Mastering the use of IKKE in Norwegian


Ikke is one of those tiny words in the Norwegian language that manages to cause a lot of frustration despite its size. Why? Well, because it likes to move around a lot. It’s a restless little fella, you see. So let us try and make your life easier by showing you how to use it properly. We will go through some basic principles and give you some examples that will clear up your confusion in a jiffy. By the end of this blog post you will know where to place this little rascal every single time.

To make things super simple, we will split today’s lesson in two bite-sized sections and talk about main clauses and subordinate clauses, each with their own special place for the Norwegian word for not.

Simple sentence, simple rule – ikke comes after the verb

In bog standard, main clauses where the sentence starts with the subject, ikke comes after the verb.

Jeg er ikke lat. (I am not lazy.) – after the verb

Jeg har ikke lyst til å gjøre lekser. (I don’t feel like doing homework.) – after the main verb

Maria skal ikke spise nå. (Maria won’t be eating now.) – after the auxiliary verb

Special case? Special place! Ikke comes after the subject!

Here we need to discuss a few different scenarios to make you more comfortable with the idea, but the main principle is the same each time. If the sentence doesn’t start with the subject, ikke says farewell to the verb and starts following the subject around.

  • Questions:

Hvorfor kommer han ikke i dag? (Why isn’t he coming today?)

Er du ikke glad? (Aren’t you happy?)

Har hun ikke bil? (Doesn’t she have a car?)

  • Sentences that start with adverbs:

spiser han ikke frokost. (Now he is not eating breakfast.)

Her skal vi ikke stoppe. (Here we aren’t stopping.)

  • In the answers to yes-or-no questions:

Har hun ikke dratt enda? (Has she not left yet?) – Nei, det har hun ikke. (No, she has not.)

Er du ikke trøtt? (Aren’t you sleepy?) – Nei, det er jeg ikke. (No, I am not.)

  • In subordinate clauses introduced by subordinating conjunctions (at, dersom, om, hvis, selv om, fordi, siden, ettersom etc.)

Du må gjøre leksene selv om du ikke har lyst. (You must do your homework even if you don’t feel like it.)

Pappa sa at vi ikke skal dra på skitur. (Dad said that we aren’t going on a skiing trip.)

Jeg kan ikke snakke med deg hvis du ikke roer deg ned. (I can’t talk to you if you don’t calm down.) – the first sentence is a main clause that starts with the subject, so ikkecomes after the verb, the second one is a subordinate clause, so it follows the subject

Jeg skal på en lang tur hvis det ikke regner i morgen. (I will go on a long walk if it doesn’t rain tomorrow.) – same case as above

  • Inversions

Hvis du ikke roer deg ned, kan jeg ikke snakke med deg. (If you don’t calm down, I can’t talk to you)

Dersom det ikke regner i morgen, skal jeg gå på en lang tur. (If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I will go on a lang walk.)

Ikke at the beginning of sentences

We are sneaking in a third section, namely the few cases where this little wanderer pops up at the start of a sentence.

  • The imperative:

Ikke spis det! (Don’t eat that!)

Ikke løp! (Don’t run!)

Ikke gjør sånn! (Don’t do that!)

  • Expressions:

Ikke sant? (Right?)

Ikke så verst! (Not so bad!)

That’s it. Following this simple guide, you should be able to master the use of ikke in no time. If you would like to learn more grammar, check out our blog section for more free Norwegian lessons. We also offer online Norwegian courses, where you will find everything you need to learn Norwegian.

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300 most frequently used words in the Norwegian language

300 most used words in Norwegian
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