Swedish Language Blog

Preteritum – the Swedish Past Tense Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

We’ve learned all kinds of different tenses here at Transparent, along with different verb forms.  Now it’s time to learn how to say learned.  It’s time for the past tense.

Since we already know how to put a verb into the imperative, creating the past tense, or preteritum, is no problem at all.  Especially with the help of a few handy rules.  Keep in mind, there are exceptions, and we’ll list a few below, but in general these will act as a guide.

For imperatives that end in a vowel, we just need to add a –de.

Imperativ + -de = Preteritum
Sluta ————–> Slutade
Krama ————–> Kramade
Stanna ————–> Stannade

We actually do the exact same thing for verbs that end in (most consonants) in the imperative form as well.  For example:

Imperativ + -de = Preteritum
Ring ————–> Ringde
Känn ————–> Kännde
Följ ————–> Följde

However, we do have a few that deviate slightly.  If the imperative ends in a k, p, s, or t, We will add a –te instead of a –de.

Imperativ + -te = Preteritum
(-er verb som slutar i k, p, s, och t)
Tänk ————–> Tänkte
Köp ————–> Köpte
Läs ————–> Läste
Byt ————–> Bytte

And then there are our short verbs.  These always tend to be a little bit different.  Here we are going to add –dde.  For example:

Imperativ + -dde = Preteritum
Korta verb:
Tro ————–> Trodde
Bo ————–> Bodde
Klä ————–> Klädde

And finally, our exceptions.  These include our strong verbs, just like in English, some verbs in Swedish are considered strong verbs.  Like the verb to drink.

Starka verb och oregelbundna verb:
Skriv ————–> Skrev
Drick ————–> Drack
Var ————–> Var
Gör ————–> Gjorde
Ha ————–> Hade

With all that in mind (and there is plenty to keep in mind) good luck!

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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. fernando:

    many thanks, it is so clearly explain!! it now make sense

  2. Marcus Cederström:

    Good to hear!

  3. Rafael:

    Thank you very much!

  4. Marcus Cederström:

    Glad it was helpful.

  5. Dee:

    Marcus… you did a greater job in a couple paragraphs than my teacher did in 2 hours.
    Thank you very much, and keep up the good work!
    All the best for you! 🙂

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @Dee So glad it helped you out!

  6. Johanna:

    This helped me get a ten in my test thanks so much

  7. Marcus Cederström:

    That’s great to hear!

  8. Jakob:

    Thanks Marcus – there are some really good tips here that have helped me – I do have a question though – could you explain when you use the different types of past tense?

    You’ve done a great job on explaining how to form the endings but I would like to know when is the appropriate time to use each way of past tense speaking – e.g.

    I worked – Jag arbetade
    I have worked – Jag har arbetat

    I was under the impression that you always use the perfect form (har arbetat) to express a continuous action, continuous time or if we now have a result of the action…
    and the preteritum should be used when talking about a completed action in the past basically saying that the action both started and finished in the past.

    Do you agree? if so, what about when you are talking about TODAY.. is there a right or wrong way? – for me you could say I called her – Jag ringed henne I’ve called her – jag har ringt henne.

    I hope this makes sense.

  9. Eylül:

    Thank you so,so much.I live in Turkey and i couldn’t find any Swedish course nearby to my house.But it helped me a lot.
    Thanks again.

  10. Marcus Cederström:

    The perfect form can be used to describe an action that is completed but still has relevance in the present. So it links the past to the present.

    The past tense is more definite. It’s something that has already been completed.

    For example:
    Han har ätit middag och nu kräks han.
    Han åt middag och kräktes.

    The first one is showing things that have happened, he ate dinner, that now has a direct relevance to the present, he is throwing up.

    The second one is just telling us something that happened. He ate dinner and then he threw up. It is already done and over with.

    So with something about today, t’s going to be completely dependent on context. Do you want to tie the sentence to something that is relevant now? The perfect tense is a good option. Do you just want to tell about something that happened and is done with? The past tense is a good option.

    Hopefully that helps a little bit!

  11. gabir ayim:

    This is my first month in studying swedish by myself .And I found your way of explaing the ” Preteritum ” very simple and clear. So I decided to go back and check your previous lessons. Thank you very much

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @gabir ayim Glad it was helpful!

  12. Teresa:


    In Swedish, the perfect is used with the presence of the adverb “idag” (‘today’). I am wondering whether you can use the preteritum with “idag”. Thank you very much for your help.