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Lesson 6 - 4

In the right order

We talked about Tarzan language in lesson 1, where we looked at the importance of changing the word order when making questions, to avoid sounding like a foreigner (as if you weren't one).

Wrong word order is a frequent problem among Norwegian learners. This is because Norwegian has a very special rule for all affirmative (non interrogative) sentences:

The verb is always the second constituent!

This rule is called the V2 rule. The V2 rule is not specific to Norwegian; we find it in all other Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, etc.) as well... except English.

Time to see how this works. Let's have a look at the following English sentence:

1. I am here.

If we want to put emphasis on the word "here", we are allowed to move it to the beginning of the sentence, like this:

2. Here I am.

We can see that, while the verb is the second word in the first sentence, it's pushed down to third position in the second sentence. That third position is the proof that the V2 rule doesn't apply in English.

Sentence 1 in Norwegian is the following:

Jeg er her.

If we move "her" to the beginning of the sentence, we get the following (the * means that the sentence is wrong wrong; Tarzan language):

*Her jeg er.

What's wrong here is that the verb, "er", is the third word in the sentence; that violates the V2 rule! What we have to do is simply to move the verb to the right position. That is, placing it before "jeg":

*Her jeg er.
  Her er jeg.

Thus, the correct sentence is:

Her er jeg.

Let's see how this works in sentences with more words. We'll start with the following:

Jeg er i Norge nå. = I am in Norway now.

A pretty simple sentence. In English we can move the word "now" to the front and say: Now I am in Norway.

The exact same structure doesn't work in Norwegian, because of the position of the verb, which is marked with red:

*Nå jeg er i Norge.

Therefore, the verb must be moved to the second position if we place "nå" at the beginning:

er jeg i Norge.

Now, when we move a whole group of words to the beginning of the sentence, these count as only one unit. This unit is called a "constituent". Examples of this kind of constituents are:

  • i dag (today)
  • i morgen (tomorrow)
  • på mandag (on Monday)
  • den dagen vi møttes (the day we met)
  • etc, etc, etc, etc...

This means that we can take the following sentence, when the constituent we want to be at the beginning is underlined and the verb is in red:

Vi skal til Oslo i morgen. = We are going to Oslo tomorrow.

...and convert it to this one:

I morgen skal vi til Oslo. = Tomorrow we are going to Oslo.

Observe how the verb was put in front of the word vi in order to maintain its second position in the sentence, since i morgen counts as only one.

Try the same with this sentence:

What is fårikål?
A delicious or horrible (that depends on the person) Norwegian dish consisting of sheep (får) in (i) cabbage (kål).

Vi spiste fårikål på søndag. = We ate fårikål on Sunday.

We want to convert it into "On Sunday we ate fårikål". That means, we want to move "på søndag" to the beginning of the sentence.

Try to type the correct answer in the box below (with correct punctuation) and click the button to see if you did it right.


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