On On and In

Posted on 30. Nov, 2015 by in Grammar

(Illustration by the blogger.)

(Illustration by the blogger.)

It’s time to address some of the real utfordringer (challenges) that many of you face as Norwegian learners. (Thank you, by the way, for all the great feedback you left on this topic!) Først ut (first in line) are … the prepositions i (in) and (on…)! Both are used in answering hvor (where) questions. I think the basic idea is this:

You’re en fjelltopp (on a peak). You’re i en dal (in a valley). In the first example, you’re standing on top of a limited area (the peak). In the second example, you’re the one being limited; you’re surrounded by something else (the valley).

That’s why you say i universet (in the universe) but på jorda (on earth), i skapet (in the cupboard) but på bordet (on the table). It’s a matter of perspective. That’s also why you use i with cities and countries and continents – but with islands. Think about being surrounded by a city or a country, but ”on top” of an island: i Oslo, i Norge, i Europapå Svalbard, på Utøya. Of course, it gets a little strange with huge islands: på Madagaskar.

I AM REALLY SORRY TO WRITE THIS, BUT HERE THE LOGIC ENDS! Once upon a time, I guess there was a rational explanation for everything. Maybe the Norwegians who decided to say they were i huset (in the house) but på hytta (in the cabin) felt that in hytta they were really lords and ladies on top of the world – even when not literally sitting on the cabin roof! :-)

Well, actually, there’s more to it. Sometimes you’re going on holiday on Friday… Think about it as climbing a ”staircase of experiences”. You’re treading on steps, and each step is an activity or state: Han er på jobb (he’s working/at work), de drar på ferie i morgen (they go on holiday tomorrow), en natt på byen (a night out in town). Okay, this is getting philosophical, but maybe if you think of being ”på hytta” as an activity it makes more sense! :-)

Hvor er Pål? (Where’s Paul?) – Han er hjemme/på hytta/på ferie. (He’s at home/”on” cabin/on holiday.)

Hvor er brillene? (Where are the glasses?) – De er (inne) i huset/(inne) i hytta. (They’re in[side] the house/the cabin.)

Det er kjedelig hjemme./Det er gøy på hytta. (It’s boring at home./It’s fun at the cabin.) Det er tre rom i huset/i hytta. (There are three rooms in the house/cabin.)

Of course, there are plenty of strange expressions you have to memorise – just to make life a bit challenging! :-)

Here are a few ones. Feel free to add your own observations in the comments section:

Jeg tenker på deg. (I’m thinking of you.)
Venter du på meg? (Are you waiting on/awaiting me?)
Det er synd på deg. (I’m sorry for you, literally ”It’s pity on you.”)
Hva heter det på norsk? (What’s that in Norwegian?)
Stol på meg! (Trust in me!) 
Det driter jeg i! (I don’t give a cr*p about that!)
De vandret i mange dager. (They were trekking for many days.)

is a very popular preposition, and sometimes Norwegians tend to overuse it. For example, many people would say jeg gjorde det bare for gøy (I did it just for fun), but some will say jeg gjorde det bare gøy. In fact, has become a kind of ”dummy preposition” (variously translatable as ”in”, ”on”, ”at”, ”for”, etc.). If you’re in doubt which preposition to use, there’s a fair chance that the correct one might be ! 😉

Norwegian Words of Healing

Posted on 25. Nov, 2015 by in Norway and the world, Vocabulary

Hope candles. (Photo courtesy of Len Matthews at Flickr, CC License.)

Hope candles. (Photo courtesy of Len Matthews at Flickr, CC License.)

Det er en vanskelig tid for mange (it’s a hard time for many [people]). Uskyldige mennesker (innocent people) have been killed in Bamako, Paris, Beirut and other places. That’s when we need our languages to comfort each other and show that we care about each other. Words can hurt, but more importantly – ord (words) can heal…

Hvordan går det? (How are you?)
Har du det bra? (Are you okay?)
Lenge siden jeg har hørt fra deg… (Long time no hear…)
Trenger du hjelp? (Do you need any help?)
Hvordan går det med foreldrene dine? (How are your parents?)

Jeg håper dere har det bra. (I hope you guys are doing fine.)
Jeg tenker på dere. (I’m thinking of you.)
Jeg har vært bekymret for dere. (I’ve been worried about you.)
Jeg er glad i deg. (I care about you.)
Jeg tenkte bare jeg ville høre om alt stod bra til? ([I just thought] I wanted to hear if everything’s okay?)

Huff og huff! (Alas!)
Nei så tragisk! (That’s tragic!)
Stakkars deg! (Poor you!)
Det er forferdelig, forferdelig. (It’s terrible, terrible.)
Jeg skjønner at det er veldig vanskelig for dere. (I understand it’s really hard for you guys.)

Jeg kondolerer. (My condolences.)
Jeg beklager. (I’m sorry.)
Jeg føler med dere! (I feel your pain!)

Vil du ha setet mitt? (Wanna have my seat?)
Vil du bli med til fest med vennene mine? (Wanna join a party with my friends?)
Skal vi ta en prat? (Wanna talk?)
Du kan alltid ringe dersom det er noe. (You can always call if there’s something [on your mind].)

Opp med humøret! (Cheerie up!)
Der det er liv, er det håp! (Where there’s life, there’s hope!)
Dette skal vi greie! (We’ll make this!)
Kom igjen! Vi gir oss ikke! (Come on! We don’t give up!)

Meet the Monster

Posted on 31. Oct, 2015 by in Language, learning, Vocabulary

(Image from openclipart.org.)

(Image from openclipart.org.)

Monsteret er løs! (The monster is ”loose”!) Right now, it is doing everything it can to prevent you from learning norsk! Men fortvil ikke… (But don’t despair…) There is a way to get through Halloween alive First of all, you must kjenne din fiende (know your enemy)!

Of course, the Norwegian night is full of demons… Pronunciation, Word Order and Strong Verbs are just some of the beasts that are vying to make you run away screaming!

However, monsteret over alle monstere for Norwegian-learners has to be … Variety! Just consider the following examples:

• You want to tell somebody about your favourite book. But should it be min bok, boken min or boka mi?

• You and your friends want to order seven drinks. Should you ask for sju or syv, or just give up and order åtte?

• You want to tell someone you like them. But how should you introduce yourself without sounding like a wannabe native: jeg, je, i, eg, æ?

As language learners, we want quick fixes. We want 1 spelling for neither … nor. Then our dictionary tells us that it can be either verken … eller or hverken … eller. Both are correct, and we want to bang our head into the nearest wall! :-)

Happy Halloween to all readers who celebrate it! (Image from openclipart.org.)

Happy Halloween to all readers who celebrate it! (Image from openclipart.org.)

But here is the thing… Learn one word at a time, and use it! Pick the easy solutions – you are not going to sound like a Native from day 1 anyway! For example, if you find it difficult remembering which words are feminine, stick to masculine forms (boken and solen or boka and sola). Noone is going to hate you; people tend to be very understanding and helpful towards language learners.

If you are living in a Norwegian town and are planning to stay for a long time, talk to the people around you, learn their dialect! :-) Otherwise, just stick to the words and forms of the written language – which is often bokmål Norwegian (as in this blog).

Unlike dialect speakers of countries like England or Germany, Norwegians rarely switch to a ”standard language” when talking with people from elsewhere. So, if you’re hanging out with a group of Norwegians and finding yourself misunderstood (maybe you got the pronunciation wrong?), you may be met with many different ”whats”: Hva (sier du), Kæ (seie du), Ka (du sei)?

English-speakers from Scotland and California don’t use exactly the same words or pronunciaton, but they can still communicate. If possible, spend some time in Norway, listen to Norwegian radio stations. In a while, all the ”gibberish” will make sense… Remember, you don’t have to speak 5 different dialects yourself – just to get the gist of what folk sier (people are saying).


• pick your favo(u)rites

• keep it simple

• accept that Variety is there to stay

Now, go ahead and meet that monster. Are you ready? :-)