I'm having a little trouble learning the Swedish Grammer...

I don't get why sometimes it's en and sometimes it's ett. Or Min and Mitt... and so on... I would be so grateful if a fluent or somewhat fluent Swedish speaker would help me out... Thanks guys!

February 24, 2017


Back when I went to school, we we're still taught four genders: maskulinum (masculine), femininum (feminine), reale (common), neutrum (neuter). These correspond to the pronouns han (m), hon (f), den (r), det (n). The first three shares grammatical rules, though, so they have since been put in an umbrella gender called utrum (common——yeah from my short internet research it would seem English uses the word common in either case; because of that, and in order to better define what it is I am referring to, I'll be using the Swedish terms reale and utrum in this reply). Anyway, utrum = 'en' words, neuter = 'ett' words.

Most nouns in modern Swedish are reale. Old Swedish (roughly pre 1300) used to have three gender: masculine, feminine and neuter. Then things started changing and more and more nouns of the masculine and feminine nouns started blending together forming the reale gender. Today there are only a handful of nouns that are still considered masculine or feminine. For instance the klocka (watch) is still referred to as hon (~Vad är klockan? ~Hon är nio). In a certain dialect or with older people in general words that might commonly be thought of as reale, may retain their old masculine or feminine pronouns. With so few masculine and feminine words remaining—most having been gobbled up by reale—and not much of a difference in their grammatical rules*, they are now all (masculine feminine and reale) simply part of utrum, the umbrella gender.

Still, with your new-found knowledge regarding utrum you may be able to figure out some words that are very likely to have been masculine or feminine and thus be part of the utrum category. For instance man (man), tjur (bull) and lärare (teacher), are masculine and thus utrum; whereas kvinna (woman), ko (cow) and lärarinna (female teacher—somewhat archaic) are feminine and thus also utrum. Swedish essentially got simpler as time passed.

Recall how all nouns used to be masculine, feminine or neuter in old Swedish? Well a lot of nouns was grammatically gendered into masculine or feminine even though the neuter category might seem more fitting with modern eyes. And here lies the real problem: we may no longer think of the åker (field/cropland) as a masculine word, but it was thought of as such by the ancient Swedes and thus it is now part of the utrum gender. Barn (child or bairn) was and has remained a neuter word.

Now I have spent a whole lot of your time (and even more of mine) explaining how things got to be how they are, how are you to remember the gender of individual nouns in modern Swedish?

Well one way to do it would be to learn the with the defining article as has been previously mentioned. Learn the word 'bok' as 'en bok' just as you may learn 'le livre' in French. Another way may be to try to connect the word with something you can visualize; I have heard of French learners using blue for masculine nouns and pink for feminine, perhaps you could take a note from that and remember the utrum words with blue (björn→a blue bear→en björn) and neuter words as yellow (träd→a yellow tree→ett träd). Or perhaps visualize the noun in combination with some object you connect with the gender (himmel→a bear is falling from the sky→en himmel; svärd→the sword is stuck in a tree→ett svärd). It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to be a memorable image that makes you think of the gender; usually the more visceral the image is, the better.

Compound nouns (nouns made up of more than one word) get their gender from their last word, making them quite easy to learn if you already know the gender of the final word. 'Björnbär' (black berry) consists of björn (utrum) and bär (neuter), the last word is neuter, so the final product becomes 'ett björnbär' (neuter).

*Masculine and feminine still affects adjectives—compare 'den starke mannen' with 'den starka kvinnan'.

February 25, 2017

I give 1 Lingot for this. Thanks.

February 25, 2017

Good to hear that it was of some value to someone! It became more of a wall of text than I had originally planned.

February 25, 2017

I hadn't noticed that adjectives followed "old" gender. Good tip for remembering "en" vs "ett" using the flag colours. I did something similar with German: red is "der" (backwards) and black is "die" (colour of mourning) etc. Interesting grammar history lesson - thanks for sharing.

February 26, 2017

Your welcome! However, I'm gonna try to clear some things up regarding the old genders and adjectives:

It's more like a few word from the 'old' genders are still around, though housed under the utrum "super-gender". Essentially Swedish used to have the German genders (though not necessarily for the same nouns). Then masculine and feminine bled together into a new gender called reale, save for a few words, but those are still counted as being utrum (utrum = masculine + feminine + reale).

When it comes to adjective you primarily want to keep an eye out for one of those pesky lingering masculine nouns. See, the -a ending for feminine also holds true for reale; masculine, however, and particularly when the adjective is referring to an actual man, will give that -e ending. You can see this in the names of famous "the Great" world leaders such as Alexander den Store and Katarina den Stora. Or to quote Muhammad Ali 'Jag är den störste!' (would have been 'största' had he been a woman, but Mr. Ali knew his Swedish grammar).

And I hoped someone would notice my patriotic choice of flag colours. ;) But of course, it's a case of whatever foats your boat.

February 26, 2017

Got it. Your comments sent me googling and I found the following link useful but I prefer your examples!

Thanks again Azouras.

February 26, 2017

You're welcome! And that link provided me with another English word for utrum: uter. :)

February 27, 2017

This helped a ton! Thanks for taking my time, and much more of yours to explain this! You also answered my question why child was ett barn instead of en barn.

February 28, 2017

Glad I could help! :)

March 1, 2017

In Swedish, every noun has a gender. There are two different genders, which are called "common" and "neuter". If a noun is common, you will use min and en with it. Example: en katt, min katt. (a cat, my cat.) If it's neuter, you will use mitt and ett. Example: ett hus, mitt hus. (a house, my house.)

Generally speaking, most animals and living things are of the common gender, but for the most part the gender is "random" more or less. The best thing to do is probably to learn the gender when learning the word, so you'll need to think of cat as "en katt" instead of just "katt" .

February 24, 2017

Than you so much!!

February 28, 2017

1) See e.g.

So not really fixed rules to determine it. So more kind of random. You have kind of know it by doing, so that you hopefully after of a lot of practicing kind of intuitively feel what is right or what is wrong. But that will very probably take many years to achieve, e.g. after a lot of reading where you have yourself stored that visual patterns, so you are able to recognize deviations.



1) Probably (always) learn the nouns together with its indefinite article,

  • E.g. learn 'en flicka' (instead of only 'flicka').
  • E.g. learn 'en man' (instead of only 'man').
  • E.g. learn 'ett hus' (instead of only 'hus')

and so on.

In that case they are kind of 'units' which you learn together.

It might then maybe be easier to recognize and spot if it is correct or not.


2) Now what if you should have to guess yourself if you have to choose '-en' or '-et' (in case you really can not know it and also can not look it up)?

So I did a little statistical analysis on 455 Swedish nouns from

It shows that:

  • 320 nouns use '-en', or thus 320 / 455, or thus about 70 percent.

  • 135 nouns use '-ett', or thus 135 / 455, or thus about 30 percent.

Thus if you have to guess it is about 70 / 30 or thus more than 2 times more likely that guessing '-en' is correct than if guessing '-ett'.

Conclusion: So best go for '-en' in that case or when you really do not know it.

So there seems to be much more nouns using in '-en' than in '-ett' in Swedish.

Note: And when it are living objects, as stated above, it is anyhow more likely that '-en' is correct.

So at least some (very little) guiding rules.


According to 'Teach Yourself Swedish':

A noun is the word or name for a person, place or thing.

E.g. en man (=a man), England, Andrew, en gata (=a street), ett name (a name).

Swedish nouns are either -en words (the so called 'common' gender) or -ett words (='neuter' gender).

About 75% of the nouns are -en words, and 25% are -ett words.

Although most words for living things are common gender and the words for many 'things' are neuter gender, there are unfortunately no simple rules to tell whether a noun is common gender or neuter gender.

February 24, 2017

Just a tip, to find out if -en or -ett for a noun via Google Translate, you should translate from English (not another language, because sometimes it does not show the article then) to Swedish, and put an 'a' in front of the noun.

E.g. fill in in Google Translate, in English:

a man

you will then be able to quickly check what the (indefinite) article is in Swedish (or almost any other natural language).

en man

when you see the check mark 'V' besides it has also been checked by a native speaker.

The same method works e.g. for Danish, Norwegian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, ...

February 25, 2017
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