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3 Ways To Think in Danish Posted by on Jun 29, 2019 in Learning, Vocabulary

As a Danish-learner recently pointed out to me, ”to think” is tricky in Danish – especially if English is your first language. Look in a dictionary, and you’ll find at least three different translations: at tænke, at tro, at synes.

(Free image from Pixabay; no copyright.)

The thing is, even in English ”to think” is a wide concept with many shades of meaning. The ”thinks” in I think it is going to rain and I think you’re cute are not entirely the same. The first one expresses your belief/assumption (I believe/assume it is going to rain), while the second example is all about your opinion (or feelings). 🙂

In Danish, at tro is used for believing, and at synes for opinions: Jeg tror det kommer til at regne vs. Jeg synes du er sød.

Further examples:

Hvad synes du om min ny frisure? (What do you think about my new haircut? [asking for an opinion])

Jeg synes billetterne til koncerten er alt for dyre. (I think the concert tickets are way too expensive. [voicing an opinion])

Tror du på Gud? (Do you believe in God? [asking about a belief])

De tror det bliver bedre i morgen. (They think it will get better tomorrow. [stating a belief])

Here’s another trick – if a think phrase can be rewritten as a find phrase, use synes: I think the house is ugly > I find the house ugly = Jeg synes huset er grimt.

If, on the other hand, a believe phrase makes more sense, go for tro: He thinks the bottle is empty > He believes the bottle is empty = Han tror flasken er tom.

As you can see, there’s actually quite a difference between Hun tror han er skør (She thinks/believes he’s crazy) and Hun synes han er skør (She finds him crazy)! Which is why Danes will smile ever so lightly when you mess up these two words… But don’t worry, we will understand you anyway. 😉

What about at tænke? As a rule, that’s the neutral word for thinking – as opposed to opining (synes) or believing (tro):

  • Du tænker altid så meget. (You’re always thinking so much.)
  • Kan katte tænke? (Are cats capable of thought?)

Maybe due to English influence, some people use tænke instead of synes when describing things that aren’t physical (like a teamwork):

Jeg tænker det er godt nok nu. = Jeg synes det er godt nok nu. (I think it’s good enough now.)

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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.


Comments:

  1. Donna:

    How do you say “I think” in Danish when you believe something to be true but you’re not sure?In English you’d emphasise the word “think”.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Donna Hej @Donna. Thanks for a good question! In that situation you’d almost certainly say ”jeg tror” in Danish. (It’s still a ”belief” kind of situation.) You can also emphasise the word ”tror” in Danish, maybe prolong it a bit to show that you’re hesitating or in doubt: ”…trooor jeg”. Hope that helped!


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