Icelandic: Is it good (food)

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Now, I have asked the þetta/það comparison before, at the beginning of my icelandic adventure, but I have now became quite family when to use þetta or það except for one situation where it seems to not fit. I will say before I start I am not TRYING to compare English with Icelandic, I know there are differences, but I will say that terms giving to types of words normally serve the same purposes, i.e. demonstrative pronoun is used to demonstrate and not much else etc...

    So having said that. Here are some examples first to clarify my point.

    Hér er borð. Það er stórt. (Það as part of the hann/hún/það party, a referential pronoun).

    Er þetta gott? Já, þetta er gott! (demonstrative pronoun, for example if someone was in a buffet line, and asked, IS THIS GOOD? It is demonstrative so something newly introduced, something that can be pointed at)

    Í dag borðaði ég í þeim nýja veitingastaðnum,
    Ó, var það gott? (Here I believe you could say, var hann góður to refer to the restaurant but I believe það is also viable to say was it good, the experience, a reference to the whole sentence as demonstrated also below)

    Eigum við fara niður í bæ í kvöld? Nei, pabbi minn segir að við megum ekki gera það! (það again referential to the whole previous event)

    Okay having all this in mind, I just wanted a natives opinion on this situation.

    Wife cooks food, brings it to the table, you take a bite... "Is it good". I always hear "Er þetta gott". Now again I know english and icelandic are not the same, but it's more the fact that the demonstrative pronoun is being used... is that good, like she hasn't seen it ever before, whereas in english you would say "Is it good?" as even though nothing has been said (nothing to reference back to), you both know what you are talking about, the topic has been introduced maybe not by words but being placed on the table... anyway all this is just justifications which may not have any relevance but still I think Er þetta gott seems odd.

    Maybe "Er hann góður" to refer to the réttur but then as a substitute as the word réttur hasn't been brought up, "er það gott" would do as a neutral reference to the situation.

    This may seem pedantic but my logic (as far as I am aware, and I have applied it to a lot of situations) works apart from when I get asked, er þetta gott, I mean it just seems like a situation where POINTING/DEMONSTRATING isn't possible as you know what you are talking about and therefore referencing it, which brings my mind to referential pronouns.
  2. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    P.S. What I mean about the neutral sense which I refered to when saying er það gott rather than er hann gott. Is the same way for example if you were to suggest a tv show, even though you know it is þáttur pr tæknimynd or whatever it might be, you may suggest it by saying.. "Viltu horfa á þetta" while pointing to the show or demonstrating it. You wouldn't say "Viltu horfa á þennan" without first mentioning that the topic was a show, for example "Eigum við horfa á þennan þátt"..."hvað? Þennan?"

    In all this tirade please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the main thing is having a natives opinion on in that situation, of someone giving you food, how would you ask if it's good or not.
  3. NoMoreMrIceGuy Senior Member

    *á nýja veitingastaðnum.

    As for the native input: Er þetta gott? This specific thing I'm referring to.

    Since I'm not really sure why you find this hard to understand I'm putting up examples that might help.

    If I'm giving someone a back rub I could ask Er þetta gott?
    If that person is telling me they're frequently getting back rubs I might ask Er það gott?
  4. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    I was trying to write "Today I ate at that new restaurant".

    But anyways what I am trying to make the distinction between is when to use þetta or það, I know when you look at it out of context you can say.. Oh both are possible but there are situations where it would sound odd I BELIEVE.

    For example... "Ég sá herra Bibblebobbly í skólanum í dag" and you wanted to say ooo how was it, the experience of seeing him "'Ó, hvernig var þetta"... wouldn't that be 100% wrong, it would have to be það to mean "that" the situation that you were just talking about, and not... þetta "that" an object in clear sight which you can point at.

    It is at this point I want to clarify that the það in "hvernig var það" is the það from hann hún það and not sá sú það... just to distinguish them.

    So from a previous conversation I had from the film Wreck it Ralph with Icelandic DUBS, I am as positive as I can be (but someone else could check it if they are icelandic) that when RALPH rings the doorbell and someone goes to check... This conversation follows.


    Ég veðja að þetta er Mario, passlega seinn eins og venjulega!

    Ég fer til dyra, Felix!


    Now you can say that this simply means It is ralph, which fits in english yes, but we cannot deny that using það in some situations just doesn't work, like if you were to walk up to a random person, eating a cheese cake, and to enquire about it, I am sure you must say "er þetta gott", as "er það gott" in my mind claims some previous knowledge or conversation about the cheese cake.. Like imagine the scenario, man on a bench eating his cake... walk up and say "IS IT GOOD?" Sounds like it came half way through a conversation, whereas is THAT good, even though random, still introduces the cake as a new item which to talk about. Is this making any sense to anyone?
  5. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Extra example....

    Ég keypti þetta frá McDonalds... er það gott?

    Would you be able to say það here cause you have already mentioned the thing, unlike the previous food situation I asked about before, or should this still be þetta.

    Someone please answer these examples because my head is... going to dark places.
  6. NoMoreMrIceGuy Senior Member

    Í dag át ég á þessum nýja veitingastað.

    You would say: Ú, hvernig var það? Þetta wouldn't work.

    Correct about er þetta gott, as it is referring to a specific present thing.

    OK, I'm a bit confused. Is this the same person stating the whole thing? Because this sounds like he's asking if buying food from MickeyD is good.
  7. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    That last point actually made a lot of sense. I was meaning it to be from the same person but what you said kindof made the point.

    Ég keypti þetta frá Mcdonalds
    Er það gott (að kaupa frá Mcdonalds) is that the sort of hint you were going for.

    Whereas If the reply was "Er þetta gott" it would be, the food in his hand, is it good, tastey.

  8. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    From my grammar book, on pro forms

    Það is the most common pro-form in Icelandic. Apart from its role as a NEUTER SINGULAR PRONOUN and its function as dummy subject in passive constructions explained above, það is also used as follows: (So the first it lists here, singular pronoun is from the hann, hún, það pack).

    1. It replaces part of a sentence:

    "Hann segir að hann ætli í gönguferð á morgun."
    "Segir hann ÞAÐ virkilega?"

    2 is where það is there and 3 is the weather it....það rignir etc...

    So from this I am deducing that the book recognizes there is two kinds of referential það, the neuter pronoun which refers to a neutral object "Hér er borð, það er stórt" and the það from the "segir hann það" which refers to a whole event/sentence previously discussed. As NoMoreMrIceGuy said if I was to use ÞAÐ in the mcdonalds sentence it would have an obscure meaning, how is IT to buy from there, referring to the sentence/event of buying mcdonalds as a whole rather than just being a pronoun for a single previously mentioned noun.

    So I guess the rule, by process of elimination is... if not specified, use þetta and continue using þetta till someone names it... i.e. maturinn er tilbúinn... úúú hann er góður (matur). But "er þetta gott" when talking about an unmentioned dish you passed to the person, as það would have to refer to a previous sentence, which in my example isn't present, so you use demonstrative þetta. To use "er það gott" you would either have to be talking about a neutral previously mentioned object or an entire situation which is covered by "POINT 1" from the book.

    Are we not in agreement? (I know you may think i'm over complicating this, but it stems from the fact I would say in english, in this serving your partner food situation, IS IT GOOD? whereas people use þetta for the same situation which is listed as only meaning "This" or "That"... this small complication was then followed by the fact that maybe in english I would use the word "that" if it was a random newly introduced object, not something that I don't need to demonstrate with a demonstrative pronoun, but maybe as the act of bringing the food, although not conversational, demonstrates the food, therefore bypassing the need for demonstrative pronoun use... this is what led me to believe "er það gott" is viable. If you are all telling me it isn't then that actually agrees with me just fine. Just wanted to make sure. Cause the direct translation sounds odd.

    Feel me?
  9. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    And after all this I can't help feeling that in WRECK IT RALPH it should be "Þetta er Ralph" and not það (which btw is how it is in the English version with ICE subs).
  10. Daniel20 Member

    You're way ahead of me in terms of your Icelandic, but could it not be that although it is grammatically and logically correct, þetta is what people actually say? Just a thought.
  11. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    I agree with Daniel, if that's the way it is then that's the way it is, just go with it. I would also add that whilst we learners spend a lot of time agnonising over grammar, the average native speaker does not. If you transcribed everything you said in English for one day you would find a whole ton of mistakes, some of which would be habitual, i.e. mistakes that you consistently make. Because you just wouldn't be thinking about it. So it is definitely a good idea to try and copy what natives say and how they speak, but it doesn't make sense to start worrying when they say things that violate the rules you learnt.

    I think you have a great understanding of the difference between það and þetta, it and this/that. You should congratulate yourself on that and stay confident in it, whilst being prepared to say, oh it's like that, not like I thought, if you find a deviation that genuinely seems to be consistent.
  12. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Haha I knew it'd come down to that. Yeh I know there mistakes we English people would make every day but atleast there would be online resources telling you once and for all which was correct, just for peace of mind. With this tiny language the resources aren't there. but yes I do agree I need to take this as a natural learning thing.

    I will ask though just a natives opinion, I actually like the fact that "Er þetta gott" for food is þetta, cause it agrees with my insane rules, I just wanted to clarify it cause obviously in english you could use "IT" rather than Icelandic which seems to use That.

    However to end, what are natives opinion on the door situation. Someone knocks on your door, you go answer, it's an annoying English guy fussed about grammar... do you call out to your friends "Þetta er Jake" or "Það er Jake"? Just want an icelanders opinion on whats more natural.
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I'm curious about why you expect þetta here.
    I'm not saying it's wrong or anything (it could be), but it just goes against everything you typed above, or what my perception is of what you typed.
    Even being influenced through English would not lead you to expect þetta, so I just wondered what your logic was for expecting it.
  14. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    If it is indeed "er þetta gott?" when pointing at food that you knowingly have introduced but however not talked about i.e. using the demonstrative where perhaps in english we would say "Is it good" knowingly already having introduced the "it", without using words but knowing what we are talking about without the need to point or lead what it represents.

    Then I would think this would have to be the same with the door situation. The only situations where I see það in this referential sense (hann, hún, það and the það which links back to a whole event) is when there is an event to link back to, as per the examples above, so if I am willing to except er þetta gott as the typical way to ask if food is good, as maybe icelandic requires the referential "main clause" sentence to be actively said in order to reference it, which I would say is just implied in english (if you get what i mean... in english saying, IS THAT GOOD, might sound wierd in a setting where you have just given someone food, cause you dont need to re-introduce the food).

    So if it is true for food, then I would imagine you would have to say.. Þetta er Jake, when saying "It's Jake" who is at the door. Again I'm not arguing that maybe some people use different and there may be more natural ways but just looking to see if people agree, get what i'm talking about or even have examples which fit this as I feel like I'm not far off.

    If you can say Það er Jake then fair enough, I cannot argue, just want to see if there are things that do go along with this rule seing as the food situation seems to differ in set ways from english, would be good if it was a diversion across the board in this situation and not another thing I just have to pick up with time :p
  15. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Yeah, but we'd also say, "Is that nice?"
    ... what?
    I don't see how.

    Beyond that, your first line seems like a weird claim. Saying þetta er.. is sounds like an introduction, not a claim that someone is at a door, don't you think?
    You seem to apply this logic like a machine would try to solve a problem, instead of a human. Try to be more human. :)
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  16. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    I'm sorry Alxmrphi but that just does not compute :p

    Nah see I can understand it's use for food, even if it doesn't strike me as natural in english, it makes sense in the fact it's a demonstrative pronoun. What doesn't make sense is using það at the door, I mean, it just categorically isn't a demonstrative pronoun. So even though people might use it, I'm merely pointing out a massive anomaly I guess.

    Can you find any other example where það is used to demonstrate, introduce a topic, unlike the ways already listed.

    So use það, not as a dummy subject, not as a referential to an event or previously mentioned noun, just in the sense to say.. It's cheese, It's a gun... Even to say who's at the door woudln't you use.. "Hver er þetta við hufðina" (that was a guess I don't know how to say at the door) but your answer would then be... þetta er... einhver?

    See in English we say "What the fuck is that..." and the answer is either "that's cheese" OR "It's cheese", both seem natural. But I believe if someone said "Hvað er þetta" and you answered "Það er ostur" that would be 100% wrong. It would have to be þetta. So in an introductory setting like saying It's someone at the door, even though the translation is IT, I am led to believe þetta would be used. Even if it is wrong I don't think it's an illogical claim to make. Just be interested if you or a native could give some examples of það used like this anywhere else in the language, cause I know I'm a beginner but I just havn't seen it before.
  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    But this is correct.
    Why would you repeat þetta? You've already introduced the reference so why wouldn't you expect það to be used afterwards?
    Of course you easily could use þetta to echo what the other person asked, but it's not necessary.
    You're taking that one is correct to mean the other one is banned and totally wrong, when that's not the case.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  18. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Well it was actually more because of the response I got for the mcdonalds query.

    I assumed after that, saying er það gott, would be more a situational question rather than referencing the specific thing you just demonstrated.
  19. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That's true, but I don't see any connection whatsoever to the cheese example with this one.
    You're changing scenario like the wind and keeping the same logic over the distribution of þetta/það .. as if they're equal in all situations.
    No wonder you're getting confused.
  20. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Just that using það is referential and that þetta is demonstrative, that's all I'm saying, and the ONLY example which I can find this not to be true is in Wreck it Ralph when he says Það er Ralph, yet the Icelandic subs for the English version say ÞETTA, so this is what originally got me wondering, maybe það is what some people use but the fact the subtitle writer wrote þetta is the PROPER ... well I don't know what word to use. I don't want you to assume I'm going to shout at people who use það but I'm just saying maybe an icelander who studies icelandic language would say one or the other definitely. This will in no way affect my use of the language but if I find something odd that the rules can't explain isn't this the place to go to quiz about it :p Which is why I want a native to say with this door situation what they would say, rather than what i've conjured up from the depths of my already exploding brain.
  21. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    I think if you look at the cheese example again.

    Þetta er ostur...
    Er þetta ostur? (ertu viss sort of surprise) It would be a confirmation of the object if you re-used þetta.

    Þetta er ostur...
    Er það? (is that so, is the situation you just stated true)
    Já, það er það.

    Þetta er ostur.
    Já hann er mjög góður ostur... That would be continuing on the path of agreement that it is infact cheese so... you know it's male and would use hann wouldnt you?
  22. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Surely you've heard the question Hvað er það? though?

    Of course there is nothing wrong with sharing ideas and asking for opinions. It's the best place to do it, here. But you also need to learn to take advice.
    You've agreed with Silver_Biscuit about not hinging your whole argument on one example that could be wrong, but then two posts later the advice hasn't been listened to. That's happened quite a lot of times. Usually when people ask for advice, they ask for advice. What it seems you do is you ask until you get the answer you want to hear.

    Why can't both það and þetta be right?
    Your mind can't seem to be able to deal with multiple options. It's something you have to work on!
  23. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Right, if you want to re-reference the cheese example, you're not allowed to change it.
    You can't just go from Hvað er þetta? ... Þetta/það er on to Þetta er ostur... þetta/það/hann er.

    You've acted like you've referred back to something, but completely changed it.
    In the first one we have unknown references to nouns and then options to use generalised-það and in the second one you've defined the noun, which is when you'd use pronoun agreement. Not. the. same. I'm only saying this to point out where all this confusion is coming from. To make the type of arguments you want to make, there needs to be consistency. All this rigid logic applied to situations that aren't alike lead to wildly different conclusions, and that will never lead anywhere helpful. I don't suggest having a rigid approach to this in the first place, but it seems it's how your mind wants to tackle this.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  24. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    You really have got me all wrong, I want to take advice, really, and I havn't put anywhere that the advice given to me was wrong or inaccurate. The only reason I keep reiterating myself (sometimes going off on a different tangent in an attempt to explain my point differently... doesn't always land well :p) Is because you are questioning my reasoning for what I think. My reasoning for what I thought hasn't changed, but I still havn't got what I wanted to settle my mind. I don't want you to tell me I'm right btw, honest.

    I am all for taking that it can be þetta and það, I just wanted a native to say in this door situation what THEY would say, as I can't hide in people's houses and ring the doorbell, and when I ask icelanders on the spot, not giving them time to actually think, they give all sorts of answers which SOMETIMES are actually wrong, like actually actually wrong, not just Jake wrong.

    So my point is, if you question why I came to my conclusion ofcourse im going to try and explain, elaborate to try and get my point across, which I didn't realise was received well in the first place or even understood, so I keep trying from new angles (i feel like no one gets me). And yeh I can agree that both can be used I just wanted some native examples or opinions. Once who I assume is native, NoMoreMrIceGuy, said er þetta gott for the food situation, that tilted the scales towards all demonstratives being þetta in my logic. I then asked about the door applying this same logic expecting þetta and got ÞAÐ from the film. So although it may be accepted just wondered what most icelanders would do cause I'd rather go with that option, to blend in :p

    And btw I don't think I have actually heard or seen the question Hvað er það! What situation can this be used in or is this EXACTLY the same as þetta? I really don't think I've heard it.

    EDIT: Point in short, I'm never saying, "nah, I'm not listening, what I thought is correct, I'm more just re-iterating what I originally wrote as the wording used in all the replies, implies that I was either not understood or my point needs fine tuning, which is all I'm doing to try to get to the bottom of it. I still just want to hear a native answer the door"
  25. Daniel20 Member

    What if they'd say both? Your head would explode.
  26. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Oh man,

    - I've stated what I thought to be correct
    - Since I wanted the door example no one has come with their example
    - I've heard "Why do I believe it COULDN'T be það" which I explained
    - If I heard both then I'd have to live with it, no matter how crushing to my soul it would be, but all I'm hearing is, maybe it could be, would that be so terrible, at the same time not getting a natives opinion, I would use this/I would use that which really is all I want, opinions on the usage not opinions on how I think, i merely wrote how I think to explain the reasons for my original query.
  27. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think you maybe need to keep the complications a bit in tow when rationalising your question, at least in the beginning.
    It's normal to think what's in your head comes across perfectly to others, but it's pretty much never the case (not with just you; I mean in general).
    My advice is to start a new thread, list what you expect are possibilities and then maybe give a little sentence or two about what you might expect, but not with a lot of detail. Having reams and reams of complicated and difficult-to-interpret reasoning just puts people off answering a question. The bigger explanations can come if they're asked for, or if they're needed. I don't think you're likely to get a lot of new information after what this thread has turned into. That's just talking from experience. Post a new thread, keep it simple, and don't go too overboard on the reasoning in the initial first few posts. Maybe ask for an alternative scenario if you think you're onto something and then try to deduce a rule. That's my advice to you on getting your answers as quickly as possible, which I know is what you need because confusion for long-periods of time is never too mentally healthy!
  28. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Ha! Cheers for the advice, I'm will probably come at it again, but I'll give it a few days for some natural results, it's when I stop reading subtitles or books for a few days that I start thinking too hard about hypotheticals when infact when I see það or þetta in a book it always works and I understand why. I actually leave Iceland, after a whole year here, in 2 days. I don't know how heavily that's going to affect the learning.

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