Swedish Language Blog

Swedish Nouns Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Swedish Language

Whenever learning Swedish words you have to take into account that there are always exceptions. You really do not have to ask why. Language changes all the time. Just compare for example the slang you use with the way your parents speak. Slang is one of the most dynamically developing stratum of our language. When it comes to nouns, singular & plural declinations can change in spoken language. We don´t always pronounce what we write but even the opposite is true. Not in Swedish at least, or French. We have other languages like Finnish, Italian, Hungarian where you most of the time pronounce what you read.

We usually divide the Swedish nouns into 5 groups, but there are more. The five most important groups you can see in the following table. In group 1, 4, 5 the paradigms are easy. First of all you should note that approximately 80% of the Swedish words are having EN as an article and rest are having ETT.

You guys should concentrate on Group 2 and 3, simply because they are more complicated. You can always learn the most frequent exceptions as well in a group i.e. that are important for a language learner in daily interactions.

Singular Indefinite Singular Definite Plural Indefinite Plural Definite
GROUP 1 (EN-word ending with an ”a”) En blomma

A flower


    The flower

      2,3,100 Blommor



        The flowers

          GROUP 2 (EN-words ending with ”-ing” and words with ”one syllable”, even words ending with unstressed –e, -el,-en,-er,-on,-e,-o like pojke, cykel, öken, syster, afton)Try them!!

            En tidning

            A newspaper

            En bil

            A car


              The newspaper


              The car






                  The newspapers


                  The cars

                    GROUP 3 (EN)Many loan-words from other languages ending up here there you have the stress in pronunciation on the last syllable. I have marked the stress with underline.There are a certain amount of nouns ending with only a single “r”. They belong here.
                    And words with Umlaut (vowel-changing).
                    Furthermore words ending with “-else”

                      En telefon

                      A telephone

                      En fåtölj

                      An armchair

                      En ko

                      A cow

                      En son

                      A son

                      En berättelse

                      A story


                        The telephone


                        The armchair


                        The cow


                        The son


                        The story












                            The telephones


                            The armchairs


                            The cows


                            The sons


                            The stories

                              GROUP 4 (ETT-word ending with a vowel)

                                Ett äpple

                                An Apple


                                  The apple




                                      The Apples

                                        GROUP 5 (ETT-word ending with a consonant)

                                          Ett hus

                                          The house


                                            The house

                                              1,2,100  Hus



                                                The houses


                                                  Group 1: rose: ros-rosor, slipper: toffel, tofflor. These are quite useful to know.

                                                  Group 2: daughter: dotter-döttrar (This word has so called Umlaut i.e. it´s changing its vowel in plural) You have similar examples in all German languages, for example woman-women in English.

                                                  Group 3: There are no real exceptions, since there are several nouns with Umlaut i.e. vowel-changing that you declinate in the same way. I would strongly recommend that you learn the umlaut-cases by heart.

                                                  Group 4: No exceptions.

                                                  Group 5: No Exception:

                                                  Other groups – let´s say group 6 or group 5 A (if you like) – is showing similarity with group 5. En-word that are ending with -are ususally persons and things (en förare-a driver or en telefonsvarare-an answering machine). Here we can also find otherEN- words ending with -er. Usually professions, nationalities like en elektriker-an electrition or en iranier-an Iranian for example. One En-word is ending up here because of the umlaut. A man-En man, The man-Mannen,1,2,3 Men-Män, The Men-Männen.

                                                  Then we could create a quite new group let´s say group 7 then. New English loan words that are getting -s suffix in plural indefinite form. Some of these words have got Swedish suffixes by time, but not all of them. Such examples are: container-containers or containrar, CD:er or CD:s (note whenever writing initials you build the plural like this).

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                                                  1. Emmanuelle:

                                                    Bravo for the blog! This latest post is the most useful ever to understand the jungle of Swedish learning!!!!;) I am currently trying to learn it so I can communicate better with my other half’s family (I am French he is Swedish) and my precise questions sometimes do not meet precise answers which can help to comprehend the language better and its way of working! So Many many thanks and I shall keep reeding you!:) Merci/Tak!

                                                  2. Tibor:

                                                    Hi Emmanuelle,

                                                    It makes me glad! I just saw a typo in group 4. It should be äpplen of course. Keep on going with your Swedish!!

                                                  3. Stefan:

                                                    Awesome post!

                                                  4. praveena:

                                                    TACK…. your posts are very very helpful

                                                  5. gwendoline:

                                                    It makes it lot more easier. Thanks

                                                  6. Janne:

                                                    There are 2 exceptions in Group 5.
                                                    Ett huvud (a head) Två huvuden (two heads)

                                                    Ett finger (a finger) Två fingrar (two fingers)

                                                  7. Janne:

                                                    There are also 2 exceptions in Group 4.

                                                    Ett öga (an eye), Två ögon (two eyes)

                                                    Ett öra (an ear), Två öron (two ears)

                                                  8. farshid:

                                                    I do believe that life is too short to learn svenska fluently.

                                                  9. tika:

                                                    My husband is a Swedish, but i never understand every time he tried to teach me (i know he tried his best). I also couldn’t get a “real” Swedish teacher here. Then i opened my 1st German note book and started to copy, “the way and the steps of how my teacher taught me”… then found this bloq…oohh…..this is what i need as a new learner (^_^) tack så mycket