It’s a Numbers Game Posted by on Aug 28, 2021 in Grammar, Language

If you don’t know how to read Danish numbers correctly, you might get the wrong impression of prices in tourist places such as Tivoli, Copenhagen! 😅 (Picture by Lena Svensson from Pixabay; no copyright.)

How often do you need to do number tricks in a foreign language? Det står nok ikke øverst på listen (it probably isn’t on top of the list), but still, if you’re a little bit like me, you’ll sometimes find yourself in situations where simply counting is not enough…

In Danish, saying basic calculations out loud is quite straightforward:

2 + 2 = 4

to plus to er fire

4 – 1 = 3

fire minus et er tre

2 * 2 = 4

to gange to er fire

10 / 2 = 5

ti delt med to er fem

Instead of ”delt” you can also say ”divideret”, which is relatively common. If you want to sound a bit formal, you can even say ”er lig med” (equals) instead of ”er”, but this is rarely necessary: ni divideret med tre er lig med tre (nine divided by three equals three)…

In order to get somebody’s math help, you can use the question words hvad (what) or hvor meget (how much):

Hvad er otte gange otte? Hvor meget er nitten plus syv? (What is eight times eight? How much is nineteen plus seven?)

Be ware of . and , !!! In Danish, the ”decimal point” is written with a comma:

7 / 2 = 3,5

syv delt med to er tre komma fem (seven divided by two is three point five)

Conversely, a point is sometimes used to make large numbers easier to read:

Billetten koster kun 2.600 kroner! (The ticket only costs 2,600 Kroner!)

Yes, it’s frustrating that the English and Danish systems are like mirror images in this respect! But now you’re warned, so the punctuation doesn’t trick you into buying everything you see in Copenhagen…

Finally, some examples of fractions and percentages and ”stuff”1This is not a math blog, so be kind! 😉:

50% [halvtreds procent] rabat! Halv pris! (50% discount! Half price!)

en halv, en tredjedel, en fjerdedel, en femtedel, tre femtedele… (1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 3/5)

Yes, that’s right, with the exception of 1/2, fractions are made by adding del(e) ”part(s)” to an ordinal number such as ”fourth”, ”seventh”…

Langeland er cirka dobbelt så stor som Ærø. (Langeland is about twice as big as Ærø.)

Nogle både sejler tre gange hurtigere end vinden. (Some boats sail three times faster than the wind.2Yes, really!)

  • 1
    This is not a math blog, so be kind! 😉
  • 2
    Yes, really!
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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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