Level A2
Click on words to see their translations.
Intonation is the way you sing while speaking. Not all the words in a sentence have the same pitch (musical tone). For example in the English sentence “You’re cold” the tone is going down on the last word, but in “You’re cold?” the tone is rising, making it clear that it is a question.
Listen to the following examples and notice the different rising and falling musical tones used. The second examples are exaggerations of the same melodies.
  • ▶ Play Mamma og pabbi eru að koma á eftir.
    • ▶ Play Mamm o pabb er a kom á eft ir.
  • ▶ Play Ég nenni því ekki.
    • ▶ Play É nenn i ðí i gyi
  • ▶ Play Ég veit ekki einu sinni hvað þú ert tala um.
    • ▶ Play É veit ekk einu sinni hva þú ert a tal um.
Sentences in Icelandic usually end with the pitch going down. A native Icelandic speaker will pronounce “Já” as Jáá ▶ Play while a native Swedish speaker learning Icelandic will say Jáá ▶ Play and a native Spanish speaker will say Jáá ▶ Play(until they’ve practised their intonation).
  • Takk
    • Taak
Learning which intonations sound best takes practise. You need to listen to how people speak and imitate them – it’s better to over-exaggerate the melodies rather than not doing enough!
Again, this is the most common way to sing sentences, even questions:
  • Ég kemst ekki. Ég verð upptekinn á morgun.
    • É kemst ekki. É verð upptekinn á morgun.
  • Hvað er eiginlega þér?
    • Hvað er eiginlega þér

Other intonation forms

Level A2
Of course you have some freedom in your intonations. Sometimes people use sentences where the pitch is going up, it usually doesn’t change the meaning at all.
In these examples, sentences are shown where the pitch is going up and where it is going down. Ending sentence on a high pitch means exactly the same thing, but it sounds a little bit more like inviting the other speaker to reply:
  • Góðan daginn
    • Góðan daginn
    • Góðan da ginn
  • Hvenær ætlarðu koma?
    • Hvenær ætlarðu að koma
    • Hvenær ætlarðu að koma
  • Ég heiti Ívar.
    • Ég heiti Í var
    • Ég heiti Í var
  • Ertu upptekinn á morgun?
    • Ertu upptekinn á morgun
    • Ertu upptekinn á mor gun
More examples:
  • ▶ Play Hvað ertu að gera?
    • ▶ PlayKva ert a gye ra (casual question)
    • ▶ PlayKva ert a gye ra (this speaker is angry, not asking a question)
  • Takk kærlega fyrir. – Both mean the same thing, just stressing a different word:
    • Takk kær lega fyrir
    • Takk kærlega fyrir