Norwegian: Det er v. det finnes

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Senior Member
English - American
Hi everyone,

It looks to me that there are two main ways of saying "there is... / there are..." in Norwegian: 'det er...' and 'det finnes...'.
After looking at sources that use these two expressions, it looks like "det er..." is more colloqual and common and "det finnes..." is a higher register.

Is my assumption correct? If not, which is used most commonly in everyday speech?

  • Svenke

    Senior Member
    Hi, Kabouterke

    This is a really difficult question.
    Yes, "det er" is more frequent than "det finnes (fins)". But both are used in all registers.

    "Det er" has a multitude of uses, while "det finnes" is more limited. I am aware of one difference in particular, when these are followed by a noun phrase, as in "Det er en X / noen X-er" and "Det finnes en X / noen X-er":
    The former is well suitable for telling where something is: "Det er en tomat i kjøleskapet". -- "Det finnes en tomat i kjøleskapet" is not impossible, but sounds a little strange.
    "Finnes" often sounds better if one is talking about existence without location: "Det finnes mange slags tomater". -- But "er" is certainly possible here.
    Note that I am talking about tendencies, not absolutes.

    Maybe others can point to other differences.



    Senior Member
    I agree with Svenke's explanation, but I think we can use "det finnes" if we talk about existence with a permanent location. For example "det finnes løver i Afrika".

    Maybe the shortest way to explain the difference is that "det finnes" is closer to "there exists". Although the distinction is far from clear-cut, as Svenke has explained.
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