I am proud to announce that I created my first Icelandic sentence this evening while Xan and I were making dinner. “diskurinn er í skápinum.” Or, the plate is in the cupboard. Let me explain to you why this was such an achievement for me. For those of you who don’t care… its okay. You can skip down to the conclusion since the middle of the post is just grammar. 😉
First, I need to explain that there are 13 different groups a noun could be part of. Strong masculine nouns (4 groups), Strong female nouns (3 groups), Strong Neuter nouns (1 group), Weak masculine nouns (2 groups), Weak femine nouns (2 groups), Weak Neuter nouns (1 group). And yes, that means that I have to memorize the different endings for each case, plural and singular, for each group. And yes, there are irregulars inside of the groups that you just have to memorize each ending that has no rhyme or reason. Nasty, right?
We really only have these in English with pronouns: he, him, his… they signify if the word is nominative, accusative, dative, or genitive. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t remember being taught these different ‘cases’ in school so it has been a very ugly road for me to learn them now. Applying this to the sentence, we have two nouns: plate and cupboard. We’ll just explain plate with is strong masculine group 1 but luckily, both are from the same group and have the same endings.
Nomanitive: disk-ur/ disk-ar
Accusative: disk/ disk-a
Dative: disk-i/ disk-um
So, since plate in the sentence is the subject, it is nomanitive. diskur
In English, we simply use ‘the.’ That is it. Simple… easy. In Icelandic… even these are declined and are sometimes added to the end of the word (like when there is no adj. before the noun). Luckily, there are not 13 ‘groups’ for these. There is simply masculine, feminine, and neuter. Plate is a masculine word so it declines:
n: diskur-inn/ diskar-nir
a: disk-inn/ diska-na
d: diski-num/ disku-num
g: disks-ins/ diska-nna
Therefore, disk-ur-inn er í skáp-i-num.
One of the reasons why Icelandic is so difficult is because of these declensions. I first (1) have to think of the noun (diskur) then (2) I have to figure out if it is nomanitive, accusative, dative, or genetive case and conjugate it to the right ending. (3) then I have to decide if it needs a definite article (the) or if it is indefinite (in English that would be an “a” or “an” but in Icelandic, it is just nothing) and conjugate the definite article to the end of the noun if needed. (4) then comes the conjugated verb which is a lot like Spanish, next (5) the preposition… so far I don’t know that it has any quirks) and (6) repeat steps 1-3 for the next noun. That is why I am so proud of my sentence. I successfully declined and made the sentence agree. 🙂 Hopefully, I can learn to write sentences quicker than the whole 15 min. or so it took me to put together this simple sentence that I even had Xan’s help coaching me.