Basics 1Edit

Fáilte | Welcome!Edit

Welcome to Duolingo's Irish course! In this course you will learn the official standard (an Caighdeán Oifigiúil) of Irish. But note, this is a written, and not a spoken standard. Irish is spoken in three main dialects, corresponding to three Irish provinces of Munster (south), Ulster (north), and Connacht (west). The audio in this course was recorded by a native speaker of the Connacht dialect.

So what makes Irish different? What might challenge you as you try to learn? Well, tonnes of things! To be honest, even the basics of Irish are very different from what you're probably used to.

The best advice we can give is that with Irish, learning things off by heart and trying to base your learning on grammar will only get you so far. It's a very irregular language, and most rules that try to generalise come with many exceptions.

Just take it as slowly as you need to, and nothing should challenge you very much. There is a really good article about some of the more fascinating peculiarities here:

We'll also address a couple below. So let's get started then!

Intro Edit

The Irish alphabet is short and sweet:

a b c d e f g h i l m n o p r s t u

The vowels can take an added accent, the fada (pronounced 'foddah'):

á é í ó ú

The fada lengthens and alters the sound on the vowel.

The rest of the English alphabet, j k q v w x y z, especially v, is gradually being naturalised into Irish due to the many loanwords we take in.

Learn how to type accented letters here:

Word OrderEdit

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 object.

In Irish, a slightly different word order is used: "V-S-O". Here is the same sentence in Irish: Itheann sé bia. The verb in this sentence is itheann (a form of the verb to eat), the subject is (he), and the object is bia (food).

In summary: Irish sentences start with their verbs!

  • Ithim bia | I eat food
  • Itheann an fear bia | The man eats food

Ólannbainne | She drinks milk Edit

To be, or not to be... Edit

Irish makes it interesting when you want to say what something "is", because you need to choose the right version of the verb "to be"! There are two versions. called bí and an chopail.

  • is Irish for to be, and is one of only eleven irregular verbs in the whole language. That's handy!
to be
tá mé/táim I am
tá tú you (sing.) are
tá sé he/it is
tá sí she/it is
tá muid/táimid we are
tá sibh you (pl.) are
tá siad they are

Notes: tá + mé (I) = táim, tá + muid (we) = táimid. These contractions are called the synthetic form.

  • An chopail (the copula) is a defective verb with its own funky grammar. It doesn't even follow the normal word order rules! The word you are talking about goes in the middle.
copail copula
is ... mé I am
is ... tú you (sing.) are
is ... é he/it is
is ... í she/it is
is ... sinn/muid we are
is ... sibh you (pl.) are
is ... iad they are

The copula is for when you're introducing something or someone, like "Is bean í" (She is a woman) or "Is úll é" (It is an apple). Bí is for when you're describing something or someone, like "Tá sí ard" (She is tall) or "Tá sé blasta" (It is tasty). You'll learn the basics of both here, and later you'll learn some more about each of them!

Buntús 2 | Basics 2 Edit

You're still here. That's wonderful! We'll start with a strange but important little rule:

"Caol le caol agus leathan le leathan." Edit

This is the golden rule of Irish spelling and it is important for all sorts of things all the time. It's actually quite a consistent and well-observed rule across Irish, which is very rare. You should get very used to it, to the point that a word which doesn't follow the rule will stand out to you.

The phrase literally means "slender with slender and broad with broad", and it refers to vowels in a word.

Slender vs broad is a way to group the vowels in two distinct groups:

leathan broad caol slender
a e
o i

The rule says that the vowels on either side of any consonant should match: they should both be slender, or both be broad. It's actually an important rule, because certain consonants, especially s and t will change their sound appreciably depending on whether they are slender or broad.

To see if the stem of a verb is broad or slender, look at the last vowel in that stem.

For example, take the verbs dún and bris. The last vowel in dún is broad, so you would use broad endings when conjugating this verb. Similarly you would use slender endings when conjugating bris.

A bit about Verbs Edit

We do have two present tenses in Irish, which function just like in English. 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.

1. The first conjugation Edit

Basically, these verbs have only one syllable. In the present tense the ending is, generally, added directly onto the stem. Examples are dún ("close"), ól ("drink"), bris ("break")


  • dúnaim I close
  • dúnann sé he closes
  • brisim I break
  • briseann sé he breaks
  • ólaimid we drink

Notice how sometimes it takes two words, and sometimes just one. In present tense verbs, and muid are often not used; they can be incorporated into their verb to make the 'synthetic form'.

2. The second conjugation Edit

These verbs have more than one syllable. To conjugate and use them correctly takes a bit more intuition, but you'll be grand! The words come in two halves for you to identify. They will have a root and a stem. To conjugate them, you will remove the stem and replace it with an appropriate ending. There aren't too many endings to learn.

Examples of 2nd-conjugation verbs are bailigh, ceannaigh, oscail, and inis. Watch how their stems are removed/altered to take the ending:

  • bailíonn tú you collect
  • ceannaímid we buy
  • insím I tell
  • osclaíonn sibh you open

3. Irregular verbs Edit

Oh no, a different beast altogether... No hassle, 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, so it is necessary to memorise these 11 verbs in all their forms and tenses! Just to warn you, they are:

  • abair say
  • beir bear/carry/bring
  • be
  • clois hear
  • déan do/make
  • feic see
  • faigh get
  • ith eat
  • tabhair give
  • tar come
  • téigh go

But seriously, they're not that bad.

See you in the next skill!

Welcome to Phrases! Edit

Hello! Edit

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.

Note on the Sociology of Ireland: These forms are old, formal, and in sharp decline. There is a complicated relationship between Ireland and the Catholic church in recent history, and many younger speakers consciously avoid the nearly-obsolete religious constructions of yore. We don't officially teach you this here, because we decided to stick with The Standard so we have to teach you "dia duit" and so on. Just be aware you're more likely to hear somebody greet you with a typical English greeting like "hiya", or even by avoiding a "hello" and just asking how you are – Conas atá tú? –

To have Edit

We don't say "have" in Irish, that's way too simple and direct. Instead the verb (be) is used together with the preposition ag (at).

To express that you have something, you say that it is "at you" - implying that it is close by you, in your possession. If you want to say Paul has a book, think of this as meaning A book is at Paul, or There is a book at Paul . The Irish for this is Tá leabhar ag Pól.

When you want to write at followed by a pronoun, the two words join together to make a "prepositional pronoun". For example, ag and combine to form agam (at me). Here is ag in all its forms:

English Irish
at ag
at me agam
at you (singular) agat
at him aige
at her aici
at us againn
at you (plural) agaibh
at them acu

Examples of + ag:

  • Tá oráiste agam I have an orange
  • Tá pláta acu They have a plate
  • Tá cailín ag Pól Paul has a girl/girlfriend

To speak or to have? Edit

When talking about languages in Irish there are distinct ways to translate the two meanings of the English "speak".

1) "I speak Irish" would translate as "Labhraím Gaeilge" if "speak" was referring to the act of speaking the language ("I speak Irish every day")

2) "I speak Irish" would translate as "Tá Gaeilge agam" (literally "I have Irish") if "speak" was referring to the ability to speak, or the knowledge of, the language.

So when you say "I (can) speak [language]", in Irish you literally say "I have [language]"

See you in the next skill!

Welcome to Food! Edit

Is maith liom Edit

There is no verb meaning to like in Irish. Instead the copula is used, together with the adjective maith (good) and a version of the preposition le (with). To express that you like something, you say that it is maith liom (good with me). In this case, maith is understood as a noun meaning "a good thing" and maith liom being "a thing I consider good". For example, if you want to say I like cake, think of this as meaning Cake is a thing I consider good. The Irish for this is Is maith liom cáca.

Here is le in its main forms:

Irish English
le with
liom with me
leat with you (singular)
leis with him
léi with her
linn with us
libh with you (plural)
leo with them


  • Is maith liom arán I like bread
  • Is maith leat an fíon You like the wine
  • Is maith le Pól sicín Paul likes chicken
  • Is maith le páiste siúcra A child likes sugar

Now that that's cleared up, you get going on the lessons and we'll see you in the next skill.

Plurals Edit

Definite and Indefinite Articles Edit

Let's review Irish articles so you know how to apply your existing knowledge to plurals.

Indefinite Articles Edit

There are no indefinite articles 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.

When it comes to plurals, the Irish system is similar to that in English. Buachaillí means boys, so no definite article is used in either language.

Definite Articles Edit

There are two forms of the definite article in Irish. An is used for singular nouns and is translated as the in English. For example, an buachaill means the boy*.✝

Na is used for plural nouns and is also translated as the in English. For example, na buachaillí means the boys.✝


There are two things you should note!

  • An vs. An: The Irish an (definite article, singluar) should never be confused with the English an (indefinite article, before vowels, sometimes the letter h). Be careful with these two!
  • An = The, Na = The, but AnNa: The two Irish definite articles an and na both mean the in English, but remember that they have different uses in Irish.

✝: In the nominative case. The way these articles are used change a bit in the other cases, but we will deal with these later when we come to them.

Eclipsis Edit

Welcome to Eclipsis! Edit

It's time to learn a very peculiarly Celtic feature; initial mutation!

Urú (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 Example Eclipsis Example
b baile m mbaile
c cailín g gcailín
d doras n ndoras
f fuinneog bh bhfuinneog
g geata n ngeata
p poll b bpoll
t teach d 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 Edit

Eclipsis occurs where a word comes after ár our, bhur your (plural), and a their.


  • ár gcailín our girl
  • a mbuachaill their boy

2. Numbers Edit

Eclipsis occurs after the numbers seven to 10.


  • seacht gcapall seven horses
  • naoi dteach nine houses

3. Preposition + Definite Article Edit

Eclipsis occurs after certain prepositions where they are joined by the singular definite article an:

Preposition + singular definite article English translation
ag an at the
ar an on the
faoin (faoi + an) under/about the
leis an with the
ón (ó + an) from the
roimh an before the
thar an over the
tríd an through the
um an about/around the

Other prepositions used with an (for example, idir an between the) do not cause eclipsis.


  • 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.


  • ag an doras at the door
  • 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.


  • leis an tseanbhean with the old woman

If the word begins with s and is masculine, no change occurs.


  • leis an salann with the salt

4. Other Words Edit

Eclipsis is also added after the words i in, if, mura if/unless.


  • i mbosca in a box

Words starting with a vowel Edit

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:

  • úll apple
  • ár n-úll our apple
  • seacht n-úll seven apples
  • ar an úll on the apple

A dash is placed between the letter n and the vowel — unless that vowel is a capital letter.


  • Uachtarán President
  • ár nUachtarán our President

Some words that start with a vowel are normally preceded by t- when they follow the word an the. For these words, after preposition + definite article combinations the t- is left out.


  • an t-ollmhargadh the supermarket
  • ag an ollmhargadh at the supermarket

That might be a lot of information to process, but it should make sense once you see it in action. Good luck and see you in the next skill :D

Lenition Edit

Welcome to the Lenition skill! Edit

Séimhiú (lenition) is where an extra 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
b buachaill bh bhuachaill
c cailín ch chailín
d doras dh dhoras
f fuinneog fh fhuinneog
g geata gh gheata
m mála mh mhála
p poll ph pholl
s seomra sh sheomra
t teach th theach

Lenition is used in the following situations.

1. Feminine Nouns Edit

Feminine nouns are lenited after the definite article an in the nominative case. 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.


  • an deasc the desk
  • an traein the train
  • an tsubh the jam
  • an tsláinte the health
  • an tsnaidhm the knot
  • an tsráid the street

2. Feminine Adjectives Edit

Singular feminine nouns cause lenition of the following adjective. Examples:

  • bean mhaith a good woman
  • an mhairteoil dhearg the red beef

Note: Only when the adjective directly follows its noun.

3. Possessive Adjectives Edit

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

  • mo chara my friend
  • do mhadra your dog
  • a mhac his son

4. Numbers Edit

Lenition occurs after the numbers one to six. Examples:

  • sé chapall six horses
  • trí bhuidéal three bottles

5. Vocative Case Edit

The vocative case is used when directly addressing someone or something, as in Cá bhfuil tú, a chailín? 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 Pól becomes a Phóil.)

More on this case in a later skill.

6. Prepositions Edit

Lenition occurs after the words ar on, de off, den off the, do to/for, don to the, faoi under/about, ó from, roimh before, sa/san in the, trí through, um around/about. Examples:

  • don bhuachaill to the boy
  • sa pháirc in the field

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


  • den doras off the door
  • sa teach in the house
  • don sú to the juice
7. Other Words Edit

Lenition is also used after the phrase nuair a when, the prefixes ró- too and an- very, and the word if (unless the next word is a version of or deir). Other special cases will be highlighted in other lessons.


  • nuair a bhrisim when I break
  • ró-mhór too big
  • an-mhaith very good
  • má dhúnann sé if he closes


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 off the priest
  • an-te very hot

Phew! I hope that wasn't too complicated. It will start to make sense when you see some more examples! Good luck and see you in the next skill :D

Possessives Edit

When possessives are used in Irish, certain changes occur to the following word. There are two systems: one for words starting with a consonant, and one for word starting with a vowel.

Words starting with a consonant Edit

Here are the possessive adjectives and changes that occur when a word begins with a consonant:

English Irish Change Example my mo lenition mo chóta
your (singular) do lenition do chóta
his/its a lenition a chóta
her/its a no change a cóta
our ár eclipsis ár gcóta
your (plural) bhur eclipsis bhur gcóta
their a eclipsis a gcóta

Before words starting with fh + a vowel, mo and do are abbreviated to m' and d', with no space before the next word.


  • fón phone
  • m'fhón my phone
  • d'fhón your phone

If the word begins with a consonant that does not undergo lenition (or eclipsis), the spelling remains unchanged.


  • léine shirt
  • mo léine my shirt
  • ár léine our shirt
  • a léine his/her/its/their shirt

Words starting with a vowel Edit

Here are the possessive adjectives and changes that occur when a word begins with a vowel:

English Irish Change Example
my m' no change m'oráiste
your (singular) d' no change d'oráiste
his/its a no change a oráiste
her/its a h a horáiste
our ár n- ár n-oráiste
your (plural) bhur n- bhur n-oráiste
their a n- a n-oráiste

Instead of lenition or eclipsis, here you can see two other initial letter mutations used in Irish: the h-prefix and the n-prefix.

  • The h-prefix is used after the word a (when it means her). Note that there is no hyphen.
  • The n-prefix is used after ár, bhur, and a (when it means their). Note the hyphen between the n- and the word.

You can also see from the examples above that m' and d are used instead of mo or do, with no space before the next word.

A Edit

The possessive adjective a can mean his, her, its or their. If you look at the tables above, you can see how to identify which one is used. It is usually clear from context, and from the word that follows the possessive.

Verbs: Present 1 Edit

In Irish, it is important to note that there are two present tenses: the present, and the present habitual. The present describes what one is doing (right now) and the present habitual is used to describe what one does (every day, every week, and so on).

In this skill you will learn verbs in the present habitual. You previously met the endings for conjugating regular verbs in the present habitual tense in Basics 2. But, lets revisit them here.

1. The first conjugation Edit

These verbs have only one syllable¹, and the root form seen in the dictionary is identical to the stem used for verb conjugation. In the present tense the ending is, generally, added directly onto the stem. Examples are dún ("close"), ól ("drink"), bris ("break")

Pronoun Broad ending Example Slender ending Example
I -aim¹ dúnaim -im² brisim
you (singular) -ann tú dúnann tú -eann tú briseann tú
he/it -ann sé dúnann sé -eann sé briseann sé
she/it -ann sí dúnann sí -eann sí briseann sí
we -aimid¹ dúnaimid -imid² brisimid
you (plural) -ann sibh dúnann sibh -eann sibh briseann sibh
they -ann siad dúnann siad -eann siad briseann siad

¹There is a small handful of first conjugation verbs that have more than one syllable. They aren't considered irregular- just a bit odd. These will be dealt with later.

²In present tense verbs, and muid are generally not used; instead, they are incorporated into the verb that precedes it, to make what is known as the "synthetic form".


  • dúnaim I close
  • dúnann sé he closes
  • brisim I break
  • briseann sé he breaks

2. The second conjugation Edit

These verbs have more than one syllable. Many end in -aigh and -igh in the root form seen in the dictionary; to get the stem used for conjugation, the last syllable of the root is removed (i.e. remove the -aigh/-igh). The endings are then added to that stem. Examples include ceannaigh buy,bailigh collect. The stems for these would be ceann- and bail-.

Others end in -ail/-il, -ain/-in, -ais/-is or -air/-ir. To get the stem, the last syllable of the root is removed but the very last letter is kept, and then the appropriate ending is added. Examples include inis tell and oscail open. The stems for these would be ins- and oscl-.

Pronoun Broad ending Example Slender ending Example
I -aím osclaím -ím bailím
you (singular) -aíonn tú osclaíonn tú -íonn tú bailíonn tú
he/it -aíonn sé osclaíonn sé -íonn sé bailíonn sé
she/it -aíonn sí osclaíonn sí -íonn sí bailíonn sí
we -aímid osclaímid -ímid bailímid
you (plural) -aíonn sibh osclaíonn sibh -íonn sibh bailíonn sibh
they -aíonn siad osclaíonn siad -íonn siad bailíonn siad


  • bailíonn tú you collect
  • ceannaímid / ceannaíonn muid we buy
  • insím I tell
  • osclaíonn sibh you open

3. Irregular verbs Edit

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, so it is necessary to memorise these 11 verbs in all their forms and tenses!

The question form Edit

To ask a question in this tense using a verb, you use the question word an and add an eclipsis (urú) to the verb if possible.


  • Dúnann tú You close
  • An ndúnann tú? Do you close?
  • Briseann sí She breaks
  • An mbriseann sí? Does she break?

The irregular verb be is an exception:

  • Tá tú You are
  • An bhfuil tú? Are you?
  • Táimid We are
  • An bhfuilimid? Are we?

The negative form Edit

To put a verb in the present habitual tense into the negative form, you use the negation word and add a lenition (séimhiú) to the verb if possible.


  • Dúnann tú You close
  • Ní dhúnann tú You do not close
  • Briseann tú You break
  • Ní bhriseann sí She does not break

Again, the verb is an exception in this tense, as well as the verb abair say:

  • Tá tú You are
  • Níl tú? You are not
  • Táimid We are
  • Nílimid? We are not
Abair Edit
  • Deir tú You say
  • Ní deir tú You do not say
  • Deirimid We say
  • Ní deirimid We do not say

Yes or No? Edit

Irish has no word for "yes" or "no". That means when someone asks a questions using a verb like those above, you either answer with the positive form of the verb (the standard conjugated form) or the negative form (as seen above) Example:

  • An ndúnann tú an doras? Do you close the door?
  • Dúnaim (an doras) Yes, I close the door. (literally just "I close (the door)")
  • Ní dhúnaim (an doras) No, I do not close the door (literally just "I do not close (the door)")

Colors Edit

Adjectives (such as colors) generally come after the noun in Irish. Their spelling is modified so that they agree with the noun, in number and in gender.

Masculine singular nouns Edit

An adjective that follows a masculine singular noun does not change (for example, an bosca dubh the black box).

Feminine singular nouns Edit

An adjective that follows a feminine singular noun is lenited if possible (for example, an eilifint dhubh the black elephant).

Plural nouns Edit

An adjective that follows a plural noun has its spelling changed to the plural form of that adjective. If the noun ends with a slender consonant, the adjective is also lenited. What is a slender consonant? A slender consonant is a consonant with a slender vowel (e é or i í) next to it. For example, in the word beoir, r is a slender consonant.

Getting Descriptive Edit

In this skill, we give you the basic vocabulary to describe most of the colours. One fun quirk in Irish is that there aren't of lots of words for all the different shades on the spectrum. Instead, you describe a particular colour by naming something that has that colour, or adding some detail (such as another colour!). So for example, you could distinguish something that is spéirghorm sky-blue from something that is gormghlas blue-green, or contrast dearg red with bándearg pink (literally white-red). Use the vocabulary you learn and get creative to think of how you could say things like 'blood-red', and 'forest green'!

Questions Edit

C question words Edit

When asking a question in English, you generally use a W question word such as who, where, what. Similarly, in Irish you generally use a C question word such as , , cad. Here are some examples of C question words:

English Irish
what cad / céard
which cén
when cathain
what time cén uair / cá huair / cén t-am
whose cé leis
what place cá háit / cén áit
why cén fáth
how conas / cad é mar
how many / how much cé mhéad / cá mhéad

Yes and noEdit

There is no direct translation for the words yes and no in Irish. Where in English you would use these words to answer a question, in Irish you repeat the verb from the original question in either the positive or the negative form. (You can choose to omit the pronoun if you like - unless you are using a synthetic form of the verb.)


  • Do you play soccer? Yes. = Do you play soccer? I play. = An imríonn tú sacar? Imrím.
  • Do you eat cheese? No. = Do you eat cheese? I do not eat. = An itheann tú cáis? Ní ithim.
  • Does she work in the city? Yes. = Does she work in the city? She works. = An oibríonn sí sa chathair? Oibríonn (sí).
  • Do the children listen to you? No. = Do the children listen to you? They do not listen. = An éisteann na páistí leat? Ní éisteann (siad).

Prepositions 1 Edit

Prepositions (réamhfhocail) are short words that express relationships between things, like to, for, with, on, between.

In Irish most prepositions are usually written on their own, but when you use them together with a pronoun (me, you, he, she, it, us, them), the two words get contracted together to make what are known as prepositional pronouns (forainmneacha réamhfhoclacha).

Here are five prepositional pronouns in all their forms:

Pronoun on with at from to, toward/s
(none) ar le ag ó chun (chuig)
me orm liom agam uaim chugam
you (singular) ort leat agat uait chugat
he, it air leis aige uaidh chuige
she, it uirthi léi aici uaithi chuici
us orainn linn againn uainn chugainn
you (plural) oraibh libh agaibh uaibh chugaibh
them orthu leo acu uathu chucu


  • Tá an fear liom The man is with me
  • Ritheann an cailín chuici The girl runs to/toward/towards her

When used in specific ways, some prepositions have special idiomatic meanings in Irish. You already met the idiomatic use of ag to mean have in Basics 2; here are some other examples.

Ar Edit

The basic meaning of this word is on. For example, Ritheann sé ar bhóthar means He runs on a road. When used with the verb , it conveys the idea of obligation to do something. For example, Tá orm rith means I must run. (The literal translation of the phrase would be "It is on me to run".)

  • Tá ort snámh You must swim
  • Tá ar Phól éisteacht Paul must listen
  • Tá orthu siúl They must walk

Ó Edit

The basic meaning of this word is from. For example, Ritheann sé ó theach means He runs from a house. When used with the verb , it conveys the idea of wanting something. For example, Tá bia uaim means I want food. (The literal translation of the phrase would be "food is from me".)

  • An bhfuil léine uait? Do you want a shirt?
  • Tá madraí uaidh He wants dogs
  • Tá uathu siúl They want to walk
  • Tá úll ó Phól Paul wants an apple
  • Tá na páistí ó bhean A woman wants the children

Another way to express wanting something is to use the verb teastaigh (to be wanted/needed), followed by a version of ó. Written this way, Teastaíonn bia uaim is the alternative way to say I want food; it can also mean I need food. (A literal translation would be "food is needed from me".)

  • Teastaíonn na leabhair uaithi She wants/needs the books
  • Teastaíonn seacláid uainn We want/need chocolate
  • Teastaíonn uaim snámh I want/need to swim
  • Teastaíonn cáca ó chailín A girl wants/needs a cake
  • An dteastaíonn na hataí? Are the hats needed?

Dates and Time Edit

In previous skills you will already have met lenition and eclipsis, the two most important initial mutations that can occur to words in Irish. Here are some other more minor changes that can occur.

Words beginning with vowels Edit

If a masculine singular noun starts with a vowel, a t- is added at the start of the word after the definite article an (for example, am time, an t-am the time; uisce water, an t-uisce the water). A hyphen is placed between the letter t and the vowel —unless that vowel is a capital letter (for example, an tUachtarán the President).

Exceptions include euro euro, iomad a great number, and oiread amount. These are written as an euro, an iomad and an oiread respectively. Other exceptions include the following number words: aon one, aonú first, ochtó eighty, ochtú eighth, ochtódú eightieth.

If a plural noun starts with a vowel, a h is added at the start of the word after the definite article na (for example, ainmneacha names, na hainmneacha the names). No hyphen is used.

Words beginning with s Edit

If a feminine singular noun starts with s, AND the s is itself followed by a vowel, l, n or r, then a t is added at the start of the word after the definite article an (for example, seanbhean old woman, an tseanbhean the old woman). No hyphen is used.

The Irish calendar Edit

The names of the seasons and months in the Irish calendar reflect ancient Gaelic culture and tradition.

The seasons of the year are:

English Irish Duration
Spring Earrach February to April
Summer Samhradh May to July
Autumn, Fall Fómhar August to October
Winter Geimhreadh November to January

The seasons are based around the summer and winter solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year, which take place around 21 June and 21 December respectively in the northern hemisphere) and the equinoxes (the days in spring and autumn on which night and day are of equal length, around 20 March and 22 September in the northern hemisphere). The summer solstice in June is deemed to be the high point of summer and the months of summer are May, June and July accordingly. The other seasons are similarly centred around the winter solstice in December, and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes in March and September. The months of the year are:

English Irish
January Eanáir
February Feabhra
March Márta
April Aibreán
May Bealtaine
June Meitheamh
July Iúil
August Lúnasa
September Mean Fómhair
October Deireadh Fómhair
November Samhain, Mí na Samhna
December Nollaig, Mí na Nollag

Bealtaine, Lúnasa and Samhain were all originally pagan festivals occuring around these times. Meán Fómhair and Deireadh Fómhair literally mean middle of the harvest and end of the harvest. Nollaig also means Christmas.

Family Edit

Muintir, teaghlach, clann Edit

If you look up family in an English-Irish dictionary, you could be presented with all of the above as potential translations - but each has a different meaning!

Muintir is probably the closest to the English word family or kinsfolk, and in its broadest sense it can include parents, children and siblings as well as extended relations.

Teaghlach means family in the sense of household, a group of people living together under the same roof - most commonly parents and children.

Clann refers to the group of children that belong to a set of parents. For example, mo chlann could mean my own children, or my siblings and I. If a girl says that there are five people in her clann, it means that she has four other brothers or sisters.

Verbs: Present 2 Edit

Unusual First Conjugation Verbs Edit

In this skill, you will also be introduced to some...peculiar first conjugation verbs such as tiomáin (to drive), taispeáin (to show) and sábháil (to save). These verbs clearly have 2 syllables, not the usual 1 syllable you've come to expect of first conjugation verbs. These verbs are not considered irregular...they're just a bit odd. Even though they are not monosyllabic, they are conjugated like other verbs in the first conjugation.


  • Tiomáinim (I drive) Note the short -im ending, as opposed to the longer -ím ending you might expect
  • Taispeánann sé (He shows) Note the short -ann ending, as opposed to the longer -aíonn ending you might expect. Also note how the second "i" was dropped from taispeáin to form the stem. This is another peculiarity of some of these verbs

Exception: The Habitual Present Bím/Bíonn Edit

The Habitual Present is used for actions that occur regularly (normally, generally, often, sometimes, seldom, never).

The only verb conjugated in the habitual present tense in Irish is the verb Bí (to be) which becomes Bím (first person singular) or Bíonn sé/sí/muid etc.... In Hiberno-English (the English that is spoken in Ireland) the Irish present habitual has be incorporated into the language using the English verb 'do' as an auxiliary verb followed by a verb in the present continuous tense. This structure is commonly used throughout Ireland.


  • Bím ag rith - I do be running. In standard English this would be written: 'I run often or I usually run' etc....
  • Bíonn sé ag ól - He does be drinking. In standard English this would be written: 'He drinks often or he regularly drinks' etc...
  • Bíonn sé ag cur báistí in Éirinn - It does be raining in Ireland. Standard English: 'It rains often in Ireland, in Ireland it regularly rains, it usually rains in Ireland' etc...
  • Ní bhíonn airgead againn - We don't be having money. In standard English this would be written: 'We don't often have money, we regularly don't have money.

Prepositions 2 Edit

Here are five more prepositional pronouns in all their forms:

Pronoun in before out of under, about off, of, from
(none) i, in roimh as faoi de, d'
me ionam romham asam fúm díom
you (singular) ionat romhat asat fút díot
he, it ann roimhe as faoi de
she, it inti roimpi aisti fúithi di
us ionainn romhainn asainn fúinn dínn
you (plural) ionaibh romhaibh asaibh fúibh díbh
them iontu rompu astu fúthú díobh

Genitive Edit

Cases Edit

Nouns in Irish have different forms depending on their gender (masculine or feminine), number (singular or plural), and case. Irish has several cases, and each one has a specific grammatical function. The case you will have used in previous lessons is called the nominative case (tuiseal ainmneach), which is used for the subjects and objects of sentences.

The genitive case Edit

The genitive case (tuiseal ginideach) is used to demonstrate a relationship between two nouns. It can often be translated literally as "of". For example, in the phrase "noun A of noun B", noun A would be written in the nominative, and noun B would be in the genitive.

It is used:

  • to express ownership ("the dog's bowl", "Paul's sandwich")
  • after the verbal noun
  • after some prepositions, like tar éis after or os comhair over
  • after some adverbs, like go leor lots or níos mó more

Just as when forming a plural, the ending of a noun may change when writing the genitive form, and most nouns obey a regular pattern. For some words the genitive spelling is the same as the nominative singular spelling (or even the plural spelling), but it is always clear from the context which case is being used. Here is an example of the genitive:

  • an hata the hat
  • an fear the man
  • hata an fhir the man's hat (literally, the hat of the man)

This example highlights three separate features:

  1. The definite article (in this case an) is used only once in Irish, where it is used twice in English.
  2. The noun in the genitive case is lenited (an fhir), whereas it is not lenited in the nominative case (an fear). For singular nouns in the genitive, the rules of lenition in response to gender are reversed compared to the nominative case (in other words, masculine nouns are lenited and feminine nouns are not lenited).

The genitive singular form of fear (fir) is the same as the plural (fir). It will be clear from context and/or from the associated article (an or na) which case is being used.


  • Tá hata ag na fir The men have a hat
  • Seo é hata an fhir This is the man's hat

The plural form in the genitive is eclipsed where this is possible. For example, the men's hats is hata na bhfear.

It is helpful to think of the forms in a table like this:

Case Singular Plural
Nominative an fear na fir
Genitive an fhir na bhfear

As for the genitive plural, there are many rules to how it is formed and these are best learned by observing patterns. In the example above, the vowel groups change from broad to slender and vice versa [ea] to [i].

For feminine nouns, the definite article na is used in both the genitive singular and genitive plural, as in the following example:

Case Singular Plural
Nominative an bhialann na bialanna
Genitive na bialainne na mbialann

Declensions Edit

All nouns in Irish belong to one of five groups called declensions (díochlaontaí). Nouns in each declension follow similar rules for the way they form the genitive and the plural, although there are often exceptions. Most dictionaries indicate the declension to which a given noun belongs.

The first declension Edit

These nouns are all masculine and end with broad consonants. In the genitive singular, the last consonant is slenderised by swapping the vowels or adding an extra -i-. Some of these nouns end in -ach; the genitive singular for these nouns will change this to -aigh.

The second declension Edit

These nouns are all feminine. Some end in broad consonants and some end in slender consonants. The genitive singular will usually end in -e. Some of these nouns end in -ach; the genitive singular for these nouns will change this to -aí.

The third declension Edit

Some end in -óir, -éir or -úir; these are masculine. Others end in -íocht, -acht or -int; these are feminine (with the exception of some short words like acht or ceacht which are masculine). The genitive singular ends in -a*.

The fourth declension Edit

These end in -ín or with a vowel. They can be either masculine or feminine. For these nouns, the genitive is identical to the nominative.

The fifth declension Edit

Most of these are feminine. The genitive singular is varied for these nouns; they can end in -ach, -n, -nn or -d.

Negative Edit

Níl Edit

You have already seen the present habitual tense of the verb conjugated (tá mé/táim, tá tú, and so on). When this is put into the negative, it is conjugated differently.

English Irish
I am not níl mé / nílim
you are not (singular) níl tú
he is not / it is not níl sé
she is not / it is not níl sí
we are not níl muid / nílimid
you are not (plural) níl sibh
they are not níl siad
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