Danish Language Blog

Asking Questions We Like, Yes? Posted by on Oct 24, 2011 in Grammar

A Danish newspaper recently claimed Danish university students were too shy to ask questions at lectures. Too bad for them – asking a lot of questions helps you keeping an open mind. And with your eyes and ears wide open you’ll quickly assimilate a lot of words and succeed in your mission to learn the language. (Trust me, I’ve been there a couple of times!)

How, then, does one go about asking questions? In English, that’s a good question. On the one hand, we’ve got the whole bunch of question words: How much does the cheese cost? Where is Amy? What’s that? All these questions beg for specific answers: 20 dollars. In the garden. It’s a border collie. On the other hand, sometimes we’re just asking if something’s true or false. We don’t want elaborate roadmaps, just a plain yes or no, got it! Does it really cost 40 bugs? No. Isn’t it Amy in the garden? Yes. Is that a dachshund? No. See what happened? Yeah, that’s right, you take a dummy verb and make it the front runner of the sentence: Does… Isn’t… Is… (In a language like Spanish you’d just add a rising tone to a phrase in order to question-ify it: Amy está en el jardín. > ¿Amy está en el jardín?)

In Danish, you don’t need to worry about whether to ”do” or ”don’t” your yes/no questions. The rule is piece of cake: Take the main verb, and move it up front! Everything else remains the same:

Amy er i haven. >> Er Amy i haven?
Katten bed hunden. The cat bit the dog. >> Bed katten hunden? Did the dog bite the cat?
Hun danser altid fredag aften. She always dances Friday evening. >> Danser hun altid fredag aften? Does she always dance Friday evening?
Elsker du mig? Do you love me? << Jeg elsker dig! I love you! (At last you got this important phrase! 😉 )

And for those of you who love lists, here are the most important Danish question words. Make sure to study the example phrases, so you catch the slight structural difference between the Danish and the English ways of asking things!

Hvad laver du? What are you doing? (”What make you?”)
Hvem kender du ikke?! Who(m) don’t you know?! (”Who know you not?”)
Hvilken hånd vælger du så? Which hand do you choose, then? (”Which hand choose you then?”)
Hvor bor du? Where do you live? (”Where live you?”)
Hvor kommer du fra? Hvorfra? Where do you come from? From where? (”Where come you from? Wherefrom?”)
Hvor går du hen? Hvorhen? Where are you going? Whereto? (”Where go you to? Whereto?”)
Hvorfor vil du gifte dig med mig? Why do you want to marry me? (”Why want you marry you with me?”)
Hvordan smager pizzaen? How does the pizza taste? (”How tastes the pizza?”)
Hvornår ses vi igen? When will I see you again? (”When are-seen we again?”)


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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.