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Ri-sagnir (Icelandic: "ri-verbs") are four verbs in the Icelandic language which have the special status of being the only verbs in the language ending with -ri in the past tense, as well as being the only verbs in Icelandic which inflect with the mixed conjugation (is) except for the preterite-present verbs.


The verbs are gróa ("to heal, to grow"), núa ("to rub, to wipe"), róa ("to row") and snúa ("to turn"). Another peculiar thing about the ri-verbs is that they are written with an e in the second principal part (first person singular past indicative mood), even though they are pronounced as being spelled with an é; according to the Icelandic Ministry of Education.

The principal parts of the ri-verbs are as following:

First principal part Second principal part Third principal part
Infinitive First person singular past tense indicative mood Past participle
snúa ("to turn") Ég sneri[1] ("I turned") Ég hef snúið ("I have turned")
gróa ("to heal") Ég greri[1] ("I healed") Ég hef gróið ("I have healed")
núa ("to rub") Ég neri[1] ("I rubbed") Ég hef núið ("I have rubbed")
róa ("to row") Ég reri[1] ("I rowed") Ég hef róið ("I have rowed")

The Dictionary of the University of Iceland and the Icelandic dictionary for schools and offices still mention "snéri" as another orthography of "sneri".


Historically, róa and snúa belonged to the seventh class of strong verbs, which was the only class of verbs in Germanic that had retained the reduplication inherited from the Proto-Indo-European perfect aspect. In Old Norse, the verb ("to sow") also belonged to this group, but it has become weak in Icelandic. The past tense of these three verbs from Proto-Germanic was as follows:

  • *rōaną ("to row") - *rerō ("I rowed")
  • *snōaną ("to turn") - *seznō ("I turned")
  • *sēaną ("to sow") - *sezō ("I sowed")

Originally, all class 7 verbs showed this reduplication. In most verbs containing -ē- in the stem, this changed to -ō- through ablaut, which was common to all strong verbs. The change from s- to z- was a form of Grammatischer Wechsel and was due to Verner's law, since the reduplicating prefix was originally unaccented. In Old Norse, this -z- was rhotacized to -r-, creating the following Old Norse forms:

  • róa ("to row") - røra, rera ("I rowed")
  • snúa ("to turn") - snøra, snera ("I turned")
  • sá ("to sow" < *sáa) - søra, sera ("I sowed")

The forms with ø were older and resulted from u-umlaut caused by word-final , which became -u in Old Norse before disappearing just as it did in feminine nouns. Following this, the verbs adopted the endings of weak verbs in the past tense, with -a, -ir, -i in the first, second and third person singular past, and later the original vowel e was restored. The verbs gróa and gnúa (núa in modern Icelandic) were adapted to the forms of róa and snúa by analogy, although they did not begin with s- or r- (their past tenses in Germanic were *gegrō and presumably *gegnō).

In modern Icelandic, the first person singular ending was replaced by -i in all weak verbs, and the ri-verbs followed suit. The verb then eventually became weak, reducing the number of ri-verbs to the current four.

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  1. ^ a b c d Ri-verbs are written with an e in the second principal part according to the Icelandic Ministry of Education even though it is pronounced as it were written with an é.

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