Swedish 101

Swedish nouns and adjectives are declined in two genders and two cases, as well as number. The two cases are nominative and genitive. Nominative is the dictionary form while the genitive suffix is -s, identical to that of English. Swedish nouns belong to one of two genders: uter (also common gender) or neuter, which also determine the declensions of adjectives. For example, the word fisk ("fish") is an uter noun and can have the following forms:

  Singular Plural
Indefinite form Definite form Indefinite form Definite form
Nominative fisk fisken fiskar fiskarna
Genitive fisks fiskens fiskars fiskarnas

As in other Germanic languages there are definite and indefinite articles, but indicating the definite form of a noun is done mainly by a suffix which varies according to gender (-n/-t). The separate articles en/ett and den/det are used to make more subtle variations of meaning and are part of a quite complex system of determining definitiveness. The articles are used to add an extra dimension to this system and the definitive articles also double as demonstrative pronouns, and can be further specified with adverbs such as där; "there". Den fisken and den där fisken would both translate as "that fish", but with the second example adding a level of definitiveness that is not distinguished in English.

Swedish adjectives are inflected in two declensions: strong or weak. This depends on the presence or absence of definite articles. In the strong declension they make distinction between uter gender ("en gammal man/fru"=an old man/women) and neuter gender ("ett gammalt hus"=an old house).

In the weak declension they have a general form ("den/det gamla..."= the old...) but can also take a particular masculine ending specific for males: "den gamle mannen" = the old man.


Swedish pronouns are basically the same as those of English but distinguish four genders and have an additional object form, derived from the old dative form. Hon; "she" has the following forms in nominative, genitive, and object form:

hon - hennes - henne

Thus, they are inflected in four genders and three cases: masculine (han/hans/honom) referring to males, feminine (hon/hennes/henne) referring to females, neuter (det/dets/det) referring to neuter entities/animals and a non-masculine non-feminine non-neuter gender (den/dens/den) referring to non neuter entities/animals.


Verbs are conjugated according to tense. Some verbs have a special imperative form, though with most verbs this is identical to the infinitive form. Perfect and present participles as adjectivistic verbs are very common:

Perfect participle: en stekt fisk; "a fried fish"
Present participle: en stinkande fisk; "a stinking fish"

In contrast to English and many other languages, Swedish does not use the perfect participle to form the present perfect and past perfect tenses. Rather, the auxiliary verb "har", "hade" ("have"/"has", "had") is followed by a special form, called supine, used solely for this purpose (although sometimes identical to the perfect participle):

Perfect participle: målad; "painted" - supine målat, present perfect har målat; "have painted"
Perfect participle: stekt, "fried" - supine stekt, present perfect har stekt; "have fried"

The Past participle is used to build the compound passive voice, instead.

In a subordinate clause, this auxiliary "har", "hade" is optional and often omitted.

Jag ser att han (har) stekt fisken; "I see that he has fried the fish"

Subjunctive mood is occasionally used for some verbs, but its use is in sharp decline and few speakers perceive the handful of commonly used verbs (as for instance: vore, vare, månne) as separate conjugations, most of them remaining only as set of idiomatic expressions.


The lack of cases in Swedish is compensated by a wide variety of prepositions, similar to those found in English. As in modern German, prepositions used to determine case in Swedish, but this feature remains only in idiomatic expressions like till sjöss (genitive) or man ur huse (dative singular), though some of these are still quite common.

Swedish being a Germanic language, the syntax shows similarities to both English and German. Like English, Swedish has a Subject Verb Object basic word order, but like German, it utilizes verb-second word order in main clauses, for instance after adverbs, adverbial phrases and dependent clauses. Prepositional phrases are placed in a Place Manner Time order, like in English (and unlike German). Adjectives precede the noun they determine.

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