Norwegian: 'Det' question

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by vthebee, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. vthebee Senior Member

    English- Ireland

    I came across this sentence in a teach yourself Norwegian book:
    'Det er turistinformasjonen.' The speaker is saying (as I understand it) 'that is the tourist information office.'
    Why is 'det' used and not 'den' - 'den er turistinformasjonen.'
    I always thought that den, det and de should agree with the gender of the noun which they are referring to- in this case en turistinformasjonen.

    Takk for hjelpen.
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That's right, but when you have this sort of usage (which is called 'existential') you get the default det and there is no binding link between any other element because it's not actually referring to it. You could say something like: Det er den draumen. Now here 'den' matches with 'draumen' but the first element is just saying 'That is/it is....' It's not actually referring to the dream, but something that has to be there and is in the default 'det' form.

    It's like saying "It is me." in English. Why don't we make the verb agree like you would in a language like Italian? (*I am me). That sort of "It" is default and especially in existential sentences ("Det er/var...") you should see this as independent of reference to any specific noun.

    Det var [tre men]....
    There were three men (no agreement to plurality or noun gender)

    [De tre mennene].....
    The three men (treated as one unit - there is agreement)

    Det var [de tre mennene]....
    There were the three men (now you can use both and see how they are separate)
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  3. vthebee Senior Member

    English- Ireland
    Hei Alxmrphi,
    Thank you for your detailed and helpful response. You talk about 'existential' usage. I was wondering if someone asked me (for example) in Norwegian, what colour is your car? Would it be then correct to say 'Det er blått' or would I in this case use 'den er blå'? I am confused because in this case I am not sure whether I should be using 'det' because I am using the default det for existential usage or should I use 'den' because I am referring back to 'bilen' in the question.

    Ps I asked a similar question before and NorwegianNYC commented that in the case where you say: 'Jeg kjører en bil. Den er blå.
    Here it is quite obvious that 'den' is referring to the car, which is masculine.'
    I understand this. I think I am still confused as to when someone asks me the question 'what colour is your car' - do I then say 'det er blått' (existential usage) or 'den er blå' (agreeing to the word bilen in the question).

    Takk for hjelpen.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2013
  4. myšlenka Senior Member

    I can think of 3 different uses of “det er…”
    1) Det er mange turister i Paris. – existential usage. No reference.
    2) Jeg har et hus. Det er blått. – bound reference.
    3) Det er turistinformasjonen. – presenting.

    It’s only in case 2) where the pronoun agrees with the gender and number of the noun in question. Case 3) also has a reference but since you are presenting something, “det” is used as the default demonstrative.

    It is actually not existential because “det” does have a reference in vthebee’s case. Existential usage is incompatible with definite nouns.
  5. vthebee Senior Member

    English- Ireland
    Thank you for your response myšlenka, I understand it better now with your three examples. So if someone said to me 'hvilken farge er bilen din?' it would be correct for me to say 'det er blått' because I am presenting information (similar to det er turistinformasjonen).

    Tusen takk!
  6. myšlenka Senior Member

    if someone said "hvilken farge er bilen din?", then it would be similar to case 2. You'd have a bound reference (bilen din) so the adjective would have to agree with it. Note that case 2 implies that pronoun and noun can be used interchangeably:

    Hvilken farge er bilen din? - Den er blå./Bilen min er blå.

    You cannot replace the pronoun "det" with a noun in case 3, which would end up in tautologies like "turistinformasjonen er turistinformasjonen".
  7. vthebee Senior Member

    English- Ireland
    Oh ok, I understand now. Thank you so much for you help!

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