Is "It" a Boy or a Girl?

Yngvil Yngvil Vatn Guttu
Is "It" a Boy or a Girl? -

Is "It" a Boy or a Girl?

At last - an article about articles! Tor is ready to tell you about the facts of life. Check out these factoids about the colorful life of Norwegian articles...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Norwegian articles and gender - demystified

Articles! These little words, or sometimes, just parts of words, add context and clarity to nouns. At least we Norwegians think they do. Many languages don’t bother using these little mini-words at all.

If you have one of those languages as your mother tongue, then Norwegian articles must seem pretty pointless to you.   Russian, for example, and most other Slavic languages (except Bulgarian and Macedonian) do NOT use articles, same for Vietnamese, Lithuanian, and hundreds more.

In Arabic, there is no indefinite, only the definite article. And in Persian, there is only indefinite article, and no definite article.   But in Norwegian we have both. And to sound 100% convincing you must choose the article that indicates:

  • appropriate level of definition (bestemt/ubestemt)
  • appropriate number (entall or flertall)
  • appropriate gender (hankjønn, hunkjønn or intetkjønn)


In case you wondered, today we're focusing on gender:  

  • ALWAYS MEMORISE THE GENDER of each new noun you learn!

That way you can easily pick the correct article for that noun.  

  • Gender only really matters for the SINGULAR form in bokmål

However, in nynorsk, things get more complicated.   So let us stick to the SINGULAR here:  

SINGULAR (entall)                        Hankjønn           Hunkjønn           Intetkjønn UBESTEMT ARTIKKEL                    en                       ei                         et goes in front                                     en bil                  ei bok                   et hus



Bokmål allows ALL feminine nouns to be treated as masculine, so this means that you could forget about ei and -a all together. Some people have even started using the term felleskjønn, or 'common gender'.  

But many Norwegians feel strongly that ei and -a are intrinsic parts of their dialect and language identity. Why don't you ask your friends and colleagues how they feel about this? Do they use it? Do they care? If they do, then maybe you should as well... Allow your environment to affect your language!  

SINGULAR (entall)                     Hankjønn            Hunkjønn               Intetkjønn BESTEMT ARTIKKEL                   -en                      -a/en                       -et goes behind                                     bilen                    boka/boken            huset



We Scandinavians are quite unique in the way we use the definite article. (Of course, we're unique in many other ways...)   In most European languages the definite article stands BEFORE the noun.

In English, we have 'the', German has das/der/die, French le/la, and Spanish el/la, and so on.   But in Scandinavia we decided to stick the definite article onto the BACK of the word!

Some cunning linguists claim that therefore they're not articles, they're 'endings'....   Do you agree? (Do you care?)   Here are some famous examples

The Thames            (London’s famous river)                           Themsen                       (hankjønn) Le Tour d’Eiffel        (Biggest tourist attraction in Paris)          Eiffeltårnet    (intetkjønn) La Scala                   (Opera in Milano)                                   “trappen/a”         ("felleskjønn") Die Zeit                    (Major German Newspaper)                     tiden/tida             ("felleskjønn")

    Now take a moment to think about how this works in your own first language.   (We'll play some elevator music while you work...click HERE)    

The takeaway

Keep these two things straight:

      • the gender (masculine/feminine or neutral)
      • the placement (before or behind)

  IS THAT IT? What about det and den, you say? And what about de? The plural...   Excellent point! These are also articles - or 'determinatives'. But let us save them for another blog post.  

For now, all you need to do is: Start remembering "pink" or "blue" or “green” nouns and articles.   Don't forget to leave us a comment, and if you like this article, share it!   Ciao![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]