Swedish Grammar

(Updated in August 2013.)

This grammar is (being) written by Leif Stensson, and is a part of the Language and Linguistics pages at the academic computer society Lysator at Linköping University in Sweden.

(Note: this document is far from finished yet.)

Table of Content


Alphabet and Pronunciation

Swedish basically uses the same alphabet as English, with the addition of three letters: å, ä and ö. In alphabetical order, these are at the end of the alphabet, in that order.

In some foreign words, borrowed from languages which use letters not present in the Swedish alphabet, the foreign letter(s) are sometimes used, especially when the letters in question are é (from French) and ü (from German). In foreign names, the foreign spelling is practically always used. (It would be considered wrong, and somewhat impolite toward the person whose name it is, to spell a name such as André or Günther without the accents, unless there is some practical reason -- such as those letters not existing on the typewriter you're using -- to do it.)

Some the letters in the Swedish alphabet are pronounced roughly as they would be in English. The others are pronounced as follows:

A a
is different depending on whether the quantity of the vowel is long or short. When long, the letter is pronounced approximately like the "a" in the English word "far". When short, the letter is pronounced approximately like the "a" in Spanish "casa".

C c
is usually pronounced as "s" before /e/, /i/, /y/, /ä/, and /ö/, and otherwise pronounced as "k". (*)

D d
is pronounced almost as in English, except that the tongue should not be half-curled back (that is, Swedish /d/ is not a retroflex). (**)

E e
is pronounced as in the English word "deck", even when long; that is, never like "e" in English "be" or "deep". (The letter "i" is used for that sound.)

G g
is pronounced hard, like English "g" before /a/, /o/, /u/, and /å/, and soft (as Swedish "j") before /e/, /i/, /y/, /ä/, and /ö/. After the sound /l/ or /r/ in the same syllable "g" is usually pronounced as /j/ as well. In other cases, it is usually pronounced as /g/. In loan-words, especially Greek and Latin loan-words, "g" is often pronounced /g/ even after /r/. In rare cases, such as "energi" (energy), the "g" is pronounced roughly like "sj" (see below). (**)

I i
is pronounced as English "e" in "be".

J j
is pronounced as English "y" in "yawn". Never as "j" in "jaw".

K k
is pronounced as a soft "ch" before /e/, /i/, /y/, /ä/, /ö/, and otherwise as an English "k". (*) A few exceptions exist for loan-words; most noticably perhaps "kö" (queue) and "kör" (choir), where a hard K sound is used.

L l
is pronounced almost as in English, except that when the sound is made (with the tip of the tongue touching the upper palate) the tongue should not be half-curled back, as in English, but straight. (**)

O o
is, depending on context, pronounced as either "oo" in English "too" (usually when the sound is long), or "o" in English "for" (usually when short).

Q q
is a very rare letter in Swedish since the spelling reform about a century ago. It occurs almost exclusively in names, and a few foreign loan-words (most from latin), and almost always followed by a "u" or, less often, by a "v". The sound of "qu" or "qv" is equivalent to Swedish "kv".

R r
is normally pronounced with a very slight quiver of the tongue; more distinct than is normal in English, but not quite as distinct as in German. (**) It should be noted, however, that out of all consonant sounds, /r/ is the one that shows the largest variation between different Swedish dialects.

T t
is pronounced almost as in English, except that the tongue should not be half-curled back. That is, not retroflex. (**)

U u
in Swedish is pronounced in a way that is somewhat difficult to describe with reference to English, which has no sound similar to it. Closest is perhaps the long /o/ in English "two", "too" and "you", but more fronted, with the tip of the tongue touching the lower front teeth. For those familiar with the IPA phonetic alphabet, it can be written as a 'u'
            with a dash through it and a plus below it .

W w,
as Q, is a rare letter in Swedish, and almost exclusively used in names. It is pronounced as "v", except when used in foreign (especially English) names, when it is usually pronounced as it would be in the language the name came from (e.g: "whiskey", "Wayne" and "Washington" would normally be pronounced more or less as they are in English).

Y y
is pronounced almost as "y" in English names such as "Terry", "Teddy" or "Cheryl", both when long and when short. It is never pronounced as a diphtong (like the "y" in "reply").

Z z,
as Q and W, is a rare letter in Swedish. It is usually pronounced as English "s", but can be pronounced as an English "z" if one wants to emphasise the fact that the word is spelled with a "z", not an "s". As for the other infrequently used letters, in foreign names, the pronunciation is often that of the language the names come from.

Å å
is pronounced as English "o" in "for".

Ä ä
is pronounced as English "ai" in "fair", and as a German "ä".

Ö ö
is pronounced much like German "ö", which is roughly like "u" in English "turn". Some Swedish dialects (including the "standard" one) gives this sound a somewhat lower pitch and a less fronted quality when it is followed by /r/ or a retroflex sound, and a somewhat higher pitch and more fronted quality otherwise.

(*) Note: in traditional Swedish grammar books, vowels are grouped into "hårda" (hard: /a/, /o/, /u/, /å/) and "mjuka" (soft: /e/, /i/, /y/, /ä/, /ö/), due to their effect when following the consonants C, G and K, where the "soft" vowels cause a softening of the pronunciation. It can be noted that the "hard" vowels are articulated with the tongue at the back of the mouth, while the "soft" vowels are articulated at the front of the mouth. So the softening of the consonant sound mainly consists in anticipating the fronting of the vowel sound already when pronouncing the consonant that preceeds it.

(**) Note: while the phonemes /d/, /l/, /s/, and /t/ are not generally pronounced in retroflex position, the combinations /rd/, /rl/, /rs/, and /rt/ are pronounced as retroflex versions of /d/, /l/, /s/ and /t/ (with no separate /r/ sound).

In addition to the single letters, Swedish uses a number of digraphs and trigraphs to spell sounds that lack a letter of their own. In most cases, pronouncing a written Swedish word is fairly straighforward; usually, there is only one way of pronouncing each letter sequence (at least if the next following letter is taken into account). The reverse, however, is not always true. Particularly the Swedish spelling of the sounds similar to those written as "sh" in English, and as "sch" and "ch" in German, can be confusing:

as in "sjö" (lake), "sjunka" (to sink), and "själ" (soul). This spelling is rather common in originally Swedish words, and rare in loan-words. Usually, "sj" in modern Swedish was "si" plus a vowel in Old Swedish.

as in "sked" (spoon), "sköta" (to take care of, to handle), "skina" (to shine), "skinn" (skin, hide), and "skäl" (a cause, a reason). Common when an e, i, ä or ö follows immediately afterward.

as in "skjuta" (push, shoot), "skjuts" (a 'ride'), and "skjul" (shed, shack). Usually, "skj" was "ski" + vowel in Old Swedish.

as in "stjäla" (to steal), "stjälk" (stalk (of a plant)), "stjälpa" (to tilt something, to tip something over), "stjärna" (star), and "stjärt" (posterior, butt). These five words are the only ones in the Swedish language that use the spelling "stj-", and they are sometimes summarised in the mnemonic nonsense proverb "det är lättare att stjäla en stjälk än att stjälpa en stjärna med stjärten" ("it's easier to steal a stalk than to tilt a star with your butt").

as in "sch!" (hush!), "schwung" (oldish slang for 'speed and/or strength in an action', 'verve', 'go', etc), and names like "Scholl", "Schultz", "Scheele", etc. Primarily used in onomatopoetic words, some names, and German loan-words.

as in "chock" (shock).

is frequent in foreign (especially English) loan-words and names. Examples: "sherry", "Shelley", "shah" (Persian ruler).

is used in a few words such as "dusch" (shower), "krasch" (crash), "bransch" (branch of trade, area of professional activity, type of business) and the interjection "usch!" (blech, ugh, ew).

"Garage" (garage), "fromage" (meaning blancmange and similar, but not cheese). Mostly in French loan-words.

"Fars" (farce), "farstu" (hallway).

is used in a few loan-words, such as "lunch".

"Sj-", "Sk-", "Skj-", "Stj-", and "Ch-" are usually pronounced a bit like German "ch", while "Sch-", "-sch", "-ge", and "-rs" are usually pronounced more like German "sch" (English "sh").

To add to the confusion, "sk" is usually pronounced as two separate letters when followed by either a consonant or one of the vowel sounds /a/, /o/, /u/ and /å/. Examples: "skräp" (trash), "skrika" (to shout), "skata" (magpie), "sko" (shoe), "skum" (foam), "skåp" (cupboard).

Also, foreign words and names from languages that use some variation of the Latin alphabet, and where this variation includes the addition of a special letter for the "sh" sound, this special letter might be used. Foreign words and names from languages that use other alphabets usually get their "sh" sounds rendered as "sj", "sh" or "sch", depending on what transliteration rules are being used.

There are really no simple rules for how to spell the "sh" sound in the general case; it is usually best to try to learn the spelling together with the word.

Intonation, Accents, Stress, Pitch

Swedish, like most modern Indoeuropean languages, basically has "ictus", or "stress", accent; one "stressed" syllable in a word is emphasised more than the other syllables.

Unlike most other modern Indoeuropean languages, but like some of the older ones, Swedish also has a tonal, or pitch, accent. Only two levels are distinguished, "high" and "low", although one might argue that the unstressed syllables have a third, "middle", level.

The accents in Swedish are not normally marked in any way in the written language, although "'" (acute accent, high pitch) and "`" (grave accent, low pitch) have become a de facto standard way of marking them when one wishes to mark the specifically (such as in linguistic discussions, or when discussing rhythm and rhyme in poetry).

Often, pronouncing a word with the wrong pitch will sound odd, but not cause any misunderstandings. There are, however, a number of words that are distinguished only by the accent, and a sizable group of words that have a distinct tonal stress. Most of these words are bisyllabic words with the stress on the first syllable. Examples: "búren" (the cage) - "bùren" (carried), "régel" (a rule) - "règel" (a latch), "slágen" (the blows) - "slàgen" (beaten).

There is a vague general tendency towards interpreting bisyllabic words with an initial high pitch as nouns, while words with a initial low pitch "feels" more like verbs, participles and adjectives.



Swedish nouns are divided into declensions depending on their stem, how the plural is formed, and on their gender (which is either 'uter' or 'neuter'). Within these declensions, they are inflected according to:

Inflection by case is rather trivial: the genitive is the nominative with an "s" suffixed, if the word doesn't already end in an "s" sound, in which case nothing (or, optionally, an apostrope) is added. A few words and names borrowed from Latin have latin genitives, although it is possible to ignore this and treat them like other words.

(Note: some grammarians today seem to prefer to analyse the genetive constructions of modern Swedish as created with an enclitic particle S instead of as a separate case form. They seem to do this as a way of explaining the casual tendency of making genetive of phrases by adding S to the last word of the phrase instead of the head noun. A similar tendency can sometimes be observed in casual English, e.g. "the guy over there's hat". However, this doesn't explain the genitive of pronouns, and doesn't seem to contribute anything useful for someone trying to learn Swedish, so let's stick with the traditional approach where the genitive is treated as a case form.)

There are essentially five declensions:

First declension, plural indefinite on -or.
There are two groups of words within this declension, those that have a singular indefinite suffix -a, and those that use the bare stem. The words with an -a suffix in the singular indefinite uses -an to make the singular definite. The other words use -en. All words in this declension are uter.

Second declension, plural indefinite on -ar.
Like the first declension, the second also has two primary groups of words; those that add -e in singular indefinite, and those which use the bare stem. The singular definite has an -en suffix. All words in this declension are uter.

Third declension, plural indefinite on -(e)r.
Words of this declension always use the bare stem for the singular indefinite, and add -(e)n or -(e)t in the singular definite. There are both neuter and uter words in this declension.

Fourth declension, plural indefinite on -(e)n.
Singular indefinite: bare stem. Singular definite: -(e)t. There are only neuter words in this declension.

Fifth declension. Plural indefinite: bare stem.
Singular indefinite: bare stem. Singular definite: -(e)t or -(e)n. There are both neuter and uter words in this declension.

All nouns, except neuters of the fifth declension and some irregular words, add -na to the indefinite plural to form the definite plural. But words with a plural already ending in "n" do not usually double this "n" except in special cases, most of which concern words that are irregular for other reasons, too.

Fifth-declension neuters have definite plurals on -en.

Inflection paradigm for the five declensions:

1st2nd3rd 4th5th(a)5th(b)
sg.indef. flaskabuskeminutvittnebrevvin
sg.def. flaskanbuskenminutenvittnetbrevetvinet
pl.indef. flaskorbuskarminutervittnenbrevviner
pl.def. flaskornabuskarnaminuternavittnenabrevenvinerna
English: bottlebush, shrubminute witnessletter (`mail')wine

The gender can easily be determined by looking at the singular definite form of the word (which always end in either "n" or "t"); the words with a singular definite on "n" are uter, and others are neuter.

In the third and fourth declension, there are a number of words that end in -er and -el; these usually drop the `e' before the final consonant when an added inflection suffix begins with a vowel. E.g. en konstapel (3u, constable), pl. konstaplar, and ett papper (4n, paper), sg.def. pappret. However, in the sg.def. case in the third declension, the suffix is instead usually reduced from -en to -n, e.g. konstapeln. Forms such as konstaplen are possible, but often sound strange or archaic, and their use nowadays tends to be limited to poetry and humourous contexts.

The third declension contains some neuter words, in which case the sg.def. form above ends in -et instead of -en. One example is parti, a word with several barely related meanings, inflected thus: parti, partiet, partier, partierna. Three meanings of the word are (1) `party' in the sense of a grouping of people, such as a political party or a `side' in a legal dispute, (2) a `game' in the sense of the occasion of playing it from start to finish, e.g. `ett parti schack' = a game of chess, and (3) a set, group, pack, lot, load, etc of items being treated as a unit, e.g. `ett nyss inkommet parti gods' (a recently received delivery of goods).

Umlaut plurals

A number of words form plural with umlaut, i.e. a change of the vowel of the syllable before the suffix. Sometimes, this causes a loss of the suffix. This phenomenon occurs in English too, e.g. man - men, goose - geese, mouse - mice, etc, but it is somewhat more common in Swedish than it is in English. Usually, if a word has umlaut plural in English and the English word sounds similar to the Swedish one, the Swedish word also forms plural with umlaut, since both languages have then typically inherited the word from older Germanic sources.

Some Swedish words with umlaut plurals are: en man - män (man), en fot - fötter (foot), en hand - händer (hand), en tand - tänder (tooth), en rand - ränder (stripe, edge), ett land - länder (land, country), en strand - stränder (shore, beach), en brand - bränder (fire, conflagration), en fader - fäder (father), en broder - bröder (brother), en moder - mödrar (mother), en son - söner (son), en dotter - döttrar (daughter), en bok - böcker (book), en rot - rötter (root), en gås - gäss (goose), en and - änder (a kind of duck), en mus - möss (mouse).

Additionally, some words have the length of a vowel reduced without changing vowel, since the vowel has umlaut form already. An example is en nöt - nötter (nut).

Note also that the family words fader (father), moder (mother) and broder (brother) have short variant forms of the indefinite singulars. These drop the -de-, giving: far, mor, bror. This contraction only occurs in the singular indefinite, however. In casual slang, these contractions can then be extended by adding -sa, giving farsa, morsa, brorsa, which are inflected as first-declension nouns in all forms. Although the word syster (sister) doesn't have this kind of short form, it does have a variant of the casual slang form: syrra.

Another thing to note that the noun man (man) has different plurals depending on nuances of meaning. In the meaning of man as opposed to woman, the plural is män. When the word refers to a count of people in a crew, the plural is often `mannar', but when the individual members of a crew are referred to collectively (without any specific counting, as in "the merry men of ...") `män' is typically used. In older Swedish, the combined umlaut and suffix form `männer' is sometimes used, especially in modes of address, e.g. `I männer över lag och rätt' (`Ye men of law and justice'; this is the first line of an aria from Atterberg's opera Fanal).

Shifting stress

A number of word, mostly Latin loan-words ending in -or, shift the position of the stress when a word is inflected in such a manner that the number of syllables increases; these words are uters of the third declension, and typically, the stress is shifted so it always falls on the penultimate syllable. Some examples are: vektor (vector) stressed véktor, but inflected vektórer(na) in plural; lektor (university teacher), dator (computer), pastor (priest, pastor; although the Latin word means `shepherd'). A number of technical words, especially electrical and electronical components are also of this type: resistor, termistor (thermal resistor), varistor (variable resistor), kondensator (capacitor), induktor (inducer, inductor), transduktor (transducer), motor (motor, engine), stator (non-moving active part in electrical motor), donator (donor). Some more examples whose meaning are essentially the same as the English words they resemble are: sektor, mentor, rotor, promotor, reaktor, extraktor, gladiator, generator, senator, doktor.

Another common case where a similar shift in stress often occurs is when the word for a person of a particular nationality is derived from the name of the nation by the addition of -n or -es (/é:s/), e.g. "Amerika" /amé:rika/ but "amerikan" /amerikà:n/ and "Sudan" /suda:n/ but "sudanes" /sudane:s/. Note also "Japan" /Jà:pan/ but "japan" /jápà:n/, where the -n suffix is lost since the name of the nation already ends with an N. This also causes a shift of tonal accent, where the stressed long vowel has the low tone.

Irregular nouns

A small number of nouns are simply irregular in their inflection, and have to learned separately. Two very common ones are öga (eye) and öra (ear), which happen to be irregular in exactly the same way. They are both neuters, and form their plurals by adding "-on", giving: öga/öra (sg.indef.), ögat/örat (sg.def.), ögon/öron (pl.indef.), ögonen/öronen (pl.def.).

Foreign inflections for some loan-words

Much as in English, some Latin and Greek loan-words can be inflected according to their native inflection paradigms instead of the Swedish ones. In some older text, this was fairly frequent, and it is occasionally still used today, although mostly in formal or religious contexts, and for some technical terms where the Swedish suffixes are phonetically awkward to combine with the foreign word. Today, the foreign inflections are mostly limited to names, certain professional titles, and technical terms, and are in most cases considered optional, with native Swedish inflections being equally acceptable. Consequently, this section is perhaps mainly of interest to readers of older or literary Swedish texts.

There are some variations in how and to what extent foreign forms were used, so there is no single complete set of rules for exactly how to use which forms, but the following observations can be made for situations when this type of foreign inflections are used:


In Swedish, adjectives are inflected according to the number, gender and definiteness of the word they qualify (no matter whether the adjective is in attributive or predicative position, i.e. whether it is used as in "a red apple" or "the apple is red").

In older Swedish, adjectives were also inflected according to case. There are a number of set phrases where these case-inflected adjectives still survive, for instance "i ljusan låga" (= "in bright-(accusative) flame", (= "in bright flame", "on fire", "burning brightly") and "allom bekant" (= "all-(dative) familiar" = "known to all").

Regular adjectives typically have three different forms: singular indefinite uter, singular indefinite neuter, and a common form for the other six possible variations on number, gender and definiteness. The first of these three forms is referred to as the "basic" or "uninflected" form, and is the form normally found in dictionaries. There is also a fourth form, a masculine variant of the definite form, and which consists of changing the final "-a" of the common definite form to "-e" (in those cases where that form doesn't already end in "-e"). Use of this form is optional nowadays.

Regular adjectives derive their second form by suffixing a -t to the basic form. However, in terms of spelling, a number of modifications can occur:

The third form of regular adjectives is obtained by suffixing an -a to the basic form. Adjectives whose basic form end in an unstressed -al/-el/-en/-er lose the unstressed vowel, yielding -la/-la/-na/-ra, respectively, when the suffix is added. (Note on spelling: if the basic form ends in an short vowel plus an "m" or an "n", the consonant is doubled before adding the -a.)

A few adjectives, most notably `liten' (little, small), are irregular and may change or modify the stem during inflection, but this is a small group of exceptions.

In addition to "pure" adjectives, participles can also function as adjectives. The past participle is typically inflected -ad/-at/-ade for weak verbs (see Verbs below) and -(e)n/-(e)t/-na for other verbs, with the first two forms being uter and neuter for the singular indefinite, and the third is for all the other forms. The present participle always end in "-(e)nde", and is normally not inflected when used as an adjective.


u.sg.indef. grön vit vid svart liten målad sliten
n.sg.indef. grönt vitt vitt svart litet målat slitet
sg.def. gröna vita vida svarta lilla målade slitna
pl. gröna vita vida svarta små målade slitna

Except for a very small number of irregular adjectives such as `liten', the plural form is always the same as the definite singular.

In all cases above where the definite form ends in "-a", the traditional-style masculine form is obtained by changing that "-a" to an "-e"; thus: "gröne", "vite", "vide", "svarte", "lille" and "slitne"; but with no separate masculine form for "målade", and no separate masculine form for the plural "små".

Comparatives and superlatives

Much like English, Swedish has comparative and superlative forms of the adjectives, and can form them in two ways: by suffix, or by using mer (more) and mest (most).

Most monosyllabic adjectives always form comparatives and superlatives by suffixing, adding -are for comparative and -ast for superlative, e.g. röd-rödare-rödast (red), våt-våtare-våtast (wet), sen-senare-senast (late), vid-vidare-vidast (wide). These words can use mer/mest too, but usually don't, and when they do, it can often suggest a slightly different nuance of meaning; for instance, "mer röd" may suggest a meaning like "more like red", "more distinctly red", or "more towards red" rather than a plain "redder"; and for the superlative, "mest röd" can suggest things like "mostly red" (as in red in the largest part, but possibly with spots of other colours, literally or metaphorically) rather than plain "reddest".

Adjectives formed with the derivational suffix -ig from a monosyllabic root nearly always use -are/-ast, and those formed from a bisyllabic root often do this, too. Polysyllabic roots waver, but unless the final word is far too long, it is nearly always considered acceptable to use -are/-ast even though mer/mest might be preferable in these cases.

Other adjectives with more than one syllable in the stem tend to go with mer and mest, although some bisyllabic (and the occasional polysyllabic word stressed on the last syllable of the stem) waver and can use suffixes as well, e.g. bekväm (comfortable) and intressant (interesting). The list can be made rather long, and different people have different opinions as to which of these words can properly take the -are/-ast suffixes, and which are restricted to only the mer/mest model.

A small group of adjectives have irregular forms in this respect. The probably most significant of these are: få-färre-- (few, fewer, (no superlative form)) stor-större-störst (large), liten-mindre-minst (small), hög-högre-högst (high, tall (about objects)), lång-längre-längst (long, tall (about people)), låg-lägre-lägst (low), bra-bättre-bäst (good), dålig-sämre-sämst (bad). In an attributive position, the irregular superlatives take the suffix of definiteness (-a, or -e in the optional masculine form), while in predicative position, they remain in the form given here, e.g. "det största huset" (the largest house), but "detta hus är störst" (this house is (the) largest). The attributive form is used even when the noun the adjective qualifies is omitted: "detta hus är det största" (this house is the largest [one]). Or, by an alternative grammatical analysis, one could say that the attributive form can function as a noun by itself.


(Being written.)

There are basically three kinds of Swedish adverbs: plain/basic adverbs, older noun or adjective case forms (mostly datives) surviving as adverbs, and neuter adjectives used as adverbs. The latter group is straightforwardly formed just as when one would form an indefinite neuter singular adjective, so there isn't much more to say about them.

Some basic adverbs are: igen (again), tillbaka (back in the sense of returning), fram(åt) (at/in the front, forward), bak(åt) (at/in the back, backward), in (inwards, inside).

Some prepositions can double as adverbs, sometimes in a sense very similar to the prepositional meaning, and sometimes in a slightly different sense. Examples: (on), av (preposition: of, from; adverb: off), ur (out of), från (preposition: from, adverb: a wide and vague sense of away, out of reach, ahead of, etc), i (preposition: in, adverb: into).

Some preposition+noun phrases have been contracted to adverbs, e.g. iväg (away), isär (apart in a sense of drifting apart), itu (apart, in the sense of cutting or breaking, especially into two parts). Some of these have become petrified and only exist in connection with a limited set of words, e.g. ihåg (originally i+håg, e.g. `in mind', `in intension') which now mainly occurs in connection with the verb komma (to come), as komma ihåg någonting (to remember something; the original construction similar to the English expression of something "coming to mind").

Some older adverbs (and other words) have petrified, much like the preposition+noun phrases mentioned above, into idiomatic adverbs with only a vague meaning of their own. The most common of these are probably an, till and för. But note that both till and för are perfectly alive as common prepositions, though, meaning `to' and 'for', while an is mostly dead as a separate word in Swedish, although it has survived in German. (Refer to the discussion about particle verbs for some more details about these words.)

Various directional, locational and demonstrative words can be considered adverbs, too; e.g. här (here), hit (hither), där (there), dit (thither).


Much like English, Swedish has two kinds of number words, the cardinals ("one", "two", etc) and the ordinals ("first", "second", etc).

The number words are mostly uninflected, with the following exceptions: en/ett ("one") agrees in gender with the word it qualifies, and the two first ordinals, "första" (first) and "andra" (second), have an optional masculine form ending in "-e" rather than "-a".

NumeralCardinalOrdinal  NumeralCardinalOrdinal
1en/ettförsta 0noll(nollte)
2tvåandra 20tjugotjugonde
3tretredje 30trettiotrettionde
4fyrafjärde 40fyrtiofyrtionde
5femfemte 50femtiotrettionde
6sexsjätte 60sextiosextionde
7sjusjunde 70sjutiosjuttionde
8åttaåttonde 80åttioåttionde
9nionionde 90nittionittionde
10tiotionde 100(ett)hundra(ett)hundrade
11elvaelfte 200tvåhundratvåhundrade
12tolvtolfte 500femhundrafemhundrade
13trettontrettonde 1 000(ett)tusen(ett)tusende
14fjortonfjortonde 2 000tvåtusentvåtusende
15femtonfemtonde 5 000femtusenfemtusende
16sextonsextonde 10 000tiotusentiotusende
17sjuttonsjuttonde 20 000tjugotusentjugotusende
18artonartonde 50 000femtiotusenfemtiotusende
19nittonnittonde 1 000 000en miljonmiljonte

Compound cardinals are formed by aggregating the individual number words, largest first:

42 =fyrtiotvå (40+2)
123 =(ett)hundratjugotre (100+20+3)
4 711 =fyratusensjuhundraelva (4000+700+11)
262 144 =tvåhundrasextiotvåtusenetthundrafyrtiofyra ((200+60+2)*1000+100+40+4)

Usually, compounds are only formed for units of up to six digits. When millions and higher numbers are involved, they are usually broken off into a separate words, e.g. 531 243 385 = "femhundratrettioen miljoner tvåhundrafyrtiotretusentrehundraåttiofem".

For legibility, thousands are sometimes also broken off into separate words, e.g. 42 751 = "fyrtiotvåtusen sjuhundrafemtioett", but this is less common.

Compound ordinals are formed like cardinals, except that the last (and only the last) compound element is an ordinal:

42nd =fyrtioandra (40+2nd)
123rd =(ett)hundratjugotredje (100+20+3rd)
4711th =fyratusensjuhundraelfte (4000+700+11th)
262 144th =tvåhundrasextiotvåtusenetthundrafyrtiofjärde ((200+60+2)*1000+100+40+4th)
(But not "*fyrtionde+andra" (40th+2nd) etc.)

Large numbers than millions may not be so common, but there are several words for larger numbers:

1 000 000miljon
1 000 000 000miljard
1 000 000 000 000biljon
1 000 000 000 000 000biljard
1 000 000 000 000 000 000triljon
1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000triljard
1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000kvadriljon
1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000kvadriljard
1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000kvintriljon
1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000kvintriljard

In principle, the list can continue with further stems borrowing Latin number words and adding alternatively "-iljon" and "-iljard", i.e., "sextiljon/-jard", "septiljon/-jard", "oktiljon/-jard", etc, adding six more zeroes for each new Latin number word, but anything beyond what can be comfortably expressed with "triljon" tends to cause confusion both because the number is unusually large and because the large-number words are unusual, and it is usually better to rephrased the number in other terms, such as scientific notation with powers of ten.

In cases when scientific notiation isn't likely to reduce the confusion, various fallbacks are used (much like in English). One such fallback is to divide the number by a triljon, put the resulting number in the genitive, and then add triljon at the end, e.g. "femhundratjugoåtta biljarder sextiotusentvåhundratjugofyra biljoners triljoner".


Personal pronouns

The personal and possessive pronouns in Swedish are
meaningnominative formobject formpossessive
you (singular)dudigdin/ditt/dina
mansigsigone (indefinite generic third-person)
it (uter)dendendess
it (neuter)detdetdess
you (plural)nierer/ert/era

The masculine and feminine pronouns are used when talking about people, and sometimes metaphorically about objects.

Some of the possessives have three forms, corresponding to the three forms of adjectives. The first form is the uter singular, the second is the neuter singular, and the third is the common plural.

Note that the pronouns corresponding to "it" and "they" coincide with the definite article, but that the plural of the pronoun has a distinct object-case form dem, whereas the plural form of the definite article is always de.

The reflexive pronoun refers to the agent of the sentence. It is used where "himself", "herself", "itself" or "themselves" would be used in English.

The indefinite third-person pronoun "man" is gender neutral, but is not normally used to refer back to a specific person, but rather for indefinite general cases similar to the French pronoun "on", and to the way the English word "one" is sometimes used as a pronoun (e.g. "one does what one can"). For gender-indefinite specific references, the uter pronoun "den" is sometimes used (e.g. "den som spar den har", meaning literally "the one who saves, that one has", i.e. the corresponding proverb to "a penny hained is a penny gained"; the Swedish proverb also occurs as "den som spar han har" and "den som spar hon har", using a technically gendered pronoun to refer back to the gender-neutral "den").

Another way of making gender-neutral references is by using the first-declension noun "människa", and then refer back to that by "den" or "hon" (she, based on the word "människa" historically being grammatically feminine, and thus in some older and literary contexts being referred to with a grammatically gendered pronoun even though the reference isn't necessarily semantically gendered). Yet another way, which is employed especially in some formal contexts, is to use the noun "vederbörande" (which is the present-tense participle of a verb meaning "concern", "affect", "refer to", "apply to", with the participle effectively meaning "the person in question"). It should be noted that overuse of "vederbörande" tends to make a text sound bureaucratic, but also that it is sometimes used thus for humorous effect.

Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns typically introduce subordinate clauses, and typically follow another pronoun or a noun phrase, with the relative pronoun referring to the same things as the thing it follows, but with a new syntactic rôle in the subordinate clause.

Swedish has two primary relative pronouns: som and vilken. Som is restricted in the sense that it cannot follow a preposition, it can't be inflected, and doesn't have a genitive form, while vilken is inflected to vilket in the neuter, vilka in plural (so far exactly like an adjective), and has the form vars in genitive. (Sometimes, vars is said also to be the gentive of som; but it makes no practical difference.)

There are also some secondary relative pronouns, which occur now and then. They tend to be rare in colloquial speech, but are somewhat more frequent in literature and formal speech. Many of these are formed by a method also used in German and English: by joining the locational relative/interrogative pronoun with a preposition, forming words like "varifrån" (wherefrom), "vari" (wherein), "varav" (whereof), "vartill" (whereto), "varför" (wherefore) and "varvid" (whereat). Their usage is highly similar to their English counterparts.

A few demonstrative pronouns, such as "där" (there) and "dit" (thereto) can also be used as relative pronouns. This differs from English, where it is instead the interrogative forms (where, whither) which doubles as relative pronouns.

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are often structurally similar to personal pronouns, except that they typically have more emphasis, and serve a slightly different purpose. Whereas personal pronouns typically refer neutrally to something previously mentioned, demonstrative pronouns typically introduce new things, or in some other manner put special focus on something.

Swedish has two basic demonstrative pronouns: den/det/de (this/that/these/those) (same as the definite article, but stressed as a separate word) and denna/detta/dessa (this/these), the latter being somewhat more formal or emphatic. Den/det/de can be further qualified by adding här (here) or där (there), to mark the distinction English marks with the choice between "this" and "that".

Both den/det/de and denna/detta/dessa can be used either as replacements for a definite article in a noun phrase, or independently, e.g. "Jag vill ha den här bilen", "Jag vill ha denna bil" (I want this car) or "Jag vill ha den här", "Jag vill ha denna" (I want this one).

Determinative pronouns

Determinative pronouns aren't usually morphologically distinct pronouns, but rather a variation on the usage of definite or demonstrative pronouns. In Swedish, the definite article also functions as determinative pronoun, but is then followed by an indefinite noun (which in turn is typically followed by a clause qualifying the noun phrase further). E.g. "Visa mig det hus som du vill bo i!", as opposed to plain demonstrative "Visa mig det huset, som du vill bo i!". Both sentences can be translated as "Show me the house you want to live in!", but the shade of meaning is different. In the latter case (plain demonstrative), the meaning is "Show me that particular house, which you want to live in", while the former (determinative) means "Show me the house that you want to live in!" or "Show me such a house as you want to live in!". But the distinction is often rather small, and may easily be overlooked by the reader/listener if not further emphasised.

Indefinite pronouns

The topic of indefinite pronouns is one where there may be larger than usual differences between different classification systems. In Swedish, in particular, there are quite a few words which can be counted either as adjectives or as indefinite pronouns, or both, especially considering that many adjectives in Swedish can freely be used as noun phrases without a head noun, in cases where for example English would often insert a filler word such as "one" or "thing" to take the place of the head noun. (An example of this could be "skicka mig den gröna!", meaning "pass me the green one".)

Basically, indefinite pronouns are pronouns that don't have a specifically defined reference. Examples in English are words such as "all", "everyone", "nobody", "something", "anyone" and "each".

There are various ways of grouping indefinite pronouns. Here, I choose a morphological approach and divide them into three main groups: those that are similar to adjectives both in inflection and usage, those that are similar to adjectives in usage but less similar in inflection, and those that aren't similar to adjectives in either usage or inflection. Additionally, there are a number of set phrases that fill the grammatic and semantic function of indefinite pronouns, although since they aren't single words, its a matter of definition whether they should be counted as pronouns at all; but I will list a few of the most common ones below, after the three main groups.

The following indefinite pronouns are inflected as adjectives, in the forms uter singular, neuter singular, and a common form for plural. Most of these words can be used both in an adjective-like manner to qualify a noun or noun phrase, and by itself as a complete object phrase. However, for most of the words listed below, the uter singular form stands out, either by rarely being used, or by being used to refer to people, while the neuter singular is used to refer to things.

The following words do not inflect like adjectives in regard to gender and plural, but they are normally used to qualify nouns in a manner grammatically (though not necessarily semantically) similar to adjectives:

The following words function as indefinite pronouns but in ways not particularly similar to adjectives:

The following phrases are constructions of several words rather than single words, and might thus not really qualify as pronouns, but since they fill a similar semantic and grammatic rôle, I will list them here anyway:

Interrogative pronouns

(Being written.)

vart?whither? whereto?

Composite pronouns and pronoun phrases

(Being written.)

In addition to the pronouns listed above, several more can be produced by combining pronouns with prepositions or special suffixes. In particular, the location pronouns "var" (where), "här" (here) and "där" (there) can be suffixed with any of a large number of simple prepositions as a suffix, e.g. "vartill" (to where, to which), "härtill" (to/for this), "var(i)från" (from where), "varur" (out of which), "varmed" (with which), "härmed" (with/by this) "vari" (wherein), "varför" (wherefore, why), "därför" (therefore).

Other pronouns and pronominal phrases

Swedish has a reciprocal pronoun varandra, which corresponds well to the English phrase "each other" (and sometimes "one another"), e.g. "Vi ser varandra" (we see each other) and "de tittar på varandra" (they look at each other). It can only occur in object position in a sentence, and only when the subject is plural.

Swedish also has a distributive possessive pronoun varsin/varsitt (in theory also with a plural varsina, but this isn't normally used), meaning approximately "one each of our/your/their/one's own". E.g. "Barnen fick varsin present" (the children received a present each). A similar meaning can be expressed with the adverb vardera: "barnen fick en present vardera", which is more flexible since it allows including a number, e.g. "barnen fick tre presenter vardera" (the children received three presents each), whereas varsin/varsitt implicitly indicates only one each.

The common element var which is a prefix to both varandra and varsin is an adverb meaning "each"; which is not to be confused with (1) the relative and interrogative pronoun var (where), (2) the verb form var (was), (3) the uncountable neuter noun var (ichor, pus), or (4) the nearly obsolete uter noun var (warding, warder, care, caretaker) which appears in some compound nouns such as gårdvar (groundskeeper) and bevar (care, protection).


Prepositions in Swedish work much like in English as stand-alone words, but can interact a bit more with verbs than they usually can in English, in the sense that they can be attached as a prefix to a verb, modifying the verb so that the noun phrase that would have been "governed" by the preposition instead become a direct object of the verb. However, the meaning of the verb can be altered as part of this process, so it is can reasonably be argued that this is not an action of the preposition itself, but rather a derivation of a new compound word which has a preposition and a verb as its components.

Some common Swedish prepositions are:

Much like in English, Swedish has a few adverbs that have the same or a similar form as a related preposition. Some of the most common such adverbs are på (on), av (off), om (again; again but differently; into something else), utan (outside, outer surface), in (direction into; note difference from pronoun i).

Some other adverbs often occurring together with prepositions are: fram (forth, fore-), bak(a) (back), ut (out (direction)), bort (away), ute (outside (location)), inne (inside (location)).

Also much like in English, Swedish prepositions can also be loosely joined with adverbs to form two-word units functioning as a single preposition, or sometimes even be made a compound word. Some common examples are:

The list can be made quite long, but most of these two-part prepositions only have one meaning, which applies in practically all cases, which makes them fairly easy to look up in a dictionary, as opposed to some of the basic prepositions that can have specific grammatical and semantic functions depending on the verb they occur together with.



Swedish verbs fall into one of five conjugations, the first three of which are termed "weak", because of their having undergone reduction and loss of the older Germanic stem changes. The fourth conjugation is often referred to as the "strong" conjugation, and the fifth as the "mixed" conjugation (since it has a "strong" imperfect stem, but a "weak" supine).

Swedish verbs are not inflected by person or number (although they still used to be inflected by number as late as in the 1930'ies), but they are inflected by tense, mood, and voice.

Example paradigms of the verb "vara" (to be), "ha(va)" (to have), and "visa" (to show):
perfekthar varithar hafthar visat
pluskvamperfekthade varithade hafthade visat

The names of the forms above are given in Swedish, but being borrowed from Latin, they are quite similar to the English terms, since these are also borrowed from Latin. The only notable differences are imperfekt which is the "was" tense, and pluskvamperfekt (also known as konditionalis (conditional)), the "had been" tense.

The perfekt and pluskvamperfekt tenses are always formed with the present and imperfekt forms of the auxiliary verb ha (to have) followed by the supine of the main verb, much like in English.

Passive forms of the verbs are in most cases formed by adding "s" to the corresponding active form. The only general exception is in the present tense, where the normal ending "-r" is usually dropped before adding the "s". Note, however, that a few verbs whose stem end in "r", such as styra (to steer; to control; to govern), use the bare verb stem in the present tense, and these verb do not drop their "-r" before the passive "-s".

There are a number of verbs that are irregular in the way they form the present and imperfekt tense. Irregular verbs are usually listed with a tema (literally `theme', but in the context of verbs, it refers to a sequence of inflected forms): the present tense, the imperfekt tense, and the supine form. Sometimes the infinitive is added as a fourth form, at either the beginning or the end of the tema. The infinitive is usually signalled explicitly by the infinitive marker att.

The tema for a few of the most common irregular verbs are: att vara(to be)-är-var-varit, att se(to see)-ser-såg-sett, att göra(to do/make)-gör-gjorde-gjort, att veta(to know)-vet-visste-vetat, att vilja(to want)-vill-ville-velat, att tåla(to endure/`stand')-tål-tålde-tålt, att kunna(to be able to)-kan-kunde-kunnat, att få(to receive, to be allowed to)-får-fick-fått.

Note also the regular verb att vara(to last)-varar-varade-varat whose infinitive coincides with the verb for `to be'.

(To be added: an overview of all five conjugations.)

(To be added: verb theme umlaut patterns.)

Conjunctions, etc

The most common conjunctions in Swedish are och (and), eller (or) and men (but). They are used much like their English counterparts. Och and eller can be used to connect sentences as well as elements in a noun phrase.

(More to be written here...)


(More to be written here...)

Swedish syntax is fairly straightforward for someone used to English, but there are a few things that differ. The probably most noticable part is that Swedish sentences often use inverted word order (the verb before the subject) to indicate questions, conditionals and consecutives. Inverted word order is also used when the sentence starts with an adverbial or when any object of the verb is placed at the front of the sentence.


(More to be written here...)

Appendix I: Noun gender

The grammatical gender of Swedish nouns are essentially a property of the word that has to be learned together with the word itself. In a number of cases, one can make reasonable guesses based on the form of the word, but this is not always the case. The only simple situation is if you already know the singular definite form of the word, in which case the word is a uter word if it ends in -n, and a neuter word if it ends in -t. But it is the singular indefinite that is the traditional dictionary form.

The simple situations

Words ending in -a usually belong to the first declension, in which there are only uter words. Exceptions to the -a rule exist, but they are few; two common exceptions are öga (eye) and öra (ear) which are irregular neuters. They are inflected thus: öga, ögat, ögon, ögonen; öra, örat, öron, öronen. Another common exception is hjärta (heart), which is a regular neuter of the fourth declension.

Some derivational suffixes belong to predictable declensions and genders, e.g. -else (3u), -ning (2u), -het (3u), -eri (3/5n), -skap (5n).

Other words ending in -e can be either uters of the second declension, e.g. pojke (boy), buske (shrub), vante (mitten), ande (spirit, ghost, genie), or neuters of the fourth declension, e.g. möte (meeting), bete (bait), vete (wheat), dike (ditch). Chemical elements and other substances and materials ending in -e are usually also fourth-declension neuters, e.g. väte (hydrogen), kväve (nitrogen), syre (oxygen), bränsle (fuel).

Present participle used as a noun

The present participle has a suffix -(e)nde and can be used as a noun whose gender and inflection depends on whether it refers to the acting person (uter) or the abstract action (neuter). For instance, the verb (go, walk) has a present participle gående (walking), which can function either as an adjective (den gående mannen = the walking man, the man who is walking), or as a noun: en gående = a walking [person], a pedestrian; and ett gående, somewhat awkwardly translatable as something like: a walking, an event consisting of walking, the act of walking.

As a uter word, the participle is not inflected by number or definiteness (although it is inflected by case, meaning an -s suffix in the genetive case). As a neuter word, it is inflected as a neuter noun of the fourth declension. Thus: en gående, den gående, två gående, de två gående; but ett gående, det gåendet, två gåenden, de två gåendena.

Other nouns

For words ending in other ways than the ones mentioned in the previous sections, guessing the gender from the morphological form of the singular indefinite is more difficult. Especially as there are minimal pairs distinguished only by gender, such as `en lår' (a crate) and `ett lår' (a thigh).

Appendix II: Some particle verbs

Swedish, much like English, has a number of verbs that change their meanings in the presence of certain adverbs and particles. Some examples of this phenomenon in English are: set off, set up, put on, put up with, give in, tell someone off. These are referred to as partikelverb, particle verbs (in English also called phrasal verbs).

Unlike English, but like German, the Swedish adverbs and particles can shift between being used as a verb prefix and as separate words. The same verb+adverb/particle combination can appear in both prefixed form and as two separate words; sometimes, the difference signifies different meanings, but usually, the difference is just dictated by the verb form. For instance, the past participle is almost always formed with the adverb/particle prefixed to the verb, while using the prefix in a plain present indicative can have an overformal or bureaucratic sound unless the form is well established.

Sometimes -- typically when the adverb/particle is also a a preposition -- the words that could have made up a particle verb are used as a plain verb plus preposition; below, this will be referred to as `non-compound' use. In the spoken form, this is usually signalled by both the verb and the adverb/particles bearing medium stress, while the verb bears heavy stress and the preposition is unstressed. This difference in stress is usually not indicated in writing, although it can be indicated by underlining or italics as any other emphasis, if required to avoid ambiguity.

It should also be noted that there exist some more firm compound verbs that cannot causally be split into two words, and that the forms of such firm compounds occasionally coincide with the kind of particle verbs that are the main subject of this appendix; sometimes with completely different meanings. Some compound verbs of this type will also be listed below, given in the compound for, as opposed to the particle verbs that are usually given in their two-word form except when the two-word form is rare or has a different meaning.

Lastly, it should be noted that this appendix only gives an overview of some common particle verbs, and is far from a complete list.

Compounds with `ta' (take)

`Ta på x' = put on x (about clothes), Non-compound use: touch x. (Also note `ta på sig x' which can mean the same thing as the compound `ta på x, but which can also be used to mean to take on a duty or responsibility.)

`Ta med x' = bring x; about persons: bring x along.

`Ta av x' = take off x (about clothes). Non-compound use: take some part of x. (E.g. `ta av sina besparingar' = take from one's savings.)

`Ta till x' = resort to x. Usually not used in prefix form, since that conflicts with the existing compound verb `tillta' (increase, mount, strengthen), e.g. `vinden tilltar' = the wind gets stronger.

`Ta till sig x' = absorb/accept/embrace x (about abstract matters, teachings, opinions, etc).

`Ta sig till x' = resort to x, with a sense of urgency, confusion or desperation. More common in questions than statements, e.g. `Vad ska vi ta oss till?' = `What(ever) shall we do?'. Note non-compound use: get oneself to x, manage to go to x; e.g. `Vi tänker ta oss till Stockholm i helgen' = `We mean to take ourselves to Stockholm this weekend' (i.e. We're planning to go to Stockholm this weekend).

Compounds with `sätta' (set, put)

`Sätta av x' = allocate x, set x aside for some particular use. Used both in prefix and two-word form, even though the latter conflicts with the firm compound `avsätta' (depose, remove from office).

`Sätta om x' = relocate/rearrange x, change the setting of x. The two-word form is mainly used about plants, switches and other things that are physically rearranged in nearly the same place, while the prefix form mainly refers to abstract transactions. In the context of economic, the derived noun `omsättning' is the standard word for `turnover', and the compound verb is sometimes used in this sense to, e.g. `Företaget omsatte mer pengar i år än tidigare' = `The company "turnover'ed" (= had a turnover of) more money this year than previously'. Note that the subject of the `omsättning' can be something other than money, in which case `exchange', 'circulation', `replacement' etc may be a more suitable better translation than `turnover'; e.g. a company that has replaced much of its staff in a certain period can be said to have had a high `personalomsättning' (Swedish 'personal = staff, personnel).

`Sätta på x' = switch something on. (Caution: this phrase is also used in slang for `have sex with'.)

`Sätta till x' = resort to x, employ/activate x. Usually with a suggestion of increasing the pace, perhaps for some final stage of some kind of competition. E.g. `sätta till alla tillgängliga resurser' = `employ all available resources'.

`Tillsätta x' = (1) fill a position (typically about employment, official appointments to non-elected offices, etc). E.g. `platsen är redan tillsatt' = `the vacancy has already been filled'; (2) add something, about ingredients.

Compounds with `tala' (speak)

`Tilltala x (som y)' = address x (as y). Beware that `som', much like English `as', can appear in both the sense `by the title of' and `in the capacity of', and that the latter can refer either to the speaking person or the addressed person. In other words, this Swedish phrase has about the same ambiguities as the corresponding English one.

`Tilltala x' = appeal to x (in the sense of being pleasing to x, not in the sense of making a petition).

`Tala om x (för y)' = inform y of x. Note non-compound use: tala om x = speak about x.

`Talas vid' = have a talk/discussion, typically about some specific topic. (Note: deponent always-passive form.) The prefixed form `vidtalas' sounds formal, serious, or bureaucratic. Note that the verb itself is in the passive form, and that the subject is typically plural.

`Avtala x' = agree on x, make an agreement about x, make a contract to the effect of x.

`Intala y x' = make y believe x, convince y of x (usually implying that x is not completely believable by itself and that the belief has to be forced). Often used reflexively `intala sig x' = make oneself believe x, tell oneself x.

`Tala ut (om x)' = speak completely, tell the full story (about x). The compound form `uttala x' has a different meaning, which is "pronounce x", both in the sense of articulating vocally and in the sense of pronouncing a judgment.