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Norwegian Question Words Posted by on Apr 30, 2021 in Conversation, Grammar

(Picture by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay; no copyright.)

After some musings about Norwegian society, it’s time to get back to what you’re actually learning: språket (the language). I was surprised to discover that neither the previous blogger Kari nor I had written about spørreord (question words), so let’s fill that gap immediately! 🙂

What is a question word? Well, the answer lies in the first word… While English speakers typically use an WH- word to dig for information other than ”yes” or ”no”, in written Norwegian most of the question ord [ohr] (words) start with HV-1Dear Nynorsk fans, this blog focuses on Norwegian Bokmål. In Nynorsk, sure, it’s KV-. (though the H is not pronounced):

HVA er det beste du vet? (WHAT is the best thing you know?) [va]

HVEM har lyst på iskrem? (WHO wants an ice cream?) [vem]

HVILKEN vil du ha? (WHICH ONE do you want?) [veelkn]

HVOR ligger Oslo Plaza? (WHERE is Oslo Plaza?) [vohr]

HVOR MYE koster lefsene? (HOW MUCH do the lefser cost?)

NÅR skal vi spise? (WHEN are we going to eat?) [nawr]

HVORFOR feirer vi 17. mai? (WHY do we celebrate Constitution Day?) [vo(r)for]

HVORDAN skal vi komme oss hjem nå? (HOW are we going to find our way back home now?) [vordan]

Please note that these words vary a lot according to dialect, and you’ll often hear Norwegians using question words with a K sound instead of the (H)V sound: KA heter du? (= HVA heter du, WHAT’s your name). KOR er mamma? (= HVOR er mamma, WHERE’s Mum?)

If you like reading norske bøker (Norwegian books), you’ll probably notice some ”literary-style” questions that Norwegians wouldn’t say the same way when talking. For example:

HVIS bil er det? (WHOSE car is that?) [viss]

In everyday Norwegian, that would be:

HVEM SIN bil er det?

That said, the good ol’ ”split question words” that you subconsciously know in English are also very much alive in Norwegian:

HVOR kom snøen FRA?

WHERE did the snow come FROM?

Finally, some of these question words have their own natural ”answering words”:

Hvor? HER!/DER! (Where? HERE/THERE!)

Hvor mye? SÅ MYE! (How much? THIS MUCH/SO MUCH!)

Hvordan? SLIK! (How? LIKE THIS!)

Hvorfor? DERFOR! (Why? ”THEREFORE”/THAT’S WHY!)

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    Dear Nynorsk fans, this blog focuses on Norwegian Bokmål. In Nynorsk, sure, it’s KV-.
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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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