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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish expression of the day: Det ligner

It looks like an obvious choice for the word of the day. But is it?

What is det ligner?

The verb at ligne is another example of a word that enables Danes to say something in fewer words than the equivalent sentence in English.

Meaning “to look like”, it normally has a straightforward use: han ligner sin mor, for example: “he looks like his mother”.

Arguably, there is an English verb directly equivalent to at ligne which would allow you to say the above sentence in neither more nor fewer words than the Danish version. “He resembles his mother” would also be an acceptable translation of han ligner sin mor. 

Despite this, I’d argue “looks like” is more accurate in most situations and contexts, because at ligne does not have the formal feel of written language that “resemble” conjures up.

Why do I need to know det ligner?

When you put the pronoun det (“it”) in front of the verb, making it “it looks like”, the use of at ligne can take on a different meaning.

In the sentence det ligner at det bliver regnvejr hele weekenden (“it looks like it will rain all weekend”), ligner drops its equivalence to “resemble” and, similar to “looks like”, can be used to make a prediction.

According to language regulator Dansk Sprognævn, this alternative use of det ligner has emerged in the last 20-25 years. That being the case, you could speculate that it has occurred as a result of an English phrase being adopted in Danish, even though it makes less sense in Danish in its original guise.

This is not necessarily true. Another way of talking about an uncertain future event in Danish is to say det ser ud til, approximately “it looks as though”. Det ser ud til at det bliver regnvejr is, in fact, probably closer to “it looks like it will rain” than any translation that uses det ligner.

Nevertheless, det ligner is a concise way of talking about something that looks likely to happen in the future. You would normally say it based on some form of evidence, rather than your own instinct: in the examples above, darkening grey clouds on the horizon would probably get people saying det ligner regnvejr.

Examples

Det lignede en sikker sejr for hjemmeholdet, men så lukkede de tre mål ind i anden halvleg.

It looked like a comfortable victory for the home team, but they conceded three goals in the second half.

Er du okay? Du ligner slet ikke dig selv.

Are you ok? You don’t look yourself at all.

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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Tør

Have a look at the word of the day if you dare.

Danish word of the day: Tør

What is tør?

Several things, including both verbs and adjectives.

Starting with the verbs, tør is a conjugation of two different Danish verbs, at turde (“to dare”) and at tørre (“to dry” or “to wipe”).

In the first case, it is the present tense form: jeg tør ikke sige, om planen kommer til at virke (“I dare not say whether the plan will work”).

In the second, it is the imperative form. Tør bordet af tak! means “wipe the table please!”. The present tense of at tørre is tørrer, as in Christian tørrer bordet af (“Christian is wiping the table (clean)”).

In its adjective guise, tør means “dry”. You can have tørvejr, “dry weather”, tør humor, a dry sense of humour, tør vin, “dry wine”, or a tørt emne, a dry or boring subject or topic. It can also mean dry as in without moisture, just like the English equivalent.

A tumble dryer is not a tørtumbler, however, but rather a tørretumbler.

Why do I need to know tør?

As well as being another example of a Danish homonym, like bakke, tør is interesting both because it has several meanings, can be two different verbs in different combinations, and because two of its meanings come close to being antonyms.

At tørre af, to wipe clean, technically means making something wet (at least briefly and on the surface), because you’ll be using a damp cloth to do so. Whereas if it is tør, it is completely dry.

Tør is also used in a lot of idioms and experessions — too many to list here in fact. At løbe tør (literally “to run dry”) means to run out of something, while to be tør bag ørerne (“dry behind the ears”) means the opposite to the English “wet behind the ears”. Someone who is tør bag ørerne is older, wiser and experienced.

My favourite tør expression, though, is at falde på et tørt sted (“to fall on a dry place”), meaning to receive something that was sorely needed.

Examples

Jeg tør slet ikke tro på, at Danmark vinder VM.

I dare not believe that Denmark will win the World Cup.

Du får den her chance kun én gang. Tør du tage den?

You’ll only get this chance once. Do you dare to take it?

Min jakke har hængt ude på altanen siden i går, men den er slet ikke tør endnu.

My jacket has been hanging outside on the balcony since yesterday, but it’s nowhere near dry yet.

Tak for kaffen. Den faldt på et tørt sted!

Thanks for the coffee. It was badly needed!

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