“En” and “Ett”

The other day my brother kindly reminded me that I had misspelled “Institutet”, he said that is not English. Immediately I proudly told him that he is correct, it’s not English it is Swedish. Of course, I then proceeded to teach him a quick 3 minutes Swedish grammar lesson about “en/ett”. After all, it is not common that I get to correct and teach my older brother something in one day.

So I decided to write this blog to explain why it is spelled in “Institutet” since I feel like this was not the first time I had to correct someone.

Karolinska Institutet simply translates to “The Karolinska Institute”. When you lay out the translation like that, smart people like you might think so does the “et” mean “The”? And well, you are right. Sort of.

En and Ett

In Swedish, “en/ett” is more like “a/an” in English, but it is slightly more complicated than just putting “a/an” before a singular noun. Instead in Swedish, “en/ett” is put in front of a noun to indicate whether the noun is alive or not.

For example:

“en” hund (a dog)    Dog

House  “ett” hus (a house)

While that is a general rule, there are some exceptions or special words that you just have to memorize, such as “ett” barn (a child).

So, why does “institutet” translate to “the institute” you ask?

Well, here is where the Swedish language gets a bit more sophisticated. When you put “en/ett” at the end of the word, it becomes “the” instead of “a/an”.

For example, “hunden” becomes “the dog”, “huset” becomes “the house”, and “barnet” translates to “the child”. Therefore, “institutet” means “the institute”.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, “ett” becomes “et” when you put it on the end.

I hope this quick tip about Swedish peaked your interest in the language, because it sure made my brother more curious. In high school many of my friends take French, Spanish, Chinese and even Japanese. There was not much interest or accessibility to learn Scandinavian languages like Swedish. Now that I am at KI, what better way to learn Swedish than to be immersed in language’s natural environment?

KI.1Next time you write Karolinska “Institute”, don’t forget to add that “et” at the end. Because after all, there is only one Karolinska Institutet!




Jennifer Tsai

KI Digital Ambassador

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EMAIL: jennifer.tsai@stud.ki.se

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