Icelandic Adverbs

Icelandic adverbs are an essential aspect of the language, as they provide additional information or description to verbs, adjectives, and even other adverbs. They help to convey details about when, where, or how an action is performed, thus improving the overall understanding and clarity of a sentence.

The most common way to form Icelandic adverbs is by adding the suffix “-lega” to an adjective, similar to the English suffix “-ly.” For example, the adjective “löng” (long) turns into the adverb “lönglega” (longly) when the suffix is added. Another way of creating adverbs in Icelandic is by attaching the same suffix (“-lega”) to a noun, which serves a similar purpose to the English “-ly” suffix.

Three main groups of adverbs can be found in Icelandic, based on their meanings. These groups allow for greater precision and variety in expression, making them an indispensable part of the language. As learners become familiar with Icelandic adverbs and their proper usage, they will find that their comprehension and fluency in the language will significantly improve.

Formation of Icelandic Adverbs

In the Icelandic language, adverbs are formed in various ways depending on their origin. This section will explore how adverbs are created from adjectives, nouns, and verbs.

From Adjectives

Adverbs in Icelandic can be derived from adjectives by adding the suffix “-lega” to the adjective, which is equivalent to “-ly” in English. This is a common method for forming adverbs, although there are exceptions. For example:

  • The adjective “löng” (long) becomes the adverb “lönglega” (longly).
  • The adjective “sterk” (strong) becomes the adverb “sterklega” (strongly).

Keep in mind that not all adjectives follow this rule, as irregular adjectives may form their adverbs differently.

From Nouns

Some adverbs can also be formed from nouns by adding the “-lega” suffix, similar to the process for adjectives. Here are a few examples:

  • The noun “sund” (swimming) becomes the adverb “sundleysislega” (swimmingly).
  • The noun “kvöld” (evening) becomes the adverb “kvöldlega” (in the evening).

However, it is important to note that not all nouns can be converted into adverbs this way, and some might follow alternative patterns.

From Verbs

While it is less common for adverbs to be formed directly from verbs in Icelandic, some verbs can be used in an adverbial sense, by inflecting the verb to create a different type of adverb. For example:

  • The verb “að hlaupa” (to run) can become “hlaupandi” (running), an adverbial participle.
  • The verb “að syngja” (to sing) can become “sungandi” (singing), which functions as an adverbial participle.

These adverbial participles can be used to modify verbs or clauses within a sentence, providing additional information about the action.

Types of Icelandic Adverbs

There are several categories of Icelandic adverbs that cover different aspects of meaning. In this section, we will explore the following types of Icelandic adverbs:

  • Manner
  • Time
  • Place
  • Frequency
  • Degree


Manner adverbs describe the way in which an action is performed. These adverbs often end in “-lega” in Icelandic. Examples of manner adverbs include:

  • Hratt (fast)
  • Hægt (slowly)
  • Illa (badly)
  • Vel (well)


Time adverbs indicate when an action takes place. These adverbs can reference specific points in time or general periods of time. Some examples of time adverbs are:

  • Í gær (yesterday)
  • Síðan (since)
  • Brátt (soon)
  • Núna (now)


Place adverbs describe the location where an action takes place. They provide spatial context for the action in question. Some examples of place adverbs include:

  • Hér (here)
  • Þar (there)
  • Utan (outside)
  • Inni (inside)


Frequency adverbs indicate how often an action takes place. These adverbs can express measurements of time, such as how often an event occurs or the regularity of an action. Examples of frequency adverbs are:

  • Stundum (sometimes)
  • Alltaf (always)
  • Aldrei (never)
  • Sjaldan (rarely)


Degree adverbs convey the level or intensity of an action, quality or other adverbs. These adverbs can help provide context for the strength or weakness of an action or description. Some examples of degree adverbs are:

  • Mjög (very)
  • Næstum (nearly)
  • Frekar (rather)
  • Algjörlega (completely)

Comparison of Adverbs

In the Icelandic language, adverbs play an essential role in modifying various parts of speech. When it comes to comparing adverbs, three degrees are used: positive, comparative, and superlative.

Positive Degree

The positive degree represents adverbs in their basic form, without any comparisons. These adverbs are used to describe or modify verbs, adjectives, clauses, sentences, and other adverbs. For example, the Icelandic adverb hraðlega, which means “quickly” in English, is in its positive degree form.

Comparative Degree

The comparative degree is used when comparing the extent of the adverb between two entities. In Icelandic, the comparative degree of many adverbs that end in -lega is formed by replacing -lega with -legar. For example, the comparative form of hraðlega is hraðlegar, which means “more quickly” or “faster” in English. Note that some adverbs might have irregular comparative forms or fixed expressions to convey comparisons.

Superlative Degree

The superlative degree is used when comparing the extent of the adverb among three or more entities. It indicates the highest level of the quality expressed by the adverb. In Icelandic, the superlative degree of adverbs ending in -lega is formed by replacing -lega with -legast. For example, the superlative form of hraðlega is hraðlegast, which translates to “most quickly” or “fastest” in English.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all Icelandic adverbs follow the same pattern in forming comparative and superlative degrees, and exceptions might occur. However, understanding these general rules can help in navigating the complexities of Icelandic adverbs when making comparisons.

Position and Usage

Understanding the position and usage of Icelandic adverbs is essential to mastering the language. This section will cover the placement of adverbs in sentences, as well as their use in phrases.

Adverb Placement in Sentences

Adverbs can occupy various positions within a sentence, depending on their function and the information they convey. In general, Icelandic adverbs are flexible in their placement, but some guidelines can help learners grasp the language more effectively. Here are the common positions for adverbs in Icelandic sentences:

  • Initial position: Some adverbs, such as ‘oft’ (often) and ‘aldrei’ (never), can appear at the beginning of a sentence to provide emphasis or to set the tone.
  • Before the verb: When an adverb modifies the verb, it typically appears before it, as in the case of ‘strax’ (immediately) and ‘vel’ (well).
  • Between the auxiliary and main verb: In sentences with an auxiliary verb and a main verb, the adverb usually appears between them, such as ‘hafa mjög elskað’ (have very loved).
  • After the verb: Some adverbs, including ‘líka’ (also) and ‘enn’ (still), may appear after the verb they are modifying.

Keep in mind that these guidelines may not apply to every adverb or sentence structure. Icelandic grammar is flexible, and context plays a significant role in determining the best position for an adverb within a sentence.

Adverbs in Phrases

Adverbs can also be used in phrases, either modifying other adverbs or combining with other words to convey specific meanings. For example, adverbs like ‘mjög’ (very) and ‘afar’ (very) can be used alongside other adverbs to intensify their meaning. Consider the following examples:

She speaks very slowly.Hún talar mjög hægt.
He runs extremely fast.Hann hleypur afar hratt.

Furthermore, adverbs can form idiomatic expressions with other words. For instance, the adverb ‘því miður’ (unfortunately) combines with other phrases or sentences to express regret, as in ‘Því miður, ég get ekki komið.’ (Unfortunately, I cannot come.)

Being aware of the position and usage of Icelandic adverbs will help learners improve their comprehension and expression, as they continue to explore the beautiful and rich language that is Icelandic.