Icelandic: Subject verb inversion

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Daniel20, Apr 3, 2014.

  1. Daniel20 Member


    I´ve just been learning how to express intentions, and the thing that threw me was the subject-verb inversion (if I have the right phrase). An example is

    Do I have this right? If not, why? And if so, what other examples are there?

    Apologies, struggling to get my head around this.

    Takk fyrir
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    If you think about the sentence that should start with ég, what would you originally have? (Just a little thinking exercise that should clarify part of the problem).
  3. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    You actually don't need the verb að fara at all in this instance, it's fine to just "ætla í sund". But if you did want to use it, it wouldn't be in the past tense (since you're talking about the future after all). You only 'invert' the first verb, as it were - the rest of the sentence is not affected. So think about how the clause would be if you started with ég, and then literally just swap round the first verb and ég.
  4. Daniel20 Member

    Thanks guys, for some reason I´m struggling with this stuff right now, especially the tenses (that´s the problem with doing it from rote I guess).

    I have another question (hopefully less innocuous this time).

    What´s more correct or natural?


    To me, they´re both saying the same thing, with the second maybe more strong. Does it work though?

    Equally, I´ve noticed that it also seems common to drop the second verb, as SB noted above. F.ex

    Can these both work or are they missing something?

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2014
  5. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    First, it’s not fara í vinnunni but fara í vinnuna. (Accusative to indicate movement; dative to indicate something that happens without movement.)

    Second, I disagree with Alxmrphi about the difference between ætla að fara and vera að fara. The phrase ætla (að fara) simply corresponds to “going (to go)”. Ég ætla í bíó = “I’m going to the movies”. Vera að fara means the same thing; however, if anyting, it indicates stronger intentionality.
  6. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    I wouldn’t put it like that. It’s simply the case that this one verb—að fara—is optional after ætla. In an analogous fashion, ‘to go’ is sometimes optional after ‘going’. For example, the two phrases “I’m going home tomorrow” and “I’m going to go home tomorrow” can be different in meaning in that the latter can be taken to express a stronger intention, but they can also be used to mean exactly the same thing: Ég ætla (að fara) heim á morgun.
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The important distinction is, however, that the two cases aren't really analogous because you're comparing apples and oranges.
    "I'm going home" isn't using the intentional "going to" while "I'm going to go home" is. If it were the case that we could say "I'm [going to] home" then it would be analogous but in one language you are just using the base meaning of 'go' and in the other you're dropping the reference to 'go' and having something originally strictly 'intentional' stand in for movement (ætla).

    Regarding the first section of my previous comment, you're totally right. I was running through in my mind the situation where one person was saying 'Ertu að vinna á morgun?" (habitual event that is understood to be regular) and then comparing it with ætla að fara (where, apposition of forms in habitual senses gives more of a sense of intentionality). In any case, modal verb descriptions are in most cases just experienced hunches for non-natives so I probably shouldn't have jumped in so early with a restricted example that is difficult to generalise.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  8. Daniel20 Member

    Apologies for that - not quite at that standard yet to notice those sorts of changes. The book I´m using hasn´t made that distinction yet, so thank you.

    That´s a useful analogy and makes sense to me. I do nonetheless agree with Alxmrphi´s sense that they´re not quite comparable, even though I see what you´re saying here. That´s a really useful discussion. So would what I said in the OP be correct - that they´re roughly analogous but vera að fara is stronger whereas aetla is quite weak? And in the case of the use of ætla it´s completely fine (and more natural?) to drop the second verb (e.g á morgun ætla ég á kaffihús)?

    Thanks guys (especially for such early hours!)

    Edit: You raised another question I had in your sentence Segorian ég ætla í bío = I´m going to the movies. Now, I´m pretty sure that ShakeyX raised this question a while back so feel free to just link me, but why is the definite article not used here? I get that English might just use it in a different way, but in what circumstances would Icelandic put the definite article here? I completely see why it´s not necessary, though.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That's right. English breaks its own general rule by putting an article for something with a general meaning (with the general rule being that you should only use the definite article for previously defined reference). Think of responses to the question "Where are you going tonight?" In some cases you could say "a restaurant" but in others "the cinema." This can easily show you there is something else going on because in both of those cases the answer should logically be the same, an undefined generalised place for a certain purpose. Just for the same reason that we'd say we were going to "a restaurant" the same thing applies in Icelandic with "cinema" because there is logically no real substantive reason we use the definite article. Icelandic kids have to be specifically taught about this quirk when learning English. Here's an example of that.

    Then in other cases we say 'work' while Icelanders often say 'to the work' like you mentioned in your previous posts 'fara í vinnuna'.
    I'm not actually sure if it's even okay to not use the article here. Segorian, what would you say about that? Is 'fara í vinnu' ever acceptable in the same way that English uses 'go to work'. I have a feeling it's not but should use the opportunity here to check with a native. Thanks :).
  10. Daniel20 Member

    Takk kærlega! Never really considered that English quirk before.

    Similar to your question re: vinnuna, I do wonder whether it´s acceptable to put kaffihúsetc or whether this would immediately identify you as a native English speaker. This came up in ShakeyX´s post a little while ago where he asked about ´the essay´. The answer from a native (forget whom) was that this construction is not possible - does it carry over to this? Again, another question for Segorian I suspect.
  11. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    There are a few things I need to respond to. I would like to start with this example, quoted by Alxmrphi:

    First, is seems strange to use the term ‘fyrirtækja- og stofnanaheiti’ for words like cinema, theatre or office. Both fyrirtækjaheiti and stofnanaheiti normally designate the names of companies and/or institutions, not the general words used to describe them.

    Second, the last example given—“He is at the office”—differs from the other two because ‘the office’ in question would normally be a specific office (that of the person concerned) and not a generic one. This is what justifies the use of the definite article in this particular sentence. In Icelandic, it’s exactly the same: “Hann er á skrifstofunni.”
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  12. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    I think this is down to the fact that one can either see a person as going to work quite generally—in Icelandic this would be fara til vinnu, admittedly a relatively formal expression—or as going to a specific place of work—in Icelandic, fara í vinnuna. In English, instead of saying *‘go the the work’, one would use the expressions ‘go to the office’, ‘go to the factory’ etc. (which, to be sure, also have equivalents in Icelandic).

    Yes, fara í vinnu is quite acceptable, although it is normally reserved for more formal contexts, similar to fara til vinnu. To be clear, ‘formal’ in these cases means something that you would not normally say in colloquial speech, but would be perfectly acceptable (and possibly even be seen as the preferred expression) in a speech (even a relatively informal one), in a newspaper article, in an obituary, etc.
  13. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    If you were to say Ég ætla á kaffihúsið, that would simply mean that you were going to a specific café or restaurant, possibly the one where you work or one that you frequently visit.
  14. Daniel20 Member

    Makes more sense than English.

    Takk fyrir Segorian.

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