In Icelandic, verbs can be either strong or weak. Strong verbs form their past tense with a vowel shift (an English example: take becomes took). Weak verbs add an ending to show their past tense (English example: talk becomes talked). There is no way of telling if a verb is strong or weak. This is learned through usage. To form a weak past tense, simply take the infinitive and remove the last letter (with the exception of a group verbs which keep the a) and add the appropriate ending:
Við ætluðum (ö shift)
Þið ætluðuð (ö shift)
Þær ætluðu (ö shift)
If the stem of the verb ends in –s or -t, the ð becomes t. If the stem ends in -l, -m or –n, the ð will change to d. If the stem ends in –ð do not add the extra ð. In weak verbs, there is also a stem vowel shift. E goes to a and y goes to u. Similarly, ý goes to ú.
The past tense of strong verbs are formed with a vowel shift, with only a few forms taking an ending as well. The shift changes are different for singular and plural forms.
|Í||ei||i||Bíða beið biðum|
|Jó jú ú||au||u||Fljúga flaug flugum|
|E||a||u||Drekka drakk drukkum|
|E||a||á||Gefa gaf gáfum|
|I||a||u||Finna fan fundum|
|I||a||á||Sitja sat sátum|
|a||ó||ó||Fara fór fórum|
|A||é||é||Falla fell féllum|
|Á||é||é||Láta lét létum|
|Ei||é||é||Heita hét héyum|
|Au||jó||u||Hlaupa hljóp hlupum|
The endings are easy to remember, but the plural ending may trigger ö shift:
Ég (no ending)
Hann, Hún, Það (no ending)
Þeir, Þær, Þau –u
An example: Lesa – read
Hann, Hún, Það las
Þeir, Þær, Þau buðu
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