Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns all change their form depending on what’s happening to them in a sentence. There are four such cases in Icelandic:
- The first case indicates being. It shows that the word is doing something. (nominative case)
- The second case indicates suffering. It shows that the word is having something done to it. (accusative case)
- The third case indicates having. It shows that the word has something or is being given something. (dative case)
- The fourth case indicates belonging. It shows that the word belongs to something. (genitive case)
These cases are always shown in the same order. Some words, like “lamb”, don’t change that much:
But other words, like “cat”, change a lot:
The first case is the default case and is the one that is shown in dictionaries.
Comparison to English
The Icelandic cases can be compared to the different forms that English pronouns have. In the sentence “He took his book with him”, the word “he” appears three times, but is different each time, indicating what function the word has in the sentence. “He” is analogous to the first case in Icelandic, “him” is analogous to both the second and the third case, and “his” is analogous to the fourth case.