Swedish Language Blog

Book Containing Nouns and Their Gender? Posted by on Jul 15, 2008 in Grammar

One of the readers asked a question about a book containing nouns and their gender. And that’s a very good question indeed. Most, if not all English-Swedish dictionaries are useless when it comes to indicating whether a noun is an “en” or “ett” word. And why is that? Have their editors forgotten the pains of learning a new language? Or were they raised bilingual? Whatever the reason, English-Swedish dictionaries seem of little help when dealing with the noun gender problem.

And at such times, desperate situations call for desperate measures, namely a Swedish-Swedish dictionary. I know it may sound intimidating, especially when you’re not all that comfortable with Swedish just yet. But don’t worry. While it may look scary at a first glance, a Swedish-only dictionary is just the answer for those persistent grammatical and vocabulary questions.

There are Swedish-only dictionaries for just about every ability level, age, and category. My personal favorite is “Svensk skolordlista” published by Norstedts. Norstedts is a massive publishing house specializing in dictionaries and academic titles. For some mysterious reason their two-language dictionaries lack the features that foreign students of Swedish need most – such as the noun gender, for example. Luckily, the Swedish-only books from Norstedts are truly excellent.

Let’s take a closer look at “Svensk skolordlista”.

Nouns are listed both in their indefinite and definite (there you go with the “en” and “ett” bits!) forms, singular and plural. When there is no plural, it’s clearly indicated. It looks like this:
macka, mackan, mackor, mackorna (subst.) – smörgås (sandwich – there’s no English in the book, but I’m adding it here to make it easy).
The first two words are indefinite and definite singular, the other two – plural.

All verbs, be it regular or not, are provided in all their tenses and forms, from infinitive to supine to participle. It looks like this:
läsa, läser, läste, läst, vara läst (verb) – titta på och första en text, studera (to read, read, read, read, to be read [in other words, “read” in all its forms] – to look at and understand a text, to study)

Adjectives are listed in their three forms: en, ett and plural/definite. Where applicable, antonyms are given as well. Here’s an adjective example:
hungrig, hungrigt, hungriga (adj.) – hungry in all its forms.

All entries have short definitions in a simple, easy to understand language (it is a school edition after all!) and list synonyms where necessary. And even though everything is in Swedish and seems very daunting in the beginning, it is not. The book is aimed at students in grade 6 and above and has just the right level of complexity for that crowd. Which incidentally, happens to be just perfect for beginning to intermediate students of Swedish. Yes, I said “beginner”. How else are you going to learn all those “en” and “ett” nouns? The book is also suitably grown-up and devoid of pictures, so there’s no shame in toting it around to your Swedish class.

In short, a truly excellent book. And this site – Bokus not only has it in stock, but also offers ordering instructions in English (bless their little hearts). Sweden has tons of internet bookstores, though Bokus was the only one I could find that provides help for non-Swedish speaking customers.

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  1. Chris:

    Can I still order from here if I live in the United States? Learning swedish is hard for me since I have no one to speak or type swedish too since my swedish friends are lazy so thank you very much for this blog. It helps me a lot.

    I’m still a beginner though! haha one day I’ll comment in swedish!

  2. Anna:

    Hi Chris!
    You know what? I just checked with them and they don’t deliver to the US. They accept orders from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, even from Japan and South Korea, but not the US. I will try to find another on-line bookstore that does. In the meantime, I sent an email to Bokus and we’ll see what they have to say.

  3. chris:

    okej! tack!

  4. Daniel:

    Hello Anna and thanks for your posts.

    I have several computer programs that I use to learn and practice Svenska. The one limitation is that they don’t have an ordbok that I can search. I use the online ‘Lexin’ site when connected. However, I would like a dictionary that I could open on my computer.

    Do you know if the book you reference here (or any other) can be obtained in the electronic form?

    Thanks for the help.

  5. Anna:

    Hi Daniel!
    I know that the full-blown big people version – Norstedts svenska ordbok is available as an on-line subscription at http://www.doidoidoi.se/
    That’s the only service I know, but if you want, I can look for some others.

  6. Merril Burns:

    Thank you so much for finding a book that helps with the ‘en’, ‘ett’ problem. Now I just need to find Bokus on the net and I am on my way.

  7. Kathleen:

    This grammar blog prompted me to ask if there is a book that could help me with the one part of speech that throws me for a loop in Swedish — prepositions. Is there a book or a listing of prepositions and their use because I know most are not literal translations from English to Swedish? I speak Swedish, so if the book (or list) is geared towards Swedish-speaking people instead of English, that’s fine with me. Thanks, Kathleen

  8. Sean Schneider:

    Routledge publishes a English-Swedish Dictionary that tells you if the noun is en or ett as well as how to conjugate verbs. It’s really very good.

  9. Anna:

    Hi Sean!

    Super!!! I am thinking to gather all such info into a separate reference post! It will be very helpful, IMO. Thank you so much!!!

    I know of listings of prepositions with a few examples, but that’s it. I hope that other readers will chime in with their suggestions. But also, any Swedish ordbok has prepositions listed with examples of how they’re used. It’s just that they are listed according to their place alphabetically, and not in a separate “preposition only” list.

  10. Merril Burns:

    I cannot find the Routledge Englis-Swedish dictionay. Exactly what is the name and ISBN number?

  11. Anna:

    Hi Merril,

    I couldn’t find it either. I found two Swedish grammar books in English from Routledge, but no dictionary, not even as an out-of-print item. Maybe Sean will come back to tell us.
    And btw, Routledge website must be one of the most user unfriendly websites ever! Ugh!

    I did some serious searching yesterday, and I still must say that Svensk skolordlista is so far the best all-around resource I have found. Not just for the noun gender problem, but also for prepositions, verbs, idioms and explanations.

  12. Lelia:

    Hiya Anna,

    Do you suggest any good magazines for the beginner in learning Swedish? Where I live in the US, there are not any language classes for learning Swedish? Also, which other grammar books for learning Swedish do you think are good to have for the beginner?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers and Thank you,

  13. Sean Schneider:

    You can order the book through Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0415132444/ref=s9subs_c2_img1-rfc_p?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1GER0MEG72NBDM13JK6Q&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=139042391&pf_rd_i=468294)

    I actually got mine off of ebay which was significantly cheaper. I have seen it in the foreign language section of Waterstone’s.

  14. Charlie Anderson:

    I just received my Svensk skolordlista which I found at Pilegaard in Denmark, http://www.antikvar.dk/pilegaard . The price was slightly higher than Bokus but they deliver to the US (shipping is fairly expensive). It took about a week to get it.
    I found the Routledge dictionary, one of the Prisma series, but from the description I wasn’t sure if it actually listed the gender for each noun or if it simply discussed the issue. A sample page would have been very helpful.

    Thank you for the effort in providing the interesting and helpful discussion.