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Nouns sort into five different groups. The group determines the plural ending in the indefinite from as well as how to make the noun definite in singular and plural.
In most cases it is possible to determine to what group a noun belongs by looking at it in the singular indefinite from Groups 1-3 are all 'en-words', i.e. they have the indefinite article 'en'. Among these group 1 always ends in an -a in the singular indefinite from e.g. en blomma.
Groups 4-5 are all 'ett-words', having the indefinite article 'ett' in the singular indefinite form. In group 4 all nouns end in a vowel (e.g. ett äpple) and in group 5 all nouns end in a consonant (e.g. ett liv).
In other words, there is only ambiguity between groups 2 and 3 since both are 'en-words' and do not generally end in a specific way (e.g. en katt and en stol.
Group 1 contains nouns with the indefinite article en and end in an -a in the singular indefinite form, e.g. en kvinna. In the plural group 1 nouns ends in -or. Note how the final -a is dropped in the plural and definite forms.
Since the indefinite form already ends in a vowel (-a) the singular definite form is made by adding an -n, as seen below. In the plural definite form the ending is -na. This ending for the plural definite form is common to groups 1-4, with group 5 as an exception.
Group 2 contains nouns with the indefinite article en. There is no absolute rule to distinguish group 2 from group 3 below, but there are some general guidelines. Nouns in this group tend to be short words with one or two syllables. In the plural group 2 nouns ends in -ar.
There are however some absolute rules. All nouns with the article en and ending in -ing (e.g. en ring) as well as nouns with the article en ending with an unstressed -e (e.g. en pojke), belong to this group. Examples of these are marked with an asterisk (*) below. Note how nouns of the type en pojke looses its -e in all but the singular indefinite form.
Since the indefinite singular form ends in a consonant, the singular definite form is made by adding -en to the indefinite form. The plural definite ending is -na, just as for groups 1, 3 and 4.
Group 3 contains nouns with the indefinite article en. There is no absolute rule to distinguish group 3 from group 2 above, but there are some general guidelines. Nouns in this group tend to be loan words, i.e. words that are common to other languages.
Nouns in this group are also longer than nouns in group 2, usually with two or more syllables. Examples of internationally recognized words that fall into this category are en banan, en polis and en station.
Just as in group 2, the ending -en is added to the singular indefinite form to make the noun definite. The plural definite ending is -na just as in groups 1, 2 and 4.
In group 4 the nouns all have 'ett' as the indefinite article and all end in a vowel.
Since the indefinte from ends in a vowel, only a -t is added to make the definte singular form. With the plural indefinite form ending in -n, the plural definite from ends in -na, just as in group 1, 2 and 3.
In group 5 the nouns all have 'ett' as the indefinite article and all end in a consonant. The singular and plural indefinite forms are the same in this group.
The definite form singular is made by adding the ending -et. Uniquely for this group, the plural definite form ends in -en.
There is a subgroup of nouns in this group that look the same in singular and in plural. These nouns are 'en-words' and have the ending -are. Examples of these are marked with an asterisk (*) below.
There are a number of irregular plurals in Swedish. Although they are not many, some are very common.
A common characteristic of irregular nouns is that there is a vowel change from singular to plural. Most irregular nouns are 'en-words' and end in -er in the plural indefinite, although there are exceptions.
Below are examples of some of the most common irregular nouns.
Choose between perfekt and pluskvamperfekt in the sentences below.