Passive voice

This lesson will go over passive voice, which is often used in Norwegian.

Grammar Review

Sentence structure

While most Norwegian sentences use the subject-verb-object (SVO) word order, like English does, Norwegian does have the V2 (verb second) rule. If an adverbial phrase or subordinate clause is at the front of the sentence, the subject and the verb have to switch places (this is called “inversion”) so that the verb stays in the second position.

Eksempel English


Markus flyttet til Oslo sist måned.

Markus moved to Oslo last month.

Ellas familie reiste til Spania hver sommer da hun var ung.

Ella’s family traveled to Spain every summer when she was young.


Sist måned flytta (flyttet) Markus til Oslo.

Last month, Markus moved to Oslo.

Da Ella var ung, reiste Ellas familie til Spania kvar (hver) somma(e)r.

When Ella was young, her family traveled to Spain every summer.

If a sentence has more than one verb, the second verb will be in a nonfinite form (e.g. å finne). If the sentence has inversion, then the subject will come between the finite (i.e. conjugated) verb and the nonfinite verb.

Eksempel English


Jenta prøvde å sykle uten støttehjul i går.

The girl tried to ride her bike without training wheels yesterday.

Emil liker å tegne når han har tid.

Emil likes to draw when he has time.


I går prøvde jenta å sykle uten støttehjul.

Yesterday, the girl tried to ride her bike without training wheels.

Når Emil har tid, liker han å tegne.

When Emil has time, he likes to draw.

Verb Conjugation

Conjugating present tense of verbs in Norwegian is fairly simple. Most present tense verbs just add an -r to the end of the infinitive.

Infinitive Present English Infinitive Present English

Å kysse


Kisses / Kissing

Å svømme


Swims / Swimming

Å drømme


Dreams / Dreaming

Å planlegge


Plans / Planning

There are some exceptions / irregulars:







Å kunne


To be able to

Å måtte

To have to

Å skulle


To have to; to be going to

Å ville


To want

Å være


To be

Å vite


To know

Past tense conjugation is a bit more difficult, however there are some guidelines (but keep in mind there are exceptions).

  1. If the verb ends with a double consonant, consonant cluster, or voiced plosive (b / d), past tense will end in -et.

  2. If the verb ends in a single consonant (except v / b / d), past tense ends in -te.

  3. If the verb ends with v or diphthong, the past tense ends in -de.

  4. If the verb has only one syllable with a long vowel, past tense ends in -dde.

Rule Number


Past Tense



Å lytte



Å sparke




Å låse



Å reparere




Å prøve



Å eie




Å skje



Å bry



For future tense, often the present tense verb is used with a time adverbial to clarify it is a future action. (Note: There are ways to form future sentences using modals; that is covered in a more in-depth lesson).

Eksempel English

Johannes drar til Oslo i morgen.

Johannes is going to Oslo tomorrow.

Jeg tar oppvasken senere i kveld.

I’ll wash the dishes later tonight.

Adjective Basics

Adjectives typically have to agree with the gender and the number of the noun. If the noun is neuter gender, then in the singular indefinite form, the adjective takes a -t ending. In the plural indefinite, the adjective takes an -e ending. Note there are exceptions.

Singular Indefinite Plural Indefinite






En svak uttalelse

A weak statement

Svake uttalelser

Weak statements

En lang vei

A long road

Lange veier

Long roads


Ei svak unnskyldning

A weak excuse

Svake unnskyldninger

Weak excuses

Ei lang linje

A long line

Lange linjer

Long lines


Et svakt spark

A weak kick

svake spark

Weak kicks

Et langt dikt

A long poem

lange dikt

Long poems

When the noun is in the definite form, the adjective takes an -e ending.

Singular Definite Plural Definite






Den svake uttalelsen

The weak statement

De svake uttalelsene

The weak statements

Denne lange veien

This long road

Disse lange veiene

These long roads


Den svake unnskyldninga

The weak excuse

De svake unnskyldningene

The weak excuses

Denne lange linja

This long line

Disse lange linjene

These long lines


Det svake sparket

The weak kick

De svake sparkene

The weak kicks

Dette lange diktet

This long poem

Disse lange diktene

These long poems

Passive Voice

Active and passive sentences are syntactically related.

  • An active sentence tells who or what did something.

  • A passive sentence tells us what happened and to who / what.




Markus vasker bilen.

Markus washes the car.


Bilen vaskes av Markus.

The car is washed by Markus.

In the above examples, the active sentence tells us who is washing the car: Markus. Meanwhile, the passive sentence tells us what is being washed: the car. Basically, when using passive voice, one is emphasizing the object of an action or the result of an action instead of who is doing the action.

Typically, when an active sentence is turned into the equivalent passive sentence, three things happen:

  1. The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence.

  2. The subject of the active sentence becomes a prepositional complement in the passive sentence.

  3. The verb changes from an active to a passive form.



Active Verb




jager / jaget


The lion chases / chased the zebra.


synger / sang


Karin is singing / sang the song.


kjører / kjørte


Nora is driving / drove the bus.



Passive Verb

Preposition Complement



jages / ble jaget

av løven.

The zebra is being / was chased by the lion.


synges / ble sunget

av Karin.

The song is being sang / was sung by Karin.


kjøres / ble kjørt

av Nora.

The bus is being driven / was drove by Nora.

There are two types of passive construction in Norwegian:




-s passive

Dørene lukkes kl. 7.

The doors will close at 7.

Å bli passive

Dørene ble lukket nå.

The doors were closed now.

There’s also a third construction which is not technically “passive voice,” however it’s still listed in some grammar books.




Være “passive”

Dørene er lukket nå.

The doors are closed now.

The -s Passive

The -s passive is formed by adding an -s to the end of the infinitive verb. It is more limited in its usage.

  1. It is often used with instructions, recipes, news headlines, and legal documents.

  2. It is often used in conjunction with modal verbs (i.e. kan, må, etc) which express permission, obligation, prohibition, volition, etc.

  3. It can can also be used to express repeated or habitual actions and with verbs expressing possession, and opinion.

Usage Eksempel English

Often used for:

  • Instructions

  • Recipes

  • News headlines

  • Legal documents

Trinn 1: Papiret brettes i to.

Step 1: The paper is folded in half.

Egget kokes (å koke) i 12 minutter.

The egg is boiled for 12 minutes.

Tyven etterlyses (å etterlyse) av politiet.

The thief is sought by police.

With modal verbs to express:

  • Permission

  • Obligation

  • Prohibition

  • Volition

Gavene kan åpnes (å åpne) nå.

The gifts may be opened now. (permission)

Pakken skal sendes (å sende) i dag.

The package should be sent today. (obligation)

Gresset må ikke trås (å trå) på.

Do not walk on the grass. (prohibition)

Han vil klippes (å klippe) nå.

He wants to have his hair cut right now. (volition)

Also used for:

  • Repeated actions

Or with verbs to express:

  • Possession

  • Opinion

Lunsj serveres hver dag klokka 12.

Lunch is served every day at 12pm.

Herskapshuset eies av millionæren.

The mansion is owned by the millionaire.

Det antas å være sant.

It is thought to be true.

Note: Some verbs can only form the passive using -s, for example eie (own), vite (know).

The Bli Passive

This passive form is created by using a form of bli + past participle. This is the most commonly used form of passive voice. (For information on past participles, check this lesson.)

  1. The present tense “blir” can be used when referring to a future activity or event.

  2. The infinitive “bli” is generally used after modal verbs that express possibility, logical necessity, and future promises.

  3. The bli passive is used for past tense and composite tenses.

Usage Example English

“Blir” - used for present tense (without a modal) and for a future activity or event

Vi blir hentet på stasjonen.

We’ll be picked up at the station.

Trehytten blir bygd (å bygge) i morgen.

The treehouse will be built tomorrow.

Filmen blir anmeldt (å anmelde) neste uke.

The film will be reviewed next week.

“Bli” infinitive used with modals to express:

  • Possibility

  • Logical necessity

  • Future promises

Hun kan bli forfremmet.

She may be promoted. (It may happen).

Turen må bli utsatt (å utsette).

The trip must be delayed. (Seems necessary)

Eksamen skal bli rettet (å rette) i morgen.

The exam will be corrected tomorrow. (i.e. promise).

Bli passive also used for:

  • Past tense

  • Composite tense

Han ble dyttet av avsatsen.

He was pushed off the ledge.

Oppfinnelsen ble godkjent (å godkjenne) av firmaet.

The invention was approved by the company.

Eleven ble hjulpet (å hjelpe) av læreren.

The student was helped by the teacher.

The Være “Passive”

As mentioned, previously, while this is “technically” not a passive form, it is listed with other passive forms in the grammar book, so I am including it in this lesson. The være “passive” is formed by using være + past participle.

  1. When the participle is a verb - usually describes the result of a completed action; it emphasizes the state of something instead of the action that brought it about.

  2. When the participle is an adjective - when the action is vague or absent, the participle may take on the function of an adjective; it remains in the -t form in both the singular and plural, regardless of the noun’s gender.

Usage Example English

Participle as a verb

Boken er oversatt.

The book is translated.

Måltidet er laget (å lage).

The meal is cooked.

Hunden er vasket (å vaske).

The dog is washed.

Participle as an adjective

Jenta er forelsket.

The girl is in love

Jentene er forelsket (å forelske).

The girls are in love.

Døren er stengt (å stenge)

The door is closed.

Husene er solgt (å selge)

The houses are sold.

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Exercise 1: Rewrite the following sentences using the -s or bli passive forms.

  1. Tor kjører den nye bilen.

  2. Isabella fløy flyet over Atlanterhavet.

  3. Ella må gjøre leksene i dag.

  4. Erik skal skrive en unnskyldning.

  5. Jakob vil skrive om museet neste uke.

Exercise 2: Write three pairs of sentences

Each pair must have a sentence using active voice and passive voice.

Ex: Christian kjøpte boka.

Boka ble kjøpt av Christian.