What is hver?
Hver is a determiner or quantifier more or less equivalent to the English “every”. Jeg står op hver dag kl. 6 (“I get up every day at 6am”), for example.
There are a couple of ways in which hver and “every” are used a little differently in terms of grammar.
Specifically, it can mean “each” in certain constructs: tre håndlavet smykker, hver med et unikt design (“three handmade pieces of jewellery, each with a unique design”) or jeg giver julegaver til hver af mine tre ansatte (“I give Christmas presents to each of my three employees”).
So while in English, “each” always refers to an individual thing or person, while “every” refers to a group of things or people grouped together as one, this is not the case in Danish, where hver can do both jobs.
The English expression “each and every”, an emphasised way of saying “every”, is rendered in Danish as hver og en, literally “every and one”, while “every single” is hver eneste, which literally translates to “every only”.
Why do I need to know hver?
It’s not just the subtle grammatical differences from English that make hver an interesting word. It’s also a Danish homophone, a word that is pronounced in the same way as another but has a different meaning.
Hver actually has as many as three homophones: værd (“worth”), vejr (“weather”) and (at) være (“to be”). As such, it can be a common cause of typos and spelling mistakes.
I once had a university professor who was originally from Iraq and would regularly express his frustration at the words skov (“forest”) and sko (“shoe”), which he said were impossible to distinguish.
Hver, værd, vejr and være are arguably even harder work, with each (or is that every?) one of the four homophones having a different meaning.
Have you come across any other confusing Danish homophones? Let us know.
Det her vejr er ikke noget værd. Det regner hver dag. Jeg gad godt være på ferie lige nu.
This weather’s not worth anything. It rains every day. I’d like to be on holiday right now.