Level A1


A simple greeting in Icelandic is:
Hæ. = Hi.
“Hæ” is pronounced the same as the English “hi”. The letter Æ/æ ▶ Play is pronounced like “eye”, it is written as a blend of the letters “A” and “E”. If you don’t have an Icelandic keyboard you can write “Hae” instead of “Hæ”.

How are you?

After greeting someone, you then ask them how they are:
„Hvað segir þú gott?“ = How are you?
The phrase literally means “What do you say that is good?”.
You can see several new things regarding pronunciation in this phrase:
  • hv is always pronounced kv, meaning “hvað” is pronounced [kvað]. The K sound ▶ Play in Icelandic has a slightly stronger outgoing breath of air (exhalation) than in English, if you place your hand in front of your mouth you should feel a short gust of wind coming out of your mouth after the K sound in “hvað”, making a [k(h)vað].
  • The letter Ð/ð is a D with a line through it, and it makes the sound of the English word “then”. It’s a very soft letter, it’s often so soft that it disappears completely. Indeed, in the word “hvað” it is so soft that it just disappears. We now see that “hvað” is pronounced [k(h)va]. If you don’t have an Icelandic keyboard you can write “d” instead of “ð”.
  • G is sometimes a soft letter in Icelandic, in the word “segir” it makes the sound ▶ Play of “yes”. The word “segir” is therefore pronounced [seyir].
  • Þ is a letter you’ve not seen before, it is unrelated to the letter P and only exists in Icelandic. It makes the same sound as in the English thick”. If you don’t have an Icelandic keyboard you can write “th” instead of “þ”.
  • Before a tt, you have to exhale a little bit. You can imagine a small h-sound having been added before the tt, and so “gott” is pronounced [go(h)tt]. If you place your hand in front of your mouth you should feel a short gust of wind coming out of your mouth. This short outgoing breath is extremely important, it can be impossible to understand you without it. For that reason, it is far better to exaggerate this sound significantly rather than not doing it enough.
One thing you will often see in questions is that the verb and the word “you” are joined together, similar to if the words “are you” were merged to form “areyou”. In Icelandic the words “segir þú” are merged together to form “segirðu”. The reason Þ became a Ð here is that in certain situations Þ sounds like a Ð.
We can then take our original phrase:
„Hvað segir þú gott?“ = How are you?
and turn it into:
„Hvað segirðu gott?“ = How are you?
Both mean the exact same thing, but it’s far more common to write it as “segirðu”.
As mentioned above, the letter Ð is extremely soft, so soft that it often disappears, and in this phrase, both of the Ð's completely disappear. And so, the sentence “Hvað segirðu gott?” is pronounced [k(h)va seyiru go(h)tt].

I’m fine.

There is only one possible response to the question “Hvað segirðu gott?” (“How are you?”), and that is a positive response:
Allt gott. = All good; Everything good.
Since “Hvað segirðu gott?” literally means “What do you say that is good?”, the response “Allt gott” means that “Everything that I have to say is good”.
The pronunciation of the word “allt” is quite difficult. The double L here represents a breathy L sound, which is a whispery sort of L sound pronounced without using the voice. To pronounce it, you have to create turbulent airflow behind your premolar teeth (the teeth that are next to your canine teeth). To do so you should make the tip of your tongue touch the roof of your mouth. Lift your tongue slightly so it comes close to touching your premolar teeth as well. Now blow air out of your mouth, directing it around your premolar teeth.
As before, the word “gott” is pronounced with a short outgoing breath before the tt: [go(h)tt].
After you’ve said how you’re feeling, you throw the question back to the other person:
En þú? = But you?; But what about you?
The other person can now reply in the same manner as you, “Allt gott”, or they can just reply with a shorter “Gott.”
Putting it all together, this is the conversation you will have a few thousand times in your life:
Hvað segirðu gott?
Allt gott.
En þú?

And how is your mother doing?

The way to say “your mom” is “mamma þín” (“mom your”):
Hvað segir mamma þín gott? = How is your mother doing? (“What does your mom say that is good?”)
This is a friendly question asking about the well-being of your mother. The response is:
Mamma mín segir allt gott. = My mother is doing well. (“My mom says everything good.”)
Notice that “þín” (your) and “mín” (my) look the same except for the first letter. You can alternatively respond:
Hún segir allt gott. = She’s doing well. (“She says everything good.”)
Hvað segirðu gott?
Allt gott.
En þú?
Hvað segir mamma þín gott?
Hún segir allt gott.
Það er gott.
Já. En hvað segir mamma þín gott?
Mamma mín segir líka allt gott.
Það er gott.


  • Practice saying “How are you?” and responding to yourself until you can do so without hesitating.
  • Have a look at the explanatory page about the Icelandic alphabet.
  • Read the text Sund. Click on words to see their translations. Listen to the audio and read along. Read through the text several times until you feel closer to understanding.