Mysterious -s, part 1


I happened to read on a forum on The Local that someone was confused about when to use an -s on verbs in Swedish. There are three different occasions when there is an –s, and in this article we’ll learn about –s in passive voice.

-s expressing passive voice (passiv form)

Passive voice is used when we don’t know who is taking action or when it isn’t interesting who is doing it. In grammar terms we can express it as that we don’t have an agent in the sentence.

Passive voice is often used in newspaper articles and also news on TV and radio.  Here are a few examples from Dagens Nyheter today:

17 skadades efter busskrock utanför Piteå.

(17 were injured after a bus crash outside Piteå.)

Sprängämnesstoff hittades i flickans sko.

(Explosive materials were found in the girl’s shoe.)

Mordbrännare jagas i Eslöv.

(Fire-raiser is being chased in Eslöv.)

In the examples above we don’t know or perhaps don’t find it interesting who injured the 17 people, who found the explosives in the shoe or who is chasing the fire-raiser in Eslöv.

The passive voice is also used in instructions, recipes for example, and in formal language. You will find passive forms on a carton of milk or on a bill like this:

Öppnas här!

(To be opened here.)

Betalas senast 100831

(To be paid at the latest by Aug. 31, 2010).

As you have seen the passive voice can be used for different tenses (actually all tenses) and it’s not complicated to construct the passive version of the verb.  You more or less just ad a -s to the regular form except for the present tense where you need to remove the -r. It looks like this:

Present tense:

skadar (regular)               skadas (passive)

köper (regular)                 köps/köpes (passive)

syr (regular)                      sys (passive)

skriver (regular)              skrives/skrivs (passive)

Past tense:

skadade (regular)            skadades (passive)

köpte (regular)                 köptes (passive)

sydde (regular)                 syddes (passive)

skrev (regular)                  skrevs (passive)

We can also create the passive voice with something called “the perfect participle” which is more common in spoken Swedish and less formal Swedish. I will discuss this in a different post but I can show you what our s-passives would look like constructed with a participle:

skadades – blev skadad

(was hurt)

hittades – blev hittad

(was found)

Sara the Swedish Teacher

Liten, litet, lilla & små

Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it.

Liten or litet?
“Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example:

Min pappa har en liten hund. Hon heter Lisa.
(My dad has a little/small dog. She is called Lisa.)

“Litet” is, as you might have figured out already, the form the adjective should have when referring to a ett-word, that is a noun with the gender “ett”. Like this:

Sverige är ett litet land.
(Sweden is a small country.)

What about “lilla” then? Well, “lilla” is so to speak the definite form of the adjective “liten/litet”. The problem when learning Swedish is often to remember when to use this definite form of an adjective. First of all you should use the definite form of the adjective after the pronouns “den” and “det”. I’ll show you with a couple of examples:

Vi har hyrt den lilla röda stugan där borta.
(We have rented the little red cottage over there.)

Jag ska bo i det lilla rummet.
(I will stay in the small room.)

The same thing happens when we use the demonstrative pronouns “den här”, “det här” (this one) and “den där”, “det där” (that one). Examples:

Den här lilla jackan kan jag inte ha när det är kallt.
(I can’t wear this little jacket when it’s cold outside.)

I det här lilla rummet bor jag. Kom in!
(This is my little room. Come on in!)

Den där lilla flickan är min dotter.
(That little girl is my daughter.)

Det där lilla problemet ska vi nog kunna lösa.
(I’m sure we will be able to sort that out.)

We will also have to use the “lilla” form following a possessive pronoun – “min”, “din”, “hans”, “hennes”, “sin”, “er”, “vår”, “deras” and all the different form sof them according to gender and number. I’m going to make my dad proud and use his dog as an example again:

Hans lilla hund heter Lisa.
(His little dog is named Lisa)

The same thing applies for the genitive form of a noun:

Pappas lilla hund tycker om att bada.
(My dad’s little dog enjoys getting a bath.)

“Små” is simply the plural form of “liten”. Look at this:

Små grytor har också öron.
(An idiomatic expression that literally translates to “small pots also have ears”.)

De här små kakorna är jättegoda.
(These little cookies are really tasty.)

De där små kakorna var verkligen jättegoda. 
(Those little cookies really were tasty.)

Mesta eller flesta?


A while ago I got a question about the difference between “mesta” and “flesta”. 

To solve this problem we need to learn the difference between countable nouns and uncountable nouns.  Uncountable nouns are substances, concepts etc. that we cannot divide into separate elements. We cannot “count” them. For example, we cannot count “milk”. We can count “bottles of milk” or “liters of milk”, but we cannot count “milk” itself. Here are more uncountable nouns:

  • smör (butter)
  • ris (rice)
  • socker (sugar)
  • kaffe (coffee)
  • music (music)
  • konst (art)
  • kärlek (love)
  • pengar (money)
  • elektricitet (electricity)
  • information (information)

In the examples above the nouns are uncountable both in Swedish in English, but sometimes that’s not the case. The word “news” is for example an uncountable noun in English but a countable noun in Swedish:

en nyhet, nyheter (countable noun)
en möbel, möbler (countable noun)

What does this have to do with the difference between “de flesta” and “det mesta”? The answer is that to express “the most” for countable nouns we use:

många – fler – flest – de flesta

(many – more – most – the most)

With a countable noun it could look like this:

många elever – fler elever – flest elever – de flesta eleverna

Anna har många elever I sin klass.

Lisa har fler elever än Anna i sin klass.

Göran har flest elever av alla.

De flesta eleverna kommer från Tyskland.

With uncountable nouns we can use a little and much:

  • I’ve got a little money.
  • I haven’t got much rice.

In Swedish it would be:

mycket – mer – mest – det mesta

(a lot/much – more – most – the most)

Here are some examples with “mycket”, “mer”, “mest” and “det mesta”:

Anna dricker mycket kaffe.

Lisa dricker mer kaffe än Anna.

Göran dricker mest kaffe.

Det mesta kaffet som Göran dricker kommer från Colombia.

Thank you for reading and have fun learning Swedish!

Sara the Swedish Teacher

Hit & dit, här & där

Hej igen!

A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc.

Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb describes where we are going, a destination

Here are some examples of verbs that describe that someone/something is located somewhere, a position:

är, sitter, står, bor, finns, ligger, hänger, arbetar

Here are some examples of verbs that describe a destination:

går, åker, reser, kör, kommer, flyger, flyttar

It is usually easier to get the picture if you see the adverbs and verbs in full sentences, so below are a few examples for you to enjoy J

Här (position)                           Hit (destination) 

Han arbetar här.                       Kom hit! 

Han bor här.                              Han kör hit varje morgon.

Göran sitter här.                       Hon flyttade hit 1973.

Det finns ett kafé här.

Där (position)                           Dit (destination)

Jag bor där.                               Vi måste åka dit nu.

Anna sitter i rummet där borta.  Kan du köra honom dit?

Uppe (position)                                      Upp (destination)

Vi satt uppe och pratade hela natten.   Vakna! Det är dags att gå upp.

Vad gör du uppe så här sent?              Kom upp till mig på en kopp kaffe.

Nere (position)

Var är Anders? Han är nere i källaren och lagar sin cykel.

Åhléns ligger nere i centrum.

Ner (destination)

Hur gick det bra att köra ner till Skåne?

Brandmännen hjälpte katten att komma ner från trädet.

Ute (position)

På sommaren sitter vi gärna ute i trädgården och äter middag.

Det regnar ute.

Ut (destination)

Kom så går vi ut. Det har slutat regna.

Inne (position)

När det är kallt ute måste man stanna inne.

Barnen ville inte sitta inne och läsa. De ville gå ut.

In (destination)

Oj vad kallt det är. Kom så går vi in!

Kom in och ät.

Hemma (position)

Lisa ska stanna hemma hela semestern.

Hem (destination)

Jag vill gå hem.

Anders körde hem klockan 18.

(Anders drove home at 6 pm.)

Take my quiz on här/hit here:

Do you have any questions about Swedish grammar or vocabulary? Post your question in the comments!


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