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Definite and Indefinite Expressions



This lesson gives you an introduction to how definite and indefinite np's (noun phrases) are formed and used in Swedish. It helps if you have some knowledge of the principles for noun inflection and noun-adjective agreement in Swedish.


"Den lilla gubben"

-en zoologisk barnsaga

Albert hette en liten gubbe som bodde i staden. Han var inte speciellt förtjust i stadslivet och längtade varje dag till landet. Albert tyckte mycket om djur och då speciellt getter. Gusten hette Alberts favoritget. Den geten ägdes av en rik bonde. Albert tyckte också om grisar. Grisarnatv-reklamen såg inte ut som glada grisar tyckte Albert. Han visste vad han talade om för han hade sett en gris på riktigt när han hälsade på bonden som ägde Gusten förra sommaren. Lejon gillade däremot Albert inte, för han hade hört att de åt grisar om de fick möjlighet. Ett lejon skulle man inte vilja träffa på när man var ute och gick i skogen tänkte Albert. Kor däremot var trevliga djur, men inte särskilt smarta. Den ko som kan multiplikationstabellen är en smart ko tänkte den lilla gubben när han steg på bussen som skulle gå till landet. Kornamjölkpaketet såg glada ut. Det var Albert också. Alla de andra passagerarna såg däremot ledsna ut. De kanske inte ska titta på korna och grisarna och alla de andra djuren tänkte Albert. Tut, tut sa bussen och krockade med ett hus. Hoppsan sa den lilla gubben. Nu får jag nog ta nästa buss. Men tyvärr gick det ingen mer buss förrän efter solen hade gått ner så Albert fick stanna hemma i staden. Så kan det gå tänkte den lilla gubben.


Word list

The list contains the singular and the plural indefinite forms to which are attached the corresponding definiteness suffixes.

gubbe-n - "old man"
gubbar-na - "old men"
stad-en - city
städer-na - cities
stadsliv-et - city life (normally not used in the plural)
dag-en - day
dagar-na - days
land-et - country (side) (normally not used in the plural)
djur-et - animal
djur-en - animals
get-en - goat
getter-na - goats
bonde-en - farmer
bönder-na
gris-en - pig
grisar-na - pigs
(tv-)reklam-en - (tv)commercial
(tv-)reklamer-na - (tv)commercials
sommar-en - summer
somrar-na - summers
lejon-et - lion
lejon-en - lions
skog-en - forest/wood/woods
skogar-na - forests/woods
ko-n - cow
kor-na - cows
hus-et - house
hus-en - houses
buss-en - bus
bussar-na - buses
multiplikationstabell-en - multiplication table
multiplikationstabeller-na - multiplication tables
mjölkpaket-et - milk container
mjölkpaket-en - milk containers
passagerare-n - passenger
passagerare-passagerarna - passengers
sol-en - sun
solar-na - suns



Definite and indefinite expressions

There are two ways in which species may be expressed for Swedish nouns.

(1) Definite nouns are explicitly marked with a definiteness suffix. Indefinite nouns lack explicit marking.

(2) Definite and indefinite articles: The indefinite article is always used with indefinite noun forms. The definite article is generally used with definite noun forms. It may however be followed by an indefinite noun if we speak of something in general as in 'den ko som kan läsa är en intelligent ko' ('that cow which can read is an intelligent cow').

There are two noun genders in Swedish - neuter (t-words) and non-neuter (n-words) - and two numerus forms - singular and plural. Depending on the gender and numerus of a noun we choose different forms of definiteness suffixes and/or articles.

Inflectional suffixes

The suffixes -(e)n and -(e)t are used to mark definiteness on singular non-neuter and neuter nouns according to the following:

Neuter: lejon-et, rike-t
Non-neuter: get-en, ko-n
(Hence t-words and n-words.)

In the plural it is somewhat more complicated. The plural definiteness suffixes -(e)n and -(n)a are distributed as follows:

Neuter words and monosyllabic non-neuter words which belong to the "fifth declination": lejon-en, möss-en.

All other nouns (neuter and non-neuter): riken-a, getter-na, banor-na.

Articles

There are two singular definite articles: den and det.

The articles always preceed the noun.

Den is used with non-neuter nouns in the singular: den geten.
Det is used with neuter nouns in the singular: det lejonet.

There are also two singular indefinite articles: en and ett.

En is used with non-neuter nouns in the singular: en get.
Ett is used with neuter nouns in the singular: ett lejon.

Note that the indefinite articles and the count word en/ett look the same. Ett lejon may mean a lion or one lion.

The plural definite article de is used with both neuter and non-neuter nouns: de getterna, de lejonen.
It may be used with both indefinite and definite plural forms in the same manner as the definite article.

There is no plural indefinite article.



Exercise 1: articles

Choose the right article to use with nouns of the following specifications:

1. singular, indefinite, non-neuter

en ett den det de

2. singular, definite, neuter

en ett den det de

3. plural, definite

en ett den det de

4. singular, indefinite, neuter

en ett den det de

5. singular, definite, non-neuter

en ett den det de

Choose the correct article for each given word.

6. gris

en ett den det de

7. landet

en ett den det de

8. husen

en ett den det de

9. bonden

en ett den det de

10. djur

en ett den det de

Consult Grammar


Exercise 2: species inflection

Fill in the species suffix to use with nouns of the following specification:

Fill in the appropriate Swedish form of lion.

Fill in the appropriate Swedish form of cow.

Consult Word list


Exercise 3:reading exercise

Read the following text and try to fill in the right form of the word enclosed in parentheses after each gap. You can read the entire text "Den lilla gubben" above. You may also refer to the Word list and Grammar. Press 'Check Answers' for feedback. Wrong answers are corrected and are occasionally supplemented by further commentaries.

Remember that clues to which form is the correct one is very often given by the surrounding words and phrases.

Albert hette (1) (article) liten gubbe som bodde i staden. Han var inte speciellt förtjust i (2) (stadsliv) och längtade varje (3) (dag) till (4) (land). Albert tyckte mycket om (5) (djur) och då speciellt (6) (get). Gusten hette Alberts favorit (7) (get). (8) (art) (9) (get) ägdes av en rik (10) (bonde). Albert tyckte också om (11) (gris). (12) (Gris) i tv- (13) (reklam) såg inte ut som glada (14) (gris) tyckte Albert. Han visste vad han talade om för han hade sett (15) (art) gris på riktigt när han hälsade på (16) (bonde) som ägde Gusten förra (17) (sommar).



Test

Here is a small gap "test". The text is the second part of the text "Den lilla gubben" (and is therefore not a proper test). Here you get no other feedback than 'correct' or 'wrong' when pressing the 'Check Answers' button, unless there are more than one possible correct answer. By now you should be able to correct yourself and find the explanations to why a certain answer is correct or not. Try to make the test without consulting the text, wordlist or grammar.

Good Luck!

(1) (Lejon) gillade däremot Albert inte, för han hade hört att de åt (2) (gris) om de fick möjlighet. (3) (art) lejon skulle man inte vilja träffa på när man var ute och gick i (4) (skog) tänkte Albert. (5) (Ko) däremot var trevliga djur, men inte särskilt smarta. Den (6) (ko) som kan multiplikationstabellen är (7) (art) smart ko tänkte (8) (art) lilla gubben när han steg på (9) (buss) som skulle gå till (10) (land). (11) (Ko) på mjölkpaketet såg glada ut. Det var Albert också. Alla de andra (12) (passagerare) såg däremot ledsna ut. De kanske inte ska titta på (13) (ko) och (14) (gris) och alla (15) (art) andra (16) (djur) tänkte Albert. Tut, tut sa (17) (buss) och krockade med (18) (art) (19) (hus). Hoppsan sa (20) (art) lilla gubben. "Nu får jag nog ta nästa (21) (buss)". Men tyvärr gick det ingen mer (22) (buss) förrän efter (23) (sol) hade gått ner så Albert fick stanna hemma i (24) (stad). Så kan det gå tänkte den lilla gubben.



Text in English

This is an approximate English translation of the text "Den lilla gubben".

"The little old man"

- a zoological childrens story
Albert was little old man who lived in the city. He wasn't very fond of city life and every day he longed to go out into the country. Albert liked animals very much, especially goats. Gusten was the name of Albert's favourite goat. This goat was owned by a rich farmer. Albert also liked pigs. The pigs in the tv commercials did not look like happy pigs Albert thought. He knew what he was talking about because he had seen a real pig once when he was visiting the farmer who owned Gusten last summer. Albert did not like lions however, because he had heard that they ate pigs if they had the opportunity. You wouldn't want to meat a lion when you were out in the woods Albert thought. Cows on the other hand are nice animals, but not very smart. That cow which knows the multiplication table is a smart cow the little old man thought as he stepped on the bus heading for the country. The cows on the milk containers seemed to be happy. So was Albert. All the other passengers looked sad though. Probably they won't go to see the cows and the pigs and all the other animals Albert thought. Honk, honk said the bus and smashed into a house. Woops said the little old man. "Now I will have to take the next bus". But unfortunately there was no more bus before sunset so Albert had to stay at home in the city. What a shame the little old man thought.



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