Norwegian, Swedish: Det var ikke mange minuttene jeg måtte vente

serbianfan

Senior Member
British English
This is an interesting Norwegianism (although it seems to occur in Swedish too - plenty of hits for ‘inte många minuterna’). It seems to mean exactly the same as ‘ikke mange minutter’ but it’s a bit more ‘folkelig’ (whatever that is in English!). It's used a lot with expressions of time (ikke mange dagene til jul) but can be used with various other nouns too. But it’s a bit mysterious why it seems to be ok with some nouns, but a bit strange, or impossible with others. ‘Det var ikke mange bøkene hun hadde i hylla’ or ‘jeg hadde ikke mange vennene da jeg var liten’ sound ok to me, but (after a visit to the dentist) ‘hun hadde ikke mange hullene’ or (after a birthday party) ‘det kom ikke så mange barna’ sound stranger (to me). No doubt if I thought a bit more, I could come up with some nouns which are quite impossible in the definite form after ‘ikke mange’, but I’ll leave it there and wait to see what other people think about this kind of expression.
 
  • basslop

    Senior Member
    Norsk (Norwegian)
    Such use of «ikke» often expresses an expected outcome or rather opposite outcome of what is expected. When you say as in your example with the dentist, the person has expected that things were bad with his teeth, but then it turned out it did not. The birthday party had probably expected that more guests to come than it did.

    Conversely, if you assume your teeth are in good condition and it turns out that there were many holes, you can say “Det var ikke få hull”. Similarly, “Det var ikke få barn som kom” in the second example.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Regarding the definite form: I think it usually needs "Det var ikke mange". I agree that ‘hun hadde ikke mange hullene’ sounds strange, but I think ‘det var ikke mange hullene hun hadde' is OK.

    Likewise, I would prefer either ‘jeg hadde ikke mange venner da jeg var liten’ or ‘det var ikke mange vennene jeg hadde da jeg var liten’.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, I also noticed that 'det var ikke mange + definite noun' is more likely than the alternatives. But with the nouns more commonly used with this expression the alternative sounds ok: 'jeg måtte ikke vente mange minuttene', whereas it doesn't with more unusual nouns. (New doctor in town) 'Hun har ikke mange pasientene' = very strange, but 'Det er ikke mange pasientene hun har, tror jeg' = possible.

    Maybe you can't add an adjective before the noun: 'Det var ikke mange bøkene hun hadde i hylla' is ok, but 'Det var ikke mange interessante bøkene hun hadde i hylla' doesn't sound right to me.
     
    As for inte många minuterna in Swedish: I was surprised to get hits for this construction with the definite form. I have never come across it before, and it sounds incorrect to me. It is perhaps a Norwegianism, and perhaps it's a regional thing used mainly in areas close to Norway.
     
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    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    As for inte många minuterna in Swedish: I was surprised to get hits for this construction with definite form. I have never come across it before, and it sounds incorrect to me. It is perhaps a Norwegianism, and perhaps it's a regional thing used mainly in areas close to Norway.
    That's interesting and it shows how you can't always rely on Google hits. I just tried 'inte många dagarna' and found a number of hits, including 'Nu är det inte många dagarna kvar innan jul', which is quite commonly said in Norway (ikke mange dagene (igjen) til jul) at the appropriate time of year.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I agree with 'turtle', it sounds very incorrect to me to use definite form ("inte många minuterna").

    To me it sounds like something a person who doesn't speak the language very well would say, for example a recent or second generation immigrant, or a child... or perhaps someone that's just bad at the language. Or it could be something where a software auto-correct has failed. I even remember this from my childhood as being a bit of a joke, either using definite form where we wouldn't expect it to make fun of 'immigrant Swedish', or to just make a sentence look or sound 'weird'.

    Incidentally I pretty recently uploaded a picture to Facebook where you see me and my friend on a boat with some cranes (not the animals) in the background. To make it look like a child's writing I used my trackball and cursor to write comments on the picture, one being "Stora kranarna!" along with some other nonsense. A lot of my friends found that very funny.

    So anyway, I would be cautious about using definite form like this. It just doesn't look or sound right to me.
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    Swedish, Finnish
    I checked the result of "inte många minuterna", and it doesn't seem to be a result of immigrants or children using it. If there is some kind of trend in the limited number of results (27), then it would be sports of some kind, hunting, or fishing.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I know it wasn't likely those groups using it in the search results, I said it sounds like something I'd expect to hear from those groups. They're common mistakes to make from what I recall.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Well, I would guess that it's a kind of colloquial/sub-standard/dialectal/borderland kind of Swedish. Borderland refers to the fact that the local dialects on both sides of the border are apparently a mixture of Norwegian and Swedish.

    What I have learnt from this is that if you're not sure if a word or phrase is commonly used or generally acceptable in another language, it's better to ask a native speaker or two (e.g. on WordReference forums) than to rely on Google hits! :)
     
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