Norwegian Language Blog

Picking the Right Twin Posted by on Oct 31, 2019 in Conversation

(Free image from Pixabay; no copyright.)

Much to the frustration of new language learners, words can rarely be translated directly between two languages. Shades of meaning vary, and when you look in an ordbok (dictionary), you just might get lost in lists of alternatives… Sometimes, a Norwegian word has several English translations. Other times, it’s the other way around.


When replying to a negative phrase – typically involving the word ikke (not) or nei (no) – use jo. Otherwise, use ja [yah].

Child: Jeg vil ikke på skolen! (I don’t want to go to school!)

Parent: Jo, det må du. (Yes, you have to.)

C: Nei!

P: Jo!

1: Liker du fårikål? (Do you like fårikål [dish with mutton and cabbage]?)

2: Ja, det smaker veldig godt. (Yes, it tastes very good.)

1: Liker du ikke fårikål?!? (Don’t you like fårikål?!?)

2. Jo, men jeg er stappmett. (Yes, but I’m crammed 1stuffed in American English.)


If you really want to say ”the two of them”, begge is the word to use. Både is for lists of two items.

Ola og Kari bor i Hønefoss. Begge stortrives. (Ola and kari live in Hønefoss. Both are thriving/having a great time.)

Jenta var både klok og vakker. (The girl was both wise and beautiful.)

Jeg liker begge – både hunden og katten. (I like them both – both the dog and the cat.)


Many children like to leke. Footballers, however, spiller fotball. Pianists spiller piano. Gamblers spiller kort.

Child 1: Hei, skal vi leke? (Hi, wanna play?)

Child 2: Ja, skal vi leke tikken? (Yes, wanna play tag?)

Child 1: Nei, tikken er så kjedelig. Skal vi ikke spille Playstation i stedet? (No, tag is so boring. Let’s play Playstation instead, ok?)


This one is quite basic, but of course: When you’re addressing only one person, use du [doo] (or deg). ”You (all)”, on the other hand, is always dere.

Hei du! Hvor har jeg sett deg før? (Hi you! Where have I seen you before?)

Tusen takk, dere er veldig snille. (Thanks a lot, you guys2 A couple of readers have kindly pointed out that addressing both sexes with you guys can be offensive to some listeners. This phrase merely serves as an example; the addressees might be considered male.  are very kind.)


Do you know more ”twin words” like this?

  • 1
    stuffed in American English
  • 2
    A couple of readers have kindly pointed out that addressing both sexes with you guys can be offensive to some listeners. This phrase merely serves as an example; the addressees might be considered male.
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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.


  1. Saph:

    In your examples, you used ‘You guys’, for the plural you. Sadly, lots of (unthinking) people in Australia have taken to copying Americans in calling mixed groups, “You guys …”. Well, I’m NOT a guy! And I resent both being addressed in that way, and the Americanisation of English-English in Australia. The American habit of including females in ‘you guys’ is just another way of trying to make females invisible in society. Rather than being spread more widely around the globe, it needs to CEASE completely!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Saph @Saph – Thank you for your comment. I think I understand your point of view – it must be frustrating. I’m not a native English speaker, so I used ”you guys” as the plural you simply because that’s what I hear everywhere (films etc.) I’ll consider changing the wording. 🙂 How about other readers from other countries than the USA, how do you feel about ”you guys” being used to address mixed groups or even groups of women?

  2. nancy august:

    I am American and I am guilty of saying “You guys”.
    I agree 100% with Saph. It is time to retire that expression when addressing women. I try to say “You all” instead. What do they say in Australia in this situation?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @nancy august @Nancy Thanks for your feedback! 🙂 I just talked to an American, female colleague, who said she was using ”you guys” to address female friends and didn’t see any problem with this. Evidently, opinions are split. Still, I’ll change the wording – this blog should first and foremost be informative. Thanks again!

  3. nancy august:

    “Jeg er mett” would be “I am full” in American English.
    “Jeg er stappmett” would be ” I am stuffed”.
    Perhaps “I am crammed” is British English?
    In other contexts, stuffed and crammed are synonyms. An overfilled elevator, for example.
    On the other hand, “crammed”, but not “stuffed”,
    can describe studying for an exam, possibly in the same sense as “å pugge”.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @nancy august Hei @Nancy, yes ”I am crammed” is British English. I find it hard to decide whether to write in a more ”British” or ”American” way when I’m myself a Scandinavian. At school, we learnt British English, but all around us we hear American English, so there you go… 🙂 I’ll add ”stuffed” as an option. (Like a text could say ”fall/autumn”.) The goal of this blog is to be informative, no matter whether your English is of the British or American variety.