Norwegian: Usage of "få" as modal verb

bazinoslo

New Member
english
Hello,

when I read Norwegian it seems very common to use "få" as a modal verb. For example, (I just picked these randomly from the net)

Hver gang du får komme med en mening, tar du feil. ("få" + infinitive. )
En herlig avslappende ferie, men vær ikke får snakket inn i all inclusive ("få" + past participle)

What is being expressed by adding få in these situations? The second looks like a passive construction that could be replaced with "bli snakket". Actually, that sentence is more complicated than I realised. Why do you need the "vær" at the beginning. Couldn't you have

"Men få ikke snakket inn i all inclusive"

Thanks.
 
  • myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hi,
    "få" has a wide variety of meanings but when you use it as a modal, it has the meaning be allowed to, be able to, must... it depends on the context and the construction.

    Hver gang du får komme med en mening, tar du feil. - every time you're allowed to....

    The second example is so wrong that I had a hard time understanding what they're trying to say. I googled it and it seems it's some kind of holiday review. The rest of the text contains so many errors, some of which seem to be transferred directly from English. I'm guessing it means "don't be talked into (buying) all inclusive". We wouldn't use to convey that meaning in Norwegian :)

    Edit: I read the rest of the reviews and they are equally bad written so I assume it's a page where they've translated English texts with google translate.
     
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    bazinoslo

    New Member
    english
    Hi,

    thanks for the info. I picked a bad 2nd example but I'm sure I've seen that type of construction. How about this one (again, picked from web)

    Ting en ikke får tatt tilbake

    Isn't that a form of the passive?

    Cheers,
    Barry
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hi,
    no that's not a passive. That's a relative clause where the relative subjunction has been omitted.

    Ting (som) en ikke får tatt tilbake.

    I don't think you can passivize modal verbs.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hi,

    Actually, you CAN passivize a modal auxiliary verb, but it is rare. I am sure you can think of sentences where "blir kunnet" and "blir villet" might be used.

    Bazinoslo: "ting en ikke får tatt tilbake" is not passive because no one is doing anything to 'ting' in that sentence. The whole notion of passive is that something is acting upon the subject, not by the subject, and in this particular instance that does not happen
     

    bazinoslo

    New Member
    english
    OK, forget I used the word passive. How would you translate this into English? (It is an excerpt from children's book)

    ... nok til at vi får funnet den magiske fjæren

    Is it any different from these

    ... nok til at vi har funnet den magiske fjæren
    ... nok til at vi får finne den magiske fjæren

    I'm trying to find other ways of writing it so I can better understand the construction
    få + past participle

    Cheers
     

    timtfj

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Here's what Åse-Berit & Rolf Strandskogen, Norwegian: an essential grammar has to say about with a past participle:
    Får/fikk followed by a past participle usually conveys the meaning of to manage or achieve something.
    Examples:
    Jeg fikk snakket med henne. (I managed to talk to her.)
    Du fikk gjort mye i helgen. (You managed to do a lot at the weekend.)
    Tror du at du får gjort det i kveld? (Do you think you'll manage to do it this evening?)

    I find the construction easiest to understand if I think of it as "get to":

    • Jeg fikk snakket med henne = I got to talk to her
    • Tror du at du får gjort det i kveld? = Do you think you'll get to do it this evening?
    Seen this way, both the English and the Norwegian are about getting something:

    • I got to talk to her = I got a situation where I was talking to her
    • Jeg fikk snakket med henne = I got a situation where I had talked to her.
    The Norwegian looks odd to English eyes since we're not used to a modal verb being followed by anything other than an infinitive, but it's actually very logical. You get something () and then you have it (ha):

    • Jeg fikk ei god ordbok = I got a good dictionary
    • Jeg har ei god ordbok = I have a good dictionary (as a result of getting it!)
    • Jeg fikk snakket med henne = I got to speak to her
    • Jeg har snakket med henne = I have spoken to her (as a result of getting to speak to her).
    Tim
     
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    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Actually, there is a grammatical aspect to it. Certain verbs run in pairs, in verb aspects, where one word is inchoative ('changing') and the other static ('not changing'). The two prime examples are er and blir, and har and får.
     

    frugihoyi

    Senior Member
    English - USA, Portuguese - Brazil
    Going back to the first example:
    Hver gang du får komme med en mening, tar du feil. ("få" + infinitive. )
    Would you translate that to:
    Every time you are allowed to come with an opinion you're wrong.

    OR

    Everytime you manage to come with an opinion you're wrong.

    By the way my Norwegian girlfriend says you can't use the word "mening" in that sentence and that you must use "ide" instead.
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Going back to the first example:

    Would you translate that to:
    Every time you are allowed to come with an opinion you're wrong.

    OR

    Everytime you manage to come with an opinion you're wrong.

    By the way my Norwegian girlfriend says you can't use the word "mening" in that sentence and that you must use "ide" instead.
    Hver gang du får komme med en mening, tar du feil. - Every time you are allowed to come with an opinion....
    Hver gang du klarer å komme med en mening, tar du feil. -Every time you manage to come with an opinion...

    The word "mening" sounds perfectly fine in this sentence. Using the word "idé" changes the meaning.
     

    NorwegianNYC

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    You girlfriend is not entirely wrong. The sentence: Hver gang du får komme med en mening, tar du feil, is grammatically speaking not a great construct. The sentence technically says: "When I allow you to utter an opinion, you are mistaken". It does not refer to the quality of the opinion you might have. Like English: "You have an opinion about something", Norwegian uses har to own an opinion: Du har en mening om noe.
    Not attempting to delve into the nature of your relationship, but there is a difference between har: Hver gang du har en mening (om noe), tar du feil and får in this regard: Hver gang du får komme med en mening, tar du feil. The first sentence strictly speaking refers to the nature of your opinions, whereas the second refers to the opinions (your or others) you are allowed to utter.

    Albeit a minor grammatical difference, this brings to mind the word idé. It is common to refer to idé or forslag as something you kommer med. In other words, if what you are saying is an opinion, it is correct to use mening. However, if you are putting forth suggestions and ideas, I can see your girlfriend's point in using idé and forslag instead.
     

    bazinoslo

    New Member
    english
    I'm pleased to see these responses, and my understanding of has improved. Having said that, however, none of the given translations are natural English phrases

    Every time you (manage /
    are allowed) to come with an opinion.


    You can't "come with an opinion". At a stretch, you might "come out with an opinion". The best way I can think to translate it is

    "Every time you express an opinion"

    ignoring the modal verb entirely.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Actually, there is a grammatical aspect to it. Certain verbs run in pairs, in verb aspects, where one word is inchoative ('changing') and the other static ('not changing'). The two prime examples are er and blir, and har and får.
    I see a kind of perfective aspect in the use of "få" as a modal verb. The Germanic languages have no grammatical tools too mark the perfective aspect. The very idea of perfective aspect is alien to both grammarians and speakers of those languages (maybe except German). However, there are situations where English, Norwegian and Swedish speakers feel the need to describe a perfective action. They use then various help tools to achieve it. In Norwegian these tools can be:
    - using a preposition, for example "åpne opp!" (get it open!)
    - using the present perfect tense, for example "han har spist maten sinn"
    - using the modal verb "få" plus perfect participle, for example "få dette gjort!".
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I see a kind of perfective aspect in the use of "få" as a modal verb.
    I am not sure what exactly you have in mind here. In the context of NorwegianNYC's post, I agree with you that the opposition between pair verbs such være/bli and ha/få is mainly based on imperfective versus perfective rather that inchoative versus stative. That is naturally limited to cases where they both can be used, but in such cases, none of them are modal verbs. But in the larger context which is this thread ( as a modal verb or auxiliary + past participle), I would hesitate to use the term perfective. I think I can see why you have this hunch that it expresses perfective aspect as we are dealing with completed (or finished) actions (I suspect your Polish background also plays a role), but perfective aspect is, as you say (quoted below), alien to Germanic languages. A comparison between the construction at hand and other alternatives reveals no difference in perfectivity:

    a) Han bygde et hus.
    b) Han har bygd et hus.
    c) Han fikk bygd et hus.

    As far as I know, all these are equal for perfective aspect, with the exception of a) where the perfective reading appears by default. This default perfective reading can be changed to imperfective by applying various strategies, but b) and c) are hardly what can be classified as tools to make perfectives (see points below about this).
    The Germanic languages have no grammatical tools too mark the perfective aspect. The very idea of perfective aspect is alien to both grammarians and speakers of those languages (maybe except German).
    Well, as mentioned above, there are strategies to mark structures as imperfective, which means that structures without this marking will lean more towards a perfective interpretation. The marking is thus more indirect. I would probably describe Spanish perfective in this way: it is simply the absence of other aspectual markers.
    However, there are situations where English, Norwegian and Swedish speakers feel the need to describe a perfective action. They use then various help tools to achieve it. In Norwegian these tools can be:
    - using a preposition, for example "åpne opp!" (get it open!)
    - using the present perfect tense, for example "han har spist maten sinn"
    - using the modal verb "få" plus perfect participle, for example "få dette gjort!".
    I can assure you that none of these tools are there to describe a perfective action. They may of course partically coincide with what is encoded as perfective in languages that have this grammatical category, but their raison d'être is not to express perfectivity.
    - one function of the addition of preposition/particles in Norwegian is that it adds telicity. I believe telicity and (im)perfectivity are roughly in a 1-to-1 correspondence in Slavic languages, but that does not mean that they are the same thing.
    - the perfect is an aspect that is separate from the perfective. Speakers use the perfect when they want to convey a meaning in lines with this aspect, it is not a tool to convey the perfective.
    - the semantic function of as a modal verb or auxiliary + past participle (I am not really convinced anymore that it is a modal, but that is a different story) is, as timtfj says in #7, to express achievements.* I can also add that it is necessary that the subject of such a clause has to be animate and able to make conscious efforts. Thus, the sentence in c) above implies that he had made a plan and a conscious effort to build a house and that he achieved this. I don't think the Polish perfective cares about such semantic considerations.

    *A further complication of the construction at hand is that the interpretation depends on the position of the object with respect to the main verb. This is somewhat outside the scope of this thread, but the example you mention ("få dette gjort") is perhaps not the same construction. When the object appears after the main verb, as in c) above, we have the construction that expresses success in carrying out a plan (subject = builder). When the object appears before the main verb, it strongly suggests that the subject is the beneficiary of someone else doing the building (subject ≠ builder). Compare:

    d) Han fikk bygd huset.
    e) Han fikk huset bygd.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    I understand that translating this use of "få" as "get to" or "manage to" is helpful to the learner of Norwegian, but on the other hand the usage is so common that the "få" might be best omitted in translation sometimes (only using the main verb).

    If someone says "Fikk du snakket med Mari i morges?", I don't think there's much sense of it being difficult in any way, and the meaning is pretty close to "Snakket du med Mari i morges?", so I might very well (depending on the context) just translate it as "Did you speak to Mari this morning?" Similarly, "Hva fikk du kjøpt?" = "What did you buy?"
     
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