Saturday, 9 October 2010

Nouns / Substantiv

A noun is a thing or an idea. If you can write "the" and "a/an" in front of it, then it's a noun. In English, each noun has 2 forms: singular and plural. On rare occasions, these forms are exactly the same (for example, "sheep" and "fish"). In Swedish, each noun has 4 different forms: 2 singular forms and 2 plural forms. For each of these forms, there is one indefinite and one definite form. In fact, we have the same thing in English with the words "a/an" and "the". Indefinite nouns start with "a/an" and definite nouns start with "the".

In Swedish, this is a little trickier to determine, because, like many, many other languages, there are noun genders. There are 2 genders, "common" and "neuter". There are far more "common" nouns than "neuter" nouns, but when you learn a new noun, learn it's gender too. How can you tell what gender it is? This is very easy: a "common" noun's indefinite article is "en", and a "neuter" noun's indefinite aricle is "ett". In English, we only have one "a" or "an", and this choice depends on the sound of the first syllable of the noun (of course, you already knew that!).

In English, our definite article is always the same "the", but in Swedish, there isn't one. Instead they add a suffix onto the end of the noun. The choice of suffix is, again, tricky. Before we get into all that, we need to understand something called "noun declension". "Noun declension" is the modification of a word, based on singular vs. plural, grammatical case and noun gender.

Let's start with grammatical cases. There are only two cases in Swedish: "nominative" and "genitive", which are similar to English. The genitive case is the form of the word that indicatives who is the owner of the noun. In English we add "'s" to the possessor, such as "Mark's car", and in Swedish, an "s" is added to the possessor (note: if the noun already ends in "s", there is no change!). The nominitive case is used for everything else.

So, back to declensions. There are 5 declension groups in Swedish, and it's vital to know which group a noun falls under, in order to decline it correctly. The first 3 groups are for the "common" gender, and the last 2 are for the "neuter" gender. So here are the basic rules:

Declension Group 1
This group is for "common" gender nouns that end in the vowel "a".

Indefinite Singular: write "en" in front of it.
Definite Singular: add an "n" suffix to the noun.
Indefinite Plural: drop the end vowel, and add an "-or" suffix to the noun.
Definite Plural: drop the end vowel, and add an "-orna" suffix to the noun.

Declension of lampa
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive ett lampa lampan lampor lamporna
Genitive ett lampas lampans lampors lampornas

Declension Group 2
This group is for "common" gender nouns that either have one syllable, or end in an unstressed -e, -el, -en, -er or -on.

Indefinite Singular: write "en" in front of it.
Definite Singular: add an "-en" suffix to the noun.
Indefinite Plural: add an "-ar" suffix to the noun. If the noun already ends in "ar", "er" or "or", drop the vowel first.
Definite Plural: Follow the same rule as the indefinite plural, but the suffix is "-arna".

Declension of bil
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive en bil bilen bilar bilarna
Genitive en bils bilens bilars bilarnas

Declension of morgon
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive en morgon morgonen morgnar morgnarna
Genitive en morgons morgonens morgnars morgnarnas

Declension Group 3
This group is for "common" gender nouns that are borrowed from other languages. They're usually borrowed from English or German.

Indefinite Singular: write "en" in front of it.
Definite Singular: add an "-en" suffix to the noun. If the ending is "ar", "er", or "or", drop then add "-n" only.
Indefinite Plural: add an "-er" suffix to the noun. It's also common for some of the words to change their first vowel in their plural forms, to one with an umlaut, for example "a" -> "ä" and "o" to "ö".
Definite Plural: Follow the same rule as the indefinite plural, but the suffix is "-erna".

Declension of familj
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive en familj familjen familjer familjerna
Genitive en familjs familjens familjers familjernas

Declension of hand
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive en hand handen händer händerna
Genitive en hands handens händers händernas

Declension Group 4
This group is for "neuter" gender nouns that end in a vowel.

Indefinite Singular: write "ett" in front of it.
Definite Singular: add an "t" suffix to the noun.
Indefinite Plural: add an "n" suffix to the noun.
Definite Plural: add an "na" suffix to the noun.

Declension of äpple
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive ett äpple äpplet äpplen äpplena
Genitive ett äpples äpplets äpplens äpplenas

Declension Group 5
This group is for "neuter" gender nouns that end in a consonant.

Indefinite Singular: write "ett" in front of it.
Definite Singular: add an "et" suffix to the noun.
Indefinite Plural: do nothing!
Definite Plural: add an "en" suffix to the noun.

Declension of bord
Singular Plural
indefinite definite indefinite definite
Nominitive ett bord bordet bord borden
Genitive ett bords bordets bords bordens

Can you decline these nouns?
1. en docka - a doll
2. en stol - a chair
3. en dator - a computer
4. en säng - a bed
5. en tröja - a shirt
6. en ost - a cheese
7. ett tak - a roof
8. ett träd - a tree
9. en bok (this word means both "beech" and "book", and falls under 2 different declension groups - can you guess which?)
10. en väska - a bag
11. ett ben - a leg
12. en hylla - a shelf
13. ett frimärke - a stamp

Numbers 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 will be the trickiest ones to work out which declension group they belong to. The answers will be published soon!

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this great declension charts and explanations! It's very clear and useful. I just have one question: in the first chart (declension group 1 - lampa), shouldn't the article be "en" instead of "ett"? Sorry if I'm wrong, I'm just a beginner! And thank you for you answer!

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