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If We Talk Posted by on Aug 31, 2020 in grammar

If you ever tried coding, you may have come across ”if-then-else” (if X happens then Y should happen, else Z should happen). If you haven’t, no worries – you can probably get along for a long while without any if-clauses… But if I were you, I’d still take a look at the little word in Danish. 😉

Hvis du går til venstre, så [then]… (Free image from Pixabay; no copyright.)

To make an if-clause, use the word hvis [viss] (if):

Hvis det blæser… (If it’s blowing/windy…)
Hvis du vil… (If you want to…)
Hvis det ikke sner… (If it doesn’t snow…) < Be aware of the word order here! 🙂

Add a main clause to the ”if”, and you’ve got a full conditional sentence:

Hvis det blæser, tager vi toget. (If it’s windy, we take/we’ll take the train.)
Hvis du vil, må du gerne spise aftensmad her. (If you want, feel free to eat dinner here [= at our place].)
Hvis det ikke sner, får vi en grøn jul. (If it doesn’t snow, we’ll have a green Christmas.)

The two clauses may also be reversed (note how some of the words are reshuffled in the process):

Vi tager toget, hvis det blæser.
Du må gerne spise aftensmad her, hvis du vil.
Vi får en grøn jul, hvis det ikke sner.

The above three phrases may also be written without a comma. (The big Danish ”comma war” might be a topic for a future post. 🙂 )

BTW, if you say ’if’ but mean ’whether’, there is only one word to use in Danish – om:

Hun vidste ikke om hun skulle græde eller grine. (She didn’t know if [= whether] she should cry or laugh.)
Han spurgte om hun ville danse. (He asked if [= whether] she would like to dance.)

Conditional phrases can get tricky when you describe hypothetical situations (just think about the verb form in If I were you)… This is not the time to go into great detail – I’ll just give you a couple of examples:

Hvis jeg var rig, (så) ville jeg købe et slot. (If I were rich, [then] I’d by a castle.)
Hvis grise kunne flyve, ville de stikke af fra landmændene. (If pigs could fly, they’d leave the farmers.)

A cool feature of Danish is that the word ’if’ can be dropped altogether from the start of a sentence (the verb then takes its place):

Hvis du er træt, så læg dig på sofaen. (If you’re tired, then lie down on the couch.)
Er du træt, så læg dig på sofaen.

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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.


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