En or ett

How do I know if "an" is "en" or "ett"?

May 27, 2019


Copy-pasting from my info post here:

What's the difference between "en" and "ett"?

A long time ago, Swedish used to have three genders - masculine, feminine, and neuter. Over time, the masculine and feminine genders merged into a single one, called the common gender.

The common gender consists of what we call en-words, because when we want to say "one" of something, we say en for those. The neuter gender consists of what we call ett-words, using the same logic.

For instance:

  • ko ("cow") is an en-word, so "one cow" is en ko
  • bord ("table") is an ett-word, so "one table" is ett bord

This means that Swedish words do not care about femininity or masculinity. So our genders are completely grammatical, and have nothing to do with biology any longer.

Similarly, the definite forms are den for en-words, and det for ett-words. So you can always tell a word's gender by their singular articles!

How do I know the gender of a word just by looking at it?

I am sorry to say that the gender of a word will most often need to be learned by heart. This post by Zzzzz... has a great list of tendencies, however:

There is no rule to know which word is ett and which is en.

Yes there are, see a list here:

Also, almost all fauna are en-words.

Oh really? , I asked that to a native one of my first days learning swedish and she told me there were no rules, she was wrong then xd, Thank you devalanteriel!

Yeah, it's a very common myth.

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