"En" or "ett" - first lesson about Swedish nouns.

Hej och välkommen!

My name is Sara Hörberg, and I’m your new Swedish Teacher here at the Swedish Press smiley

I was born and raised in Uppsala, Sweden, where I also went to university and earned a degree in teaching Swedish as a second language. For many years I taught various Swedish courses at Folkuniversitetet, one of Sweden’s largest adult education centers.

In 2009 I moved to California with my husband and began teaching Swedish over Skype. I’m happy to say that I now have around 60 wonderful, fun and inquisitive students all over the globe, who keep showing me what the Swedish language is like from the student’s perspective. In Canada and the US I mainly have students with Swedish ancestors, for example Nelsons, Bengtsons, Johnsons and Swansons J


First lesson - en and ett

One of the first topics that come up when learning Swedish is that the nouns have two different articles; en and ett. If you studied Spanish or French, this might not seem so strange to you. There used to be three articles, feminine, masculine and neuter, but now there is only two. “Ett”, which is neuter, and “en”, which is utrum (basically all the nouns that used to be considered feminine and masculine). It still happens that people refer to nouns as a “he” (masculine) or “she” (feminine) instead of “it”. It is for example not uncommon to time as a feminine:

Vad är klockan?

(What time is it? Literally “what is the clock?”)

Hon är tre.

(She is three.)

But let us go back to the en and ett. Students usually ask me if you can tell if a word is en or ett by just looking at it. About 75% of the nouns are “en”. There are some rules but I would say it’s easier to just try to learn en or ett when you learn a new word. Many words for things that are alive are en, like trees, plants, animals, different professions etc:

en blomma

a flower

en katt

a cat

en lärare

a teacher


Here are some words with ett-article:

ett hus

a house

ett tåg

a train

ett glas

a glass


Swedish nouns most have an article, either the so called indefinite article (en or ett), or the definite article, which is like English “the”. Compare the indefinite form“a flower” (en blomma) with the definite form “the flower” (blomman). When you know this, you can do the reversed engineering on words written or spoken in definite form, and figure out if they are “en” or “ett”. Here are some examples:


the flower


the cat


the teacher

You can see that the –n or –en in the end of the word tells us that it’s an en-word. If you have been to Sweden you might already have noticed that street names are written in this definite form. You might have seen “Drottningatan” (The Queen Street) or “Domkyrkan” (The Cathedral).


The ett-words follow the same structure when in definite form. Here are some examples:


the house


the train


the glass


I hope you enjoyed the first Swedish lesson! If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, feel free to ask. You are also most welcome join me on Facebook to learn and practice more Swedish!

Sara Hörberg