Icelandic Language Blog

Passive Part III: Strong and Weak Past Participles Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

Welcome to part III of our passive voice lesson. Today, we’ll take a look at constructing the past participle and using –st verbs to convey passive voice. It’ll all lead into a future lesson on lýsingarháttur þátíðar, where we’ll go into even more detail (horray!) on the various uses of past participles. Unfortunately, I underestimated the complexity of passive voice, so I’ll do one last entry to go over –st verbs, using the future tense with this concept, and what to do when you want to use an impersonal verb in passive.


So let’s jump right in.


The past participle is formed from a verb, transforming it (for all intents and purposes) into an adjective. Remember, we’re currently talking about þolmynd, passive voice, although these forms are called past participles, or lýsingarháttur þátiðar. So: það var borðað is our basic paradigm, as in the previous two entries.




Strong verbs become past tense, and are transformed into past participles with a stem change, called a c-víxl (see chart below). I’m happy to go into more detail on stem changes, also called hljóðbreytingar, in future entries.


So verða becomes varð in past tense, first person. It then becomes urðum (first person plural past, AKA, ‘við’), and, finally, orðið in the past participle.

Lesa becomes las, which becomes lásum (past, við). The past participle is lesið.

The past participle of strong verbs conjugates just like an adjective that ends in –inn (hence the above “-ið” endings), like fyndinn (funny).


Lesa: lesinn (M) –> lesin (F) –> lesið (N)

Plural: lesnir (M) –> lesnar (F) –> lesin (N)


Bókin er mikið lesin.

Bækurnar eru mikið lesnar.




The majority of weak verbs form the past participle in the same way that they make the past tense and the imperative.


The magic formulate is stem + suffix + ending

The suffix is, in this case, simple either ð, t, or d.


This class of verbs (weak 1 and 2) are, in brief, verbs that take either –ar in the second person present and –aði in the first person past (type 1 weak), or –ir in the second person present, with a dental suffix (t, d, ð) in the past tense (type 2 weak).


The declension ending will be –ur in the masculine singular nominative, and the participle will decline like a strong adjective, like gulur. The weak become strong!


Class 1

Borða –> borðaður (M) –> borðuð (F) –> borðað (N)

Plural: borðaðir ( –> borðaðar ( –> borðuð (


Class 2

Gleyma –> gleymdur (M) –> gleymd (F) –> gleymt (N)

Plural: gleymdir ( –> gleymdar (F. pl) –> gleymd (


Class 1

Baka –> bakaður –> bökuð –> bakað
Plural: Bakaðir –> bakaðar –>bökuð


Class 2

Heyra –> heyrður –> heyrð –> heyrt

Plural: heyrðir –> heyðar –> heyrt



Some type 3 verbs also take the appearance of a strong adjective as above. Take flytja (which has a vowel-change called a b-víxl), for example.


As we generally see, the –ja is dropped from the infinitive to make room for the –ur ending. Be aware that, while many –ja verbs decline with the –ur ending and lose their –ja, some do not (take, e.g., the very common “byrja,” for example. It looks like spyrja, but it declines as a Type 1 verb).


Class 3


Flytja –> fluttur –> flutt –> flutt

Plural: fluttir –> fluttar –> flutt


Spyrja –> spurður –> spurð –> spurt

Plural: spurðir –> spurðar –> spurð



Class three verbs like flýja, which has a stem change (b-víxl) are made into a past participle in the same way that strong verbs are.


So flýja looks like this, even though it is a class three:

Flúinn (M)  –> flúin (F) –> flúði (N)
Plural: flúnir –> flúnar –> flúin


Telja and Velja and Ala (to grow up) [e–>a : stem change]:


These take blended forms – i.e., they are both weak and strong.

  • The rule of thumb is: when the declension ending begins on a vowel (tal – inn, tal – in, tal -ið), the  ending is constructed like the past participle of a weak verb (see above). So, with telja, all forms take the strong verb ending except for masculine and feminine plural.



Talinn –> talinn –> talið

Taldir* –> taldar* –> talin.

(Note that the declension ending is “d,” a dental sound, and not “n,” as you might expect for a strong verb)


Velja follows the exact same paradigm, as does ‘ala’.


BUT DON’T PANIC! There are only a handful of these. There are so few, in fact, that I was only able to find these three + the adjective ‘nakinn,’ which declines in this exact same way.


Please – if you have questions, fire away!

I’ll put up some practice exercizes this week for you. It may be best to practice before moving forward.


[As an aside, to wrap up talking about strong/weak: you all seem to be very diligent students, and I feel privileged to have such excellent readership. This all reminds me of a quote from Saint Benedict (I went to a Benedictine college for undergrad): [He] must so arrange everything that the strong have something to yearn for, and the weak have nothing to run from.]

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About the Author: Meg

Hi, I'm Meg! I'm here to help you learn Icelandic, the language more than anything else in the world. I'm a former Fulbright scholar, with an MFA from Columbia, and I've published many translations into English from Icelandic and German. I currently study Icelandic, and translate poetry by trade. (If you have questions or comments on my entries, you can write them to me in the comments in either English, German, or Icelandic.)


  1. Helen:

    Takk fyrir Meg!
    Talinn –> talinn –> talið : shouldn’t that be
    Talinn –> talin –> talið ?
    Just showing off if I’m right. :p
    gangi þér vel.

  2. Ingrid:

    Thank you for all your explanations Meg! they are very helpful. I’m looking forward to your next lessons.

  3. Irina:

    Thank you!