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Verbs

Verbs are words which express that something has taken place over time. Verbs can refer to actions, events and states (e.g. købe ‘buy’, falde ‘fall’, and sidde ‘sit’). A sentence, in written language, is defined as a unit composed of one finite verb plus a subject. But utterances in talk-in-interaction can behave differently i.e. the verb and/or the subject can be omitted completely (see Sentences). The function of a verb is to link the syntactic and content parts of the utterances together, hereby extending their influence on all parts of a sentence. In the example below sir ‘say’ connects du ‘you’ with hva ‘what’ in the construction of the question hva sir du? lit. ‘what say you?’ in line 1 (see Clause constituents). 

Samtalebanken | omfodbold | 54 ((ansigt-til-ansigt))
01 LIS: hva  sir     du→ 
        what say.PRS you.SG
        what are you saying

02 KIR: jeg sir     du    købte    alligevel småkag[er]↗
                               I   say.PRS you.SG buy.PST after.all cookie.PL
                               I say you did buy cookies after all
03 LIS:                                                                                                                                                        [n ]ej
             no
04 LIS: det    har      dorte gjort
                      that.N have.PRS NAME  do.PPT
        dorte did

There are two types of verbs: Main verbs and auxiliary verbs. These will be described in detail in the paragraphs below. In the example above, the verbs sir (‘say’), købte (‘bought’), and gjort (‘done’) in line 1-3 show different versions and conjugations of main verbs, while har (‘has’) in line 3 acts as an auxiliary verb.

Verbs of talk-in-interaction has a similar conjugation potential as those of written language, that is they can inflect for

  • Tense/time: present, past etc.
  • Mood: imperative, indicative etc.
  • Voice: active and passive voice.
  • Nonfinite forms: infinitive, perfect participle and present participle.

 

The verbs of talk-in-interaction differ largely from those of written language in their sound production. In short, we do not pronounce them as they are spelled out on paper. Verbs of talk-in-interaction inflect differently from the written ones, although their construction is still regular and systematic. Additionally, stress and stød greatly influence the inflection of the verbs. Finally, the placement of the verbs in talk-in-interaction also differs from that of written language.   

Stress

      In talk-in-interaction most verbs exist in a stressed and an unstressed version, which can be quite different from one another. This so because of the so-called “stress loss”. Stress-loss has to do with “unit stress” in Danish, that is, the fact that verbs are often connected with other coherent statements as in e.g. hun ogik 'tur ‘she went (for a) walk’ or in solen ostår 'op lit. ‘the sun stands up’ (the sun rises). In both examples the symbol ‘o indicates lack of stress and  ‘'’ indicates a stressed syllable. In the example below you can hear how var ‘was’ is both stressed and unstressed in lines 2 and 3.    

Samtalebanken | preben_og_thomas | 290 ((ansigt-til-ansigt))

 

01 PRE: °et° fine fine badeværelse↘
                                                                          a   fine fine bathroom
                                        a fine fine bathroom                      
 
02 PRE:   å   så      var    gulvet      sænket   lige  der   hvor
                                        and then be.PST floor.DEF.N         drop.PPT right    there where
                                        and the floor was dropped right where

03 PRE:   det  badeværelse var    jo      iggå↘
                                                                                                             that bathroom    be.PST PTC       PTC
                                        the bathroom was you know

Main Verbs

 

Main verbs carry the sentence’s semantic content, whereas the auxiliary verb only carries grammatical content. In the examples below the verb starter ‘starts’ thus carries the action related content. In line 2 starter ’starts’ stands alone as the sentence’s finite verb, whereas starte ‘start’ in line 12 stands as the non-finite verb of the sentence. In the latter case the auxiliary verb skal ’will’ acts as a tense indicator.

AUling | mandariner | 254 ((ansigt-til-ansigt))

01 B:     så        afleverer   vi om      ↑fredagen
                              so        deliver.PST we PREP Friday-DEF
                              so we turn (it) in Friday

02 B:     og  så   starter   vi nyt fag    om   mandagen↘
                                                                                  and then start.PRS   we new course PREP Monday.DEF
                              and then we start a new course Monday.

 

AUling | mandariner | 99 ((ansigt-til-ansigt))

11 A:     og  så   lære            en lille dreng det↘
                                                                                  and then teach.INF a  small boy   that
                              and then teaching it to a small boy

12 A:     det godt   han ikke ska    starte i  børnehave    endnu↘
                                                                                  it          good.N he           not  shall start         in kindergarden yet
                              it’s a good thing he’s not beginning kindergarden yet

13 B:     jaer
                              yeah

 

The verbs of talk-in-interaction can be divided into two types of inflections: weak and strong. Weak verbs in Danish take one of the following endings in the past tense: -de, -te or -ede as in the words arbejde-de ‘worked’, læs-te ‘read’ and vent-ede ‘waited’. Strongly inflected verbs, also called irregular verbs, are inflected without adding a suffix, e.g. drikke à drak ‘drink’ à ‘drank’. In some cases, however, for example in hang vs. hængte which both mean ‘hung’, there is an actual meaning difference at play i.e. jeg hængte jakken op ‘I hung (up) the jacket’ vs. jakken hang på knagen ‘the jacket hung on the coathook’. 

Below is an overview over these differently inflected verbs. In the overview you will find: weak verbs ending in –ð (soft d) in the past tense; weak verbs ending in –d(ə) in the past tense; weak verbs with vowel lengthening as ending in the past tense, and finally the strongly inflected verbs.

The reader must take notice of the fact that we have only chosen to illustrate the forms of stressed verbs, given that the weak verbs follow the general pattern of the strong verbs, but without stress and stød. If there is an exception to this, it will be clearly indicated.

  Here are some examples of different types of verbs. These are mere examples, see more in Monrad (2010).

Group 1: Soft d (ð) in the past tense (or –d), no vowel alteration in the stem

 

 

 

 

danse – ‘dance’

leve – ‘live’

Speech (IPA)

Writing

Speech (IPA)

Writing

Infinitive, strong

dans

danse

leː(ː)w

leve

Imperative, strong

danˀs

dans

lewˀ

lev

Present tense, strong

ˈdansʌ

danser

ˈleːwʌ

lever

Past tense, strong

ˈdans(ə)ðð, ˈdans(ə)d

dansede

ˈle:(ː)wð, ˈleː (ː)wd

levede

Perfect participle, strong

ˈdans(ə)ð
ˈdansð
ˈdans(ə)d

danset

ˈleː(ː)wð, ˈleː(ː)wd

levet

Present participle,strong

ˈdansnə, ˈdansnn

dansende

ˈleːwnnə, ˈleːwnn

levende

Present tense passive, strong

ˈdans(ə)s

danses

ˈleː(ː)ws

leves

Past tense passive, strong

ˈdans(ə)ðs, ˈdansðs

dansedes

ˈleː(ː)wðs, ˈleː(ː)wds

levedes

Stød plays an important role in the meaning of verbs in Danish talk-in-interaction. All the verbs in group 1 which can have stød, have it in the imperative form. The verbs which have stød in the infinitive form typically also have it in the other strong forms, except for the present participle. The realization of the suffixes as either [-ð] or [-(ə)d] in the past and perfect participle forms is due to regional dialectal variance.

 

Next is an overview of the suffixes in group 1:

 

Suffixes in speech (IPA)

Suffixes in writing

Infinitive, strong

no suffix (-ə)

-e

Imperative, strong

no suffix

no suffix

Present tense, strong

-er

Past tense, strong

(ə)ð(ð), (ə)d

-ede

Perfect participle, strong

(ə)ð, (e)d

-et

Present participle, strong

-nə, -nn

-ende

Present passive, strong

-( ə)s

-es

Past passive, weak

-əðs, -ðs

-edes

Group 2: d in past tense can have vowel alteration in the stem.

 

 

køre ‘drive’

spørge ‘ask’

Speech (IPA)

Writing

Speech (IPA)

Writing

Infinitive, strong

ˈkøːʌ

køre

ˈsbœːʌ

spørge

Imperative, strong

køʌ̯ːˀ

kør

sbœʌ̯ˀ

spørg

Present tense, strong

ˈkøːʌ

kører

sbœʌ̯ˀ

spørger

Past tense, strong

ˈkøʌ̯d(ə)

kørte

ˈsbuʌ̯d(ə), ˈsboʌ̯d(ə)

spurgte

Perfect participle, strong

køʌ̯ˀd

kørt

sbuʌ̯ˀd, sboʌ̯ˀd

spurgt

Present participle, strong

ˈkøːʌnn

kørende

ˈsbœʌnn

spørgende

Some of these have stem-alteration in the past tense and the perfect participle, and therefore it is often the “stød” that shows the difference between the two forms (for more, see Sounds).

 

The suffixes in group 2 are:

 

Suffixes in speech

Suffixes in writing

Infinitive, strong

No suffix
vowel lengthening
-(ə)

-e

Imperative, strong

No suffix

No suffix

Present tense, strong

-er

Past tense, strong

-d(ə)

-te

Perfect participle, strong

-d

-t

Presen participle, strong

-nn

-ende

 Group 3: Long past tense, vowel alteration in the stem

 

 

gøre “do”

lægge “lay”

Speech

Writing

Speech

Writing

Infinitive, strong

ˈɡœːʌ

gøre

ˈlɛɡ(ə)

lægge

Imperative, strong

ɡœʌ̯ˀ

gør

lɛɡ

læg

Present tense, strong

ɡœʌ̯
ɡœʌ̯ˀ

gør

ˈlɛɡʌ

lægger

Past tense, strong

ˈɡjoːʌ
ˈɡjɒːʌ

gjorde

ˈlæː(ː)

lagde

Perfect participle, strong

ɡjoʌ̯ˀd
ɡjɒʌ̯ˀd

gjort

lɑɡd

lagt

Present participle, strong

ɡœːʌnn

gørende

lɛɡnn(ə)

læggende

In group 3 the verbs are often different in the past tense and in the perfect participle. 

The suffixes of group 3 are:

 

Suffixes in speech

Suffixes in writing

Infinitive, strong

No suffix
vowel lengthening

-(ə)

-e

Imperative, strong

No suffix

no suffix

Present, strong


no suffix

-er

Past, strong

Often just vowel lengthening

-de

Perfect participle, strong

-d

-t

Present participle, strong

-nn

-ende

Group 4: Strong verbs

 

The strong verbs are those that do not have any suffixes in the past tense. Most of them have vowel change in the past tense and in the perfect participle. The stød also changes with the different forms. We will limit ourselves two four examples here:

 

drikke ‘drink’

tage ‘take’

Speech

Writing

Speech

Writing

Infinitive, strong

ˈdʁɛɡ(ə)

drikke

tæˀ,

tage

Imperative, strong

dʁɛɡ

drik

tæˀ,

tag

Present tense, strong

ˈdʁɛɡʌ

drikker

tɑˀ

tager

Past tense, strong

dʁɑɡ

drak

toˀ

tog

Perfect participle, strong

ˈdʁɔɡð/
ˈdʁɔɡəð

drukket

tæː(ː)ð
tæː(ː)d

taget

Present participle, strong

ˈdʁɛɡnn

drikkende

tæː(ː)nn

tagende

 

 

 

Stå ‘stand’

Komme ‘come’

Speech

Writing

Speech

Writing

Infinitive, strong

sdɔˀ

stå

ˈkʌmm

komme

Imperative, strong

sdɔˀ

stå

ˈkʌm

kom

Present tense, strong

sdɒˀ

står

ˈkʌmʌ

kommer

Past tense, strong

sdoð

stod

kʌmˀ

kom

Perfect participle, strong

sdɔːð,
sdɔːd

stået

ˈkʌmmð,
ˈkʌmm/ˈkʌmn

kommet

Present participle, strong

sdɔːnn

stående

ˈkʌmmn

kommende

 

The suffixes are:

 

Suffixes in speech

Suffixes in writing

Infinitive, strong

-(ə) / no suffix

-e / no suffix

Imperative, strong

no suffix

No suffix

Present tense, strong

-ʌ / no suffix
(sometimes vowel alteration)

-er/-r

Past tense, strong

no suffix

no suffix (often vowel alteration)

Perfect participle, strong


-d

-et

Present participle, strong

-nn

-ende

 

Auxiliary verbs

 

Auxiliary verbs are verbs that go with a non-finite main verb. There are tense auxiliary verbs such as være ’be’ and have ‘have’; passive auxiliaries like være ‘be/have’ and blive ‘will be’ and modal auxiliaries such as kunne ‘could’, skulle ‘should/must’, måtte ‘must/may/could’ and burde ‘should’.

Talkbank | gamledage | 866 ((ansigt-til-ansigt))

01  LIS: jam     den  er     ikk kommet   endnu 
                                        yes.but it.U be.PRS not come.PPT yet
                                        yeah but it hasn’t arrived yet

02  LIS: m[aden]↘
                                        food.DEF
                                        the food

03  KIR:  [∙hhh] nej↘ (.) men den  kommer   lige straks→
                                          ∙hhh] no   (.) but it.U come.PRS PTC  right.away
                                        ·hhh no, but it’ll be here in a minute

Tense auxiliary verbs mark the tense of the main verb. In the example above er ’be/have’ acts as a tense auxiliary and, together with kommet ‘come (perfect tense)’.

 

In the example below the verb blir ‘will be’ acts as a passive auxiliary for the passive form angrebet ‘attacked’ in line 2:

Talkbank | 225deller | 121 ((ansigt-til-ansigt))

01  ME: hva-  hva  betyder  det  med       sån en   stofskiftesygom↘
                               what- what mean.PRS it.N with such a.U metabolic disorder
                               What what does it mean with this metabolic disorder

02  TI:   altså::: man ø:h (.) man blir       jo  ikk angrebet
                                        well     one u:h (.) one become.PRS PTC not attacked
                                        well you don’t get attacked

 

The modal auxiliaries indicate the modality of the main verb, in other words, the way in which the main verb should be understood, e.g. hypothetically, wishing, possibility etc. In the example below the verbs ‘may’ and ska ‘must’ act as modal auxiliaries. In line 3 shows that it is allowed to call the emergency line in special circumstances. On the other hand, ska in line 5 indicates a norm or obligation i.e. an obligation not to call if it is not an emergency.

Talkbank | moedregruppe1 | 1765 ((ansigt_til_ansigt))

01  TAN: [ved akut      akut ] nød       et    eller [andet
                                         at  urgent urgent   emergency one.N or     other.N
                                        in case of urgent, urgent emergency or something
02  DO:                                            [akut ] nød
                                                                                  urgent emergency
                                                                                  urgent emergency                       

 

03                  DO:       selvfølgelig må      man så   gerne   [ringe] iggås↘ 
                                        of.course     may.PRS one then readily  call   PTC
                                        of course you are allowed to call then, you know        
04  ?:                                         [hcrm ] 

05  DO:  ∙hhh men ellers så   ska      man altså ↓la  vær    med  det→
                                        ∙hhh but else   then must.PRS one PRC    let be.PRS with it.N
                                        but if not you shouldn’t do it

 

Tense and passive auxiliaries are some of the most frequently used verbs in talk-in-interaction. They can all occur both as auxiliary verbs and as main verbs. When they occur as auxiliaries they are normally unstressed, whereas if they occur as the main verb they are stressed. Therefore, we show them in both weak and strong forms below:

 

Stress

være ‘be’

have ‘have’

blive ‘become’ (and for passive)

Infinitive

Strong

ˈvɛːʌ

hæˀ

ˈbliː

Weak

vɛʌ

bli

Imperative

Strong

vɛʌ̯ˀ

hæˀ

bliˀ

Weak

vɛʌ̯

bli

Present tense

Strong

æʌ̯

hɑːˀ

bliʌ̯ˀ

Weak

æ, lengthening of preceding vowel

hɑ, ɑ, lengthening of the preceding vowel

bliʌ̯

Past tense

Strong

ˈhæːð

bleˀ, blewˀ

Weak

hæð

ble, blew

Perfect participle

Strong

ˈvɛːʌð/ ˈvɛːʌd

hɑfd

ˈbleː(ː)ð/ ˈbleː(ː)d/ ˈbleːwn/ˈbløː(ː)ð

Weak

vɛʌð/vɛʌd

hɑf(d)

bleð, bled, blewn, bløð

Preset participle

Strong

ˈvɛːʌnn

hæːwnn

bliːwnn, bliːnn,

The stems of the auxiliary verbs are:

  • vɛː-, vɛʌ, æ-/a- /eller æʌ̯ aʌ̯), va, vɛːʌ-
  • hæ-, hæ-, (h)ɑ-, hæ:-, hɑf-
  • bli-, ble(w)-, evt. også bli:w-

 

There is a consistent difference between the spoken forms of the auxiliary verbs kunne ‘could’, skulle ‘should’, ville ‘would’, måtte ‘may’ and the written forms of the same verbs. The modal verbs do not exist in the imperative or in the present participle.

Here is an overview of the forms of the main modal verbs:

 

Stress

kunne ‘could’

skulle ‘should’

ville ‘would’

måtte ‘may’

Infinitive

Strong

ˈkun(n), ku

ˈsɡul(l), sgu

ˈvill

ˈmʌd(ə)

Weak

ku, kʷ

sgu, sgʷ

vil, vi

mʌd

Present tense

Strong

kænˀ, kæn, kæ

sgælˀ, sgæl, sgæ

ˈvelˀ, vel, ve

mɔˀ

Weak

kæ, k

sga, sgə, sg

ve

Past tense

Strong

ˈkun(n), ku

ˈsɡul(l), sgu

ˈvill

ˈmʌd(ə)

Weak

ku, kʷ

ˈsgu, sgʷ

vil, vi

mʌd

Perfect participle

Strong

ˈkun(n), ˈkun(n)d, ˈkun(n)ð

ˈsɡul(l), ˈsɡul(l)d, sgu

ˈvill, ˈvil(l)d

ˈmʌd(ə)ð, ˈmʌdð

weak

ku, kʷ

sgu, sgʷ

vil, vi

mʌd

 

The modal auxiliaries have their short form in the present tense, as opposed to the strong verbs of group 4 which have it in the past tense. Furthermore, their infinitive form is identical to the past tense. In our data the short forms of these verbs are the most commonly used, which is also true for the stressed verbs. The difference between the presence or absence of stød in the stressed forms of the verbs may be regiolectally conditioned.

Placements of the verbs

The verbs of talk-in-interaction are placed differently depending on their inflection, but the placement often corresponds to that of written language:

  • Finite verbs (present and past – active as well as passive, and imperative) have a fixed position in the sentence and can only be placed at this position (for more see Sentence schemas).
  • Infinitives (active and passive) either have a fixed position in the sentence or as part of an infinitive phrase that can be placed in same position as noun phrases (for more see Word groups/Phrases and Sætningsskema)
  • Perfect Participles either have a fixed position in the sentence (the same as that of the infinitive) when it is part of a “compound tense” (see Verb phrase and other verbal constructions under Phrases) or behave like adjectives.
  • Verbs in the present participle are the core of verbal constructions and are occur in the same positions as adjectives and adverbs.

When verbs appears alone or are absent

Most often verbs do not occur by themselves in a turn, but when they do it is often as a repair or as an imperative. In the following example the imperative of se ‘see’ constitutes a single turn:

TH | S6 | FF | 1C

01  HAN:  Men ska      da:m[en   >der    lånt'     d'<     tusserne       ikk
                                        but must.PRS lady.DEF.U who       lend.PST you.SG markers.PL.DEF not
                                        but shouldn’t the lady who lent you the markers
 
02  BER:                 [Så
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            then

03  HAN: oss  ha       en  tegning↗
                                                                                                             also have.INF a.U drawing
                                        also have a drawing

04       (0.8)

05  KAT: ↑Se

                                        see.IMP
                                        look
                                       
06       (0.6)

07  KAT: >S'  kom<     der   lige en       blomst↘ 
                                        then come.PST there PTC  a.U flower
                                        Then a flower just came

08        (0.8)

09  BER: En           myre↗
                                                                                                             A.U ant
                                        an ant

10        (0.5)

We have not found an example of a separate verb working as repair in our data, but here is an experienced example written down from memory:


01  JA:  så   kører     båden      ind.DYN i        havnen
                                        then drive.PRS boat.DEF.U in      in harbour.DEF.U
                                        then the boat drives into the harbour
02  JO:  kører↗
                                        drive.PRS
                                        drives
                                       
03  JA:  sejler↘
                                        sail.PRS
                                        sails

In the example above a separate verb in line 2 points to a problem in the previous utterance, and is then corrected by another separate verb in line 3.

Turns-at-talk can also omit verbs all together. That often happens in response-turns to e.g. a yes/no-question, but in lines 12, 13 and 14 below the verb-less utterances act as meaningful contributing units in and of themselves.

11  B: så   gik    vi ud.DYN til eg- egholmfærgen↘
                              then go.PST we out    to  eg- egholmsferry.DEF.U
                              then we went out to the eg- egholmsferry
                             
12  A: jaer
                              yeah

13  B: sindssygt godt   vejr
                                                                                  insanely  good.N weather
                              insanely good weather

14  A: det  oss  rigtig hyggeligt
                              it.N also really cozy.N
                              that really is cozy

 

According to the grammar of written language, line 14 lacks the copula verb er ‘is’ after det ‘that’. But our data suggests that the Danish copula is often assimilated with the previous pronoun (see more under Copula drop). On the other hand, line 13 is characterized by the obvious absence of any verb. This shows that verbs of talk-in-interaction are not always necessary in order to create meaningful units.

Relevant entries


Further reading

Christensen & Christensen (2014) is a textbook that builds on a long tradition of grammatical description.

Grønnum (2005) is a thourough description of Danish phonology, including stress and prosody.

Hansen & Heltoft (2011) is a major, thourough and scientific description of Danish grammar. It contribues to many areas following traditions in descriptive grammar, but it does not have a systematic treatment of talk-in-interaction.

Monrad (2016) is an overview of the systematics of the pronunciation of many frequent Danish verbs.

Nissen (2015) has examples of verbs (and other words) standing alone as repair.