank everyone for contributing to this blog! As we say in Swedish:

Frågar man inget, får man inget veta.

One reader wants to know the rules for constructing plural of the noun. His question is this:

“Can you do something on plurals, and how we know which ending to add to a word?

If you could have these for the indefinite and definite forms that would be very helpful! “

5 noun groups – declensions

The nouns in Swedish can be sorted into five different groups or “declensions” as we also can call them.

1. In the first declension we find en-words (nouns with gender en) that end with an -a. This is a quite large group with common words as:

en blomma

(a flower)

en lampa

(a lamp)

en kvinna

(a woman)

en flaska

(a bottle)

en väska

(a bag)

All words in this group will look like this in plural form:

blommor

lampor

kvinnor

flaskor

väskor

As you can see, what you need to do to create the plural form is removing the -a and ad -or. If you want to create the definite form (bestämd form), the flowers, the bottles, you ad -na. Now it looks like this:

blommorna

lamporna

kvinnorna

flaskorna

väskorna

2. In the second declension there are mainly one-syllable nouns with gender en. Common words that fit into this group are:

en bil

(a car)

en kopp

(a cup)

en hund

(a dog)

en stol

(a chair)

en säng

(a bed)

In this group we will also find a number of other nouns that ends with a unstressed -e, -el, -en, -er or -on. Some examples of these words are:

en pojke, en bulle

(a boy, a cinnamon roll)

en cykel, en fågel

(a bike, a bird)

en öken

(a desert)

en syster, en vinter

(a sister)

en morgon

(a morning)

This is what the words in the second group look like in plural form:

bilar

koppar

hundar

stolar

sängar

pojkar

bullar

cyklar

fåglar

öknar

systrar

vintrar

morgnar

So, you can see that the plural ending for this group is -ar. You might also have noticed already that the words with an unstressed -e, -el, -en, -er or -on loses the -e or -o in plural. For plural definite form we ad -na just like in the first declension. Then we end up with:

bilarna, kopparna, hundarna, stolarna,  sängarna, pojkarna, bullarna, cyklarna, fåglarna, öknarna, systrarna, vintrarna and morgnarna

3. In the third declension there are words like en polis, en biljett and en telefon: and what do they have in common? Well they are all loan words as they originally come from another language. Many of the words in this group consists of several syllables. More examples:

en familj

( family)

en cigarett

(a cigarette)

en ingenjör

(an engineer)

To create the plural form of the nouns in this group we ad -er. Like this:

poliser

biljetter

telefoner

familjer

ingenjörer

Again, to create the definite form plural we ad -na at the end of the word. Like this:

poliserna

biljetterna

telefonerna

familjerna

ingenjörerna

The words are starting to get quite long now, right? ;-)   It is also worth mentioning that some of the words in this group get a so called “omljud” in plural which means that they change vowel. This happens to words that we use on a daily basis:

en hand               händer

(a hand)

en tand                tänder

(a tooth)

en son                   söner

(a son)

en fot                     fötter

(a foot)

4. Ok, enough with the en-words! In the fourth declension are a number of ett-words. The second thing they have in common is that they all end with a vowel. Hurray! Finally a rule that is easy to remember! Common words in this group are for example:

ett äpple

(an apple)

ett knä

(a knee)

ett konto

(an account)

ett meddelande

(a message)

ett arbete

(a job)

To express the plural form of these nouns we simply ad -n which will make our examples from above look like this:

äpplen

knän

konton

meddelanden

arbeten

It is worthy of note that if you are not familiar with the Swedish plural rules, or think that äpple is an en-word, you might think that äpplen means “the apple”. To create the definite form plural out of the words in the fourth group we will have to ad -a so we get:

äpplena

(the apples)

knäna

(the knees, my knees)

kontona

(the accounts)

meddelandena

(the messages)

arbetena

(the jobs)

5. All right, one more group to go – the fifth declension. (By this time in a classroom you would have been in coma!) Luckily, the fifth group is the one that is the easiest to remember. The rule is simple: ett-words ending with a consonant. A few examples:

ett hus

(a house)

ett barn

(a child)

ett rum

(a room)

ett problem

(a problem)

ett år

Ok, so what do we have to do to turn these guys into plural form? The answer is:nothing! One might think that the Swedes ran out plural endings or something. Anyway, this is what our examples look like in plural:

hus

(houses)

barn

(children)

rum

(rooms)

problem

(problems)

år

(years)

To make definite form we ad -en. Like this:

husen

barnen

rummen

problemen

åren

Congratulations for reading this far! Now you can practice your new skills by taking this test: http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=do-you-know-swedish-plural-forms

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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14 responses to “Plural endings”

  1. Grace says:

    Hi Sara!

    Thanks for this useful guide. Can I just check with you, in point (2) above, you listed two “bilarna” words. Shouldn’t one of them be “bilar”?

    Thanks very much!

    Grace

    Report abuse »

  2. Mikael says:

    Cool list! (yes, I’m a bit of a nerd)
    I’m just thinking of the neuter words of the third(?) declension, the ones like “fängelse” and “batteri”, which I don’t find listed.

    Report abuse »

    • Hej Mikael!

      Thank you for your input. There is nothing wrong with being a nerd ;-)

      “Ett batteri” does, just like you say, belong to the third declension. Other words in that category are “bageri”, “kalori” and “idé”. The thumb rule here is that these words are en- and ett-words ending with -eri, -ori and -é. The plural form of “ett fängelse”is fängelser and should also be listed in the third declension.

      Report abuse »

  3. Ann says:

    Wow! Thank you a lot indeed for this wonderful list of the word endings. After Bergman’s films I started to be interested in Swedish lung. so now I’ll use your wonderful list.
    Thank you! Ann

    Report abuse »

  4. Krishna Ghanta Chowdary says:

    Hi Teacher,

    So if we talk plural forms, there will be like finite, definite, indefinite forms?

    for ex: en bil (one car, a car, the car) – singular
    bilen (always comes end of the sentence and it represents about a car??)
    bilar (plural but resemble few cars or collection of cars??)
    bilarna (about cars (plural in general ??))

    This is what I want to confirm in general.

    Report abuse »

    • Hej Krishna!

      Something that can be confusing is that the word for 1 is “en” and the indefinite article (a/an in English) is also en (and for some words “ett”). So we get:

      en bil – a car
      en bil – one car
      bilen – the car (the definite article is not a separate word like in English)

      For this particular word (car) the plural form is “bilar”. The plural ending, -ar, is not separated.
      bilar – cars

      If we are talking about some specific cars we will have to add the definite article (in English “the) to the words. For “the cars” we then get “bilarna” (the cars) in Swedish.

      bil-ar-na
      car-s-the

      Let me know if you further help to understand.

      Sara

      Report abuse »

  5. Aamir says:

    Hej,
    Thanks for a wonderful tutorials, its really helpful.

    I have a confusion about group 5.

    ett hus
    ett år

    to make definite form shouldn’t we add ‘-et’ at end as a general rule instead of -en

    huset
    året

    /Aamir

    Report abuse »

    • Hej Amir!

      Thank you for your input.

      The definite form singular for group 5 is -et so “the house” is “huset”, just like you said, and “the train” is “tåget”. In this article I’m only showing the plural forms and the definite plural form of group 5 is -en so “the trains” will be “tågen” and “the houses” will be “husen”. I know it’s quite confusing since many other words have -en for singular definite form, like “bilen”.

      All the best,
      Sara

      Report abuse »

  6. Neha says:

    Hi,

    i am bit confused to use en or ett with the words lexikon, morgon as both ends in -on but we use ett lexikon, en morgon and and fönster with -er ending but we use ett instead of en.

    Neha

    Report abuse »

  7. Charlotte says:

    Hello!
    Thanks for all the Swedish help! Really well set out and always very clear to understand, even for me! :P
    Im currently practicing my plurals and i’m slowly but surely getting the hang of it! However I was just wondering, what do you do with en words ending in a consonant with more than one syllable? For example, ‘trädgård’? Is this just one of the exceptions ill have to learn by heart? Thanks!

    Report abuse »

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