Adjectives are words that are used for describing nouns. If you think of the noun “car”, try to think of a few words you can use to describe this car. You could say that the car is old, and “old” is an adjective. You could also say that the car is red, yellow, rusty, fantastic, new, or something else. All these words are adjectives.
Try identifying the adjectives in the sentences below. (Hover over the sentences to see an English translation).
As is the case in many European languages (although not English), Danish adjectives are inflected for gender, number and definiteness. What this means is that the adjective’s form changes depending on the thing it describes, how many things it describes, and whether the thing it describes is in its “known” or “unknown” form.
We say that an adjective has three forms: grundform (basic form), t-form, and e-form
In Danish, nouns have two grammatical genders: common gender (“en”) and neuter gender (“et”). If the terminology confuses you, then just skip it: Think of “en” and “et” (and read the post about nouns which I will, someday, write. In the meantime: Wiki is your friend). We use the different forms of the adjectives for describing nouns of different gender, and for describing plural nouns.
Compare the following sentences:
|I have a brown car.||Jeg har en brun bil.|
|I have a brown house.||Jeg har et brunt hus.|
|I have two brown cars.||Jeg har to brune biler.|
|I have two brown houses.||Jeg har to brune huse.|
In the English phrases, the word “brown” stays the same no matter what it describes, but in the Danish sentences, we see three different forms: “brun”, “brunt”, and “brune”. Because “bil” is an n-word (“en bil”), we use the basic form to describe it, and because “hus” is a t-word (“et hus”), we use the t-form of the adjective to describe it. When we are talking about multiple cars and multiple houses (“biler” and “huse”), we use the e-form.
For the t-form, you simply add a -t to the end of the adjective, and for the e-form, you simply add an -e. Easy peasy!
If you know any other languages than English, now is the time to pause for a moment and think about how YOUR language uses adjectives. Try saying the sentences above in your own language. Is the word “brown” always the same, or does it change depending on what it describes?
Try inserting the correct form of the adjectives belows. Hover for a hint!
The e-form is not just used for plural
Many think of the e-form as the plural form, but the e-form is used for more than just plural. The e-form is used in connection with the definite form of the nouns. You might know that the definite article of a noun goes to the end of the noun in the definite form, but when an adjective is involved it changes things. We know that “a house” is “et hus”, and “the house” is “huset”, and by now we also know that “a new house” is “et nyt hus” (with “nyt” being the t-form of “ny”), but what if we want to say “the new house”? This is where the e-form come into play again. If you want to say “the new house”, “my new house”, “the new car”, “my new car” or “John’s new car”, you should use the e-form of “ny”, which is “nye”. Compare the sentences below and notice how the e-form is used after “den”, “det”, “de”, possessive pronouns and the genitive case (as in “Johns“)
|I love your new car!||Jeg elsker din nye bil!|
|Have you met his new wife?||Har du mødt hans nye kone?|
|My new roomie is super cool!||Min nye sambo er super cool!|
|Have you seen the new iPhone?||Har du set den nye iPhone?|
|We’ll move into the new house next week.||Vi flytter ind i det nye hus i næste uge.|
|Where are the new documents?||Hvor er de nye dokumenter?|
|Have you heard about Anna’s new job?||Har du hørt om Annas nye arbejde?|
Notice how the article before the adjective changes depending on whether a word is an n-word, a t-word, or plural: “den nye iPhone”, “det nye hus”, and “de nye dokumenter”. If you are familiar with how nouns work in Danish, you might be a bit confused right now. You know that “a car” is “en bil”, and you know that “the car” is “bilen”, but here I come with all my adjectives and make everything weird. All of a sudden, “the” is now “den”, “det” or “de”? Yes, that’s exactly the case: When you say “the car”, you say “bilen” in Danish, but when you say “the new car”, the definite article is in front of the adjective – just like in English – and we say “den nye bil”. Languages are weird that way… Just be happy that you are studying Danish and not Norwegian and Swedish for this grammatical point. 😉
Try inserting the correct form of the adjectives in the sentences below. Hover for a hint!
There are a few irregular adjectives, but many of them follow similar patterns. Here’s a list of some of the most useful rules:
- Adjectives that end in -t and -sk are identical in the basic form and t-form.
English Grundform T-form E-form black sort sort sorte good-looking flot flot flotte fresh frisk frisk friske
- Adjectives that end in -e only have a single form.
English Grundform T-form E-form quiet stille stille stille afraid bange bange bange
- Adjectives that end in -et are identical in the positive basic form and t-form (because they end in -t, see point 1), and they end in -ede in the e-form.
English Grundform T-form E-form dirty snavset snavset snavsede interested interesseret interesseret interesserede silly fjoget fjoget fjogede
- Adjectives that end in -er, -en and -el become -re, -ne and -le in the e-form. If they have a double consonant in the basic form, this is reduced to a single consonant in the e-form.
English Grundform T-form E-form delicious / hot lækker lækkert lækre adult voksen voksent voksne old gammel gammelt gamle
Before or after a noun?
Danish adjectives are used differently in attributive and predicative positions, i.e. before a noun and after a noun. This means that the form of the adjective “new” in “the new car” isn’t the same as it is in “the car is new”, because “the new car” involves an adjective in attributive position (i.e. adjective before a noun), while “the car is new” involves an adjective in predicative positions (i.e. an adjective after a noun).
Compare the sentences below.
|1||I love your new car.||Jeg elsker din nye bil.|
|2||Your car is new.||Din bil er ny.|
|3||What do you think about our new house?||Hvad synes du om vores nye hus?|
|4||Your cars are new.||Dine biler er nye.|
|5||They bought two new beds.||De købte to nye senge.|
|6||Are the beds new?||Er sengene nye?|
The e-form is used in sentence 1 and 3 because the adjective comes after a possessive pronoun (“din” and “vores”), but in sentence 2 the basic form is used, and in sentence 4 the e-form is used. This is because the adjective is used in a predicative position in these sentences: it’s not between “den”,”det”, “de”, possessive pronouns or the genitive case (e.g. “Johns“) and a noun (“bil” or “biler”) – it’s after the noun! In this position we only care about whether a word is common gender (“en”), neuter gender (“et”) or plural. We simply don’t care about definiteness when the adjective comes after a noun.
Now, try inserting the correct form of the adjective in the sentences below. (Hover over the sentence to see a hint!)
Positive, comparative and superlative
All of the three forms described above are part of what we call the “positive” (Danish: “positiv”) form of the adjective. When we say that a building is tall or that a car is new, we use the positive form of an adjective: tall and new.
But you might also be familiar with the comparative (Danish: “komparativ”) and the superlative (Danish: “superlativ”) form.
We use the comparative form of adjectives when we want to compare things to one another. We can say that one building is taller than another building, or that one car is newer than another car.
In English, the comparative form can be made in to different ways: by adding -er to the adjective or by saying “more” before the adjective. Danish is very similar: You add -ere to the adjective or you say “mere” before the adjective.
If an adjective is really short (1 syllable), you add -ere.
If an adjective is really long (3 syllables or more), you say “mere” before the adjective.
If an adjective is neither short nor long (2 syllables), give it your best shot. 🙂 Danes will most often understand both the -ere version and the “mere” version, and sometimes even the Danes get a bit confused as to which is the proper form.
Try forming the comparative form of the adjectives below. Hover for English translations.
|Min telefon er ny!||Min telefon er !|
|Er din te kold?||Den er nu end for en time siden.|
|Det var varmt i går,||men det er endnu i dag.|
|Jeg synes, Harry Potter er en spændende bog.||Jeg synes, at Ringenes Herre er .|
|Det er sundt at gå en tur.||Men det er at løbe en tur!|
|Netto er et meget billigt supermarked.||Men Aldi er alligevel end Netto.|
We use the superlative form of the adjective when we want to say that something is most X. We can say that Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, or that the newest iPhone is way too expensive, and for this we need the superlative forms of the adjectives.
In English, the superlative form can be made in to different ways: by adding -est to the adjective or by saying “most” before the adjective. Danish is very similar: You add -est or -st to the adjective or you say “mest” before the adjective.
If an adjective is really short (1 syllable), you add –est or -st.
If an adjective is really long (3 syllables or more), you say “mest” before the adjective.
If an adjective is neither short nor long (2 syllables), give it your best shot. 🙂 Danes will most often understand both the -est/-st version and the “mest” version, and sometimes even the Danes get a bit confused as to which is the proper form.
|Peter is tall. He’s taller than John. But Adam is tallest!||Peter er høj. Han er højere end John. Men Adam er højest!|
|It’s cold in Denmark. It’s even colder in Norway. In Iceland, it’s coldest.||Det er koldt i Danmark. Det er endnu koldere i Norge. I Island er det koldest.|
|Coffee is expensive in Denmark. But alcohol is more expensive. Alcohol in bars is most expensive!||Kaffe er dyrt i Danmark. Men alkohol er dyrere. Alkohol på barer er dyrest!|
|Linse is a little famous. The queen is more famous, but Mads Mikkelsen is most famous!||Linse er lidt berømt. Dronningen er mere berømt, men Mads Mikkelsen er mest berømt!|
A superlative e-form also exist, and it works just like the positive e-form (described above). If we are talking about the tallest building, my newest car, the coldest countries in the world or the most famous Danes, we have to use the superlative e-form:
|The tallest building in the world is Burj Khalifa.||Den højeste bygning i verden er Burj Khalifa.|
|My newest car is black.||Min nyeste bil er sort.|
|Denmark is not really amongst the coldest countries in the world.||Danmark er ikke rigtig blandt de koldeste lande i verden.|
|Mads Mikkelsen is probably one of the most famous Danes in the world right now.||Mads Mikkelsen er nok en af de mest berømte danskere i verden lige nu.|
As in English, there are also a bunch of adjectives that are completely irregular in the comparative and the superlative form. They are among the more common words in Danish, and the best thing is simply to learn them by heart. Below are a few examples.
|bad, worse, worst||dårlig, værre, værst|
|good, better, best||god, bedre, bedst|
|old, older, oldest||gammel, ældre, ældst|
|young, younger, youngest||ung, yngre, yngst|
|a little, less, least||lidt, mindre, mindst|
|small, smaller, smallest||lille, mindre, mindst|
|big, bigger, biggest||stor, større, størst|
|few, fewer, fewest||få, færre, færrest|
- Danish adjectives are inflected for gender, number and definiteness
- There are 3 positive forms:
- The basic form, called “grundform“, used for n-words:
en smuk pige, pigen er smuk
- T-form, used for t-words:
et smukt hus, huset er smukt
- E-form, used for plural and definite nouns:
to smukke huse, det smukke hus
- The basic form, called “grundform“, used for n-words:
- The definite articles are den, det or de when describing a definite noun with an adjective:
den smukke pige, det smukke hus, de smukke piger, de smukke huse
- There is a bunch of irregular adjectives:
- Adjectives ending in -t and -sk have no distinct t-form:
en frisk pige, et frisk æble, to friske piger, to friske æbler
- Adjectives ending in -e only have one form:
en bange pige, et bange barn, to bange piger, to bange børn
- Adjectives ending in -el, -er, -en and -et end in -le, -re, -ne and -ede in the e-form:
en gammel dame, to gamle damer
et lækkert æble, to lækre æbler
en voksen mand, to voksne mænd
en snavset pige, den snavsede pige
- Adjectives ending in -t and -sk have no distinct t-form:
- If an adjective is before a noun, we care about definiteness, but if the adjective is after a noun, we only care about n-word, t-word or plural:
En smuk pige > Den smukke pige > Pigen er smuk
Et smukt barn > Det smukke barn > Barnet er smukt
Mange smukke børn > De smukke børn > Børnene er smukke
- The comparative form of the adjective is formed by adding -ere to the stem of the adjective or with the help of mere:
billigere, smukkere, koldere, mere interessant
- The superlative form of the adjective is formed by adding -(e)st to the stem of the adjective or with the help of mest:
billigst, smukkest, koldest, mest interessant
- The superlative form has an e-form:
barnet er smukkest > det smukkeste barn
telefonen er billigst > den billigste telefon
- Many irregular adjectives have very irregular comparative and superlative forms.
gammel > ældre > ældst
ung > yngre > yngst
mange > flere > flest
få > færre > færrest
lille > mindre > mindst
stor > større > størst