Icelandic : use of 'sést'

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Hspo, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. Hspo

    Hspo Senior Member

    British English (Yorkshire)
    Good morning.
    Could someone please explain why:
    Fólk drekkur sólarkaffi = Það er drukkið sólarkaffi.
    Félagið gaf út sumarblað handa börnum = Það var gefið út sumarblað handa börnum.

    Við sjáum sólina = Það sést til sólar. (not séð ).
    I thought the passive form was 'vera + Lýsingarháttur þátíðar' but 'sést' is the Sagnbót midmynd form of 'sjá'.
    Is this an exception to the regular rule? Or is it a different form of 'sjá'? ( I know this is an impersonal or reflexive form of the verb.)
    Thank you for any help. :)
  2. Roman A. New Member

    By the way, if we say simply, without expletive Það, sumarblað var gefið út handa börnum, would it sound normal?

    Impersonal construction, my dictionary gives an example (Það) sér til sólar with the same meaning

    Maybe sól er séð would be an analogical passive construction?
  3. Roman A. New Member

    It is a different form, reflexive.
    For example:
    hann klæddi sig (he clothed himself)
    hann klæddist (he clothed himself)
    hann er klæddur (he is clothed)
  4. Hspo

    Hspo Senior Member

    British English (Yorkshire)
    Takk fyrir Roman A.
    This was an exercise in Icelandic Online so it was just a test to fill in the missing word (in red).
    We had seen the passive with vera and I managed to complete the task except for "Það sést til sólar" which I didn't expect.

    This passive with 'það' is to me a little awkward, I think "sumarblað var gefið út handa börnum" is easier. Am I right?

    I know about the reflexive forms and recognise them well. (I use the reflexive all the time in French, my second language).

    I'm beginning to understand Icelandic moderately well but still feel incapable of holding a conversation. I have trouble coping with the grammar, (declensions and conjugation), as there is so much to learn, but I'm enjoying the challenge and grateful for your help. :)
  5. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Yes. The confusion stems from the fact that sést in this sentence is the present indicative singular, not the ‘sagnbót’. This verb happens to be conjugated in a way that makes these two reflexive forms identical (the indicative being a contraction of sér-st and the sagnbót a contraction of séð-st), which is unusual, I guess.

    Yes, that is a normal construction. The one with Það is more colloquial.

    That is correct. Both are used.

    Yes. This construction is correct, but is hardly ever used. The use of the past participle séður is mostly limited to a range of special constructions and meanings, the reflexive forms being used instead to convey passive meanings. Examples of these special constructions and meanings include vera vel/illa séður (‘to be well regarded/frowned upon’) and séður used as adjective (‘cunning, clever’).
  6. Hspo

    Hspo Senior Member

    British English (Yorkshire)
    Thank you Segorian.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, I said :
    You mention the ‘sagnbót'. This is the supine I believe? Is the ' ‘sagnbót germynd used for the 'perfect' tense with 'hafa'?

    I'm still not sure about the use of the 'sagnbót miðmynd' in comparison to 'Ópersónuleg notkun - Miðmynd'. t.d. að tala = talast, talaðist and 'sagnbót miðmynd' of að tala is 'talast'.

    Thank you again. :)
  7. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    This is probably a source of confusion for many people. The ‘supine’ or ‘sagnbót’ in Icelandic is no other than the neuter singular of the past participle, when used in certain compound verb forms. To understand why the term ‘supine’ is used, it helps to remember that the Latin supine (although different in function from the sagnbót) is likewise identical in form with the neuter singular of the past participle. Sagnbót is an unnecessary term in Icelandic, however. It obscures the fact that we are essentially dealing with the past participle, and thus makes learning this part of Icelandic grammar too complicated. (This is somewhat unlike the situation in Swedish, where the supinum is also derived from the past participle but has developed a form of its own (albeit one only slightly different from the p.p.).)

    The past participle is used in this fashion with only a handful of auxiliaries, principally hafa and geta, but also (when used in the meaning ‘be able to’):

    hafa skilið
    geta skilið
    skilið (like the previous, ‘be able to understand’)​

    Since you know French, it is worth pointing out a parallel with that language, namely that in some constructions, the past participle is invariable (Ce matin, j'ai pris une photo de la Tour Eiffel) while in others it agrees with the noun (or other) to which it refers (La photo de la Tour Eiffel que j'ai prise ce matin).

    Another thread also explaining the sagnbót is found here.
  8. Hspo

    Hspo Senior Member

    British English (Yorkshire)
    Thank you so much for this! It's the best explanation I have ever seen along with the thread above. I finally see the light! :)
  9. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    The problem here is simply that the two forms are identical in this particular case (as in some others). Always try to compare the middle with the active voice:


    present: Stúlkurnar tala saman; perfect: Stúlkurnar hafa talað saman

    Middle (reflexive/reciprocal):

    present: Stúlkurnar talast við; perfect: Stúlkurnar hafa talast við

    Depending on the conjugation of the verb, these two middle voice forms are either identical or distinct. An example of the latter is :

    present: Margir Íslendingar fást við fiskveiðar; perfect: Margir Íslendingar hafa fengist við fiskveiðar

    In fact, the two forms are always distinct “behind the scenes”. Grossly simplified, the modern form of the ‘sagnbót miðmyndar’ of tala is the result of the following changes:

    talað-sk (for sik = sig, ‘oneself’) -> talað-st -> talaðst (the official spelling until 1974 was talazt) -> talast
  10. Hspo

    Hspo Senior Member

    British English (Yorkshire)
    Thank you again Segorian for a very complete explanation. This a great help! :)

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