Swedish adjectives that ends with -e

The rules for natural gender adjectives in the Swedish language

Why do some adjectives in Swedish end with -e ? The answer is sexusböjning – Natural genders/ Semantic genders.

There are some adjectives in the Swedish language that end with “-e” at the end in the definite form. This “-e” ending or e-form is reminiscent of old Swedish, which refers to nouns that are semantically, so to say naturally, of masculine genders, such as a man, king, father, son, etc. So if there is an adjective that describes a male person, then you may see this “old” sexus masculine ending at the end of the adjective ”-e” instead of “-a” 

  • Den gamle kungen            “The old king”
  • Den gamla drottningen     “The old queen”
  • Den förste mannen            “The first man”
  • Den första kvinnan             “The first woman”

In Swedish, you refer to feminine genders with -a as well as to nouns with indefinite genders, like a “person”.

  • Den första personen.

Today you can see the texts, with adjectives that refer to masculine with -a at the end. The reason is that a-form in general, is considered as a gender-neutral ending in Swedish language. Sometimes e-form of an adjective is perceived as old-fashioned and formal, and sometimes perceived as a regional dialect which has “e” at the end of singular definite and plural definite forms. Rather use a-form on masculine nouns than an e-form on female nouns.

But there are also cases when there is no noun associated with the adjective, as the noun is implicit in the context, so to say when the adjective is standing independently.

  • “Den gamle mannen”                      “The old man”
  • ”Den äldste mannen”                      ”The oldest man”
  • ”Den äldste mannen i världen”       ”The oldest man in the world”

In all three cases, we have a noun associated with an adjective. As mentioned, there are also adjectives standing independently, and the noun is understood out of the context.

“Den äldste i världen” – “The oldest in the world”. If you read a text about people, then it is evident out of the context that it is about a man. We can also have there a-form like “Den äldsta i världen” but it is more common to go with an e-form with independent adjectives.

So, if we say “Den enskilda personen” which means “the individual person” or, shorter “the individual”. In this case, most probably you will see an a-form. Yet, if you encounter the adjective independently, then the most common is “den enskilde” which doesn’t refer to masculine nouns, rather it is a general term.

Den enskilde ska känna sig delaktig i planering av sin vård och omsorg” which means ” Individuals should feel involved in the planning of their care and treatment.”
Compare it with “Omvårdnad är att arbeta efter den enskilda patientens behov och önskemål.” which means ” Nursing is working according to the needs and wishes of the individual patient.”

In the first case “Den enskilde” has an e-form because it is not gender-specific and the adjective stands independently.
In the second case, “den enskilda patienten” does not refer to female patients. We see the a-form because it is not gender specific and there is no noun associated with an adjective.

What is the difference between ”den ene” and ”den ena” in the Swedish language?

Both “den ene” and “den ena” mean” the one”. As mentioned before, the e-ending can refer to masculine words. In that case, you use “den ene och den andre”

“Den ene är lärare och den andre är läkare” which means ”The one is a teacher and the other is a doctor”
We assume that the teacher and the doctor are of masculine gender if, for example, your neighbour tells you about his two sons.

As mentioned earlier, if the adjective stands independently, so to say there is no noun associated with it, then it is common with e-ending.
”Och så började den ene viska till den andre vad det lilla barnet hade sagt” which means ” “And then one began to whisper to the other what the little child had said.” 

In this case , as you can see, there is no noun associated with “den ene”, that’s why commonly it is e-form. We understand out of the context that it is people who whisper, yet not explicitly mentioned in that sentence.

If you refer to naturally feminine or naturally gender-neutral nouns, then you use “den ena och den andra” ,

”Den ena stolen är trasig och den andra är borta” which means ” The one chair is broken, and the other is gone.

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