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Basic Sentence Structure

T and Is
Irish has two different ways of expressing the English verb "to be".
T is the verb "to be", used for describing people or things, "I am..." eg. "I am tired, I

am here" a) where something is or b) what state it is in


Is is the copula, and is not quite a complete verb; its most common use is to say what

something is, "I am a..." eg. "I am a teacher, I am a man"


The copula is a sort of pseudo-verb. It is used for four main purposes:
Identification, or saying that some specific thing, identified by a definite noun (usually

a noun with the article) or pronoun is the same as some other specific thing

Example: "That is my cow" = "Is mo bh sin"


Classification, or saying that some specific thing fits into some class - in other words,

saying that the thing "is a" something, where the something is a general class rather than
a specific object

Example: "That is a cow" = "Is b sin"


Emphasis, or moving certain sentence parts earlier in the clause to make them more

prominent to the listener or reader. English often uses tone of voice, accented syllables
to do this, but Irish primarily relies on word order

Example: "In God we trust" = "Is i nDia a cuirimid r muinn" (compare to "We
trust in God" = "Cuirimid r muinn i nDia")
Questions use a special form of the copula: "An." For example "An fear Sen?": "Is

Sen a man?"

There are also instances in which the copula may safely be left out: "Is mise
Sen" can become simply "Mise Sen."

"B" is the verb "to be."


tm

Iam

tt
ts
ts
tsinn,tamuid
tsibh
tsiad

Youare
Heis
Sheis
Weare
You(plural)are
Theyare

If you want to negate "t s," you use nl instead of t. Nl s He is not

Some Simple Sentences[edit]


Approximate phonetic pronunciations are provided for the phrases below. Pronunciation
varies from one dialect to another. If you learned a different way of pronouncing these words,
don't worry.
Classification sentences[edit]
In a classification sentence, we tell what class an identified person belongs to. For example,
telling the profession of someone. Here are some persons and their professions.
Cad is gairm bheatha duit? Cn tsl bheatha at agat? Cn cinel oibre at
agat? What is your profession?

Is minteoir m. I am a teacher.

Is scolire th. You are (thou art) a scholar, a pupil. (Scolire is obviously the same
word as the English scholar, but the Irish word is more often used in the sense of a
school pupil, which, incidentally, can also be dalta. In the Irish-speaking districts, a
person who could read and write - in those days when analphabetism was still common could also be called a scolire. Note that the word for "school ide" is scoil de.)

Is dlodir Siobhn. Siobhn (Joan) is a lawyer. (Dlodir - in Ulster Irish, dltheoir comes from the word for law, dl.)

Is feirmeoir Sen. Sen (John) is a farmer. (Feirmeoir is obviously related to feirm,


a farm. In Connacht, there are the parallel forms feilmir and feilm, respectively.)

Is pluimir Mirtn. Mirtn (Martin) is a plumber.

Is brceadir Colm. Colm (Malcolm) is a bricklayer. (Instead of brceadir, you can


also use the obvious English loan-word brclir. A brick is called brce in Irish.)

Is romhinnealtir Risterd. Risterd (Richard) is a computer engineer (a computer


is called romhaire, an engineer is innealtir).

Is sttseirbhseach Nra. Nra is a civil servant.

Is tiomna tacsa Mire. Mire (Mary) is a taxi driver. In Irish, "a driver of taxi". The
English of is understood.

Is spsaire James Tiberius Kirk. James Tiberius Kirk is a spaceman, an astronaut.

Is arrachtach The Incredible Hulk. The Incredible Hulk is a monster.

Is aisteoir Nana Visitor. Nana Visitor is an actress (actually, in Irish it is perfectly OK


to use the word aisteoir, actor, even for a female actor; if you want to stress the fact that
she is female, you can say Is ban-aisteoir Nana Visitor orIs aisteoir mn Nana Visitor.)

An dochtir Liam? Is ea. Is dochtir . Is dochtir maith . "Is Liam a doctor? Yes.
He is a doctor. He is a good doctor." Irish doesn't actually have words for the English
"yes" and "no" - this might feel a little funny, but the way Irish does it is actually quite
common as languages go. If you ask a question in the form of a classification sentence,
such as "is he a doctor?" -an dochtir ? it is answered either is ea ("is") or n
hea ("isn't"). Please note that the attributive adjective maith, good, comes after the noun
it qualifies.

The little word ea (in Ulster and in older texts, eadh) means "it", but it is only used in copula
constructions. There is an alternative sort of classification sentence, which uses the
word ea and is especially common in southern dialects:

Is dlodir . = Dlodir is ea . She is a lawyer.

Is feirmeoir . = Feirmeoir is ea . He is a farmer.

Is pluimir . = Pluimir is ea . He is a plumber.

Is brclir . = Brclir is ea . He is a bricklayer.

Is imreoir sacair . = Imreoir sacair is ea . He is a soccer player


(imreoir player, sacar soccer, imreoir sacair player of soccer)

Is peileadir th. = Peileadir is ea th. You are (thou art) a player of Gaelic football.

Is romhinnealtir m. = Romhinnealtir is ea m. I am a computer engineer.

Is siinir th. = Sinir is ea th. You are a carpenter. (Siinir, which comes from
the English word "joiner", is probably the most common word for "carpenter" in Irish
nowadays, but you might want to know that there are the alternative
terms cearpantir and saor adhmaid.)

Is fisiceoir . = Fisiceoir is ea . She is a physicist.

Is ceimiceoir m. = Ceimiceoir is ea m. I am a (research) chemist (i.e. a laboratory


kind of chemist).

Is poitigir th. = Poitigir is ea th. You are a (pharmaceutical) chemist (i.e. you work
at the chemist's).

Is matamaiticeoir . = Matamaiticeoir is ea . She is a mathematician.

Is geola m. = Geola is ea m. I am a geologist.

Is geoiceimiceoir th. = Geoiceimiceoir is ea th. You are a geochemist.

Is ralteola . = Ralteola is ea . She is an astronomer.

Is raltfhisiceoir m. = Raltfhisiceoir is ea m. I am an astrophysicist.

Is geoifisiceoir th. = Geoifisiceoir is ea th. You are a geophysicist.

Greeting Someone[edit]
There are three ways to say "How are you?", depending on your dialect. Just pick the one
you're most comfortable with, and use it.
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

Conasatt?

Howareyou?(Munster)

KUNUSSATAWTOO?

Cnchaoiabhfuilt?

Howareyou?(Connaught)

KAYKHWEEAWILLTOO?

Cadmaratt?

Howareyou?(Ulster)

CAWDAYMARATAWTOO?

Basic Conversation[edit]
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IP
A

Tmgomaith.

Iamwell.

TAWMAYGUHMAH

_____isainmdom.

_____ismyname.

_____ISSanyimDUM

Ismisename.

Iamname.

ISSMISHuh...

Cadisainmduit?

Whatisyourname?

KODISSANyimDITCH

T_____agam.

Ihave_____.

TAW_____ugUHM

Anbhfuil_____agat?

Doyouhave_____?

WILL_____ugUHT?

T__X__ag__Y__.

__Y__has__X__.

TAW___EGG___

Tmimochnai_____. Ilivein_____.

TAWMAYihMUHHOHnee ?

Cbhfuiltidochna?

Wheredoyoulive?

KAWWILLTOOihDUH
HOHnee

Rugadhagustogadhmi
_____.

Iwasbornandrearedin_____.

RUGooGUSSTOHgoo
MAYih...

Isas_____dhchasm.

I'moriginallyfrom_____.

ISSAHSS_____OHGHOO
?
khusMAY

Ismaithliom_____.

Ilike_____.

ISSMAHLUM...

Anmaithleat_____?

Doyoulike_____?

UNMAHLAT...

Isbrealiom_____.

Ireallylike_____.

ISSBRAWLUM...

Isfuathliom_____.

Ihate_____.

ISSFOOuhLUM...

Ismaithle__X____Y__

__X__likes__Y__.

ISSMAHLUH/LAY...

Bamhaithliom_____.

Iwouldlike_____.

BUHWAHLUM...

Armhaithleat_____?

Wouldyoulike_____?

ERWAHLAT...?

an_____seo

this_____

ANSHOW

an_____sin

that_____

ANSHIN

ceartgoleor

fine

KyARTGUHLyOHR

anois

now

uhNISH

Filte!

Welcome!

FALLchuh

Tafhiosagam

Iknow

TAHSSuhGUM

thankyou
goraibhmaithagat

(Oftenabbreviatedgrmaonthe GUHruhMAHGUT
Internet)

Describing someone or something, part 1[edit]


Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

Ts__adjective__

He/itis_____

TAWSHAY

Ts__adjective__

She/itis_____

TAWSHEE

T__name____adjective__

Nameis_____

Practice[edit]
Here are some words you can use to fill in the blanks above:
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

ard

tall

ARD

gairid

short

GARij

mr

big

MOHR

beag

small

ByUG

sean

old

SHAN

nua

new

NOO

young

OHG

fada

long

FAHduh

fuar

cold

FOOur

te

hot

CHEH

fliuch

wet

FLUKH

tirim

dry

CHIRim

dorcha

dark

DOHRkhuh

geal

bright

GYAL

bn

white

BAHN

dubh

black

DUHV

dearg

red

JARug

gorm

blue

GOHRum

bu

yellow

BWEE

beo

alive

ByOH

bog

soft

BUG

crua

hard

KROOuh

glan

clean

GLAHN

salach

dirty

SAHlukh

milis

sweet

MILLish

ml

anseo

here

unSHUH

ansin

there

unSHIN

Describing someone or something, part 2[edit]


Example: T s __adjective__ = He/it is _____
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

Tm(orTim)

Iam

TAWMAY

Tt

Youare

TAWTOO

Ts

He/itis

TAWSHAY

Ts

She/itis

TAWSHEE

Tmuid(orTimid)

Weare

TAWMWIJ

Tsibh

You(plural)are

TAWSHIV

Tsiad

Theyare

TAWSHEED

Example: Nl s __adjective__ = She/it isn't _____


Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

Nlm(orNlim)

Iamnot

NEELMAY

Nlt

Youarenot

NEELTOO

Nls

He/itisnot

NEELSHAY

Nls

She/itisnot

NEELSHEE

Nlmuid(orNlimid)

Wearenot

NEELMWIJ

Nlsibh

You(plural)arenot

NEELSHIV

Nlsiad

Theyarenot

NEELSHEED

Asking questions[edit]
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

Anbhfuilm?

AmI?

(uh)WILLMAY

Anbhfuilt?

Areyou?

(uh)WILLTOO

Anbhfuils?

Ishe/it?

(uh)WILLSHAY

Anbhfuils?

Isshe/it?

(uh)WILLSHEE

Anbhfuilmuid(orAnbhfuilimid?)

Arewe?

(uh)WILLMWIJ

Anbhfuilsibh?

Areyou(plural)?

(uh)WILLSHIV

Anbhfuilsiad?

Arethey?

(uh)WILLSHEED

Nachbhfuilm?

Aren'tI?

NAKHWILLMAY

Nachbhfuilt?

Aren'tyou?

NAKHWILLTOO

Nachbhfuils?

Isn'the/it?

NAKHWILLSHAY

Nachbhfuils?

Isn'tshe/it?

NAKHWILLSHEE

Nachbhfuilmuid(orNachbhfuilimid?)

Aren'twe?

NAKHWILLMWIJ

Nachbhfuilsibh?

Aren'tyou(plural)?

NAKHWILLSHIV

Nachbhfuilsiad?

Aren'tthey?

NAKHWILLSHEED

All of the above questions are answered simply T or Nl.


Irish

Cbhfuil...?

English

Whereis...?

Pronunciation

KAHWILL

IPA

Practice[edit]
Here are some more adjectives to practice with.
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

dathiilordoighiil

goodlooking

DAWhyool,DOYhyool

cairdiil

friendly

KARjool

lch

pleasant

LAHkh

bre

fine

BRAA

lainn

beautiful

AWlun

daor

dear,expensive

DEER

saor

cheap,inexpensive

SEER

tinn

sick,sore

CHEEN

spisiil

interesting

SPAYshool

tabhachtach

important

TAHwukhtukh

glic

cunning,"cute"

GLIK

tuirseach

tired

TOORshukh

gln

clean

GLAHN

salach

dirty

SAHlukh

deacair

difficult

JAAker

asca

easy

AYskuh

lidir

strong

LAWjer

lag

weak

LAHG

dna

bold,naughty

DAHnuh

Classification Statements[edit]
The verb t, and its other forms (nl, an bhfuil, and nach bhfuil) can be used to describe
something, but they can't be used to say what something is. For that you need to use a
special verb called the copula.
Think of copula statements as a set of templates you can plug things into. You can change
what you plug into the template, but you can't change the template itself. One of the
templates available is a classification statement. A classification statement has the form:
Irish

English

Is+categorynoun+subjectnoun.

subjectnounisacategorynoun

Examples:
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

IsfearLiam.

Liamisaman.

ISSFARLEEM

NcatDougal.

Dougalisnotacat.

NEEKUTGOOgull

Anainmh?

Isitananimal?

unANuhveeAY?

NachmadraDougal?

Isn'tDougaladog?

NAKHMAHdruhAYDOOgull?

These questions are answered simply Is ea or N hea.


Notes:
1. In place of Is, you can have N, An?, Nach?, Ba, etc. as appropriate.
2. In a classification statement, the predicate (category) is always an indefinite noun (a
cat, a house, a doctor). There is another type of copula template, the identification

statement, that uses a definite noun (the cat, the house, the doctor) as the predicate.
This structure will be discussed later.
Practice[edit]
You can practice classification statements using the nouns below.
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

minteoir

teacher

MOONchore

dochtir

doctor

DOKHtoor

feirmeoir

farmer

FEHRmohr

meicneoir

mechanic

MEKHnohr

dlodir

lawyer

DLEEuhdohr

iriseoir

journalist

EERishohr

tridlia

vet

TRAYDleeuh

ireannach

Irishperson/thing

AYrunukh

Sasanach

Englishperson/thing

SAHsunukh

Meiricenach

Americanperson/thing

MEHrihkahnukh

Review: T vs Is[edit]
One of the most common mistakes learners make is using t in place of is, or vice versa.
Here's one way to remember the difference:

The verb t can be used to describe something.

To say what something is, you need the copula, is.

Another way to think of it:

T is used to associate a noun with an adjective.

Is is used to associate a noun with a another noun.


Exercises

Fillintheblankswitheithertoris,asappropriate.Hoveryourmouseovereachblanktosee
theanswer.
___smr.Itisbig.
___fear.Heisaman.
___anlgodeas.Thedayisnice.
___muidssta.Wearehappy.
___dochtir.Sheisadoctor.
___Miretinn.Mireisill.
___anleabharsindeacair.Thatbookisdifficult.
___leabharGoneWithTheWind.GoneWithTheWindisabook.
___anleabhararanmbord.Thebookisonthetable.
___momhadraDougal.Dougalismydog.
___madramr.Heisabigdog.
___anmadramr.Thedogisbig.
___anfhuinneogbriste.Thewindowisbroken.
___fuinneogbhristesin.Thatisabrokenwindow.
___snosmnboscaarn.Itisbiggerthanabreadbox.

Fiche Ceist (Twenty Questions)[edit]


Playing Fiche Ceist is an excellent way to become familiar with:

the difference between "t" and "is",

how nouns change when preceded by a preposition + definite article, and

masculine vs. feminine nouns

Follow the examples below.

TO DO: provide translations for all the words that aren't introduced earlier in the text

Is it? Describing the object[edit]


Anbhfuil
s

fuar?(cold)
te?(hot)
fliuch?(wet)
tirim?(dry)
dorcha?(dark)
geal?(bright)
bn?(white)
dubh?(black)
dearg?(red)
gorm?(blue)
bu?(yellow)
beo?(alive)
bog?(soft)
crua?(hard)
glan?(clean)
salach?(dirty)
milis?(sweet)
mr?(big)
beag?(small)
ard(tall)
sean(old)
nua(new)
g(young)
chomhmrle(asbigas)
nosmn(biggerthan)
chomhbeagle(assmall
as)
nosln(smallerthan)

T.(yes)
Nl.(no)
Isdeacairar.(Itsdifficultto
say).
Uaireanta.(sometimes)
Beagnach(almost)
Tsrasntafuar,etc.
(Itsreasonablycold,etc.)

boscaarn?(abread
box)

dantaasadhmad?(madeofwood)
saseomraranga?(intheclassroom)

sa(inthe)

aran(onthe)
faoin(underthe)
inaiceleisan(beside
the)
gardon(nearthe)

bhosca,chupn,
mhla
mbord
mbosca
mbuidal
gcathaoir
gclog
gcupn
ndeoch

bhfinne
bhfuinneoig
bpipar
bpeann
bpictir
leabhar
mla
scthn
scian
spng

Is it? Identifying or classifying the object[edit]

An

cta(acoat)
clog(aclock)
leabhar(abook)
pictir(apicture)
pipar(apaper,newspaper)
bord(atable)
buidal(abottle)
forc(afork)
cupn(acup)
ba(food)
mla(abag)
peann(apen)
fn(aphone)
bosca(abox)
scthn(amirror)
finne(aring)

scian(aknife)
spng(aspoon)
deoch(adrink)
cathaoir(achair)
fuinneog(awindow)
brg(ashoe)
b(acow)

Isea.
Nhea.

Is it? Describing location[edit]


Past and Future: An Introduction[edit]
The table below illustrates how to form simple sentences in the past, present and future
tenses.

Bh
Past

Anraibh...?

Future

ansin

Nraibh

Present

anseo

ann

muid

Anbhfuil...?

sibh

Nl

siad

Beidh

Cit

Anmbeidh...?

Sen

Nbheidh

ancat

Irish

tinn
ard
ssta
lidir
gohlainn
godona

Pronunciation

IPA

Bh

VEE

Anraibh

ANROW

Nraibh

NEEROW

Beidh

BAY

Anmbeidh

UNMAY

Nbheidh

NEEVAY

There are also a few combined forms that are used in some dialects. Until you're ready to
focus on one dialect in particular, you can use either form:
Irish

English

Pronunciation

IPA

tim

Iam

TAWM

timid

weare

TAWmwidj

bhomar

wewere

VEEmer

beimid

wewillbe

BAYmidj

Exercises
Practicebyansweringthequestionsbelow.Ifanyofthewordsbelowareunfamiliar,youshould
beabletofindthemintheprevioussections.
Anois...Now...
Cbhfuiltidochna?
Cadanaimsirinni?
Anmaithleatseaclid?
Anbhfuiltg?Sean?
AnbhfuilGaeilgeeasca?
Nuairabhtg...Whenyouwereyoung...
Anraibhtmr?
Anraibhtbeag?
Anraibhtsean?
Anraibhtsalach?
Anraibhtdna?
Craibhtidochna?
Nuairabheidhtsean...Whenyouare(willbe)old...
Anmbeidhtdathiil?
Anmbeidhtlidir?
Anmbeidhtlag?
Anmbeidhttuirseach?

Comparisons[edit]
In English, we usually make comparisons by tacking the suffix -er or -est onto the adjective.
Irish also has special comparative forms.

Example:
mr big
nos m bigger (n ba mh in the past tense)
is m biggest (ba mh in the past tense)
fuar cold
nos fuaire colder (n b'fhuaire in the past tense)
is fuaire coldest (ab fhuaire in the past tense)
lainn lovely
nos ille lovelier (n b'ille in the past tense)
is ille lovelier (ab ille in the past tense)
Note that the same form of the adjective is used for the relative and absolute comparisons.
It's the prefix, nos or is, that makes the difference. Also note that the comparison is
expressed differently for the past tense. (We're only going to worry about the present tense in
this thread.)
The most common structures for comparing things are:
IscomparativeXnY

Xis___erthanY.

TXnoscomparativenY

Xis___erthanY.

IsXanZiscomparative

Xisthe___estZ.

You may have notice something unusual about that first structure. I said earlier that is is used
for absolute comparisons, where we use the '-est' ending in English, but I translate the first
structure using an "-er" ending. You probably remember your English teacher saying that you
compare two things using "-er"; that "-est" could only be used with three or more things.
However, Irish doesn't have this rule. A sentence such as Is an tsil chl an tsil is

lidre literally means "My right eye is the strongest eye", where in English we would say "My
right eye is the stronger eye." So in short, don't worry about it.
One final comment about the first and third structures. The copula, is, can never be followed
directly by a definite noun or a proper noun; you need to insert , or iad. If you're not ready
to deal with that, don't worry. Just stick with the second structure.
So let's look at some examples of how to make comparisons.

Example:
T an madra mr. The dog is big.
T an madra nos m n an cat. The dog is bigger than the cat. (Notice how n is used for
"than".)
Sin an madra is m. That is the biggest dog.
T an aimsir fuar. The weather is cold.
T an aimsir nos fuaire anois. The weather is colder now.
T an l inniu go deas. Today is nice.
Beidh an l amrach nos deise. Tomorrow will be nicer.
Is airde mise n tusa. I am taller than you.
Is Sen an fear is airde sa rang. Sen is the tallest man in the class.
Is fearr Gaeilge briste n Barla cliste. Broken Irish is better than clever English.
Comparative Forms[edit]
The rules for changing an adjective into the comparative form are fairly simple.
If it ends in a consonant, add -e to it. (If the ending isn't slender, you'll need to make it

slender first.)

If it ends in a vowel, no change.

glas - nos glaise - is glaise

dna - nos dna - is dna


If it ends in -(e)ach, change the ending to -(a).

bacach - nos baca - is baca

dreach - nos dr - is dr
If it ends in -(i)il, change the ending to -(i)la.

flaithiil - nos flaithila - is flaithila

dathil - nos dathla - is dthla.

Irregular Comparatives[edit]

beag - nos l - is l

bre - nos bretha - is bretha

dcha - nos dich - is dich

fada - nos faide - is faide

fogus - nos foisce - is foisce

furasta - nos fusa - is fusa

ioma - nos lia - is lia

ionin - nos ionine - is ionine

maith - nos fearr - is fearr

olc - nos measa - is measa

te - nos teo - is teo

tran - nos trine/treise - is trine/treise

mr - nos m - is m

Compound Prepositions[edit]

opposite -- ar aghaidh, os coinne, os comhair


behind -- ar chl, taobh thiar de
during -- ar feadh, i gcaitheamh, i rith, in imeacht, le linn
throughout -- ar fud
looking for -- ar lorg
like, in the manner of -- ar ns
for the sake of -- ar son, thar ceann, de cheann
about to -- ar t
as a result of, because of -- de bharr, d bhr, de thairbhe
according to -- de rir
on account of -- de thairbhe
for the purpose of -- fa choinne, le haghaidh
to meet -- faoi dhin
to the end of, to the top of -- go ceann
in charge of, minding -- i bhfeighil, i gcionn
along with -- i dteannta
against -- i gcoinne, in aghaidh, in adan
in the middle of -- i lr
present at, in the presence of -- i lthair
among -- i measc
after -- i ndiaidh, tar is
in place of -- in it
along with -- le cois, i dteannta, in ineacht le
beside -- le hais, in aice (le), taobh le
above -- os cionn
in front of -- os coinne, os comhair
near -- in aice (le)
in order -- i gcir
therefore -- d bhr sin
under the care of -- faoi churam
at the head of -- ar ceann
at the end of -- i gceann, faoi cheann
in reference to -- um cheann (very rare)