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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

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