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Icelandic: perfect continuous

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by AatM, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. AatM Senior Member

    England
    English
    Hi guys,

    Does Icelandic make a distinction in the perfect continuous between an action that has been done at intervals and a continuous action? I know that in English there is no real way of expressing that the action has not stopped without the use of an adverb, such as "I've been studying constantly since this morning", which cannot really be differentiated from "I've studied constantly since this morning". However, it is possible to take these two structures and use them with a time frame suggesting an action that has taken place (not all in one go) over a longer period: e.g. "I've been studying Icelandic for three months.". I know that saying it using a continuous form in Italian "Sto studiando da due anni" would suggest that you've been studying for two years solidly, which is obviously somewhat unlikely, whereas "Studio da due anni." (with the simple conjugated form in the present) is more akin to the English idea of its having been an action with breaks. So my question would be whether Icelandic has a similar distinction or whether it is more like the English where it is the context that provides information about the nature of the action? (Sorry for using Italian, it was the best way I could think of to illustrate my point!)

    Takk.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It's like English more than Italian (though the Italian example does seem very forced).
    You can mark continuous actions that might have ended now or definitely haven't ended now, and there's some flexibility with other forms that I haven't fully worked out myself, but nothing I have suggests that sort of distinction that you mentioned. The Italian is less about allowing for such an alternation to exist rather than a restriction on the in-the-moment-ness of the present continuous with stare (which can extend into the past if unbroken). I'd class these two structures as of the same nature and the same thing (that have this division among them) but not that one allows for a non-continuous past. When you have these kinds of verbs that don't denote specific actions with a start or an end point, you can sort of bend the other typical rules because you can make the interpretation of an event of something like studying, or mean that it's taken places in unspecified timeframes in the past leading up to the present.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  3. AatM Senior Member

    England
    English
    Ah - my teacher leads me astray. Never mind!

    Thanks - with respect to Icelandic, is there just the "að hafa gerð eitthvað síðan" construction or is there something that does use "að vera"?
     
  4. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    That construction does not sound good to me...

    Ég er búin að vera að læra íslensku í þrjá mánuði.
    Ég hef verið að læra íslensku síðan janúar.
    Ég hef lært íslensku í þrjá mánuði.
    Ég hef lært íslensku síðan janúar.

    The first two sentences there are fine - the second two don't really make sense I don't think.
    Að hafa gert eitthvað suggests that the action is now complete, so can't be followed by 'síðan' or anything else that indicates how long the action has been going on but not that it's finished now. Or at least that's how I understand it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2013
  5. AatM Senior Member

    England
    English
    Thanks, I see. The sentence I saw which first caused me to consider this was "Ég hef beðið síðan klukkan 8.". Is this thus signifying that the waiting has been concluded? I just took that and tried to make it formulaic, rather than actually seeing that as a specified rule.
     
  6. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    No, it doesn't signify the waiting is over, although it could be (you might say that to the person you'd been waiting for). You do use að bíða like that in Icelandic, and that sentence does indeed mean "I've been waiting since 8 o'clock" (although literally it still means "I've waited since 8 o'clock"). I suppose I shouldn't generalise! I think bíða is probably an exception amongst most verbs though - you can't use að læra like that.

    I know it's annoying when you're first learning and you want to have rules that you can rely on, but really you just need to get a 'feel' for the language, which you will develop over time as you get more and more exposure to it. In the meantime I'd stick to 'ég er búin að vera að gera' and 'ég hef verið að gera' for the perfect continuous if you're unsure. And be careful extrapolating from examples :)
     
  7. AatM Senior Member

    England
    English
    Thanks a lot Silver_Biscuit - and I guess that Icelandic with its complexity is always going to have its exceptions!
     

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