Small words

The words in this list have idiomatic (conversational) rather than grammatical functions.
They are used to convey subtle emotive meanings and situational nuances. Most of them have no exact English equivalents.

Think of the subtle change in meaning between:
a) He's a boy
b) He's just a boy

a) Your Danish is excellent
b) But your Danish is excellent



Is used to convey a sense of obviousness (equivalent to as you know)

A: John opførte sig som en idiot igen.
B: Han er jo ikke så skarp.
A: John behaved like an idiot again.
B: Well, he isn't too sharp (a universal fact, known to everyone)
A: Bilen er rigtig hurtig.
B: Det er jo en Ferrari.
A: Your car is really fast.
B: Well, it is a Ferrari.
A: Michael Jacksons død er i alle medierne.
B: Han var jo superstjerne.
A: Michael Jackson's death is all over the media.
B: Well, he was a superstar.
Not to be confused with the jo used in negative questions

A: Skal du have kaffe?
B: Ja
A: Skal du ikke have kaffe?
B: Jo

A: Har du en bil?
B: Ja
A: Har du ikke en bil?
B: Jo

A: Are you having coffee?
B: Yes.
A: Aren't you having coffee?
B: Yes (I am)

A: Do you have a car?
B: Yes.
A: Don't you have a car?
B: Yes (I do)
If you say yes to a negative question in English, you'll have to clarify a bit.



Indicates that the speaker is just guessing, and is open to correction

A: Du er vel tørstig?
B: Det kan du tro!

A: Du har ikke set Søren, vel?
B: Nej, det har jeg ikke.

A: Hvorfor kommer han ikke?
B: Toget er vel forsinket.
A: You must be thirsty.
B: Indeed I am!

A: You haven't seen Søren, have you?
B: No, I haven't.

A: Why's he not coming?
B: The train must be late.


It is similar to maybe or probably

Prøven bliver sikkert ikke så svært. The test will probably not be too hard (I don't think it will)
Det er sikkert ret hårdt at overleve alene i junglen. It's probably really hard to survive in the jungle by oneself (I can imagine)


Similar to sikkert, but with a bit more certainty or optimism

A: Hvor bliver han af?
B: Han kommer nok snart.
A: What could be keeping him?
B: He'll (probably) be here soon.
Sikke en dejlig bil. Den koster nok en formue! What a nice car. It must cost a fortune!

It is also often used to mean I promise

Jeg skal nok være der i morgen. I will be there tomorrow (I promise)
A: Du må hilse Peter.
B: Det skal jeg nok.
A: Say hi to Peter.
B: I will (do that).


Is used when you want to be a bit careful

Du har vist spist min hotdog. I think you've eaten my hot dog.

It can also mean that you've heard something somewhere, but you think it might be true

Det bliver vist godt vejr i morgen. I think the weather's going to be good tomorrow (from what I've heard)
A: Hvorfor kommer han ikke?
B: Toget er vist forsinket.
A: Why's he not coming?
B: The train must be late (I've heard something somewhere that makes me think that this is a possibility)


It is used to emphasize meaning (surely, of course, but)

A: Det koster 2000 kroner.
B: Det kan da ikke passe!
A: It costs 2000 crowns.
B: That can't be right! (surely)
A: Hvem er USA's præsident?
B: Det er da Barack Obama.
A: Who is the president of the USA?
B: It is Barack Obama (of course, everyone knows that - with a mild implication of surprise that the questioner doesn't know)
Du taler da godt dansk. But you speak Danish very well (surprisingly)


Similar to da, but a bit stronger

Kan du dog ikke tie stille! Could you not keep quiet (for God's sake)
Kom dog! Vi bliver forsinket. Get a move on then! We'll be late.
Hvor bliver han dog af? What's keeping him then? (Where the hell is he?)
The sense that then expresses in the last 2 sentences can be transferred to most idiomatic meanings of da and dog.


It expresses uncertainty, similar to I wonder (though you can't use mon on its own to express this idea. "Mon" ≠ "I wonder")

Hvor bliver han mon af? I wonder what's keeping him (What could be keeping him?)
Mon hun kommer i dag? I wonder whether she's coming today.

It can also used to mean I doubt what you're saying is true

A: Jeg har ikke betalt dig i 3 måneder, men jeg skal nok betale dig i morgen.
B: Mon?
A: I haven't paid you in 3 months, but I will pay you tomorrow.
B: Yeah, right.


It means only/just

A: Hvem er det?
B: Det er bare mig.
A: Who is it?
B: It's just me.
Han er bare en dreng. He's just a boy
A: Hvad laver du?
B: Jeg ser bare fjernsyn.
A: What are you doing?
B: I'm just watching TV.
A: Hvor gammel er hun?
B: Hun er bare fem.
A: How old is she?
B: She's only five.

It is also used to express a strong wish

Bare jeg var rig! If only I were rich!
Bare han kommer i morgen. I really wish he comes tomorrow.

It is often used to soften imperative forms, to make them sound more polite

Luk bare døren. Go ahead and close the door (Also: Luk lige døren )


It means well

Altså, han sagde jo, at han kommer i morgen. Well, he did say he that he's coming tomorrow.

that is

Jeg besøger dig i morgen, hvis det altså er fint med dig. I'll visit you tomorrow, if it's fine with you, that is.


Du bør altså ikke drikke så meget. You should (ought) really not drink so much.

so, therefore

Jeg tabte min billet, og måtte altså gå hjem. I lost my ticket, and (therefore) had to walk home.
It is often just tagged to the end of a sentence as a filler (similar to um, you know, etc.)


right, isn't it?

Han kommer jo i morgen, ikke? He is coming tomorrow, right?
This is also commonly used as a filler in almost any context.



Jamen, prøv bare igen. Well, just try again.

why (but)

Jamen, jeg mente jo ikke noget med det. Why, I didn't mean anything by it.


Jamen, jeg har ikke gjort det! But I didn't do it!
Jamen dog is used as an exclamation: Dear me!