Swedish Language Blog

Swedish Adjectives – following a possessive word Posted by on May 10, 2009 in Grammar

“I hate those Swedish adjectives,” my friend proclaimed, “they make no sense!”
My friend has been studying Swedish for a few weeks already, and as she says, it’s been a slow going, painful process. The fact that she’s doing it mostly by herself, with only her Swedish boyfriend as a reluctant teacher, outside of Sweden, is not helping her efforts either.

This time it was the adjectives that incurred her wrath. She explained the problem to me, because apparently her Swedish guy was no help.
I know that she expected a clear, logical answer to her grammar question from me, but unfortunately, I had to disappoint her. All I could say was “well… that’s how it is in Swedish.”

And what made her so upset? This goofy, little thing that Swedish adjectives do when they’re stuck between a possessive word and a noun.

Take a look:
We say – min bil (my car) and ny bil (a new car), right?
So why do we get this when we put it all together?

  • min nya bil – my new car

See what happened?
The adjective changes its form and gets the definite ending –a.

Why does it happen? I don’t know. It just does.

Here’s a few more examples:

  • ditt hus – your house
  • stort hus – a big house


  • ditt stora hus – your big house

It doesn’t matter if the possessive word is a pronoun or a noun. The adjective still changes.

  • pojkens mormor – boy’s grandmother
  • fattig mormor – poor grandmother


  • pojkens fattiga mormor – boy’s poor grandmother

So, in conclusion:
1.    If you have an adjective following a possessive word and preceding a noun, the adjective must be in the definite form ending in –a.
2.    There’s no other way but to learn and remember this rule.
3.    No need to get upset about it.
4.    Because really, this is one of the easier quirks of Swedish grammar.

See? It wasn’t that difficult after all. 🙂

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  1. BM:

    It’s a type of adjective agreement. The “a” at the end of the adjective shows that the following noun is definite. It means that even if you don’t catch the first word, you can tell from the adjective that your conversation partner is talking about a specific object, and not any object. It fulfills a similar function to gender agreement.

  2. Anna:

    BM, yes, but the problem for people who are just beginning to learn Swedish is the fact even though the adjective is definite, the noun that follows it is NOT. 🙂

  3. BM:

    The noun that follows IS definite, it’s just not marked on the noun. Which would indeed be a problem for those who have been led to believe that the difference between definite and indefinite can be summed up in an article or suffix, instead of being a property a word has regardless of marking.

    But just ignore that. It’s probably simpler just to say “it’s the rules”!

  4. timan:

    Anna , i’ve to admit ! you ‘ve proved that you are incomparable ! as we suggested before , you have to use this talent to make many people happier in this (SW). Sad world.

    I don’t know who the hell is the engineer or the engine…there are order.. you have to dance with it’s tune! as long as it sounds good… here ..pardon! we ‘ve .. dead phrase : stort hus ! you put it on action or let me say it in this way.. resurrection form .. just bring this ( a ) from nowhere and put it softly at the position of Affix..ditt storta hust ..that ( t ) it doesn’t sound good drop it and go on.(. A) fixed every thing just fine..

  5. Linda från kalifornien:

    Grammar is so complicated and annoying to me in any language. I really can only offer this suggestion, in regards to Swedish not making grammatical “sense”, when one is just starting to learn. Don’t fight it, that’s just how it is and has been, it will not change to make sense in English as most of us would want it too. I gave up long ago, trying to make exact translations or understand why it is so, I just go with the flow now. It makes it less frustrating and I find I’m getting use to it and accept that it is what it is “Swedish”.

    Enjoy, it will come easier if one doesn’t make it unnecessarily harder than it has to be. Lycka till to all who like me are learning and loving in Swedish!

  6. Luke (Sydney):

    Hi Anna, this brought back memory of my early English learning days with “a big blue house” vs “a blue big house”. So is there a adjectives ordering rule in Swedish as well?

  7. Azado:

    tack, det var till hjälp!