Locative Adverbs

A locative adverb, also known as an adverb of location, is an adverb describing a location (I love it when grammar is exactly what it says on the tin). Icelandic, like English, has many locative adverbs, but a few of them are more likely than others to cause confusion, so let’s clear those up, shall we? 

It’s All About Motion

A few locative adverbs come in 3 different versions, depending on whether they indicate non-motion (like staying at a location), motion towards (going to a location), or motion from (leaving a location).

English used to do the same thing for where?, here, and there, but in modern language these sound archaic.

By the by, once you realise that whence means from where you really start getting annoyed when fantasy tropes want to sound fancy and say things like “the ring must be cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came”. The from is already in the whence, Elrond! Whence means from where, so from whence would mean…from from where. Silly bugger, that Elrond.

English just adds to and from to everything, with to here instead of hingað and from there for þaðan, etc. Very inefficient if you ask me, but it seems to work for the anglophones.

By the way, if right now you’re thinking “Hey, the “from” section is blank for some words!”, rest assured we’ll get to it below. 

Fram and Frammi 

I didn’t even try to put in an English equivalent in the table up there because there just isn’t one.

It usually translates to outside, but it really means outside, but not, like, out in the rain, just not in this room, or out of this room, not outside the house, or room closer to the exit than the room we’re in right now

Almost always this refers to the hallway.

No Prepositions, Please

It’s important to remember not to use a preposition (like í, á or til) with any of these words. If you do make a mistake and use a preposition with one of these words, don’t worry, it won’t change the meaning or anything: it just sounds silly. Exactly like saying “I’m going to home”, or “come to here immediately!”

  • Ég ætla að fara heim > I’m going to go home.
  • Hvaðan ert þú? > Where are you from?
  • Ég er héðan. Ég fór í sama skóla og þú! > I’m from here. I went to the same school as you!
  • Hvar er Jón? Fór hann upp? Okei, kemur hann niður bráðum? > Where is Jón? Did he go upstairs? Okay, will he come down soon?
  • Geturðu beðið frammi meðan ég klára? > Can you wait out in the hall while I finish?

Hey, the “From” Section Is Blank for Some Words! 

How astute of you to notice, Mister Sub-Heading! Yes, besides hvaðan?, þaðan, and héðan, none of the other words have special forms to mean from. You need to use a prepositional phrase instead.

I didn’t include those in the original table because those phrases can have an alternative meaning as well. They can still mean from whatever, but it’s not the only meaning.

Að heiman still means from home, but usually in a more permanent way, like when you first move out of your parents’ house. Að flytja að heiman (to move away from home) is an important step in any young person’s life. As for the rest…

 (I threw in að aftan for free because it felt asymmetrical without it, talking about the front without mentioning the back.)

Summary

A locative adverb is an adverb describing a location. In Icelandic, certain locative adverbs come in three different versions depending on whether they indicate non-motion (like staying at a location), motion towards (going to a location), or motion from (leaving a location).

If you take nothing else from this article, let it be these words. They are, by far, the most common.


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