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N-rule

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N-rule

For the typographic term "n-rule" or "n-dash", see Dash.

In Icelandic orthography, the N-rule dictates whether or not one or two n's should be written, sometimes affecting pronunciation.

Compound words

The second n in a compound word goes after the first compounded word. For example:

Spergilkál er ekki banvænt. (of the word bani)
Er svertingi bannorð? (of the word banna)
Þessi mynd er kynngi mögnuð! (of the word kunnugur)
Skálinn okkar er kyngifenntur. (of the word kyngja)
Hvenær verður hann kynntur fyrir mér? kynna)
Hvenær verður arinninn kyntur? kynda)

It can often be hard to find related words to prove whether one or two n’s should be written, and if all fails, one can try to eliminate options until the most likely one has been found. The best way is to look up words with two n’s in their stem. If no such words are to be found, the use of one n is practical.

For example:

Elísu vantar krans.

Function words

Below are rules about the number of n’s in function words, which do not decline nor conjugate. Various function words which indicate movement end on –an and never –ann.

Examples:

Hvaðan, austan, vestan, sunnan, norðan, innan, utan, ofan, neðan, framan, aftan, handan, undan, héðan, þaðan, meðan, áðan, saman, síðan, jafnan, jafnharðan, sjaldan.

Adverbs

In the adverbs “þanneiginn” (þann + veginn) and “hinseginn” two n’s are written.

Enn and en

One is supposed to write “enn” - meaning "still" - whenever it's possible to use “enn þá” instead without changing the meaning of the sentence. In every other case, “en” is used. “En”, which can mean different things, is often used when comparing. “En” can also be a conjunction.

Examples for two n:

Ég er enn ungur og myndarlegur. - "I'm still young and beautiful"
Ég er enn þá ungur og myndarlegur.
Ertu enn skólastjóri? - "Are you still headmaster of the school?"
Ertu enn þá skólastýra?

Examples for one n:

Stúlkan er hærri en pilturinn. - "The guy is taller than the girl"
Er blár fallegri litur en rauður? "Is blue a more beautiful colour than red?"
En hvað finnst þér? "And what do you think?"
Ég vildi bláan bíl en hún vildi rauðan. "I wanted a blue car, but she wanted a red one."

Definite article

The definite article always uses the same number of "n" which means that it doesn't matter whether it's added as a suffix to the word or written as a separate word.

Example:

Separate word: Hin skemmtilega kona. - "The funny woman"
Suffixed: Skemmtilega konan.

Example:

Separate word: Hinn hávaxni maður. - "The tall man"
Suffixed: Hávaxni maðurinn.

Two "n" are used whenever a possessive pronoun has got "i" (minni, minnar, minn, minna..).

One "n" is used whenever a possessive pronoun has got' 'í' (mínum, míns, mína, mín..).

The number of "n" in a possessive pronoun always corresponds to the number of "n" of the definite article of the same form:

Example:

Hesturinn. → Minn hestur. - "The horse" → "My horse" (Nom. Sg. Masc.)
Hestinum. → Mínum hesti. - "To the horse" → "To my horse" (Dat. Sg. Masc.)
Ákvarðananna. → Minna ákvarðana. - "Of the choices" → "Of my choices" (Gen. Pl. Fem.)

Nouns without articles

Masculine nouns

Rule one

Masculine nouns ending in -ann, -inn and -unn in Nominative Singular, are written with one n in all other cases (Accusative, Dative and Genitive).

Examples:

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
morgunn morgunn [um] morgun [frá] morgni [til] morguns
drottinn drottinn [um] drottin [frá] drottni [til] drottins
himinn himinn [um] himin [frá] himni [til] himins
arinn arinn [um] arin [frá] arni [til] arins

Other words which decline this way:

Skarphéðinn, Héðinn, Þórarinn, Huginn, jötunn, Kristinn, Þráinn, Muninn, Auðunn, Auðun (beygist eins og Auðunn nema i nefnifalli), Óðinn, Reginn.

The words Huginn, Reginn and Muninn don't change in the accusative and dative case (Hugin, Munin og Regin).

The word aftann (which means evening) is the only word in modern Icelandic that declines this way, and is mostly used compounded like: aftansöngur (evening mass) or aftanbjarmi (evening light).

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
Aftann aftann [um] aftan [frá] aftni [til] aftans

Rule two

Some names which end on -an in the nominative case end on a single n in all cases. The names Kiljan, Kamban, Kjarvan, Kvaran, Kjartan, Natan etc. are examples of such names.

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
Natan Natan [um] Natan [frá] Natan [til] Natans
Kjartan Kjartan [um] Kjartan [frá] Kjartani [til] Kjartans

Feminine words

Rule one

The first n-rule for feminine nouns, the so-called Þórunnarregla states that Icelandic feminine names which come from the name unnur (like Þórunn, Jórunn, Iðunn, Ingunn, Ljótunn, Dýrunn, Sæunn), have two n's in all cases.

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
Jórunn Jórunn [um] Jórunni [frá] Jórunni [til] Jórunnar
Iðunn Iðunn [um] Iðunni [frá] Iðunni [til] Iðunnar

Rule two

The second n-rule for feminine nouns, the so-called miskunnarregla states that the four feminine nouns which come from the noun kunna and kenna (einkunn, vorkunn, miskunn and forkunn) have two n's in all cases.

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
miskunn miskunn [um] miskunn [frá] miskunn [til] miskunnar
vorkunn vorkunn [um] vorkunn [frá] vorkunn [til] vorkunnar

Rule three

The third n-rule for feminine nouns, the so-called verslunarregla states that feminine nouns ending on -un or -an in the nominative case, and come from the infinitive mood of verbs, should be spelled with a single n in all cases.

Examples:

mengun (að menga)
skömmtun (að skammta)
sönnun (að sanna)
verslun (að versla)
líðan (að líða)
skipan (að skipa)
...etc

See also

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