Norwegian Language Blog

A Taste Of Nynorsk Posted by on Jan 27, 2013 in Culture, Language

Last week you learnt that there are two ways to write Norwegian: bokmål (”book language”) and nynorsk (”new Norwegian”). Bokmål ultimately hails from (upper-class) urban dialects and Danish, while nynorsk is based on rural dialects. Most Norwegians use bokmål, and that is also the Norwegian we teach here at Transparent. Nevertheless, since quite a few Norwegians do write in nynorsk, and since nynorsk is a very important part of Norwegian culture & identity, it just might be kjekt (nice) or even moro (fun) to know a few phrases! 🙂

Bokmål – Nynorsk – English

Hva heter du? Kva heiter du? What’s your name?

Hvem er det? Kven er det? Who’s that?

Det er kjæresten min. Det er kjærasten min. That’s my girlfriend/boyfriend.

Hvor gammel er hun? Kor gamal er ho? How old is she?

Hva synes du om Norge? Kva tykkjer/synest du om Noreg? How do you like Norway?

Det er helt topp. Det er heilt topp. It’s great. (”It’s wholly top”.)

Skal vi være venner? Skal vi/me vere vener? Would you like to be my friend? (”Shall we be friends?”)

Grøt er det beste jeg vet! Graut er det beste eg veit! Porridge is my number 1 favourite! (”Porridge is the best I know!”)

Hunder trenger mye kjærlighet. Hundar treng mykje kjærleik. Dogs need a lot of love.

Solen/sola stiger opp i øst, og går ned i vest. Sola stig opp i aust, og går ned i vest. The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West.

Guttene i skolen leker ikke med pikene/jentene. Gutane i skulen leikar ikkje med jentene. The boys at school don’t play with the girls.

Kommer du? Kjem du? Are you coming?

Jeg elsker deg. Eg elskar deg. I love you.

Main differences

  • in bokmål, feminine inflections (ei sol – sola) are optional, in nynorsk there’s no way to escape them…
  • in nynorsk, masculine nouns take the endings -ar and -ane in the plural
  • in nynorsk, some verbs take the ending -ar in the present tense (leikar) or no ending at all, if the verb is ”strong” (stig)
  • nynorsk has conserved many more ancient diphthongs (vowel glides, like ay in ”May”) than bokmål (grautaustveit)
  • some words are just plain different, like nynorsk egikkjekjærleik versus bokmål jegikkekjærlighet
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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.


  1. S:

    Thanks for this post. It can be quite depressing when learning Norwegian, as I am, to tune into Norwegian radio and hear nynorsk and have very little idea of what is being said because it sounds so different to bokmål

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @S Yes, I know! 🙂
      I’m quite a fan of nynorsk myself, but when you’re a new learner, it mostly gets confusing…

  2. Ulrike:

    Hi 🙂 I live in Oslo, deep in bokmål-territory. Last year I was sitting through 3 hours of Nynorsk-Theatre at Det Norske Teatret and that was quiet an experience :).
    How do you pronounce words in nynorsk like “kva”, “Kvor”, “kven”? Do you speak the “k”?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ulrike Hei,
      nynorsk words are generally pronounced ”like they’re written”. So yes, you do speak the ”k” in those words! Kva = [kva]. 🙂

  3. David Eckhoff (Eekhoff):

    Most of my ancestral writings/history are written in Nynorsk. It has been difficult to translate due to the lack of a good Nynorsk-English dictionary.

  4. Carlislemike:

    Thanks for your information. I taught English in Aalesund, on Sula, 40 years ago and have forgotten my Norske. (Well I can still read with some blanks where nouns or verb endings stump me) I mean to renew my study but was confused by the Bokmål/Nynorsk application. Looks like I learnt the former but spoke with a smattering of the latter. Mange takk

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Carlislemike Thanks for your comment, Carlislemike! I hope you’ll be able to refresh your Norwegian skills.

  5. Rita:

    Hi, I would like to learn Norwegian and especially Nynorsk, but I find it quite difficult, because there is too little material on the Internet. Can you recommend any websites, please! I only have Nynorsk grammar… Especially I need to learn pronunciation… Thanks!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Rita @Rita
      Unfortunately, there are very few Nynorsk courses for foreigners… 🙁
      I would recommend listening to a Bokmål course, and take the pronunciation from there.
      Remember, there’s really only one Norwegian language: NN and BM are just different ways of writing it.
      If you take a Nynorsk phrase like ”Eg likar ost” (I like cheese), someone from Oslo will pronounce it with an Oslo accent, someone from Bergen will give it a Bergen melody… You can hear a bit of pronunciation here:

      Does anybody know some good Nynorsk resources online?

  6. Alan Robinson:

    Well I’ve lived in Denmark for donkey’s years, during which I’ve had dealings with Norwegians quite a few times. I have to say I understand perfectly Bokmål, but Nynorsk is about as intelligible to me as that weird Swedish they speak in Skåne.

    Moreover, when I speak Danish to a Nynorsk speaking Norwegian, I get the sense they revel in my perplexity at their replies. I can understand they insist on Nynorsk when speaking with other Norwegians, but can’t they switch to Bokmål when it is a matter of simple communication? Or do Nynorsk speakers prefer English to Bokmål?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Alan Robinson @Alan
      ” Or do Nynorsk speakers prefer English to Bokmål?”

      Good point, Alan! Some are quite ”aggressive” about Nynorsk…

      But please do remember that Nynorsk is only a way of WRITING Norwegian!
      Norwegians don’t really speak Nynorsk – they speak dialects.
      The dialect in Oslo is very close to Bokmål – therefore some people say they ”speak Bokmål” (which is not true: they speak Oslo dialect). Likeweise, the dialect in Sogndal is very close to Nynorsk – but the don’t speak Nynorsk, they just speak their own dialect! 🙂

      Norwegians will NOT compromise on their dialect, as they’re generally very proud of their roots. They also expect everybody else to understand them. That’s why, on Norwegian TV, you’ll hear people speaking in Trøndelag dialect, in Stavanger dialect…

      You’re right, heavy dialect speakers SHOULD take more care when speaking with Danes!
      In Denmark, we don’t have the ”I’m proud to speak my dialect, and everybody has to understand me” attitude.
      For example, a Sønderjysk speaker will switch to Rigsdansk (Common Danish) when he’s on holiday in Copenhagen.

      I heard about a Sogning (someone from Sogn og Fjordane) who was visiting Oslo. He wanted to order a sausage, so he said, in his dialect: Eg vil tinga ei pylsa! (I’d like to order a sausage.)
      The Oslo guy didn’t understand a word! (In Oslo dialect, it would’ve been: Je(g) vil bestille en/ei pølse.) But the Sogning just repeated his phrase. He refused to change any of his words. In the end, he just went away without any sausage. He’d rather starve than alter his dialect! But that’s an extreme example, though. 🙂



    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @MOHAMMAD Hei Mohammad! I would love to do a Nynorsk blog. Unfortunately, this blog has to cater to the majority of Norwegian learners = Bokmål. Maybe I could do another Nynorsk post. Thanks for your interest and good luck in beautiful Sogn! 🙂

  8. Neil:

    My great grandfather immigrated from Stavangar (hope I spelled that right) to America in the late 1800s. I recently got a copy of a journal he kept during a visit back to Norway in 1904. I know he learned to read and write before a Norwegian language had been taught in schools, so his initial literacy was in the Danish used in Norway in the 1870s. (He could write both the regular Latin alphabet and the then-moribund Gothic cursive used in Norway.) I cannot make any sense out of some passages in his 1904 journal, and I wonder whether he was writing in dialect. I can find no online sources to help me. Here’s the first line (at least as I interpret it via his cursive handwriting): “åg elskar du vogande lanar…” (that last word might be …I’m not sure). I think is ‘Oh!’. I believe is a form of ‘to love’ or ‘love’, though it’s not spelled with an ending online. I think is some form of ‘to cradle’, but I’m not sure. is ‘you’ (I assume). Is it something like: “Oh love, thou cradlest [lanar?]”? Any help you can give would be appreciated.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Neil Hei Neil! That sounds a bit like dialect to me. 🙂 If you change some of the vowels, it makes a bit more sense: ”Eg elskar dei vogande lanar.” ”I love the xxx-ing xxx-s.” Oh, actually I think it could even be ”og elskar du vogande lanar…” ”and if you love xxx-ing xx-s”. Do any of the readers know the meaning of ”vogande lanar”? Any help would be appreciated. 🙂 PS Yes, you might be right it has something to do with ”craddle”. But I’m still confused.