Small Danish words (Part 1) – Jo, Ikke, Nok

The small Danish words give us nightmares every time we hear, or see them. Using them in the correct way takes, you one-step closer to expressing yourself as a native.

The small Danish words

The small Danish words give us nightmares every time we hear, or read them. Theoretically, they don’t have any particular role when you build a sentence. Your sentences can do perfectly well without using them. But as you might have noticed, the Danish language is a language of nuances. This is where these words start playing an important role. Using them in the correct way takes, you one-step closer to expressing yourself as a native. This is no easy task. It takes patience and hard work, but at the end of the day it’s all worth it if you want to 'sound more Danish'.

tenor (2)


You can use this word in three different ways:

1. To answer affirmative to a question that contains a negation.

Are you confused already? Well, who can blame you? It doesn’t make too much sense. Just think of it this way: a negation is not always something negative, it just contains ‘IKKE’. In this case, instead of answering ‘ja’, you will say ‘jo’.

Skal du IKKE spise morgenmad? (Aren’t you eating breakfast?)

Jo/Jo, det skal jeg lige om lidt (Yes/Yes, I will in a bit)

2. To express that what you are communicating is/should be obvious.

It would be the equivalent of the English - ‘as you know’. In Danish it's used all the time. Just to make it even more complicated, remember that, ‘jo’  can be placed both before the verb (in a secondary sentence), or after (in a main sentence).

Hvor skal du hen? (Where are you going?)

Jeg skal jo på arbejde. (I am going to work, as you know.)

Hvor har du været? (Where have you been?)

Jeg har jo været på arbejde. ( I have, as you know, been at work)

Jeg kommer ikke i morgen, fordi jeg skal jo til test. (I am not coming tomorrow, because I, as you know, am having a test .)

3. In constructions similar to ‘the more, the better’.

Good to know when you want to express a causal relation between two situations. Forget about the two meanings, we have discussed so far. In these constructions 'jo' doesn’t have a meaning of its own.

Jo mere du drikker, jo fuldere bliver du (The more you drink, the drunker you get.)



1.This one you know already. Use 'ikke' to negate something.

Jeg har ikke været i skole i dag. (I wasn’t at school today.)

2. It means ‘right?’, ‘isn’t it?’ Use it when you want to get a confirmation about something. You can use ‘ikke’ with this meaning only in questions.

Yes, that’s right in this case you will say ‘jo’ if you want to reply ‘ja’ to this kind of question.

Han er på vej, ikke? (He is on the way, isn’t he?)

giphy (1)


This word has probably given you so much trouble, that you have just quit using it. As a bonus you can use it in three different ways.

1. It’s similar to 'probably' or 'maybe'. Use it to express a level of certainty of around 70%.

Hvor er det en dejlig dag i dag. Det skal nok blive varmere. (What a wonderful day. It will probably get warmer).

2. Use it when you want to emphasize a promise 

Husk at købe mælk! (Remeber to buy milk)

Det skal jeg nok. (I will, I promise)

3. It means 'enough'.

Det var godt nok for mig. (It was a good enough for me)


Want to learn more Danish?

Back to you

Are you having a headache already? :)) What other small Danish words give you nightmares? Sharing is caring! 😉

Special thanks to Kirsten Ø. og Tanja E. for helping out with this blog ♥ 


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  • Vicky

    Thank you for this post, it’s super helpful to have these words and their different uses explained! ????

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