Norwegian Language Blog

Da da da Posted by on Feb 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

One of you requested that I address words that have multiple meaning.  Da is one of these words.  Da can be used in many different ways.  In general, it means either “then” or “when,” but even so, these two words can be used in different contexts.  In my opinion, words with multiple meanings are some of the coolest words.  Da, one of these words is short, flexible, and serves many purposes.  In English, ‘da’ is only used in songs as a filler.  Norwegians really uses da to the best of its ability.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of da when the word is used to mean “when:”

Da jeg var ung, likte jeg å spille fotball. When I was young, I liked to play soccer.

Han kokte da jeg vasket golvet. He cooked while I washed the floor.

Da de kom hjem, var de trøtte. When they came home, they were tired.

I think you get the picture about using da for ‘when.’  There is one thing you must remember about translating ‘when’ into Norwegian.  In English, there is really only one word for ‘when.’  In Norwegian, there are two: da and når. You use da when you want to describe something in the past and når when you want to describe a situation in the future.  It’s really pretty simple.

Når  går du på skole? When do you go to school?

Når jeg vokser opp, vil jeg bli advokat. When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer.

Vi skal spise når de er ferdige med å sykle. We are going to eat when they are done biking.

Ok, back to the great word da.  Da can also be used to say ‘then.’  Following are several examples:

Dere må gjøre hjemmelekser og da kan dere spille. You (pl) must do homework and then you (pl) can play.

Kan Ellen ta med fyrverkeri?  Da blir det moro. Can Ellen bring fireworks!  Then it will be fun!

Nå og da. Now and then.

The fact that da must be used to describe something that happened in the past just made logical sense to me.  When we use da to mean ‘then,’ we use it in the present tense to describe something in the future that would not be possible if not for the previous statement or idea.  In the first example about homework, the kids cannot play until they have fulfilled the request of doing their homework.  In the second example, the subject is suggesting ‘it’ won’t be fun without fireworks.  It’s nice to discover little connections between rules, isn’t it?

Now, there are a few other ways to use the word da and they are not easy to translate.  Ja da means ‘yes certainly’ or ‘yes indeed’ or the famous midwestern ‘yup’ or ‘oh yeah’ as in ‘of course.’  Here’s another example: God natt da meansGood night then’ or ‘alright, good night.’  Finally, Det var da godt du kunne komme.  ‘It was good that you could come then’ or ‘Then it was good that you could come.’

Da is an useful word, isn’t it?  And so short….

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Anna:

    Love this site! Please keep up the good work.

    Can you recommend any Norwegian movies to purchase on DVD? I would like to hear the language more.

  2. Shanna:

    I think it’s wonderful about the gender equality. America still has problems with that.