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The five senses in Swedish Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. What are they in Swedish?

The sight of Gamla Stan (the Old Town) in Stockholm on a Spring day. The sound of waves against rock in the Swedish archipelago. The scent of trees in the forests of Norrland. The taste of a delicious fish dinner on the squares of Göteborg. The feeling of the summer wind on your face near Turning Torso in Malmö.

Sweden has many sensual experiences for the traveller. As such, it’s not a bad idea to learn how to talk about the five senses in Swedish!

De fem sinnenaThe five senses

syn[en] – sense of sight
hörsel[n] – sense of sound
luktsinne[t] – sense of smell
smaksinne[t] – sense of taste
känsel[n] – sense of touch

The letters enclosed in [brackets] are the definite endings to the nouns. The word sinne itself is a neuter-gender word ending in -t in definite form (compare ett sinne “a sense” to sinnetthe sense”).

Syn[en] can also be expressed synsinne[t] – it just sounds more formal. In normal speech, you might say:

Jag har bra syn. – I have good sight.

but at a formal conference, you might say:

Synsinnet är viktigt för människan. – The sense of sight is important for the human being.

In other words, the difference is approximately “sight” vs. “sense of sight”.

You can use the same distinguishment with hörsel[n] (“hearing”) vs. hörselsinne[t] (“sense of sound”) and känsel[n] (“touch”) vs. känselsinne[t] (“sense of touch”).

Mormor har dålig hörsel. – Grandmother has bad hearing.
Hundens hörselsinne är mer utvecklat än människans. – The dog’s sense of sound is more developed than the human’s.
Jag har ingen känsel i fingrarna! – I can’t feel my fingers! (Literally:  I have no touch in my fingers!)
Han föddes med nedsatt känselsinne. – He was born with an impaired sense of touch.

In practice, as long as you’re not at a scientific conference, it won’t matter which of the words hörsel or hörselsinne, etc., you choose – just learn the initial five words above and you’ll be good to go! Happy Swedishing! 🙂

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.