Grammar: Verbs

Verbs are “doing” words.  It’s the most important part of the sentence.  A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and expresses actions, events, or states of being.  There are lots of verbs – you just have to learn them and the different forms of them – here’s an example:

å spiser = to eat
spise = eat (Presens or Present)
spiste = ate (Preteritum or Past)
har spist = have eaten (perfektum or past perfect)
skal spise = will eat (futurum or future tense)

Vi pleier å spise klokka fem = We tend to eat at 5 o’clock
Jeg spiser nå = I eat now
Jeg spiste klokka to = I ate at 2 o’clock
Jeg har spist = I have eaten
Jeg skal spise om en time = I shall eat in one hour

There are some irregular ones that are a little odd:
Irregular Verbs: Infinitiv/Presens/Preteritum
å være/er/var = to be/are/were
å dra/drar/dro = to go/go/went
å gå/går/gikk = to walk/walk/walked
å se/ser/så = to see/see/saw

The most common verbs are “be,” “do,” and “have”. You use “Will” and “shall” to express future time as in the example above.   The most important ones to learn can be found here.  It’s important to learn the different verb forms so you can construct accurate sentences. 

We generally use Preteritum (past tense) when we talk in the past tense e.g. It cost, I ate, I lived. 
We use Presens (present tense) when we talk about what we’re doing now – in this moment.
We use Perfektum (past perfect) when we talk about something in the past that hasn’t yet finished e.g. I have lived in Norway for 3 months.

Modal Verbs:
Other common auxiliaries are “can,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “must,” “ought,” “should,” “will,” and “would.” A verb like these is called a modal auxiliary and expresses necessity, obligation, or possibility.
skal/skulle = shall/should
vil/ville = will/would
må /måtte = should/must
bør/burde = should/should
kan/kunne = can/could

Jeg dra hjem = I must go home
Jeg skal flytte = I shall move
Jeg ville være her = I want to be here
Jeg kan snakke tysk =I can speak German
Jeg kunne ikke komme = I could not come

Reflexive Verbs:
It’s a verb where one does something to oneself.  A good reminder is to think of the things you do when you get out of bed in the morning and prepare yourself for the new day.  You get yourself up.  She dresses herself.  He showers himself.   There aren’t many verbs that take a reflexive form so it should be easy to learn them however, it’s important to learn that “Jeg” goes with “Meg” and “Hun” goes with “Seg” – check this page for more detail on this rule.

Jeg holder meg i form = I hold myself in form
Hun gleder seg til helgen = She looks forward to the weekend

Typical reflexive verbs are:
å holde = to hold  (jeg holder meg i form = I hold myself in form)
å føle = to feel
å vaske = to wash
å glede = to look forward to
å bestemme = to decide


  1. Is it ok to use ville in a way would is used in english.for example –
    jeg ville aldri gjøre det,meaning – I would never do it.

  2. hey I love Norway and now I’m trying to study the language, since there are no people who can speak Norwegian inn my city so I learn it by my self and I learn it from this blog :)

    but I’m a little bit confused about modal verbs, when I read sentence in Norwegian language there always an ‘r’ at the end of the verb word, but when I read all of the examples of modal verbs there are no verb word that is ended by an ‘r’ could you explain me why?

    thank you :)

    • Hi Bella! I’m not entirely sure why that is the case. Great question. I did find this blog post though. Perhaps the author can help you understand the reason.

    • It is because the verb following the modal verb is in the infinitive. Infinitives have no -r ending because they are not conjugated verb forms.


      -Jeg kann snakke tysk = I can speak German
      -Jeg snakkeR tysk = I speak German.

      Modal verbs usually require the following verb to be in its infinitive in most all Germanic languages (I speak German and Dutch). I know a little Danish and Norwegian, and it appears that this is also the case in Scandinavian languages.

      • Hi Brad – sorry for the delay in getting back to you and thank you for taking the time to explain modal verbs. I’m falling behind on my Norwegian and need to get back to the lessons…pronto!

  3. okey.. tusen takk…. i’m waiting for your next norwegian lingo sarah :D

  4. thans for the explanation brad, now I understand it :)

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