Danish Language Blog

Talking about the future Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in Grammar

(Courtesy of Comrade Foot at Flickr.)

(Courtesy of Comrade Foot at Flickr.)

2015 is upon us, so I thought it would be a great idea to look a bit ahead – grammatically speaking, that is! As you may be aware, verbs in Spanish and Esperanto and many other languages have a distinct future tense (yo cantaré/mi kantos = I’ll sing). In English, we’ve got to make compound tricks like I’ll sing or I shall sing or I’m going to sing. You’ll see that dansk is quite similar to English in this respect! 🙂

Danes often talk about fremtiden (the future) in nutid (present tense):

  • Færgen sejler på søndag. (The ferry will depart on Sunday. – Literally: The ferry sails…)
  • I år får vi mange stikkelsbær. (This year we’ll get a lot of gooseberries.)
  • Flyver de ud til Venus og Mars? (Will they be flying out to Venus and Mars?)

The last example is from the Kim Larsen song Hvad mon de laver om hundrede år? (”Wonder what they’ll be doing in one hundred years?”) Obviously the sentence must be understood as having the future tense in this context!

However, the present tense is sometimes too ambiguous. The most common solution is to use the word vil (will) + an uninflected verb (infinitive or ”dictionary” form):

  • Turisterne vil strømme til det nye museum. (The tourists will be flocking to the new museum.)
  • Én dag vil du fortryde det her! (One day you’ll regret this!)

Please notice that vil also means wanna, so there can still be a bit of confusion even with this word!

  • Jeg vil spise en is NU! (I want to eat an ice-cream NOW!)
  • Jeg vil spise en is – når det engang bliver sommer. (I’m going to eat an ice-cream – once the summer is here.)

Skal (shall/have to) is often used like vil, but it’s more of an obligation, something you have to do (or commit yourself to do) in the near future:

  • Hvad skal vi spise? (What are we going to eat?)
  • De skal skilles. (They are going to be divorced.)
  • Det skal jeg nok. (Yeah, I’ll do that.)
  • Skal vi danse? (Shall we dance?)

Finally there is kommer til at, which is also quite common, maybe a bit more so in the spoken language:

  • Tror du det kommer til at sne? (Do you think it’s going to snow?)
  • Vi kommer bare til at have det SÅ sjovt!! (We’re just gonna have SO much fun!)
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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.