Norwegian Language Blog

Adding Endings Posted by on Oct 19, 2021 in Grammar

Hale-n til hval-en. (The tail of the whale.) In Norwegian, adding endings to nouns is even more important than in English. (Illustrative photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash; no copyright.)

One of the funny things about Norwegian is that you can’t avoid adding endings to words. Well, of course English learners also sometimes struggle with that – how do you add a plural -s to box? But generally, as long as you know how to add an -s1and a few other endings, such as -ed and -ing (verbs) and -ly (adverbs from adjectives) to words, you don’t have to care a lot about endings in English. Norwegian is more complex, mainly for one reason, which I’m sure is the first thing you learnt: The is an ending! So, let’s repeat – instead of saying ”the city (by)”, Norwegians say ”city-the” (by-en).

The main challenge is knowing which word takes which ending.

Plurals of most Norwegian nouns (hund, katt, jente, skog, menneske, system = dog, cat, girl, forest, human, system) are made with -er, but many short neuter nouns are identical in the singular and plural (fjell, år, hus, vann = mountain[s], year[s], house[s], lake[s]).

• Singular the varies according to the noun’s gender – you have to know whether the word you’re about to use is masculine (the = -en), feminine (-a) or neuter (-et).

Once you know a noun’s possible endings (-er or nothing; -en, -a or -et), you simply add one:

hunder, skoger, katten, systemet (dogs, forests, the cat, the system). But what about words that end in an -e2A short, unaccented -e that is! 🙂?

You of course don’t say ”jentea” or ”menneskeer”. You remove the -e, then add the ending: jenta, mennesker.

Although I’m focusing on nouns here, the rule about -e removal is used also when you’re adding endings to verbs: å danse, ”to dance”, becomes danset, ”danced” (dansa in some varieties of Norwegian).

Easy, right?

The plural the is -ene.3this can also be analysed as -ne (with an -e- added to ease pronunciation) This ending replaces the -er ending: hunder > hundene (the dogs), fjell > fjellene (the mountains), bøker4an irregular plural – the singular is bok. > bøkene (the books).

For a few, irregular plurals, the ending is just -ne: trær > trærne (the trees), klær > klærne (the clothes), knær > knærne (the knees).

And oh! Nouns that already end in -er in the singular behave slightly differently… These are words that very often denote professions or nationalities (= persons): baker, ridder, tysker (baker, knight, German). Instead of doubling and saying things like ”bakerer”, the final -r is dropped in the plural: bakere, riddere, tyskere. And for the plural the, just add -ne to the basic word: bakerne, ridderne, tyskerne. That’s it!

  • 1
    and a few other endings, such as -ed and -ing (verbs) and -ly (adverbs from adjectives)
  • 2
    A short, unaccented -e that is! 🙂
  • 3
    this can also be analysed as -ne (with an -e- added to ease pronunciation)
  • 4
    an irregular plural – the singular is bok.
Tags: , , , , ,
Keep learning Norwegian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

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.