Analysing Norwegian Grammar

Part 1

Tor is in the wood shop this week. From there he will demonstrate some very simple principles of grammatical analysis. – Do try this at home!  

Analysing Norwegian Grammar -  Part 1

Ordklasser and setningsledd - What’s the difference?

It may be decades since you last thought about conjugating irregular verbs or memorizing the correct gender of a noun.

But here you are, back in school, learning Norwegian...

– Remember your last classroom grammar lesson? Was it tons of fun? Did you sleep through it? Did you run screaming out the door?

In either case, here is a reminder of how EASY grammar can be:

With a little help from Tor you will soon be able to look at any piece of language and immediately have a sense of what’s going on.   The key lies within these TWO simple concepts:  

På norsk:

ordklasser & setningsledd

  in English:

word classes & clauses

  in wood worker terms:

raw materials & the parts of our fancy upholstered chair


Tor is a keen “word worker” and he wants to build some “Norsk Språk” - in the same way a woodworker constructs a classy piece of furniture.  

For now, let us imagine YOU are that skilled woodworker, and that today you’re putting together a very nice, upholstered chair from scratch.

Clever you!  

Somewhere in your wood shop you’ll have collected all kinds of materials over the years - maybe you have a bunch of planks and wood scraps in the corner, or perhaps they are stored nicely on rafters under the ceiling... 

You have lots of different kinds of wood: pine, spruce, birch, some hardwood such as oak, some exotic balsa (super soft), mahogany and bamboo… Each type of wood – i.e. the material – has unique properties.

When it comes to making and joining together the chair, each part of it will have a clear structural function – and you already know from your vast experience exactly what type of wood will work best for the legs, for the armrest, the seat and those fancy inlays on the back.

Sometimes several pieces of wood are needed for one structural part, to strengthen, to decorate etc.

Tor’s grammatical construction is coming together much in the same way:  

The minute your nice piece of oak wood goes from being just a piece of wood to, say, the armrest of your new chair, it is like when one of Tor’s nouns leaves the word class shelf and becomes the subject or part of the subject clause.


Word classes have properties, clauses have functions

Simply put “Grammatical Analysis” is like taking a quick look at the finished chair and figuring out how it was put together. We analyse the chair on two levels:

  1. It’s main parts (setningsledd)
  2. What kind of materials have been used for each part (ordklasser)

The main parts would be : four legs, two arm rests, the seat, the back...

Possible materials: Birch,oak, pine, plus foam, fabric and nails if you go with upholstery.

Pretty simple, really.  


Check out the next article in this series: Tor rydder pa verkstedet sitt - Analysing Norwegian Grammar Pt 2.

Here Tor will demonstrate which word classes can be used for which clauses. 

You’ll be an seasoned word worker at the end of it!

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Yngvil Vatn Guttu

Yngvil Vatn Guttu
16. ago 2016