Every Other Hippo is Swedish (And Other Useful Frequency Terms) Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Grammar, Swedish Language

There are some phrases in foreign languages that are just good to know. Hello (hej), good bye (hej då) thanks (tack), where is the bathroom (var är toaletten), every other hippo is Swedish (varannan flodhäst är svensk), you know, the usual.

But within those useful terms are some things that can be tricky, like frequency terms and the word for every other, varannan. Depending on what we are talking about, that word will change. Let’s say that you call your mom every other day, so:
I call my mom every other day = Jag ringer min mamma varannan dag.

Let’s say though that you have poor cell phone service and only call your mom every other year.
I call my mom every other year = Jag ringer min mamma vartannat år.

So what happened? Varannan became vartannat. Just like so many other things in Swedish, en and ett dictate what form various words will take. So if we are using an ett word, ett år for example, we use vartannat. If we are using an en word, en dag for example, we use varannan.

The same thing happens if we want to describe something happening less frequently, maybe every seventh time for example. Maybe you eat candy every seventh day, on Saturday for example (lördagsgodis!).
I eat candy every seventh day. = Jag äter godis var sjunde dag.

Maybe you’re a stickler for good dental hygiene though and you only allow yourself to eat candy every seventh year.
I eat candy every seventh year. = Jag äter godis vart sjunde år.

Just like with varannan and vartannat, we get var and vart depending on whether the word is an en word (en dag) or an ett word (ett år).

You can do the same if you want to describe that every other car is black (varannan bil är svart). Or that every third house is red (vart tredje hus är rött). Pretty simple, right? The only slight exception to this is that if you want to say every day or every year or every car or every house, you use the word varje: varje dag, varje år, varje bil, varje hus. Below you’ll find a short list of some of the words you’ll need, a few examples, and a quick practice prompt. Good luck!



Varje Varje
Varannan Vartannat
Var tredje Vart tredje
Var fjärde Vart fjärde
Var femte Vart femte
Var sjätte Vart sjätte
Var tionde Vart tionde
Var tjugonde Vart tjugonde
Var hundrade Vart hundrade
Var tusende Vart tusende


Jag äter frukost varje dag.
Jag ser mina föräldrar varannan månad.
Jag åker till Sverige vart tredje år.

Now it’s your turn in the comments section: Skriv två saker du gör. Använd varje (eller var tredje eller var femte eller…).

**Some feedback from our readers reminded me that I forgot to include the word(s) var(t)enda, which means “every single.”**

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Nash:

    Hej! Din blogg hjälper mig så mycket. jag har hittar ett fel om…

    “You can do the same if you want to describe that every other car is black (varannan bil är svart). Or that every third house is red (vartannat hus är rött). ”

    Sista paragraf säger du “every third house” men det är “every second house” 🙂

    Min Svenska är inte så bra! Förlåt mig!

  2. Zaher:

    Hey there , its pretty useful lesson thanks ..

    Hey Nash , what is your problem , there is no mistakes in paragraphs .. lol

  3. Marcus Cederström:

    Good catch Nash! I’ve fixed that.

  4. Sheila Morris:

    Jag försöker åka till Sverige vartannat år, men det brukar bli till vart tredje år istället.

    Men jag använder det svenska språket varenda dag!