Obligation and Necessity 

May 11, 2024
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There are a few ways of expressing obligation or necessity in Icelandic. English speakers benefit from having fairly exact equivalents to most, if not all, of these phrases.

See bin.arnastofnun.is for comprehensive conjugations for all of these verbs. 

Að þurfa að is equivalent to the English to need to.

  • Ég þarf að drekka kaffi á morgnana til að koma mér af stað > I need to drink coffee in the mornings to get started.
  • Hvar er klósettið? Ég þarf pissa > Where is the bathroom? I need to pee.

Að eiga að is equivalent to the English to be supposed to.

  • Börn eiga vera hlýðin og þæg > Children are supposed to be obedient and well-behaved.
  • Mamma segir að ég eigi verða læknir > Mom says I'm supposed to become a doctor.

Að verða að is equivalent to the English to have to, must.

  • Jæja, klukkan er orðin átta, ég verð að fara í vinnuna > Well, it's eight o'clock, I have to go to work.
  • Starfsmenn verða að þvo sér um hendurnar > Employees must wash their hands.

Ætti að is equivalent to the English should. Ætti is derived from eiga.

  • Ættir þú ekki fara að sofa? > Shouldn't you go to sleep?
  • Þú ert svo hávaxinn, þú ættir spila körfubolta > You're so tall, you should play basketball.
  • Þvottavélin ætti vera búin > The washing machine should be done now.

Hefði átt að is equivalent to the English should have. It is a structure derived from hafa and eiga.

  • Þú hefðir átt að sjá á henni svipinn! > You should have seen the look on her face!
  • Við hefðum ekki átt að tala við hana > We shouldn't have talked to her.