Terrestrial surveys to 17 markers distributed across the tongue of the polythermal glacier midre Lovénbreen, Svalbard, are used to calculate annual and seasonal (summer 1998, autumn/winter/ spring 1998/99, summer 1999) patterns of surface velocity and strain. The annual period and the three seasonal periods have similar velocity azimuths and patterns, with fastest velocities along the centre line and in the upper tongue. Velocities in both summers are of similar magnitude, and greater than those in the autumn/winter/spring period. In all periods, longitudinal compression (increasing towards the snout) and transverse and vertical extension dominate the surface strain field. However, an area of longitudinal extension develops in the middle tongue during the 1998 summer. Surface strain patterns are used to estimate the components of the force balance. Basal drag is the dominant force resisting flow, but patterns are rather different between the three seasons. In summer 1998, a slippery spot in the upper-middle tongue is confined to the central part of the glacier. In autumn/winter/spring, this slippery spot has expanded towards the western glacier margin. In summer 1999, it has disappeared, and a slight sticky spot now covers virtually the entire upper and middle tongue. The location and extent of the slippery spot are explained in terms of the distribution of warm and cold ice, and the location and morphology of the subglacial drainage system, which control the patterns of water pressure beneath the glacier tongue.