Rules about "en" and "et"
en is common and et is neuter. But how can I know which gender a word is? The only way is to look it up in a dictionary (you can find a Danish one here: dsn.dk), but, well, there are some rules, but they have exceptions – many exceptions. The list of rules here is from Dansk Sprognævn and kindly translated to English by the Duolingo user tbarasmussen who, by the way, will be glad to help you with any further questions.
The mnemonic rules
- Used with the majority of all Danish nouns (75%)
- Typically used with words describing animals and human being; for example:
- en dreng (a boy)
- en far (a dad)
- en lærer (a teacher)
- en kone (a wife)
- en udlænding (a foreigner)
- en tysker (a German)
- en hund (a dog)
- en kat (a cat)
- en ko (a cow)
- en laks (a salmon)
- en hest (a horse)
- en mus (a mouse)
- EXCEPTION et barn (a child)
- EXCEPTION et menneske (a human)
- EXCEPTION et postbud (a letter carrier)
- EXCEPTION et dyr (an animal)
- EXCEPTION et egern (a squirrel)
- EXCEPTION et svin (a pig; a swine)
- Typically used with words describing plants, trees, and fruits; for example:
- en birk (a birch)
- en blomst (a flower)
- en bøg (a beech)
- en nød (a nut)
- en pære (a pear)
- en banan (a banana)
- en eg (an oak tree)
- en rose (a rose)
- en tulipan (a tulip)
- EXCEPTION et bær (a berry)
- EXCEPTION et frø (seed)
- EXCEPTION et løg (an onion)
- EXCEPTION et træ (a tree)
- EXCEPTION et æble (an apple)
- Typically used with words describing streams; for example:
- en å (a stream; a small river)
- en flod (a river)
- en strøm (a stream)
- en bæk (a brook)
- Typically used with words ending on -else, -ance, -dom, -ence, -er, -hed, -ing, -isme, -sion, -ør; for example:
- en bevægelse (a move)
- en forsinkelse (a delay)
- en overraskelse (a surprise)
- en skuffelse (a disappointment)
- en tilladelse (a permission)
- en ambulance (an ambulance)
- en chance (a chance)
- en debutant (a debutant)
- en variant (a variant)
- en ejendom (a property)
- en sygdom (an illness)
- en kompetence (a competence)
- en konference (a conference)
- en bager (a baker)
- en hastighed (a speed)
- en lejlighed (a flat)
- en parkering (a parking)
- en stilling (a job)
- fascismen (the fascism)
- kommunismen (the communism)
- en diskussion (a discussion)
- en direktør (a business manager)
- en frisør (a hairdresser; a barber)
- EXCEPTION et spøgelse (a ghost)
- EXCEPTION et værelse (a room)
- Typically used with words describing substances or masses, for example:
- brødet (the bread)
- glasset (the glass)
- guldet (the gold)
- jernet (the iron)
- kødet (the meat)
- papiret (the paper)
- sølvet (the silver)
- vandet (the water)
- EXCEPTION jorden (the earth; the ground)
- EXCEPTION luften (the air)
- EXCEPTION regnen (the rain)
- Typically used with words describing areas and locations
- et amt (a county)
- et distrikt (a district)
- et kontinent (a continent)
- et land (a country)
- et sogn (a parish)
- et torv (a square)
- EXCEPTION en by (a city)
- EXCEPTION en gård (a farm)
- EXCEPTION en ø (an island)
- Typically used with words ending –dømme, -ri, -ed, -um; for example:
- et herredømme (a supremacy)
- et omdømme (a reputation)
- et bageri (a bakery)
- et hoved (a head)
- et marked (a market)
- et gymnasium (a high school)
- et museum (a museum)
Tak! Det er nyttigt.
(correct my very basic sentence if it's wrong lol)
You're welcome. I know how tricky it can be from German and Spanish
You're sentence is correct, by the way!
Thanks for the wordlist! I'm sure this will help out a lot of students. :D
You're welcome. We should really Anita who asked the Sprognævn so - if she had not we probably wouldn't have the list at all.
Okay, thanks a lot. I've uploaded it to Google Drive, so feel free to convert it and then use it: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzNf4GdU41ZmSEU2d0FlQWR6U0U/edit?usp=sharing
Ah but I meant that you could post it yourself, using the text formatting options available here in the forum. Then I can link to it from the overview thread, and you get proper credit :)
No problems - all done. If needed you'll find the Danish original here: http://sproget.dk/raad-og-regler/artikler-mv/svarbase/SV00000096
Thanks a lot! Are there many words which can have two genders? I know only one: et frø (a seed) - en frø (a frog).
Take et ø (the letter ø) and en ø (an island)
Some words can both be common and neuter without changing meaning. E.g. "et/en kompliment" (a compliment) and "et/en cirkus" (a circus)
Wow, that was new information, thanks! What I've already noticed is that some nouns can have several plurals, like en sandwich -> mange sandwicher eller mange sandwiches. Danish sure is an interesting language :D
Actually, "mange sandwiches" is incorrect usage, and I have now complained to the team about it. "mange sandwich" and "mange sandwicher" are the two correct ways to say it.
According to DDO 'sandwiches' is unofficial. What does is actually mean? That everybody uses it in spoken Danish but never in written Danish?
Yeah, it is used in non-formal speech, but "sandwich" is the most common plural.
If You are confused still You can visit the light blue area here: http://www.jyskordbog.dk/ordbog/scripts/atlaskort.cgi?nr=7_1 Here only common gender exists - if You speak a dialect. You might be considered a bit backwards if You use it, though :-)
En udlænding - a foreigner*
Great job though, should be very helpful for learners!
Thank you for posting this! I kept losing hearts because of en / et and never quite saw a pattern I could rely on. This is very helpful!
A very smart friend of mine from India, Ashok Kapoor, who knew fluently and perfectly a dozen languages told me that often, but not always, 'et' is used when foreign words arrived in Danish and Swedish. Non-foreign words, often Viking-origin words, use a simple 'en' prefix. This distinction seems correct to me. Try it sometime!
I disagree, as our teacher told us, that it is just the opposite; loaned words are 'en' words: arrangement, baguette, bazooka, bonsai, coach and macho.
@EsaToivonen1 I guess your teacher should dig deeper into danish. Only 3 of the words mensioned are strict common gender. Neuter gender: arrangement: Either gender: baguette and bonsai
Jeg giver dig en lingot. Mange tak for dette. Det er praecis, hvad jeg har brug for at vide.
Tak! Min mor's familie er bornholmsk så jeg må tit tale dansk, men jeg ka' aldrig huske en og et. Mange tak og tak igen!