Danish Language Blog

Picking the Right Twin Posted by on Oct 31, 2019 in Uncategorized

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay; no copyright.)

Much to the frustration of new language learners, words can rarely be translated directly between two languages. Shades of meaning vary, and when you look in an ordbog [orbow] (dictionary), you just might get lost in lists of alternatives… Sometimes, a Danish word has several English translations. Other times, it’s the other way around.


When replying to a negative phrase – typically involving the word ikke (not) or nej (no) – use jo [yow]. Otherwise, use ja [ya].

Child: Jeg gider ikke lave lektier! (I don’t want to do my homework!)

Parent: Jo, det skal du. (Yes, you have to.)

C: Nej!

P: Jo!

1: Kan du lide koldskål? (Do you like koldskål?)

2: Ja, jeg er helt vild med det. (Yes, I’m totally crazy about it.)

1: Kan du ikke lide koldskål?!? (Don’t you like koldskål?!?)

2: Jo, men jeg er propmæt. (Yes, but I’m crammed.)


If you really want to say ”the two of them”, begge is the word to use. Både is for lists of two items.

Hans og Grethe bor i Hvide Sande. Begge er tykke og glade. (Hans and Grethe live in Hvide Sande. Both are thick and happy.)

Trolden var både stor og farlig. (The troll was both big and dangerous.)

Jeg kan lide begge steder – både stranden og skoven. (I like both places – both the beach and the forest.)


Many children like to lege [layeh]. Footballers, however, spiller fodbold. Pianists spiller klaver [klaVEHR]. Gamblers spiller kort.

Child 1: Hej, skal vi lege? (Hi, wanna play?)

Child 2: Ja, vil du med ind og spille Playstation? (Yes, wanna come in and play Playstation?)


This one is quite basic, but of course: When you’re addressing only one person, use du [doo] (or dig [dai]). For ”you guys”, use I [ee] (or jer [yeah]).

Du er skør, men jeg kan godt lide dig. (You’re weird, but I do like you.)

Vi er glade for at se jer. I er hjerteligt velkomne! (We’re happy to see you [guys]. You’re very welcome!)


Do you know any more ”twin words” like this?

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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.