Antarctic tabular icebergs are important active components of the ice–ocean system. To investigate the relevance of inherent ice dynamics to iceberg evolution, we developed a numerical model based on the fundamental equations of ice-shelf flow and heat transfer, forced by environmental parameters of the ice–ocean–atmosphere system. Model experiments with idealized icebergs of constant density show that the strain thinning rate for a typical iceberg with a thickness of 250 m and a temperature of −15°C is about 1 m a−1. Sensitivity studies for different scenarios of environmental conditions confirmed the reliability of our model. A 5 year simulation of the evolution of iceberg A-38B yielded a mean decrease in thickness from 220 m to 106.3 m, 95% of which was caused by basal melting, 1% by surface melting and 4% by strain thinning. We found iceberg spreading decelerating by about 75%, and ice temperatures being strongly affected by progressive erosion of the relatively warm basal layers and warming in the uppermost part. According to the model results, basal melting is the primary cause of change of iceberg geometry during drift, whereas strain thinning is only relevant in cold areas where basal melting is low.