The past participle in Danish – when verbs function as adjectives for a plural subject

In Danish, it can at times cause quite a headache to figure out how to correctly conjugate the verb in a sentence when it modifies the subject.

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There are two options: -t or -ede:

  • Universitetets låse blev udskiftet eller udskiftede.
  • Universitetets vinduer er snavset eller snavsede.

Which is correct? Well, you’ll need to figure out whether you’re dealing with an action or a state. An action takes the -t form, while a state requires the -ede form.

There are two easy rules of thumb if you find it difficult to distinguish between them:

  • An action can reveal itself if you add ‘blevet’ or ‘af’ in the sentence: ’Universitetets låse blev udskiftet (af Jan og Ole)’.
  • A state can be identified by adding a modifier (’meget’, ’temmelig’, ’ret’, etc.) in front of the past participle: ’Universitetets vinduer er (utroligt) snavsede’.

In some cases, when it proves difficult to decide whether it’s an action or a state, you may use both forms; the -t form, however, is often preferred in such cases.