Norwegian Language Blog

Modal verbs Posted by on Jan 18, 2009 in Language

Modale verb (modal verbs) are essential to understand, learn, and use norsk.  There are 5 modale verb i norsk: kan, vil, skal, må, bør (can, want, will, must, and should).  For eksempel:

Jeg kan kaste ballen mot veggen (I can throw the ball against the wall).

Hun vil gå på ski i dag (She wants to go skiing today).

Vi skal lese avisen sammen (We are going to read the paper together).

De må komme hjem klokka fire (They must come home at 4 o’clock.

Du bør ikke være slem (You should not be mean).

Modal verbs, like all norske verbs, are not conjugated.  There are essentially only two forms each of these 5 verbs come in: present and past.  The past tense of these 5 verbs are as follows:

kunne, ville, skulle, måtte, burde.

For eksempel:

Jeg kunne ha gjort det bedre (I could have done it better).

Han ville høre på musikk (He wanted to listen to music).

Vi skulle ha gått på kino (We should have gone to the movies).

De måtte ta eksamener (They had to take exams).

Du burde ha vært snill (You should have been nice).

Modal verbs are important because they set up the tone of a sentence.  Can, want, will, must, and should are very different words with very different meanings.  These verbs also have the ability to pair up with any other verbs.  A very important thing to remember about modal verbs is that the ‘holy a’ å is not necessary.  I will touch on this in another post, but for now, just remember that å is not used in between verbs if the first verb is a modal verb. 

Study up on you modal verbs and how they are used because they are very important!

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: 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. Bonnie Blackie:

    Thank you SO much for this! I am learning Norwegian, and have a book for beginners, but I couldn’t work out,for the life of me, what the book was saying about modal verbs. Now I understand.

    Thanks again!!

  2. Dana:

    Thank you, very good explanations!

  3. Ceri:

    Excellent learning aid – thank you!

  4. Langt:

    Just what i needed thanks

  5. leomar:

    great ! Since a long time ago i had in mind to go on more deep on norwegian modal verbs and hopefully i could find here the information i was looking for ! Thank you ! You really did a great job at explaining this very important part of the norwegian grammar

  6. Ricardo Legaz:

    How do I built the conditional with “would”
    e.g: I woulg travel to Spain if I had money
    I woould have traveled to Spain if I had had money

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ricardo Legaz @RL. This is not where my knowledge is strongest, but what about: Jeg ville reist til Spania dersom jeg hadde hatt nok penger.
      Maybe I should do a post about that conditional stuff! 🙂

  7. Melinda Gilbert:

    Is there a way or place on the net that I could hear these words and phrases being pronounced?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Melinda Gilbert Hello Melinda. Have you tried Google Translate? On some computers, at least, they have a nice voiceover function. Do any of the other readers know?

  8. Jam:

    The best explanation, thanks

  9. Yahye:

    Thank you so much modelverb are very difficult they make me confuse but I’m going to learn we need more please because if you know well the modelverb your norsk will be perfect

  10. Gerard:

    Hey! I’m wondering if you could explain also the difference between skulle, bør and burde, as they appear to all translate to “should”. Also, all the online conjugators show a perfect past tense: “villet” for example. Is this conjugation ever used?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Gerard @Gerard • Thank you for your suggestion, I’ll maybe write a post about that. 🙂 The obvious difference about ”bør” and ”burde” is one of tense: Bør is present tense, burde is past. That means that ”burde” is more weak/polite. ”Du bør…” is really strong. ”Du burde…” is more of a suggestion, I’d say. ”Villet”: yes, that form does exist, but it is not used a lot. 🙂