Icelandic: Kominn/Komin/Komið

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Just wanted to talk about this past participle use of koma in icelandic as it seems to have a strange use for me as a foreigner.

    At my job when I first tried to e-mail in icelandic to co-workers, when some file was somewhere I would say "Þetta er hér - link" but I have noticed "Þetta er komið" to seem to be in it's place, is this correct, and how would you translate it?

    It has come? It has arrived?

    Is it also correct to say Ég er kominn heim in place of the standard english "I'm home". It's hard to get my head around much like "þetta er upprunið" as it literally translates as "I am came home.. and It is originated" seems dodgy.
  2. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    I don't know about your first query. Þetta er komið ought to mean it's arrived/come/complete/finished or something like that. Why not ask your co-workers? I'm sure it's correct if they are regularly using it, although you may be misunderstanding it, I can't tell from the context you give. Do you have an example of one such email?

    As to your second query, yes, it is correct to say Ég er komin heim. It means you have arrived home or "I am come home", which is perfectly grammatical in English if a little archaic. Compare with Ég er heima which means I am at home, and carries no implication that you left and have returned.
  3. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    But literally surely its I am CAME home, because its past participle. Is there any other examples of things in english that would use "have" which here use the verb "are" coupled with the past participle.

    I mean if you were to do a straight english translation. Ég hef komið heim makes sense but this is just a strange construction.

    Again im obviously sure it makes sense in icelandic just wondered if there were more examples as it is strange.
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    There is a weird sense that I have that also makes me want to judge 'I am came' as correct (but non-standard) because other speakers right across my 'dialect-area' substitute preterites for past participles in normal casual speech (and vice versa). Still, 'come' is the standard past participle of the infinitive 'to come' and is the only officially (standardly) accepted form in English. Put it next to the present perfect in English -> "I have come" or "I have came". The past participle comes up in these cases and I'm expecting you'd recognise the first one as being the correct one.

    Yes! There are a few but these are usually linked to motion verbs (i.e. 'come' in this case) and verbs that result in a change of state. I'll find something with a better explanation I can give and edit it back in here hopefully later on today. I can only think of koma and fara as examples now. It's what English had not so long ago. I'm sure you've seen "I am come" in some reference to Jesus or something. We can also today say "He is gone" and "He has gone" to denote different things and this is a bit fossilised now because "I have come" and "I am come" don't work in the same way (though logically they should). One shows a state as it is right now and the other one just references something in the past (if you had come then you might have gone back or if you had gone somewhere then you might have also returned).

    Think about the question "Til hvaða landa hefurðu komið til?"
    It's asking what countries you have been to and you must have returned from some of them so it's this "What countries have you been to?" ('Koma' is used much more widely than just 'come' in English; it translate arrive/come/go/been etc.)

    When you want to ask if someone is home then it's like asking if they have arrived home.

    Ertu heima? - Are you home?
    Ertu kominn heim? Are you home? (i.e. have you arrived back at home yet etc.)

    Then if you want to use the hafa+past participle then you're not really talking about a state that currently exists now.
    Think about wanted to ask "How often have you come home after a hard day at work and...."
    ('Hversu oft hefurðu komið heim eftir erfiðan dag og...')

    Can you see the difference?
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  5. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    As Alex says, past participle is the form we use after have (come), not the past tense (came). Sometimes these are the same, but be careful not to mix them up in your mind. In Icelandic there is a slight difference between the sagnbót, which is komið for koma, and the lýsingarháttur þátíðar which for koma could be any form of the adjective kominn. The sagnbót is the form that comes after hafa, geta and so forth (Ég hef komið, ég get komið) and does not change. The lýsingarháttur þátíðar behaves like an adjective and can be in lots of different forms just like any other adjective (hún er komin, hann er kominn, það er komið).
    In English these are basically the same things and are both called the past participle.

    Ég hef komið heim is actually strange in Icelandic, I think, just on its own like that. It wouldn't mean that you had (just) arrived home, it would mean that you had been home at least once. Like "Ég hef komið til Danmerkur" means "I've been to Denmark" not "I have arrived in Denmark". That would be "Ég er komin til Danmerkur" just like "Ég er komin heim".

    Ég er farin is the same - literally I am gone but basically means I've left or I'm leaving.
  6. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    A Jesus one, to hopefully help you understand how this form works in English. We don't use it much these days, as it tends to sound literary or archaic like the Bible, but it is perfectly possible to use the "Subject is past participle" form.

    Compare Matthew 27.64 in the Icelandic Bible and the King James Bible:
  7. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Oops, didn't see you used the exact same example. Think you've got one til too many there, though ;)
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ahaha, yeah.
    I actually took that as a genuine example from Google to look for ideas of explanations that would be useful of when you could only use one or the other.
    I didn't pick up on the extra til though! Good spot.

    Quite a common error cross-linguistically, to do this.
  9. AatM Senior Member

    Are there many examples of the past tenses of verbs which you could use in Icelandic with vera that would not make sense in English in even archaic terms?
  10. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Do you mean past participle? Very different thing from past tense, so watch out.

    I shouldn't think so, I would imagine that it would always make sense, even if it might be a thing that nobody would ever say or write.

    Edit: It's worth noting that this form is not always archaic in English; plenty of adjectives are actually past participles - he is gone, he is taken, he is hidden etc.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think it can be quite natural for this to be connected and treated as more of a variant of have + past participle tense which denotes actions/events.
    That isn't actually the best way to look at. It is using it more as an adjective to signify a state, adjectivally, or a resultative change of state.

    The thing that actually helps in understanding the difference is knowing that Icelandic can use adjective descriptions in the same way we would report actions.
    So, let's say we wanted to talk about someone turning up at a place. We can specifically imply it was an event and use X hefur mætt or we can specifically describe adjectivally that he was there -> X var mættur. What you get in Icelandic is a much bigger tendency for what we would probably normally expect to be used as a description to be used in the sense that in English would be translated as an event.

    Let's take a real example so we're not working in hypotheticals. Look at this article.
    There is a description here that states: Bateman má eiga það að hann var mættur klukkan fimm um morguninn.

    Here it is natural for it to seem like all that is being implied is that at 5 o'clock in the morning he was there but probably was also there before then.
    That's not how it's actually used in Icelandic though. You can use this vera + past participle as adjective to describe states and you don't have to always use the preterite or the present perfect tense. Can we be sure? Well, in this article at least it even states it outright:

    In the description it says that he arrived around 5am.
    So rather than thinking of this as:

    * Hafa plus past participle makes the past tense and sometimes you can replace 'hafa' with 'vera' with some verbs. :thumbsdown:

    Think of it like:

    * Normal adjective usage that always uses 'vera' and a past participle can be used with some verbs in cases where English speakers might expect past tense events. :thumbsup:

    In English, we can't separate out the two different possible readings (i.e. as an event or as a description of a state) so it can be quite difficult for us to get our heads around. Icelandic is the same in a lot of cases though there are some grammatical features that means you would use different syntax depending on which meaning you meant. So, if you wanted to say to someone -> Were you invited to the party? then all that means to us is one thing, is it an event or is it a state of being invited? We can't tell because English doesn't make a distinction. Now, because Icelandic passives that assign dative to their objects keep that case in the passives of event structures, but not in normal adjectival uses (which can never be 'passive' anyway).

    Var þér boðið í partýið?
    Varstu boðinn í partýið?

    Now, the second one might sound weird to many natives but it is (strictly) 'grammatically' correct and is a bit of a forced example to show the distinction.
    So, what I wanted to explain with this example was that this "other option" can also often be used alongside normal verbal (non-adjectival) uses so isn't a replacement.

    Wow, I've managed to cock up another explanation again I think.
    Basically, what I want to say to try and rescue this explanation is that, you see this vera + past participle with intransitive verbs only and by describing something with an adjective it puts across more the fact of an event occurring (in some cases) than a strict English translation would make some people believe. So, you should see why with a verb such as mála (to paint) it's just nonsensical to suggest anything other than the fact that someone is painted (hann er málaður). Notice with all the verbs you can see this construction you can never use 'by...' afterwards (*You are gone by him [he made you go] etc.) That should give you some idea of the cases when it's acceptable to use it in Icelandic.

    Many times you just can't tell (like in English) if it is an event meaning or an adjectival meaning:

    Rúðan var brotin.

    This can either be:

    Rúðan var brotin af dreng. (event)
    Rúðan var óbrotin. (stative)

    So by adding and changing the construction you get to see which one it actually is.
    It's just confusing because what gets translated into English forces this interpretation (in the 'er kominn' example) that's not really present in the original in a lot of cases so it confuses learners. While a completely fine translate is 'Is he here?' - it's also when we would say - 'Has he come?'but that doesn't lead us to think the original is anything closer to 'Hefur hann komið' but our minds just naturally make the connection and then wonder about why there is a difference.Please tell me if you get anything useful from my ramblings because I feel like I've blown my chance at giving a nice explanation.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013

Share This Page