Danish Language Blog

Lying, sitting, standing Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Grammar

Baldr dead by Eckersberg

This was the only 100% free image I could find of people standing, sitting, lying… It even has a Danish connection. It shows the killing of the god Balder (from Norse mythology).

Do you know teatersport? It’s basically a kind of unscripted theatre, where you and your mates pick an øvelse (exercise) or ”set-of-rules” and use it to make a scene that’s totally improvised. I love to take part in creative collaborations like that, and one øvelse always makes me think about Scandinavian languages… It’s called sidde, ligge, stå (sit, lie, stand). You’re three persons on the floor. You can say or do whatever you want – but there should always be one person standing, one sitting, and one lying. The fun, of course, starts when the person lying suddenly feels an urge to stand up, or the person standing takes a chair…

In a Scandinavian language like Danish, there are so many things beside mennesker (humans) that sidder, ligger or står. Basically, you use the words to tell where something or someone is located. But, how do you go about?

  • STÅR (past tense stod, past perfect har stået)

This is used for objects in an upright position.


De står i kø til koncerten. They’re standing in line for the concert.


Bøgerne står i reolen. The books are in the bookcase.

Juletræet står i stuen. The Christmas tree is in the living-room.

It’s even used when talking about letters or words. (I guess they’re somehow ”standing” on a line!)

Hvad står der i brevet? ”What stands there in the letter?” What does the letter say?

Der står at… It says that…


  • SIDDER (past tense sad, past perfect har siddet)

Okay, you know when someone is sitting. The fun thing is that the word’s also sometimes used when something smaller is attached to something bigger, or is located inside it:

Knappen sidder på bagsiden. The button’s on the backside.

Hvor sidder blindtarmen? Where is the appendix located?


  • LIGGER (past tense , past perfect har ligget)

This is used for objects in a horizontal or flat position.


De ligger og sover. ”They’re lying and sleeping.” They’re sleeping.


Bogen ligger på bordet. The book’s lying on the table.

Træet ligger på jorden. The tree’s lying on the ground.

It’s also used to tell where something is on the map:

Danmark ligger i Europa. Denmark is in Europe.


Ever since I started learning other languages, I’ve wondered why people in Scandinavia are so busy with positions. It’s often quite impossible to avoid the sidde-ligge-stå thing!

If somebody’s in the living-room, you could say Han er (inde) i stuen (He is in the l-r). But in case he’s most probably sitting on the couch, for example, you’d automatically go for Han sidder (inde) i stuen (He’s sitting in the living-room).

If some people are doing the dishes in the kitchen, you say

De står (ude) i køkkenet og vasker op (They’re standing in the kitchen and doing the dishes).

If they’re eating at the same place, you say

De sidder (ude) i køkkenet og spiser (They’re sitting in the kitchen and eating).

Leaving out sidder and står in these sentences sounds just as weird as removing the -ing form would do in English.

So, Danes always keep an eye on whether you’re standing, sitting or lying! I think this is one of the strangest things about the language. However, all of you who didn’t grow up with Danish might see things better than me:

What makes Danish strange to you? What’s the oddest, weirdest, most bizarre, most fascinating thing about Danish?

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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.


  1. Ana:

    Nice post 🙂
    The weirdest thing to me in Danish are the numbers. It is impossible, for example, to write down a phone number while someone else tells it to you, because they say the end of the number first! Lol. Anyway, I’m having lots of fun learning Danish, and this blog is helping a lot 🙂

    • Dina:

      @Ana Hi Anna,

      Yes it is a nice post. Can I ask why you are learning dansk?


    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ana Tak, Ana! 🙂

      Perhaps I’ll be doing another post on those weird numbers!

      Good luck with your studies!