Swedish grammar

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Swedish is descended from Old Norse. Compared to its progenitor, Swedish grammar is much less characterized by inflection. Modern Swedish has two genders and no longer conjugates verbs based on person or number. Its nouns have lost the morphological distinction between nominative and accusative cases that denoted grammatical subject and object in Old Norse in favor of marking by word order. Swedish uses some inflection with nouns, adjectives, and verbs. It is generally a subject–verb–object (SVO) language with V2 word order.

Nouns[edit]

Nouns have two grammatical genders: common (utrum) and neuter (neutrum), which determine their definite forms as well as the form of any adjectives used to describe them. Noun gender is largely arbitrary and must be memorized; however, around three quarters of all Swedish nouns are common gender. Living beings are often common nouns, like in en katt, en häst, en fluga, etc.

Swedish once had three genders—masculine, feminine and neuter. Though traces of the three-gender system still exist in archaic expressions and certain dialects, masculine and feminine nouns have today merged into the common gender. A remnant of the masculine gender can still be expressed in the singular definite form of adjectives according to natural gender (male humans), in the same way as personal pronouns, han/hon, are chosen for representing nouns in Contemporary Swedish (male/female humans and optionally animals).

There are a small number of Swedish nouns that can be either common or neuter gender. The database for Svenska Akademiens ordlista 12 contained 324 such nouns.[1]

There are traces of the former four-case system for nouns evidenced in that pronouns still have a subject, object (based on the old accusative and dative form) and genitive forms.[2] Nouns make no distinction between subject and object forms, and the genitive is formed by adding -s to the end of a word. This -s genitive functions more like a clitic than a proper case and is nearly identical to the possessive suffix used in English. Note, however, that in Swedish this genitive s is appended directly to the word and is not preceded by an apostrophe.

Swedish nouns are inflected for number and definiteness and can take a genitive suffix. They exhibit the following morpheme order:

Noun stem (Plural) (Definite article) (Genitive -s)

Plural forms[edit]

Nouns form the plural in a variety of ways. It is customary to classify regular Swedish nouns into five declensions based on their plural indefinite endings: -or, -ar, -er, -n, and unchanging nouns.

  • All nouns of common gender ending in -a replace this ending with -or. For example, flicka (girl), flickor (girls). There are also a few other words with plurals in -or, such as våg (wave), vågor (waves); toffel (slipper), tofflor (slippers); ros (rose), rosor (roses). Note however that toffel is interchangeable with toffla, in which case the plural tofflor would not be irregular at all.
  • Most nouns of common gender not ending in a add either -ar, -er, or (rarely) -r. While -ar is slightly more common, there is no reliable rule to determine which suffix to use. Examples: växt (plant), växter (plants); lök (onion), lökar (onions). A few rules can be named, though, as nouns of common gender ending with -e or -ing belong to the second declension, and form their plural forms with -ar. In addition, endings -are and -iker belong to the fifth declension and remain the same in plural. Endings , -else, -het, -(n)ad and -or belong to the third declension, adding -er if they end in a consonant and -r if they end in a vowel. Nouns of common gender ending in -an do not inflect. Occasional exceptions are possible but few. All polysyllabic common gender nouns and a few polysyllabic neuter nouns that have their main stress on the last syllable belong to the third declension (with plural in -er).
  • All neuter nouns ending in a vowel add -n. For example: äpple (apple), äpplen (apples). Except for "öga" (eye) that becomes "ögon" (eyes) and "öra" (ear) that becomes "öron" (ears).
  • All neuter nouns ending in a consonant are unchanged in the plural. For example: barn (child) or barn (children).

There are also some irregular nouns—their number is not great, but they are some of the most commonly used nouns.

  • Mildly irregular nouns are common nouns that are unchanged in the plural, nouns that double a consonant and shorten a vowel in the plural, etc. For example: gås (goose), gäss (geese)
  • Certain nouns borrowed from Latin use Latin inflections, or more commonly Swedish inflections added to the root after removing the Latin singular ending. One of the few examples of the former is faktum, the plural of which is fakta.
  • A small class of irregular nouns consist of those that mutate a back vowel of the singular form to a front vowel in the plural. Some of these also change the vowel and consonant lengths, or add some sort of suffix, or both. The cognates of these mutating nouns in other Germanic languages are often similarly irregular. For example: man (man), män (men); mus (mouse), möss (mice).

Articles and definite forms[edit]

The definite article in Swedish is mostly expressed by a suffix on the head noun, while the indefinite article is a separate word preceding the noun. This structure of the articles is shared by the Scandinavian languages. Articles differ in form depending on the gender and number of the noun.

The indefinite article, which is only used in the singular, is "en" for common nouns, and "ett" for neuter nouns, e.g. en flaska (a bottle), ett brev (a letter). The definite article in the singular is generally the suffixes "-en" or "-n" for common nouns (e.g. flaskan "the bottle"), and "-et" or "-t" for neuter nouns (e.g. brevet "the letter"). The definite article in the plural is "-na", "-a" or "-en", depending on declension group, for example flaskorna (the bottles), breven (the letters).

When an adjective or numeral is used in front of a noun with the definite article, an additional definite article is placed before the adjective(s). This additional definite article is det for neuter nouns, den for common nouns, and de for plural nouns, e.g. den nya flaskan (the new bottle), det nya brevet (the new letter), de fem flaskorna (the five bottles). A similar structure involving the same kind of circumfixing of the definite article with the words där (there) or här (here) is used to mean "this" and "that", e.g. den här flaskan (this bottle), det där brevet (that letter) as a demonstrative article.

The five declension classes may be named -or, -ar, -er, -n, and null after their respective plural indefinite endings. Each noun has eight forms: singular/plural, definite/indefinite and caseless/genitive. The caseless form is sometimes referred to as nominative, even though it is used for grammatical objects as well as subjects.

The genitive[edit]

The genitive is always formed by appending -s to the caseless form. In the second, third and fifth declensions words may end with an -s already in the caseless form. These words take no extra -s in genitive use: the genitive (indefinite) of hus ("house") is hus. Morpheme boundaries in some forms may be analyzed differently by some scholars.

The Swedish genitive is not considered a case by all scholars today,[who?] as the -s is usually put on the last word of the noun phrase even when that word is not the head noun, mirroring English usage (e.g. Mannen som står där bortas hatt. "The man standing over there's hat."). This use of -s as a clitic rather than a suffix has traditionally been regarded as ungrammatical, but are today dominant to the point where putting an -s on the head noun is considered old fashioned. The Swedish Language Council recommends putting the ending after the phrase, except when making temporary constructions, where one should instead try to reformulate.[3]

Examples[edit]

These examples cover all regular Swedish caseless noun forms.

First declension: -or (common gender)

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) flaska

(a) bottle

flaskor

bottles

Definite flaskan

the bottle

flaskorna

the bottles

Second declension: -ar (common gender)

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) stol

a chair

stolar

chairs

Definite stolen

the chair

stolarna

the chairs

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) gubbe

(an) old man

gubbar

old men

Definite gubben

the old man

gubbarna

the old men

Third declension: -er, -r (mostly common gender nouns, some neuter nouns)

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) sak

(a) thing

saker

things

Definite saken

the thing

sakerna

the things

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) bakelse

(a) pastry

bakelser

pastries

Definite bakelsen

the pastry

bakelserna

the pastries

Singular Plural
Indefinite (ett) parti

(a) political party

partier

political parties

Definite partiet

the political party

partierna

the political parties

Words taking only -r as a marker for plural is regarded as a declension of its own by some scholars. However, traditionally these have been regarded as a special version of the third declension.

Fourth declension: -n (neuter) This is when a neuter noun ends in a vowel.

Singular Plural
Indefinite (ett) hjärta

(a) heart

hjärtan

hearts

Definite hjärtat

the heart

hjärtana

the hearts

Fifth declension: unmarked plural (mostly neuter nouns that don't end in vowels and common gender nouns ending in certain derivation suffixes)

Singular Plural
Indefinite (ett) horn

(a) horn

horn

horns

Definite hornet

the horn

hornen

the horns

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) bagare

(a) baker

bagare

bakers

Definite bagaren

the baker

bagarna

the bakers

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) indier

(an) Indian

indier

Indians

Definite indiern

the Indian

indierna

the Indians

Pronouns[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

The Swedish personal pronoun system is almost identical to that of English. Pronouns inflect for person, number, and, in the third person singular, gender. Differences with English include the inclusion in Swedish of a separate third-person reflexive pronoun sig (himself, herself, itself, themselves) analogous to French "se", and the maintenance of distinct 2nd person singular du ("thou"), ni (you) plural, and objective forms of those, which have all merged to "you" in English, while the third person plurals are becoming merged in Swedish instead. Some aspects of personal pronouns are simpler in Swedish: reflexive forms are not used for the first and second person, although själv ("self") and egen/eget/egna ("own") may be used for emphasis, and there are no absolute forms for the possessive.

The Swedish personal pronouns are:

Singular Plural
Person Nominative Objective Possessive: com./neut./pl. Person Nominative Objective Possessive: com./neut./pl.
1 jag mig min/mitt/mina1 1 vi oss vår/vårt/våra1
2 (familiar) du dig din/ditt/dina1 2 (formal: sg. or pl.) ni3 er er/ert/era1
Ers (honorific)
3 Masc. han honom hans 3 de2 dem2 deras
3 Fem. hon henne hennes
3 Gen-Neu. hen4 henom4 hens4
3 Com. den den dess
3 Neu. det det dess
3 Indef. man ("one", Fr. "on") en ens
(3 Refl.) sig sin/sitt/sina1 (3 Refl.) sig sin/sitt/sina1

1These possessive pronouns are inflected similarly to adjectives, agreeing in gender and number with the item possessed. The other possessive pronouns (i.e. those listed without slashes) are genitive forms that are unaffected by the item possessed.

2de (they) and dem (them) are both usually pronounced "dom" (/dɔm/) in colloquial speech, while in proper speech, "dom" may optionally replace just "dem". In some dialects (especially in Finnish ones) there is still a separation between the two, de is then commonly pronounced /di/. Note also that mig, dig, sig are pronounced as if written "mej", "dej", "sej", and are also sometimes spelled that way in less formal writing or to signal spoken language, but this is not appreciated by everyone.

3ni is derived from an older pronoun I, "ye", for which verbs were always conjugated with the ending -en. I became ni when this conjugation was dropped; thus the n was moved from the end of the verb to the beginning of the pronoun.

4hen and its inflections are gender-neutral pronouns used to avoid a preference for female or male, when a person's gender is not known, or to refer to people whose gender is not defined as female or male. It is relatively new in widespread use, but since 2010 has appeared frequently in traditional and online media,[4] legal documents,[5] and literature.[6]

Demonstrative, interrogative, and relative pronouns[edit]

including related words not strictly considered pronouns
  • den här, det här, de här: this, these (may qualify a noun in the definite form.)
  • den där, det där, de där: that, those (may qualify a noun in the definite form.)
  • denne/denna/detta/dessa: this/these (may qualify a noun in the indefinite form.)
  • som: as, that, which, who (strictly speaking, a subordinating conjunction rather than a pronoun, som is used as an all-purpose relative pronoun whenever possible in Swedish.)
  • vem: who, whom (interrogative)
  • vilken/vilket/vilka: which, what, who, whom, that
  • vad: what
  • vems: whose (interrogative)
  • vars: whose (relative)
  • när: when
  • 1: then, when (relative)
  • här, där, var1: here, there, where (also form numerous combinations such as varifrån, "where from", and därav, "thereof".)
  • hit, dit, vart1: hither, thither, whither (not archaic as in English)
  • vem som helst, vilket som helst, vad som helst, när som helst, var som helst: whoever, whichever, whatever, whenever, wherever, etc.
  • hädan, dädan, vadan, sedan1: hence, thence, whence, since (The contractions hän and sen are common. These are all somewhat archaic and formal-sounding except for sedan.)
  • någon/något/några, often contracted to and nearly always said as nån/nåt/nåra2: some/any, a few; someone/anyone, somebody/anybody, something/anything (The distinction between "some" in an affirmative statement and "any" in a negative or interrogative context is actually a slight difficulty for Swedes learning English.)
  • ingen/inget/inga2: no, none; no one, nobody, nothing
  • annan/annat/andra: other, else
  • någonstans, ingenstans, annanstans, överallt: somewhere/anywhere, nowhere, elsewhere, everywhere; (more formally någonstädes, ingenstädes, annorstädes, allestädes)
  • någorlunda, ingalunda, annorlunda: somehow/anyhow, in no wise, otherwise
  • någonting, ingenting, allting: something/anything, nothing, everything

1 då, där, dit, and dädan, (then, there, thither, and thence,) and any compounds derived from them are used not only in a demonstrative sense, but also in a relative sense, where English would require the "wh-" forms when, where, whither and whence.

2 Animacy is implied by gender in these pronouns: non-neuter implies a person (-one or -body) and neuter implies a thing.

Adjectives[edit]

Swedish adjectives are declined according to gender, number, and definiteness of the noun.

Strong inflection[edit]

In singular indefinite, the form used with nouns of the common gender is the undeclined form, but with nouns of the neuter gender a suffix -t is added. In plural indefinite an -a suffix is added irrespective of gender. This constitutes the strong adjective inflection, characteristic of Germanic languages:

Singular Plural
Common en stor björn, a large bear stora björnar, large bears
Neuter ett stort lodjur, a large lynx stora lodjur, large lynxes

In standard Swedish, adjectives are inflected according to the strong pattern, by gender and number of the noun, in complement function with är, is, such as

lodjuret är skyggt, the lynx is shy, and
björnarna är bruna, the bears are brown.

In some dialects of Swedish, the adjective is uninflected in complement function with är, so becoming:

lodjuret är skygg, the lynx is shy, and
björnarna är brun, the bears are brown.

Weak inflection[edit]

In definite form we instead have a weak adjective inflection, originating from a Proto-Germanic nominal derivation of the adjectives. The adjectives now invariably take on an -a suffix irrespective of case and number, which was not always the case, cf. Proto-Germanic adjectives:

Singular Plural
Common den stora björnen, the large bear de stora björnarna, the large bears
Neuter det stora lodjuret, the large lynx de stora lodjuren, the large lynxes

As the sole exception to this -a suffix is that naturally masculine nouns (replaceable with han/honom) take the -e ending in singular. Colloquially however the usual -a-ending is possible in these cases in some Sveamål dialects:

Singular Plural
Nat. masc.,
alt. I
den store mannen, the large man de stora männen, the large men
Nat. masc.,
alt. II
den stora mannen, the large man

Comparison[edit]

Adjectives with comparative and superlative forms ending in -are and -ast, which is a majority, also, and so by rule, use the -e suffix for all persons on definite superlatives: den billigaste bilen ("the cheapest car"). Another instance of -e for all persons is the plural forms and definite forms of adjectival verb participles ending in -ad: en målad bil ("a painted car") vs. målade bilar ("painted cars") and den målade bilen ("the painted car").

Numerals[edit]

Cardinal numbers[edit]

The cardinal numbers from zero to twelve in Swedish are:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
noll en/ett två tre fyra fem sex sju åtta nio tio elva tolv

The number 1 is the same as the indefinite article, and its form (en/ett) depends on the gender of the noun that it modifies.

The Swedish numbers from 13 to 19 are:

13 14 15 16 17 18 19
tretton fjorton femton sexton sjutton arton
(aderton)
nitton

The form aderton is archaic, and is nowadays only used in poetry and some official documents. It is however still common in many dialects, such as those spoken in Finland.

The numbers for multiples of ten from 20 to 1000 are:

20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 1000
tjugo trettio fyrtio femtio sextio sjuttio åttio nittio (ett) hundra (ett) tusen

When trettio (30), fyrtio (40), femtio (50), sextio (60), sjuttio (70), åttio (80), nittio (90) are compounded with another digit to form a compound number, for example 32, there are two accepted ways to spell the compound number: with or without the -o. For example, 32 can be written as trettiotvå or trettitvå.

Numbers are not always pronounced the way they are spelled. With the numbers nio (9), tio (10) and tjugo (20), often the -o is pronounced as an -e, e.g., /tjuge/. In some northern dialects the -o is pronounced as a /-u/, /tjugu/, and in some middle dialects the -o is pronounced as an /-i/, /tjugi/. In spoken language, tjugo usually drops the final syllable when compounded with another digit and is pronounced as /tju/ + the digit, e.g., tjugosju (27) may be pronounced /tjusju/. Words ending in -io (trettio, fyrtio, etc.) are most often pronounced without the final -o. The "y" in fyrtio (40) is always pronounced as an /ö/.

The ett preceding hundra (100) and tusen (1000) is optional, but in compounds it is usually required.

Higher numbers include:

10 000 tiotusen
100 000 hundratusen
1 000 000 en miljon
10 000 000 tio miljoner
100 000 000 (ett) hundra miljoner
1 000 000 000 en miljard ¹

¹ Swedish uses the long scale for large numbers.

The cardinal numbers from miljon and larger are true nouns and take the -er suffix in the plural. They are separated in written Swedish from the preceding number.

Any number can be compounded by simply joining the relevant simple cardinal number in the same order as the digits are written. Written with digits, a number is separated with a space between each third digit from the right. The same principle is used when a number is written with letters, although using letters becomes less common the longer the number is. However, round numbers, like tusen, miljon and miljard are often written with letters as are small numbers (below 20).

numbers between 21-99 are written in the following format: (big number)(small number) example: 63 - "sextiotre" 48 - "fyrtioåtta" (note that the a is taken out between numbers 40-49) although 30-39 are slightly special, an extra t is added to these numders: 31 - "trettioett" 33 - "trettiotre"

Written form In components (do not use in written Swedish)
21 tjugoett / tjugoen (tjugo-ett) / (tjugo-en)
147 etthundrafyrtisju
etthundrafyrtiosju
(ett-hundra-fyrtio-sju)
1 975 ettusen niohundrasjuttifem
ettusen niohundrasjuttiofem
(ett-tusen nio-hundra-sjuttio-fem)
10 874 tiotusen åttahundrasjuttifyra
tiotusen åttahundrasjuttiofyra
(tio-tusen åtta-hundra-sjuttio-fyra)
100 557 etthundratusen femhundrafemtisju
etthundratusen femhundrafemtiosju
(ett-hundra-tusen fem-hundra-femtio-sju)
1 378 971 en miljon trehundrasjuttiåtta tusen niohundrasjuttiett
en miljon trehundrasjuttioåtta tusen niohundrasjuttioett
(en miljon tre-hundra-sjuttio-åtta tusen nio-hundra-sjuttio-ett)

The decimal point is written as "," (comma) and written and pronounced komma. The digits following the decimal point may be read individually or as a pair if there are only two. When dealing with monetary amounts (usually with two decimals), the decimal point is read as och, i.e. "and": 3,50 (tre och femtio), 7,88 (sju och åttioåtta).

Rational numbers are read as the cardinal number of the numerator followed by the ordinal number of the denominator compounded with -del or -delar (part(s)). If the numerator is more than one, logically, the plural form of del is used. For those ordinal numbers that are three syllables or longer and end in -de, that suffix is usually dropped in favour of the de in -del. There are a few exceptions.

12 en halv, one half
13 en tredjedel
34 tre fjärdedelar
25 två femtedelar
56 fem sjättedelar
47 fyra sjundedelar
18 en åttondel or en åttondedel
89 åtta niondelar or åtta niondedelar
110 en tiondel or en tiondedel
111 en elftedel
112 en tolftedel
113 en trettondel or en trettondedel
114 en fjortondel or en fjortondedel
115 en femtondel or en femtondedel
116 en sextondel or en sextondedel
117 en sjuttondel or en sjuttondedel
118 en artondel or en artondedel
119 en nittondel or en nittondedel
120 en tjugondel or en tjugondedel

Ordinal numbers[edit]

First to twelfth:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th
1:a 2:a 3:e 4:e 5:e 6:e 7:e 8:e 9:e 10:e 11:e 12:e
första andra tredje fjärde femte sjätte sjunde åttonde nionde tionde elfte tolfte

Thirteen to nineteen:

As cardinal numerals, but with the suffix -de, e.g., trettonde (13:e), fjortonde (14:e).

Even multiples of ten (20th to 90th):

As cardinal numerals, but with the suffix -nde, e.g., tjugonde (20:e), trettionde (30:e)

100th, 1000th:

As cardinal numerals, but with the suffix -de, e.g., hundrade (100:e, hundredth), tusende (1000:e, thousandth)

Higher numbers:

As cardinal numerals, but with the suffix -te, e.g., miljonte (millionth). There is no ordinal for "miljard" (billion).

Verbs[edit]

Verbs do not inflect for person or number in modern standard Swedish. They inflect for the present tense, past tense, imperative, subjunctive, and indicative mood. Other tenses are formed by combinations of auxiliary verbs with infinitives or a special form of the participle called the "supine". In total there are 6 spoken active-voice forms for each verb: infinitive, imperative, present, preterite/past, supine, and past participle. The only subjunctive form used in everyday speech is vore, the past subjunctive of vara ("to be"). It is used as one way of expressing the conditional ("would be", "were"), but is optional. Except for this form, subjunctive forms are considered archaic.

Verbs may also take the passive voice. The passive voice for any verb tense is formed by appending -s to the tense. For verbs ending in -r, the -r is first removed before the -s is added. Verbs ending in -er often lose the -e- as well, other than in very formal style: stärker ("strengthens") becomes stärks or stärkes ("is strengthened"). (Exceptions are monosyllabic verbs and verbs where the root ends in -s.) Swedish uses the passive voice more frequently than English.

Conjugating verbs[edit]

Swedish verbs are divided into four groups:

Group Description
1 regular -ar verbs
2 regular -er verbs
3 short verbs, end in -r
4 strong and irregular verbs, end in -er or -r

About 80% of all verbs in Swedish are group 1 verbs, which is the only productive verb group, i.e., all new verbs in Swedish are of this class.[citation needed] Swenglish variants of English verbs can be made by adding -a to the end of an English verb, sometimes with minor spelling changes. The verb is then treated as a group 1 verb. Examples of modern loan words within the IT field are chatta and surfa. Swenglish variants from the IT field that may be used but are not considered Swedish include maila, mejla ([ˈmejˌla], to email or mail) and savea, sejva ([ˈsejˌva] to save).

The stem of a verb is based on the present tense of the verb. If the present tense ends in -ar, the -r is removed to form the stem, e.g., kallarkalla-. If the present tense ends in -er, the -er is removed, e.g., stängerstäng-. For short verbs, the -r is removed from the present tense of the verb, e.g., syrsy-. The imperative is the same as the stem.

For group 1 verbs, the stem ends in -a, the infinitive is the same as the stem, the present tense ends in -r, the past tense in -de, the supine in -t, and the past participle in -d, -t, and de.

For group 2 verbs, the stem ends in a consonant, the infinitive ends in -a, and the present tense in -er. Group 2 verbs are further subdivided into group 2a and 2b. For group 2a verbs, the past tense ends in -de and the past participle in -d, -t, and -da. For group 2b verbs, the past tense ends in -te and the past participle in -t, -t, and -ta. This is in turn decided by whether the stem ends in a voiced or a voiceless consonant. E.g. The stem of Heta (to be called) is het, and as t is a voiceless consonant the past tense ends in -te, making hette the past tense. If the stem ends in a voiced consonant however, as in Stör-a (to disturb), the past tense ends in -de making störde the past tense.

For group 3 verbs, the stem ends in a vowel that is not -a, the infinitive is the same as the stem, the present tense ends in -r, the past tense in -dde, the supine in -tt, and the past participle in -dd, -tt, and -dda.

Group 4 verbs are strong and irregular verbs. Many commonly used verbs belong to this group. For strong verbs, the vowel changes for the past and often the supine, following a definite pattern, e.g., stryka is a strong verb that follows the u/y, ö, u pattern (see table below for conjugations). Irregular verbs, such as vara (to be), are completely irregular and follow no pattern. As of lately, an increasing number of verbs formerly conjugated with a strong inflection has been subject to be conjugated with its weak equivalent form in colloquial speech[citation needed].

Group Stem Imperative Infinitive Present Preterite/Past Supine Past participle English
1 kalla- kalla! kalla - kallar -r kallade -de kallat -t kallad
kallat
kallade
-d
-t
-de
to call
2a stäng- stäng! stänga -a stänger -er stängde -de stängt -t stängd
stängt
stängda
-d
-t
-da
to close
2b läs- läs! läsa -a läser -er läste -te läst -t läst
läst
lästa
-t
-t
-ta
to read
3 sy- sy! sy - syr -r sydde -dde sytt -tt sydd
sytt
sydda
-dd
-tt
-dda
to sew
4 (strong) stryk- stryk! stryka -a stryker -er strök * strukit -it struken
struket
strukna
-en
-et
-na
to strike out
to iron
to stroke
4 (irregular) var- var! vara är var varit - to be

*often new vowel

Examples of tenses with English translations

Tense English Swedish
Infinitiv To work (Att) arbeta
Present Tense I work Jag arbetar
Past Tense, Imperfect Aspekt I worked Jag arbetade
Past Tense, Perfect Aspekt I have worked Jag har arbetat
Future Tense, Futurum Simplex I will work Jag ska arbeta

The irregular verb

Tense English Swedish
Infinitiv To walk (Att) gå
Present Tense I walk Jag går
Past Tense, Imperfect Aspekt I walked Jag gick
Past Tense, Perfect Aspekt I have walked Jag har gått
Future Tense, Futurum Simplex I will walk Jag ska gå

As in all the Germanic languages, strong verbs change their vowel sounds in the various tenses. For most Swedish strong verbs that have a verb cognate in English or German, that cognate is also strong. For example, "to bite" is a strong verb in all four languages (including Dutch):

Language Infinitive Present Preterite/Past Supine/Perfect Past participle
Swedish bita jag biter jag bet jag har bitit biten, bitet, bitna
Dutch bijten ik bijt ik beet ik heb gebeten gebeten
German beißen ich beiße ich biss ich habe gebissen gebissen
English to bite I bite I bit I have bitten bitten

Supine form[edit]

The supine (supinum) form is used in Swedish to form the composite past form of a verb. For verb groups 1-3 the supine is identical to the neuter form of the past participle. For verb group 4, the supine ends in -it while the past participle's neuter form ends in -et. Clear pan-Swedish rules for the distinction in use of the -et and -it verbal suffixes were missing though before the first official Swedish Bible translation, completed 1541.

This is best shown by example:

Simple past: I ate (the) dinner - Jag åt maten (using preterite)
Composite past: I have eaten (the) dinner - Jag har ätit maten (using supine)
Past participle common: (The) dinner is eaten - Maten är äten (using past participle)
Past participle neuter: (The) apple is eaten - Äpplet är ätet
Past participle plural: (The) apples are eaten - Äpplena är ätna

The supine form is used after ha (to have). In English this form is normally merged with the past participle, or the preterite, and this was formerly the case in Swedish, too (the choice of -it or -et being dialectal rather than grammatical); however, in modern Swedish, they are separate, since the distinction of -it being supine and -et being participial was standardised.

Passive voice[edit]

The passive voice in Swedish is formed in one of four ways:

  1. add an -s to the infinitive form of the verb
  2. use a form of bli (become) + the perfect participle
  3. use a form of vara (be) + the perfect participle
  4. use a form of (get) + the perfect participle

Of the first three forms, the first (s-passive) tends to focus on the action itself rather than the result of it. The second (bli-passive) stresses the change caused by the action. The third (vara-passive) puts the result of the action in the centre of interest:

  1. Dörren målas. (Someone paints the door right now.)
  2. Dörren blir målad. (The door is being painted, in a new colour or wasn't painted before.)
  3. Dörren är målad. (The door is painted.)

The fourth form is different from the others, since it is analogous to the English "get-passive": Han fick dörren målad (He got the/his door painted). This form is used when you want to use a subject other than the "normal" one in a passive clause. In English you could say: "The door was painted for him", but if you want "he" to be the subject you need to say "He got the door painted." Swedish uses the same structure.

The subjunctive mood[edit]

Verbs in the subjunctive mood, in Swedish termed Konjunktiv, are conjugated in two tenses - Present and Past. Present subjunctive forms are rarely heard in modern Swedish. Their use is restricted to frozen expressions like Leve kungen!, Long live the king!, and Följe lyckan dig genom livet!, Let luck follow you in this life!. Present subjunctive is formed by adding the "-e" ending to the stem of a verb:

Infinitive Indicative Subjunctive
att tala, to speak talar, speak(s) tale, may speak
att bliva, to become bli(ve)r, become(s) blive, may become
att skriva, to write skriver, write(s) skrive, may write
att springa, to run springer, run(s) springe, may run

Past subjunctive forms are more frequent than Present ones, although becoming increasingly rare in speech as well as in texts in Standard Swedish. Past subjunctive is however still regularly used in certain country dialects.[citation needed] For weak verbs the Subjunctive Past is indistinguishable from Indicative Past, but for strong verbs, the Subjunctive irregularly attains either the Preterite form adding an -e suffix, or the Supine form, replacing -it with -e:

Infinitive Indicative Subjunctive
att tala, to speak talade, spoke talade, (may) have spoken
att bli(va), to become blev, became bleve, (may) have become
att skriva, to write skrev, wrote skreve, (may) have written
att springa, to run sprang, ran sprunge, (may) have run

Adverbs[edit]

Adjectival adverbs are formed by putting the adjective in neuter singular form. Adjectives ending in -lig may take either the neuter singular ending or the suffix -en, and occasionally -ligen is added to an adjective not already ending in -lig.

Common Neuter Adverb
tjock, thick tjockt, thick tjockt, thickly
snabb, fast snabbt, fast snabbt, fast
avsiktlig, intentional avsiktligt, intentional avsiktligt, avsiktligen, intentionally
stor, great, large stort, great, large storligen, greatly
i stort sett, largely

Directional adverbs[edit]

Adverbs of direction in Swedish show a distinction that is lacking in English: some have different forms exist depending on whether one is heading that way, or already there. For example:

Jag steg upp på taket. Jag arbetade där uppe på taket.
I climbed up on the roof. I was working up there on the roof.
Heading that way Already there English
upp uppe up
ner nere down
in inne in
ut ute out
hem hemma home
bort borta away
fram framme forward

Prepositions[edit]

Unlike in more conservative Germanic languages (e.g. German), putting a noun into a prepositional phrase doesn't alter its inflection, case, number or definiteness in any way.

Prepositions of location[edit]

Preposition Meaning Example Translation
on Råttan dansar bordet. The rat dances on the table.
under under Musen dansar under bordet. The mouse dances under the table.
i in Kålle arbetar i Göteborg. Kålle works in Gothenburg.
till to Ada har åkt till Göteborg. Ada has gone to Gothenburg.

Prepositions of time[edit]

Preposition Meaning Example Translation
at Vi ses rasten. See you at the break.
före before De var alltid trötta före rasten. They were always tired before the break.
om in Kan vi ha rast om en timme? May we have a break in one hour?
i for Kan vi ha rast i en timme? May we have a break for one hour?
for (in a negative statement) Vi har inte haft rast två timmar. We have not had a break for two hours.
under during Vi arbetade under helgdagarna. We worked during the holidays.

Causal prepositions[edit]

Preposition Meaning Example Translation
över about Kålle är glad över att ha träffat Ada. Kålle is happy about having met Ada.
med with Kålle är nöjd med Ada. Kålle is pleased with Ada.
of Kålle är trött Ada. Kålle is tired of Ada.
av from Kålle är trött av nattskiftet. Kålle is tired from the nightshift. (because of the nightshift)

Placement of prepositions[edit]

Often prepositions are placed before the word they are referring to. However, there are a few exceptions:

Preposition Meaning Example Translation
runt around riket runt around the Kingdom
emellan between bröder emellan between brothers

Syntax[edit]

Being a Germanic language, Swedish syntax shows similarities to both English and German. Like English, Swedish has a subject–verb–object basic word order, but like German, utilizes verb-second word order in main clauses, for instance after adverbs, adverbial phrases and dependent clauses. Adjectives generally precede the noun they determine, though the reverse is not infrequent in poetry. Nouns qualifying other nouns are almost always compounded on the fly (as with German, but less so with English); the last noun is the head.

A general word-order template may be drawn for a Swedish sentence, where each part, if it does appear, appears in this order. (Source—Swedish For Immigrants level 3).

Main Clause

Fundament Finite verb Subject (if not fundament) Clausal Adverb/negation Non-finite verb (in infinitive or supine) Object(s) Spatial Adverb Temporal Adverb

Subordinate Clause

Conjunction Subject Clausal Adverb/Negation Finite Verb Non-finite verb (in infinitive or supine) Object(s) Spatial Adverb Temporal Adverb

The "Fundament" can be whatever constituent that the speaker wishes to topicalize, emphasize as the topic of the sentence. In the unmarked case, with no special topic, the subject is placed in the fundament position. Common fundaments are an adverb or object, but it is also possible to topicalize basically any constituent, including constituents lifted from a subordinate clause into the fundament position of the main clause: Honom vill jag inte att du träffar. (Him I do not want you to meet.) or even the whole subordinate clause: Att du följer honom hem accepterar jag inte. (That you follow him home I do not accept.). An odd case is the topicalization of the finite verb, which requires the addition of a "dummy" finite verb in the V2 position, so that the same clause has two finite verbs: Arbetade gjorde jag inte igår. (Worked did I not yesterday.)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Källström, Roger. "Omarkerat neutrum?" (PDF). Göteborgs universitet. Retrieved 2008-03-26. [dead link]
  2. ^ Pettersson, 150-51.
  3. ^ Språkrådet. "Heter det Konungens av Danmark bröstkarameller eller Konungen av Danmarks bröstkarameller?" (in Swedish). Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Språktidningen, "Så snabbt ökar hen i svenska medier", 18 March 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  5. ^ "The Local", "Gender-neutral 'hen' makes its legal debut", 14 December 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  6. ^ Terese Allert, "Allt vanligare med hen i barnböcker", Aftonbladet, 15 March 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2014.

References[edit]

  • Holmes, Philip & Hinchliffe, Ian (2008) Swedish: An Essential Grammar Routledge: New York ISBN 0-415-45800-5
  • Holmes, Philip & Hinchliffe, Ian (2003) Swedish: A Comprehensive Grammar Routledge: New York ISBN 0-415-27884-8
  • Pettersson, Gertrud (1996) Svenska språket under sjuhundra år: en historia om svenskan och dess utforskande Lund: Studentlitteratur ISBN 91-44-48221-3

External links[edit]