All Nordic Languages: pronouns for common gender inanimate nouns


Senior Member
Hello everyone.

I'd like to ask you which pronoun do you use when you're speaking about a common gender noun referring to an inanimate object.

Are these examples right?

English: I read it
Icelandic: Ég las* hana. (f.) lit. I read her
Swedish: Jag läste den. (c.)
Norwegian: Jeg leste den. (c.)
Danish: Jeg læste den. (c.)

English: I drove it.
Icelandic: Ég ók honum*. (m.) lit. I drove him
Swedish: Jag körde den. (c.)
Norwegian: Jeg kjørte den. (c.)
Danish: Jeg kørte den. (c.)

As far as I know in Icelandic there are no pronouns equal to "den/det", is it right?
How does it work in Nynorsk? Is there any "den/det" pronoun or does it follow the Icelandic system?

Thank you

*Corrected, thanks to klandri, comment #5.

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  • There are grammatical errors in the Icelandic lines (Ég las hana and Ég ók honum) but the idea is correct. In Icelandic there are no impersonal pronouns like there are in the continental languages so we use the personal pronoun that agrees with the gender in the appropriate case.
    Hi, klandri, and thank you very much for answering!
    (So the verb aka takes the dative case. Interesting!)
    Your Norwegian examples are correct Bokmål, but Nynorsk is different (as you seem to suspect). In Bokmål, han refers to male individuals, hun to female individuals, and den and det to inanimate objects when the grammatical gender is masculine/feminine and neuter, respectively. In Nynorsk, han is used for masculine nouns, ho for feminine nouns, and det for neuter nouns. There is no distinctions between people and objects. This gives us:

    Book (f.)
    Nynorsk: Eg las henne. (lit. I read her)
    Bokmål: Jeg leste den.

    Car (m.)
    Nynorsk: Eg køyrde han. (lit. I drove him)
    Bokmål: Jeg kjørte den.

    House (n.)
    Nynorsk: Eg bygde det.
    Bokmål: Jeg bygde det.

    In other words: In Nynorsk, det is only used for neuter words (just like in Bokmål), while den is not used as a personal pronoun (but used in sentences such as "Eg køyrde den nye bilen."
    Thank you, raumar!
    So the difference is between West Scandinavian (Icelandic, Nynorsk) and East Scandinavian (Swedish, Danish).