How To Conjugate Norwegian Verbs

Introduction

Have you ever wondered about how to conjugate Norwegian verbs? What are the rules? Is Norwegian conjugation of verbs similar to English conjugation of verbs? Later you will learn how to inflect Norwegian nouns and how to inflect Norwegian adjectives. For now, let’s find out how to conjugate Norwegian verbs!


Watch this video if you want to learn ten basic verbs in Norwegian.

General information about conjugating Norwegian verbs

First of all, Norwegian verbs are not conjugated in person and number (as they are in English). What does this mean? Let me show you an example to illustrate the English conjugation of a verb versus the Norwegian conjugation of the same verb:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
I am Jeg er
You are Du er
He/she is Han/hun er
We are Vi er
You are Dere er
They are De er

As you can see, the Norwegian conjugation of verbs is not affected by which person it is or if it’s singular or plural, considering the correct form is er in all the different persons above.

 

Secondly, Norwegian verbs come in several different tense forms as in all languages. This article is going to explain the five most common and useful tense forms:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive Infinitiv
Present Presens
Preterite Preteritum
Present perfect Presens perfektum
Present future Presens futurum

But before we start on that, let’s go through how to conjugate Norwegian verbs that are regular and irregular.

 

How to conjugate regular Norwegian verbs

Regular verbs, also called weak verbs, are verbs that follow a standard pattern when it comes to conjugation. It is unfortunately no way to know whether a Norwegian verb is regular or irregular just by looking at it – this is something you just have to learn for each verb. A tip is to use the language and expose yourself to the language as often as possible. The conjugation of the most common verbs will then after a while come naturally.

Regular Norwegian verbs are divided into four categories. I will now show you the conjugation of one type verb from each category. Remember that when we’re talking about the verb stem or the stem of the verb, we’re most often talking about the infinitive minus -e. The stem simply means the base of the verb – the verb without any suffixes (endings).

 

Category #1:

FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive To throw Å kaste
Present I throw Jeg kaster
Preterite I threw Jeg kastet/kasta
Present perfect I have thrown Jeg har kastet/kasta

Rule: when the stem of the Norwegian verb ends with more than one consonant (in our case: two consonants – st), the preterite form and present perfect form is often the stem plus et/a (more information about et/a is below under “How to conjugate Norwegian verbs in preterite”). Unfortunately there are exceptions.

 

Category #2:

FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive To read Å lese
Present I read Jeg leser
Preterite I read Jeg leste
Present perfect I have read Jeg har lest

Rule: if the stem of the verb ends with one consonant (in the example above: s), the preterite form ends with –te and the present perfect form ends with -t.

 

Category #3:

FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive To live Å bo
Present I live Jeg bor
Preterite I lived Jeg bodde
Present perfect I have lived Jeg har bodd

Rule: if the infinitive of the verb ends with a stressed vowel, the preterite form usually ends with -dde and the present perfect usually ends with -dd. A stressed vowel means that it’s a relative emphasis (‘more force’) on that vowel in the word. Unfortunately there are exceptions to this rule.

 

Category #4:

FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Present I rent Jeg leier
Preterite I rented Jeg leide
Present perfect I have rented Jeg har leid

Rule: if you have a verb whose stem ends with either 1) a diphthong, 2) the letter v, or 3) the letter g, the preterite form will be the stem plus –de, while the present perfect form will be the stem plus -d.

 

How to conjugate irregular Norwegian verbs

Norwegian irregular verbs are often irregular because of a vowel shift in the verb stem of verbs in preterite. The present perfect often ends in -et and can also have a different vowel.  Irregular verbs and their conjugation is something you just have to memorize like in any other language. Here are some common irregular verbs in Norwegian:

FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive To be Å være
Present I am
Jeg er
Preterite I was
Jeg var
Present perfect I have been Jeg har vært
FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive To do Å gjøre
Present I do
Jeg gjør
Preterite I did
Jeg gjorde
Present perfect I have done Jeg har gjort
FORM OF VERB ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Infinitive To write Å skrive
Present I write
Jeg skriver
Preterite I wrote
Jeg skrev
Present perfect I have written Jeg har skrevet

 

 

How to conjugate Norwegian verbs in infinitive

Form of verb Rule that often applies Example
Infinitive Stem + e Snakke

The infintive form of an English verb is the form in which you can put the infinitive marker to in front of. Examples of this in English are: to talk, to swim and to listen. In Norwegian the infinitive marker is å (read this article to learn more about this letter: The Norwegian Alphabet). The same examples would be like this in Norwegian: å snakke, å svømme and å høre/lytte. This can be combined with other verbs in daily-life sentences. Let’s look at some examples:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
I love to read. Jeg elsker å lese.
She ran back to give me my pencil. Hun løp tilbake for å gi meg meg blyanten min.

 

Verbs in infinitive are also used in combination with Norwegian auxiliary verbs. When you do this, you do not use the infintive marker, å, in front of the verbs. Here are some examples:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
I can read. Jeg kan lese.
I am going to do it soon. Jeg skal gjøre det snart.

 

How to conjugate Norwegian verbs in present

Form of verb Rule that often applies
Example
Present Stem + er Snakker

Present (presens in Norwegian) is the form of the verb you want to use if you for instance want to express that you are doing something right now. An example of that can be (the infinitives are marked in bold):

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
What are you doing? I am working. Hva gjør du? Jeg jobber.

The example above means that you are working right now. You can also use the present tense to express something that’s going to happen in the future. Here’s an example of this:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Our friends will come for a visit next year. Vennene våre kommer på besøk neste år.

 

How to conjugate Norwegian verbs in preterite

Form of verb Rule that often applies
Example
Preterite Stem + et/a
Snakket

Preterite is a form of a verb you generally use if you want to express something that happened at a specific point of time in the past. Many Norwegian verbs have preterite and present perfect forms that are the stem of the verb plus either et or a. Which one you choose is a stylistic choice, but et is more formal than a. Here’s an example of a Norwegian verb in preterite in a sentence:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
Yesterday I jumped on a trampoline. I går hoppet/hoppa jeg på en trampoline.

 

How to conjugate Norwegian verbs in present perfect

Form of verb Rule that often applies
Example
Present perfect
Auxiliary verb + (stem + et/a)
Har snakket

Present perfect is in Norwegian most often used when referring to something that happened in the past without talking about a definite past time. With the present perfect the past event has current relevance. Norwegian and English follow the same pattern here, considering that both use the auxiliary verb å ha/to have in order to express this verb form. An example of this can be:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
I have tested many products.
Jeg har testet mange produkter.

 

How to conjugate Norwegian verbs in present future

Form of verb Rule that often applies
Example
Present future
Auxiliary verb + infinitive
Skal snakke

When you want to express something that’s going to happen in the future, you use the verb form present future. The common way to do this is to use an auxiliary verb in present plus the infinitive of the verb you’re using. Note that the infinitive is used without the infinitive marker. The most common auxiliary verb to use in this form is å skulle.

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
I am going to be famous.
Jeg skal bli berømt.
We’re going to leave now. Vi skal dra nå.

Another common auxiliary verb is å ville. Here is an example:

ENGLISH NORWEGIAN
I will leave next week.
Jeg vil dra neste uke.

Notice the difference between between Vi skal dra nå and Vi vil dra nå. The first example means We’re going to leave now, while the second example brings in a nuance of wishing to do something. Compare it to: We want to leave now.

Conclusion

You have now learned how to conjugate Norwegian verbs in many verb forms. We’ve looked at the pattern both regular and irregular Norwegian verbs follow, and then described the most common tense forms infinitive, present, preterite, present perfectum and present future in the Norwegian language.

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Question: Do you think Norwegian conjugation of verbs is difficult or easy?  Why? How is it in your native language?

Okay, now you know how to conjugate Norwegian verbs. We can now make simple sentences in Norwegian, but something is missing… Nouns! Are you ready for more? Let’s learn how to inflect Norwegian nouns.

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Peder B. Helland
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