Já and Jú

Where English has yes and no, Icelandic has já, jú and nei. Both and translate as yes, but there is a distinct difference between how the two are used. answers affirmative questions, while answers negative questions. In grammar, a negative question is any question with the word not or similar: it has nothing to do with subjective qualities like positivity and negativity.

  • “Ert þú frá Ítalíu?” “, ég er frá Ítalíu.” > “Are you from Italy?” “Yes, I‘m from Italy.”
  • “Ert þú ekki frá Ítalíu?” “, ég er frá Ítalíu.” > “Aren‘t you from Italy?” “Yes, I‘m from Italy.”

In addition to answering negative questions, can also be used to contradict a (grammatically) negative statement.

  • “Jón er ekki frá Ítalíu.” “, hann er frá Ítalíu.” > “Jón is not from Italy.” “Yes, he is from Italy.”

Note the disambiguation provided by using two different forms for affirmation. The examples below sound perfectly natural in Icelandic, but in the English version a clarification is almost obligatory.

  • “Finnst þér þetta ekki gott?” “.” > “Don’t you like it?” “Yes (I do).”
  • “Finnst þér þetta ekki gott?” “Nei.” > “Don’t you like it?” “No (I don’t).”

Aldrei can also be used to formulate a negative question.

  • “Hefurðu aldrei smakkað appelsínusafa?” “.” > “Haven’t you ever tried orange juice?” “Yes.”

Víst

Víst can be thought of as a stronger version of , when used to contradict a (grammatically) negative statement. It cannot be used to answer negative questions. The closest thing to a proper translation in English might be the exclamation point: body language and vocal inflection would convey the difference in spoken language.

  • Jón er ekki frá Ítalíu.” “, hann er frá Ítalíu.” > “Jón is not from Italy.” “Yes, he is.”
  • “Jón er ekki frá Ítalíu.” “Jón er víst frá Ítalíu.” > “Jón is not from Italy. “Yes he is!”

Víst is an adverb, so in neutral word order it comes after the verb and subject. If it is fronted (brought to the front of the sentence for emphasis), the subject and verb are inverted.

  • “Jón er ekki frá Ítalíu.” “Víst er hann frá Ítalíu.” > “Jón is not from Italy.” “Yes he is!”

Many a playground argument has devolved into an exchange of nei and víst.

  • “Nei!” “Víst!" “Ne-hei!” “Jú víst!” > “No!” “Yeah!” “Nuh-uh!” “Yuh-uh!”

Conjunctions

What are the most common conjunctions in Icelandic? What are the weirdest?

Phrasal Verbs

You’ll have to place upwards alongside the Icelandic phrasal verbs.

Question Words

What – or who – are the Icelandic question words?