Swedish Language Blog

Dogs and houses: Swedish gender and articles Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Grammar, Swedish Language

Hej! In today’s episode of Swedish with Steve, I discuss the two Swedish genders (common and neuter) and their respective articles, both indefinite and indefinite.

In Swedish, there are two genders, or genus: common and neuter. The Swedes call these two genders utrum and neutrum, respectively. Many second-language students of Swedish, however, prefer to call them “-n-gender” and “-t-gender”, due to the standard declensions they take on.

An example of a word of common gender or utrum is hund, which means “dog”. An example of a word of neuter gender or neutrum is hus, which means “house”.

Words of common gender take on the indefinite article en:

Det här är en hund. – This is a dog.

Words of neuter gender, on the other hand, take on the indefinite article ett:

Det här är ett hus. – This is a house.

As you can see, Swedish uses indefinite articles in basically the same way as English. Definite articles, on the other hand, are used slightly differently.

In definite form, common gender nouns take on the definite suffix -en.

Det här är hunden. – This is the dog.

As you see here, rather than preceding “dog” in the simple noun phrase “the dog”, Swedish tacks on the definite article to the end of the noun. Hund becomes hunden. In the case of hus, the word becomes huset:

Det här är huset. – This is the house.

Not that hard, right? It gets a little more complicated when you’ve got an adjective in a definite noun phrase. For example:

den snälla hundenthe friendly dog

As you can see, the phrase contains two instances of the definite article: one at the end of the noun, and one before the adjective. Don’t let this scare you away; it’s actually a very simple rule: When you have anything within a definite noun phrase that precedes the noun itself, you add another instance of the definite article to the beginning of the phrase. This is a way to mark where the phrase begins and ends. For common gender noun phrases, the initial definite article is den, as in the example. For neuter gender words, it’s det, as in:

det gula husetthe yellow house

So, that’s all about Swedish gender and articles. Before I go, I would like to emphasize that the two Swedish genders DO NOT correspond to masculine and feminine in the Romance languages. The Swedish language originally had three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter; but the first two have since been meshed together to form the common gender. That’s why, for example, man and kvinna, “man” and “woman”, have the same grammatical gender, namely utrum.

Hope you’ve learned something today! Glad sommar! 😉


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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.


  1. Bonie:

    Hi there,

    Just wanted to thank you for this post – couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I grapple with possessive and demonstrative pronouns on Babbel – I was struggling to work out the difference between using Det which seemed to be universal, and when you use den/det, as all examples looked the same to me!

    But it makes total sense that it is a way of marking the beginning and ending of a noun phrase. And now I understand!

    Thanks very much for this post, your blog has helped me so much.


  2. Pal P:


    Thank you for this post! I have been following your blog for a couple of weeks. I wish I had come across it earlier, you have answered many of my questions that early confused me during my SFI classes. Thank you.

    With regards to this post, I am confused about the first part.

    Won’t – This is a dog be ‘DEN här är en hund’ instead of ‘Det här är en hund’ ? Or do we use det här for both the genders?

    • Steve:

      @Pal P Great to hear our blog has helped you! Regarding your question, I have to say, I wondered the very same thing when I first started learning Swedish! As it turns out, both are used, but in different situations. In general, if you are introducing something new, you use det här. However, if you are introducing something that is a type of something else, depending on the gender of that something else, you might use den här or det där. Kind of a fuzzy explanation, but here is an example:

      Your friend is describing a set of sculptures. One of them looks like a dog (en hund). She describes this particular sculpture by saying this:
      Och den här skulpturen är en hund.
      = And this sculpture is a dog.

      But it is already clear that she is talking about sculptures, she might leave out the noun skulpturen and say this:
      Och den här är en hund.
      = And this (one) is a dog.

      Then, a real live dog comes into the room. She tells you that it, in fact, is a dog:
      Det här är en hund.
      = This is a dog.

      You could think of det här in this case as meaning “the thing you see here in front of you”, rather than rerferring specifically to the noun hund, which has a specific grammatical gender.

      But keep in mind that the gender of den här in the first example refers to the gender of the noun skulptur (common gender). If she were showing you trees (träd, neuter gender), then she would use det här:
      Och det här (trädet) är en lönn.
      = And this (tree) is a maple.

      Hope that makes sense! I’ll make this into a full post so more people will see it.