"We must choose candidates tomorrow."

Translation:Vi skal vælge kandidater i morgen.

May 14, 2015

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why can't "må" be used instead of "skal"?


That would mean we're only allowed to do it, we don't have to.


"måtte godt" is "may", just "måtte" is "must", afaik.


Not quite. "Må/Måtte" and "må/måtte godt" mean the same thing ("må" is present, "måtte" is past). It's a bit like "kan lide" and "kan godt lide", the "godt" just adds a little emphasis, but the meaning is the same.

"Vi må vælge" and "Vi må godt vælge" both mean "we may choose" but we don't have to: we are allowed to choose, but we don't have to. Without "godt" and with a particular stress, it could also mean "We should choose" or "we ought to choose", but it cannot mean "We must choose" in any way.

"Vi måtte vælge" and "vi måtte godt vælge" is just the past tense, both mean "We were allowed to choose". Or without "godt" and with a particular stress, it could mean "We chose, because we felt we should." Note that this isn't quite the same as "We had to choose," that would be "Vi skulle vælge."

"We must choose" is "Vi skal vælge". There is no choice, we aren't allowed not to choose. That's what "skal" means. "Må" gives us a choice, even if it's not much of a choice. "Skal" gives us no choice.


Thank you. These distinctions are very complicated... or at least it's quite different from English.


That's still so confusing to me :( There is a difference between 'must' and 'should'; and Danish covers both with 'skal'?


Now what if you got an email reminder (something written in plain text, with no indication of emphasis) from your organization saying Vi skal vælge kandidater i morgen.? Would that be simple future, "we are going to choose candidates tomorrow"? Or is there some sense of obligation in the word skal, and simple future would be expressed with vil?

My past experience with the language has been that vil mostly means "wants to", and skal mostly means "is going to", unless the word is stressed. But this course tells us to use vil for simple future, instead of skal.


Can a Danish native speaker help with this:

Is there a difference between "Vi skal vælge kandidater i morgen" and "Vi bør vælge kandidater i morgen"?

In English, "We will choose candidates tomorrow" is a statement of fact - there is no option to do it on another day, for example. "We must choose candidates tomorrow" is stronger: there is an obligation to do it, and there will be some penalty if we don't do it.

After speaking Danish to Danes, I get the impression that "skal" is more used as we use "will" in English i.e. for something definite that is going to happen in the future, when "bør" would be used for the stronger "must".


"bør" is not equivalent to "must", but rather means "should" or "ought to". "Vi bør vælge kandidater i morgen" means we should do it, because it's the right thing to do, but there's not necessarily any obligation to do it.

Danish doesn't have a simple equivalent of "must". The word "må", which I believe is related, can mean "must" with the right stress, but can also mean "are allowed to". "Vi må vælge kandidater", can mean either we are allowed to pick candidates, but we don't necessarily have to, or with the right stress it can mean we have to pick candidates.

The same is true of "skal". With enough stress, it too can mean "must".

So to say "We must choose candidates" you can either say "Vi skal vælge kandidater" or "Vi må vælge kandidater", as long as you use enough stress on skal/må. The former is more common. Or you can say something more elaborate like "Det er et krav at vi vælger kandidater i morgen" (It is a requirement that we choose candidates tomorrow) or "Det er nødvendigt at vi ..." (it is necessary that we ...)

You can also combine "må" and "skal" to make it strong: "Vi må og skal vælge ..." (we absolutely must choose ...) This is probably the strongest.


Thanks very much for a really quick and thorough reply. It confirms the impression I got of "skal" when talking Danish to Danes. It is probably closer to "will" in English (which can also, given the right stress, implies something that must be done) than to "must".

Thanks also for the clarification on "bør".

Your answer also shows how important a "feel" for the language is e.g. in the sentence here, "must" is probably too strong as a translation, but in another instance, "will" might have a stronger implication than "must", given the right stress ("you must see this" means "you should see this", whereas "you will see this" could mean I am going to force you to see it).

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