Grammar Toolbox: Word order

Usually, Norwegian and English sentences are built up in the same way. The words come in the same order. One important exception deals with adverbs:

  • Jeg kjører alltid forsiktig. I always drive carefully.
  • Du hører aldri. You never listen.

Adverbs like always, sometimes and never, which tell us how often something happens, and a few other adverbs like just, hardly and probably, come before the verb in English, but after in Norwegian. This happens only when there is just one verb in the sentence (here: drive and listen). Compare:

  • Han har aldri svømt før.
  • He has never swum before.

Note: When the verb is to be in the simple present (am, is, are) or the simple past (was, were), the adverb of frequency (the word which tells us how often something happens) comes after the verb, just like in Norwegian:

  • I am never late.
  • She is always hungry.
  • Jane was never angry with me.
  • We were often in trouble.

Can you see what happens to “begynte hun” in the English translation?

  • Da begynte hun å le. Then she began to laugh.
  • Sist helg begynte hun å trene boksing. Last weekend she began to practise boxing.
  • Da hun hørte nyheten, begynte hun å gråte. When she heard the news, she began to cry.

In these sentence types, the verb comes before the subject in Norwegian, but after in English.