San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Formation of Plural Nouns in Danish

In English plurals are commonly formed by adding a marker s or es to the noun. Less commonly plurals are formed by such things as a change in the vowel. Danish is similar in the formation of plurals. The common marker is er (pronounced or), but there is the complication of a definite article having been added as a suffix to the noun.

First here are some examples of the formation of plurals of indefinite nouns. Place=sted, places=steder. Orange=appelsin, oranges=appelsiner.

If the noun ends in an unstressed e then the unstresssed e is dropped and er added. Examples: woman=kvinde, women=kvinder; lady=dame, ladies=damer.

If the noun ends in a stressed e then that is retained and er added. Example: idea=idé, ideas=ideer.

If the noun ends in a stressed vowel followed by a consonant then the consonant is doubled before the er is added. Examples: bus=bus, buses=busser; shop=butik, shops=butikker. However if the vowel is long the consonant is not doubled.

If the noun ends with el or er then their e is often lost when the plural ending er is added. Example: uncle=unkel, uncles=unkler. (But not always: piano=klaver, pianos=klaverer.) If there is a double consonant before the e then the consonant becomes singular. Example: fork=gaffel, forks=gafler.

Some nouns merely add an e to form the plural. Examples: knife=kniv, knives=knive, leaf=blad, leaves=blade.

As in English there some nouns in Danish for which the plural involves a change in the vowel. Examples: man=mand, men=mænd; farmer=bonde, farmers=bønder, child=barn, children=børn. (At one time the plural of child in English was childer and then it was changed to children by adding an n another way of forming a plural in English, as in ox, oxen.)

There are some nouns in Danish that are the same as a singular or plural. This the case in English for sheep. Some examples in Danish are: animal=dyr, animals=dyr; mouse=mus, mice=mus.

Now for the formation of definite nouns (nouns with the definite article added). The plural of a definite noun is formed by adding ne to the indefinite plural. Examples: flowers=blomster, the flowers=blomsterne; women=kvinder, the women=kvinderne, tables= borde, the tables= bordene. The exception is if the indefinite plural ends in an e. In that case the final e is dropped when the ne is added. Example: bakers=bagere, the bakers=bagerne.

For those nouns which are the same in indefinite singular and plural the definite plural is formed simply by adding ene. Example: mice=mus, the mice=musene.

There are a few important nouns whose plurals do not fit any of the patterns. Example: eye=øje, eyes=øjne, the eyes=ønene.

HOME PAGE OF applet-magic
HOME PAGE OF Thayer Watkins