Danish and Norwegian: Imperfect

marsplastic123

New Member
English - Lodon
Hi I was wondering how you formulate the imperfect in Danish and Norwegian.

Ie how one might translate he was eating when the phone rang - I can't seem to find any information about this but it is used in English all the time.

Thanks in advance
 
  • mosletha

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Norwegian sadly doesn't have an imperfective aspect, so we don't really have any way to separate the imperfective aspect from the perfective aspect. Here's a good example in English from wikipedia:
    John read that book yesterday; while he was reading it, the postman came.
    And here are my translations into Norwegian:
    John leste den boka i går; mens han leste den, kom postmannen. (bokmål)
    John las den boka i går; medan han las henne, kom postmannen. (nynorsk)
    So as you can see, there's no distinction between "John read" and "John was reading".

    However, in Icelandic, I believe (please correct me if I'm wrong!) they express the imperfective aspect with "að vera að" + infinitive form, relatively similarly to English. We don't do this in Norwegian, but it might be interesting for you to see a comparison. So here's an example of the perfective aspect:
    John reads/read the book.
    John leser/leste boka. (bokmål)
    John les/las boka. (nynorsk)
    John les/las bókina. (Icelandic)
    And here's the imperfective aspect:
    John is/was reading the book.
    John leser/leste boka. (bokmål)
    John les/las boka. (nynorsk)
    John er/var að lesa bókina. (Icelandic)
    Hope this helps :)
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    There are ways to express imperfective aspect but it is by no means obligatory. And it's not part of verbal morphology. One common way is to use sitte/stå/ligge + verb. This expresses imperfective aspect (including whether you are sitting, standing etc).

    Han satt og spiste da telefonen ringte
    - he was eating when the phone rang.
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Ie how one might translate he was eating when the phone rang -
    What has been said above is true for Danish as well, and you can express the past continuous in Danish using verbs like ligge, sidde, stå, etc. Or you can use the construction "være ved at" (if you don't know whether the individual was eating in a reclining, sitting or standing position)

    "Han var ved at spise, da telefonen ringede"

    Bic.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Right, you do it with the preposition "ved" + an infinitive.

    "Han var ved at spise, da telefonen ringede."
     

    sjiraff

    Senior Member
    English
    It might be a bit formal / not as free to use as in English but, in Norwegian if you want to be explicit and say something is "happening now" you can say noe er "i ferd med" å skje, meaning like "getting in the process"

    Snømannen er i ferd med å smelte! (I think at least, it would be an ok of meaning "it's going on now" as opposed to "the snowman melts" whenever)
     

    sjiraff

    Senior Member
    English
    Hi does være ved å/at apply in norwegian.

    PS thanks for all your replies !!
    "ved" is said before verbs in Norwegian but only in cases such as: Jeg var nær ved å bli kvitt den jakka (I almost got rid of that jacket!/I was close to getting rid of...) or things like "Jeg klatret muren ved å bruke en stige" - i climbed the wall by using a ladder
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hi does være ved å/at apply in norwegian.
    No, not really - it is more Danish than Norwegian. A Norwegian version of "Han var ved at spise, da telefonen ringede" could be "Han holdt på med å spise da telefonen ringte."

    As sjiraff suggested, "Han var i ferd med å spise .." is also an option -- but maybe a bit too formal.
     

    marsplastic123

    New Member
    English - Lodon
    Hi - isn't "Han holdt på med å spise da telefonen ringte." similar to he kept on eating when the telephone rang rather than he was eating when the telephone rang?
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hi - isn't "Han holdt på med å spise da telefonen ringte." similar to he kept on eating when the telephone rang rather than he was eating when the telephone rang?
    Not at all.
    As sjiraff suggested, "Han var i ferd med å spise .." is also an option -- but maybe a bit too formal.
    After thinking about this a little, my claim is that this is not a question of formality. Norwegian can express imperfective aspect but the constructions are not void of additional meanings, i.e. they are not equivalent.

    å være i ferd med å... - tends to combine with verbs that describe activites with a natural end-point (accomplishment).
    å holde på med å... - tends to combine with verbs that describe activities without a natural end-point (activity).

    This is easy to see if you use a verb with a clean natural end-point like å begynne:
    1) Han var i ferd med å begynne på leksene.
    2) #Han holdt på med å begynne på leksene.

    My guess is that you prefer 1) to 2), which means that this not a question of style but verbal semantics.
     

    sjiraff

    Senior Member
    English
    Also something which might be good to know Marsplastic, as well as what Myšlenka explained (better than I ever could), people say "holdt på med" meaning the same as when we say in English "been doing something"

    So if someone wants to ask "How long have you been doing it?" (Learning Norwegian or anything) they can say, "hvor lenge har du holdt på?". Rather than like we in English literally say "been doing it for".
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top