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Where not to put IKKE? Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Grammar

Ikke (not) phrases are often called negative phrases – even if some of them are very positive in meaning: Vi vil ikke ha mer krig! (We don’t want any more war!) Sometimes, though, even the most positive negative sentence can drive a poor language-learner mad: Where do(n’t) I put ikke?

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Segrott at Flickr, CC License.)

Let’s take some simple summer phrases…

  • Sola skinner. (The sun is shining.)
  • Vi spiser jordbær hver dag. (We eat strawberries every day.)

…and put them in denial:

  • Sola skinner ikke. (The sun isn’t shining.)
  • Vi spiser ikke jordbær hver dag. (We don’t eat strawberries every day.)

So, basically, you just put ikke behind the main verb.

But how about questions? That’s where it’s getting – interesting:

  • Du kommer ikke. (You don’t come.) Kommer du ikke? (Don’t you come?)
  • De selger ikke brus. (They don’t sell lemonade.) Selger de ikke brus? (Don’t they sell lemonade? – Yes, you could even say Selger ikke de brus? if you want to stress they.)

See? The main verb jumps up front, while ikke politely stays in the line…

Fortunately, most Norwegians will understand you even if you place ikke a little off. Otherwise, I think that Dependent Clauses would make students run away screaming! 🙂 (There are 2 DC’s in the phrase I think THAT she told me WHEN she would get back.) Behold the marvel:

  • Det snør ikke i juli. (It doesn’t snow in July.) Jeg vet at det ikke snør i juli! (I know that it doesn’t snow in July!)
  • Solkremen virker ikke. (The suncreen doesn’t work.) Vi tror at solkremen ikke virker. (We believe that the sunscreen doesn’t work.)

In case you wonder, the flipflop (snør ikke > ikke snør etc.) has a lot to do with inversion – a strange twist in Norwegian grammar – but that’s for another blog post (or you can read the one that Kari wrote)!

Now, place ikke the right place in these three sentences:

Vi __ finner __ Preikestolen. (We can’t find Preikestolen.)

__ finner __ vi __ Preikestolen?

Jeg tror at __ vi __ finner __ Preikestolen.

Yes, that’s right! 🙂 Not bad (ikke dårlig)!

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About the Author:Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


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