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Danish endings and beginnings Posted by on Jul 31, 2021 in Grammar, Language

Gen– means re– and is very much alive in Danish! 🙂 (Graphics by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay; no copyright.)

After some culture-related posts it’s time to take another look at det danske sprog (the Danish language). ”All Danish words seem to end in -er!” my sister once ex-claimed1or was it -en? Anyway, the point she was trying to make should be clear. 🙂. And true enough, really many Danish words end in -er:

• verbs in the present tense: køber, maler, smiler (buys, paints, smiles)

• plurals of around 70 % of all nouns: kvinder, byer, sætninger (women, cities, phrases)

• certain nouns in the singular that typically describe som kind of agent (similar to the English ending -er) or person: bager, maler, printer, svensker (baker, painter, printer, Swede)

Similarly, as you’ve probably noticed, lots of Danish words end in -e, in -et, in -ede, in -en, and in -s2again across grammatical categories, for example -s both denotes the genitive, the passive form of verbs, as well as some plurals (for example of words borrowed from English). What’s kind of interesting or useful, though, is to have an awareness of the language’s prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes are ”micro words” that are added in front of other words to create new meanings (like be- in beloved). Suffixes come at the end. Many words, both in English and Danish, contain a ”fossil” prefix or suffix that once made perfect sense but now just causes confusion if you try to remove it: What on earth is a ginning without its be-?

Typical Danish prefixes include:

be-: lyse (to shine) > belyse (to throw light on) – and as a ”fossil” in loads of common words: betale, besøge, bestemme (pay, visit, decide)

an-: søge (to search) > ansøge (to apply) – and again mostly ”fossilised”: ansvar, ansigt, anbefale (responsibility, face, recommend)

for-: forstå, forsvinde, forretning… (understand, disappear, business – yes, a very ”dead” prefix in 2021!)

mis- (implies something negative): misforstå, misundelse, mistro (misunderstand, envy, distrust)

bi- (means ”extra”): bismag, bijob, bistå (after-taste, extra job, to help/”stand by”)

gen- (means ”re” – this prefix is alive and kickin’!): gentage, genansætte, genbruge (repeat, reemploy, reuse)

I’ve already given you an in-depth look at suffixes – suffice to mention these two absolute classics3Honorable footnote mentions go to –skab as in galskab (madness) and –dom as in ungdom (youth):

-else (typically creates nouns from verbs): følelse, væmmelse, forelskelse, spøgelse (feeling, disgust, infatuation, ghost)

-hed (the Danish cousin of English -ness): blindhed, forladthed, kærlighed (blindness, the-state-of-being-left-behind = desertion, ”lovingness” = love)

  • 1
    or was it -en? Anyway, the point she was trying to make should be clear. 🙂
  • 2
    again across grammatical categories, for example -s both denotes the genitive, the passive form of verbs, as well as some plurals (for example of words borrowed from English)
  • 3
    Honorable footnote mentions go to –skab as in galskab (madness) and –dom as in ungdom (youth)
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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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