Norwegian, Swedish: å holde på med

Camril

Member
Lithuanian
I have difficulty translating this phrase: å holde på med

Dictionary translates it as "to be (busy) doing something," but I still cannot understand the following sentences:

* Hvor lenge kan du holde på med det?
* Så skulle han holde på med sitt.
* Da lurte jeg på om det virkelig var dette jeg skulle holde på med.
* Hvor lenge skal jeg holde på med å administrere deres tanker?
* Her er det trygt og godt, og mye å holde på med for unger.

What is the difference between å gjøre and å holde på med?
 
  • MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Wit h the exception of that second and second to last sentence I think they're all fairly clear. I don't really see a difference between the Swedish "göra" and "hålla på" so I don't see the difference in Norwegian either.

    1. How long can you do / keep doing that?
    3. ...if it was this I should be doing.
    5. ...and plenty to do for children.
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Here is what I think is going on: The key factor here is aspect, but not as a fully fledged grammatical category because the construction is limited in many ways. Å holde på med (å) and å gjøre are largely equivalent to each other, but there is a difference in aspect. The former expresses progressive/imperfective/durative aspect, forcing the latter to be more perfective/punctual (though I won't any absolute claims about this last point). There are probably numerous exceptions and fixed expressions where one can be used and not the other. The difference is subtle, but å holde på med (å) is clearly referring to activities that stretch out in time while excluding reference to natural endpoints.

    a) Jeg gjorde leksene - implies that the homework was finished.
    b) Jeg holdt på med leksene - does not imply that the homework was finished.

    In these examples, there is a clear contrast (however, the perfective meaning in a) is strengthened by the definite noun). When å holde på med is combined with an infinitive like in your fourth examples, it just adds the aspectual meaning already mentioned:

    c) Teamet etterforsker drapet på et ungt par som holdt på med å filme en dokumentar (found online).

    Note that the construction is limited to intended acts and cannot be used with stative verbs. The following ones do not work for me at least:

    d) *Malingen holdt på med å tørke.
    e) *Han holder på med å ligge på sofaen.


    By the way, the issue has been discussed here.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Here is what I think is going on: The key factor here is aspect, but not as a fully fledged grammatical category because the construction is limited in many ways. Å holde på med (å) and å gjøre are largely equivalent to each other, but there is a difference in aspect. The former expresses progressive/imperfective/durative aspect, forcing the latter to be more perfective/punctual (though I won't any absolute claims about this last point). There are probably numerous exceptions and fixed expressions where one can be used and not the other. The difference is subtle, but å holde på med (å) is clearly referring to activities that stretch out in time while excluding reference to natural endpoints.

    a) Jeg gjorde leksene - implies that the homework was finished.
    b) Jeg holdt på med leksene - does not imply that the homework was finished.

    In these examples, there is a clear contrast (however, the perfective meaning in a) is strengthened by the definite noun). When å holde på med is combined with an infinitive like in your fourth examples, it just adds the aspectual meaning already mentioned:

    c) Teamet etterforsker drapet på et ungt par som holdt på med å filme en dokumentar (found online).

    Note that the construction is limited to intended acts and cannot be used with stative verbs. The following ones do not work for me at least:

    d) *Malingen holdt på med å tørke.
    e) *Han holder på med å ligge på sofaen.


    By the way, the issue has been discussed here.
    Good point, about the ongoing aspect of the phrase. Also, 'hålla på' is a phrasal verb, which may or may not confuse the issue - as with all phrasal verbs, they may mean something completely different to their constituent parts, and when spoken you stress the preposition element, not the verb element.
     
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