Last modified on 2 April 2012, at 04:23

Icelandic/Grammar/Nouns

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Nouns

Nouns are words that describe a person, place, thing, or idea.

For example:

  • Sarah ran away.
  • Reykjavík is beautiful.
  • Cars pollute, but are essential.
  • When you are sad, think of good memories.

In Icelandic, these take on endings and inflections like verbs and personal pronouns do in English.

GenderEdit

In Icelandic, like most other languages, nouns have a gender. A noun can be either masculine, feminine, or neutral. Gender rarely has anything to do with actual gender, with such a case being words for male or female people, animals, etc. The gender of nouns can usually be determined by the ending it has (or does not have). This is not a guaranteed rule, however it proves true many times. Memorization is the only way to really know the gender of a noun.

Typical Noun Gender EndingsEdit

Gender Masculine Feminine Neutral
Endings
-ur, -i, -ll, or -nn
-a, -ing, -un, or has no ending
Has no ending, or final vowel is accented
Examples
hestur, lampi, stöll, steinn
taska, spurning, byrjun, rós
hótel, bakarí
Meanings
horse, lamp, stool, stone
bag, question, beginning, rose
hotel, bakery

Definite vs. Indefinite ArticleEdit

There is no indefinite article in Icelandic. What would be "a" or "an" in English is "built into" Icelandic nouns, so to speak. Hestur translates to a horse, for example. The definite article can be formed in two ways in Icelandic, either by adding an ending to a noun or using a definite article before it.

Definite Article EndingsEdit

Masculine Feminine Neutral
-(i)nn
-(i)n
-(i)ð

These are added to the end of a noun of the corresponding gender. With the previous example of hestur', saying "the horse" would be hesturinn. If the noun ends in a vowel that is not accented, the i is dropped from the ending before being added. As an example, herbergi (a room) becomes herbergið with the indefinite ending. Bakarí would become bakaríið, because the final vowel is accented.

If using a definite article before the adjective, the definite article is formed by adding the appropriate ending to the letter h (i.e. hinn, hin, and hið).

Adjective PlacementEdit

With a Definite ArticleEdit

Just the same as in English, adjectives come after the definite article and before the noun.

Hið góða bakarí er í Reykjavík.
The good bakery is in Reykjavík.

With a Definite EndingEdit

If an ending has been used to form the definite then the adjectives come after the noun and the noun usually begins the sentence.

Góði dagurinn er búinn.
The good day is over.

Although this section is about nouns, notice the difference in spelling of góða and góði. Both mean the same thing, but adjectives must also be in the correct form according to the gender of the noun.