Norwegian: beslutte / avgjøre / bestemme

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by monomero, Nov 16, 2017.

  1. monomero New Member

    Hi folks !

    Do you consider these three verbs synonyms, or are they actually used for different purposes ?
    I can't figure out the difference. I would translate all of them with "to decide".

    Thanks !
  2. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    The answer to this question must be complicated, and may be disputable.
    In some cases the three words can be translated by "decide", but there are connotational nuances about them. In addition the words also have several meanings each, and can be paired with one or many of the definitions 1 to 5 below
    beslutte: 1, 3, 5 Usually about a single act of will or after a ballot
    avgjøre: 2, 3, 5 Usually about considering a problem, choose a solution, a single act
    bestemme: 1, 2, 5 Often about having command, power, a continuous situation.

    1. To come to a judgment about something after discussion or consideration, usually followed by an action, resolve
    2. To give an opinion about something, choose an alternative, define
    3. To make final, definite, or beyond dispute, give a verdict, mandate
    4. To form an opinion or reach a conclusion through reasoning and information, conclude
    5. To make a choice, command
  3. monomero New Member

    Hi Ben, jeg kjenner at det er ikke bare bare ;)
    If you have to pick just one meaning, would you agree that the definitions below are of typical use ?

    beslutte: to give orders (mainly in legal / political context)
    avgjøre: to make a choice
    bestemme: to decide with authority (to command)
  4. raumar Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    It is difficult to describe the nuances, and I am not sure that it makes sense to pick one meaning. These words are often interchangeable. For example, take a sentence like "Stortinget har bestemt/besluttet/avgjort at fylkene Østfold, Akershus og Buskerud skal slås sammen". All three options work well in this context.

    There are some cases, however, where the choice of words matters. Let me try some examples.

    "Beslutte" is usually used in formal contexts. If you talk about deciding what you and your family should have for dinner tonight, "beslutte" would be an unlikely choice . "Bestemme" is the most likely option here. "Avgjøre" could work, but that implies that there had been a discussion where different dinner alternatives were considered.

    When "decide" means "make up one's mind", it must be "bestemme seg". "Beslutte seg" could work, but is unusual. "Avgjøre seg" is incorrect. For example: "He decided to go home" - "Han bestemte seg for å gå hjem".

    When "decide" means "be decisive", it must be "avgjøre". For example: "My vote decided the election" - "Min stemme avgjorde valget". An inanimate object can "avgjøre" something, but not "bestemme" or "beslutte" something.
  5. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    This example shows that the notion that there exist "easy" and "difficult" languages is a fallacy. If you want to master a language fully, the amount of effort will be roughly the same for any language, but the particular skills of the language mastery may have a different degree of difficulty depending on the learners native tongue. The greatest bulk of effort will, however, consist of acquiring the nuances of usage.
  6. monomero New Member

    Thank you to both of you. The examples made everything clear.
    Similar nuances are of course present in my mother tongue as well.
    In this particular case it seems to me that italian is closer to norwegian than english.

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