Icelandic/Grammar/Adjectives

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Adjectives

Adjectives are words that add description to a person, place, thing, or idea.

For example:

  • Reykjavík is beautiful.
  • Cars pollute, but are essential.
  • When you are sad, think of good memories.

In Icelandic, these take on endings and inflections like verbs and personal pronouns do in English.

Case, gender, and number[edit]

In Icelandic, adjectives are inflected for gender and case. Most Icelandic dictionaries will give the masculine form of the adjective by default. Adjectives usually end in "-ur" in the masculine nominative.

Typical adjective inflections[edit]

Singular
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -ur -[note 1] -t
Accusative -an -a
Dative -um[note 1] -ri -u[note 1]
Genitive -s -rar -s
Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -ir -ar -[note 1]
Accusative -a
Dative -um[note 1]
Genitive -ra

Strong vs. weak adjectives[edit]

Case, gender, and number are not the only ways that adjectives are declined in Icelandic.

The strong form of an adjective is used when its meaning is not modified by the definite article, while the weak form is used when the meaning is modified. Examples:

  • svartur köttur ("a black cat")
    Here, the definite article is not used at all, so the adjective would be in the strong form.
  • svarti kötturinn ("the black cat")
    Here, the adjective is used to say which cat the speaker is referring to, not to provide additional information. Therefore, the weak form of the adjective is used.
  • Kötturinn er svartur. ("The cat is black.") Here, even though the noun is in the definite, the adjective's meaning is not changed by the definite article, so the strong form is used.

Inflection[edit]

The inflection table above shows the strong forms of the adjectives. This is how adjectives are declined in the weak form.

Singular
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -i -a -a
Accusative -a -u[note 1]
Dative
Genitive
Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -u[note 1]
Accusative
Dative
Genitive

Comparative and superlative adjectives[edit]

In Icelandic, as in with most other languages, adjectives have a positive, comparative, and superlative degree. Examples:

  • My car is bigger than yours. (comparative)
  • Reykjavík is the largest city in Iceland (superlative)

Inflection[edit]

The comparative does not have separate strong/weak forms.

Comparative
Singular
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -(a)ri -(a)ra
Accusative
Dative
Genitive
Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -(a)ri
Accusative
Dative
Genitive
Strong superlative
Singular
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -astur -ust[note 1] -ast
Accusative -astan -asta
Dative -ustum[note 1] -astri -ustu[note 1]
Genitive -asts -astrar -asts
Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -astir -astar -ust
Accusative -asta
Dative -ustum[note 1]
Genitive -astra
Weak superlative
Singular
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -asti -asta -asta
Accusative -asta -ustu[note 1]
Dative
Genitive
Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative -ustu[note 1]
Accusative
Dative
Genitive

Forming adjectives from nouns or verbs[edit]

-legur (cognate with English "-like") is the most common suffix added to a noun or verb to form an adjective. Examples:

  • persónulegur ("personal") from persóna ("person")
  • haustlegur ("autumnal") from haust ("autumn")
  • beygjanlegur ("bendable") from beygja ("to bend")

Notes[edit]

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m If the final non-ending vowel in the default form is a, then it will become ö in this inflected version.