Icelandic: að eiga [preterite-present verb]


New Member
Spanish - Spain and Catalan - Catalonia
Hello everybody,

I've read that in Icelandic the verb "að eiga" is a "preterite-present verb" but I don't really understand what that means; I've been reading about it for a while but I still don't get it. Could somebody here cast light on it? Thank you very much in advance.
  • Svenke

    Senior Member
    In all Germanic languages, historically there's a small class of verbs whose present tense is formed in the same way as the past (preterite) tense of other verbs.

    For instance, the Norwegian verb kunne 'be able' has the present tense kan 'is able, can', formed by a stem ablaut from u to a.
    This is similar to the verb finne, whose past tense is fann (or fant), formed by a stem ablaut from i to a.

    While forming the past by ablaut is common to a rather large class of verbs, viz. strong verb, it is uncommon for verbs to form the present tense by ablaut. But kunne is one of the latter, a preterite-present verb.

    Icelandic eiga has forms like (ég) á '(I) have', which is a highly irregular preterite-present (because of historical sound changes).
    It is basically just as Svenke said: preterite-present verbs are verbs that forms their present tense like a strong verb forms its past tense (also called the preterite), and forms their past tense (preterite) like a weak verb forms its past tense.
    This makes them highly irregular and forces even someone that has learned all the strong conjugation patterns by heart to learn these separately, but since they are so few (only ten, eleven if you count the archaic "never used except maybe in poetry" knega) it should be easy to get the hang on them.