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Norwegian: de vs. det?

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by personguything, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    God dag!

    I have a question about the correct translation of the english words "they"/"those"/"that"...
    It's my understanding that "det" means "it" when refering to a neuter noun, and can also mean "that" and that it's similar to "den" which refers to an "en"/"ei" noun and means "it"; I've also been considering "de" to be the correct English translation of "they"/"those"...

    This sentence confuses me:

    "Det er elevene." - "Those are the school children." <- I would have replaced "det" with "de".


    Takk på forhånd!
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  2. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    You do not provide a context, but I will give it a go.
    Imagine this sentence in English: What is the best thing about being a teacher? It is the students.
    "Det" is not those. "Det" is it, but (in this case) the general it.
    Also: Who is that walking up the driveway? It is your parents.
     
  3. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    So you're saying that it essentially sounds like a disconnected sentence? That's what I was thinking... the sentence and translation are from a Norwegian-learning book I bought :S. It seems like a bad translation. I guess it's time to trash the book O_O.

    One more question: Why is "det" used here? Wouldn't it be better to use "den", considering "elev" is a masculine noun?
     
  4. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    You may find the answer to that question here.
     
  5. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    I do not know what the statement is referring to, but I can make an educated guess. It seems to me like a picture or an illustration, such as Q: "hvem er på dette bildet?" A: "det er elevene" (that is the students)(as opposed to e.g. the teachers). In that case, it is demonstrative ("det" = that)
     
  6. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    Interesting! Thanks!
    I have a question about it: You gave the example sentence De tre mennene
    Why is "de" used for "the" here? I'm honestly so confused... I thought det meant "the" and "de" meant "they"/"those"/"them"?


    "I do not know what the statement is referring to" -> so it matches the noun it's REFERRING too? Like, it doesn't need to be in the same sentence?
     
  7. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    The example wasn't given by me and it's not really relevant in this context. The explanation though is that when you modify definite nouns in Norwegian with a numeral or an adjective, you have use to an article den/det/de which agrees with the noun.

    The ways articles are used in English and Norwegian and are not in a one-to-one correspondence so I'm not sure it's a good idea trying to understand the Norwegian usage in terms of the English one.
     
  8. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    What I meant is - in what context is this example of yours? I assumed it was a caption under an illustration or something.
    As discussed previously, "det" serves three distinct functions:
    1) It can be the general/existential it. In Eng. it is raining, where it indicates that it raining is the state of affairs. Norwegian uses the "det" in a similar fashion.
    2) (quoting myslenka) "Jeg har et hus. Det er blått." This is a bound reference, and it is indeed in agreement with the noun "hus" (N). In Eng. I have a house. It is blue. The it in this case is different from the previous one, since it contains a specific reference.
    3) "Det er en fin bil" mean that is a nice car, which is demonstrative. However, the that does not refer to the car itself; it is the part of the sentence that is introducing or presenting, and therefore detached from the noun. If you rearrange the sentence, you will get "Den bilen er fin", and in this statement, the demonstrative is referring directly to the noun, and therefore it has to be in agreement.
     
  9. Dan2

    Dan2 Senior Member

    US
    US English
    Everything myslenka says in his response to this is correct and interesting, but I think it may be helpful to Person to answer his question somewhat differently: "the" in Norwegian simply has different forms in the singular and plural. When "the" is expressed as a free-standing word, "det" is the singular (neuter) form and "de" is the plural form. (Yes, "de" can also mean "they" (not "them"), but that doesn't negate the facts about "the".)

    If you've ever studied German or French or Spanish, you've seen the same situation: "the" is expressed differently in the plural compared to the singular. (And, as in Norwegian, the same word that serves as plural "the" also has other functions, meaning "they" or "them" or both, depending on the language and context.)

    It's actually English that's unusual among the familiar European languages in having a single word for "the".
     
  10. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    Absolutely correct, Dan
    I just wanted to clarify the functions here:

    Den/den/de can be PRONOUNS (de kommer hit = they are coming here)
    Det can be an existential marker (det snør = it is snowing)
    Den/det/de can be DEFINITE marker when combined with an adjective and a noun (det store huset = the big house)
    Den/det/de can DISTAL DEMONSTRATIVES (den er med sjokolade = that (one) is with chocolate)
     
  11. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    "I'm not sure it's a good idea trying to understand the Norwegian usage in terms of the English one." I'm starting to see that more and more haha! Thank you for all your help!!

    ---
    Thank you! Time for me to start thinking in terms of Norwegian! Norwegian is the first language I've learned, so I'm still sorta trying to think/converse/read in it without translating; it's such a foreign concept to me. Now that I have a good understanding of den/det/de, I'm getting reasonably proficient in Norwegian grammar :D. Time for vocabulary flashcards! Thanks so much!

    ---
    Awesome chart man! Thanks!!!! One question: is "Den" a separate word from "den"? I noticed you have them separated in the first line, and "den" is capitalized in the bottom two... do you mean to say that "Den" can be a Definite Marker, Pronoun or Distal Demonstrative, while "den" can only be a pronoun? That might sound super stupid haha, I just remember reading somewhere about Den/den being different, like one is more polite, but also archaic... or something?
     
  12. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    Ah - shoot! It's a typo.

    den/det/de can be PRONOUNS (de kommer hit = they are coming here)
    det can be an existential marker (det snør = it is snowing)
    den/det/de can be DEFINITE markers when combined with an adjective and a noun (det store huset = the big house)
    den/det/de can DISTAL DEMONSTRATIVES (den er med sjokolade = that (one) is with chocolate)
     
  13. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    No problem haha! Thanks a million! :D
     
  14. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    Oop! Sorry to resurrect this topic after you all thoroughly answered my question... but I have a very similar/connected one question:

    What is the difference between "dette"/"denne" and "disse"?

    I have noticed that a though "dette"/"denne" means "this", it can also mean "these" E.g. "Dette er trær." = "These are trees". So when the noun is plural then "dette" means "these" rather than "this"... but I've also read that "desse" means "those" and can also mean "these"...

    P.S. I've also only seen "dette" used? Like, even for En nouns... E.g. "Dette er bygninger."... so when is "denne" used?
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2013
  15. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Hi,
    denne/dette/disse - used for objects or persons that are close.
    den / det /de - used to expresss that there is a distance between the speaker and the objects/persons in question.

    Apart from that, they are used in the same way.
     
  16. personguything

    personguything New Member

    Connecticut, USA
    English - American
    Thanks again!! :D
     

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