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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.)

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