Danish Language Blog

Big and Small Posted by on Feb 28, 2015 in Grammar

Courtesy of Open Clipart.

Courtesy of Open Clipart.

Vi har hvad vi skal ha’, af både stort og småt! (We’ve got what we need, of both big and small!) Danish ”national oldie popdreng (pop boy)” Kim Larsen sings in one of his classic hits. I guess it’s still true that people in Denmark have got all the material ting (things) they need, but let’s focus on the language: big and small.


Stor is the basic word for ’big’ or ’large’:

en stor pige (a big girl) – den store pige (the big girl) – pigen er stor (the girl is big)

et stort ansvar [anSVAR] (a big responsibility) – det store ansvar (the big responsibility) – ansvaret er stort (the responsibility is big)

store skyer – skyerne er store (big clouds – the clouds are big)

(Of course you already know that an –e is added to most adjectives in the plural, and that a -t is usually added to adjectives describing common-gender words in the singular – ”et words. And you’re most certainly aware that an -e is added to adjectives that follow definiteness markers like den, det, min, dit, -s: vores store ansvar, Poul og Mariannes store pige.)

’Bigger – biggest’ is a bit irregular: større – størst.

Alt er større i USA. (Everything’s bigger in the US. – Yeah, that’s a typical Danish thing to say! Small country mentality, here we go!)

Størst af alt er kærligheden. (”Love’s the biggest of it all.”)


Lille [LILLeh] is the basic word for ’little’ or ’small’. It doesn’t get any -t attached:

en lille dreng (a little boy) – den lille dreng (the little boy) – drengen er lille (the boy is small)

et lille problem (a small problem) – det lille problem (the small problem) – problemet er lille (the problem is small)

’Small – smaller’ is even more irregular: mindre – mindst.

småkagerne er mindre i år (the cookies are smaller this year)

det er det mindste problem (that’s the smallest problem – i.e., there are bigger problems out there!)

Wait a second! Yes, that’s true, there’s a very strange thing about lille! When describing more-than-one of something, it changes completely, metamorphosing into små [smaw]:

De små småkager er alt for små! (The small cookies are way too small!)

And, as you saw in that Kim Larsen quote, an even stranger thing about små is that you can add a -t to ”re-singularize” the word, making it mean something like ”something small, fine”:

Har du læst det med småt? (”Have you read that [part of the contract which is written] with small [writing]?” That means, more or less: Are you sure they don’t fool you?)



Here’s the Kim Larsen song mentioned – Blip båt:

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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. Kevin:

    Dear Bjørn:

    Thank you for all the wonderful posts! I have to say that your writings are one of the best out there. Keep up the great work! Looking forward to your future posts.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Kevin @Kevin – mange tak! I’m very thankful for your kind words. I’ll do my best! 🙂

  2. Annette:

    Very helpful – mange tak!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Annette @Selv tak. 🙂