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 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 "cat", en häst "horse", en fluga "fly", 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 human beings 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 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 Swedish nouns into five declensions based on their plural indefinite endings: -or, -ar, -er, -n, and unchanging nouns.

  • Nouns of the first declension are all of the common gender. The majority of these nouns end in -a in the singular and replace it with -or in the plural. For example: en flicka (a girl), flickor (girls). A few nouns of the first declension end in a consonant, such as: en våg (a wave), vågor (waves); en ros (a rose), rosor (roses).
  • Nouns of the second declension are also of the common gender, with the exception of finger (finger). They all have the plural ending -ar. Examples include: en arm (an arm), armar (arms); en hund (a dog), hundar (dogs); en sjö (a lake), sjöar (lakes); en pojke (a boy), pojkar (boys); en sjukdom (an illness), sjukdomar (illnesses); en främling (a stranger), främlingar (strangers). A few second declension nouns have irregular plural forms, for instance: en afton (an evening), aftnar (evenings); en sommar (a summer), somrar (summers).
  • The third declension includes both common and neuter nouns. The plural ending for nouns of this declension is -er or, for some nouns ending in a vowel, -r. For example: en park (a park), parker (parks); ett museum (a museum), museer (museums, also loses the Latinate suffix -um); en sko (a shoe), skor (shoes); en fiende (an enemy), fiender (enemies). Some third declension nouns modify their stem vowels in the plural: en hand (a hand), händer (hands); ett land (a country), länder (countries); en bok (a book), böcker (books).
  • All nouns in the fourth declension are of the neuter gender and end in a vowel in the singular. Their plural ending is -n. For example: ett bi (a bee), bin (bees); ett äpple (an apple), äpplen (apples). Two nouns in this declension have irregular plural forms: ett öga (an eye), ögon (eyes); ett öra (an ear), öron (ears).
  • Fifth declension nouns have no plural ending and they can be of common or neuter gender. Examples of these include: ett barn (a child), barn (children); ett djur (an animal), djur (animals); en lärare (a teacher), lärare (teachers). Some fifth declension nouns show umlaut in the plural: en mus (a mouse), möss (mice); en gås (a goose), gäss (geese); en man (a man), män (men).

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 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 is 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]


These examples cover all regular Swedish caseless noun forms.

First declension: -or (common gender)

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) flaska

(a) bottle



Definite flaskan

the bottle


the bottles

Second declension: -ar (common gender)

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) stol

a chair



Definite stolen

the chair


the chairs

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) gubbe

(an) old man


old men

Definite gubben

the old man


the old men

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

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) sak

(a) thing



Definite saken

the thing


the things

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) bakelse

(a) pastry



Definite bakelsen

the pastry


the pastries

Singular Plural
Indefinite (ett) parti

(a) political party


political parties

Definite partiet

the political party


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



Definite hjärtat

the heart


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



Definite hornet

the horn


the horns

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) bagare

(a) baker



Definite bagaren

the baker


the bakers

Singular Plural
Indefinite (en) indier

(an) Indian



Definite indiern

the Indian


the Indians


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. Swedish is different, inter alia, as it has a separate third-person reflexive pronoun sig (himself, herself, itself, themselves) analogous[citation needed] to French se, and distinct 2nd person singular forms du ("thou") and ni ("you", formal/respectful), and their objective forms, which have all merged to "you" in English, while the third person plurals are becoming merged in Swedish instead.[clarification needed] 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. (neologism) hen4 hen/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 formal speech, "dom" may optionally replace just "dem". In some dialects (especially Finnish ones) there is still a separation between the two; de is then commonly pronounced /di/. Also, 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 neologisms: they are gender-neutral pronouns used by some 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. They are relatively new in widespread use, but since 2010 have appeared frequently in traditional and online media,[4] legal documents,[5] and literature.[6] The use of these words has prompted a political and linguistic debate in Sweden, and their use is not universally accepted by Swedish speakers.[7]

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.


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, there is instead 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 Swedish 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


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").


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

The form aderton is archaic, and is nowadays only used in poetry and some official documents. It is still common in Finland Swedish.

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, they form a compound number.

In some dialects, numbers are not always pronounced the way they are spelled. With the numbers nio (9), tio (10) and tjugo (20), the -o is often 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
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 do not inflect for person or number in modern standard Swedish. They inflect for the present and past tense and 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. 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
to call
2a stäng- stäng! stänga -a stänger -er stängde -de stängt -t stängd
to close
2b läs- läs! läsa -a läser -er läste -te läst -t läst
to read
3 sy- sy! sy - syr -r sydde -dde sytt -tt sydd
to sew
4 (strong) stryk- stryk! stryka -a stryker -er strök * strukit -it struken
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
Infinitive To work (Att) arbeta
Present Tense I work Jag arbetar
Past Tense, Imperfect Aspect I worked Jag arbetade
Past Tense, Perfect Aspect I have worked Jag har arbetat
Future Tense, Futurum Simplex I will work Jag ska arbeta

The irregular verb

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

As in all 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 three languages as well as 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. = The door is being painted, i.e. Someone is performing the action of painting the door at this moment
  2. Dörren blir målad. = The door is being painted, i.e. in a new colour or it wasn't painted before, not necessarily at this moment
  3. Dörren är målad. = The door is painted, i.e. state, it is not unpainted

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.

Subjunctive mood[edit]

The subjunctive mood is rarely used in modern Swedish and is mostly limited to fixed expressions like leve kungen, "long live the king". Present subjunctive is formed by adding the "-e" ending to the stem of a verb:

Infinitive Present tense indicative Present tense subjunctive
att tala, to speak talar, speak(s) tale, may speak
att bli, to become blir, become(s) blive, may become (the -v- springs to life from the older form bliva)
att skriva, to write skriver, write(s) skrive, may write
att springa, to run springer, run(s) springe, may run

The past tense subjuntive is slightly less unusual. Only the strong verbs have a seperate subjunctive form, and this is based on the archaic past tense plural form with the final vowel changed into -e. Usually, the vowel in the singular and the plural past tense were the same, and thus, to form the past tense subjunctive, you simply add an -e to the past tense form. However, for a few verbs, for instance i-a-u verbs, change the stem vowel to u before appending an -e to the past tense indicative form. (Any final deponent -s is unaffected.)

Infinitive Past tense indicative Supine indicative Past tense subjunctive
att finnas, to exist (be) fanns, existed (there was) funnits, has existed (there has been) om det funnes tid, if there only were time (change past tense -a- to supine -u-)
att bli, to become blev, became blivit, have/has become om det bleve så, if it only became so (regular: just append -e to the past tense)
att skriva, to write skrev, wrote skrivit, written om jag skreve ett brev, if I should write a letter (regular: append -e)

Historic plural forms[edit]

In Swedish, the verbs used to conjugate similarily to modern Icelandic. In less formal Swedish the verbs started to lose their inflection regarding person already during the 16th cuntury. The inflection singular/plural survived at bit longer, but came gradually out of use. In very formal language, the special plural forms appeared occasionally as late as the 1940s.

The plural forms are still found in historic texts and might thus have some importance. However, modern Swedish does not inflect verbs (except for tense), and the plural forms are archaic.

In the present tense, the plural was almost always the same as the infinitive. The only major exception was äro (vi äro = we are). In the past tense, all weak verbs had the same form in singular and plural. The strong verbs appended and -o to the end form the plural. For some groups of strong verbs the plural also used another vowel than the singular. The group i-a-u is a good example.

Infinitive Present tense singular Present tense plural Past tense singular Past tense plural
att arbeta, to work arbetar, work(s) (sing.) arbeta, work (plural) arbetade, worked (sing.) arbetade, worked (plural) (weak verb: same form in past tense singular and plural)
att leka, to play (games) leker, play(s) (sing.) leka, play (plural) lekte, played (sing.) lekte, played (plural) (weak verb: same form in past tense singular and plural)
att bo, to live (dwell) bor, live(s) (sing.) bo, live (plural) bodde, lived (sing.) bodde, lived (plural) (weak verb: same form in past tense singular and plural)
att falla, to fall faller, fall(s) (sing.) falla, fall (plural) föll, fell (sing.) föllo, fell (plural) (strong verb, no vowel change: append -o)
att finnas, to exist (be) finns, exists (there is) (sing.) finnas, exist (there are) (plural) fanns, existed (there were/was) (sing.) funnos, existed (there were) (plural) (strong verb, vowel change: supine vowel, append -o)


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


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, except for in a very small number of set phrases.

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.
vid by Jag är vid sjön. I am by the lake.
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.


The general rule is that prepositions are placed before the word they are referring to. However, there are a few ambipositions that may appear on either side of the head:

Adposition Meaning Succeeding adposition (postposition) Preceding adposition (preposition) Translation
runt around riket runt runt riket around the Kingdom
emellan between bröder emellan emellan bröder between brothers
igenom through natten igenom igenom natten the night through / through the night


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. (Lit. Him want I not that you meet, i.e. I don't want you to meet him.) 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.)


  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.
  7. ^ http://www.kristianstadsbladet.se/debatt/hall-hen-borta-fran-vara-barn/; in April 2015 it was added to Svenska Akademiens ordlista, the official glossary of the Swedish Academy


  • 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]