Icelandic: um næsta leiðangur


Senior Member
English - USA
I came across this sentence in Olly Richards' Short Stories in Icelandic: "Hann snerist um fyrirætlun Áskels höfðingja um næsta leiðangur." (p 146)

Apparently, this renders in English as something like, "It was about Chief Áskel's plan for the next expedition."

(Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and the original English version of the story all give something similar.)

But I would rather make this "...for a next expedition", because I would think "...the next expedition" would map better to " næstan leiðangurinn."

But maybe this is one of those cases where usage of the definite article in one language just differs from that in the other language.

It's true that to my (USA English) ears, there is something a little odd about saying "...for a next expedition". Not that it's wrong, just a little odd, like, for some reason, in English, we prefer to use the definite article in such constructions. But is there anything like that going on in Icelandic? I would especially like to know if it's actually wrong to use the definite article, or is it simply a matter of preference, as it appears to be in English, but maybe reversed.

Thanks in advance!
  • The thing is "næsta" is weak declension, which inherently marks the noun phrase as definite*. That is for the translation to be "a next expedition" it would have to be "næstan leiðangur" which just as with "a next expedition" in English is blocked because it just doesn't make much sense. "Næsta leiðangurinn" would work, but the article is not necessary and therefore sounds a bit strange.

    *Actually it is the meaning of "næstur" which makes the noun phrase definite, which in turn forces weak declension on the adjective.

    In general it is the definiteness of the noun phrase which governs whether the adjective is weak or strong, not whether the noun has an article or not. Which is why words like "þessi" also govern the weak declension. Or in some cases the meaning of the adjective is so inherently definite that only the weak declension works. The main adjectives I can think of, which this applies to are "næstur" and "síðastur" when referring to the next and the last item on a list (the last one be fore the one we are on now, not the one at the bottom of the list).

    (And in some cases you will see strong adjectives with definite nouns because the adjective is so loosely connected with the noun.)