Scandinavian for beginners, part 3

Flag - EngelskAgain, as a way of distracting myself from writing something about Brexit, I decided to dip back into my ongoing series of posts to teach you guys some basic Scandinavian. So that’s exciting, isn’t it? And if Brexit does go tits up, you can use these posts as the first stop on your emigration to Norway, Denmark or Sweden. So let’s get right back to it. I know it’s been a while, so if you need to brush up, you can find links to the previous two posts at the very bottom of this one. Shall we get started?

Well. Last time we talked about basic verb conjugation, so this time, it’s only fair that we combine that with some noun declension, and maybe some adjectives. It might sound a little scary, but I promise you, it’s as easy as pie.

Nouns in the three Scandinavian languages belong to one of two genders*, which affect the way they decline and fit into a sentence. There were once three genders in all three languages: masculine, feminine, and neuter. But at some point from the road to Old Norse to Modern Scandinavian, the masculine and feminine genders merged, leaving just neuter and what is termed the ‘common’ gender. Those of you who have dealt with German previously will know that grammatical gender has little or no connection to the item itself, for example: the German word for ‘bra’ is masculine – der Büstenhalter. For Scandinavian, it’s easier to assume that all nouns are common, and just memorise which few are neuter. It’s about an 80/20 split, so the odds are in your favour. Take a look at the table below:

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As you can see, there are four forms for each noun. Don’t let the linguistic jargon put you off, it’s actually very simple. Indefinite just means that there is no fixed object that is being referred to, whereas definite is the opposite. Thus, ‘en hund’ just means ‘a dog’, and ‘hunden’ means ‘the dog’. The definite article (‘den’ or ‘det’, equivalent to the English ‘the’) is only used for emphasis, or when you want to add an adjective – but I’m just coming to that now.

Here’s where it might get a little complicated. Adjectives (describing words) have to agree with the noun that they’re describing. Take another look at that same time, but this time, I’ve added in the word ‘god’, meaning ‘good’.

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Take special notice of where the adjective changes its form! Luckily, Scandinavian adjectival declension is fairly regular, so once you’ve learned this pattern, then you’re pretty much set. To put it simply, when the noun is common, you leave the adjective as it is. When it’s neuter, you add a ‘-t’. When it’s plural, you add ‘-e’ for Danish and Norwegian, and ‘-a’ for Swedish. This is also true if the adjective is separate from the noun phrase, as seen below:

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Skærmbillede 2017-04-01 kl. 22.08.36I know that’s a lot of information to take in, but I always find it helpful to try and write as many different combinations of the words I know as a way of practicing… so to that end, I’ll give you some extra adjectives to work with. Feel free to leave me a comment with some of your attempts, I’d be happy to let you know how you’re getting on! And please do keep referring back to this, I know it’s a lot of information but it will help in the long run. The whole point of this is to give you a resource for learning, designed mostly for people who share my learning style – as that’s what I know best. If you have any ideas for things you would like to know, however, feel free to ask down in the comments! I love a challenge. So as always, thanks for reading. Good luck!

— J.

Scandinavian for beginners, part 1 / 2 / 3.

*Some forms of Norwegian (including the second written standard for the language, Nynorsk) have three genders. But we’ll stick to two here for simplicity’s sake.

**Unlike Norwegian and Swedish, when Danish adds an adjective in the definite singular, it drops its suffix. For example: hunden, den søde hund.

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