Swedish Language Blog

5 Irregular Swedish Verbs You Need to Master Posted by on Nov 19, 2021 in Grammar, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

Photo by Anna Zdanowicz on Unsplash

A student recently reminded me how difficult it is to memorize irregular verbs in your foreign language. Well actually, she said, “Swedish irregular verbs are the worst.” Att vara, att se, att göra, to name a few, are among the most common words used in daily Swedish. Just as language learning is a balance of dedication and memorization, nailing these verbs is no different. Below are conjugations and example sentences using 5 Swedish irregular verbs that you must master.

What makes these verbs irregular?

Simply put, irregular verbs don’t follow patterns quite like the other verb groups. Oftentimes, the vowel changes between the tenses. For a comprehensive explanation of the verb groups, check out learningswedish.se’s site.  In this post, I’ll conjugate each of the following 5 verbs in infinitiv, presens, preteritum, and supinum tenses along with example sentences in each tense. I’ve left out the imperativ tense here but never fear, your chance to practice the imperative form is in this blog: Bake Swedish Cinnamon Buns Using Imperative Verbs!

1. To be or not to be? VERB: att vara

Beginners can say, jag är, han är all day long, but often stumble on the other forms of the verb att vara, “to be”.

infinitive          present      past       perfect past
att vara                är                 var             har varit
to be                  am/is           were            has been/have been

Han tycker inte om att vara för varm.  He doesn’t like to be too warm.

Jag är en soffpotatis på vintern.  I am a couch potato in the winter.

Det var svårt att förstå vad de sade.   It was difficult to understand what they said.

Har du varit på västkusten?                         -Have you been to the West Coast?
Nej, jag har aldrig varit på västkusten.      -No, I have never been to the West Coast.

2. Everyone has to eat! VERB: att äta

infinitive           present     past      perfect past
att äta               äter               åt               har ätit
to eat                eat/eats       ate             have eaten

Alla behöver äta ungefär 500 gram grönsaker varje dag.
Everyone needs to eat about 500 grams of vegetables every day.

Äter Oskar fisk?   Does Oskar eat fish?

Vi åt sushi flera gånger i Japan.    We ate sushi several times in Japan.

Nej tack, jag har redan ätit lunch.    No thanks, I have already eaten lunch.

3. Do it! Make it! VERB: att göra

infinitive                   present         past        perfect past
att göra                        gör               gjorde           har gjort
to do/to make          do/does         did                have done

Snälla pappa, kan vi göra saffransbullar idag?
Please dad, can we make saffron buns today?

-Vad gör du?                                                 -What are you doing?
-Jag tittar på Natalies fotbollsmatch.    -I am watching Natalie’s soccer game.

Note that when someone in Swedish asks, “vad gör du? (what are you doing?)” you should omit the verb gör in your answer unless you are making something, then use gör indeed! For example:

“Vi besökte 3 nationalparker och vandrade.”
Photo by Anita Peeples on Unsplash

-Vad gör du?             -What are you doing?
-Jag gör julkort!       -I am making Christmas cards.

-Vad gjorde ni på semestern?
-Vi besökte 3 nationalparker och vandrade!

-What did you all do on vacation?
-We visited 3 national parks and hiked!

Henrik har aldrig gjort det själv.
Henrik has never done it himself.

4. Did you see that? Yes, I saw it! VERB: att se

infinitive         present         past        perfect past
att se                   ser                  såg              har sett
to see                  see/s               saw             have seen

Vill du se Spidelmannen eller Frost på bio?
Do you want to see Spider-Man or Frozen at the movie theater?

Hur mår Jessica?  Hon ser lite trött ut*.
How is Jessica?      She looks a little tired.

*ser ut – to look/or resemble

Kom Erika till konferensen?             Vi såg aldrig henne.
Did Erika come to the conference? We never saw her.

Har du sett Valkyrian på Kungliga Operan? 
Have you seen The Valkyrie at the Royal Swedish Opera?

5. Let’s go! Want to walk?! VERB: att gå

infinitive          present         past        perfect past
att gå                   går              gick             har gått
to go/walk        go/goes        went           have gone

Det börjar bli sent! Ska vi
It’s starting to get late. Shall we go?

Cyklar du eller går du till äffaren?
Do you bike or walk to the store?

-Hur gick det på jobbet idag?    -How did it go at work today?
-Det gick bra tror jag!                 -It went well I think!

-Hej, var är du? Har du gått hem?
-Hi, where are you? Have you gone home?

Now it’s time to practice! Don’t give up on these irregular verbs because you’ll need to use them ALL the time. Besides these ones, which Swedish verbs trip you up?

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. Sherman Rosen:

    Chelsea, Your explanations are so crystal clear and good-natured. Many thanks.