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Lesson 13 - On the Phone
What is it?

The Formal Subject (Temporary Subject) is the use of the word there and it as a temporary subject in a phrase. Consider the following phrase: there is a book on the table. The book is the actual subject but there is the temorary one.

In Danish we have two words for the formal subject: der and det. The example above is in Danish der er en bog på bordet. But when do we use der and when do we use det?

The Rules
Rule of thumb

der () there general truth

det () it personal opinion/view

Der er en bog på bordetThere is a book on the table
Der er travlt i dagIt is busy today
Der er dejligt på landetIt is lovely in the country
Der er koldt udenforIt is cold outside
Det er en dejlig dag i dagIt is a lovely day today
Det er lækkert at vi kan svømme i havetIt's lovely we can swim in the sea
Det er sjovt så mange mennesker her er i dagIt's funny so many people are here today
Det er mærkeligt, ikke?It's weird, isn't it?

In the examples for 'det' you can add Jeg synes at.. (I think that/In my opinion) at the front of the sentence because det expresses your view.

Ocasionally, you can use both words. You can swap der with det: (jeg synes, at) det er dejligt på landet is just as correct as the example above der er dejligt på landet. The latter indicates a general fact! Everybody thinks it's lovely in the country side(!)

There are, however, many times you cannot easily swap the two words. Taking first example in the table; if you say det er en bog på bordet you suddenly express an opinion as though there was suddenly a doubt that it is a book that is on the table. This is very unlikely to happen which is why this structure can seldomly be used.

Swapping det for der proves more difficult. As the 'det' phrases indicate opnion and view, it will be grammatically incorrect to use der.