Swedish word of the day: sonderingsperson

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: sonderingsperson
This word is very handy these days. Image: nito103/Depositphotos"

Today's word should help you understand Swedish politics a little better.


In case you need a refresher, Sweden emerged from the September election with no clear winner, and after two months of talks, the first person to be proposed as PM got voted down by parliament on Wednesday. 

This is where the sonderingsperson comes in. The verb sondera means 'to feel out' or 'to sound' and sondering is the noun form, meaning 'probing' or 'sounding out'. Person, you may have guessed, means 'person'.

When there's no clear majority to form a government, parliament's speaker gives one of the party leaders the task of chatting to the others to see if they'd be able to get enough support for a government, either through forming a coalition or by opposition parties agreeing to tolerate, or not vote against, the proposed government. This is the sonderingsperson (sounding-out person) who is given a sonderingsuppdrag (task of sounding out [the other party leaders]) and begins the sonderingar (probes/talks).

It's a temporary role, usually given for a specified period of around two weeks, and even if the sonderingsperson is able to put together a successful government proposal, that doesn't mean they'd necessarily be prime minister.

So far, two people (Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson and Social Democrats leader Stefan Löfven) have been given the role of sonderingsperson for two weeks each, but failed to put together a workable government. Now, it is likely that another person will be asked to sondera, and the baton could be passed to someone new or back to one of the previous sonderingspersoner. If that all sounds complicated, welcome to Swedish politics in 2018.

French-speakers might recognize the verb sonder (to probe or survey), which is the origin of the Swedish political term, but there's no etymological link to the German prefix sonder-, meaning 'special' or to Swedish sönder, meaning 'broken'. 

FOR MEMBERS: How to talk about politics like a Swede


Talmannen meddelar att han ska utnämna en ny sonderingsperson

The speaker announces that he will name a new person to carry out talks with the aim of forming a government

Centerledaren vill bli ny sonderingsperson

The leader of the Centre Party wants to be the new person to carry out talks with the aim of forming a government

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[email protected] 2018/11/15 08:28
A Timely and very useful article. The right balance of Swedish context and illuminating explanation.

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