A pronoun is a word you can substitute for other nouns when it is already clear which nouns you’re referring to. In other words, we point back to old information using pronouns (for example he, she, it, they) as reference words.
In Danish, we use personal pronouns as substitutes when speaking of persons or things. The Danish personal pronouns – the who or what that is being referred to - cannot be inferred from the context of the sentence (as verbs in Danish are not conjugated in the different persons).
Therefore when constructing sentences in Danish, personal pronouns cannot be omitted, the way they are in some other languages like Spanish or Italian. In other words, Danish is not a “pro-drop” language.
|Danish personal pronoun||Translation|
|jeg, mig||I, me|
|han, hun, den, det||he, she, it|
|vi, os||we, us|
|I, jer||you (plural)|
|de, dem||they, them|
Here are some examples of Danish phrases which illustrate the use of personal pronouns:
The Danish personal pronouns “den” and “det” both correspond to the English pronoun “it”. The reason is that each Danish noun has one of two possible grammatical genders (common and neuter).
The Danish pronoun “den” is used when replacing a noun which has the neuter gender (en-noun), whereas the pronoun “det” is used when replacing a noun which has the common gender (et-noun).
A possessive pronoun gives us information about ownership. It refers to something or someone we already know about. It attributes the noun and tells us of its gender and number.
|Danish possessive pronoun||Translation|
|min, mit, mine||my, mine|
|din, dit, dine||your, yours|
|hans, hendes, dens, dets||his, hers, its|
Here are some examples of Danish phrases which illustrate the use of possessive pronouns:
The Danish possessive pronouns which correspond to “My/mine” and “your/yours” have three different forms each. Their usage depends on whether you use the pronoun with an en-noun, an et-noun or a plural noun. This rule also applies when we use “dens/dets.”
Here are some examples:
Reflexive pronouns only differ from personal pronouns in third person singular and plural where “sig” replaces “han/hun/den/det” and “de/dem”. “Sig” points back to a noun or pronoun in its own sentence.
|Danish reflexive pronoun||Translation|
|sig||herself, himself, itself, oneself|
Below are some examples of Danish phrases which show the use of reflexive pronouns:
In some cases, Danes will attach a “selv” to the reflexive pronoun and no rule can tell you when you should. It will not change the meaning of the sentence, but in a few instances, it will sound slightly inexact.
A relative pronoun in Danish replaces a noun or another pronoun. The two most common relative pronouns are “som” and “der”.
|Danish relative pronoun||Translation|
|som, der||who/whom/which, that|
|hvilke, hvilken, hvilke||which|
In general, choosing either “som” or “der” in Danish is up to you. There are, however, cases in which “der” is restricted as it can only be used as a subject in the subordinate clause. To avoid mistakes, use “som” in every instance.
In Danish, we use “hvem” for people and “hvilke”, “hvilken”, “hvilket” for non-human entities. Again, we must follow the n/t/s-rule. Use ”hvilken” for n-nouns, “hvilket” for t-nouns and “hvilke” for plural nouns.
Demonstrative pronouns are used to point to specific things, thereby making it clear which noun we are referring to. In Danish, depending on the gender of the word, and whether it is singular or plural, we use “denne”, “dette” or “disse”.
|Danish demonstrative pronoun||Translation|
Although grammatically correct, the use of “denne” and “dette” are considered to be an old-fashioned way of expression.
Danes use a combination of den/det/de/dem and the adverbs her/der as demonstrative pronouns:
The deciding factor is the proximity to, or distance from, the speaker, which is emphasized by the adverbs “her” and “der”.
|Danish adverb as demonstrative pronouns||Translation|
|her||here (close by)|
|der||there (further away)|
|Danish demonstrative pronoun||Translation|
|den her, det her||this, here|
|den der, det der||this, there|
|de her, dem her||these, here|
|de der, dem der||these, there|
Here are some examples of phrases which contain Danish demonstrative pronouns:
Interrogative pronouns refer to something someone is asking about. Usually, they appear in the beginning of the sentence followed by the verb.
|Danish interrogative pronoun||Translation|
|hvor meget?||how much?|
|hvor mange?||how many?|
Here are some examples of phrases which contain Danish interrogative pronouns:
Object pronouns replace the direct or indirect object in a sentence, thereby avoiding unnecessary repetitions.
|Danish object pronoun||Translation|
Remark: In English the pronoun “you” has the same form as a subject pronoun and as object pronoun. In contrast, the Danish object pronoun “dig” has a different form than the corresponding subject pronoun “du”.
Here are some more examples of phrases which contain Danish object pronouns:
There is currently no conventionally recognized gender-neutral pronoun in the Danish language.
The four third person singular pronouns that are officially recognized are “han”, “hun”, “den” and “det”. There are, however, some gender-neutral pronouns which can be used as substitutes for the two gender-specific personal pronouns “han” and “hun”.
“Hen” is borrowed from Swedish. It became an officially recognized gender-neutral pronoun in Sweden in 2015 and is a contraction of the Swedish words “han/hon” meaning “he/she”.
“De/dem/deres” are third person plural pronouns in Danish and are the equivalent “they/them/theirs in English.
“Den” is, together with “det”, third person singular pronoun in Danish and is the English “it”. One would always use “den”, not “det” for living entities.Conclusion
We have reached the end of this grammar guide on Danish pronouns. For more on Danish grammar, see this article on Danish adverbs.