The adjectives in Icelandic inflect for a fair amount of things; all four cases, all three genders, all two numbers and for definiteness. Adjectives have comparatives and superlatives and some of them also have special adverbial forms. Some irregular adjectives have suppletion in compared forms. Some adjectives may lack one compared form or two, or might only be used in one of the numbers.
Let us look at the singular and plural nominative, indefinite forms of a regular adjective in each gender. As the adjectives are not inflected for person, only third person pronouns will be used, but as they do inflect for gender, all third person nominatives will be used. The copula will also be used for these examples, to form proper sentences.
Adjectives are usually cited in the masculine singular indefinite positive nominative form, which tends to, but must not always, end in -ur
. Note that this -u- does not cause umlaut, for the suffix was simply -r
in Old Norse. The corresponding feminine singular form, however, is suffixless, but inherently has the umlaut, and the accusative and nominative forms of the corresponding neuter plural is always the same as the corresponding feminine nominative, thus also exhibiting this feature.
Examples of that will be given, but let us first look at gul-ur
, meaning 'yellow', that is regular and has no -a- that can be umlauted. Only the adjective will be glossed.Nominative, indefinite, positive singular and plural of all genders: hann er gul-ur
- he is yellow
) hún er gul-Ø
- she is yellow
) það er gul-t
- it is yellow
) þeir eru gul-ir
- they are yellow
) þær eru gul-ar
- they are yellow
) þau eru gul-Ø
- they are yellow
The forms marked in green thus always correspond to each other, and will umlaut if the final root vowel is -a-. Let us look at an example of that; the word lang-ur
.Nominative, indefinite, positive singular and plural of all genders: hann er lang-ur
- he is long
) hún er löng-Ø
- she is long
) það er lang-t
- it is long
) þeir eru lang-ir
- they are long
) þær eru lang-ar
- they are long
) þau eru löng-Ø
- they are long
Talking to and about people and oneself, the gender will correspond to that of the referent. I, as a male, would refer to myself as langur
, while my sister would call herself löng
, and the opposite would be true if we were to address each other; she would call me langur
and I would call her löng
, despite the fact that we use the same pronouns to refer to ourselves and one another (ég
); the first and second person pronouns are genderless, but the adjectives are not.
When it comes to using the indeed tendered third person pronouns, the same thing applies. If I were to talk about
my sister, I would once again refer to her as löng
, and I would use the feminine pronoun hún
. She, referring back to me, would again call me langur
, and use the masculine pronoun hann
. In the singular, the neuter forms are also considered inanimate (with the exception of referring back to neuter nouns denoting people or creatures, such as the neuter noun barn
'child') and would not be used about people.
In the plural, groups of masculine entities would be referred to as langir
, feminine ones as langar
and groups of mixed gender or neuter entities as löng
(without the connotation of inanimacy from the singular), respectively. In the third person, for the masculines, the pronoun þeir
would be used, and for the feminines þær
, and for the neuters þau
The singular neuter suffix -t
may be a little trickier than the other ones, for depending on the final sound if the root, it may do something with the root. Roots ending in -ð
after a vowel will drop this and replace it with -tt
. If it is any of these, or -d
after a consonant (-dd
do not occur after consonants, though), they (but not the preceding consonant) will be dropped in favour of a simple -t
after that consonant. rauð-ur
- red hrædd-ur
- afraid hvít-ur
- white breytt-ur
- modified harð-ur
- hard kald-ur
- cold svart-ur
Adjectives generally precede nouns, and there is no difference between attributive usage and usage with the copula to connect things.
The nouns in Icelandic inherently have any of the three genders. Aside from the fact that naturally masculine or feminine entities such as men and women do tend to belong to their corresponding grammatical genders, there is really nothing to predict the gender of any given noun, and it has to be learned along with the word in question.
However, words ending in -ur
tend to (but do not have to) be masculine, as do words ending in -ll
(especially if they are not monosyllabic) and more than bisyllabic words ending in -ari
and a lot of words ending in -I
, but there is no guarantee that any words ending in these must necessarily be masculine. Note also that this only holds true for the indefinite singular nominative forms of the nouns, which is the citation form.
Feminines often end in -a
but often also in anything, really, as is also the case for neuters. Feminines ending in nothing will generally have the inherent umlaut of the corresponding adjectives, if their underlying form is really with -a- in the root, and so a feminine word such as höfn-Ø
'haven'; 'harbour') will actually reveal it's true root hafn-
in some of its inflected forms. The correspondence to neuter plurals holds true, and the nominative plural of barn
is thus regularly and according to expectation börn-Ø
For now, we will learn only the nominative forms of the singular, but we will learn both the indefinite and the definite forms. While English uses the definite article the
as a separate word in front of its nouns, Icelandic uses a suffix that is simply tacked to the already inflected form (it does not replace the indefinite case suffix; it just adds on to it, and for some forms that may indeed cause some reduplication in the suffixation of a definite noun).
To begin with, the common classes of masculines ending with nominative -ur
(causes no umlaut, for the same reason as the corresponding adjective suffix) and feminines (tends to have inherent umlaut, for the same reason as the corresponding adjective ending) and neuters ending in nothing will be demonstrated. The corresponding definite articles are masculine -inn
, feminine -in
and neuter -ið
, respectively.7.1. Masculine nouns
For now, we will stick to one declension for each gender, and the masculine one that we will look at first will be the only one with a nominative suffix to begin with. This suffix is -ur
and is very common for masculine nouns. It does not cause umlaut, as it used to be simply -r
in Old Norse. hest-ur
As Icelandic has no indefinite article, this translates to 'a horse' as well. Let us apply the definite article, which is just slapped on after the case ending. hest-ur-inn
- the horse
Easy as that.7.2. Feminine nouns
Feminine nouns of the first declension with no ending can be interesting. They like being a little irregular or contain umlauting a lot of the time, and one may want to be a little extra cautious about them. Let us start with a regular one with no umlaut, though. rós-Ø
- the rose
For an umlaut, let us again look at höfn
. We may consider this word to really be hafn
, with the nominative form *hafn-Ø
actually coming out as höfn-Ø
due to the umlaut that is mirrored in the adjectives, which explains why the word reverts back to the -a- in some of the inflected forms (none of those will be shown right now, though).
*hafn-Ø > höfn-Ø
*hafn-Ø-in > höfn-Ø-in
- the haven
)7.3. Neuter nouns
Null nominative suffix here too, but a different definite ending. The umlaut only happens in the plural, which we will not look at right now. hús-Ø
- the house
As the following example will show, there is thus no umlaut in the singular of a neuter. barn-Ø
- the child
Three new useful words that work more or less like in English. og
- and en
) / and
Here we go again. Try to translate the sentences. ekki
(usage details will be given another time) glað-ur
1. Is it modified or not?
2. No. It is not modified. It is always red!
3. The horse is black and the rose is white, but the house is yellow.
4. The horse jumps.
5. A horse jumps.
6. A black horse jumps.
7. Is the house white or not? Is it red?
8. He is a happy boy, she is a happy lady and it is a happy child.
This has not been explained yet, but from the clues given, can you guess the correct way to say the following?
11. The houses.
12. The children.
13. Yellow houses.
14. Happy children.