To think, to know, to see

Some verbs in Norwegian have more than one word that can be used, but when to use which word can be difficult. Three examples are “to think,” “to know,” and “to see.”

To Think

In English, “to think” is used in different ways, such as to ponder, to give an opinion on something, and as another way to say “believe.” Norwegian, however, has multiple words that are used in these situations, and when to use them is kind of strict.

Å tenke

  • Used to mean to think; to ponder.

  • It is referring to the mental process of thinking.

Example English

Tenker du på meg ofte?

Do you think of me often?

Tobias tenker på filosofi hver dag.

Tobias thinks about philosophy every day.

Å tro

  • Used when one wants to express belief about something, however there is some uncertainty.

  • If, in English, you can replace “think” with “believe,” then this is the word you need.

Example English

Isabella tror at bursdagen hans er neste uke.

Isabella thinks (believe) his birthday is next week.

Ella trodde at han ville være hjemme allerede.

Ella thought (believed) that he would be home already.

Å synes

  • Used to express an opinion based on experience or feeling. (I’ve experienced it and this is my feeling about it).

  • In English, this form of “think” can sometimes be replaced by “find.”

Example English

Jeg synes at Mads er en fantastisk skuespiller.

I think Mads is a great actor.

(I’ve seen him act and I feel he is good at it).

Hun synes at det er interessant.

She thinks (finds) it is interesting.

Å mene

  • Mener is similar to synes but with a strong conviction.

  • Also used when you are “pretty sure” about something.

  • You know something from memory or have some confidence in what you’re saying though you may not know with a 100% certainty (whereas “tror” would seem like more of a guess).

Example English

Person 1: Hvor mange mennesker bor i Norge?
Person 2: Jeg mener det er litt over 5 millioner.

Person 1: How many people live in Norway?

Person 2: I think there are a little over 5 million.

Jeg mener at filmen vant en Oscar.

I think (am pretty sure) that the film won an Oscar.

To Know

“To know” is another one of those verbs in English that we use in multiple ways. In Norwegian, however, there are different ways to express “to know” depending on the circumstances.

Å kjenne

  • Used when you want to express that you know someone or you are acquainted with someone or something.

  • It can also be used to express that one knows an area or place very well.

Example English

Kjenner du Markus?

Do you know Markus?

Jeg kjenner Markus fra jobb(en).

I know Markus from work.

Victor kjenner boken.

Victor knows of (is familiar with) the book.

Lea kjenner byen godt fordi hun vokste opp der.

Lea knows the city well because she grew up there.

NOTE 1: In English, we have the idiom “To know someplace like the back of your hand.” In Norwegian, there is a similar idiom: “Å kjenne noe som sin egen bukselomme”

NOTE 2: “Å kjenne” is never used with hv- words.

Ex: Jeg kjenner hvor byen er. - WRONG!

Jeg vet hvor byen er. - CORRECT.

I know where the city is.

Å vite

  • Used when one is referring to facts, specifics, or superficial knowledge or wisdom of something.



Vet du når bussen går?

Do you know when the bus goes?

Jeg vet ikke når filmen starter.

I don’t know when the film starts.

Vet du om vi har fri i dag?

Do you know if we have off today?

NOTE: The only direct objects that “å vite” can take are: Det, dette, noe, ingenting, alt, ting.
Ex: Maja vet alt. Tobias vet ingenting.

Maja knows everything. Tobias knows nothing.

Å kunne

  • Used when one wants to express that they know how to speak a language.

  • Also used if someone knows how to do a certain skill.

  • Also used when one knows something by heart; it refers to more thorough, in-depth knowledge of something.



Emilie kan (snakke) norsk.

Emilie can speak Norwegian.

Han kan bussruten.

He knows the bus route (by heart).

NOTE: The verb for “to remember” is “å huske” and “to memorize” is “å lære seg utenat” or “å pugge.”

Verb Example English

Å kunne

Faren min kan tidsplanen (utenat).

My father knows the schedule (by heart).

Å huske

Faren min husket tidsplanen.

My father remembered the schedule.

Å lære seg utenat / Å pugge

Faren min lærte seg tidsplanen utenat.

Faren min pugget tidsplanen.

My father memorized the schedule.

To See

The verbs for “to see” in Norwegian can be used kind of interchangeably but not always.

Å se

  • Used when one is specifically referring to visually observing something.

  • It is not usually used to refer to meeting with someone.



Kan du se den røde bygningen?

Can you see the red building?

Han ser en hund i vinduet.

He sees a dog in the window.

NOTE: “Å se” refers to the passive process of just “seeing” whereas “å se på” refers to the more active process of looking at something or watching something.

Verb Example English

Å se

Hun så bildet i boken.

She saw the picture in the book.

Å se på

Hun så på bildet i boken.

She looked at the picture in the book.

Å møte eller å treffe

  • Both “å møte” and “å treffe” refer to seeing someone, often by chance but not aways.

Example English

Jeg møtte Sofia på butikken i dag.

I met (saw) Sofia at the store today.

Han traff henne på biblioteket.

He met (saw) Emma at the library.

Å snakke med

  • Used when referring to seeing someone and talking with the person. It emphasizes that there was a conversation that took place.

  • Also used to refer to phone conversations.

Example English

Jeg vil gjerne snakke med direktøren.

I want to see / speak to the manager.

Lukas snakket med Mathias på telefonen.

Lukas spoke with Mathias on the telephone.

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Exercise 1: Fill in the blanks. Some have more than one answer (you only need to write one, though). Conjugate the verbs.

  1. Jeg _____ (think) at katter er søte. (I think that cats are cute.)

  2. Thea _____ (think) at filmen begynner kl. 7. (Thea thinks that the film begins at 7.)

  3. Hun _____(know) veien til Oslo. (She knows the way to Oslo.)

  4. Jeg _____ (see) Nora på festen i går kveld og vi snakket litt. (I saw Nora at the party yesterday evening and we talked a little.)

  5. Sofie _____(think) at han har et fint smil. (Sofie thinks that he has a nice smile.)

  6. Oliver _____ (think) på politikken. (Oliver thinks about politics.)

  7. Jeg _____ (know) ikke hvilken bok jeg skal kjøpe. (I don’t know which book I should buy.)

  8. Kan du _____ (see) mannen herfra? (Can you see the man from here?)

  9. Hvordan _____ (know) du faren min? (How do you know my father?)

  10. Tobias skal _____ (see) moren sin i dag. (Tobias is going to see his mother today.)

  11. Har du _____ (see) på Hannibal ennå? (Have you seen Hannibal yet?)

  12. Lukas _____ (know) broren min. (Lukas knows my brother.)

  13. Jeg _____ (think / am pretty sure) at filmen allerede er sluppet ut. (I think / am pretty sure that the film is already released.)

  14. Freja _____ (see) naboen sin i parken, og de bestemte seg for å spise lunsj med hverandre. (Freja saw her neighbor at the park and they decided to eat lunch together.)

  15. Har du _____ (think) å spørre Emma om hjelp? (Have you thought to ask Emma for help?)

  16. Kan jeg _____ (see) legen i dag? (Can I see the doctor today?)

  17. August _____ (know) byen godt (August knows the city well.)

  18. _____ (know) du hvor parken er? (Do you know where the park is?)

  19. Bestemoren min _____ (knows) oppskriften utenat. (My grandmother knows the recipe by heart.)

  20. Victor _____ (thinks / is pretty sure) at restauranten er åpen nå. (Victor thinks / is pretty sure the restaurant is open now.)

  21. Jeg _____ (think) at han har fire hunder. (I think that he has 4 dogs.)

Exercise 2: Write five sentences using verbs from this lesson.