Your Danish Possessives

Posted on 25. Apr, 2016 by in grammar

voresYou’ll probably not find this in your grammar book, but the most important thing to ask yourself when you want to use a possessive pronoun (”my”, ”her”…) in Danish is this: Does it end in an -s? If yes, you’re lucky: hans, hendes, vores, jeres, deres NEVER change:

Hans cykel, hendes bil, vores hus, jeres garage, deres børn – Cyklen er hans, bilen er hendes, huset er vores, garagen er jeres, børnene er deres (His bike, her car, our house, your garage, their children – The bike is his, the car is hers, the house is ours, the garage is yours, the children are theirs).

Min (mine) and din (yours), however, are just as wishy-washy as your typical adjective. Let’s repeat:

-t is a neuter ending

-e is a plural ending

So, you say:

Har du set min paraply/mit rejsekort/mine briller? (Have you seen my umbrella/my travel card/my glasses?)

Nej, jeg har ikke set din paraply/dit rejsekort/dine briller…

Stop, wait, it can’t be this easy!

Okay, it’s true, there IS the small word sin [seen]… It does not exist in English, but can be translated as ”his (own)” or ”her (own)”. It’s inflected just like ”mine”: sin, sit, sine. I’d better demonstrate:

Hun drak sin latte. (She drank her [own] latte.)

Han tog sin hat og gik. (He took his [own] hat and left.)

In both those phrases, sin refers back to the person drinking or taking. Not a big deal, maybe, but if you go ahead like you would in English, the meaning actually changes:

Hun drak hendes latte. (She drank her [someone else’s] latte.)

Han tog hans hat og gik. (He took his [someone else’s] hat and left.)

Got it? 🙂 If in doubt, you can always replace pronouns with names:

Anna Larsen snakker med Anna Larsens veninde > Hun snakker med sin veninde (She’s talking with her friend).

Anna Larsen snakker med Helle Jensens veninde > Hun snakker med hendes veninde

If you feel like a total mess now, don’t worry: Danes are having a lot of sin trouble themselves! In fact, in dialects such as the traditional Århus dialect, sin isn’t really used… Just pretend you’re a dialect speaker and do your best to follow the conversation! 🙂

Danish Pronouns – let’s get personal

Posted on 15. Apr, 2016 by in grammar

Not exactly Danish, but I thought this photo was a perfect fit for the text. :-) (Courtesy of DaveBleasdale at Flickr, CC License.)

Not exactly Danish, but I thought this photo was a perfect fit for the text. 🙂 (Courtesy of DaveBleasdale at Flickr, CC License.)

Nothing speeds up communication like a good pronoun! 🙂 Instead of having to repeat a personal name umpteen times, it’s really great that once everybody agrees on a topic, ”you” can manage with a short ”I” or ”she”. At first glance, Danish stedord (pronouns or ”[in]-place-[of something]-words”) look a lot like the English ones:

Jeg ringer senere. (I’ll call you later.)

Du har vel ikke set en lille hund? (You haven’t seen a small dog around here, have you?)

Hun savner solen. (She’s missing the sun.)

Han tager metroen. (He’s taking the metro.)

Vi rydder op i huset. (We’re tidying up the house.)

De cykler til stranden. (They’re going by bike to the beach.)

Then of course, Danish has a special plural you (”thou and thou”):

Vil I have et lift? (Do you guys want a ride?)

Notice that this word is always written with a capital I [ee] – of course, it has nothing to do with the similarly written English ”I”! 🙂

Danish has two different ways of saying ”it” – depending on whether the thing referred to is neuter (an ”et” noun) or common gender (an ”en” noun):

Har du set min mobil? Den lå lige her… (Have you seen my mobile phone? It was lying around just here…)

Har du set mit pas? Det er amerikansk. (Have you seen my passport? It’s American.)

When ”it” is referring to something other than a noun – like a phrase or a situation – only det is used:

Jeg håber du kommer. Det ville være så godt! (I hope you’ll come. It [that] would be so great!)

I think the greatest difficulty for English-speakers comes with the ”me” forms of pronouns (accusative/dative/reflexive, if you speak grammar!)

Du ser mig, og jeg ser dig. (You see me, and I see you.)

Keder I jer? (Are you guys bored? – Literally: Do you guys bore yourselves?)

Nej, vi keder os aldrig… (No, we’re never bored… – ”We never bore ourselves.”)

Jeg ringer når jeg finder den/det. (I’ll give you a call when I find it!)

Hun ser ham, og han ser hende. (She sees him, and he sees her.)

Hun ser sig i spejlet. (She sees herself in the mirror.

Sig points back to either han, hun or de, and can be translated as ”herself”, ”himself”, ”themselves”. But this is where you need to be careful! 🙂 Because if you drop the phrase

Hun ser hende i spejlet

it means that she sees someone else in the mirror, like her friend standing nearby! This is a Danish oddity which will become even more tricky in the next post, where we’ll look at possessive pronouns! 🙂

The World’s Happiest People

Posted on 31. Mar, 2016 by in Daily Life, Denmark and the World


From the celebration of Margrethe II’s 40th anniversary as Queen of Denmark. (Photo courtesy of Comrade Foot at Flickr, CC License.)

Do all Danes wake up to Pharell’s song ”Happy”? According to FN (De Forenede Nationer  United Nations), they probably should. The 2016 World Happiness Report once again kårer (elects) Denmark as verdens lykkeligste folk (the happiest people on earth), followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland.

Maybe it’s because Danes take so many lykkepiller (happiness pills = antidepressants), an Australian bartender earnestly jokes. Ude på gaden smiler folk til solen (out in the street, people are smiling to the sun). In the rainy winter months, however, many people do suffer from vinterdepression (winter depression). A Norwegian friend of mine asked me why so many Danes look angry?

A pretty Dane. (Photo courtesy of Xuanxu at Flickr.)

A pretty Dane. (Photo courtesy of Xuanxu at Flickr, CC License.)

Turister often think of Danmark as a magical country from an H. C. Andersen eventyr (fairytale). They go to ”Wonderful Copenhagen” that is so peaceful that politiet (the police) stops the cars so andemor og hendes ællinger (mother duck and her ducklings) may cross the street. In recent years, however, there have been many ugly misforståelser (misunderstandings) between ”traditional” Danes and new groups such as Muslim Danes. No matter how you vote, I hope we can agree that Denmark is a changing land that is both exciting and a bit confusing! 🙂

Here are some things to be happy about in Denmark:

  • there’s almost no fattigdom (poverty). Jobs are well paid, and staten (the state) helps people who are unable to work or find a job.
  • life’s – comparatively – easy. Mad (food) is quite billig (cheap), and there’s public transport everywhere.
  • basic uddannelse (education) is free, as are most medical services (except the dentist and, ahem, the psychologist)
  • Denmark has got some of the world’s prettiest women (and maybe men, I can’t quite tell)
  • the Danish language has got so many vowels that you can sing all day long 😉

Do you agree that Denmark is the world’s happiest place? I would love to hear your stories and experiences! 🙂