Icelandic: Different greetings for different situations

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by qiaozhehui, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. qiaozhehui

    qiaozhehui Member

    English - American
    I know there are many different Icelandic greetings (Halló, Hæ, Sæl, Góðdan daginn, Hvernig hefur þú það?, etc.), but I am not really sure which one of these is best to use in a given situation.

    For example, here are some specific situations:

    • I run into a friend/acquaintance (e.g. in the hallway at school) and I want to say something quick and informal (something like "Hey, what's up?" or "Hey, how's it going?" in American English).

    • One of my friends introduces me to one of his friends and I say hi to this person for the first time ("Hi, nice to meet you.").

    • I walk into a shop and say hi to the shopkeeper whom I don't know (just to be polite).

    • I meet an old friend whom I haven't seen in a long time. I know that things have been rough for him lately and I want to ask sincerely something sincere like: "Hi John, how are you doing? How is everything? How are things going for you these days?"

    Finally, I am wondering if there are more informal greetings used in Icelandic that wouldn't appear in a textbook? If I think of English, for example, I know that in real life we often use greetings that wouldn't be mentioned in a beginner's textbook (and the greetings students do learn are often too formal or "stiff").
  2. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    In these situations you could say (although it wouldn't be the only option):

    1. "Blessaður", "sæll" or "hæ" followed by "hvað segirðu".
    2. "Sæll, gaman að kynnast þér".
    3. "Góðan daginn".
    4. "Blessaður John, hvað segirðu, hvernig hefurðu það?"

    Icelandic doesn't really make a great deal of distinction between casual acquaintances and good friends, not sure that English does either. However, I would not really say góðan daginn or góða kvöldið to someone that I knew, it's more of a shop / phone word. There's also komdu sæll/blessaður but it's a bit formal for your mates. I haven't really heard people under the age of fifty say it.
    Hvernig hefurðu það is not really a greeting as such, I wouldn't use it without first saying one of the greeting words. Hvað segirðu is probably a bit more common.
    Halló is mainly an answering the phone word I think, or when you're trying to get someone's attention because they didn't hear you the first time.
  3. qiaozhehui

    qiaozhehui Member

    English - American
    Thanks for the reply.

    Yes, I forgot about "Hvað segirðu?". That seems to be a good fit in the first example.

    While we're on the subject, is there any difference between
    Hvað segirðu and Hvað segirðu gott?
  4. KarenRei Senior Member

    American English
    (Writing in English because I'm assuming that you're a relative beginner at Icelandic)

    "Hvað segirðu [gott]" isn't really the first thing you'd say to someone in Icelandic, more like the second. In English the equivalent would be "What's up?", "How've you been?" etc. There's no real difference in my experience between the forms.

    As for the original part, when arriving at work and seeing people for the first time, I get (and give back) about 40% "Góðan daginn", 40% " 'Daginn", 20% "Góðan dag". Later in the day people normally say "hæ" or sometimes "hæhæ". Except one particular old guy who always says to me, "Sæl og blessuð!"
  5. Merkurius Senior Member

    Answer: No there is no special difference between these two, except for the fact that „Hvað segirðu?“ can work as ''what are you saying/what did you say?''
    (fánýtur fróðleikur (e. useless knowledge) : Danish people would never get that you are asking "How are you?" when saying "Hvad siger du?" you would have to ask "Hvordan har du det?" = "Hvernig hefurðu það?".)

    KarenRei is correct that one would not say "hvað segirðu?" when meeting someone for the first time, Silver_Biscuit is correct that you would say "Hvernig hefur þú það?" when meeting someone after along time

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