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Danish expression of the day: At tage hul på

Today's a good day to start something new.

What is at tage hul på?

While at tage is the verb for “to take”, hul is “hole” and på is the preposition usually equivalent to “on” in English, a direct translation of this phrase would be “to take a hole on” but a more sensible one is “to make a hole in”.

This doesn’t tell the full story though, because if you were to make a hole in something, either intentionally or unintentionally, you would probably use a different sentence to describe it.

Examples of this could be jeg væltede på cyklen, og der er gået et hul i mine bukser (“I fell off my bike and got a hole on my trousers”) for an unintended hole, or må jeg godt lave huller i væggen i min lejelejlighed? (“Am I allowed to make holes in the wall in my rented apartment”).

At tage hul på is not used for making holes in this way but has a figurative meaning for beginning something like a process or a task.

Why do I need to know at tage hul på?

Although the origins of this figurative expression are not clear to me, whenever I hear I get the image of someone opening a can (like a Cola can for example). The sound of the ring-pull being pushed down and the air rushing out and fizzing of the drink inside seem to fit with the connotations of this expression, opening up something new and starting on it, with a limited time frame before it expires or is finished.

At tage hul på can be used in a variety of scenarios, including politicians and trade unions commencing negotiations; a sports tournament or Olympic games beginning; the start of legal proceedings; or the first day of a new school term.

A similar, but not identical expression is gå i krig med, literally “go to war with”. Unlike tage hul på, this can be used in both its figurative and literal sense. When used figuratively, it means to energetically get stuck into a task that has the potential to present challenges.


Christian glæder sig til at tage hul på medicinstudiet, når han starter på Aarhus Universitet til September.

Christian is looking forward to beginning his medicine studies when he starts at Aarhus University in September.

Vi har endelig taget hul på vores store projekt med at rydde op i kælderrummet.

We’ve finally got started with our big project of tidying up in the basement.

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Danish word of the day: Nar

Have a look at the word of the day. You'd be a fool not to.

Danish word of the day: Nar

What is nar?

The original meaning of the word nar is similar to the English ‘jester’: a person who entertains the public or an audience by making a fool of themselves or of others.

Its use evolved at some point in the past — not recently, as it’s been around for a while — and it is now an insult. So if you call someone a nar you are slighting them and they are likely to be offended, as it’s not a word that is usually used lightheartedly, unlike some old-fashioned insults can be.

To call someone a nar, by the way, the correct phrase is din nar. This literally means “your nar“, because din is a possessive adjective or pronoun (like ‘your’ or ‘yours’). However, din nar actually means “you are a nar“. The same grammar applies with all insults: din idiot, dit fjols, din taber (you idiot, you fool, you loser) or din klovn (you clown). The latter is a slightly milder synonym of din nar.

Why do I need to know nar?

It’s a punchy putdown, but as mentioned above — be careful how you use it. It’s not really a word you can use in jest. As such, you’ll probably hear it used more often to talk about someone in the third person than aimed directly at someone.

Nar is also used in a variety of phrases to mean variations of being made a fool out of or being tricked.

For example, at gøre nar af (“to make a nar of”) someone is to make them the object of ridicule or to make fun of them. If you holder nogen for nar (“treat someone as a nar“) you could either be scamming or tricking them or, similarly to before, making them look stupid.


Han går hele tiden rundt og lyver over for folk. Han er simpelthen en nar!

He just goes around lying to everyone. He’s nothing but an asshole!

Hvorfor har du spist min sandwich? Der stod mit navn på papiret. Din nar!

Why did you eat my sandwich? My name was written on the package. You idiot!