Swedish 101: The Complete Introduction to Sweden's Mother Tongue

Fri, 05 Mar 2021

Looking to learn another language other than English but on the same level as English? Well, the mother tongue of Sweden might be a compelling choice for you. To start off, Swedish comes from the same Germanic language family as English. In other words, this also means that Swedish is more similar to English in several ways, including grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. With slight differences, you’ll be able to learn Swedish in no time. So, have a go at our short introduction of Swedish, the official mother language of Sweden.

Swedish Alphabet

Like English, Swedish also uses the same 26 Latin alphabets with the additional of 3 letters with diacritics: Å, Ä, and Ö. In conclusion, Swedish has 20 consonants and 9 vowels. However, Swedish had only begun using the Latin alphabet during the Middle Ages. Previously the Swedes used runes, letters set in the runic alphabets, which were used to write Germanic languages before the massive Christianization of the population. When Christianization emerged, Latin alphabets also began to shift into the language system.

Although Swedish has used the full Latin alphabet, some words were uncommon and rare in the eyes and ears of all Swedes. For example, the letter Q. In the beginning, Q was common like any other regular word until 1889 when it was overturned by the letter K. Since then, only forms with K are found in dictionaries. Even so, some names do retain their form with a Q, such as Qvist, Quist, Quenby and others.

W had also become a quite rare word since it was always interchangeable with V even before the 19th century. For example, W in Fraktur and V in Antiqua. Both V and W were considered to be the same equivalent so that people wouldn't get mixed up when seeking names either spelled with V or W. Fortunately, the 13th edition of the Swedish Academy’s Orthographic decided to put an end to this confusion. W was officiated as a single character to its own section in the dictionary.

In addition, the last letter in the alphabet, Z, is also one of the least used letters in Swedish. Z was only used in names and a few loanwords like zon (zone). Historically Z was pronounced as /ts/, but through 1700, it had merged with /s/. Hence Z was replaced with S.

Swedish Phonology

The Swedish phonological system has about 17 pure vowel sounds, more than English. The Swedish phonological system is similar to that of English. Even though this includes the production of correct English sounds, Swedes still face a problem when dealing with minimal pairs, such as ship-sheep or bed-bad.

Besides that, Swedish also consists of 18 consonant phonemes. Once again, several English consonant phonemes are hard to pronounce such as the th words (three, think, clothes, etc.). Leisure and laser are often mispronounced as lesher or lacer.

The one good thing for both Swedish and English speakers is the fact that they’re stressed languages with similar intonations. Due to slightly different phonological system, the Swedes tend to overstress words that the English would usually swallow, such as the, but, was, have. Swedish is much more of a tonal language, which means that the it can be distinguished through different pitches. But it also may mean that some produced words can sound like incomplete sentences or questions.


Fortunately, English and Swedish also share a lot of similar features in the verb systems. So, learning the grammar in terms of verb won’t be difficult for English speakers. However, the only difference lies in the absence of continuous tense in Swedish, which leads to sentences such as She does her homework now. Swedish is also uninflected, in which some proficient English speakers omit the suffix –s in third person of present simple tenses: My mother work in a bank.

Another important note in mind is that an identical tense form in both languages also exists, for example the tense that uses have as an auxiliary along with a past participle. Swedish also uses the present perfect tenses in cases where English uses the past simple tenses. As seen in the following sentences: I have stopped playing tennis when I have broken my leg, which lead to errors according to the English grammar. Another example in the case of future tenses, where the Swedes use present simple instead of the auxiliaries will or going to in English, as seen in: I wait for you after school or I think it rains.

Additionally, Swedish is also a Subject-Verb-Object type of language like English leading to less mistakes in word order. However, it’s more common to put other elements in the beginning of the sentence which are then followed by the subject and verb. For example: My dictionary have I forgotten. The structure there + verb is also common in Swedish which lead to faulty statements such as: There came a lot of students to the dance.

Other common grammar mistakes as a result of interference include: the use of adjectives rather than adverbs as seen in: She sings very good. There’s also the case of using definitive article whereas English would omit it: I don't like the spiders. And lastly, the overuse of the genitive -s: the car's door or the food's smell.


The beautiful close relationship between English and Swedish also led to the appearance of cognates which contributes to the reading comprehension and vocabulary building of Swedish learners everywhere. However, the counterparts of these cognates also do exist, such as control (Sweidsh: check), luck (Swedish: happiness), and take place (Swedish: sit down). Another minor area of difference is some words that are plural in English meanwhile some words are singular in Swedish (or vice versa): I need informations about ... / Let me give you an advice

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