DA or NÅR: Den gang da — hver gang når

Many people are unsure about when to use NÅR and when to use DA. This is something that Norwegians often get wrong too — so here’s a chance to get it right and beat the Norwegians at their own game!

DA or NÅR: Den gang da — hver gang når -

 Test your knowledge

Can you tell which sentence in each pair is correct?  


Når jeg kommer hjem skal jeg slenge pizza’n i ovnen Når hun kom hjem slang hun pizza’n i ovnen


Hun sov allerede da de kom hjem Hun sov allerede når de kom hjem


Da norsktimen er over kan vi jobbe med oppgavene Når norsktimen er over kan vi jobbe med oppgavene

  In example A and B it is the first sentence is correct. In example C both sentences work, but they have different meanings.   So even if we are about to state the main rule, there will be some gray areas and exceptions. More about that later...  

The main rule

DA is the right word to use when something has happened only once and in the past.   NAR can be used when things happen several times and also when they will happen in the future. Hence the saying: dengang DA og hver gang NÅR, meaning that time (then), each time (when).   So we say:  

DA jeg var liten


NÅR jeg blir stor


Historic present tense

Historians and Norwegian athletes alike have come to love the habit of describing what happened in what we call historic present tense. This form is like an eye witness description, and a modern storyteller will often choose this form to describe the past.   Here are a couple of examples:  

DA JFK’s åpne bil kommer rundt hjørnet, faller skuddene. De norske mister helt motet DA Weng faller i svingen ned mot målområdet.

(This one NEVER happened, by the way, I made it up!!!)   In the sentences above you could easily have substituted da for når.  


But the main rule for  

den gang DA - hver gang NÅR

  is good also for historic present tense.  

Når kjæresten hans kommer hjem fra arbeidet ihøst har Tor laget middag.

  Future events seen from the past.   If something is set in an imagined future seen from the past we’ll get sentences like this:  

Dette skulle først gjøres når det fantes mer detaljerte planer.


What can we say about DA?

(Apart from that it is Russian for “Yes”!)   Can be adverb or conjunction. Can come early (even first) in the sentence, in the middle or in the end.  

What can we say about NÅR

Can also be an adverb or a conjunction. Does not share the end of sentence light stress function of “da”.  

Når and Da in the same sentence

If you master all of the above, can you wrap your brain around this one?  

NAR jeg har fått kursbeviset fra Lingu, DA skal jeg feire, DÅ!

  “NÅR” indicates that this event is (somewhat) in the future. The first “DA” points to the specific time of this one-time event. The second “DA” is what we call an amplifier  

Nå og DA

This expression, just like its English counterpart “now and then” means at times or from time to time.  

DA as “because”

One of the sentences from example C above was  

Da norsktimen er over kan vi jobbe med oppgavene

  Here “DA” means “because”.   The Norwegian lesson is over, we can start doing our homework.  

Nå er også denne bloggposten slutt, så DA kan du DA gå og jobbe litt med norskleksene dine!

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