Level B2
If you’ve ever read an Icelandic newspaper, it may have surprised you just how strange the style of language used is. Words seem to be out of order and the vocabulary seems unnecessarily advanced.
Apart from using the stricter style that formal written Icelandic uses, newspapers also do the following:
  • In headlines, they will often drop the subject, saying just “Eats cake” instead of “Pétur eats cake”.
  • They really like changing the word order of the sentence, in particular they will place the verb in the first position. As an example, they might say “Says Pétur that he is thirsty” instead of “Pétur says that he is thirsty”. There is no reason for doing this apart from sounding more formal and “newspaper-like”.
Newsanchors will also use this style of Icelandic when announcing the news, since they’re reading from a piece of paper.
While you should learn to understand this style of Icelandic, you rarely have a reason to write like this yourself, and you should most definitely not try to speak like this.


These examples are from the article Villikettirnir fá lagalega stöðu from Fréttablaðið.
  • Nefnir Arndís fyrsta verkefni félagsins...“ In this example, they have placed the verb in the first position. In spoken Icelandic, this would be „Arndís nefnir fyrsta verkefni félagsins“.
  • Staða þeirra hefur verið mjög bágborin í gegnum tíðina.“ The word bágborin is almost never used in spoken Icelandic, so this is an example of the use of a formal variety of Icelandic.
Other examples:
  • „Tekið er á móti umsóknum í gegnum síma.“ instead of „Það er tekið á móti umsóknum í gegnum síma.“
  • „... að því er Reuters greinir frá.“ The phrase „að því er“ is one example of a phrase that you’ll only see in newspapers.