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Danish word of the day: Trivsel

A word that expresses a feeling of well-being.

What is trivsel? 

Trivsel is a noun which is difficult to pin to a direct English translation. It comes from the verb at trives, which is a little easier, meaning “to thrive”.

At trives is used in a broader range of situations than “thrive”, however. You can say han trives til fodbold (“he’s thriving at football practice”), but also han trives i sin nye skole.

This latter sentence literally means “he’s thriving at his new school” but doesn’t exactly mean “thriving” in the way you’d understand the word in English. As well as growing physically or mentally, trives can also mean to find yourself in a generally good situation, to feel at home in your surroundings or to be comfortable and able to develop in the work or school situation you are in.

So han trives i skolen doesn’t necessarily mean “he’s getting good marks and learning a lot at school”, although this may also be the case. Instead, it can mean something closer to “he likes his school and is happy to go there”.

Why do I need to know trivsel?

As the noun form of at trives, trivsel is normally used to describe the level of well-being of someone in a particular context. It’s common to hear it used about children and young people, but it’s not limited to that particular topic.

You might have read a sentence such as det er afgørende for børns trivsel, at man kan komme i skole og være sammen med klassekammerater (”it’s crucial for the well-being of children that they can come into school and see their classmates”) during the Covid-19 pandemic, when there was discussion about the impact of lockdowns on young people’s development and mental health.

The opposite of trivsel is mistrivsel. This is even harder to translate unless you just think of it as being an opposite. “Lack of well-being” or a “well-being deficit” loosely convey its meaning, and it can also just mean “feeling bad”.

Man risikerer mistrivsel blandt børn og unge, hvis skolerne bliver ved med at lukket på længere sigt is a negated way of saying the previous example sentence: ”You are at risk of damaging the well-being and development of children and young people if schools remain closed in the longer term”.

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Danish word of the day: Gerne

We’ll gladly explain the meaning of this polite Danish word which can be used many times a day.

Danish word of the day: Gerne

What is gerne? 

Gerne is a very useful Danish word, which can often be literally translated as ‘willingly’ or ‘gladly’, but is used much more often and in more informal contexts than either of those words in English.

Speakers of other languages might spot the similarity with German gern, Swedish gärna and Icelandic gjarna, with all these words sharing a root in the Old Norse word gjarn (‘willing’ or ‘eager’).

Why do I need to know gerne?

Gerne can be used as an adverb in sentences like jeg tager gerne en kop kaffe (literally ‘I’ll happily have a coffee’ but closer to ‘I’m happy to have a coffee/I’d like to have a coffee) or jeg hjælper dig gerne (‘I’m happy to help you’).

You can also use it on its own, in which case it’s a snappier alternative to ‘yes, I’d like that’ or ‘yes please!’: For example, you can reply to the question Vil du med? (‘would you like to come along?’), with gerne!, meaning ‘yes please’ or ‘I’d love to’.

If someone asks Vil du have mælk og sukker? (‘Do you want milk and sugar?’), you can answer gerne mælk, tak (‘milk, please’). 

Gerne can also be used when you’re talking about someone else, such as in the sentence hun snakker gerne om det (‘she doesn’t mind talking about it’) or hun vil gerne med (‘she would like to come along too’).

It’s also possible to use it to mean ‘if you like’, for example tag gerne kontakt (‘feel free to get in touch’ or ‘please get in touch’) or tag gerne børnene med (‘bring your kids if you like’).

In these examples, the use of gerne softens the requests: tag børnene med (‘bring your children’) is a command, while adding gerne emphasizes that the decision is up to the listener. This phrasing is particularly common in situations where the speaker is encouraging someone to do something they may think they aren’t allowed to.

Gerne can also be used when you’re not implying any choice or pleasure linked to the action, but simply implying that something happens readily, easily, or often. This might mean you’re talking about inanimate objects, for example den falder gerne fra hinanden  (‘it falls apart easily’).

You may occasionally hear a waiter or a bartender say så gerne in response to an order, for example Jeg vil gerne bestille to øl (‘I would like to order two beers’) – Så gerne. Here, it means ‘certainly’ or ‘my pleasure’ or a similar nicety you might hear from service staff who are taking an order.

This phrasing is old-fashioned and increasingly rare to hear in modern Denmark. If you watch classic television series Matador, though, you’ll hear the character Boldt say it in almost every episode.