Swedish Language Blog

Swedish Verbs, part 1 Posted by on Sep 12, 2008 in Grammar

Long, long time ago, I think in one of my earliest posts, I said that Swedish verbs are easier than English. And for the most part, that is indeed true. There is no goofy “–s” in the third person singular, no irregular “to be”, the auxiliary “do” is gone altogether, and “have/has” is simply “har”. Easy peasy. For the most part.

The biggest and probably most confusing difference is that in Swedish, the infinitive form of a verb (that would be the form preceded by “to” in English, the basic form you’d find in a dictionary) is actually different from the form you would use when combined with a noun or a personal pronoun.

It works like this:

  • att jobba – to work


  • Jag jobbar. – I work, or – I am working.

It’s fairly easy from here on – you, he, she, we, you, they – are all followed by the same form “jobbar”.
And as you can see, there is only in present tense, which could be translated as either present simple, or present continuous (the one with the –ing form) in English. It does make things a lot less complicated, wouldn’t you say?

For many, many verbs that’s all you need to do to make their present tense forms. Just stick an –r at the end of the infinitive and your work here is done.

And quite logically, such verbs are called “ar verbs”. And they are mostly nice, regular verbs in all other tenses.

There is another group, which through some very odd coincidence, for the most part (but not always) corresponds to irregular verbs in English. You know, those that get all funky in the past tense, like buy-bought-bought, for example.

Those verbs in Swedish behave like this:

  • att köpa – to buy


  • Jag köper. – I buy, or – I am buying.

See? Instead of tacking “r” at the end, first you remove the “a” of the infinitive, and then add “er”. Tah-dah! Done!

Again, quite logically, these verbs are called “er verbs”. And for the most part, they are nasty, irregular little suckers in the past tense.

There is a third group of short, little guys that behave in a whole different manner, and we will talk about them next time. For now, this is what you need to remember:

  • Some verbs acquire “r” at the end of their infinitive form and become “ar” verbs in the present tense. (“AR” VERBS)
  • And some verbs, FIRST drop the “a” of their infinitive form, and THEN add the ending “er” in the present tense. (“ER” VERBS)
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  1. ceci:

    ok! i was wondering about the -ing form in swedish! now it is clear! thank you anna!

  2. luke:

    Hi Anna,

    Does it mean all verbs in their infinitive form ended with an ‘a’?
    Please feel free to laugh at my silly question.


  3. Anna:

    Hi Luke,
    no, not all of them, but about 95% of them do end in “a”. I think I need to write a post about those exceptional verbs that end in something else.

  4. Luke (Sydney):

    Jag se…if one actually says that. I do have a free BYKI and had a quick flick through verbs but didn’t pick up that there are many finished with an ‘a’! That’s just amazing.


  5. Jaunius:


    Shouldn’t Luke in his comment say “Jag ser” instead of “Jag se”?:)

  6. Sinead:

    Finally a easy explanation of the swedish verb groups that isn’t written in grammer speak! Tack!

  7. Marcus Cederström:

    Jaunius, se is the infinitive and imperative form so if you are using it with jag, it would be jag ser.

    And glad to hear, Sinead.

  8. tesfaldet:

    Thank u bro.Good and more easy explanation.