Icelandic: Get/Má

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Simple question, what are the differences and different situations that one would commonly use MÁ instead of GET and vice versa.
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The verb mega is used in situations involving asking/seeking permission.
    The verb geta is used about possibility, ability (i.e. 'I can / am able to...')

    Ég má ekki fara - Someone has forbidden me.
    Ég get ekki farið - It's a decision I have arrived at.

  3. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    So might it be possible to say if asked to do something... ég má gera það, en ég get ekki að því að ég er ekki með bíl... or something?
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Do you have an example of what you mean? It's difficult to determine if it's possible without a context to frame it next to.
  5. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Just trying to compare to the english if one would say something along the lines of "I'd love to but I just can't" or "She (allowed) me to do it but I still (can't)"

    would the two words in brackets then be forms of mega and geta, respectively.
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Again, we don't have a context so it's kinda pointless to just take the phrase and make a judgement about that.
    Let's try one and throw the ball over to the other speakers to see their opinions.

    Let's say there is a group of guy co-workers who like to go bowling on a Tuesday and then one day one of them tells the others his wife has told him he can't go, so they make fun of him for a little while and then one day she says he can go, but he has such more on his plate with his job that he can't take the evening off to go and play. When the guys ask him again, they try to taunt him a little bit to imply he's under the thumb etc. and say:

    Co-worker: .... Máttu ekki koma með?
    Guy: .............Ég gera það, en ég á svo margt að lesa að ég get það ekki.

    I'm not great with dealing with the semantics of different verbs in specific contexts but it seems okay to me.
  7. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Seems fine to me. For an example of the opposite imagine a child has a friend round and they're in the garden. Visitor child asks resident child if he can climb the tree in the garden - the answer is that he can climb the tree, but his mother has forbidden him.

    Barn A: Geturðu klifið þetta tré?
    Barn B: Ég get það alveg, en mamma segir að ég má það ekki.

    The distinction is pretty clear; as Alex explained mega is used for permission, being allowed to do something and geta is for being able to do something, it is possible for you to do something. Just to further complicate matters :)cool:), there's also kunna which means knowing how to do something, having that skill/talent/ability. It can be trickier to avoid mixing up geta and kunna - the distinction between geta and mega is a lot more simple.

    Ég má ekki synda - I am not allowed to swim
    Ég get ekki synt - For some reason, I am unable to swim (although this reason is not that I have not learnt to swim)
    Ég kann ekki að synda - I do not know how to swim

    Edit: An aside - none of these verbs denote anything about wanting to do anything, so I'm not sure where your "I'd love to but I can't" is coming from. They deal solely with the possibility of doing things.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2013
  8. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    It's good practice by the way to include context and specifics for what you are asking about, otherwise your question risks being too broad and difficult to answer - there's no way that anybody could ever give you all the situations where mega and geta would commonly be used. On a related note, it's also better to ask about the infinitives (mega and geta) rather than the first person singular present tense conjugations (má and get), since really you are asking about the whole verb and as a way to avoid potential confusion (að má is a completely different verb, meaning to delete).
  9. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Sorry for multiple answers in a row, keep seeing something else I want to mention. You seem to be confused here about mega - it does not mean to allow, it means to be allowed. If you wanted to say "She allowed me to do it", you'd need a completely different verb (Hún leyfði mér að gera það). "Ég má gera það" means "SOMEONE has allowed ME to do it", commonly expressed in English as "I am allowed to do it".
  10. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    For the first two minutes I was reading it as 'má' and English 'get' and I had no idea what was going on at first until I realised it was from 'geta'.
    So, that is good advice to follow! Also, for searches in the future people usually search by infinitives but this will all come naturally over time. :cool:
  11. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Sincere apologies :p I always type a train of thought, need to structure it a little better. But now I do understand all.

    One thing just out of curiosity (as i've seen it happen only once or twice;

    Barn B: Ég get það alveg, en mamma segir að ég má það ekki.

    Why is it má það ekki and not má ekki (gera) það.... basically why is the ekki not after the verb as it normally is? Any particular reason?
  12. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    My posts used to be the same because I just had mush in my head and couldn't think of a way to organise my question so it will just be oozing babble. :cool:
    When you have just a finite verb and an object together (either by itself or with negation or stuff like alltaf or aldrei) then the normal position is for (non-pronoun) objects to come after these. However, with pronouns, when you're not putting any stress on them, you have to shift these to immediately after the main verb in the sentence. If we say we're talking about a book (bók - feminine) and whether Jón has read it or not, you can see from the examples what is possible or not:

    (a) Jón hefur aldrei lesið hana:tick:
    (b) Jón hefur hana aldrei lesið:cross:
    (c) Jón las aldrei hana
    (d) Jón las hana aldrei

    Notice that in the first two examples, you have a compound tense (like the present perfect in English) where it is the verb have + past participle. Since there is a past participle that comes after, this means you get normal word order. As I said before, this object shift only happens with one finite verb form (so the preterite, basically).
    So, by (a) and (b) you can see it's the normal order. In (c) and (d) however, we do have the standard past tense and in (c) you can observe that it's not possible to keep 'hana' in the same position as in (a) which would be after aldrei. Changing it so there is a tense with only one finite verb, unless there is a big stress and intonation on the object, it has to move to be immediately after the verb (so, going behind aldrei/ekki/alltaf or whatever).

    So, it is possible to say Jón las aldrei HANA, but that is a marked case because for some reason you're really stressing that pronoun. Normal rules, however, are as above.


    Ég má ekki gera það.
    = the verbal complex is basically (ekki) gera (not just one finite verb) so the object follows the verb and only the non-finite stuff follows negation.

    Ég má ekki það (unstressed).:cross:
    = you have the compulsory environment for object shift.

    Ég má það ekki það.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013

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