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"The man runs far away when he finds bread knives in the cabinet."

Translation:Manden løber langt væk, da han finder brødknive i skabet.

May 23, 2015



Why is "when" translated with "da" and not "når"? The action is not in the past.


It is definitely 'da' and not 'når'.

The logic might be something a long the lines of considering the running as the present, and therefore the finding of the knives is in the past. Though only just in the past, that still counts.

And other way of thinking about is is looking at the differences between the meaning with 'når' and 'da'¨. With 'når' it would become "The man runs far away whenever he finds bread knives in the cabinet." so more of a general statement about the man. Where as with 'da' it speaks only of a specific instance where this happened.

It is very intuitive to me as a Dane, but explaining it I see how difficult it actually is. But I hope this helps somewhat.


The problem is that the given English sentence can have both meanings. There is not sufficient information in that sentence to tell an English reader if this is a specific incident in the past, or a general condition.


Your answer is surprising to me, @emilkris33, so I'm obviously also learning here!

As a Norwegian, I'd agree with the initial questioner here; Although I see an increasing number of errors nowadays, even from professionals such as translators, the usage of "da" in the Norwegian language is restricted to the past tenses.

The simple guideline is whether you can prefix 'when' with everytime or that time (hver gang vs. den gang).

  • [Every time] when --> use 'når'
  • [That time] when --> use 'da'

This check is used for past tenses whereas for present and future, 'når' is always applicable.

Is this a difference between Norwegian and Danish? I've never thought about it or come across the usage of 'når' in the past tense when reading Danish, and possibly I just never noticed/thought about it in colloquial speech ...


Shouldn't "finder" be in the past tense form if "da" is used in this sentence?


That makes sense if you think of it as someone describing the plot of a film. But since that's not the usual English interpretation of that sentence, is 'når' also grammatically acceptable?


That's a helpful explanation, appealing to mother tongue intuition.


Hvorfor bruger man " løber og finder " i stedet af " løb og fandt " hvis man snakker om noget der skete i fortiden ?


It can be both depending on context. It could be two people whispering about what the outcome of their prank will be, and then you use "når". Which I did. Native speaker getting it wrong. Sometimes, it would be nice if Dualingo put in some context if they don't accept all possible meanings of a sentence.


I totally agree. The lack of context makes it difficult to make choices and to understand. It also makes it harder to learn the vocabulary.


In your specific case, would using når indicate a future tense via cause and effect? "The man WILL run far away WHEN he finds breadknives in the cabinet."


Based on the example, i think it's kind of like, "The man (usually) runs far away when he finds bread knives in the cabinet (so let's put some there)."


If you consider that "Da" also has the meaning of because/as/since, the Danish sentence can be translated to "The man runs far away because he finds bread knives in the cabinet". It then becomes a description of cause and effect.

https://ordnet.dk/ddo/ordbog?select=da,3&query=da (2)


Yesm you're right! I think Duo should accept several translations here...


Unfortunately this is one of the cases where there is nothing to be learned from the presumably right answer. I find logical explanations rather difficult, because we are supposed to learn proper dansk. If there is an exception to the usage of da as usually referring to a past event, I would prefer an answer along those line. I feel it is right feels insufficient to me - sorry. But given the strange sentence, I suspect there is a simple case of wrong right answer - at least according to standard grammar.


Isn't the use of "da" inconsistent with the grammar rules provided by Duo until now? The preposition "da" is always used when referring to the past ,irrespective further interpretation of the verb or sentence. Wouldn't "The man runs far away when he would have found the bread knives in the cabinet" be a better fit for the "da" preposition?


I'm not really able to get your example sentence...

  • I would have used 'if' rather than 'when' for hypothetical cases like this.
  • I would also have used the same hypothetical form in the first part, i.e. "The man would have run if he found ..."

Also 'da'/'når' (when) are not prepositions, but "time subjunctions". Others are e.g. before, thereafter, while, within, ...

Finally, and most importantly/relevant here: YES, I agree with you on the usage of "da" / "når", and I'm surprised by the answers in this thread from our Danish friends. I'm a native Norwegian and just learned the Danish flavour of Scandinavian by reading ,watching TV and talking to people, hence not an authority.

In Norwegian, however, this usage of "da" is directly wrong despite it's beginning to appear more often (even from pro writers). In Norwegian, "da" can only be used when talking in the past about one single, specific event.

  • Da jeg gikk til skolen --> 'When I went to [the] school', indicates one specific walk to the school.
  • Når jeg gikk til skolen --> 'When I went to [the] school' in the meaning everytime I went to school (usually in a certain period/timeframe)
  • Når jeg går til skolen --> 'When I go to [the] school' in the present or future meaning.

The simple guideline is to check whether you can prefix with "everytime" ('hver gang') or "that time" ('den gang').

  • If you can prefix 'when' with "everytime" in English, then use "når" in Danish/Norwegian.
  • If you can prefix 'when' with "that time", then use "da" in Danish/Norwegian.


As a rule of thumb I always take "når" as referring to the present tense and "da" as referring to the past. "Da han finder" just sounds wrong after the initial present tense of "løber".


I dont think the english translation is correct. "Da" can mean "as", "since" or "because" in some contexts as in the danish sentence above. The danish translation of the english sentence above would use the word "når".

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