Norwegian: "Skal til" vs "Skal på"

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by BrMo, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. BrMo Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Hey all,

    I'm a bit confused as to when Norwegian uses "skal på" and when it uses "skal til"

    "Skal til" is used when there is talk about cities or countries, i.e. classic destinations/geographical locations or directions.

    For exampel: Jeg skal til Tyskland = I am going to Germany.

    "Skal på" seems to be used when going to an activity, including jobs.

    For exampel: Jeg skal på karneval = I am going to the carnival (where this carnival is hdld, isn't specified).

    However there seems to be a grey zone between those two. For instance, I am going to the cinema is translated with "Jeg skal på kino", but seeing there aren't that many cinemas around, the location of where you're going seems to be already (implicitely) specified. So why not use "til" then?

    Or am I just making it more difficult than it really is?

    Could I use "skal til" + city or country and "skal på" + activity as my main rule?

    Tusen takk!

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  2. willem81 Senior Member

    I suspect that the different prepositions here change the meaning of the sentence. For example:

    Jeg skal til arbetet. - means that I am moving towards the workplace.
    Jeg skal arbetet. - means that I intend to be at work.
  3. sdr083

    sdr083 Senior Member

    Norwegian (NN)
    I think til + city or country and på + activity is generally a good rule. Can't really come up with any obvious exceptions, but they may of course still exist.

    I would never say "Jeg skal til arbeid(et)". It would be "Jeg skal på arbeid" (indefinite) or, if I am on my way, "Jeg er på vei". In the latter case I suppose you could use "til" (would like to know other Norwegians' opinions on this). Personally I'd probably say "Er på vei på jobb" ...
  4. willem81 Senior Member

    Thank you for the correction. Obviously the seeming parallels with Swedish I have tried to draw here are not valid in this particular case.
  5. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Til is directional, whereas indicates a location
  6. willem81 Senior Member

    Then a construction like 'Jeg skal til arbeid' seems to be correct, doesn't it?
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2013
  7. myšlenka Senior Member

    Try googling that phrase and you'll find the answer.
  8. willem81 Senior Member

    I have tried. Such a phrase fails to exist in Norwegian, as it seems. So, we must use either Jeg skal på arbeid or Jeg går til arbeid.
  9. myšlenka Senior Member

    And also jeg går på arbeid :)
    Note that none of these have the same meaning.
  10. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    But if you are a boss and you see some employees having a prolonged break, you would say "Gå tilbake til arbeidet!", not "på arbeidet".
  11. raumar Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    It is of course correct that til is directional, whereas indicates a location. But this distinction may be a bit confusing in this context, as both skal til and skal på mean that you are going somewhere. I think the main rule that BrMo suggested is useful: skal til is about location and skal på is about activity. When we say "Jeg skal på kino", we focus on the activity -- to see a movie. If you say "Jeg skal til kinoen", you indicate that the location is more important than seeing a movie. For example, if you are a plumber who is going to repair something at the cinema.

    The choice between the definite and indefinite form is another question. If we take one of BrMo's examples, "Jeg skal på karneval" is less specific than "Jeg skal på karnevalet" ("a carnival" rather than "the carnival"). But some of these expressions are set phrases. We say "Jeg skal på kino" also when we are talking about a specific cinema, not "på kinoen". With "til", it is usually the definite form ("til skolen", not "til skole").

    A final complication: In some cases, we use i instead of. For example: "Jeg skal i kirken/i operaen", not "på". Or "Jeg skal i selskap", but "Jeg skal på fest". Don't ask me why - prepositions are not logical.
  12. BrMo Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Takk for forklaringen :)
  13. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    raumar - you are saying the exact same thing as I am! But, til og skal til indicate that you are moving towards something, i.e. directional. And, og skal på means you are going to or ending up at a certain location. Example: "Jeg skal til kontoret" is short for "jeg skal forflytte meg til dit hvor kontoret er", mens "jeg skal på kontoret" betyr "jeg skal til det stedet hvor kontoret er". There are similar, but not the same. It is a subtle difference here. The preposition til is always used about direction in Norwegian - either physical, temporal or possessive. On the other hand, the preposition is used about a physical or temporal location.

    Also, it is perfectly fine to say "jeg skal en tur på kirka" or "jeg skal på operaen i kveld. The use of i or in these cases are optional. If anything, "i operaen" is referring to the actual concert hall, whereas "på operaen" means the builing, which may or may not include a visit to the concert hall.
  14. myšlenka Senior Member

    Skal/skulle på kirka sounds really bad in my ears. A simple google search shows that I am not the only one.
  15. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    myslenka - if you are referring to kirka as a location it is different. For those of us who live abroad, Sjømannskirka is the place to meet other Norwegians, and then you go "på kirka". If you are attending a service, you are "i kirka".
  16. Cerb Senior Member

    Norwegian - Bokmål
    I have to say I agree with Raumar for some uses of "på" here. At the very least there seems to be certain fixed expressions where "på" is used about an activity. "På" is used for physical and temporal location as well of course, but mainly in cases where there is a spesific place mentioned (i.e. definite form is used). It makes more sense to describe the following examples as having to do with an activity to me.

    Jeg skal på:
  17. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Cerb - as much as I agree with both you and raumer, I feel you are missing an important nuance. The propositions til and have similar, but not identical properties, in this case. The use of til describes the process (i.e. direction, movement) as well as the destination, whereas identifies and put emphasis on the destination itself.

    "Hvor skal du?" "Jeg skal (dvs. er på vei) til en konsert i operaen"
    "Hvor skal du?" "Jeg skal på konsert med noen venner"

    The emphasis shifts from the goal to the process with the use of til: "Jeg skal til jobben" = I am on my way to work. Conversely, "jeg skal på jobb" = I have to be at work.
  18. frugihoyi Senior Member

    English - USA, Portuguese - Brazil
    A question about the use of i vs :
    I know that in Danish you can go i skoleor på skole. I think one refers to university and the other grade school or something like that, but I'm not sure which is which. Is it the same in Norwegian?
  19. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Han er i skolen usually means "he is working in the school system". Han er på skolen means "he is at school". The idiomatic expression "å ta i skole" means to train or instruct someone.
  20. raumar Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Thanks for this explanation, NYC. I agree. And I think we can unite the different explanations: whereas til describes the process/direction, gives room for other aspects of the destination -- such as the activity that goes on there.

    You are right about "på sjømannskirka", I had not thought about that. But I would not use "på kirka" about a church in Norway. I suppose this just shows how difficult prepositions may be.

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