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Basics 1

Word order
Most English sentences use the Subject-Verb-Object word order. For example, in
the sentence:
He eats food.
He is the subject, eats is the verb, and food is the subject.
In Irish, a slightly different word order is used: Verb-Subject-Object. Here is the
same sentence in Irish:
Itheann s bia.
The verb in this sentence is itheann (a form of the verb to eat), the subject is s
(he), and the subject is bia (food).
Examples:
Itheann an fear bia The man drinks water
lann s He drinks
lann s uisce He drinks water

Pronouns
Pronouns in Irish are similar to those in other languages:
I
you (singular)
he / it
she / it
we
you (plural)
they

m
t
s
s
muid / sinn
sibh
siad

Definite and indefinite articles


There is no indefinite article in Irish. Where in English you would say a or an
before a noun, in Irish you just say the noun itself. For example, buachaill can
mean either boy, or a boy.

There are two forms of the definite article in Irish: an is used for singular nouns,
and na is used for plural nouns. For example, an buachaill means the boy and
na buachailli means the boys.

To be
One of the most important Irish verbs is b (to be). It is one of the eleven irregular
verbs in Irish, and it has two forms in the present tense: the present, and the
present habitual. The present tense of b is used to describe the state that
something is in right now: for example, in sentences like I am comfortable, We
are on holiday, She is walking, They are behind the house.
Note that, just like the verb to be in English, this verb only ever has a subject (or
subjects), and never has an object.
Here is b conjugated in the present tense:
English
I am
you are (singular)
he is / it is
she is / it is
we are
you are (plural)
they are

Irish
t m / tim
t t
t s
t s
t muid / timid
t sibh
t siad

1 In the present tense of b, the pronouns m and muid are often not used; they
can be incorporated into the verb t instead, to make what is known as the
Synthetic form.
Examples:
T m ssta/ Tim ssta I am happy
T said anseo They are here
T s ag rith He is running

The copula
The copula is a special third form of the verb to be. It is a defective verb, and it
has special rules. It is used to say that two things are equal, or to describe that
one thing belongs to a class or category of other things: for example, in
sentences like I am a man, The woman is a cook, He is our friend. It links the
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subject of a sentence with a subject complement, such as a noun or a pronoun.


Therefore b is not used in sentences like these.
Like the verb to be in English, the copula only ever has subjects, and never has
an object. In the sentence I am a man both I and man refer to the same person
who is the subject of the sentence.

Here is the copula in the present tense:


English
I am
you are (singular)
he is / it is
she is / it is
we are
you are (plural)
they are

Irish
is
is
is
is
is
is
is

m
t

muid / is sinn
sibh
iad

Note the changes in some of the pronouns: when using the copula, , and iad
are used instead of s, s and said.
Examples:
Is cailn iad They are girls
Is buachaill m I am a boy
Is ll It is an apple

Basics 2
Caol le caol agus leathan le leathan
This is the golden rule of Irish spelling and it is important for conjugating verbs. It
literally means "slender with slender and broad with broad", and it refers to
vowels in a word. The slender vowels in Irish are e, , and i, , and the broad
vowels are a, , o, , and u, . The rule says that the vowels on either side of
any consonant should match: they should both be slender, or both be broad.
To see if the root of a verb is broad or slender, look at the last vowel in the root. If
the last vowel is broad you use the endings for broad verbs, and if it is slender
you use the endings for slender verbs. For example, take the verbs dn and bris.
The last vowel in dn is broad, so you would use broad endings when
conjugating this verb. Similarly you would use slender endings when conjugating
bris.
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Verb conjugations
Let's start with the present habitual. This describes what one does on a regular
basis, not what one is doing right now. Verbs in Irish are split into three main
groups: the first conjugation, the second conjugation and the irregular verbs.
The first conjugation
These verbs have only one syllable. In the present tense the ending is, for the
most part, added directly onto the root of the verb. Examples are dn close, l
drink, bris break.
Here are the endings for the first conjugation:
Pronoun
I
you (singular)
he/it
she/it
we
you (plural)
they

Broad ending
-aim
-ann t
-ann s
-ann s
-aimid / -ann muid
-ann sibh
-ann siad

Slender ending
-im
-eann t
-eann s
-eann s
-imid / -eann muid
-eann sibh
-eann siad

In present tense verbs, muid is often not used; it is incorporated into the verb
that precedes it instead, to make what is known as the "synthetic form".
Examples:
dnaim I close
dnann s he closes
brisim I break
briseann s he breaks

The second conjugation


These verbs have more than one syllable. Many second conjugation verbs end in
-gh; when writing these in the present tense, the last syllable of the word is
removed to get a root and the endings are then added to that root. Examples are
ceannaigh buy, bailigh collect. The roots for these would be ceann-, bail-.

Other second conjugation verbs end in -il, -in, -is or -ir. To write these in the
present tense the last syllable is removed except for the very last letter, and then
the appropriate ending is added. Examples include inis tell, oscail open. The
roots for these would be ins-, oscl-.

Here are the endings for the second conjugation:


Pronoun

Broad ending

Slender ending

I
you (singular)
he/it
she/it
we
you (plural)
they

-am
-aonn
-aonn
-aonn
-amid
-aonn
-aonn

-m
-onn
-onn
-onn
-mid
-onn
-onn

t
s
s
/ -aonn muid
sibh
siad

t
s
s
/ -onn muid
sibh
siad

Examples:
bailonn t you collect
ceannamid / ceannaonn muid we buy
insm I tell
osclaonn sibh you open

Irregular verbs
The last group of verbs in Irish are the irregular verbs. There are only 11 of these.
Some of them appear quite regular most of the time, but all of them have at least
one tense in which they don't obey the standard rules. The irregular verbs are:
abair say
beir bear/carry/bring
b be
clois hear
dan do/make
feic see
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faigh get
ith eat
tabhair give
tar come
tigh go

To have
There is no verb meaning to have in Irish. Instead the verb b (be) is used,
together with the preposition ag (at). Prepositions will be covered separately in
more detail in later skills.

To express that you have something, you say that it is "at you" - implying that it
is close by you, in your possession. For example, if you want to say I have a book,
think of this as meaning A book is at me, or There is a book at me. The Irish for
this is T leabhar agam.

Here is ag in its main forms:


Irish

English

ag
agam
agat
aige
aici
againn
agaibh
acu

at
at
at
at
at
at
at
at

me
you (singular)
him
her
us
you (plural)
them

Examples of b + ag:
T oriste agam I have an orange
T plta acu They have a plate
T cailn ag Pl Paul has a girl/girlfriend
T an biachlr againn We have the menu

Phrases
Hello !
The formal way to greet someone is by saying Dia duit. Literally this means God
to you. Here is something to note:
Dia duit is used when greeting one person.
Dia daoibh is used when greeting more than one person.

The proper response is Dia is Muire duit, which literally means God and Mary to
you.
Dia is Muire duit is used when replying to one person.
Dia is Muire daoibh is used when replying to more than one person.
sln, Goodbye
Sln !
dia
duit
do
daoibh
le
thoil

Goodbye
day
you
for
You (plural)
with
Please

mhuire
filte
maidin
mhaithe
go

Mary
Welcome
Morning
good
That, to

Phrases:
Sln

Goodbye

Dia duit/ Dia daoibh Hello

romhat
n
raibh
conas
at
gaeilge
Labram,
labraonn,
labhramid
brn Filte
barla (romhat)
orm Welcome
comhghairdeas
Maidin
mhaithe
Good
morning

ahead
not
was

how
are
Irish
Speak

Sorrow, sad
English
On me
Congratulations

Conas at
t ?
How
are you ?
Comhghair
deas
Congratulati
ons

Dia is mhuire duit

Hello (reply)

Le do thoil

Please

Food
oriste

iasc
fon
sicn
plta
caife
glasra
cca
anlann
sucra
ln
bricfeasta
toradh
pasta
s
tortha
cis
piobar
dinnar
seaclid
stobhach
im
ubh

Orange
fish
wine
chicken
plate
coffee
vegetables
cake
sauce
sugar
lunch
breakfast
fruit
pasta
juice
fruit
cheese
pepper
dinner
chocolate
stew
butter
egg

chairad
beoir
anraith
trta
taln
mairteoil
liom
leat
bgn
bia
ola
salann
feoil
bile
tae
muiceoil
veigeatir
banana
lomid
brocail
fearr
stig

carrot
beer
soup
tomato
Ground, land
beef
I like
You like
bacon
food
oil
salt
meat
meal
tea
pork
vegetarian
banana
lemon
broccoli
prefer
steak

bird
duck
turtle
cat
dog
horse
elephant
seal
spider
animals
mouse

portn
ulchabhn
bar
monca
leon
fia
fileacn
togar
coinn
sionnach
peata

crab
owl
bear
monkey
lion
deer
butterfly
tiger
rabbit
fox
pet

Animals
an
lacha
turtar
cat
madra
capall
eilifint
rn
Damhn alla
ainmhi
luch

Plurals
Forming plurals in Irish is quite irregular. Some patterns do develop but it is best
to learn these when learning a new noun.
leabhair
nuachtin
cait
madra
capaill
lucha
iad
lla

Books
Newspapers
Cats
Dogs
Horses
Mice
They
Apples

muid
plta
ceapair
bir
lachan
ainmhithe
eilifint
turtar

We
Plates
Sandwiches
Bears
Ducks
Animals
Elephants
Turtles

Eclipcis
Ur (eclipsis) is where one or two letters are added before a word in certain
situations. This changes the spelling and pronunciation of the word, but not the
meaning. Only some initial letters can be eclipsed: b, c, d, f, g, p, and t. Words
that begin with other letters do not undergo eclipsis at all.
Here are the extra letters that are added before the word:
Initial letter
b
c
d
f
g
p
t

example
baile
cailn
doras
fuinneog
geata
poll
teach

Elipcis
m
g
n
bh
n
b
d

example
mbaile
gcailn
ndoras
bhfuinneog
ngeata
bpoll
dteach

Different dialects of Irish have different rules about when eclipsis should be used.
It would be extremely confusing to list them all here! It is more important to pick
a single system and to stick with it for consistency - so in this course, we will
teach the system traditionally used in Standard Irish.
Eclipsis is used in the following situations:
1. Possessive Adjectives
Eclipsis occurs where a word comes after r our, bhur your (plural), and a their.

Examples:
r gcailn our girl
a mbuachaill their boy

2. Numbers
Eclipsis occurs after the numbers seven to 10.
Examples:
seacht gcapall seven horses
naoi dteach nine houses

3. Preposition + Definite Article


Eclipsis occurs after certain prepositions where they are joined by the definite
article an:
Preposition + definite
article
ag an
ar an

English
translation
at the
on the
under/about
faoin (faoi + an)
the
leis an
with the
n ( + an)
from the
roimh an
before the
thar an
over the
trd an
through the
about/around
um an
the
Other prepositions used with an (for example, idir an between the) do not cause
eclipsis.
Examples:
ar an mbord on the table
thar an bhfuinneog over the window
An exception to this rule is that the word should not be eclipsed if it begins with d
or t.
Examples:
ag an doras at the door
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roimh an teach before the house


If the word begins with s and is feminine, a t is placed in front of it except for
nouns beginning with sc, sf, sm, sp, st or sv.

Example:
leis an tseanbhean with the old woman
If the word begins with s and is masculine, no change occurs.

Example:
leis an salann with the salt

4. Other Words

Eclipsis is also added after the words i in, d if, mura if/unless.
Example:
i mbosca in a box

Words starting with a vowel


Words that start with a vowel do not technically undergo eclipsis, but they do get
the letter n- added to them wherever other words would be eclipsed unless
they come after a word that finishes with the letter n.
Examples:
ll apple
r n-ll our apple
seacht n-ll seven apples
ar an ll on the apple
A dash is placed between the letter n and the vowel unless that vowel is a
capital letter.
Examples: Uachtarn President r nUachtarn our President
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Lentition
Simhi (lenition) is where an extra letter h is added between the first and
second letters of a word in certain situations. This changes the spelling and
pronunciation of the word, but not the meaning. Only some initial letters can be
lenited: b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, and t. Words that begin with other letters do not
undergo lenition at all.
Here are examples of words being lenited:
Initial letter

Example

Lenition

Example

buachaill

bh

bhuachaill

cailn

ch

chailn

doras

dh

dhoras

fuinneog

fh

fhuinneog

geata

gh

gheata

mla

mh

mhla

poll

ph

pholl

seomra

sh

sheomra

teach

th

theach

Lenition is used in the following situations.

1. Feminine Nouns
Feminine nouns are lenited after the definite article an in the nominative case.
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Examples:

mairteoil beef, an mhairteoil the beef

bean woman, an bhean the woman

An exception to this rule is that feminine nouns beginning with d or t are not
lenited. Another exception is that nouns beginning with s becomes ts if the s
precedes a vowel, l, n or r.
Examples:

an deasc the desk

an traein the train

an tsubh the jam

an tslinte the health

an tsnaidhm the knot

an tsrid the street

2. Possessive Adjectives
Lenition occurs after mo my, do your, a his.
Examples:

mo chara my friend

do mhadra your dog

a mhac his son

3. Numbers
Lenition occurs after the numbers one to six.
Examples:

s chapall six horses

tr bhuidal three bottles

4. Vocative Case

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The vocative case is used when directly addressing someone or something, as in


C bhfuil t, a chailn? Where are you, girl? Lenition is used after the vocative
particle a.
(Note that masculine nouns and names are also slenderised after the vocative
particle: fear becomes a fhir, and Pl becomes a Phil.)

5. Prepositions
Lenition occurs after the words ar on, de of, den of the, do to, don to the, faoi
under/about, from, roimh before, sa/san in the, tr through, um around/about.
Examples:

don bhuachaill to the boy

sa phirc in the field

An exception is that words beginning with d, t, s are not lenited after den, don,
sa or san.
Examples:

den doras of the door

sa teach in the house

don s to the juice

6. Other Words
Lenition is also used after the phrase nuair a when, the prefixes r- too and anvery, and the word m if (unless the next word is a version of t or deir). Other
special cases will be highlighted in other lessons.
Examples:

nuair a bhrisim when I break

r-mhr too big

an-mhaith very good

m dhnann s if he closes

DeNTaLS-DoTS

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This is a handy mnemonic! If a word begins with d, t or s and it would normally be


lenited according to the above rules, but the word that came before it in the
sentence ends with d, n, t, l or s, then the word is not lenited.
Examples:

den sagart of the priest

an-te very hot

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