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How to Change "Noun" into "The Noun"?

I learned German for 4 years, then I learned Dutch in 55 days with Duolingo and talking with native friends every day. Obviously not fluent in either, but I do well in both. My Dutch is almost as good as my German, and my German certainly isn't bad. I surprised myself for sure!

I have problems with Swedish. I REALLY want to learn it, but I keep getting confused and I get discouraged. I hear "Elefanten" and think "Oh, plural of elephant!" and I hear "Jag" and thing "Jij/je" instead of "I"... Anyway, I guess I'll tackle one issue at a time because I'm determined to finish the tree by May.

My question: How do I change "noun" into "the noun"? For example, elefant to elefanten, and kvinna to kvinnan. Is there a rule for this, or is it just something to memorize with each word? Obviously the -en added to elefant is different from the -an ending on kvinnan.

Could someone please explain how I can know the article ending on words to turn them into the "the noun" format? I guess I'm not seeing the pattern.

Thank you!

January 8, 2015



For en words you add -(e)n to the end. Similarly for ett words -(e)t is added. If a word ends with a vowel the e is dropped. elefant+en = elefanten, kvinna+ (e)n = kvinnan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_grammar#Articles_and_definite_forms

There's also the grammar notes that may help. At the end of Food


Swedish uses two separate indefinite articles, both equivalent to the English a(n), en and ett. The former is used with en-words and the latter with ett-words, hence the names of the two groups.

When it comes to the definite form, it gets weird.

Swedish does not use a separate article like English the, instead, we add an ending to the word in question. Guess which one!

en-words take -en and ett-words take -et.

However, we do not like to have two vowels next to each other (we just think it sounds wrong). So should the word end in a vowel, we just add the corresponding consonant.



  • en sked a spoon - skeden the spoon
  • ett glas a glass - glaset the glass

At the end of Animals

Fågeln och spindeln

Hmm... did you spot the definite article at the end? Looks a bit strange, doesn't it? One would have expected "fågelen" and "spindelen". Well, to be honest, you can - in some Swedish regions (in the South for instance).

The en-word endings –el, –en, –er and –ar are very hungry endings so they eat up the following -e-, leaving us with only a consonant.


  • en fågel a bird - fågeln the bird
  • en spindel a spider - spindeln the spider

And at the end of definite forms (there also may be others these are just those that I found).

Indefinite and definite singular

All Swedish words are divided into two groups: en-words (or utrum) and ett-words (or neutrum). Unfortunately, you cannot know to which group a certain word belongs but there are some tips to have a greater chance of guessing right.

Most words are en-words Most words designating a person are en-words ¹ Have a look at the ending, many endings take the same article (e.g. –a² , –ing and –het are always en-words) ¹ One common exception is ett barn a child ² The only exceptions are ett öga, ett öra and ett hjärta.


The indefinite singular always takes an article. en-words take en and ett-words take ett

To form the definite form you simply add -en to the en-words and -et to the ett-words.


  • en bok a book - boken the book

Liebe Deutschsprachige & Lieve Nederlandstalige A special warning to you: in the vast majority of the cases, the ending -en is not a plural ending, as is German and Dutch! "Studenten" means the student. The plural of "student" is in fact "studenter).

Special cases

Swedish does not like to have two vowels next to each other, so if a word ends in a vowel, we drop the -e- in the ending.


  • en soppa a soup - soppan the soup
  • ett kaffe a coffee - kaffet the coffee

Sometimes, we do keep the -e- in the ending, but we drop the -e- in the preceding syllable instead. This happens to ett-words ending in –el, –en, and –er.


  • ett vatten a water - vattnet the water
  • socker a sugar - sockret the sugar

But why, oh, why do you do this to me? Because “vattenet”, “sockeret” would be too blurry and sound way too Danish!


Thanks! I got confused reading those before the lessons are first, now I understand it better. And the warning to German and Dutch speakers is too true... DX


I'm a native German/Dutch speaker and I can feel you! It's easy to get confused. I also see a lot of parallels to English, and sometimes even to French!


Hey, you speak / are learning all the languages I "know"/am learning! ^.^

Have you been able to get over the problem of thinking "elefanten" is elephants? If so, how do you think about it?


Hmmm.. I find it easy to "switch" language-related rules once I'm in their context. So whenever I'm doing the lessons in Duolingo, I know that I need to switch from German/Dutch to Swedish endings. But if I had to speak to some Swedish person right know, I wouldn't be able to switch that yet... xD Another trick that I'm using while learning languages: I'm trying to get a feeling for it. As there are no endings with "s" for elephants (elefant, elefanten, elefanter, elefanterna...), putting a "s" at the end of the noun should sound odd to you. The more words you learn and the more lessons you do, the more this feeling of will get implemented. This is my goal basically.


In it's simplest form, you add -en to en-words and -et to ett-words. If the word ends in a vowel (like en kvinna and ett äpple), you don't add the e to avoid back-to-back vowels (probably not the official reason). Of course there are still exceptions (like en man - mannen, ett te - teet and en vinter - vintern) which are usually due to pronunciation, but that's the main rule.


Google Translate says that kvinnat means lesbian... Why is kvinnan the woman, but kvinnat lesbian? Is there an explanation to why kvinna gets an n added? But thanks, it makes more sense now! :D

EDIT: Nevermind, I just realized it's en kvinna and I'm confusing myself more than I should be...

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