er, ert, eru…

One of the most common verbs to conjugate in Icelandic is “að vera,” which means “to be.” I’m not going to dive into all of that here right now (there are a million resources on that), but I was struggling to remember a few of the conjugations—so I wanted to review them here.

Specifically, for whatever reason, I had a hard time remembering the differences between er, ert, og eru. Random, I know. The below charts (which cover the same thing, in a couple different ways) helped me sort it out.

Icelandic "to be"
Credit: Complete Icelandic by Hildur Jonsdottir
Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 11.58.34 AM

Hopefully you won’t forget the e “að vera” words like me. 🙂

When to use “nei” and when “nei” is a nope!…

I learned this weekend that “nei” can only be used as a response rather than used in a sentence.

This learning moment came about when I mistakenly said “nei Íslendingar” in a sentence and my friend corrected me, noting what I should have said is “engir Íslendingar.” Later, I grew curious as to why “engir” (masculine) would be used instead of “engin” (neuter), as saying “engir Íslendingar” implies a general group of people. My tutor later informed me that when you’re speaking about an unspecified person or group, the default is always masculine.

You can say “nei” in a sentence if you’re objecting to something, my friend told me, such as: “Nei, það er ekki rétt.” But that’s about it, it seems.

“Einhver” means someone/somebody, and “enginn” means no one/nobody/none (as a pronoun). The screenshot below explains it in more detail.

enginn engin ekkert
Credit: Colloquial Icelandic by Daisy Neijmann

And with that, I promise to never use “nei” in an Icelandic sentence again! 😛

Þetta er…

I decided that this weekend I wanted to review the Icelandic lesson chapters I already completed with my tutor.

After learning the different uses for þessi or þetta, I grew a tad confused when I saw this easy peasy example from an early lesson:

Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 1.06.06 PM

Why is “Þetta er” used here when Adam is male and we know that þetta = neuter?

I asked my Iceland BFF, a bit in a confused panic, and she confirmed my suspicion that essentially “Þetta er” is more for introductions. However, if you’re describing something/someone, then our normal rules for þessi and þetta apply. Example: Þessi er sætur.

My friend also shared these examples:

  • “Þessi stúlka er frænka þín.”
  • “Þessi drengur heitir Adam og er frændi minn.”

So when the word is paired with a noun, then we stick with the þessi form.

(And if the the words stúlka and drengur confuse you like they did me, read this quick post on the differences between stelpa og stúlka, og strákur og drengur.)

My tutor later further explained, “When we’re just saying this on its own as in ‘this thing/person that I am indicating,’ we can just use þetta.”

Perhaps you all were already well aware of this little rule, but it’s one I don’t think I learned—or perhaps I knew it and forgot it. 😉



I received an email from a reader with the following and I thought I’d share here in case other new learners might be wondering something similar:

I’m using both Beginner’s Icelandic and Pimsleur. I like them both, but am focused on Pimsleur. However, I’ve found there are some words in Pimsleur, I can’t find anywhere. For example, “gladly”. I looked it up in my trusty dictionary and it’s not what they use in Pimsleur. What I hear is “enteleya”, but as you know, everywhere else, “gladly” is “gladlega”. Do you have any suggestions? Takk! M.

I relate to your Pimsleur frustrations, M. It’s a wonderful resource (one I still use for practice on my way to work), but I think it’s really best for casual learners who just want to know basics (without having to learn any grammar etc.).

I encountered a similar thing M is describing. I remember asking an Icelandic friend something similar last year. I described it to her as sounding like ant-ee-lega. 🙂 She informed me that endilega is the correct word, which does mean gladly—and she noted that you can also be glaðleg (cheerful).

I do understand the confusion, though, as Google Translate says:

  • endilega = please
  • gladly = gjarna

And if you look here, it says endilega means “absolutely” or “by all means.” Íslensk nútímamálsorðabók also shows endilega as meaning “fyrir alla muni,” aka “by all means.”

I hope this is helpful! These little pieced together definitions should give you a sense as to how it’s used. 🙂


Icelandic Learner Facebook Groups

I already send frequent messages to my Iceland BFF, who has jokingly referred to herself as my full-time native tutor (she’s not wrong…), and my actual Icelandic tutor—but another helpful avenue I use for asking questions are the below Facebook groups:

I love love love using the search function within each of these groups. Sometimes people have already asked similar questions and I get my answers instantly. If no one has asked something similar yet, I can ask in the group and someone always responds within minutes it seems.

So if you don’t have any Icelandic friends or a tutor (or you want to limit your questions to them!), these groups are a great place to start. It’s also helpful if you live in the U.S. like me and are rather impatient (one of my greatest flaws, for sure), and your friends with the answers are fast asleep! 😉

Please let me know if you have other recommendations of Icelandic language learning groups online. 🙂

stelpa or stúlka? strákur or drengur?

I learned today that there are other variations of girl and boy in Icelandic.

We all know that stelpa means girl and strákur means boy, but I didn’t know that stúlka also means girl and drengur also means boy.

Apparently they can be used interchangeably, but my friend informed me that stúlka and drengur are just a bit more proper, and stelpa and strákur are more casual.

I did a bit more Googling and learned via this Reddit thread that stúlka and drengur are really “just less colloquial.”

Quick little fact of the day! 🙂