þessi or þetta?

I got to the below exercise in my Icelandic Online course, and I was totally stumped. So this post is an attempt to teach myself—and remember—the difference between þessi og þetta.

Credit: Háskóli Íslands

It turns out that þessi = feminine (and þessi is also used to describe masculine things) og þetta = neuter.

Mark at Íslenzka.net offers the below explanation about the use of þessi:

“Þessi is typically used for referring to something nearby, something you could point at for instance.”

And Dr. Jennifer Wagner at ielanguages.com offers this helpful (and, sure, a bit overwhelming) chart:

this that these
Credit: Dr. Jennifer Wagner

And Mark at Íslenzka.net also offers some fun(?) examples of how to use þessi in other cases:

Ég ætla að kaupa þennan bíl / þessa bíla.
I’d like to buy this car / these cars.
Má ég skoða þessa bók / þessar bækur?
Can take a look at this book / these books?
Er mjög skemmtileg saga í þessari bók.
There is a very entertaining story in this book.
Eru mjög skemmtilegar sögur í þessum bókum.
There are very entertaining stories in these books.
Þau gleyma aldrei þessum degi.
They will never forget this day.
Eigandi þessa húss er ekki heima.
The owner of this house isn’t home.
Rithöfundurinn þessarar bókar / þessara bóka er mjög frægur.
The author of this book / these books is very famous.

Given that þessi seems to be used to describe both masculine and feminine things, then the answer to the above exercise should be þessi lampi!

I finished the rest of the exercise and was able to sort out the below thanks to the above resources.

  • þessi kista (fem)
  • þessi stígur (masc)
  • þetta borð (neuter)
  • þetta lag (neuter)

Such a small little win, but an important one! 🙂