Prepositions 101 – When to use til and for?

Learn Norwegian prepositions

Sooner or later, on your ambitious quest to learn Norwegian, you will hit a little bump in the road. Well, not so little, to be fair. Along the way, you will undoubtedly end up asking yourself the question – how am I supposed to use prepositions in Norwegian? And sadly, to that question, dear learner, the answer is that there are no clear-cut rules.

But fear not! We have decided to create a series of short lessons about prepositions to help you understand them a bit better and be more comfortable when speaking the language. In this first one we will talk about til and for while focusing on two things, for/til + the infinitive and some prepositional verbs.

For/til + the infinitive

This is where we can give you somewhat of a hard and fast rule. While for å expresses an intention, a purpose, til å is used when you are referring to something you are using as a tool, a means to achieve something. Let us look at some examples:

  • Jeg trener for å bli sterkere. – I work out to become stronger.
  • Mannen skynder seg for å komme hjem fortere. – The man is in a hurry to get home faster.
  • Jeg bruker blyanten til å skrive med. – I use the pencil to write with.
  • Katten bruker sengen til å sove i. – The cat uses the bed to sleep in.

If you are still a bit confused, let’s look at it a slightly different way. When you have a clear goal in mind, a clear reason why something is done, then we use for å. When it comes to til å, there is no clear intention, but rather a movement towards a goal.

  • Jeg bruker ovnen til å lage mat. – I use the oven to make food.
  • Jeg lager mat for å overraske familien min. – I make food to surprise my family. (a clear why)

Prepositional verbs with til and for

Now let’s take a look at some prepositional verbs that you will simply have to learn as they are. We won’t overwhelm you with too many, this is just a small selection. However, these tend to be the culprits of common mix-ups, so by learning these you’ll also avoid common errors.


Direction (from A to B, from one person to another): fra … til …

  • Denne gaven er fra meg til deg. – This present is from me to you.
  • Hun måtte reise fra Oslo til Stavanger i går. – She needed to travel from Oslo to Stavanger yesterday.

Meals: til frokost/lunsj/middag

  • Barna spiser grøt til frokost. – The children are having porridge for breakfast.
  • Hva skal vi ha til middag i dag? – What are we having for dinner today?

Grue seg til (to dread, be anxious about)

  • Jeg gruer meg til eksamen i morgen. – I am dreading tomorrow’s exam.

Nødt til å (have to)

  • Vi er nødt til å handle før vi kommer oss hjem. – We have to go shopping before we get  home.

Flink til å (good at)

  • Hunden er flink til å finne de skjulte godbitene. – The dog is good at finding the hidden treats.


When constructing arguments: for det første … for det andre/tredje/fjerde

  • For det første er han sterkere enn du tror. – Firstly, he is stronger than you think.
  • For det andre kan han løpe fortere enn deg. – Secondly, he can run faster than you.

With adjectives to express when something is too much: for høy, for sterk

  • Maten er for sterk, jeg klarer ikke å spise den. – The food is too spicy, I can’t eat it.
  • Treet er for høy, gutten klarer ikke å klatre opp i det. – The tree is too high, the boy can’t climb it.

Bekymret for (anxious, worried about)

  • Foreldrene er bekymret for barna. – The parents are worried about the children.

Å være redd for (to be afraid of)

  • Jeg er redd for edderkopper. – I am afraid of spiders.

Å ha behov for / å ha bruk for (to need, to make use of, have need of)

  • Et triks du kan ha bruk for. – A trick you could use.
  • Jeg har behov for litt hjelp. – I need a bit of help.

Å bestemme seg for (to decide)

  • Jeg bestemte meg for å bli hjem og studere. – I decided to stay home and study.

That was it for today, we really hope you found this little lesson useful. If you would like to learn Norwegian online some more today, why don’t you check out some of the previous posts from our blog, like this one about the use of the adjective small. And if you would like to look at some more prepositional verbs with different prepositions, you can have a look at this article. See you next time!

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300 most frequently used words in the Norwegian language

300 most used words in Norwegian
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