Level A1
Prepositions are the small words that indicate relationship between things, such as “from”, “about”, “below”, “through” and so on.
Prepositions in Icelandic cause words to have a particular case. A preposition will never cause the first case (nominative), it will always cause one of the other three (accusative, dative, or genitive).

Prepositions that always result in the same case

Certain prepositions always result in the same case.
The following prepositions always cause words to be in the second case (accusative):
  • um (about)
  • gegnum (through)
  • kringum (around)
The following prepositions always cause words to be in the third case (dative):
  • frá (from)
  • hjá (by)
  • úr (out of)
  • handa (for)
  • á móti (against)
The following prepositions always cause words to be in the fourth case (genitive):
  • til (to)
  • vegna (because of)
  • án (without)

Prepositions that can either cause the second or the third case

Several prepositions can cause either the second case or the third case depending on context. A general rule is that:
  • The second case indicates that the subject is moving relative to the object.
  • The third case indicates that the subject is not moving relative to the object.
The words are:

á (onto; on)
  • If the subject is in the second case , then the object is moving onto the subject.
  • If the subject is in the third case , then the object is already on the subject and is not moving.
Examples:
  • Ég set húfuna á mig = I put the beanie cap onto me. The beanie is moving relative to me.
  • Húfan er á mér = The beanie cap is already on me. The beanie is not moving relative to me.
  • Ég fer á bílinn = I go onto the (roof of the) car. I am moving relative to the car.
  • Ég fer á bílnum = I will travel there using the car. Although the car is moving, we are both moving together and so I am not moving relative to the car.
  • Ég leggst á mosann = I lay myself down onto the moss. I am moving relative to the moss.
  • Ég ligg á mosanum = I am laying on the moss. I am not moving relative to the moss.

eftir (by, after)
Most of the uses of the word eftir appear in idiom-like phrases, but otherwise:
  • If the subject is in the second case , the subject is comes after the object in time or is created by the object.
  • If the subject is in the third case , the object is usually behind the subject in space.
Examples:
  • Þessi bók er eftir hann. = This book is authored by him.
  • Eftir daginn í dag fer ég í sumarfrí = After today, I will go on vacation.
  • Myndin kemur út eftir mánuð = The movie will be released in a month.
  • Eftir það er ég búinn = After that I’m done.
  • Ég kem á eftir þér = I will be there right after you. Indicates that the person will be walking behind the other person in space.
Word phrases that include this preposition include:
  • Það fer eftir því hvort... = It depends on whether...
  • Ég sé eftir því = I regret it.
  • Ég tók ekki eftir því = I didn’t notice.

fyrir (for, before; standing in the way of)
  • If the subject is in the second case , the object is going to be given to the subject and so there is an imagined “movement” to the subject. This can also indicate a relationship in time.
  • If the subject is in the third case , the subject is standing still and is standing in the way of the object.
Examples
  • Þessi bíll er fyrir mig = This car is for me. This car has already been allocated to me and is going to be my property soon.
  • Þessi bíll er fyrir mér = This car is standing in my way. I can’t move because the car is there. There is no movement.
  • Ég myndi gera hvað sem er fyrir þig = I would do anything for you.
  • Ég kem heim fyrir jól = I’ll be home before Christmas. A relationship in time.
  • Geturðu farið út í búð fyrir mig ? = Can you do this for me and go to the store?
  • Geturðu lýst húsið fyrir mig ? = Can you do this for me and give the house a lighter color?
  • Geturðu lýst húsinu fyrir mér ? = Can you describe the house to me?
  • Geturðu útskýrt þetta fyrir mig ? = Can you do this for me and explain this?
  • Geturðu útskýrt þetta fyrir mér ? = Can you explain this to me?
  • Verðurður kominn fyrir kvöldið ? = Will you be home before the evening? A relationship in time.
  • Ég var að velta því fyrir mér hvort þig langaði að koma í sund.
  • Þú hefur rétt fyrir þér. = You are correct.
  • Fyrir mig byrja jólin í október. = For me Christmas begins in October. This does not explain the person’s view about when Christmas should start, it is just a matter of fact that in their life Christmas happens to start in October. The speaker may for example work at a store, and they may dislike it.
  • Fyrir mér byrja jólin í október. = In my view, Christmas begins in October. This explains the person’s worldview and their view about how things should be.
  • Fyrir mig er þetta tímaeyðsla. = This is a waste of time for me. This does not explain the person’s view about the task, but it explains that the task is not specifically beneficial to them.
  • Fyrir mér er þetta tímaeyðsla. = This is a waste of time in my view. This does explain the person’s view about the value of the task, not only for them but for everyone.
  • Norska og sænska hljóma alveg eins fyrir mér. = In my view, Norwegian and Swedish sound exactly the same.
  • Tungumálanám er náttúruleg bara lífsstíll fyrir mér. = Of course, I view language learning as a lifestyle.
  • Nú mega jólin koma fyrir mér. = In my view, now Christmas may come.
  • Skiptir engu máli fyrir mig = Doesn’t make any difference to me.
  • Skiptir engu máli fyrir mér = In my opinion, this doesn’t make any difference. (Note that this means practically the exact same thing as the item above.)
  • Ég varð fyrir bílnum = I got run over by the car. This is a bit complex since this is a phrase, but: I was standing in the way of the car. The car could not move because I was standing in its way. There has not been any movement yet. However, as soon as there is movement I will be run over by the car.

í (in, into; inside of)
  • If the subject is in the second case , there is movement into it. Can also discuss time spans.
  • If the subject is in the third case , the object is already inside of it.
Examples:
  • Farðu í íbúðina þína = Go to your apartment. There is movement.
  • Vertu í íbúðinni þinni. = Stay in your apartment. There is no movement.
  • Ég fer í úlpuna = I put the jacket on. I go into the jacket, there is movement.
  • Ég fer í úlpunni = I go there wearing my jacket. I go there while I am already inside of the jacket, there is no movement relative to the subject.
  • Ekki í dag. = Not today.
  • Ég hef ekki séð hana í marga mánuði. = I haven’t seen her for several months.
  • Ég bý í stóru húsi. = I live in a big house. There is no movement.
  • Allt í lagi. = Okay.
  • Ég sé hann í vikunni. = I’ll see him this week. This is a phrase.
  • Mikið ertu í flottri peysu. = Oh my, the sweater you’re wearing is really nice. You are already wearing the sweater, there is no movement.

með (with)
  • ég er með hann = I am holding him
  • ég er með honum = I am with him / I am hanging out with him
  • Ég ætla að fara til Svíþjóðar með kærastann minn. = I am going to Sweden carrying my boyfriend (implying that you are literally holding him under your arm or in your luggage). This sentence makes no sense and would not be used unless you are a human trafficker or want to show that you are taking him to Sweden against his will.
  • Ég ætla að fara til Svíþjóðar með kærastanum mínum. = I am going to go to Sweden accompanied by my boyfriend. This is the correct sentence.
  • Ég er með bækur. = I have books.
  • Ég er með bókum. = I am hanging out with some books. This sentence does not make any sense. This sentence makes no sense and would never be used.
  • Ég slæ þig í höfuðið með bækur. = I hit you in the head, and at the same time I am also carrying books. This sentence makes little sense and would never be used.
  • Ég slæ þig í höfuðið með bókum. = I hit you in the head using books.

undir (under)
  • Ég fer undir sófann = I go underneath the sofa
  • Ég er undir sófanum = I am beneath the sofa

við (by, to)
  • Ég sit við vatnið. = I sit by the lake.
  • Ég tala við þig á eftir = I’ll talk to you later.
  • Hann er góður við mig = He is good to me
The third case can be seen in some word phrases:
  • Verður einhver heima til að taka við mér? = Will someone be home to receive me?
  • Viðbrögð við laginu hafa ekki látið á sér standa. = Reactions to the song have been immense.
  • Ég þarf að vara þig við honum. = I have to warn you about him.
  • Við mér blasti sorgleg sjón. = A sad sight laid there before my eyes.
  • Það er ekki til lækning við sjúkdómnum. = No cure exists for the disease.

yfir (over; above)
  • Flugvélin fer yfir húsið = The airplane goes over the house. There is movement.
  • Flugvélin er yfir húsinu = The airplane is above the house. There is no movement.

See also