-a verbs (AKA group 1 or regular weak verbs) are the largest category of verbs in Icelandic, but not the most frequently used: despite its size, this group accounts for “only” 11% of all verb use.
It’s a very important category not only for its size, but also because it’s generally considered the only open category. This means that new verbs that enter the language (such as words borrowed from other languages or verbs derived from other word categories) almost always become -a verbs.
Here are some examples of new verbs that have become -a verbs. If the e-n, e-u, sb, sth are confusing, you can refresh your memory on dictionary shorthand.
- að dissa e-n > to diss sb, to disrespect sb
- að dánlóda e-u > to download sth
- að hurða e-n > to door sb (to slam your car door into another car, scratching it)
If you’re wondering how you can tell which verbs are -a verbs, check out my Overview of the Icelandic Verb Categories.
When you’d like to move on to the past tense, I’ve got you covered right here.
Now, let’s make conjugating -a verbs in the present tense a little easier!
How to Conjugate -a Verbs in the Present Tense
- Just remove the -a from the infinitive, then
- add the appropriate ending.
For the 3rd person plural (þeir, þær, þau) we don’t add an ending: it’s just exactly like the infinitive. We could say “add an -a ending”, but it’s cleaner this way, I promise. The reason for this becomes evident when you learn to conjugate -i verbs and strong verbs: they use their infinitive there, as well. This way, nearly all Icelandic verbs conjugate identically in the plural.
You’ve probably noticed that in the 1st person plural (við, we), the ending includes a u, so you may need to apply u-shift. You can read more about that here, but the gist is this:
a before u changes to ö
or, to put it more visually,
a_u –> ö_u
Here’s what that looks like when you apply it to -a verbs in the present tense.