“Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”.

“Det” replacing a word, phrase or clause

Let’s begin with the less confusing use of “det”, when “det” refers to something known. As we will see in the examples below, “det” might replace not only a neuter noun (ett-ord), but also a verb phrase or a whole clause. For example:

När kommer tåget?

-Det kommer klockan sju.

“Det” is replacing “tåget”(an ett-word).


– Kan du spela gitarr?

– Ja, det kan jag.

“Det” is replacing the verb phrase “spela gitarr.  Next example:

– När börjar mötet?

– Det vet jag inte.

In this case “det” is replacing the whole clause, and we’re basically saying:

– När börjar mötet?

– Det (=när mötet börjar) vet jag inte.


“Det” linking forward

Another function of “det” is linking forward to something unknown. In such a case we can call “det”  the formal subject (“formellt subjekt”). When we use “det” as a formal subject, we also have an “actual subject” (“egentligt subjekt”). Here are a few examples:

– Vem är det?

– Det är Agneta.


Vilka är det?

– Det är Agneta och Björn.


– Vad är det?

– Det är en kanelbulle.


– Vad är det?

– Det är jordgubbar.


As you can see, in these cases we use “det” no matter what gender or number the noun (the actual subject) is.


“Det” might also refer forward to a verb phrase:

Det är roligt att dansa. = Att dansa är roligt.

(It is fun to dance.  = To dance/dancing is fun.)

“Det” is the formal subject, and “att dansa”, is the actual subject.


“Det” when introducing something new

In Swedish a special construction is used when you want to introduce new persons or things into the conversation. Instead of beginning the sentence with the real subject, you begin with a formal subject, “det”. Here are some examples of existential sentences constructed with different verbs:

Det är någon i trädgården.

Det kommer en bil på vägen.

Det finns öl i kylskåpet.

Det sitter en fågel i trädet.

Det ligger en tidning på parkbänken.

Det går ett tåg i timmen till Stockholm.

Det står en lampa i fönstret.


“Det” when talking about the weather

When talking about the weather we also use phrases with “det” as the subject, since there is no natural subject.  This phenomenon is called “subjektstvång”, which means that we have to have a subject to create a complete clause. Therefore, if we don’t have a natural subject we need to use “det” instead. Take a look at the following examples:

Det regnar.

Det snöar.

Det är kallt.

Det är varmt.

“Det” doesn’t really mean anything in the weather phrases above, but in Swedish (and in English) we have to have a subject to get the word order right. If we don’t have “det” we cannot make the difference between

Det snöar. (a statement)

Snöar det? (a question)


Have fun learning Swedish!

Sara the Swedish Teacher