Icelandic: Sínum

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Daniel20, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. Daniel20 Member


    I'm just starting to try some basic texts that I picked up in Iceland. The first page, second sentence of this kid's book has thrown me!

    'Benni hafði leikið sér góða stund að kubbunum sínum og bílnum sínum'.

    Benni had [was having?] a good time [with his blocks and his cars]?

    I may have this completely wrong so far, but the sínum is throwing me more than anything. I think it's a reflexive pronoun which I haven't learned yet? Is it implying he's alone?

    The sér is also causing me some difficulty too.


  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The verbal expression here is leika sér að e-u ~ play with sth.
    Think of it more like enjoying himself with the blocks and cars if you need to try and imagine what it could be thought of as.
    Then, once it makes sense to you how it can be used, then overwrite 'enjoy' with 'play', which is what it really means.

    Edit: Wow, totally forgot to mention the sínum thing. Yeah, this is what is called the possessive reflexive pronoun. This is the time when it'd be really useful to just point to a pre-written lesson in English that was broad and comprehensive. Actually, I think I know where there could be one... No luck. Actually, I might have asked a question a couple of years ago that might be useful - or answered one.

    Check out these:

    If it's still not clear, I'm sure we can all pool together a decent explanation in this thread.
    The basic point is that, only existing in the third person, you can make a distinction between the possession of the subject and the possession of someone else if there is another person in the context.

    So, if there are two guys and one woman in the context:

    Hann kyssti konuna sína - He kissed his wife.
    Hann kyssti konuna hans - He kissed his wife. (his = someone else's)

    So, because the blocks and toys are the property of Benni from the main clause, this how how you say "his" in this case.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2014
  3. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    The meaning of the expression góða stund is “for a fair amount of time” / “for a while”.
  4. Daniel20 Member

    Takk fyrir hjálpína, Alex. That second link was helpful!

    Aaahh okay, Segorian, that makes sense. The next sentence is 'but now he is bored'. So, together that would be something like: 'Benni was playing with his blocks and cars for some time. But now he is bored.' Would this be how others interpret it? As Alex used the word enjoying but to me that would be lost if góða stund is a phrase? It seems to me now the sentence is more not about how much fun he was having, but the length of time he was doing it for.

    Two phrases here, no wonder I couldn't understand it/Google translate got lost!
  5. MtnGirl Member

    East Coast, USA
    US English
    Just wanted to drop in here and say that this example makes a lot of sense to me. Can I ask a really simple question on sentence order? Why are these possessive pronouns after the the direct object (konuna) instead of before it? Or is that normal sentence structure and I just haven't noticed?
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi there!
    Yes, that is the default order. However, a few other options are available (such as occurring before the noun and dropping the requirement for the definite article) and this is to indicate emphasis/stress. That's quite common in more poetic language, so maybe you have seen a lot of that but in ordinary everyday Icelandic, the order is that the possessor comes after the possessed.
  7. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Yes, that is normal syntax. If the pronoun precedes the direct object in structures like this, that is because if is being heavily emphasized.

    Examples: Hann kyssti sína konu (and not someone else’s wife). Hann kyssti hans konu (and not his own wife). (Note that the suffixed article is dropped in these cases).

    However, the normal word order can be kept if there is only a moderate emphasis on the possessive pronoun: Hann kyssti konuna sína/hans​.
  8. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Okay, I see Alxmrphi beat me to it (you have to be quick if you’re going to write 18,436 posts).

    This is somewhat inaccurate. It is true that the usage whereby the pronoun precedes the noun without being emphasized is more frequent in poetry: hann vatt sér inn með vota kinn / og kyssti sína konu. However, an emphasized pronoun in front of the noun is also very common in ordinary language. My four-year old niece might say: Ég vil hennar dúkku! (meaning that she wants to be handed precisely that doll, and not another one).
  9. MtnGirl Member

    East Coast, USA
    US English
    Okay, that makes sense to change word order for emphasis. In English, word order stays the same and inflection changes for emphasis, but since the first syllable is always emphasized in Icelandic, the word order can be changed in some instances...

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