Danish and Norwegian Bokmål
(the most common standard form of Norwegian
) are very similar languages
, but differences between them do exist. The languages are mutually comprehensible
, with the primary differences being in pronunciation and in the sound system as a whole.
Generally, speakers of the three largest Scandinavian languages
(Danish, Norwegian and Swedish
) can read each other's languages without great difficulty. This holds especially true of Danish and Norwegian. The primary obstacles to mutual comprehension are differences in pronunciation. Danish speakers generally do not understand Norwegian as well as the extremely similar written norms would lead one to expect. Some Norwegians also have problems understanding Danish, but according to a recent scientific investigation Norwegians are better at understanding both Danish and Swedish than the Danes and Swedes are at understanding Norwegian. Nonetheless, Danish is widely reported to be the most incomprehensible language of the three.
In general, Danes and Norwegians will fluently understand the other language with only a little training.
In the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway
(1536–1814), the official language
was Danish. The urban Norwegian upper class spoke Dano-Norwegian
, a form of Danish with Norwegian pronunciation and other minor local differences. After the two countries separated, Danish remained the official language of Norway, and remained largely unchanged until language reforms in the early 20th century led to the standardization of forms more similar to the Norwegian urban and rural vernaculars. Since 1929, this written standard has been known as Bokmål
. Later attempts to bring it closer to and eventually merge it with the other Norwegian written standard, Nynorsk
, constructed on the basis of Norwegian dialects, have failed due to widespread resistance. Instead, the most recent reforms of Bokmål (2005) have included certain Danish-like constructions that had previously been banned.
Danish text: I 1877 forlod Brandes København og bosatte sig i Berlin. Hans politiske synspunkter gjorde dog, at Preussen blev ubehagelig for ham at opholde sig i, og han vendte i 1883 tilbage til København, hvor han blev mødt af en helt ny gruppe af forfattere og tænkere, der var ivrige efter at modtage ham som deres leder. Det vigtigste af hans senere arbejder har været hans værk om William Shakespeare, der blev oversat til engelsk af William Archer og med det samme blev anerkendt. Norwegian (Bokmål): I 1877 forlot Brandes København og bosatte seg i Berlin. Hans politiske synspunkter gjorde imidlertid at det ble ubehagelig for ham å oppholde seg i Preussen, og i 1883 vendte han tilbake til København, der han ble møtt av en helt ny gruppe forfattere og tenkere, som var ivrige etter å motta ham som sin leder. Det viktigste av hans senere arbeider er hans verk om William Shakespeare, som ble oversatt til engelsk av William Archer, og som straks ble anerkjent. Translation of the Bokmål sample into Danish: I 1877 forlod Brandes København og bosatte sig i Berlin. Hans politiske synspunkter gjorde imidlertid at det blev ubehageligt for ham at opholde sig i Preussen, og i 1883 vendte han tilbage til København, hvor han blev mødt af en helt ny gruppe forfattere og tænkere, som var ivrige efter at modtage ham som deres leder. Det vigtigste af hans senere arbejder er hans værk om William Shakespeare, som blev oversat til engelsk af William Archer, og som straks blev anerkendt.English translation: In 1877 Brandes
and took up residence in Berlin
. However, his political views made Prussia
an uncomfortable place to live in, and in 1883 he returned to Copenhagen, where he was met by a completely new group of writers and thinkers, who were eager to accept him as their leader. The most important of his later works is his work about William Shakespeare
, which was translated to English by William Archer
and received recognition immediately.
- Excerpts from the articles about Danish critic Georg Brandes from the Danish Wikipedia, version from May 19, 2006, 09:36 and Norwegian (bokmål) Wikipedia, version from April 4, 2006, 01:38 The translation of the Bokmål sample into Danish was created for the purpose of this article.
Generally, Norwegian orthography is more simplified and regularized and closer to actual pronunciation than Danish. As a rule, the graphic differences between the two languages do not reflect actual differences in pronunciation; while there are significant phonetic and phonological differences, they are rarely expressed in writing. The few exceptions are noted below.
- In writing, Danish may employ either the letter e or the letter æ to signify the short vowel phoneme /ɛ/. Norwegian only uses e. Example: Danish lægge (to lay), sende (to send) vs Norwegian legge, sende.
- Danish regularly, although not always, uses the letter combinations nd, ld instead of the double consonant letters nn, ll. In most cases this isn't etymologically justified. In Norwegian, only the etymologically justified spellings occur. Example: Danish kende (to know, Old Norse kenna), denne (this /common gender/, ON masculine accusative þenna) and sende (to send, ON senda) vs Norwegian kjenne, denne (but sende); Danish ilde (bad, ON illa), ville (to want, Old Norse vilja) and holde (to hold, Old Norse halda) vs Norwegian ille, ville (but holde).
- Unlike Norwegian, Danish often uses ds instead of double s. Example: ridse (to scratch) but visse (certain [plural]) vs Norwegian risse, visse. Likewise in some other contexts, Danish bedst (best), sidst (last) vs Norwegian best, sist.
- Unlike Norwegian, Danish doesn't use double consonants word-finally. Example: Danish vis can signify both the adjective pronounced /viːˀs/ (wise) and the adjective pronounced /ves/ (certain), even though the plural forms of the adjectives, where the consonant occurs medially, are distinguished in writing by means of a double s in the second word (vise vs visse). In contrast, Norwegian does distinguish between vis and viss in the same way as between vise and visse.
- Danish preserves the above rule both before inflexional and derivational endings, beginning in a consonant, and in compounding. Norwegian, too, prohibits word-final double consonants before inflexional endings, beginning in a consonant, (unless homography needs to be avoided), but not before derivational endings and in compounding. Example: Danish al (all /common gender/) - alt (all /neuter gender/) - altid (always, literally "all time"); Norwegian all - alt, but alltid.
- Norwegian has preserved the spellings gj, kj, and skj in the beginning of words when followed by e, æ, ø, while modern Danish has simply g, k and sk. Today, this in part reflects the fact that these words are also pronounced differently in the two languages, see below. Examples: Danish gemme (keep, hide), kær (dear), skønt (although) vs Norwegian gjemme, kjær, skjønt.
- A pair of diphthongs are spelled as ej and øj in Danish, but as ei and øy in Norwegian. The exact pronunciation of these diphthongs is also somewhat different in the two languages, see below, and the different spellings are phonetically justified at least for the second diphthong. Examples: Danish vej (way), løj (lied [past tense]) vs Norwegian vei, løy.
- In the oblique case forms of the 1st and 2nd person pronouns and of reflexive pronouns, the ei/ej diphthong is spelled ig in Danish, but eg in Norwegian: mig, dig, sig vs meg, deg, seg.
- In Danish, the preposition af "of, from" is spelled with f (pronounced [a]) or, in compounds, ), whereas Norwegian has av with v like Swedish.
- In loanwords, Danish generally has tended to partly preserve the spelling of the source language, whereas Norwegian traditionally usually has adapted the spelling to its own rules in order to reflect the expected pronunciation. Examples: Danish bureau (bureau), chauffør (chauffeur), information (information), garage (garage), zone (zone) vs Norwegian byrå, sjåfør, informasjon, garasje, sone.
- Traditional Danish punctuation requires that a comma be placed before and after every dependent clause, and although two recent reforms encourage the dropping of a comma before the dependent clause, the old system is still in general use. In contrast, Norwegian only requires a comma after the dependent clause; a comma is placed before it only if the clause is parenthetic (the same rule as in English) . Example sentence:
|| Jeg ved,
|| hvordan manden,
|| (som) du snakker om,
|| ser ud. |
|| Jeg vet
|| hvordan mannen
|| (som) du snakker om,
|| ser ut. |
|| I know
|| what the man
|| (that) you're talking about
|| looks like. |
Note, however, Norwegian John, som hadde sett mannen, visste hvordan han så ut (John, who had seen the man, knew what he looked like), where the dependent clause is parenthetic.
Pronunciation and sound system
The difference in pronunciation
between Norwegian and Danish is much more striking than the difference between Norwegian and Swedish
. Although written Norwegian is very similar to Danish, spoken Norwegian more closely resembles Swedish.
The Danish pronunciation is typically described as 'softer', which in this case refers mostly to the frequent approximants corresponding to Norwegian and historical plosives in some positions in the word (especially the pronunciation of the letters d and g), as well as the realisation of r as a uvular or even pharyngeal approximant in Danish as opposed to the Norwegian alveolar trills or uvular trills/fricatives.
It is often humorously claimed that Danes have an easier time understanding drunk Norwegians than sober ones, as the former often use a more slurred manner of speech that resembles Danish.
Note that in the following comparison of Danish and Norwegian pronunciation, the East Norwegian pronunciation of Oslo is taken as the norm. In practice, most Norwegians will speak a local dialect in most contexts; furthermore, Bokmål itself is not a spoken standard, and is likely to be pronounced with clearly regional features. The most obvious instances are the uvular (rather than alveolar) pronunciation of /r/, the consequential lack of retroflexes, the realisation of /ç/ in kjenne as an affricate (rather than a fricative) in much of Western and Northern Norway, and the pronunciation, in some cases, of a retroflex lap instead of /l/ in much of Eastern Norway, including the less "refined" forms of the Oslo dialect. All of this is ignored in the following exposition.
Arguably the most acoustically striking differences in vowels are that:
- In Danish, the grapheme a corresponds, in most contexts, to the pronunciation of a front, often even open-mid front vowel ([a] or [æ]). In Norwegian, a is invariably an open back vowel [ɑ]. Example: Danish [b̥æːnə] vs. Norwegian [bɑːnə] (course).
- The grapheme u corresponds to (more or less close) back vowels in Danish, but usually to a close central vowel (/ʉ/) in Norwegian. Example: Danish [huːs] vs. Norwegian [hʉːs].
As a whole, Norwegian still preserves the old pairs of short and long vowels, as suggested by the writing system, pretty close to each other, even though the long ones are usually closer. Thus, the grapheme e corresponds to long [eː] (sene [seːnə], late [plural]) and short [ɛ] (sende [sɛnːə], to send), while the grapheme i corresponds to long [iː] (sine [siːnə], oneself's) and short [ɪ] (sinne [sɪnːə], anger). In Danish, the tendency of differentiation has led to a qualitative overlapping: also here, e can stand for long [eː] (sene [seːnə], late [plural]) and for short [ɛ] (sende [sɛnə], to send), but i, besides signifying long [iː] (sine [siːnə], oneself's), has come to correspond to short [e] ([nogen]sinde [senə], ever) and, to complicate things further, a short [i] pronunciation is maintained in some cases (sidste [sistə], last). Most Danish vowels have also many segmentally conditioned allophones, especially more open ones when preceded or followed by /r/ .
The following is a table that compares the most common Danish and the Norwegian pronunciations of a letter (without taking into account the grouping of sounds into phonemes, as well as many sub-rules, exceptions and subtleties). Note that in many cases, even when the same IPA transcription is used, the sounds may still be somewhat different in the two languages.
|| /Vr/ |
|| , [ɑ]1)
|| [ɑː] |
|| [ɛ] 2)
|| , 2)3)
|| [aɐ] |
|| [ɔ] 5)
|| [ʌ], [ɔ] 6)
|| [ɒː], [o] |
|| [uːɐ] |
|| [ɔ] 7), [u]
|| [ʁɔ] 7),
|| [uɐ] |
|| [yːɐ] |
|| [ø] 7), [y]
|| [ʁœ] 7), [ʁy]
|| [yɐ], [ɶɐ] 8) |
|| [æː] 9)
|| [ɛːɐ] |
|| , 3)
|| [aɐ] |
|| [øːɐ] |
|| [ʁœ], [ʁɶ] 10)
|| [ɶɐ] |
|| [ɒː] |
|| [ɒː] |
- 1) before labials and velars
- 2) But [æ] before /r/
- 3) before velars
- 4) But [oː] before
- 5) but, in some cases, [u] (notably before rt, nd, and sometimes st)
- 6) in some words before (< older ō)
- 7) almost universally before
- 8) only in fyrre "40"
- 9) But [ɛː], when, by exception, not followed by /r/
- 10) before /n/
Interestingly, while the more open realisations of /ɛ/ and before /r/ are allophonic in Danish, they have acquired phonemic status as /æ/ and in Norwegian, and the Norwegian letter æ has come to be used almost only to signify them. The phonologisation of /æ/ was mostly a collateral effect of the merger of some other sounds: Danish æ /ɛː/ vs. e /eː/ and sj /sj/ vs. rs /ɐ̯s/ have come to be pronounced in the same way in Norwegian (respectively /eː/ and /ʂ/), thus rendering the occurrences of /æ/ unpredictable.
The Danish diphthongs [aɪ̯] and [ʌɪ̯] (spelled as ej
) correspond to the Norwegian diphthongs (in Oslo pronunciation) [æɪ̯] and [œɥ̯] (spelled as ei
). Besides that, a great many letter combinations are pronounced as diphthongs in Danish, but as usual vowel-consonant combinations in Norwegian. That is mostly due to the Danish letters g
(colloquially also b
) being pronounced as semivowels
[ɪ̯] and [ʊ̯] after a vowel: thus, dag
is pronounced [d̥æ(ɪ̯)'] in Danish, but [dɑːg] in Norwegian; lov
(law) is pronounced [lʌʊ̯] in Danish, but [loːv] in Norwegian. Similarly, [aɪ̯] and [ʌɪ̯] are often spelled as eg
in Danish (eg
may be pronounced as [æɪ̯] in Norwegian, too, e.g. in regne
, "to rain").
- A significant sound correspondence (rather than simply a difference in pronunciation) is the fact that Danish has long monophthongs (e /eː/, ø /øː/) in some words, where Norwegian has restored the reflexes of old Norse diphthongs (ei [æɪ̯], øy [œɥ̯] and au [æʉ̯]) as alternatives or, sometimes, replacement of the Danish ones. Examples: Danish ben (leg, bone) - Norwegian ben or bein; Danish hø (hay) - Norwegian høy; Danish høj (hill) - Norwegian haug.
The most notable differences are, as already mentioned, the pronunciation of approximants in Danish, corresponding to voiced and voiceless stops in Norwegian and of r
as a uvu
in Danish, corresponding to an alveolar trill
in (East) Norwegian (skrige
[sg̊ʁii] vs skrike
[skriːkə]). Furthermore, Danish has replaced the voiced
opposition in ) vs ) with an aspirated
/nonaspirated one (vs ), and the contrast between the two is preserved only in the onset
of a stressed syllable. Thus, begge
(both) and bække
(brooks) are pronounced alike as [b̥ɛg̊ə]. In Norwegian, the opposition is still voiced vs voiceless and it is preserved everywhere, with being aspirated in the onset of a stressed syllable (as in English and German).
||In stressed onset
||In stressed onset
The Danish /r/ is either vocalized or dropped altogether, after having influenced the adjacent vowels, in all positions but word-initially and pre-stress.
Some letter combinations that are pronounced quite differently are:
- rd, rl, rn, rs, rt are pronounced as spelled in Danish (with the /r/ dropped), but in the part of Norway using trilled r, they are always or almost always merged into retroflex consonants ([ɖ], [ɭ], [ɳ], [ʂ], [ʈ]).
- sj is pronounced as [ɕ] in Danish, but as [ʂ] in most of Norway.
Some notable sound correspondences are:
- Danish has /b/ (spelled b), /ð/ (spelled d), and (spelled g) after long stressed vowels, where Norwegian has restored/preserved the /p/, /t/ and /k/ from Old Norse. Examples: Danish fod (foot), reb (rope), syg (sick) - Norwegian fot, rep, syk - Old Norse fótr, reip, sjúkr. In a handful of cases, however, Norwegian has kept the Danish form (lege, doctor, tegn, sign, bedre, better, vs Old Norse læknari, teikn, betri). In most of these cases, the Nynorsk equivalents have retained the old consonants (lækjar (variant form), teikn, betre).
- Sometimes Danish has /v/ ([ʊ̯], spelled v) after originally long stressed vowels, where Norwegian has restored/preserved /g/ from Old Norse. Example: Danish skov (forest), mave (belly) - Norwegian skog, mage - Old Norse skógr, magi. However, in many cases Norwegian has kept the Danish form (lyve - Old Norse ljúga), and variation is permitted (mave, lyge, and even ljuge).
- Danish has /g/, /k/, and /sk/ (spelled g, k and sk) in stressed syllable onsets, where Norwegian usually has /j/, /ç/ and /ʂ/ (spelled as in Danish before i, y, ei and øy, and gj, kj and skj elsewhere). Examples: Danish gemme (keep, hide), kær (dear), skønt (although), gyse (shiver), kilde (source) vs Norwegian gjemme, kjær, skjønt, gyse, kilde.
In Norwegian, each stressed
syllable must contain, phonetically, either a long vowel or a long (geminate) consonant
[mɑːlə], "to paint" vs malle
[mɑlːə], "catfish") . In Danish, there are no phonologically long consonants, so the opposition is between long and short vowels ([mæːlə] vs [malə].
Both languages have a prosodic
opposition between two accents, derived from syllable count in Old Norse and determined partly phonologically, partly morphologically and partly lexically. However, the exact nature of this prosodic contrast is very different. In Norwegian, the contrast is between two tonal accents
, accent 1 and 2, which characterise a whole word with primary stress; in Danish, it is between the presence and the absence of the stød
(a kind of laryngealisation
), which characterises a syllable (though usually a syllable that bears at least secondary stress
). Example: Danish løber
"runner" [ˈløːb̥ɐ] vs løber
"runs" [ˈløːˀb̥ɐ], Norwegian løper
løːpər] vs løper
løːpər]. Note Danish landsmand
[ˈlanˀsmanˀ] "compatriot" (one word, two støds) as opposed to Norwegian landsmann
lɑnsmɑnː] (one word, one accent).
Danish has two grammatical genders
(indefinite article en
and definite article -en
) and neuter
(indefinite article et
and definite article -et
). In Norwegian, the system is generally the same, but some "common" words optionally use special feminine gender conjugation patterns, which have been preserved from Old Norse in Norwegian dialects and were re-introduced into the written language by the language reforms of the early 20th century. Hence, three genders are recognized - masculine
(morphologically identical to Danish common, with indefinite article en
and definite article -en
(indefinite article ei
and definite article -a
) and neuter (morphologically identical to its Danish counterpart, with indefinite article et
and definite article -et
, pronounced /ə/). The likelihood of a feminine as opposed to common form being used depends on the particular word, as well as on style: common gender forms are often more formal or sometimes even bookish, while feminine forms tend to make a more colloquial and sometimes even rustic impression. Examples: Danish en mand
("a man - the man"), en sol
("a sun - the sun"), et hus
("a house - the house") vs
Norwegian en mann
("a man - the man"), ei sol
or en sol
("a sun - the sun"), et hus
("a house - the house").
The Norwegian feminine can also be expressed in the indefinite singular declension of the word liten, which has a special feminine form lita beside the neuter lite. Danish has only lille, which is the definite singular form in both languages.
In Danish, the plural endings are -er
or zero-ending. The choice of ending is difficult to predict (although -er
is especially common in polysyllables, loanwords and words ending in unstressed e
is most usual in monosyllables; and zero-ending is most usual in neuter monosyllables). In Norwegian, the system is rather regularized, as the -e
ending has all but disappeared, and -er
is dominant in common gender
monosyllables, while zero-ending is prevalent in neuter gender
monosyllables. Examples: Danish en appelsin - appelsiner
, en hund - hunde
, et hus - huse
, et fald - fald
, vs Norwegian en appelsin- appelsiner
, en hund - hunder
, et hus - hus
, et fall - fall
(singular and plural forms of "orange", "dog", "house" and "fall").
In addition, the formation of the definite plural forms are somewhat different in the two languages. In Danish, plural forms in -er transform into definite plural -erne, while plurals in -e and zero-ending become -ene. Norwegian has generalized -ene for nearly all words, and has introduced an alternative ending -a for a few monosyllable neuter words. Examples: Danish en sag - sager - sagerne, en dag - dage - dagene, et fald - fald - faldene, et ben - ben - benene vs Norwegian en sak - saker - sakene, en dag - dager - dagene, et fall - fall - fallene, et be(i)n - be(i)n - be(i)na/be(i)nene (singular, plural, and plural definite forms of "thing", "day", "fall" and "bone"/"leg").
In both languages, single nouns use a postpositive definite article. However, in Danish, when a noun is modified by an adjective, a prepositive definite article is used instead of the postpositive one. Norwegian both adds a prepositive article and keeps the postpositive. Example: Danish hus - huset
, et stort hus - det store hus
, vs Norwegian hus - huset
, et stort hus - det store huset
(indefinite and definite forms of "a/the house" and "a/the big house").
The same difference applies when a demonstrative pronoun
is used: Danish Jeg elsker den mand
vs Norwegian Jeg elsker den mannen
(I love that man
- To denote second person plural ("you people"), Danish uses I (oblique form jer, possessive pronoun jeres), while Norwegian uses dere (oblique dere, possessive deres).
- The 1st person plural possessive pronoun ("our") is vores (uninflected) in modern Danish, but vår (inflected: neuter vårt, plural våre) in Norwegian. Example: Danish vores ven/hus/venner vs Norwegian vår venn/vårt hus/våre venner ("our friend/house/friends"). (In Danish, the original inflected variant vor (vort, vore) occurs only in more solemn or archaic style.)
- The possessive pronouns always precede what they are modifying in Danish; in Norwegian, they may also be placed after a noun or a noun phrase, which then has a definite form. The choice of construction in Norwegian depends on the particular word and on style (the Danish-like construction is more formal, the other one is more colloquial). Example: Danish min ven, min nye ven vs Norwegian min venn or vennen min, min nye venn or den nye vennen min ("my friend", "my new friend").
- The reflexive possessive pronoun sin ("his/her/its own") can't refer to a plural subject in Danish, but it can do so in Norwegian. Example: Danish Han vasker sine klæder like Norwegian Han vasker sine klær ("He is washing his clothes"); but Danish De vasker deres klæder vs Norwegian De vasker sine klær ("They are washing their clothes"). In Norwegian deres is reserved for the second person plural form. De vasker deres klær in Norwegian means "They are washing your (second person plural) clothes".
- In Danish, the pronoun that expresses an unspecified, generalized person or group (corresponding to English "one", French "on" and German "man") is man in its main form, but its oblique form is en and its genitive form is ens. In Norwegian, en can also be used as a main form. Example: Danish man kan ikke gøre det vs Norwegian man/en kan ikke gjøre det ("one/people can't do that").
- In Danish, the pronouns "such" and "so (=in this way)" are usually translated with sådan (slig is obsolete and solemn). In Norwegian, the most usual form is slik (sånn can be somewhat colloquial).
There are significant differences between the numeral systems of the two languages.
- In Danish, the number 7 is called syv. In Norwegian, it can also be called sju (although the 2005 language reform has permitted syv again).
- In Danish, 20 and 30 are called tyve and tredive. Although these forms do occur in Norwegian (with tredive shortened to tredve), the only officially permitted forms are tjue /çʉːə/ and tretti.
- In Danish, the number 40 is called fyrre. In Norwegian, it is førti, although førr is permitted in riksmål
- In Danish, the tens between 50 and 90 have different roots from the ones in most Germanic languages. Etymologically, like in French they are based on a vigesimal system; in other words, the name of the number is based on how many times 20 it is. Thus, 60 is tres (short for tresindstyve, "3 times 20") and 50 is halvtreds (short for halvtredsindstyve, "2.5 times 20" or more literally "one-half-remaining-to-three times 20"). Similarly, 70 is halvfjerds, 80 is firs, and 90 is halvfems. In Norwegian, these numbers are constructed much like in English and German, as compound words of the respective unit and an old word for "ten": 50 = femti, 60 = seksti, 70 = sytti /søtːi/ , 80 = åtti, 90 = nitti.
- In Danish, units are placed before tens (as in German); in Norwegian, it's the other way round (as in English), although the Danish order is also used by some speakers. Example: Danish enogtyve ("one-and-twenty") vs Norwegian tjueen ("twenty-one") or enogtyve.
- Concerning ordinal numbers, "second" is always anden in Danish, but andre (or sometimes annen) (a definite form) in Norwegian.
- Danish regular verbs can be divided in those that form their past tense and past participle with the suffixes -ede and -et /əð/, respectively, (e.g. "to throw", kaste - kastede - kastet) and those that form them with the suffixes -te and -t (e.g. "to read", læse - læste - læst). Although the group in -ede, -et is the largest one, the choice between these two conjugataion patterns is mostly impredictible. The corresponding Norwegian groups use -et, -et (kaste - kastet - kastet), and -te, -t (lese - leste - lest). However, unlike Danish, the choice of conjugation has come to be governed by a rule (with a few exceptions): verb stems containing a short vowel, followed by a long consonant or a consonant cluster (as in ramme), use -et, and verb stems containing a long vowel, followed by a short consonant (as in male), use -te (Danish ramme - ramte - ramt vs Norwegian ramme - rammet - rammet "to hit"; Danish male - malede - malet vs Norwegian male - malte - malt "to paint"). In addition, verb stems ending in a stressed vowel form a third group with no parallel in Danish, using the endings -dde, -dd ("to live [somewhere]" - bo - bodde - bodd). The corresponding Danish verbs nearly always use -ede, -et (bo - boede - boet).
- Bokmål has also introduced the optional use of the ending -a (taken from Norwegian dialects and used in Nynorsk) instead of -et, although that is more common in speech than in writing.
- Some Danish irregular verbs have longer forms, ending in unstressed -de, -ge and -ve, which have been dropped in Norwegian. In many cases, the Danish verbs may also be pronounced in the contracted way. Examples: Danish lade - lod - ladet, sige - sagde - sagt, blive - blev - blevet vs Norwegian la - lot - latt, si - sa - sagt, bli - ble - blitt ("let", "say", "become"). Other examples are tage - tog - taget vs ta - tok - tatt ("to take"), have - havde - haft vs ha - hadde - hatt ("to have"), etc..
- The perfect tenses in Danish may be formed either with the auxiliary verb have "to have" (as in English) or with være "to be". Some verbs always use være (ske "happen", holde op "stop"), while others can use both auxiliaries, but with slightly different meanings: han har rejst "he has travelled (spent some time travelling)" emphasizes the action itself, while han er rejst "he has left (so he isn't here now)" emphasizes the result of the action. In Norwegian, ha "to have" may be - and increasingly is - used in all cases (han har reist), and no specific verbs require it (det har skjedd).
Certain words present in both languages are used differently in each. This can result in identical sentences meaning different things in the two languages, or in constructions that make sense in one language becoming nonsensical in the other.
- må/kan - The word "må" usually means "must" in Norwegian, but can mean "may", "can", or "must" in Danish.
- der/som - Danish has both words for "which", although der is only used as the grammatical subject. Der is seldom used in Norwegian.
- nogle/nogen - in Danish the English words "some" (in a plural sense) and "any" can be translated with nogle and nogen, respectively, while in Norwegian both are rendered as noen (from Danish nogen).
- kun/bare - in Danish, kun means roughly "only, solely" (referring to quantity or number) and bare "just, merely". While there are rules in Danish that govern when to choose which word, in Norwegian bare may be used with both meanings.
- meget/mye - in Norwegian, the adverb meget (alternatively veldig etc.) modifies adjectives just like English "very", while mye is used like English "much, a lot". Using meget like mye may be considered a bit old fashioned by some norwegians. In Danish, meget is used in both cases.
- enda/ennå (ennu) - in Norwegian, ennå means "still, yet" in a temporal sense, but enda, which normally means "yet, nevertheless" among other things, is used in conjunction with comparative forms in expressions such as enda bedre, "better still". In Danish, endnu (the equivalent of ennå) is used in both cases.
- The primary difference in preposition usage in the Danish and Norwegian languages is the use of i/på, (in English in/on). Although the two are generally used similarly in both languages, in certain cases the two languages choose a different preposition for the same construction. For example, "a quarter to five" would be kvart i fem in Danish, but kvart på fem in Norwegian. To express a period of time during which something has happened, Danish always uses i, but Norwegian uses i in affirmative and på in negative sentences: Danish jeg har (ikke) set ham i to år vs Norwegian jeg har sett ham i to år, jeg har ikke sett ham på to år ("I have [not] seen him for two years").
- genitive constructions - unlike Danish, Norwegian very often uses the preposition til ("to") as a more informal alternative of genitive constructions: boka til Peter, or Peters bok vs Danish Peters bog. Norwegian also uses a construction with the reflexive pronoun, Peter sin bok, (Lit. Peter his book).
Danish has adopted many German
(particularly from Low German
variants spoken by the Hanseatic League
) words and grammatical
structures, while Bokmål has rejected some of these imports. An example is the naming of countries; Danish and Swedish generally use the German names of countries, or at least the German ending, while Norwegian uses the Latin endings; this means that the usual ending is -a
in Norwegian and -en
in Danish (the -en
endings are also the definite articles). Thus, Spain is known as Spanien
in Danish, but as Spania
in Bokmål. An even more drastic difference is Danish Grækenland
("Greece", a Danish form of German Griechenland
) as opposed to Norwegian Hellas
(the Greek form of the name).
(However, Norway usually uses greker
(noun) and gresk
(adjective) for "Greek", not hellener
(noun) and hellensk
(adjective), as might be expected.)
Here are some examples of common words and expressions that are different in the two languages. Note that the Danish variant usually exists in Norwegian as an archaic or less frequent form (and/or vice versa).
|| Norwegian |
||bange, (arch., dial.:) ræd
||efterår, (poet.:) høst
|be correct, hold true
||dreng, (colloquial:) gut
|to comb (verb)
||gre, kjemme |
||tiår, årti |
||aften, (poet.:) kvæld
||fort (adv), rask (adj) |
||moro, gøy |
||jente, (pike) |
||bra, (god) |
||rask, sund, frisk
||brint , hydrogen
|..., isn't it?/didn't he? etc.
||..., ikke/vel? ikke sandt?, ikke også?
||..., ikke sant? |
||sidste år, i fjor
||i fjor |
|like (vb. enjoy)
||oksygen, surstoff |
||sludder, vrøvl, nonsens
||tull, tøys, vås |
||fornøyd, tilfreds |
||somme tider, indimellem
||iblant, av og til |
||forår, (poet.:) vår
||fremdeles, fortsatt |
|there (about direction)
||grim, (ethically:) styg
||vanlig, sedvanlig |
||makk, mark |
||gal(t), feil |