How to think back and regret in Danish

Elena Sokolova, February 3rd 2022

What structures to use when you want to express that you regret you have done something wrong, reprimand yourself or someone, or may reflect on what could have been otherwise, if something had been different. These structures may be useful in your everyday speech, as it’s human to reflect on what you have done. I hope you will not be too hard to yourself while practising these phrases in Danish.


Det regner udenfor, og du har glemt at tage paraplyen med. Nu er du drivvåd og tænker tilbage: Jeg skulle have taget min paraply med. = It is raining outside, and you have forgotten to take your umbrella with you. Now you are soaking wet, and think back about what you should have done. I should have taken my umbrella with me.

Jeg skulle (ikke) have gjort det

Normally you use skulle + (ikke/også/aldrig/altid/other adverb + have) + the verb’s short participle (verbets korte participium). The verb have is used as a helping verb to form the past infinitive for most verbs.

NB! If the main meaningful verb expresses a one time movement e.g. komme, gå, rejse, flytte, køre, cykle, løbe, flyve or change of state e.g. begynde, starte, blive, vågne, stoppe, you need to use være as a helping verb before the participle (the verb’s 3rd form).

Jeg kom for sent på arbejde i dag. Jeg skulle være gået tidligere hjemmefra i dag (at gå = bevægelse).= I came late to work today. I should have left earlier from home.

Jeg dumpede køreprøven og tænker: jeg skulle ikke være startet at læse til eksamen dagen før. (at starte - change of state). = I failed the driving exam and think back: I should not have started studying for the exam the day before.

Regretting sentences may be positive or negative with ‘ikke’ or without it.

Jeg er dødtræt. Jeg skulle ikke have arbejdet så meget. = I am deadly tired. I should not have worked so much.

Nej, hvor jeg fryser! Jeg skulle have taget min vinterjakke på. = It’s cold! I should have taken my winter jacket on.

Hold da op! Vi kommer for sent! Vi skulle være taget tidligere af sted. = Come on, we are late! We should have left earlier from home.

Jeg havde tusind fejl i min opgave. Jeg skulle have gennemlæst den flere gange. = I had a thousand mistakes in my assignement. I should have checked it several times.

Four other patterns other ways to regret

You can also express wishes about something that can’t be changed, since it’s too late, or your regrets using the following constructions with førdatid (=Past Perfect). Adverbs would come just like in the subclause before the first verb in part with Hvis bare/Bare

Pattern 1: Hvis bare jeg + førdatid => Hvis bare jeg havde gjort noget =>


Hvis bare jeg ikke havde droppet dansetimer, ville jeg have været bedre til at danse tango. = If only I had not dropped my dansing classes, I would have been better now to danse tango. (Now it is too late).

Pattern 2: Bare jeg (ikke) + førdatid => Bare jeg (ikke) + havde gjort noget


Bare jeg ikke havde skældt ham ud, (så) ville han ikke have sagt, at han ville skilles med mig. = If i had not shouted at him, then he would not have said, that he wanted to get divorce.

Pattern 3: Jeg ville ønske, jeg (ikke) + førdatid => Jeg ville ønske, jeg (ikke) havde gjort noget=>


Jeg ville ønske, (at) jeg ikke havde glemt min adgangskode. = I wish, (that) I had not have forgotten my password.

Pattern 4: Gid jeg (ikke) + førdatid => Gid jeg (ikke) havde gjort noget =>


Gid (=I wish) jeg ikke var kommet for sent til jobsamtalen, så ville jeg have fået jobbet. = I wish, I had not come late for the job interview, then I would have receiceved the job offer.

Gid jeg havde besøgt ham tidligere = I wish, I had visited him earlier.

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