Home Europe Denmark Danish Basic Phrases: 60 Essential Words to Learn

Danish Basic Phrases: 60 Essential Words to Learn

Planning a trip to Denmark? Danish basic phrases are useful to get under your belt. Arriving prepared with some essential words means you’ll be able to communicate, navigate, and organize your trip easier.

Nordic countries are known for their many bilingual speakers, and English is spoken widely across Denmark. But, whether you face language barriers or not, learning basic phrases for the country you are visiting is respectful practice. Plus, learning Danish is a valuable skill! Language learning improves memory, problem-solving, communication, and creative capacity.

There is no better way to immerse yourself in Denmark’s culture than through language. And, even if you only remember a few words, you open yourself up to more meaningful interactions with the people you meet. A linguistic effort is always appreciated. To help you get started, we’ve compiled all the best Danish basic phrases.

What language is spoken in Denmark?

Danish flag.
Danish flag by Unsplash.

Denmark’s official is the Northern Germanic language, Danish.

Danish is spoken by over five million people in Denmark and also has speakers in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.

While Danish is an East Scandinavian language, it began evolving into a language in its own right back in AD 1000. There are some similarities between Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish – a Norwegian-speaking individual could even hold a conversation with a Danish-speaking individual. However, the three are separate languages with their own rules, pronunciations, and idioms.  

The basics of pronouncing Danish words

A woman taught by a man.
A woman learning by Unsplash.

At first glance, English speakers might think the Danish alphabet is the same. While there are many overlaps, especially in written Danish, there are variations and different pronunciations per letter. Plus, while English has 26 letters in its alphabet, Danish has 29. Apart from the 26 same letters, you’ll notice æ, ø, and å at the end of the Danish alphabet.

To help you verbalize these letters it is best to revise pronunciation – many aren’t pronounced the way you’d expect! You can see the most commonly confused letter pronunciations in the table below:

 åÆØZWJC
Danish pronunciationoayirsvyk

While many letters are pronounced the same as English (like a, b, g, and k), you can see many letters above that could surprise you! You’ll be well-prepared to avoid any confusion with a little revision beforehand.

The most common and important phrases in Danish

Children whispering and giggling.
A girl whispering by Unsplash.

Since English is quite a strong backup language while traveling, we suggest focusing on learning Danish greetings first. These are easier to remember and regularly practice but also demonstrate immediate effort and respect.

These are a few of the most useful Danish basic phrases to greet someone with:

–         Hej (high): Hello and goodbye. You can also use hej hej – which is extra fun to say.

–         Goddag (gu day): Good day.

–         God morgen (gor morn): Good morning.

–         Godnat (gu neht): Good night.

After you’ve learned Danish greetings, these phrases will be useful to add to your vocabulary.

–         Ja (yeah): Yes.

–         Nej (nigh): No.

–         Tak (tahk): Thank you.

–         Undskyld (oonskool): Excuse me.

–         Det var så lidt (de war sa lid): You’re welcome.

–         Jeg hedder (yie heathar): My name is…

–         Hvor er (vor air deh): Where is…

–         Hvordan har du det (vor dahn hah du deh): How are you?

–         Godt, tak (godt tahk): Good, thanks.

–         Taler du engelsk (tayler doo engelsk)Do you speak English?

Best Danish phrases to sound like a local

A group of girls laughing and drinking.
Friends drinking by Unsplash.

Speaking like a local is a common aim and epitome of success when learning a new language. Luckily, once you’ve nailed a few of these idioms and slang words, you’ll feel well on your way.

There is always a difference between a textbook and a spoken version of a language. So, get ahead of the game and begin practicing slang before arriving in Denmark – limiting the local phrases you have to learn while traveling.

This stage of learning Danish should be fun, too, as there are some crazy phrases in the language that should give you a laugh.

–         At gå agurk (at go agwurk): To go cucumbers! This phrase might sound strange, but it is actually very similar to the English term going bananas.

–         Ugler i mosen (oogler e mosen): ‘There are owls in the bog’ means that something is suspicious or wrong.

–         Det blæser en halv pelican (de blayser en halv pelican): ‘It blows half a pelican’ means it is very windy and is often used as an exclamation. 

–         Det er ingen ko på isen (de air ing ko po isen): ‘There is no cow on the ice’ is a phrase meaning no problem.

–         Klap lige hasten (klap lee hesten): ‘Pat the horse’ is used as a phrase to tell someone to relax.

–         Syg (syg): Like sick is used to exclaim that something is good or cool in English, ‘syg’ is the equivalent in Danish.

–         Hvad så (vad so): What’s up? This slang phrase is used as a greeting.

–         Sejt (sackt): Cool! Instead of using sick, you could use cool to emphasize your enthusiasm and admiration of a person, situation, activity, or place.

Best Danish phrases to help you get around, travel, and sightsee

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Wanting to take a practical approach to learn Danish words? Learning basic Danish phrases to help you get around, travel, and go sightseeing is a great idea. We’ve found plenty for you to learn or make a note of before you travel to Denmark.

These phrases are most useful when asking for directions:

–         Hvor er (vor air deh): Where is…

–         Venstre (benstra): Left

–         Højre (hoy-ra): Right

–         Op: Up

–         Ned: Down

–         Øst (ust): East

–         Vest (west): West

–         Nord (no-ah): North

–         Syd (sue): South

–         Udenfor/idenfor: Outside/inside

–         Overfor: Opposite

–         Mod: Toward

–         Lige ud (lee u): Straight ahead

These phrases are the most useful when navigating transport:

–         Bus (boos): Bus

–         Tog (toe): Train

–         Fly (flu): Plane

–         Bil (beel): Car

–         Sporvogn (spor-von): Tram

–         Banegård (bane-o-go): Train station 

–         Lufthavn (lufthown): Airport

–         Billet (beel-et): Ticket

–         Perron: Platform

–         At stemple (et stempler): To validate

Best Danish phrases for food

Danish pastries.
Danish pastries by Unsplash.

Food in Denmark is delicious! Make sure to sample lots of Danish pastries, hot dogs, and oysters – freshly harvested along Denmark’s coast.

Those with dietary requirements should find plenty of options and alternatives. Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets are all easily catered to. However, it is also worth learning the Danish translation for your requirements to avoid confusion.

Here are a common few translations:

–         Vegetarisk (vaygar tar isk): Vegetarian 

–         Vegansk (vegain-sk): Vegan

–         Pescatarian: Pescatarian

–         Mælke intolerant (milke intolerant): Dairy intolerant 

–         Gluten intolerant: Gluten intolerant

Of course, it is useful to learn the meals of the day. We’ve listed the meal names alongside their pronunciations below:

–         Morgenmad (morn mell): Breakfast

–         Mellemmåltid (mellem maltwo)Snack

–         Frokost (fro kust): Lunch

–         Eftermiddagste (efter mid-e ste): Afternoon tea

–         Middag (mee da): Dinner

–         Dessert (de-sssert): Dessert

While for ordering in a restaurant, here are some helpful Danish basic phrases:

–         Jeg ville gerne bastille morgenmad (Yie vill gairn best eel morn mell): I’d like to order breakfast

–         Jeg ville gerne bastille middag (Yie vill garin best eel mee da): I’d like to order dinner

–         Kan jeg have (kai yah ha): Can I please have

–         Kan jeh få regningen tak (kai yah foe rye ning e tak): Can I have the bill please

Other great Danish language resources

Language learning app.
Language learning app by Unsplash.

Feeling prepared? Or perhaps you want a little extra help learning some Danish before your trip.

If you would like some more help, congratulations! Practice makes perfect, and consistently seeking new resources and information is the best way to improve with languages. Well done on taking the next step.

To help you on your way, we can recommend some additional helpful language resources to improve your Danish.

Duolingo

Duolingo is a great way to learn Danish for those who enjoy learning kinetically and through games. You can download the Duolingo app on your phone and access free sessions from anywhere in the world. The best thing about Duolingo is that you can learn Danish on the bus, in bed, or even while waiting at the airport.

Moving up through the levels and unlocking outfits for your digital character is fun and disguises learning as a game. Plus, you get regular notifications to help remind you to keep your language ‘streak’.

Google Translate

When learning a new language, you are often struck by moments of wondering what the translation is for random words. Whether you are suddenly curious about the word sofa, basketball, or even a more practical term like bus timetable, Google Translate is good for immediate answers.

However, make sure to download Danish as a language in the Google Translate app. Otherwise, you won’t be able to translate and check words when not connected to wi-fi. It is free and well worth the storage space.

Babbel

Like Duolingo, Babbel is an app that uses a game format to encourage language learners.

However, unlike Duolingo, users also have access to live lessons and podcasts. Babbel does charge a subscription fee, starting at $16.99 a month but reducing if you purchase a package with more months. For example, you can purchase a 12-month subscription for $7.83.

If you want to invest in learning Danish, Babbel has more resources, so it is a good app to purchase. It has more live learning opportunities than self-guided progress like Duolingo, so some may find it easier to stay motivated.

Good luck with your Danish language learning! We hope we’ve given you a taster of how interesting Danish can be and wish you all the best on your travels.