Pitfalls for Danes

Common vocabulary pitfalls   Adjectives vs adverbs   -ing forms (present participles)

Common vocabulary pitfalls

The list is arranged alphabetically in Danish. You can either look up particular words or phrases that are causing you trouble (ctr + F), or you can browse alphabetically. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the list by reading through it. You’re bound to find pits you’ve fallen into already without even knowing it. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the contents of the list, you can return to it to refresh your memory as needed.

Danish expression

Pitfall/false friend

Correct translation




activity type


type of activity




(e.g. the actual situation)

current, present

(e.g. the current situation)






Avoid Danicisms such as ‘Already Napoleon believed in European unity’. Instead write ‘Napoleon believed in European unity a long time ago’ or something similar.


ansætte; ansættelse


appoint/employ; appointment/employment


There’s a difference between these two: 'appointment' refers to the moment at which you are appointed, while 'employment' refers to the state of being employed.

(e.g. ‘I was appointed on 2 October, and my employment lasts until 3 March’)


Ansøgninger skal godkendes af studienævnet


Applications must be approved by the board of studies


Applications are subject to the approval of the board of studies




assessment form


form of assessment


betragte som


consider as


regard as/consider to be

(e.g. ‘This group can be regarded as/considered to be underprivileged’)


bidrage med


contribute with



(e.g. ‘The researchers contributed their ideas to the conference’)




external/internal co-examiner

den enkelte

(f.eks. 'den enkelte studerende')

the individual student

the student in question



Det afhænger af mange ting.

That depends of many things.

That depends on many things.


Det bruges i stadig flere uddannelser.

It is used in still more degree programmes.

It is used in an increasing number of degree programmes.



det enkelte uddannelseselement


the individual subject element


the degree (programme) element in question


Det er godt med frugtbart samarbejde.

It is good with fruitful cooperation.

Fruitful cooperation is a good thing.



Det hjælper på det.

It’s helping.

Things are getting better.








(‘exemption’ can also mean fritagelse)




efficient (high output in relation to input)

effective (having an effect)




(e.g. 'De studerende skal tage ansvar for egen læring'





their own

 ( ‘Students must take responsibility for their own learning')



exam form

form of examination



exam language

language of examination



exam duration

duration of examination


Emnet skal godkendes af vejlederen.

The topic must be approved by the supervisor.

The topic is subject to the approval of the supervisor.


en større konference

a larger conference

a major conference



erfaring med


experience with


experience of

(e.g. ‘Stalin already had some experience of the problem’)


et halvt år

half a year

six months






forskellige ideer

different ideas

different ideas (in relation to a group of other ideas, anderledes)

various ideas (different in relation to each other)


fremmed universitet

a foreign university

a university outside Denmark, a university abroad


halvandet år

one and a half year

one and a half years, eighteen months


Har du kommentarer til min artikel?

Have you got any comments to my article?

Have you got any comments on my article?




historical (to do with history)

historic (memorable)





house (a single-family home)


i begyndelsen af det 21. århundrede

in the beginning of the 21st century

at the beginning of the 21st century


i disse år

in these years

at the current time


i mine øjne

in my eyes

in my view


invitere til

invite to


(e.g. ‘The idea invites discussion of the whole concept’)


Jeg er vant til at høre de argumenter.

I am used to hear those arguments.

I am used to hearing those arguments.


Jeg oplever, at …

I experience that …

I feel that …




Use ‘candidate’ for people applying for a job, but ‘graduate’ for people who have completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.




classical (music, for instance)

classic (one of a kind)

You could have a ‘classic’ Rolling Stones concert, but they would be extremely unlikely to play classical music.


kommentarer til

comments to

comments on

(e.g. ‘Have you got any comments on my article?’)




Rephrase: ‘To base a debate on firmer foundations’, for instance


kvalificeret dialog

qualified dialogue

dialogue on a highly qualified basis (this is because ‘qualified’ can also mean med forbehold)




minor (when no actual comparison is involved - 

e.g. ‘I have a few minor amendments to make’)




Just use a colon instead of 'namely'.


noter til artiklen

notes to the article

notes on the article




in a suitably varied/detailed fashion (e.g. ‘to express yourself in suitably varied/detailed fashion’)


Nu hjælper det!

Now it’s helping!

Things are getting better!


på den ene/anden side

on the one/other side

on the one/other hand





(e.g. ‘to achieve your goals’). ‘Realise’ can be problematic, because you could ‘realise’ that you had made a mistake, for instance. However, note the correct use of ‘realise’ in ‘to realise your assets’.


risikere at

risk to

risk + -ing (e.g. ‘If we do that, we risk running into further problems’)




sammenlignet med



compared with



compared with (to underline a difference)

compared to (to underline a similarity)


selv om

even if/even though

‘Even if he comes I won’t be happy’ (He might or might not come, but I won’t be happy whatever happens.)

‘Even though he came I was not happy’ (He came, but I still wasn’t happy.)




autonomous/independent study


stadig flere

still more

an increasing number of

(e.g. ‘This is used in an increasing number of degree programmes’)




 Note the following examples:

‘I am tired of my studies’ (I'm tired of studying in generall)

‘I am tired of my degree programme’ (specifically)



major (when no actual comparison is involved). Avoid the use of the Danish ‘false comparative’.


synlig tilstedeværelse

a visible presence

a high profile. Avoid using ‘visible’ in a metaphorical sense. It can be used in a literal sense though (e.g. ‘The police had a visible presence in Christiania’)



point of views

points of view






Sådan ser min forskning ud

This is how my research looks

This is what my research looks like


såsom for eksempel

such as for example

such as



allows for

allows, permits


til trods for beviserne

despite of the evidence

in spite of/despite the evidence


tre typer artikler

three types of articles

three types of article

(The same thing applies to ‘kinds of’, ‘categories of’ etc.)




Note the following examples:

‘Education is good for you’ (education as a general concept)

‘I love my degree programme’ (specific reference)

udenlandsk studerende

foreign student

students from outside Denmark, students from abroad, international students




udenlandsk universitet



a foreign university



a university outside Denmark, a university abroad






udmeldte studerende

withdrawn students

Students who have withdrawn from the university. If you need to save space (in a table, for instance), you could just write ‘withdrawals’






Vil du læse din præsentation op?

Will you read your presentation up?

Will you read your presentation aloud?


vise sig at være

show to be

prove to be

(e.g. 'The current situation has proved to be more serious than we first assumed')




economic (if you are talking about nationaløkonomi)

financial (personal finances, the university’s finances)

economical (low consumption of resources, ‘an economical car with low petrol consumption’)



Adjectives vs adverbs

Non-native speakers of English tend to confuse adjectives and adverbs. Both add detail to a sentence by providing additional information about other words.


Adjectives modify (describe) nouns

Correct example A pretty house
Correct example The department produces ground-breaking research.
Correct example Given the international focus of the programme

Adjectives ending in –ly

Some adjectives end in –ly. These cannot be used as adverbs.

Correct example costly, cowardly, deadly, friendly, likely, lively, lonely, lovely, silly, ugly, unlikely (adjectives)
Incorrect example costlily, cowardlily, deadlily…. (non-existent adverbs)

Get around this problem by rephrasing:

Correct example She smiled in a friendly way.
Incorrect example She smiled friendlily.

Correct example He gave a silly laugh.
Incorrect example He laughed sillily.


Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs and sentences. Adverbs are easily recognised because they end in -ly (with a few exceptions). Most adjectives can be turned into adverbs through the addition of the suffix –ly.And generally, if a word answers the question how, it is an adverb.

Examples of adverbs modifying verbs

Correct example She was walking slowly. (How was she walking?)
Correct example The degree is offered internationally.
Incorrect example  She was walking slow.

Examples of adverbs modifying adjectives

Correct example She was really happy. (How happy was she?)
Incorrect example She was real happy.

Correct example Given the increasingly competitive atmosphere of the programme….
Incorrect example Given the increasing competitive atmosphere of the programme….

Examples of adverbs modifying other adverbs

Correct example She spoke very loudly. (How did she speak?)
Incorrect example She spoke real loud.

Correct example The dancer leaped breathtakingly high.
Incorrect example The dancer leaped breathtaking high.

Examples of adverbs modifying sentences

Correct example Surprisingly, Stalin failed to annex Belgium before finishing his vodka.
Incorrect example Surprising, Stalin failed to annex Belgium before finishing his vodka.

Adverbs and adjectives that have the same form

Some adjectives and adverbs have the same form: for example, a fast car goes fast – or, if you do hard work, you work hard.

Correct example A fast car… (adjective)
Correct example The car goes fast. (adverb)

Correct example This is hard work. (adjective)
Correct example You work too hard. (adverb)

For more help with adverbs and adjectives, please consult Swan’s Practical English Usage (sections 12-19 and 20-25).

-ing forms (present participles)

-ing forms of verbs can be used as nouns, in which case they are called gerunds. They can also be used as adjectives, in which case they are called participles. Participles are particularly challenging for non-native speakers of English.

Of course, gerunds can be problematic in their own way. To find out more, see the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab article on gerunds, participles and infinitives

What is a participial -ing form?

An -ing form of a verb that is used as an adjective (Past participles ending in -ed, -en, -d, -t, -n or -ne can also be used as modifiers, but that’s another story.). 

Being verbal forms, participles express action or a state of being. But grammatically they function as adjectives:

Correct example the burning platform
Correct example the purring cat
Correct example the continuing process

Participial phrases

You can use participles to construct more or less complex participial clauses that modify nouns.

Correct example  Removing his coat, Nick returned to his seat.
Correct example  Arriving at the restaurant, I found that it was closed.
Correct example  Carrying a heavy bag of groceries, he caught his foot on a step and tripped.

Punctuating participial phrases

  • Set off the participial clause with commas.
  • Place the participial clause close to the noun it modifies. Otherwise you may end up saying something pretty silly…

Incorrect example I smelled the cinnamon buns coming down the stairs for dinner.
    (Here your reader imagines walking pastry…the participial phrase appears to modify 'cinnamon buns', the closest noun.)
Correct example Coming down the stairs for dinner, I smelled the cinnamon buns.
    (The participial phrase modifies 'I', which makes sense.)

In other words, avoid dangling modifiers (i.e. participles and participial phrases that describe an action that has no doer).
This means that you must make sure that your participial phrase has a clearly identifiable noun close by to modify. Your modifier will dangle if the noun it modifies appears in an earlier sentence or doesn’t appear at all – which will confuse your reader.

Correct example After reading the original study, I find the article unconvincing.
    (‘After reading the original study’ modifies ‘I’)
Incorrect example After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing.
    (Who read the study?)

Correct example I was late for work again. Running for the bus, I dropped my briefcase in a puddle.
    (‘Running for the bus’ modifies ‘I’)
Incorrect example I was late for work again. Running for the bus, my briefcase fell in a puddle.
    (Was the briefcase running for the bus?)

For more help on dangling modifiers, see