Learn Swedish A1: Substantiv (Noun) Lesson 18

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Learn Swedish A1: Substantiv (Noun) Lesson 18. A noun in Swedish, as in English, is usually accompanied by an article. The choice between the indefinite article (obestämd artikel) (‘a’, ‘an’; en, ett) and the definite article (bestämd artikel) (‘the’; -en, -et) follows more or less the same rules in both languages. One important difference, however, is that the definite article in Swedish is an ending.

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Obestämd artikel

Indefinite Nouns have articles before nouns, as mentioned below:

en häst – a hourse

ett djur – an animal

en man – a man

ett äpple – an apple

en kat – a cat

ett barn – a child

en kvinna – e woman

ett bord – a table

Bestämd artikel

Definite nouns have the articles after the noun, as mentioned below:

hästen – the man

djuret – the animal

mannen – the man

äpplet – the apple

katen – the cat

barnet – the child

kvinnan – the woman

bordet – the board

En eller Ett Nouns

Nouns which take en as the indefinite article are called ‘en words’ and those that take ett are called ‘ett words’. There is no specific role to understand how to choose en/ett for a noun. But almost 80% nouns are en nouns. That means, if you do not know the article of the noun, you can place ”en” with the noun. Therefore, You will 80% chances to be correct.

The idea is that you should learn the noun together with its indefinite article, because you need to know if a noun is an en word or an ett word to be able to choose the right form of the definite article and several other grammatical points.

Predict Gender from meaning of noun for Non- neuter

While, You can predict the gender from the meaning of noun!

In newspaper texts, about 75% of all nouns are non-neuter (en gender).

Human beings: Most, but not all, nouns denoting human beings are non-neuter (en gender):

For example:

en kille ‘a boy’; en kvinna ‘a woman’; en polis ‘a police officer’; en dotter ‘a daughter’; en son ‘a son’; en syster ‘a sister’; en kusin ‘a cousin’;

There are just a few common exceptions: ett barn ‘a child’ is among the most frequent, and there are a few others, including ett syskon ‘a sibling’ and ett biträde ‘an assistant’.

Animals: Most higher animals are non-neuter (en gender):

For examples:

en katt ‘a cat’; en råtta ‘a rat’; en häst ‘a horse’; en ånsa ‘a donkey’; en hund ‘a dog’; en kanin ‘a rabbit’; en mus ‘a mouse’; en elefant ‘an elephant’; en fågel ‘a bird’; en anka ‘a duck’; en delfin ‘a dolphin’; en björn ‘a bear’; en varg ‘a wolf’; en spindel ‘a spider’; en orm ‘a snake’; en kamel ‘a camel’; en get ‘a goat’; en höna ‘a chicken’; en ko ‘a cow’.

There are rather more exceptions here: ett svin ‘a pig’; ett får ‘a sheep’; ett lejon ‘a lion’; ett bi ‘a bee’; ett djur ‘an animal’.

Periods of time: Words for periods of time such as days, parts of the day, months and seasons are nearly always non-neuter (en gender):

For Examples:

en minut ‘a minute’; en dag ‘a day’; en vecka ‘a week’; en vår ‘a spring’

But there are a few exceptions: ett dygn ‘a day’ (24-hour period); ett år ‘a year’.

Plants: Trees, flowers and shrubs are usually non-neuter (en gender):

For Examples:

en ek ‘an oak tree’; en ros ‘a rose’

But notice: ett träd ‘a tree’.

Predict Gender from the meaning of the noun from Neuter

While, Names of continents, countries, regions and towns: The names of continents and many countries, regions and towns are neuter by gender. However, as these names rarely have articles or plurals, their neuter gender is only usually shown by the adjectives that are used with them. So, This is called ‘hidden agreement’:

Europa var splittrat i många små kungariken.
Europe was divided into many small kingdoms.

Norge var chanslöst mot Finland.
Norway had no chance against Finland.

Göteborg är underbart i solen.
Gothenburg is wonderful in the sunshine.

How to predict gender from the form of the noun?

Non-neuter (en gender)

So, Most words ending in following categories, will be in en ords:


en flicka ‘a girl’; en krona ‘a crown’; en resa ‘a journey’; en skola ‘a school’


en läkare ‘a doctor’; en göteborgare ‘a Gothenburger’


en berättelse ‘a story’; en betydelse ‘a meaning’


en lägenhet ‘an apartment’; en möjlighet ‘an opportunity’


en tidning ‘a newspaper’; en tävling ‘a competition’

Neuter (ett gender)

Most words (except those denoting people) ending in:


ett avgörande ‘a decision’; ett bemötande ‘a reception’; ett uppträdande ‘a performance’


ett ärende ‘a task’; ett leende ‘a smile’

Exceptions: Words denoting people: en studerande ‘a student’; en gående ‘a pedestrian’


ett museum ‘a museum’; ett faktum ‘a fact’

Today’s Exercise

So, From the rules given above, predict the gender by adding the indefinite article en or ett:

——— album (album),————-stockholmare (Stockholmer)

———bakelse (pastry), ———–lidande (suffering)

———regering (government), ——– lärare (teacher)

———förhållande (relationship), ———- nyhet (piece of news)

———gymnasium (upper secondary school), ————påstående (assertion)

———rörelse (movement),———- jubileum (anniversary)

———-svårighet (difficulty), ——–kappa (woman’s coat)

———-övning (exercise)

Grattis! (Congratulations!) So, You’re now prepared to tackle articles, genders & basic sentence structure in Swedish language.

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