Norwegian Language Blog

Norwegian weak past tense verbs Posted by on Dec 29, 2010 in Language


Now that jul is over and the end of 201o is very near, I find myself thinking about things that have happened this past year.  You can never have too much practice with the past tense when you are learning a new language.  If you are like me, learning verb tenses is not your favorite part of learning a foreign language.  There is always a lot of memorization involved and Norwegian is no exception.  There are weak verbs and there are strong verbs and unfortunately, there really isn’t any rhyme or reason as to which verbs are weak and which are strong.  There are far fewer strong verbs, so it’s best to memorize those and learn the easily recognizable pattern that the weak verbs follow.  There are 4 classes of weak verbs and they each have a different suffix that is added on to the root of the verb.

The following is a chart that I used when I studied Norwegian at St. Olaf College of the 4 classes of weak verbs.  If you memorize what the four classes look like and how they are treated in the past tense, you will be good to go.  I will write a separate post on the Present Perfect verb tense, so for now, concentrate on the past tense.

Weak Verb Classes Infinitive Past Tense Present Perfect
The root ends in two consonantsex.) vaske, snakke

-et (past tense)
-et (present perfect tense)

har vasket
(have washed)har snakket
(have talked)
The root ends in one consonant, or in some specific two consonant combinations (ll, mm, nn, ng, nk)ex.) like, spise
ex.) spille, svømme, kjenne, trenge, tenke

-te (past tense)
-t (present perfect tense)





har likt
(have liked)har spist
(have eaten)

har spilt
(have played)

The root ends in v or a diphthong, such as “ei”.ex.) prøve, leie, pleie

-de (past tense)
-d (present perfect tense)

har prøvd
(have tried)har leid
(have rented)
The root ends in a long vowelex.) bo, kle

-dde (past tense)
-dd (present perfect tense)

har bodd
(have lived)har kledd
(have dressed)

As I said, there is no rhyme or reason in the way verbs are categorized, but I do find that after you have learned them and used them for a while, you realize that if some of them had the suffix of another category, the word would sound funny.  Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?  For example, the 4th class (bo, kle…) would sound just wrong if they received the suffix “et.”  The same goes for the verb å snakke-it would sound really strange if it was “snakkte” in the past tense.  In my opinion, Norwegian grammar in general is fairly simple and straightforward compared to many other languages.  That being said, it takes time to learn the classes of weak verbs and memorizing the strong verbs and their different forms.

Study this chart and really try to understand it and you will be glad you took the time to do it.  Being able to make sense expressing yourself in a different language is far easier if you know verbs and their different tenses.  The subject and object of course are very important, but most important is being able to describe the actions of the subjects and objects.

Happy studying!  Next wil be strong verbs in the past tense:)

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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. Kristina:

    I’m a girl in Arizona who made a friend in Norway when I studied broad. We aren’t that close, but seeing her posts in Norwegian on facebook made me curious about learning it. And I know I’m weird, but I enjoy learning new languages. 🙂

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Kristina Hei Kristina

      If learning Norwegian makes you weird, there are at least 5 millon weirdos in the world! 😉
      Happy learning!

      – Bjørn

  2. line:

    Hei Kari,

    Learning norwegian can be so easy. Thank you for your blog.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @line Hei Line,
      Kari decided to leave the blog, so I’m here at the moment.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Daniel:

    I truly love this language! Thank you for helping us. I have a friend from Norway and always to talk to her, but I’m always sorry for the accent, but I’m doing my best. Thanks again!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Daniel You’re welcome! (I say on behalf of Kari, the former editor!)