https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Adrian442793

Adverb position in the main clause

So, I've been confused over the following sentences:

  1. "Jeg spiste maten raskt", "I ate the food quickly". (Why not put "raskt" after "spiste"? When I first started learning Norwegian, someone told me it's normal to put the adverb after the verb.)
  2. "Jeg har allerede spiste maten", "I have already eaten the food". (Why not put "allerede" in same position as "raskt" in "1"? But why, nevertheless, is it felt to be possible at the end of the sentence?!)
  3. "Jeg løp raskt til døra", "I ran to the door quickly". (What's wrong with putting "raskt" at end of sentence, as it is in "1"?)

The following is an attempt at solving some of these puzzles and summarising basic rules on adverb position (in the main clause). Please feel free to add to, correct, etc; and I shall edit this entry over time.

Main sources: Stein På Stein by Elisabeth Ellingsen and Kirsti Mac Donald, Norsk Grammatikk by Kirsti Mac Donald, Mysteriet Om Nils published by Skapago, and Norwegian: A Comprehensive Grammar by Philip Holmes and Hans-Olav Enger.

Normal order

Normal order for a declarative main clause:

  • Conjunction - noun - verb - indirect object - "midtfelt" (mid-field) adverbial - object - other adverbials.
  • Example: "Og jeg ga allerede boka til ham sakte", "And I already gave the book to him slowly".

Examples of "midtfelt" adverbials (I think -- please add to or correct): "ikke", "aldri", "nok", "alltid", "allerede", "bare", "knapt". I think the common denominator is that these are adverbs that are felt to be close to the verb.

Stacking adverbials at end

If you're stacking adverbials at the end of a sentence, rule-of-thumb order is "MPT" (manner, place, time) and then "longer adverbials", which include prepositional phrases and subordinate clauses and might express cause, condition, etc.

  • Han kom sent (manner) hjem (place) i går (time) fordi det var traffikkork (long adverbial). ("He came home late yesterday because there was a traffic jam" -- notice the different adverbial order in English, by the way.)

"Ikke" and inverted word order

When inverting the word order (for instance, for questions), there are different patterns depending on whether the subject is a pronoun or a substantive.

With a substantive, it's "ganske vanlig", "quite common" for the "ikke" to precede the noun: "Skal ikke Petter dra til Paris?" ("Shall Peter not go to Paris?") Whereas with pronouns, it's common for "ikke" to follow the pronoun: "Nå vil jeg ikke gjøre mer" ("Now I don't want to do more").

With pronouns, you can change the order for emphasis. "Nå vil ikke jeg gjøre mer, men du kan" ("Now I don't want to do more, but you can").

Not sure whether the same applies to substantives, whether "Skal Peter ikke dra til Paris?" implies any emphasis...

Also not sure whether this word order and difference between substantives and pronouns applies to other midtfelt adverbials, or whether "ikke" is an exception...

"Ikke" at end of sentence

When you've got a pronoun as the object and the word order isn't inverted, it's normal to put "ikke" after the object rather than before. So, "Jeg liker ikke laereren" ("I don't like the teacher"), but "Jeg liker ham ikke" ("I don't like him").

If you change the order of pronoun + ikke at end of sentence, this places emphasis on the pronoun. "Jeg liker ikke ham, men henne" ("I don't like him, but her").

Again, not sure whether this applies to other midtfelt adverbials...

Adverbs at start

Adverbs of place or time are often "topicalised" by being put at start of the sentence rather than at the end. "I år vil hun ikke spille fotball" ("This year she doesn't want to play football").

Perhaps one can also put adverbs at the start for emphasis rather than topicalisation as such? Eg: "Plutselig..."

Note: some expressions seem to be treated as parenthetical rather than adverbial. Eg: "for å vaere aerlig", when placed at the start of a sentence, doesn't seem to invert the word order.

Free adverbials

Norwegian: A comprehensive Grammar notes that some adverbials are "free" and can adopt various positions. Time adverbials are generally free, which presumably includes "alltid", "allerede", "aldri". And I think adverbs like "sannsynligvis", which modify the fact of the declaration, are probably free as well, but I'm not sure.

  • "Hun har mottatt prisen i dag" ("She has received the award today").
  • "I dag har hun mottatt prisen" (Today, she has received the award").
  • "Hun har i dag mottatt prisen" ("She has today received the award").
August 4, 2019

2 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/THason
  • "Jeg spiste maten raskt", "I ate the food quickly". (Why not put "raskt" after "spiste"? When I first started learning Norwegian, someone told me it's normal to put the adverb after the verb.)
  • "Jeg har allerede spiste maten", "I have already eaten the food". (Why not put "allerede" in same position as "raskt" in "1"? But why, nevertheless, is it felt to be possible at the end of the sentence?!)
  • "Jeg løp raskt til døra", "I ran to the door quickly". (What's wrong with putting "raskt" at end of sentence, as it is in "1"?)

I don't have time to read through all of it right now, but, emphasis is part of this.

  • "Jeg spiste maten raskt" vs "jeg spiste raskt maten". The first one has emphasis on eating the food: It was eaten quickly. The other variant puts emphasis on myself: I was in a hurry and did what I had to do quickly (which was to eat the food, but that the action was to eat the food isn't important.)

  • "Jeg har allerede spist maten" (note that you have a typo, 'spiste', in your example). A bit of the same emphasis shift, except that it doesn't make that much difference here - "Jeg har spist maten allerede" has more or less the same meaning.

  • "Jeg løp raskt til døra". In this case, the variant "Jeg løp til døra raskt" is a bit awkward, even though it's not wrong. I think that's because in the earlier example the action, to eat the food, is a process, while running to the door isn't: First you're not at the door, and then you are. Let's say that the verb instead was 'lagde' (=made). Then it works: "Jeg lagde raskt døra/jeg lagde døra raskt". That works. The first one: I worked quickly and made a door. The second one: I made the door quickly.

August 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/noko_heilt_anna

If you want a simple rule that is correct most of the time, just use the browser interface of Duolingo and read its "light bulb" grammar and hints text (under the "Adverbs" sections).

If you want to find rules that are always correct you need to dig deeper into the matter because this is not an easy subject.

Besides, I'm not sure what you're really asking. It usually depends on what you're trying to emphasise (in the cases where it doesn't sound awkward at best).

raskt spiste jeg maten
jeg spiste raskt maten
jeg spiste maten raskt

allerede har jeg spist maten
jeg har allerede spist maten
jeg har spist maten allerede

raskt løp jeg til døra
jeg løp raskt til døra
jeg løp til døra raskt

All of these can work, but some sound more awkward (at best) than others.

August 5, 2019
Learn Norwegian (Bokmål) in just 5 minutes a day. For free.