The Swedish Teacher

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Archive for July, 2010

Plural endings

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

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:






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:






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:














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:






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






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:






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:


(the apples)


(the knees, my knees)


(the accounts)


(the messages)


(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:











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






Congratulations for reading this far! Now you can practice your new skills by taking this test:

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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S-endings on verbs

Sunday, July 25th, 2010


I happened to read on a forum here on The Local that someone was confused about when to use an -s on verbs in Swedish. Most verbs end with a -r in present tense and -de in simple past as you probably know already, but sometimes there is an “mysterious s”. There are three different occasions when there is an -s. First of all there we will use -s to express the passive voice of the verb. Secondly  -s can substitute the word “varandra” (each other). The grammar term for that is reciprocal verbs. Thirdly, there are a small group of verbs that always have a -s and there is no special reason for that, they just happen to end with a -s in all tenses. In this blog post I will take a closer look at all three types of using the -s.

-s expressing passive voice (passiv form)

Passive voice is used when we don’t know who is taking action or when it isn’t interesting who is doing it. In grammar terms we can express it as that we don’t have an agent in the sentence.

Passive voice is often used in newspaper articles and also news on TV and radio.  Here are a few examples from Dagens Nyheter today:

17 skadades efter busskrock utanför Piteå.

(17 were injured after a bus crash outside Piteå.)

Sprängämnesstoff hittades i flickans sko.

(Explosive materials were found in the girl’s shoe.)

Mordbrännare jagas i Eslöv.

(Fire-raiser is being chased in Eslöv.)

In the examples above we don’t know or perhaps don’t find it interesting who injured the 17 people, who found the explosives in the shoe or who is chasing the fire-raiser in Eslöv.

The passive voice is also used in instructions, recipes for example, and in formal language. You will find passive forms on a carton of milk or on a bill like this:

Öppnas här!

(To be opened here.)

Betalas senast 100831

(To be paid at the latest by Aug. 31, 2010).

As you have seen the passive voice can be used for different tenses (actually all tenses) and it’s not complicated to construct the passive version of the verb.  You more or less just ad a -s to the regular form except for the present tense where you need to remove the -r. It looks like this:

Present tense:

skadar (regular)               skadas (passive)

köper (regular)                 köps/köpes (passive)

syr (regular)                      sys (passive)

skriver (regular)              skrives/skrivs (passive)

Past tense:

skadade (regular)            skadades (passive)

köpte (regular)                 köptes (passive)

sydde (regular)                 syddes (passive)

skrev (regular)                  skrevs (passive)

We can also create the passive voice with something called “the perfect participle” which is more common in spoken Swedish and less formal Swedish. I will discuss this in a different post but I can show you what our s-passives would look like constructed with a particple:

skadades – blev skadad

(was hurt)

hittades – blev hittad

(was found)

-s expressing “each other” (reciprocal verbs)

You have most likely used this form of the verbs since you started speaking Swedish and we can find it in some of our most common phrases.

Vi hörs!

These two words mean something like “We’ll hear from each other”. It’s not stated who’s going to contact who. You can compare it to “Jag ringer dig” (I’ll call you.) where it’s known from the outset who will call who.

Vi ses!

Is often translated as, “I’ll see you” but literally means, “we’ll see each other.”

Vi kan träffas klockan tre.

Means “we can meet each other at three o’clock”.

Through the years I have heard many Swedish learners saying things like “jag träffades mina kompisar” which isn’t correct. It is a good thumb rule that you can’t use “träffas” when the subject of the sentence is a single person such as jag, du, han or hon.

Here are a few more examples when it is common to use -s for “each other”:

De kramas.

(They are hugging each other.)

De pussas.

(They are kissing each other.)

De slåss.

(They are fighting with each other. /They are hitting each other.)

De retas.

(They are teasing each other.)

Using -s in the meaning “each other” in different tenses works the same way as with -s for passive voice. Just ad the -s to the regular form except for present tense where you first have to remove the -r:

Present tense

pussar – pussas

Past tense

pussade – pussades

Present perfekt

har pussat – har pussats

s for no special reason

There are a number of verbs in Swedish that end with an -s in all tenses for no special reason: that is simply just what the words look like. In Swedish grammar books they are called “deponens”. These words are quite common and we use them all the time.  Here are a few examples:

att hoppas – hoppas – hoppades – har hoppats

(to hope for)

att andas – andas – andades – har andats

(to breathe)

att lyckas – lyckas – lyckades – har lyckats

(to succeed)

att minnas – minns – mindes – har mints

(to remember, to recall)

att finnas – finns – fanns – har funnits

(to be, to exist)

att låtsas – låtsas – låtsades – har låtsats

(to pretend)

I hope I have been able to clear out the mysterious S! Let me know if not 😉

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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Sämre eller värre?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

As you might know already there are two ways to express “worse” in Swedish – sämre and värre. My blog reader Caroline has asked me to explain the difference between those two.

Comparison of adjectives

To answer this question I’ll take a step back and quickly go over how we can make comparisons in Swedish. The basic form of the adjective has the grammar terms positiv. For example:


Anders är glad. Han har vunnit 100 kronor på lotto.
(Anders is happy. He has won 100 SEK on the lotto.)


Diamantringen är dyr.
(The diamond ring is expensive.)

When we want to express that someone is happier or that something is more expensive, we use the komparativ form of the adjective. In Swedish it looks like this:


Åsa är gladare än Anders. Hon har vunnit 1 000 kronor på lotto.
(Åsa is happier than Anders. She has won 1 000 SEK on the lotto.)

(more expensive)

Diamantarmbandet är dyrare än diamantringen.
(The diamond bracelet is more expensive than the diamond ring.)

When we want to express who is the happiest, most expensive, biggest, smallest etc, we use the superlativ form of the adjective:


Lena är gladast av alla. Hon har vunnit 100 000 kronor på lotto.
(Lena is happiest of them all. She has won 100 000 SEK on the lotto.)

(most expensive)

Diamanthalsbandet är dyrast. Lena tänker köpa det.(The diamond necklace is the most expensive of the all. Lena is going to buy it.)

dålig – sämre – sämst and dålig – värre – värst

So now when we have cleared out how to make comparisons we will take a look at sämre, sämst and värre, värst. Both sämre/sämst and värre/värst are komparativ/superlativ of “dålig” (bad). Apparently there are two kinds of “bad” when speaking Swedish, a bit strange one might think. As a matter of fact something can be bad in itself, always bad, or it could be bad just sometimes. Diseases are good examples of things that are bad in themselves:

Hostan har blivit värre de senaste dagarna.
(My cough has got worse the past couple of days.)

We use “värre” here because a cough is never considered being something good or positive, it is always a negative thing. Another good example of when to use “värre” is from Dagens Nyheter:

Oljekatastrofen är värre än befarat.
(The oil disaster is worse than first feared.)

A disaster is a negative thing of course, and therefore we use “värre” and not “sämre”.

To make sure this is all clear I’m now going to share an example of using “sämre”:

Patienten mår sämre idag.
(The patient is feeling worse/weaker today.)

Here we can see that the patient himself/herself is not a bad thing, like the cough is. Therefore we should use “sämre”.

Also those of you who have spent this summer in Sweden know that:

Vädret var sämre förra sommaren. Det var inte alls lika varmt som i år.
(The weather was worse last summer. It was not as warm as this year.)

So, the Swedish weather is not something bad in itself, even if it might feel like that sometimes 😉

Sara the Swedish Teacher

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More questions!

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Swedish Teacher has run out of questions! Please post :))


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New quizzes

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Here are a couple of new quizzes, this time on adjectives and past tense:

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