Norwegian Language Blog

The little words you always need Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

Are you listening?

No matter how much grammar you studied, no matter how perfect your pronunciation is… If you don’t know how to say uh-huh in the right way, you’re lost. Why should the one who’s entertaining you keep on talking, if you don’t provide any feedback?

Here are some words to help make your conversations run smoother:

ja, jo, nei. Yes and no. Both ja and jo mean yes. Jo is used to answer a negatively phrased question (”Isn’t she lovely?”)
ja da, jo da, nei da. These are stronger, more like ”yes, of course” and ”oh, not at all”. People in Eastern Norway often say jo’a instead of jo da.
m(-m). ”uh-huh”. Take care with this one! Depending on how it’s pronounced, it might mean either yes or no. The only way to really learn it is to keep listening to Norwegians talking…
greit, ok. Both mean ”okay”. Sometimes ok has the American pronunciation; most often, however, it simply sounds like the letters o k [oh kaw].
akkurat, akkurat ja, skjønner (”I understand”) are just some of the words you can use to say ”I see.”
oi, sier du det (”say you that”), spennende (exciting), herregud (my God). These words can be used to express admiration and surprise (”wow…” etc.)
huff, uff da, nei og nei, stakkars deg! (poor you!) are used to show that you understand that something is difficult for the speaker.
nei?! can cover various situations of disbelief
fy faen! is a swear word, but a great thing to say when you’re feeling indignated.
vel… indicates hesitation
kult! means ”cool!”

And now, a little dialogue:

Det er første gang jeg er i Norge! Det er veldig spennende! It’s my first time in Norway! It’s very exciting!
I går var vi oppe på Preikestolen! Yesterday we were on Preikestolen!
Vi hadde tatt med oss kikkert og kamera. Kari er veldig glad i å fotografere. We had brought binoculars and a camera. Kari loves photographing.
På vei ned mistet hun kameraet i bakken, og alle bildene ble ødelagt! On the way back [down], she lost her camera on the ground, and all the pictures got destroyed!
Uff da.
Ja, ikke sant? Hun var veldig lei seg i flere dager. Men vet du hva? Nå har produsenten gitt oss et helt nytt kamera! Yes, (tragic) isn’t it? She was very unhappy for several days. But you know what? Now the manufacturer has given us a wholly new camera!
Jo da, et flunkende nytt kamera! Og det kan ta bilder i mørke! Oh yes, a brand new camera! And it can take pictures in the dark!

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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. Karolina:

    Thanks a lot for this post. I really needed this.

  2. Odtrucia Alkoholowe Warszawa:

    Polecamy najlepsze Odtrucia Alkoholowe Warszawa. Najlepsze odtrucia poalkoholowe w Warszawie tylko u nas.

  3. Transparent Language:

    Comment from Facebook:

    Is ‘sånn’ used in this way too?

  4. Ane:

    Most people would probably use ‘splitter’ instead of ‘flunkende’, just saying 🙂
    ‘Flunkende’ sounds a bit quirky and old fashioned.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ane @Ane Thanks, Ane! I thought ”splitter” was Danish… But then I used to live in a Vestlandet town where you’d rather say ”knall” or something like that. Thanks for making the readers and me wiser! 🙂

  5. Bjorg Hordnes Boschen:

    I am delighted to find this blog. I was very young when we immigrated from Norway and I have very few people that I can speak Norwegian with. Since I was only four when we moved I have never learned to read or spell Norwegian. I can often figure it out but this is truly an opportunity for me. Thank you!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Bjorg Hordnes Boschen @Bjorg. Thank you for your kind comment, it is much appreciated! 🙂 Good luck with staying in touch with your Norwegian.