Norwegian Language Blog

The Norwegian Word ´På´ Posted by on Sep 2, 2011 in Language

Several days ago, I wrote a post about the many different ways to use the word ´til´in Norwegian.  At first glance, one might think it´s confusing and a bit ridiculous that a language would use one word in so many different ways.  However, the word ´to´in English has many different meanings or is used in many different ways as well.

Just when you thought you could rest easy and let ´til´sink in…I have seen several requests to see a post about the word ´´in Norwegian and so I listen to my readers and meet the request:)  By the way, I really appreciate it when you let me know what you would like to learn about.  I do not anticipate ever completely run out of topics to write about, but it is certainly helpful to receive ideas now and then on those days that I am totally braindead and think that I cannot possibly think of something to write about that I haven´t addressed in previous posts.

Back to ´´….First, I´d like you to copy and paste the following link into a new browser and click on the PLAY triangle to hear the word ´´pronounced..å/

With just one syllable, it is a very simple word to pronounce.  While it sounds very similar to Poe, as in the last name of Edgar Allen, if you listen a tad more closely and better yet, if you watch a native Norwegian speaker´s mouth when they pronounce this word, you will notice a sound absent in the English language.  If one says quickly, it is almost impossible for the speaker to enunciate the extra sound that you will hear if the speaker pronounces it slowly.  If one says it slowly, it is almost as if one adds a lightning fast ´ø´on the end.  I´m sitting hear pronouncing the word out loud to myself while I attempt to determine how to explain the positions my mouth has to be in.

The American pronunciation of the last name Poe stresses the P.  The Norwegian pronunciation of the word stresses the å.  You almost have to drop your chin a bit and get a bit manly if you are a girl to get the dynamics of the pronunciation down.

Listen to the link again and then start listening for the word when you are streaming the news, watching a Norwegian movie, or if you are in the presence of a Norwegian conversation.

To conclude, let´s look at the various definitions of and ways to use the word på.  

can translate to the following meanings in English: to, upon, at, onto, after, towards, for, in, of, by, by means of, and with.

See used in a variety of different ways:

Jeg skal skole i dag.  I´m going to school today.

Hva holder du med?  What are you doing?

gang gang-time after time

langt natt-late at night

De er  besøk til universitetet.  They are on a visit to the university.

Min kjæreste er kapteninen skipet.  My boyfriend is the captain on the ship.

Har du tyggis deg?  Do you have gum on you?

Det er fem åtte på morgenen.  It is five to eight in the morning.

Hun syklet 20 kilometer en time.  She bicycled 20 km in one hour.

Silje kjenner det lukten.  Silje recognizes it by its smell.

There are also many words that begin with as a prefix and many words that contain as a suffix.  Let´s look at these in a different post.  I think you have enough to absorb with just plain .




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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. Nick:

    Just a small clarification 🙂

    In this example, you stress that “på” is equivalent to “to”:

    “De er på besøk til universitetet. They are on a visit to the university.”

    It seems that “på” should be equivalent to “on a” and “til” should be equivalent to “to”.

    Did I get it right?

    • kari:

      @Nick Hi Nick, yes, you are absolutely correct. That was an error on my part. Thanks!

  2. D:

    I think one of the hardest things is learning when to use på vs. i such as cities and towns. Also for places such as i barnehagen vs. på skule. Thank you for an interesting post.

  3. Megan:

    i have found your blog extremely helpful after just recently discovering it! i am an american who just moved to norway recently and many of the topics you cover are ones i struggle with regarding the language! i look forward to future posts 🙂