A Simplified Grammar of the Swedish Language/Part II/Pronouns


The use of the proper pronoun in addressing others presents considerable difficulty in Swedish, which may be said to be passing through a transition period in regard to the ceremonial formulæ of speech. The obsequious deference to rank and social standing enforced in past times, seems, however, to be so far giving way in Sweden, as to warrant the hope that one uniform mode of address may soon be adopted among Swedes of all classes.

The second person du, while used in prayer, and between the nearest relatives much the same in Swedish as in German, is not unfrequently superseded between parents and children and near relatives by the name or designation of the individual addressed; as, Vil Anna ha rosen? 'Will you have the rose, Anna?' Har Pappa sin pihe? 'Have you got your pipe, papa?'

Ni is commonly used in narratives, novels, etc., to express the term 'you' in conversations between two persons, and it is used in correspondence between acquaintances, but it has not been very generally accepted as a mode of social address. Er, eder, are still more commonly used than ni in epistolary and social intercourse. More frequently than either of these simple forms of the personal pronoun, the title or name of the individual addressed is used with the third person of the verb; as, Grefven befinner sig icke väl i dag? 'Are you not well to-day. Count?' Fruen såg mig i går? 'Did you not see me yesterday, madam (or Mrs. —)?' Ja visst, jag såg herren, 'Yes, certainly I saw you, sir (or Mr. —);' Har doktoren varit i Stockholm? 'Have you been in Stockholm, Doctor?'

The pronouns han, 'he,' hon, 'she,' are still occasionally used in addressing inferiors, but ni is more frequently used by masters and employers to those in their service.

Ni has been derived from the terminal letter n of the second person plural of verbs, and the pronoun i, 'you' or 'ye;' as tron i, 'believe ye,' corrupted into tro ni.

Min herr is used as 'sir,' mine herrar, as 'gentlemen.' Herrskapet, 'master and mistress,' is often used to include persons of both sexes, in addressing equals no less than superiors; as, Hur många personer är herrskapet? 'How many of you are there?'

Fru, Fröken, Mrs., Madam, Miss, are respectively used with the third person in addressing a married or unmarried lady. Ladies take the rank of their husbands and share in their social designations; as, Generalinna, 'Mrs. General;' Prestinna, 'the clergyman's wife (Mrs. Pastor).'

The reflective pronoun sig may be used to refer to the third person in the plural, as well as the singular; as, gossarne öfva sig, 'the boys are practising (themselves);' hon, närmade sig presten, 'she drew (herself) near the clergyman.'

The possessive pronoun sin, sitt, sine, 'his' 'hers,' 'its,' can only be used in the subjective reflective sense, while hans, hennes, dess, have an objective significance; as, han går hem till de sina, 'he is going home to his own children (or family);' jag visste ej hans son var död, 'I did not know that his son was dead.'

The possessive is sometimes used in the place of the personal pronoun in interjections and familiar expressions of endearment, lament, etc.; as, din söda lilla ängel, 'thou sweet little angel!' min stackare! 'poor me!'

The demonstrative pronouns den, det, de, when combined with här, 'here,' and der, 'there,' indicate respectively 'this' and 'that;' as, det här träd är högre än det der, 'this tree is higher than that one.' Det is used impersonally in the sense of 'there;' as, det har varit en tiggare här, 'there has been a beggar here.'

Denne and den samme, 'that one,' 'the same,' have a more demonstrative character than den.

Ho, 'who' is chiefly used in biblical or poetical language; hvem in common parlance.

Hvilken, hvad för, hvilhen som, are all used as relatives; as, jag vet ej hvilken som kommer, eller hvad som vore bäst att göra, 'I do not know who is coming, or what would be best to do.'

The prefix e gives the same significance to relatives as is derived in English from the addition of 'ever;' as, eho, 'whoever;' ehvad, 'whatever;' ehurudan, 'who or whatever;' hvilken än, hvem än, etc., have much the same significance.

The relative som is indeclinable, and may be used for all genders; as, här är mannen som önskar tala med Er, 'here is the man, who wishes to speak to you;' min hroder har sålt det huset som han köpte i Juni, 'my brother has sold the house which he bought last June.'

The Old Northern demonstrative form y (ty), 'that,' is traceable in dylik, 'the like' (such), and occurs in such expressions as, efter ty som säges, 'according to what is said;' i ty fall, 'in that case.' The Old Northern gen. pl. ꝥeirra is traceable in such words as endera, 'one of them;' bäggedera, 'both of them;' någondera, 'some of them,' etc.

The pronoun must agree in gender and number with the noun which it represents; as, Hvar är flickan? Hon är i trädgården, 'Where is the girl ? She is in the orchard.' In some cases, however, the pronoun follows the natural rather than the grammatical gender; as, Har du set statsrådet? Nej, han är sjuk, 'Have you seen the councillor ? No, he is ill.'