https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

31 Features of Spoken Swedish You Simply Won't Believe!

You probably already know that de and dem are both pronounced dom, and that mig, dig, sig are said as mej, dej, sej. But there are many other differences between the written and spoken Swedish, and in this post I will try to list the most major ones. As always in language, there is variation, and people typically vary between different forms depending on emphasis and context. I'm going to present features that I think are common to colloquial spoken Swedish today, but I'm probably a bit biased toward the language of my own age group (I'm 21). Here I'm going to list the written form first, and then the alternative spoken version.

Pronouns

  • detde, typically a long vowel when stressed and short when unstressed

  • jagja, as the above

  • han and hon sometimes replace honom and henne as object forms

  • man (the generic pronoun, i.e. one) can replace jag, typically when you want to understate your own person or role in something

  • vår, vårt, er, ertvåran, vårat, eran, erat, which are actually old accusative forms.

  • det, den, du, dig, dom, då sometimes have their d realized as r after a vowel, so in that context they are pronounced as re, ren, ru, rej, rom, rå, and become suffixed to the preceding word. E.g. ja gillare!jag gillar det!

  • den, det are also shortened as -n and -t (or -en and -et) when they are not the subject of the sentence. E.g. ja gillar't!jag gillar det!

Verbs

  • är – usually e or ä, long or short depending on stress. det är = de e is commonly just de in casual speech

  • var and vara (past and infinite of är) – va, especially the former tends to be pronounced this way

  • blev (past tense of bli) is commonly replaced by vart, the past tense of the archaic verb varda as in Varde ljus! "Let there be light!". It can also replace varit (perfect participle of vara).

  • tagit (past participle of ta) - tatt, in parallel to regular monosyllabic verbs like sy (sytt, sydde*.

  • stod (past tense of stå) – for many speakers stog. Stod was actually the original version, but it has changed in parallel to many other past tenses ending in -og, such as log, dog, slog, drog.

  • Furthermore, past tenses ending in -g like log, drog, såg, flög and stog can drop this final g, so we get lo, do, så, flö, sto. This has a slight dialectal/rural color to it though.

  • The past tense of regular verbs ending in -a, e.g. gillade, tvättade, lagade, is often just -a instead of -ade, so it becomes identical to the infinitive: gilla, tvätta, laga etc.

  • The final -r in the present tense is regularly omitted when next word begins with a consonant, e.g. jag gillar katter > ja gilla katter. As you can see, in this case it becomes identical to the simplified past tense. The exception is dental consonants (t, d, s, n, l) where you typically (but not always) have retroflexion - the r "jumps over" to the following word and changes the articulation of the consonant. E.g. jag gillar datorer > ja gilla rdatorer.

Nouns

  • The plural of en-words ending in -a is written as -or, e.g. kvinna - kvinnor, but is often pronounced -er, i.e. kvinner. It depends on dialect though and many speakers (including myself) vary between the two.

Adjectives

  • Adjectives ending in -ig / -igt are are usually pronounced without the g, so they become * -i / -it. For example rolig, jobbigt > roli, jobbit*.

  • Adjectives ending in -skt (neuter form) are commonly pronounced -st. So fantastiskt > fantastist.

Other common words

  • och – long or short å depending on stress

  • att – commonly a short å when unstressed, and then identical in pronunciation to unstressed och.

  • medme or

  • ja (i.e. "yes") is sometimes just a (typically long). When unstressed jag can also have this form, but it's less common. And yes, Swedes managed to shorten a one-syllable word.

  • var (i.e. where?) is replaced by vart (i.e. where to?). This is often lamented as the deprived speech of the younger generation, but to be honest I've heard it in all age groups.

  • vad ("what?") – va

  • vilken, vilkavicken, vicka

  • någon, någotnån, nåt (with a short vowel)

  • sådan, sådantsån, sånt (with a short vowel)

  • sedansen (with a short vowel, not to be confused with sen as in "late", which has a long vowel)

  • medanmedans or mens (the latter has a short vowel)

  • tillbakatillbaks

  • varandra - varann

  • inte is sometimes 'nte (the initial i is dropped), especially after vowels e.g. ska inte > ska'nte). In some dialects, especially Finland Swedish, it is instead int (vet inte > vet int)

  • In some dialects, especially in western Sweden and Gothenburg, väl (as in det ska jag väl inte?) is replaced by la (short vowel). It is thought these both come from the word välan being contracted in different ways.

I also want to make clear than I in this post try to describe how Swedish is commonly spoken, not how it should be spoken, which is another question entirely. I hope this was informative and somewhat interesting, and if anyone has anything to add, please comment below!

August 5, 2015

25 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/tjasonham

Oh my god, I love this! Thanks so much! I feel like these details are often glossed over (because they are probably a distraction when starting to learn) but they become so important for actually understanding anyone.

Back home in Canada most(?) English-speaking Canadians can read in French but very few can actually understand it because we are not taught some of the most basic local pronunciations: 'il' (he) is pronounced 'y', 'elle' (she) is usually pronounced 'â', 'et' (and) is usually replaced by 'pis' (then)... the list goes on... for a while.

August 11, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

Wow, interesting! I haven't heard those in European French, do you know if they are particular to Québec? Also I'm very glad you found the post useful!

August 12, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tjasonham

'Elle - â' is very specific to Canada from what I understand (although very rarely typed out), while 'Il -- y' is super widespread across La Francophonie. However, whenever I see common contractions like 'yé' (il est) and 'ya' (il y a) I have a good hunch that the person is Canadian because typing those things out is considered acceptable by Canadians on the internet while I feel like in France they would be seen as childish spelling errors. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

In Canada there are also a lot of contractions that are only reserved for very informal/regional speech and almost never typed out. For example, the utterance 'je suis à' can be contracted to ch't'à, which also can make 'je suis allé' get realized as 'ch't'allé'.

There are also common words like "moi", "toi" that can be spelled/pronounced archaically as "moé" and "toé" to emphasize a playful sense of solidarity or familiarity between French Canadians.

Another great word is 'astheure' (which I think is also used in Louisiana). It is a contraction of 'à cette heure' and is a more common way to say 'maintenant'.

I guess, on that note it'd be interesting to know which Swedish contractions wouldn't get typed out (even among teens) because they'd come off as a gauche spelling error lol.

August 12, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

"Astheure", I like it! Sounds like the French version of the name Astrid, though it would be awkward to have " now" as your name... Anyway. Lots of interesting info! Do you know if maintentant is ever written "mainant" or something similar? And is the "t" in "ch't'à" the same phenomenon as in e.g. "a-t-il", where it's inserted to prevent vowels clashing?

Well, I think teenagers and kids in Sweden are pretty liberal about using contractions and abbreviations online, but of course it decreases the older you get. It's also pretty common even among adults to not follow basic spelling conventions online, for example they write compound nouns with spaces, and use apostrophes with genitives (an influence from English likely). A lot of people online also write " dom" online.

But I guess e/ä for är is pretty stigmatized for anyone above 15. The -re/-ren and -t/-n forms of pronouns have the same status, i.e. are pretty uncommon. Especially the latter has somewhat of a rural/dialectal association, but sometimes people use them humorously. "Va" both for "var" and "vad" also are pretty uncommon, unless it's "what?" as an exclamation - "va?". "Och" is rarely written as å, and "att" even less so. Att can be left out in speech and informal writing pretty often too. Sån/nån and tillbaks/medans are pretty common when writing online though.

August 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tjasonham

Yup, to prevent vowels from clashing. Maintenant is an annoyingly long but common word that you must spell out entirely, except for in super lazy informal chatting, where "maintenant", "seulement" and "tellement" become "mtn", "slm" and "tlm". I think because of autocorrect/prediction it has become rarer. Compare to "s'il te plaît" which to me sounds almost pedantic to write out completely when in a Facebook status or something.

Tillbaks/medans reminds me of the superfluous S in "anyways" or "e talz" instead of "e tal" (English: "and so on") in twee female Brazilian Portuguese.

August 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

I don't know, but I think it might be a thing with adverbs. I read somewhere that present participles with an -s are the result of the "s" spreading from certain adverbs with an -s the end. This form of the participle can only be used as an adverb, which explains the spread of s. For example "Han kom gåendes". So tillbaks/medans might be examples of the same kind of generalization.

August 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JoakimEk

I can also add that some Swedes use different "humming sounds", sometimes together with a facial expression or gesture. Mostly to answer simple questions, and "mM" for yes or okay is probably the most common (or "mHM" to add a surprise). As you see, they can't really be written. But it can also be used to answer no, ask What?, express indecisiveness etc. If you tell a story, the listener might also give hums now and then, to kind of acknowledge the things said. (Unlike some other countries, it is usually considered rude to interrupt someone when they are talking, so this small hum or just nodding of the head shows that at least you are listening.)

And some people/dialects will say "väl" (with short ä) as "la", and will also drop the i in "inte" if it follows. "Du ska väl inte äta den!?" becomes "Du ska-la-nte äta den!?", meaning "You're not going to eat that, are you!?". The "väl" used like this corresponds to the "are..., are'nt you" construct in English)

May 8, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

I'm not sure if the humming sounds are specific to Swedish, but it is certainly common. Maybe speakers of other languages could give some input? But I will add what you said about -'nte and la, those are good points. Shame on me for missing la by the way, being a (transplanted) resident of Gothenburg!

May 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Snommelp

If I recall correctly, there's a certain region of Sweden where ja is replaced by a sound that I have no clue how to recreate in text form... it's sort of a sharp inhalation through your teeth.

August 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ravnin

This is common and found throughout Scandinavia, but to varying degree.

August 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/HoroTanuki

shwoop

June 18, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

Oh yeah, that's common in northern Sweden. It's essentially saying "ja" or "jo" but while breathing in (which is called an ingressive sound), and it means the same thing ("yes"). You can hear it here: https://youtu.be/URgdIAz4QNg

August 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/robinsdave

That is really cool, and one of the weirdest things I've learned about anything in a while!

August 6, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/TheSlavLad

Lol I can't believe that. It's hilarious!

August 6, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/.Storr.

That is really interesting. I was confused about differences in Duolingo pronunciation and Youtube pronunciation but now I understand. Thank you very much!

August 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

Yes, the TTS here on Duolingo tends to have a pronunciation that is closer to written than to spoken language, so I can see how it is confusing.

August 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Glennebanan

Clickbait! Haha, just kidding. This is great! Thanks for putting this together, JoelWibron.

August 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

Shameless clickbait! :) It was fun to do, I'll probably add more as I think of things.

August 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/CSenhor

As someone who grew up hearing and speaking Swedish but am only now studying it formally, I thank you for including these "real world" distinctions. All languages have subtle differences between their "proper" versions and the common pronunciations that sometimes evolve. These are really important to know if you're actually trying to communicate in that language so thank you for including this valuable reference. In my case, I'm much more familiar with colloquially spoken Swedish so I am often surprised when I see how the words I know are actually supposed to be spelled.

May 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/edo_farias

Such an amazing post. I'v been in sweden for a few month and this is totally true, Also I've noticed that "Och" is pronounced as "okaa" or "okee" with a stressed "K".

July 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/RG710

Thanks, the explanations help a lot.

August 6, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Joel__W

You're welcome! Happy to help.

August 12, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/RG710

Wow, this is extremely helpful. Thanks for posting it helps me a lot to understand the way Swedish are being spoken, before this it's a bit weird to hear how some words.

August 9, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/yogabonnie

thanks! although you are probably long gone from duolingo! thanks

November 23, 2018
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