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Ní thagann ciall roimh aois

Ní thagann ciall roimh aois

n’iː hag-ən k’iəl riv’ iːs’

Sense does not come before age.

Note: This is not meant to insult the young by implying that youthfulness always equates to foolishness. Rather, it is a reminder that life’s most important lessons can only be truly “learned” from experience. They cannot be absorbed by merely hearing or reading about the exploits of others. In the end, there is no better training academy than the proverbial “School of Hard Knocks”.

Is déirce dá chuid féin don amadán

Is déirce dá chuid féin don amadán

His own share is charity to the fool.

Note: This oxymoron is also loosely translated as the Hiberno-English expression “feeding the dog his tail.” It is an absurdity used to lampoon circular arguments and those who make them. In the Irish, it has the subtle recursive property of imputing that the person making such a specious argument is, of course, a fool. The fool is saying that something he gave himself is charity. It is a most uncharitable rejoinder.

The sting of this week’s seanfhocal hinges on the idiomatic expression “dá chuid,” which is a contraction of “de a chuid” (literally: from his share). Ancient Celts where a communal people who operated as a tribe or clann. All members of the clann contributed to the wealth of the clann, from the farmers, to the warriors, to the druids. Each was therefore deserving of a share.

Hence the Irish word for share, portion, or part, ‘cuid’ is used in many expressions, especially those involving possession. There are no possessive pronouns in Irish, e.g., there is no direct Irish word for ‘mine’ or ‘yours.’ The Irish equivalent for ‘mine’ is ‘mo chuid’ while ‘yours’ is ‘do chuid.’ So, technically, this seanfhocal uses ‘a chuid’ to mean ‘his,’ the possessive pronoun, not the possessive adjective ‘his’ as in ‘his books.’ Possessive adjectives in Irish also require the use of ‘cuid’ when modifying certain nouns, . . . ach sin scéal eile.

Is deacair a bheith ag feadaíl agus ag ithe mine

Is deacair a bheith ag feadaíl agus ag ithe mine

It is hard to whistle and eat at the same time.

Note: Every year on the fourth Thursday in November people in the United States of America, wherever they may live, gather their clans together for a great feast, called Thanksgiving. It celebrates the first harvest of the Puritans in the New World. Traditionally, a large turkey is roasted and eaten along with potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, and other garden delicacies. After dinner, it is customary for the family to root for their favorite American football team. A snack during the game is not unusual. Those who snack during the game would do well to keep this proverb in mind.

Of course, this week’s seanfhocal is actually to remind you that you can not do two things at once. Perhaps, the more widely known version of this seanfhocal is “Ní féidir le aon duine a bheith ag feadaíl agus ag ithe mine.” (One can’t whistle and drink at the same time.) However, this version comes from the West of Ireland, where, apparently, people are more confident of their capabilities. It may be hard to whistle and eat simultaneously, but it is not impossible for someone from the West.

Note also: The genitive case is used after a verbal noun, i.e., “ag ithe mine”. The word ‘mine’ is the genitive singular of ‘min,’ the word for ‘meal’ as in corn meal (min bhuí), oatmeal (min choirce), wheatmeal (min chruithneachta), barley meal (min eorna), rye-meal (min seagail). So, literally, this seanfhocal translates “It is hard to be whistling and eating meal.” There are three verbal nouns in this proverb, ‘bheith’ (be), ‘feadaíl’ (whistle), and ‘ithe’ (eat). Put the preposition ‘ag’ in front of a verbal noun and it becomes a gerund, e.g., ‘ag feadaíl’ (whistling), ‘ag ithe’ (eating). In any case, a verbal noun acts like a noun. So whether it is two nouns, e.g., ‘min choirce’ (literally, ‘meal of oats’) or a verbal noun and another noun, ‘ag ithe mine’ (literally, ‘eating of meal’), the modifying noun must be in the genitive case.

Más cam nó díreach an ród, ‘s é an bothar mór an t-aicearra

Más cam nó díreach an ród, ‘s é an bothar mór an t-aicearra

Whether the road is crooked or straight,the main road is the short cut.

(Alternatively: The longest way round is the shortest way home.)

Note: For the Gael, the short cut is always supreme, but for the Gall (foreigner) it is to be avoided. Another Irish version of this week’s proverb has the same meaning, “Cam díreach an ród is é an bealach mór.” Through the centuries, the Gaels’ peripatetic journeys tended to be on feet unencumbered by shoes. Even in the twentieth century, a Donegal man living all his life in Clonmany, in the northeast corner of the Inishowen peninsula, recalled,

My father hardly wore shoes or boots about the house in the summer-time. And it wasn’t him alone but everybody else of his time. I knew a man in my time to get married in the second pair of shoes ever went on his feet. I wore no shoes myself when I was young. The men and women used to carry the shoes on their shoulder when going to the chapel until they got as far as Skeeog, and then they would put them on. They would take them off again on their way home.

Charles McGlinchey, The Last of the Name, The Blackstaff Press, 1986, p. 17.

Given this penchant of the Gael for perambulation unfettered by pedal protection, any path that minimizes foot falls is to be preferred.

The Gall, on the other hand, shod in boots, sandals, or shoes, prefers the safest way to the shortest path. This preference can be inferred in the English proverb, “The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The Viscount of St. Albans, the English philosopher Francis Bacon, was more explicit. “It is in life, as it is in ways, the shortest way is commonly the foulest, and surely the faire way is not much about.” (The Advancement of Learning, 1605.) Another English proverb warns, “Better go about than fall into a ditch.” These sentiments were expressed in an ancient Latin proverb, “Short cuts are long ways around.”

Is trom an rud cearc i bhfad

Is trom an rud cearc i bhfad

A hen [carried] far is a heavy thing.

Note: Anything carried a long distance becomes a heavy burden. The notion that easy physical burdens can become exhausting over time would be obvious to any rural farmer. What is not so obvious is that psychological burdens carried a long time can be a heavy thing too. Guilt, anger, fear, hate, and such are natural emotions that come upon us from time to time. In fact, Irish idiom recognizes that these emotions are a burden. For example, in Irish one would literally say, ‘Fear is on you.’ But at some point, you need to let go of these burdens. This proverb could used as a gentle nudge to someone who has carried such a burden too long, to give it up. Lighten up.

Ní hiad na fir mhóra a bhaineas an fomhar i gcónaí

Ní hiad na fir mhóra a bhaineas an fomhar i gcónaí

It is not the great men that always reap the harvest.

Note: Strength is not everything. Even though the bards sing about the exploits of great men, like Fionn and the Fianna, the warrior class of ancient Irish society would not have existed without the farmer. It is the farmer, who reaps the harvest. It is the farmer who was the foundation of the ancient Irish political unit, the tuath. While the tuath was dominated by the neimhidh, the privileged people, i.e., warriors, artisans, bards, priests, etc. it was the farmers who had the greatest numbers. It was the farmer who counted most. This proverb recognizes their unheralded greatness.

Mol an lá um thránóna

Mol an lá um thránóna

Praise the day in the evening.

Note: This popular proverb has been encapsulated in the English expression, “At the end of the day, …” Do not be hasty to praise or even comment on an event, a life, or a period of time while it is in progress. It could change later and make you wrong.

  • Mol an latha math mu oidhche. — Scots Gaelic
  • Moyle y laa mie fastyr (mu fheasgar). — Manx
  • Ruse the fair day at night. — Scots
  • Praise day and night, and life at the end. — English
  • La vita il fine e ‘l dì loda la sera — Italian
  • Schönen Tag soll man loben, wenn es Nacht ist. — German

Perhaps, Alexander Pope said it best. “Some praise at morning what they blame at night, But always think the last opinion right.” An Essay on Criticism. 1711.

Seachnaíonn súil ní nach bhfeiceann

Seachnaíonn súil ní nach bhfeiceann

An eye evades a thing it does not see.

Note: There are a number of English versions of this proverb.

  • What the eye sees not, the heart craves not.
  • What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over.
  • Ignorance is bliss.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.

Many languages also have a version or two of this proverb.

  • Celtic Languages:
    • I bhfad as amharc, i gcian as intinn. Irish
      (Out of sight, out of mind.) Béarlachas?
    • An rud ná cloieseann an chluas ní chuireann sé buairt ar an gcroí. Irish
      (What the ear does not hear does not worry the heart.)
    • An té a bhíos amuigh fuaraíonn a chuid. Irish
      (Whoever is often out, his part grows cold.)
    • Fada bhon t-sùil, fada bhon chride. Scots Gaelic
      (Far from the eye, far from the heart.)
    • As an t-sealladh, às a chuimhne. Scots Gaelic
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
    • Ass shiley, ass smooinagtyn. Manx
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
    • Allan o olwg, allan o feddwl. Welch
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
  • Germanic Languages:
    • Was ich nicht weiss macht mich nicht heiss. German
      (What I don’t know does not make me hot.)
    • Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn. German
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
    • Langt fra Öine, snart af Sinde. Danish
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
    • Uit het oog, uit het hart. Dutch
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
  • Romance Languages:
    • Loin des yeux, loin de coeur. French
      (Out of sight, out of mind.)
    • Qui procul ab oculis, procul a limite cordis. Latin (Out of sight, out of mind.)

We may never know in which language this proverb originated, but we must admit that the Irish version above is original. Using the verb, seachain (meaning avoid, evade, or shun), suggests that the eye is pulled to things it can see and is pushed from things it can not see. It is a bit more mystical than the expression, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Is doimhin é poll an amhrais

Is doimhin é poll an amhrais

Deep is the hole of doubt.

Note: “Doubts are more cruel that the worst of truths.” Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliére, Le Misanthrope, Act III, Scene vii. Doubts can cripple you. They can freeze you into inaction. Falling into doubt can be like falling into a deep hole; it is hard to get out.

Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt;
Nothing’s so hard but search won’t find out.
     Robert Herrick, Heperides

Or in the words of copy writer for a more modern sneaker manufacturer, “Just do it.”

Note also: Proverbs are like fossils. They tend to preserve old forms. This week’s proverb is no exception with the spelling of the word “doimhin.” This was the most common spelling for the Irish word for ‘deep,’ before the official standard spelling was introduced in the 1940’s. The official spelling is ‘domhain.’ However, the official spelling for the genitive form is the more retrograde ‘doimhne.’

Is é an duine an t-éadach

Is é an duine an t-éadach

s’ə en din’ -ə ən t’e-dəx

The man (person) is the clothes.

Note: A familiar English language equivalent would be “The clothes make the man”. Of course, since this seanfhocal originated at a time when the clothing was all made by women, this is also a subtle way of saying that a man is only as good as the women in his life.

Is minic cuma aingeal ar an Diabhal féin

Is minic cuma aingeal ar an Diabhal féin

is m’in-ək’ kum-ə aŋ-g’el
er’ ən d’iə-vəl f’em’

There is often the look of an angel on the Devil himself.

Note: A familiar English expression with a similar meaning would be the reference to someone as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Irish word cuma has the meaning of shape, form or appearance. Although the camera may not lie, the usage here amounts to an outright affirmation of the fact that appearances are deceiving.

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile

ah-n’iːən k’iər-oːg k’iər-oːg el’-ə

A beetle recognizes another beetle.

Note: This seanfhocal can be used dismissively (as in “It takes one to know one”), or as a sign of comraderie (as in “Birds of a feather flock together”).

Is glas iad na cnoc i bhfad uainn

Is glas iad na cnoc i bhfad uainn

is glas iəd nə knik i vad uən’

Distant hills look green.

Note: An American variant of this week’s proverb is, “The grass is always greener in the other fellow’s yard”. We saw a similar seanfhocal earlier, “Bíonn adharca fada ar na ba i gcéin”. (Long horns are [always] on the cows abroad.) Both of these express a cynicism that was justified, at least with respect to America. For most Irish immigrants, America, especially in the nineteenth century, was just a different horror from the one they left behind. Many would escape early death in Ireland to find it in America; excavating the Erie canal, mining coal in Pennsylvania, laying track for the railroads, fighting for the Army, or succumbing to disease in the squalid Irish tenements of New York and Boston.

Note also: The pronunciation of the word ‘cnoic’ (hills) strays a bit from ‘an Lárchanúint’ (the core dialect). ‘An Lárchanúint’ was created for teaching purposes in the early 1980s from the three major dialects of Irish: Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. It is an amalgam of these dialects, containing pronunciations common to them all. Under the spelling conventions of ‘an Lárchanúint’, the letters ‘oi’ are usually pronounced as the short vowel sound o, e.g., coill, soir, goic. So the ‘Lárchanúint’ pronunciation of ‘cnoic’ should be knok´ or knoik. The second k sound is slender, and, therefore, is usually preceded with a barely perceptible short vowel sound i, called a y-glide. However, speakers from all the major dialects have promoted the y-glide to the medial vowel to form knik´. This is to emphasize the plural number of ‘cnoic’. ‘Cnoc’ (knok) is the singular form.

And still, if you listen carefully, you will hear the speaker deviate further from ‘an Lárchanúint’, saying krik instead of knik. This is a regional variation. Speakers of the Munster dialect will tend to say knik while speakers from Ulster and Connacht will tend to say krik. This is true of these dialects for all words with the letter ‘n’ following any another consonant except the letter s, e.g.:

  • cnámh (cra:v) bone
  • gnaoi (gri:) liking
  • gníomh (g´r´i:v) deed
  • mná (mra:) women
  • tnúth (tru:h) envy.

Some samples of how this regional rule does not change the sound of ‘sn’ are: snámh (sna:v) swim, snáth (sna:h) thread, sníomh (s´n´i:v) spin, snoíodóir (sni:-do:r´) sculptor. Linguists call this phenomenon denasalization, replacing the alveolar nasal phoneme with the corresponding nonlateral alveolar liquid phoneme. There is a reverse phenomenon in Old Irish called nasalization, ach sin scéal eile.

Cuir síoda ar ghabhar agus is gabhar i gcónaí é

Cuir síoda ar ghabhar agus is gabhar i gcónaí é

kir’ s’iː-də er É£aur ag-əs
is gaur i goːn-iː eː

Put silk on a goat and it is still a goat.

Note: You can not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This English proverb was more about class distinction than our Irish proverb. It goes back to the sixteenth century where purses were actually made for the masses out of pigs’ ears. Only the nobility could afford a purse made out of silk. Hence, a silk purse became an earmark of nobility.

Our Irish proverb is more about accepting who you are, than about discriminating between classes. An ape’s an ape, a varlet’s a varlet, though they be clad in silk or scarlet. The higher the monkey climbs the more he shows his tail. Pretending to be who you are not, exposes your weaknesses, as the poet Alexander Pope wrote,

The higher you climb, the more you shew your A__. Verified in no instance more than Dulness aspiring. Emblematized also by an Ape climbing and exposing his posteriors.
     Dunciad 1743.

Pretending to be who you are not, exposes you to ridicule, as the director Woody Allen makes clear in his film, Small Time Crooks.

Bíonn gach duine go lách go dtéann bó ina gharraí

Bíonn gach duine go lách go dtéann bó ina gharraí

b’iːn gax di’n-ə gə deːn boː in- ə É£ar-iː

Everybody is good natured until a cow goes into his garden.

Note: Dorothy Parker, the American journalist, once described ‘guts’ as grace under pressure. Goethe said a talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world’s torrent. In a similar vein, this week’s proverb points out that the real test of one’s character comes in times of adversity. Anyone can be good natured when times are good. Only those with ‘guts,’ will remain good natured when their garden has been destroyed by errant bovine behavior.

Ní féasta go rósta, ‘is ní céasta go pósta

Ní féasta go rósta, ‘is ní céasta go pósta

There is no feast like a roast, and no torment like a marriage.

Note: Although your spouse might not like this seanfhocal, it is socially acceptable because it rhymes so nicely.

Ná gabh bean gan locht

Ná gabh bean gan locht

Do not take a wife without fault.

Note: This proverb seems to be exclusive to Goidelic Celts. It has only been found in Irish and Scots Gaelic. “Na gabh tè air bith mar mhnaoi ach tè air am bi athais agad. (Take no woman for a wife in whom you can not find a flaw.)” The reason is simple; a woman without fault does not exist. It is better to find the fault before the wedding than after. By the way, a man without fault does not exist either. Even a wise man has faults. “Ní bhíonn saoi gan locht.”

Is maith an bhean í ach níor bhain sí a broga di go foill

Is maith an bhean í ach níor bhain sí a broga di go foill

She is a good wife, but she has not taken off her shoes yet.

Note: She is a good woman, but it is still quite early in the marriage. She has not taken off her shoes yet from the wedding. She has not yet gotten comfortable in her new situation. The wedding is still on her. Many Irish had only one pair of shoes in their possession. To preserve them, these poor people would only wear shoes at wakes, weddings, baptisms, fairs, and other special occasions. Other normal times, they would go about barefoot. Therefore, when a wife took off her shoes, it was a sign that she had settled in to normal times. When she is truly settled is the time to say whether she is a good woman or not. But the Scots have another proverb, “Am fear a labhras olc mu mhnaoi, tha e cur mi-cliù air fhèin.” (Who speaks ill of his wife dishonors himself.)

Níl aon leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh

Níl aon leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh

There is no cure for love but marriage.
(The only cure for love is marriage.).

Note: This comes in handy as a wedding toast. The double meaning is sure to both please and bemuse simultaneously.

Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin

Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin

The raven thinks its own nestling fair.

Note: This week’s seanfhocal is a generalization of the English proverb, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” (Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, Molly Bawn, 1878.) Perhaps, closer to the mark is the aphorism, “A mother’s pride, a father’s joy.” (Sir Walter Scott, Rokeby, 1813, canto III, st. 15.) Nature blinds the parent to any imperfections of its offspring. This is a lesson every teacher learns early in a career.

For a demonstration of this phenomenon, visit any sporting event organized for children and watch the parents. Parents have been known to assault other parents at such games over wrongs perceived upon their progeny. One youth league even requires the parents to sign a parental code of conduct before they will admit a child to the program.

Note also: An ancient Druid idiom is embedded in this week’s seanfhocal. Druids worshipped the sun. Nothing could be more pleasing to Druids then to have the sun shine on them. Therefore, to express pleasure with something, it is customary in the Irish language to say that it is bright with you, i.e., like the sun, it shines on you. For example, this week’s proverb literally says, “Its own nestling is bright with the raven.”

Consider other examples. Is geal an scéal liom é. (It is glad news to me. Literally: The story, it [is] bright with me.) Ní geal leat é. (You don’t like him. Literally: He is not bright with you.) Is geal leis a bhfeiceann sé. (He likes what he sees. Literally: What he sees is bright with him.) Note the pattern, “Is geal le …” (Is bright with …)

The same pattern is also used with the Irish verb for shine, taitin. With the preposition ‘le’ (with), taitin is used to express pleasure. Thaitin do theach liom. (I liked your house. Literally: Your house shined on me.) Taitníonn sé leis na daoine. (The people are fond of him. Literally: He shines on the people.) Another way of expressing pleasure is to use the verbal noun of taitin, teatneamh. Níl sé i mo thaitneamh. (I don’t like it. Literally: It is not in my shining [or brightness].) Finally, one of the many ways to say, “I love you.” in Irish is “Mo thaitneamh thú.” (Literally: My brightness [is] for you.)

Folaíonn grá gráin

Folaíonn grá gráin

Love veils ugliness.

Note: The ancient Romans often depicted Cupid, their god of love, as blindfolded because love was thought to be blind. The more common image of Cupid as a winged boy shooting arrows was actually taken from earlier Greek images of Eros, their god of love. But the Greeks also knew that love was blind. Eros was thought to randomly fire his arrows into the hearts of lovers. So no one could explain where their heart led them.

I have heard of reasons manifold
Why love must needs be blind,
But this the best of all I hold —
His eyes are in his mind.
     Coleridge, Reason for Love’s Blindness, 1828.

Some pundits have noted that love is blind but marrage restores sight.

Maireann na daoine ar scáil a chéile

Maireann na daoine ar scáil a chéile

The people live in one another’s shadows.

Note: An English language saying expressing a similar thought is John Donne’s “No man is an island”. Human beings are by nature communal, and what happens to one member affects each member of the community. Although this relationship is not a physical manifestation of nature and can be as ephemeral as a shadow, its strenght and power are pervasive and profound.

Giorraíonn beirt bóthar

Giorraíonn beirt bóthar

Two people shorten a road.

Note: The Irish are a deeply communal people. If a trip is necessary, be it long or short, it is always preferable to have companionship.

Note also: The Irish word “beirt” refers to “two people”. The Irish language uses personal numbers to designate from one to ten persons (and sometimes twelve). When counting people these special numbers must be used. The common numbers which are used to count mere things are not acceptable!

Is maith an scáthán súil charad

Is maith an scáthán súil charad

A friend’s eye is a good mirror.

Note: There is another seanfhocal that expresses a similar sentiment. “Ní cara gach bladaire.” (Every flatterer is not a friend.) It is expected that one will often flatter a friend. Yet another seanfhocal tells us that: “Gineann bladar cradas”. (Flattery begets friendship.) But a true friend will reflect our errors, our misjudgments, our shortcomings, … when necessary.

Warning: If grammar makes your head hurt, just enjoy this seanfhocal as it is, and DO NOT read any further!

The word order in this seanfhocal is not the usual verb–subject–predicate, but verb–predicate–subject. This is because the copula, i.e., the verb ‘is’, is used with an indefinite predicate.

For example, in this case the predicate, ‘a good mirror’, is not specific. It does not tell the reader exactly which mirror is being discussed. Like many proverbs, this one is a metaphor, so it can be any good mirror. Since the predicate is indefinite, and the verb is the copula, then the “classification” rule for the copula requires that the predicate precedes the subject.

All forms of the copula with indefinite predicates put the predicate before the subject. We see this is in the negative form of this seanfhocal, “Ní cara gach bladaire.” (Every flatterer is not a friend.)

On the other hand, when the copula is used with a definite predicate then the usual Irish word order applies.

Síleann do chara agus do namhaid nach bhfaighidh tú bás choíce

Síleann do chara agus do namhaid nach bhfaighidh tú bás choíce

[Both] your friend and your enemy think you will never die.

Note: You are immortal to your friends because they wish it. So it is that one wishes one’s friend a common blessing in Ireland, “Go maire tú an céad.” (May you live to a hundred.)

On the other hand, every instant of your existence is anathema to your enemies. As the Romans used to say, “The body of a dead enemy smells sweet.” Even though it may seem an interminable wait, a Spanish proverb suggests patience. “El que se sienta en la puerta de su casa verá pasar el cadáver de su enemigo.” (He who sits by the door of his house will watch his enemy’s corpse go by.)

Note also: This week’s seanfhocal uses the word ‘choíche’ which means ‘ever’ or ‘never’ depending on the context. It is only used with a verb in the future tense, e.g., … nach bhfaighfidh tú bás choíche. (… that you will never die). Otherwise the synonym ‘riamh’ is used, e.g., “Níor chuala mé an ráfla sin riamh.” (I never heard that rumor.)

Is í an eorna nua tú a fheiceáil

Is í an eorna nua tú a fheiceáil

Seeing you is like seeing the new (season’s) barley.

Note: This is a very enthusiastic expression one would use to greet a favorite friend or relation not seen for a while. Although we translated this seanfhocal as a simile, it is actually a metaphor. (A more literal translation is: “You are the new barley to see.”) This agrarian metaphor is a reminder of the time when the harvest was anticipated by the whole community. Homegrown barley bread would be a welcome change from the usual potatoes and Indian meal. Of course, the “juice of the barley “, poteen (poitín as Gaeilge), would be enjoyed at the harvest celebration of Lughnasa.

Note also: This is another example of fronting. Fronting is a grammatical structure where the copula, ‘is’, is used with an inverted word order to emphasize one part of a sentence over another part. We saw a fronted adjective, ‘Is TEANN gach madra gearr . . .’ (i.e.: ‘It’s BOLD that every terrier is . . .’), emphasized before. Here we have a fronted noun, ‘eorna’. But it is a definite noun, “an eorna”. The copula is never followed immediately by a definite noun. The correct pronoun must separate them. In this case, the definite noun is feminine, so the pronoun must be feminine. “Is í an eorna nua tú a fheiciáil.”

Lá Nollaig go péacach is Lá Féile na Stiofáin ag iarraidh déirce

Lá Nollaig go péacach is Lá Féile na Stiofáin ag iarraidh déirce

A showy Christmas Day and begging on the Feast of St. Stephen.

Note: St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr whose feast day is the day after Christmas. It is a national holiday in Ireland, but its roots go back beyond Chritianity. The tradition is for children to go “hunting the wren” on St. Stephen’s Day. It is killed and its corpse, or its effigy, is put on a pole, or sometimes in a basket. “The wren boys” go from home to home displaying the dead bird and begging for money “to bury the wren.” At the door step of each home the ‘Bean an Tí’ (the woman of the house), is beseeched,

The wren, the wren, the King of all birds,
     St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze.
So up with the kettel and down with the pan,
     and give us a penny to bury the wren.

The house that is least generous is likely to have the wren buried under their door step. Killing the wren is considered a good omen, because the wren is believed to be a treacherous bird. Some believe that it was a chattering wren who betrayed St. Stephan’s hiding place. An old Druid story tells of how the birds had a contest to determine who was king of the birds. Whoever flew the highest would be coronated. The wren hid in the back of the eagle. When it was his turn, the eagle soared higher than any other bird. However, when fatigue would let him climb no higher, the wren emerged rested and climbed to the greatest height. So by treachery, the wren became “the king of all birds.”

Is é do mhac do mhac inniú, ach is í d’iníon d’iníon go deo

Is é do mhac do mhac inniú, ach is í d’iníon d’iníon go deo

Your son is your son today, but your daughter is your daughter forever.

Note: A familiar English language equivalent might be: “Your son is your son until he takes a wife, but your daughter is your daughter for the rest of her life.”

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin

There’s no hearth like your own hearth.

Note: This is almost certainly the most widely known of all the Irish proverbs. It has the same meaning as the English version: “There’s no place like home”; although it is not considered trite. Perhaps it is best that there is no ‘as Gaeilge’ version of The Wizard of Oz. If you only learn one seanfhocal this week, this should be the one.

Níl aon tóin tinn mar do thóin tinn féin

Níl aon tóin tinn mar do thóin tinn féin

There’s no sore ass like your own sore ass.

Note: The previous editor thought that this was an appropriate offering because it is a play on last week’s seanfhocal: “Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin”. In his defense he noted that this is the most popularly known mock seanfhocal in Ireland. You will be pleased to know that the defense was unsuccessful, and he was stripped of his fáinne. The new editor is a Gaeilgeoir of impeccable moral character, and there will be no repeat of this indiscretion. Gabhaigí ár leithscéal.

An mháthair leis an mac agus an iníon leis an athair

An mháthair leis an mac agus an iníon leis an athair

The mother (sides) with the son, and the daughter with the father.

Note: This is a reference to the alleged tendency of Irish mothers to dote over their sons. It is even felt in some quarters that this tendency still prevails in Irish American families! Likewise, the seanfhocal notes a daughter’s likelihood to side with her father. It is interesting to note that the seanfhocal speaks in terms of females, the mother and daughter. No mention is made of how the males behave in such situations, or even if the males are aware that such interpersonal dynamics exist.

Mol an páiste agus molann tú an mháthair

Mol an páiste agus molann tú an mháthair

Praise the child and you praise the mother.

Note: So, the mother gets all of the credit when the child turns out well. Presumably fathers are entitled to all of the fault when children go bad.

Note also: The two verbs in this seanfhocal are in the [1] imperative/order form (mol) and [2] the present habitual (molann). Although in Béarla these forms are identical (praise), Irish maintains very distinctive forms.

Is fearr beagán den ghaol ná mórán den charthanas

Is fearr beagán den ghaol ná mórán den charthanas

A little kinship is better than a lot of charity.

Note: Charles Dickens wrote, “But charity begins at home, and justice begins next door”(Martin Chuzzelwit 1850). John Ray wrote down the English proverb equivalent to this seanfhocal in his opus English Proverbs (1670), “Blood is thicker than water.” John Wycliffe in his 1380 work Of Prelates ascribes to Theocritus the proverb “Charity begins at home.”

Perhaps this seanfhocal came from Saint Patricks’ bringing the Bible to the Irish. In Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy he says,

“Ach má tá clann nó clann chlainne ag baintreach, tuigidís sin gurb é céad dualgas atá orthu cuidiú lena dteaghlach féin agus cúiteamh a dhéanamh lena dtuismitheoirí, mar gurb áil le Dia é sin.” (If a widow has any children or grandchildren, let these learn that piety begins at home and that they should fittingly support their parents and grandparents; this is the way God wants it to be.) Tiomóid, 5:4.

Paul goes to warn

“an duine nach ndéanann aon chúram dá mhuintir agus do lucht a theaghlaigh féin go háirithe, tá an creideamh séanta aige agus is measa é ná an díchreidmheach. (If anyone does not provide for his own relatives and especially for members of his immediate family; he has denied the faith; he is worse than an unbeliever.) Tiomóid, 5:8.

Maybe Timothy brought this idea directly to the ancient Irish. Timothy ministered to the Ephesians. Ephesus was a city on the Aegean coast of modern Turkey. It was at the edge of an ancient Celtic community centered around what is now the city of Ankara.

Is folamh fuar é teach gan bean

Is folamh fuar é teach gan bean

A house without a woman is empty [and] cold.

Note: This is not to be confused with the English aphorism, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”. The word “man” does not appear in this week’s seanfhocal. It is more a recognition that in Ireland women, traditionally, run the house. “Bean an tí” (the lady of the house, the mistress) made a house a home. The expression, “Bean an tí” is so laden with power and responsibility that it can also mean landlady. It would be an anomaly for a house to be without one. Without one, the turf fire might go out. Without one, the furniture might not exist. Without one, the groceries might not be gotten. Without one, the house would, indeed, be a cold and empty place.

Note also: This week’s seanfhocal has two successive adjectives without a comma and without a conjunction like ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘or’ between them. “Is folamh fuar é …” This would be grammatically incorrect if it were to occur in an English sentence. However, in Irish, it is actually good form. This is especially true if you want to emphasize something by repeating adjectives that are synonyms, e.g., “Bhí sé beag mion”. (It was small little.) The redundancy would be considered poor style in English. Perhaps this proscription is an expression of British reserve. On the other hand, in Irish, some traits are worth repeating.

Is minic ubh bhán ag cearc dhubh

Is minic ubh bhán ag cearc dhubh

A black hen often has a white egg.

Note: This week’s proverb is a little tongue in cheek. Of course, a black hen always lays a white egg. That is why you might hear a slight variant of this proverb, “Beireann cearc dhubh ubh bhán.” (A black hen lays a white egg.) There is a similar Spanish proverb, “Tierra negra buen pan lleva.” (Black land produces good bread.) Perhaps the closest English aphorism comes from Thomas Paine, “Whenever we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” Common Sense, 1776.

Proverbs need not be consistent. Compare this week’s proverb to “Briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait. (Heredity breaks out in the eyes of the cat.) “Like father, like son.” “The acorn never falls far from the tree.” “The gods visit the sins of the fathers upon the children.” Euripedes. In contrast to all these, this week’s proverb makes the point that virtuous people can spring forth from un-virtuous ancestors.

This idea of good descended from evil is central to the 11th Century Irish epic, Caithe Maige Tuired (The Battle of Mag Tuired). It describes the primordial struggle in Ireland between good and evil, between a divine people, the Tuatha Dé Dannan, and the demonic band, the Fomhóire. Balor of the Evil Eye was the king of the Fomhóire. He gave his daughter, Eithne, to Cian, a young warrior of the Tuatha Dé Dannan. They had a son they named Lugh.

Under Balor, the Fomhóire were massing a formidable army to seize control of Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Dannan. Nuadhu, the King of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, was mustering an Army to resist them at Tara. Young Lugh went to Tara to join the warriors. He so impressed the king with his diverse skills as a warrior, poet, and artisan that Nuadhu gave Lugh command of his army.

Noble Lugh confronted his evil grandfather at Moytirra (in County Sligo). Balor only opened his evil eye in battle. Anyone who looked into it was destroyed. Before Balor could train his evil eye on him, Lugh hit the eye with a stone from his sling. It turned Balor’s eye inward, immediately killing him, winning the battle and the war.

A chomhairle féin do mhac árann ‘s ní bhfuair sé ariamh níos measa

A chomhairle féin do mhac árann ‘s ní bhfuair sé ariamh níos measa

It does not get worse than a dear son that pleases himself.

Note: There is nothing so exasperating to parents then to have their wishes ignored by a beloved child. Parents want the best for their children. They want their children to benefit from their experience in the harsh realities of life. They want them to go to the right schools. They want them to enter the right profession. Then they want to kill them when they demonstrate a mind of their own.

There is little play on words in the Irish of this proverb. Literally, this proverbs means, “His own council for a dear son and it never got worse.” “A chomhairle féin a dhéanamh” is an idiomatic way of saying “he does what he pleases.” He only takes his own advice. Of course, from a parent’s perspective, this is the worst advise he could get. He who takes his own council has a fool for a councilor.

Ní bhíonn an rath, ach mara mbíonn an smacht

Ní bhíonn an rath, ach mara mbíonn an smacht

There is no prosperity unless there is discipline.

Note: Irish makes frequent use of the definite article “the” before nouns which do not refer to physical/tangible objects. Here, for instance, the seanfhocal refers to “an rath” (literally “the prosperity”) and “an smacht” (literally “the discipline/control”). Likewise, even when speaking English, it is often said that someone has “the Irish” (meaning the Irish language), which mirrors the Irish reference to “an Ghaeilge”.

Chíonn beirt rud nach bhfeiceann duine amháin

Chíonn beirt rud nach bhfeiceann duine amháin

Two people see a thing that an individual does not see.

Note: This can be taken on a superficial, physical level such as when people elicit the help of others to find a lost object or person. On another level, this seanfhocal refers to the deeper understanding which can be obtained when multiple people examine (consider) a problem or situation. “Two heads are better than one” as they say. The sharing of ideas and perspectives among a group of people can often develop insights which would otherwise have been missed by an individual.

Note also: In normal “running” speech, neutral vowel sounds tend to get “swallowed up”. For instance, although the speaker here is pronouncing the words here deliberately and distinctly for your benefit, conversational speech would sound somewhat different. For example, the vowel sound at the end of the word “duine” and the vowel sound at the begining of the word “amháin” would overlap and be pronounced as a single sound. As a result the two words would sound almost like one word, “duin-a-mhain.” This change is proper in Irish, and is not in any way equivalent to slurring in English. In general, neutral vowels tend to fall off the end of words that are followed by words beginning with another vowel.

Dia linn is deoch is ní ráibh mé riamh bocht

Dia linn is deoch is ní ráibh mé riamh bocht

God with us and a drink, and may I never be poor.

Note: It has been said that Irish toasts are like prayers. This week’s seanfhocal is a toast that follows in that tradition. Like most prayers it asks God for something. Like most prayers it uses the subjunctive mood to do this, i.e., ‘go raibh’ is the subjunctive mood for the verb ‘be,’ ‘tá.’ The subjunctive is used to express contra-factual ideas, like wishes.

For many Irish who emigrated to America, the wish to never be poor came true.

In the National Opinion Research Center’s (NORC) 1977 and 1978 General Social Survey, 26% of families in America reported an annual income in excess of $20,000; of those who describe themselves as British Protestants, 30% reported more than $20,000 income; and 47% of the Irish-Catholic families reported more than $20,000 in income, a little higher than the 46% of Jewish families and 43% of Italian families.

Andrew M. Greely, The Irish Americans: The Rise to Money and Power, Warner Books, 1993, p.137.

The wish for a drink has come true too. Ach sin scéal eile.

Go ndeine an diabhal dréimire de cnámh do dhroma ag piocadh úll i ngairdín Ifrinn

Go ndeine an diabhal dréimire de cnámh do dhroma ag piocadh úll i ngairdín Ifrinn

May the devil make a ladder of your backbone [and] pluck apples in the garden of hell. 

Note: A great curse seeks to conjure the worst fate that can be conceived for the cursed. This week’s proverb goes beyond the common curse, “Go to hell.” May you go to hell and may you become a living ladder for the devil to climb in his garden. May his evil hooves crush your spine as he picks apples to lure your friends and relations to join you.

If Adam and Eve could not resist the devil’s apples, what chance does your loved ones have? In addition to the pain, you would bear the guilt of being an instrument of the devil. Compared to this curse, simply going to hell would be a walk in the park.

Note also: The verb ‘go ndeine’ is the subjunctive form of the irregular verb ‘dein.’ ‘Dein’ is a variant of ‘déan,’ the standard form of the Irish verb meaning ‘make’ or ‘do.’ Its standard subjunctive form is ‘go ndéana.’ The subjunctive mood is used to the indicate situatuations that are contrary to fact. Consequently, the subjunctive mood is most often used to curse, to bless, and to pray.

Go bhfága Dia do shláinte agat

Go bhfága Dia do shláinte agat

May God spare you your health.

Note: Literally, this proverbs means, “May God leave your health at you.” This implies that if you lose your health it is because God has taken it away from you. God is an active agent in one’s life. Please God and your health is spared. Anger God and your health could be withdrawn. According to an earlier proverb, live long enough and God will take it away from you in the Fiche bliain ag meath.

This idea of supernatural cause and natural effect goes back to the ancient Druids. Druids never composed anything comparable to the Book of Job. They never wondered why there is misery in life. Every thing in nature happens for a supernatural reason. Gods of the underworld controlled the seasons. Planting began only after asking these gods for permission. Harvesting had to be completed before the end of the season when the gods would take back the land. That is why is is still considered bad luck in some part of Ireland to eat wild berries after Lughnasa.

Déan an fál nó iocfaidh tú foghail

Déan an fál nó iocfaidh tú foghail

Make the fence or you will pay the plundering.

Note: Robert Frost quoted an old English proverb similar to this week’s seanfhocal:


He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.

Frost lived in New Hampshire where the fences are like those of Ireland, made over a long period of time from rocks without mortar. The rocks were extracted from a stony soil by persistent farmers. Frost goes on to wonder:


‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.

But there are cows in Ireland. Is it fences that will prevent plunder? Read The Táin and discover that no fence can protect a cow from the Celt. There is another meaning of “foghail”, trespass. Considering the current politics of Northern Ireland, Frost was correct when he concluded that:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down…

“Mending Fences,” from North of Boston, 1914.

An rud nach mbaineann duit ná bain dó

An rud nach mbaineann duit ná bain dó

Don’t interfere with [any] thing that doesn’t concern you.

Note: This week’s seanfhocal is universal, as many proverbs are. “Is onóir do dhuine aighneas a sheachaint, ach beidh gach amadán ag achrann.” An Bíobla Naofa: Leabhar na Seanfhocal 20:3. (It is an honor for a person to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling. The Holy Bible: The Book of Proverbs 20:3) “Let every man mind his own business.” Don Quixote de la Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes 1605-1615. “‘If everybody minded their own business,’ said the Duchess in a hoarse growl, ‘the world would go round a deal faster than it does.'” Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll 1865. “Dirt nosed folks always want to wipe other people’s noses.” French proverb. “He who tastes everymans’ broth sometimes burns his mouth.” Danish proverb “It’s ill meddling between the bark and the rind.” Scottish proverb.

Note also: This seanfhocal exhibits the wide semantic range of Irish verbs and their semantic extension under the influence of prepositions. One of the difficulties students of Irish encounter early in their studies is the different semantic range of Irish and English words, i.e., the different meanings of a word. In this case the verb ‘bain’ has many different meanings. By itself, Ó Dónnaill’s Foclóir Geailge-Béarla lists nine different meanings for ‘bain’, from “1. Extract from bed in the ground, dig out” to “8. Win.” and “9. Become due.” Combining the verb with a preposition creates even more varied meanings for the verb. For example, Ó Dónnaill gives additional meanings for ‘bain’ when combined with the set of prepositions below:

  • bain amach, 1. Take out … 7. Spend …
  • bain anuas, Take down …
  • bain ar, 1. Induce, … 2. Lit: (a) Deprive of …
  • bain as, 1. Take, remove, from, … 6. Gut … draw … castrate…
  • bain chuig, chun, Start
  • bain de, 1. Take off, remove … 5. Deprive
  • bain do, 1. Touch, interfere with … 2. Concern, relate to … 3. happen to …
  • bain faoi, 1. Settle; stay, … 4. Lit: Undertake
  • bain le, 1. Touch, interfere with … 2. Concern, relate to …
  • bain ó,1. Take from … 2. Pacify control …
  • bain siar as, 1. ~ siar as an airgead, use the money sparingly …

This seanfhocal plays with two equivocal meanings of ‘bain do,’ namely ‘interfere with’ and ‘concern’. The prepositions here are fused into prepositional pronouns, ach sin scéal eile.

Ni théann cuileog san mbéal a bhíos dúnta

Ni théann cuileog san mbéal a bhíos dúnta

A fly will not go into a mouth that is closed.

Note: The oral tradition of Ireland has always maintained that the Gael came to Ireland from Spain. Perhaps this week’s proverb has the same author as this Spanish proverb, “En boca cerrada no entran moscas.” (The closed mouth swallows no flies.) A similar Spanish proverb may have its origin in the bible, “El pez muere la boca.” (The fish dies because he opens his mouth.)

Ní hé an machnamh is geal leis an amadán,
ach bheith ag tabhairt a thuairime os ard.

Tarraingíonn caint an amadáin aighneas air féin,
agus tugann a bhéal cuireadh chun é a léasadh.
Scriosann béal an amadáin é féin,
agus is gaiste dó a bheola.
          Leabhar na Seanfhocal, 18;2,7,8.

The fool takes no delight in understanding,
but rather in displayng what he thinks.

The fool’s lips lead him into strife,
and his mouth provokes a beating.
The fool’s mouth is his ruin;
His lips are a snare to his life.
          The Book of Proverbs, 18;2,7,8.

We have seen the idea of a mouth provoking a beating before. Is minic a bhris beál duine a shrón. (It’s often that a person’s mouth broke his nose.) Is minic a ghearr teanga duine a scornach. (It is often that a person’s tongue cut his throat.) George Bernard Shaw adapted this theme to the English mouth. “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth, without making some other Englishman hate or despise him; English is not accessible, even to Englishmen.” Pygmalion, preface, 1913.

An té nach bhfuil láidir ní foláir dó a bheith glic.

An té nach bhfuil láidir ní foláir dó a bheith glic.

Whoever is not strong must be clever.

Note: The Scots have a similar proverb, “Wiles help weak folk.” Celtic folklore is rich with stories of the clever overcoming the strong. Consider two other proverbs. Ní bhíonn tréan buan. (Strength is not enduring.) Ní thagann ciall roimh aois. (Sense does not come before age.) Given these cultural beliefs, it is not surprising that most of these tales involve clever old seers. The tradition spans centuries from the ancient mythic personification of wisdom, the sear Find in the Fionn mac Cumhaill sagas, to the later tales of Merlin the Magician.

If you hear this proverb, you might want to respond with a popular play on words, “Agus an tae nach bhfuil ládir ní folair dó a bheith te.” (And the tea that is not strong must be hot.) In the original proverb, “an té” means “whoever,” while in the rejoinder, the homophone, “an tae” means “the tea.”

Note also: This proverb uses a common Irish idiom “ní foláir dó” which means “he must.” If you look up the word “foláir” in your foclóir, you are likely to find it coupled with the negative particle “ní.” It would probably translate “ní folair” as meaning “it is necessary.” So “ní folair dó é” means “it is necessary for him” or more tersely, “he needs it.” The phrase “a bheith glic” means “to be clever.” Put these two together, “ní folair dó a bheith glic,” and you literally get “it is necessary for him to be clever” or “he needs to be clever,” or “he must be clever.”

However, some may be troubled by this negative particle. To understand the negative particle, you need to know that ‘folair’ is a synonym for the noun “foráil” which means “superabundance, excess; too much.” Therefore, “ní foláir dó é” then literally means “it is not too much for him.” This is an indirect way of saying that he really needs it.

Bhí clog sa chill is níor bhinn clog é. Ach tháinig clog eile ‘on cill is rinne clog binn den…

Bhí clog sa chill is níor bhinn clog é. Ach tháinig clog eile ‘on cill is rinne clog binn den…

There was a bell in the church and it wasn’t very sweet sounding.
But another bell came to the church and made a sweet bell of the first one.

Note: This week’s seanfhocal is a play on words and a parable. The word bell appears in two sentences as both the subject and the object of the sentence. In the first sentence, the clock in the church is not sweet. In the second it is. This word play seems designed to confuse. It begs the speaker to say it again.

The parable has a simple moral. No matter what the situation, it could always be worse. Or on this case, we have an example of Robert Burns’ adage, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.” After all their planning, the parishioners are now saddled with another clinker.

Más maith leat siocháin, cairdeas, agus moladh, éist, feic, agus fan balbh.

Más maith leat siocháin, cairdeas, agus moladh, éist, feic, agus fan balbh.

If you wish for peace, friendship, and praise, listen, look, and stay mute.

Note: Continuing last week’s theme that silence is golden, we present a proverb that goes back to Roman times. The Latin version is, “Audi, vide, tace; si vis vivere in pace.” (Listen, see, be silent; if you wish to live in peace.) It becomes apparent that French derived from Latin in this Gallic proverb, “Oye, vois, et te taise, Si tu veux vivre en paix.” (Listen, look, and keep quiet, if you wish to live in peace.) Spanish has a more curt, imperative variation, “Ver, Oir, y callar.” (Look, listen, and keep quiet.) Benjamin Franklin put a little twist on the theme,”He that speaks much, is much mistaken.” (Poor Richard’s Almanac.)

Ní neart go cur le chéile

Ní neart go cur le chéile

There is no strength without unity.

Note: In Béarla the saying is that “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. Since at least the time of Strongbow (and probably longer) disunity has left Ireland open to her enemies. This seanfhocal expresses the still unfulfilled dream of Irish unity, be it political or cultural.

Fóireann spallaí do bhallaí chomh maith le clocha móra.

Fóireann spallaí do bhallaí chomh maith le clocha móra.

Walls require spalls as well as large stones.

Note: Our thanks go to Brendan McSherry for this week’s proverb. In is simplest sense it is a lesson in masonry. A spall or gallet is a small flake or chip of stone produced by splitting a larger stone. Practiced masons can create any size and shape chip they want. A deft blow of the hammer will create a chip to fit any whole in a wall. In fact, the word spall comes from the Old German word spell which means to split. Therefore, walls, especially walls made without mortar, need many of these chips if they are to stand for any length of time.

On a deeper level, it is a metaphor about society and about life. There is the American expression “all chiefs and no Indians” used to deride a group with all leaders and no followers. Such a situation is comically doomed to failure. You obviously need more of the latter than the former to be successful.

Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains victory.
      George S. Patton, In the Cavalry Journal, 1933.

Another interpretation of this metaphor concerns a healthy balance in life. It is easy to focus all of our attention on the big things in life and forget the little things. For example, many spend all their energy on advancing their careers. They lose sight of the little things in life, like watching your daughter’s first goal in a soccer match, taking your son to the museum, or simply enjoying a quiet sunset. Their lives, like walls without spalls, will soon collapse under their own weight.

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How Are You?

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?
How are you? (Connemara)
Caidé mar tá tú?
How are you? (Ulster)
Conas tá tú?
How are you? (Munster)
Tá mé go maith.
I am good.
Tá mé go hiontach.
I am wonderful.
Tá mé go dona.
I am (feeling) badly.
Tá mé tinn.
I am sick.
Tá tinneas cinn orm.
I have a headache.
Tá tuirse orm.
I am tired.

Meeting Someone

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Dia duit.
Hello.
(Literally: God to you.)
Dia’s Muire duit.
Reply to hello.
(Literally: God and Mary to you.)
Cén t-ainm atá ort?
What is your name?
Éamonn atá orm.
Éamonn is my name.
Cad is ainm duit?
What is your name?
Síle is ainm dom.
Síle is my name.
Cé hé sin?
Who is he?
Sin é Seán.
He is Seán.
Cé hí sin?
Who is she?
Sin í Máire.
She is Máire.

Goodbye

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Slán agat.
 
Goodbye. (Connemara)
Slán leat.
Goodbye. (Said by person staying.)
Slán abhaile.
Have a safe trip home.
Slán go fóill.
Goodbye for now.

Food & Drink Terms

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

an t-arán

the bread
an t-im
the butter
subh
jam
siúcra
sugar
salann
salt
piobar
pepper
citseap
ketchup
an fheoil
the meat
na pónairí
the beans
na glasraí
the vegetables
an ubh
the egg
na huibheacha
the eggs
an t-anraith
the soup
toradh
fruit
an t-oráiste
the orange
an t-úll
the apple
tráta
tomato
milseáin
sweets
císte
cake
císte milis
sweet cake
an t-uisce
the water
bainne
milk
tae
tea
caife
coffee
Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.
Hunger is a good sauce.
An bhfuil ocras ort?
Are you hungry?
Níl. Ach tá tart orm.
No, but I am thirsty.
Cuir chugam an siúcra,
le do thoil.
Pass me the sugar, please.
An bhfuil spúnóg agat? Tá. (Níl.)
Do you have a spoon? Yes. (No.)
Agus cuir chugam an bainne, le do thoil.
And pass the milk, please.
An bhfuil gabhlóg agus scian agat?
Do you have a fork and knife?
Cá bhfuil an salann?
Where is the salt?
Tabhair dom an t-uisce,
le do thoil.
Give me the water, please.
An maith leat beoir?
Do you like beer?
Is maith liom.
I like it.
Ní maith liom.
I do not like it.
Is fearr liom beoir.
I prefer beer.
Is fuath liom fíon.
I hate wine.
Is breá liom caife.
I love coffee.
Ar mhaith leat cupán tae?
Would you like a cup of tea? (Literally: Would a cup of tea be good with you?)
Ba mhaith liom.
Yes. (Literally: It would be good with me.)
Níor mhaith liom.
No. (Literally: It would not good with me.)
An ólann tú sú oráiste?
Do you drink orange juice?
Ólaim.
Yes. (Literally: I drink…)
Ní Ólaim.
No. (Literally: I do not drink…)
An itheann tú císte?
Do you eat cake?
Ithim.
Yes. (Literally: I eat…)
Ní ithim.
No. (Literally: I do not eat…)
Tá an bia go han-mhaith.
The food is very good.
Bhí na béilí ar fheabhas.
The meals were excellent.
An mbeidh cupán tae (caife) agat?
Will you have a cup of tea (coffee)? (Literally: Will there be a cup of tea [coffee] at you?)
Beidh, go raibh maith agat.
Yes, thank you. (Literally: There will be a cup of tea [coffee] at me. May goodness be at you.)
Ní bheidh.
No. (Literally:: There will not be a cup of tea [coffee] at me.)

For more yes-or-no questions and answers, plus a note on the grammar of yes-or-no questions and answers see the page on irregular verbs.

Bed & Bath

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Cá bhfuil mo sheomra leapa?

Where is my bedroom?
Tá sé thuas an staighre.

It is upstairs.
Cé atá i mo leaba?

Who is in my bed?
Tá Mollaí i do leaba, an créatúr bocht.

Mollaí is in your bed, the poor creature.
Tá an leaba briste.

The bed is broken.
Tá an piliúr ró-bhog.

The pillow is too soft.
Tá an blaincéad garbh.

The blanket is rough.
Tá an t-urlár fuar.

The floor is cold.
Tá na ballaí ag éisteacht.

The walls are listening.
Tá na fuinneoga salach.

The windows are dirty.
Las an solas.

Put on the light.
Oíche mhaith. (Standard)

Oíche mhaith. (Ulster)

Good night.
Codladh sámh.

Sleep well.
…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
ZZZZZZZZ…

…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
ZZZZZZZZ…
Dia duit ar maidin.

Good morning.
Cá bhfuil teach an asail? (slang)

Where is the men’s room?
Cá bhfuil an leithreas?

Where is the bathroom/toilet?
Tá Máire ag ní a gruaige.

Máire is washing her hair.
Cá bhfuil mo chíor agus mo scuab?

Where is my comb and my brush?
Tá Órla ag ithe na gallúnaí.

Órla is eating the soap.
Tá Síle ag ní a fiacla le taos fiacal.

Síle is cleaning her teeth with toothpaste.
Tá Pádraigín ag glacadh cithfholctha sa ndorchadas.

Pádraigín is taking a shower in the dark.

Dishes, Cutlery, Furniture

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

an ghloine
the glass
crúsca

jug
crúiscín

jug (small)
cupán

cup
fo-chupán

saucer
sásar

saucer
buidéal

bottle
babhla

bowl
pláta

plate
sáspan

saucepan
scian

knife
forc

fork
spúnóg

spoon
an chiaróg dhubh

the cockroach
bord

table
cathaoir

chair

In the Class Room

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Rang

Class
Tar isteach.

Come in.
Suí síos.

Sit down.
An dtuigeann tú?

Do you understand?
Tuigim.

I understand.
Ní thuigim.

I do not understand.
An bhfuil a fhios agat?

Do you know? (A fact, not a person.)
Tá a fhios agam.

I know.
Níl a fhios agam.

I do not know.
Conas a dearfá
_________ as Gaeilge?

How do you say
_________ in Irish?
Bain triail as.

Try it.
Abair go mall é, ma’s é do thoil é.

Say it slowly, please

Other Rooms & Places

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

For-halla
Entrance way
Seomra suí
Sitting room
Cistin
Kitchen
Halla
Hall
Séipéal
Chapel
Seomra bia
Dining room
Teach an Phobail
Church (Catholic)
Leabharlann
Library

Personal Information

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Cá bhuil tú i do chónaí?
Where do you live?
Tá mé i mo chónaí i bPhiladelphia.
I live in Philadelphia.
Cén post atá agat?
What job do you have?
Is dalta mé.
I am a student.
Is múinteoir mé.
I am a teacher.
Is tábhairneoir mé.
I am a bartender. (publican)
Is adhlacóir mé.
I am an undertaker.

Pleasantries

Click on the Irish phrase to HEAR the phrase pronounced by a native speaker.

Ma’s é do thoil é.
Please.
Le do thoil.
Please.
Go raibh maith agat.
Thank you.
Tá fáilte romhat.
You’re welcome.
Ná habair é.
Don’t mention it.
Dia linn.
God bless you. (After a sneeze)
Buíochas le Dia.
Thank God.
Gabh mo leithscéal.
Excuse me.
Cén fáth?
Why?
B’fhéidir.
Maybe.
Bí ciúin.
Be quiet.
Is dóigh liom.
I suppose.
Is cuma liom.
I don’t care.
Maith go leor.
Good enough / O.K.
Go n’éirí an t-ádh leat.
Good luck!

Present Tense – Regular Verbs

Aimsir Láithreach – Briathra Rialta

Affirmative Statements

In making affirmative statements in the present tense, all changes are made at the end of the verb. First, identify the root of the verb as follows:

  1. For the majority of First Conjugation (usually one syllable) verbs, the entire verb is the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. An exception is when the verb ends with “igh.” In that case, if there is an accented vowel immediately before the “igh,” simply drop the “igh” to expose the root. In all other cases, delete the “igh” and replace it with an “í”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. Also, be aware that there are a few two syllable verbs in the First Conjugation which maintain two syllables in the root. [T]
  2. For Second Conjugation (usually multi-syllable) verbs, part or all of the end of the verb is generally removed to reveal the root. Whenever these verbs end in “(a)igh” (the most common type), simply drop that syllable. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. In most other cases, squeeze the vowels out of the last syllable and tack the remaining consonant(s) onto the end of the first syllable. For example, with the verb “codail,” squeeze the “ai” out of the second syllable and add the remaining “l” to the end of the first syllable to make the root “codl…”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Secound, to the root add these endings:

For First Conjugation verbs, add:

  • “…(a)im” in the first person singular, or
    “…(e)ann” in all other cases.

For Second Conjugation verbs, add:

  • “…(a)ím” in the first person singular, and
    “…(a)íonn” in all other cases.

Negative Statements and Questions

Negative Statements and Questions are constructed in the present tense by making these changes to the affirmative statement form:

  1. Negative Statements – Add “Ní” before the verb, and séimhiú (lenite) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  2. Direct Questions – Add “An” before the verb, and úrú (eclipse) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  3. Negative Questions – Add “Nach” before the verb, and úrú (eclipse) the initial consonant in the verb where possible. If the verb begins in a vowel, add “n-” in front of the vowel.

Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Present Tense – Examples

Réimniú
Conjugation
Samplaí
Examples
A 2 Athraíonn Uaitéar a phleananna go minic. Uaitéar often changes his plans.

Ní athraíonn sé… An athraíonn sé…? Nach n-athraíonn sé…?
B 1 Buaileann Beatha madraí dána. Beatha strikes (beats) bad dogs.

Ní bhuaileann sí… An mbuaileann sí…? Nach mbuaileann sí…?
C 2 Codlaíonn Greag i gcró na móna. Greag sleeps in the turf shed.

Ní chodlaíonn sé… An gcodlaíonn sé…? Nach gcodlaíonn sé…?
D 2 Dúisíonn Treasa go moch ar maidin. Treasa awakes early in the morning.

Ní dhúisíonn sí… An ndúisíonn sí…? Nach ndúisíonn sí…?
E 2 Eiríonn Caoimhín leis an ngrian gach lá. Caoimhín arises at sunrise every day.

Ní éiríonn sé… An éiríonn sé…? Nach n-éiríonn sé…?
F 1 Fágann Crios a naionán sna siopaí. Crios leaves her infant in the shops.

Ní fhágann sí… An bhfágann sí…? Nach bhfágann sí…?
G 1 Glanann Máirín a coinsias sa séipéal. Máirín clears (cleans) her conscience in the chapel.

Ní ghlanann sí… An nglanann sí…? Nach nglanann sí…?
I 2 Insíonn Liam bréaga dúinn chomh minic is féidir leis. Liam tells us lies as often as he can.

Ní insíonn sé… An insíonn sé…? Nach n-insíonn sé…?
L 2 Labhraíonn Muiris leis na mairbh san oíche. Muiris speaks to the dead at night.

Ní labhraíonn sé… An labhraíonn sé…? Nach labhraíonn sé…?
M 2 Maraíonn Ethel í fhéin leis an ól gan stad. Ethel ceaselessly kills herself with drink.

Ní mharaíonn sí… An maraíonn sí…? Nach maraíonn sí…?
N 1 Níonn Seosamh a choróin gach lá. Seosamh washes his crown every day.

Ní níonn sé… An níonn sé…? Nach níonn sé…?
O 1 Ólann Éamonn a phiontaí go sciobtha. Éamonn drinks his pints quickly.

Ní ólann sé… An ólann sé…? Nach n-ólann sé…?
P 1 Pósann Bairbe fear nua gach re bliain. Bairbe marries a new man every year.

Ní phósann sí… An bpósann sí…? Nach bpósann sí…?
R 1 Ritheann Sóisear ar nós na gaoithe. Sóisear runs like the wind.

Ní ritheann sé… An ritheann sé…? Nach ritheann sé…?
S1 1 Seasann an ghruaig ar cheann Thomáis. Thomas’ hair stands on end.

Ní sheasann sí… An seasann sí…? Nach seasann sí…?
S2 1 Sroicheann Mollaí pointe áirithe. Mollaí reaches a certain point.

Ní shroicheann sí… An sroicheann sí…? Nach sroicheann sí…?
S3 2 Smaoiníonn Pádraig tamaillín faoi. Pádraig thinks about it for a while.

Ní smaoiníonn sé… An smaoiníonn sé…? Nach smaoiníonn sé…?
T 1 Taispeánann buachaillí a ngliomaigh d’Eibhlín. Boys show their lobsters to Eibhlín.

Ní thaispeánann siad… An dtaispeánann siad…? Nach dtaispeánann siad…?
U 2 Ullmhaíonn Pádraigín deochanna nimhiúla dúinn. Pádraigín prepares poisonous drinks for all of us.

Ní ullmhaíonn sí… An ullmhaíonn sí…? Nach n-ullmhaíonn sí…?

 

Prepositional Pronouns

Reamhfhocal Forainm (Cuspóireach) Preposition
é í muid
(sinn)
sibh siad
ag agam agat aige aici againn agaibh acu at,
possession
ar orm ort air uirthi orainn oraibh orthu on
as asam asat as aisti asainn asaibh astu out of,
from a place
chun, chuig chugam chugat chuige chuici chugainn chugaibh chucu to,
toward, for
de díom díot de di dínn díbh díobh of,
off
do dom duit di dúinn daoibh dóibh to,
for
faoi fúm fút faoi fúithi fúinn fúibh fúthu under,
about
fara faram farat fairis farae farainn faraibh faru along
with
i ionam ionat ann inti ionainn ionaibh iontu in,
into
idir idir mé idir tú idir é idir í eadrainn eadraibh eatarthu between,
both
ionsar ionsorm ionsort ionsair ionsuirthi ionsorainn ionsoraibh ionsorthu to,
towards
le liom leat leis léi linn libh leo with,
ownership
ó uaim uait uaidh uaithi uainn uaibh uathu from, desire or need
roimh romham romhat roimhe roimpi romhainn romhaibh rompu before, in front of
thar tharam tharat thairis thairsti tharainn tharaibh tharstu by,
over
trí tríom tríot tríd tríthi trínn tríbh tríothu through, among
um umam umat uime uimpi umainn umaibh umpu about,
at
me you
(sing.)
him her us you
(plural)
them
Pronoun (as object)

Conditional Mood – Regular Verbs

MODH COINNÍOLLACH – BRIATHRA RIALTA

Affirmative Statements

In making affirmative statements in the conditional mood, changes are made at both the beginning and the end of the verb. The changes made at the beginning of the verb are the same as in the past tense. (See previous lesson on the Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.) We identify the root of the verb as follows:

1. For the majority of the First Conjugation (usually one syllable) verbs, the entire verb is the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. An exception is when the verb ends in “igh.” In that case, if there is an accented vowel immediately before the “igh,” simply drop the “igh” to expose the root. In all other cases, delete the “igh” and replace it with an “í”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. Also, be aware that there are a few two syllable verbs in the First Conjugation which maintain two syllables in the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

2. For the Second Conjugation (usually multi-syllable) verbs, part or all of the end of the verb is generally removed to reveal the root. Whenever these verbs end in “(a)igh” (the most common type), simply drop that syllable. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. In most other cases, squeeze the vowels out of the last syllable and tack the remaining consonant(s) onto the end of the first syllable. For example, with the verb “codail,” squeeze the “ai” out of the second syllable and add the remaining “l” to the end of the first syllable to make the root “codl…”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

To the root add these endings:

1) For First Conjugation verbs, add:

If last vowel in root is 

‘e’ or ‘i’

a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’

I would…

…finn

…fainn

You (singular) would…

…feá

…fá

*He/She/We/You (pl.) would*…

…feadh

…fadh

They would…

…fidís

…faidís

2) For Second Conjugation verbs, add:

If last vowel in root is 

‘e’ or ‘i’

a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’

I would…

…eoinn

…óinn

You (singular) would…

…eofá

…ófá

*He/She/We/You (pl.) would*…

…eodh

…ódh

They would…

…eodís

…óidís

Negative Statements and Questions

Negative Statements and Questions are constructed in the conditional mood by making these changes to the affirmative statement form:

  • 1) Negative Statements – Add “” before the verb, and séimhiú (lenite) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  • 2) Direct Questions – Add “An” before the verb, and úrú (eclipse) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  • 3) Negative Questions – Add “Nach” before the verb, and úrú (eclipse) the initial consonant in the verb where possible. If the verb begins in a vowel, add “n-” in front of the vowel.

*Note: These endings are followed by specific pronouns (sé, sí, muid and sibh) or by personal names. The rest are combined forms and the pronoun is dropped. Example: “Bhuailfinn” (I would beat) already contains the subject.


Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Abbreviations

Noda Ginearálta

General Abbreviations

BÉARLA

GAEILGE

LONG FORM

AIDS

SEIF

Siondróm Easpa Imdhíonachta Faighte

a.m.

r.n.

roimh nóin

B.C.

r.c.

roimh Chríost

c/o

f/ch

faoi chúram

c.o.d.

í.a.s.

íoc ar sheachadadh

Dublin

BAC

Baile Átha Cliath

e.g.

m.sh.

mar shampla

etc

srl

agus araile

HIV

VEID

Víreas Easpa Imdhíonachta Daonna

h.p.

f.c.

fruilcheannach (charge/credit purchase)

i.e.

.i.

is é sin

IOU

DDU

dlítear duit uaim

GAA

CLG

Cumann Lúthchleas Gael

inch(es)

orl.

orlach/orlaí

Lower

Íocht.

Íochtarach

Ltd.

teo./tta

teoranta

mph

msu

mílte san uair

no.

uimh.

uimhir

page

lch.

leathanach

p.m.

i.n.

iarnóin

St. (Saint)

N.

Naomh

UN

NA

Náisiúin Aontaithe

U.S.

SAM

Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá

Upper

Uacht.

Uachtarach

vol.

iml.

imleabhar

wpm

f.s.n.

focail sa nóiméad

An Séimhiú

 

Le Barra Ó Donnabháin

Ní fheadar a’ bhfuil aon rud is mó a chuireann isteach ar lucht foghlama na Gaeilge ná an séimhiú. Táim-se anois chun cur síos gairid ar stair agus ar fháth an tséimhithe a thabhairt dhaoibh.

Sé atá i gceist le séimhiú ná lagú nó séimhiú a chuaidh ar chonsain aonair nuair a thárla idir gutaí iad. Faoi láthair, cuirtear an séimhiú in iúl tré ‘h’ a scríobh i ndiaidh an chonsain agus fuaimítear an consan agus an ‘h’ le chéile mar aon chonsan amháin agus é análaithe. Cé go dtárlaíonn an saghas seo claochluithe, i lár focal, i ngach teanga nách mór, is sna teangacha ceilteacha amháin a thárlaíonn sé i dtosach focal.

Laidin

Béarla

Gaeilge

Fraincis

Pater

father

athair

pere

Laidin

Gaeilge

Laidin

Gaeilge

Iodálais

Sagitta

Saighead

Imago

íomháigh

casa / la chasa

An tAlt mar a samhlaítear é:

UATHA

Firinscneach

Baininscneach

Neodrach

Ainmneach

Sindas

Sinda

San

Cuspúireach

Sindan

Sindan

San

Geinideach

Sind

Sindas

Sindi

Tabhrach

Sindu

Sinda

Sindu


IOLRA   

Firinscneach

Baininscneach

Neodrach

Ainmneach

Sindi

Sindas

Sindas

Cuspúireach

Sindas

Sindas

Sindas

Geinideach

Sindan

Sindan

Sindan

Tabhrach

Sindaib

Sindaib

Sindaib


Sampla: Ceann an fhir mhóir. An fhir mhóir > sindi werí márí.

An t-athair > sindas athair.

Ó thárla go raibh an ‘S’ sa bhfocal sindas idir gutaí cuireadh séimhiú air. ‘S’ séimhithe = h. Bhain an ‘h’ an glór de “d” agus rinne consan neaghlórach — “t” de. Ansan cailleadh an chéad ‘s’ i Sindas agus fágadh “int athair” (an t-athair).

“Is í aibitír an oghaim an chéad ghléas (dá bhfuil ar eolas againn) a bhí ag na Sean-Ghaeil lena dteanga a bhreacadh síos i bhfoirm scríofa,” deir Anders Ahlqvist, Litriú na Gaeilge, (Caibidil 1, Stair na Gaeilge). Baineann na clocha oghaim leis an dtréimse 400-700 AD. Níl na scoláirí ar aon intinn ina dtaobh. Ní raibh aon chomhartha acu chun séimhiú a chur in iúl ach tógaimís sampla amháin den Oghamchraobh mar léiriú ar ársaíocht na teangan. DALAGNI MAQI DALI. Dá mbeadh an t-ainm sin ar uaigh inniu is mar seo a scriobhfaí é —- Dalláin Mheic Dhaill. Féach, tá séimhiú ar an ‘m’ agus an ‘d’ toisc go mbídís idir gutaí sa chian aimsir.

Tógaimís cúpla sampla eile. Tabhair faoi ndeara sa Nua-Ghaeilge nách bhfuil aon séimhiú ar ainm ná aidiacht i gcás “an fear buí” agus tá séimhiú ar an dá “b” i gcás “an bhean bhuí“. De réir na saineolaithe is ó sindas wiros bodios a eascraíonn an chéad shampla agus ó sinda bena bodia an tarna ceann. Forainm taispeántach a bhíodh san alt ar dtús, ar nós ille, illa, illud na Laidine óna dtagann na hailt, le agus la, na dteangan rómánsacha.

“Forbairt mhór eile (teacht na críostaíochta an chéad cheann) ba ea é gur tosaíodh ar an nGaeilge a scríobh. Ní fios cad a thug an spreagadh dár gcéadscríbhneoirí mar ní raibh an teanga á scríobh ag aon chine eile in iarthar na hEorpa ag an am” —- Pádraig ó Fiannachta, Milis an Teanga. Bhaineadar úsáid as aibítir na Laidine ach bhí faidhbeanna acu conus na claochluithe tosaigh a chur in iúl.

Bhí ‘h’ i ndiaidh ‘c’, ‘p’, agus ‘t’ nádurtha sa Laidin agus baineadh úsáid as chun ‘c’, ‘p’, agus ‘t’ seimhithe a chur in iúl. Bhí ponc an scriosta nó an punctum delens acu sa Laidin chun litir a chur ar ceal. D’fhéadfadh Rómánach botún a dhéanamh chomh maith le cách agus ó bhí páipéar gann bhíodh sé de nós acu ponc a chur ós cionn na litreach lena cur ar ceal. Bhain na Sean-Ghaeil úsáid as an gcóras seo chun ‘s’ agus ‘f’ séimhithe a léiriú.

I ré na Meán Ghaeilge tosaíodh ar fheidhm a bhaint as an bponc ós cionn na gconsan inshéimhithe eile. Faoin am sin bhí an ‘h’ a ghabh le ‘c’, ‘p’, agus ‘t’ á scríobh ós cionn na litreacha sin agus ba ghearr gur cuireadh ponc in ionad an ‘h’, de ghrá na símplíochta is dóca. Mhair an córas sin, an cló Gaelach, go dtí caogaidí na haoise seo. Tá an cló rómhánach againn ó shoin i leith —- ‘h’ in ionad an tséimhithe. Ach mar deir Fiannachta, “Is léir go bhfuil an cló Gaelach agus an cló rómhánach ar aon dúchasach againn ar shlite difriúla.”

Anois, nuair a chastar séimhiú ort ar an tsráid, bain díot do chaipín agus beannaigh dó, mar is iarsmaí ársa é.

Rialacha

I. Séimhiú ar ainmfhocail:

Séimhítear túschonsan an ainmfhocail taréis an ailt mura d, t, s, an consan —

1 San Ainmneach uatha baininscneach. An bhean, an chasóg, an ghé;

2 Sa Ghinideach uatha firinscneach. Hata an fhir. Ceann an chapaill.

3 Sa Tabharthach uatha fir. & bain. taréis den, don agus sa. don fhear, den bhean, sa chathair

4 Sa Tabharthach uatha i gCúige Uladh f. & b.. ar an fhear, ag an bhean.

5 Sa Ghairmeach uatha agus iolra taréis “a”. A fhir, a fheara, a mhná. Bíonn séimhiú ar thúschonsain ainmfhocail i ndiaidh Aidiachtaí áirithe

6 Na huimhreacha, aon, agus chéad, (mura d, t, s, an túschonsan); taréis “dhá” muna mbíonn a baininscneach, nó a iolra, ár, nó bhur roimh an “dhá”; taréis trí, ceithre, cúig, sé, más é an t-uatha a leanann iad. trí bhróg , aon chat amháin, ualach aon chapaill amháin, (i gcaitheamh na haon oíche.) a dhá bó = her two cows. a dhá bhó = his two cows. an chéad chailín. ( an chéad fhear, clann an chéad fhir, an chéad bhean, clann na chéad mhná. Samplaí eile: mac an dara bean, tosach an triú haois, peaca in aghaidh an triú haithne, teach an tseisear sagart.)

7 Taréis na n-aidiachtaí sealbhacha mo, do, a, firinscneach, a pheann, mo chóta.

8 Taréis uile nó chuile (gach uile). chuile dhuine.

9 I ndiaidh an réamhfhocail shimplí: ar*, de, do, faoi, fé, gan*, idir*, mar, ó, roimh, thar, trí, um — agus a<do rud a (do) dhéanamh. Samplaí: do Sheán, ó dhuine, roimh mhaidin, um thráthnóna. Ní leanann séimhiú ag, as, chuig, go, i, le, os, seachas.

10 Shíolraigh “ar” na Nua- Ghaeilge ó thrí réamhfhocal, ar, for, agus iar. Leanadh séimhiú ar agus urú “iar” = taréis, agus ní leanadh tada “for”. Leanann séimhiú “ar” más ionad áirithe atá i gceist — ar chathaoir, ar Sheán. Más ionad ginearálta abairtí dobhriathartha – atá i gceist ní bhíonn aon séimhiú taréis ar. Samplaí: ar farraige, ar muir, ar talamh, ar bord luinge = on board ship, ar bhord luinge = on a ship’s table. Ní leanann séimhiú “ar” nuair is modh atá i gceist — nuair is stáid atá á chur i gcéill. Is ó “for” na Sean-Ghaeilge an réamhfhocal seo. Samplaí: ar buile, ar ceal, ar sodar, ar cosa in airde, ar fónamh, ar meisce, ar crochadh. Ní bhíonn aon séimhiú ann nuair is am a bhíonn i gceist: ar ball, ar maidin.

11 Leanann an Tuiseal Cuspóireach gan agus de ghnáth, cuirtear séimhiú ar thúschonsan an ainmfhocail aonair a leanann é mura t,d,f,s an consan. Samplaí: gan bhun gan bharr, gan mhaith gan bhréag, gan chiall, gan fearg gan fíoch, (ní éisceacht gan fhios mar is “gan a fhios” atá ann). Má bhíonn aidiacht nó fochlásal ag gabháil leis ní leanan séimhiú é. Samplaí: gan pingin rua, gan brí ar bith, gan buíochas dó, gan pingin a fháil.

12 Tá dhá chiall le idir: a. dhá rud le chéile; b. i lár dhá rud. Leanann an Tuiseal Tabharthach idir = an dá rud le chéile agus séimhítear túschonsain an dá fhocal. Samplaí: idir bheag agus mhór, idir fhuil agus fheoil, idir bhuachaillí agus chailíní. Nuair spás nó am a bhíonn i gceist leanann an Tuiseal Cuspóireach idir agus ní leanann séimhiú é. Samplaí: idir Corcaigh agus Port láirge, idir mé agus tú, idir breith agus baisteadh.

13 Séimhítear ainmfhocal cinnte agus ainmfhocal dílis i ndiaidh réamhfhocail chomhshuite agus ainmfhocail eile: os comhair Shíle, in aici Chorcaí, i láthair fhear a’ tí, ar agaidh dhoras an halla amach, cóta Shéamais, asal Pháid, scoil Mháire, scoil Ghaeilge, doras shiopa an bhúistéara, foireann Dhoire, mac fhear na mbróg. Sa tsean aimsir ní bíodh séimhiú ar ainmfhocal dílis ach taréis fhocal baininscneacha: Pota Pádraigh, Coileach Mártain.

14 Séimhítear an dara focal de chomhfhocal: seanfhear, deathoil.

15 I ndiaidh aimsir chaite agus modh coinníollach na copaile, ba, ar, gur, níor, nár: ba cathaoir mhór í, níor bhád beag í.

16 Séimhítear ainmfhocal sa ginideach a bhíonn ag brath ar ainmfhocal baininscneach uatha, nó ar ainmfhocal iolra a chriochnaíonn i gconsan caol, nó ar ainmfhocal firinscneach atá sa ghairmeach uatha: cloch mhine, fir cheoil, goirt choirce, cráin mhuice, maidin gheimhridh, a dhuine ghaoil, a fhir cheoil agus ceann amháin sa ghinideach iolra clann mhac. Arís, de ghnáth, ní séimhítear d, t, s, i ndiaidh d, n, t, l, s. Cos deiridh, slat tomhais, bean tí, báid seoil.

Eisceachtaí.

1 Ní leanann séimhiú ainmfhocal teibí de ghnáth: aois capaill, airde fir, uaisleacht meoin, breáthacht mná.

2 Ní leanann séimhiú ainmfhocal a bhfuil brí — cuid, easpa, iomarca leis: easpa bainne, breis bainne, iomarca cainte, roinnt blianta, díth céille, a chuid bia.

3 Ní bhíonn séimhiú de ghnáth ar ainmfhocal sa ghinideach go mbíonn aidiacht ag gabháil leis taréis ainmfhocail bhaininscnigh: oíche gaoithe móire, scian coise báine.

4 Ní ghabhann séimhiú le ball beatha ná le páirt de rud: adharc bó, lámh cailín, iall bróige, súil buachalla, stiúir báid, cos boird, . Bíonn séimhiú ámh nuair a thugann an ginideach le fios cad is ábhar an ruda: culaith bhréidín, tine ghuail, cos mhaide nó cos chrainn = cos adhmaid, cos crainn = bun crainn, cois cuain, cois cnoic, cois farraige.

5 Ní gnáth séimhiú nuair is ainmní nó gníomhaí an ginideach: géimneach bó, íde béil, léim capaill, coiscéim coiligh, beannacht máthar.

6 Ní chuirtear séimhiú ar thúschonsan ainmfhocail éiginnte i ndiaidh réamhfhocail chomhshuite: go ceann míosa, ar feadh bliana, (ach taréis bháis).

II. An Aidiacht.

Bíonn séimhiú ar thúschonsan aidiachta:

1 San ainmneach uatha baininscneach an bhean bheag.

2 Sa ghinideach uatha firinscneach: ceann an chapaill mhóir. Hata an fhir bhig.

3 Sa ghairmeach uatha gach inscne: a fhir mhóir, a bhean mhaith.

4 San ainmneach agus tabharthach iolra má chríochníonn an t-ainmfhocal ar chonsan caol: na fir mhóra, na cnoic bheaga, na scamaill dhubha. éisceachcaoirigh beaga bána ( Go minic nuair is aidiacht a bhíonn i gceist séimhítear d, t agus s i ndiaidh d,n,t,l,s.)

5 Má ghabhann uimhir 2-19 leis an ainmfhocal san uimhir uatha, séimhítear an aidiacht: dá asal mhóra, trí chat bhána, seacht mbád bheaga, cúig bhó breacha, luach ocht mbó mhóra. ( ach seacht mba móra).

6 I ndiaidh beirt: beirt bhan mhóra, beirt fhear bheaga, neart bheirt fhear mhóra, neart na beirte fear mhóra. ( i ndiaidh triúr, ceathrar 7rl. bíonn an aidiacht san uimhir uatha gan séimhiú — an triúr ban mór, an triúr fear mór)

7 Séimhítear “déag” taréis dó, taréis ainmfhocal uatha a chríochnaíonn i nguta, agus ainmfhocal iolra a chríochnaíonn ar chonsan caol (ach amháin “cinn”): trí bhó dhéag, sé mhí dhéag.

8 I ndiaidh aimsir chaite agus modh coinníollach na copaile ba, ar, gur, níor, nár; ba mhór an rud é, níor mhaith dom é.

III. An Briathar.

Séimhítear túschonsan an briathar:

1 San aimsir chaite, sa ghnáthchaite, sa mhodh coinníollach. Chaith sé, théadh sí, dhéanfadh sibh.

2 I ndiaidh ní, níor, ar, nár, cár, má: níor chaith sé é, ar dhíol sibh an bhó? má bhí.

3 I ndiaidh an fhorainm choibhneasta “a” san ainmneach agus cuspóireach: an duine a bhíonn anso, an fear a dhíolann prátaí.

4 I ndiaidh na míreanna seo leanas: cad, cathain, cé , cén uair, céard, conas, mar, nuair, ó: cé bhí ann? mar a dhéanann siad, ó thárla anso tú.

Autonomous Form

Affirmative Statements

In making affirmative statements in the Autonomous Form, some changes are always made at the end of the verb. First, identify the root of the verb as follows:

1. For the majority of First Conjugation (usually one syllable) verbs, the entire verb is the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. An exception is when the verb ends with “igh”. In that case, if there is an accented vowel immediately before the “igh”, simply drop the “igh” to expose the root. In all other cases, delete the “igh” and replace it with an “í”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. Also, be aware that there are a few two syllable verbs in the First Conjugation which maintain two syllables in the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

2. For the Second Conjugation (usually multi-syllable) verbs, part or all of the end of the verb is generally removed to reveal the root. Whenever these verbs end in “(a)igh” (the most common type), simply drop that syllable. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. In most other cases, squeeze the vowels out of the last syllable and tack the remaining consonant(s) onto the end of the first syllable. For example, with the verb “codail”, squeeze the “ai” out of the second syllable and add the remaining “l” to the end of the first syllable to make the root – “codl…”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Second, to the root add these endings:

1) For First Conjugation verbs, add:

If last vowel in root is 

‘e’ or ‘i’

a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’

Past Tense

…eadh

…adh

Present Tense…

…tear

…tar

Future Tense…

…fear

…far

Conditional Tense…

…fí

…faí

Past Habitual Tense…

…tí

…taí

2) For Second Conjugation verbs, add:

If last vowel in root is 

‘e’ or ‘i’

a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’

Past Tense

…íodh

…aíodh

Present Tense…

…ítear

…aítear

Future Tense…

…eofar

…ófar

Conditional Tense…

…eofaí

…ófaí

Past Habitual Tense…

…ítí

…aítí

Conditional and Habitual Past

Conditional and Habitual Past tenses will also require changes at the begining of the verb. Start with the basic verb and séimhiú (add an “h” after) an initial consonant if it is a: B,C,D,F*,G,M,P or T. (In other words, all consonants except L,N,R and sometimes S.) Séimhiú (add an “h” after) an initial ‘S’ only if the following letter is a vowel or an L,N or R. Otherwise, leave an initial ‘S’ unchanged. An initial L,N or R always remain unchanged. Add “D'” before an initial vowel or an initial ‘F*’.

Negative Statements and Questions

Negative Statements and Questions are made in the autonomous form by adding verbal particles before the verb, and often by also making changes to the beginning of the affirmative statement form. The rules follow according to the tense (except for the Past Tense, where séimhiú is not used!). See the appropriate rules listed on the other pages here for the tense needed.


*Note: When ‘F’ takes a séimhiú it becomes silent so that the first sound heard in the verb is the following vowel. Because of this, “D'” is added before “fh” as though the verb started with a vowel.


Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Autonomous Form – Samples

Réimniú
Conjugation

Samplaí
Examples

A

2

Athraítear na bindealáin chuile lá. The bandages are changed every day.

(Present) Ní athraítear … An athraítear …? Nach n-athraítear …?

B

1

Buailtear an brat le bata adhmaid. The carpet is beaten with a wooden stick.

(Present) Ní bhuailtear … An mbuailtear …? Nach mbuailtear …?

C

2

Codlaíodh an oíche amuigh faoin spéir. The night was slept under the open sky. 

(Past) Níor codlaíodh … Ar codlaíodh …? Nár codlaíodh …?

D

2

Dúiseofar sa leaba mhí-cheart amárach Somebody will awaken in the wrong bed tomorrow. 

(Future) Ní dhúiseofar … An ndúiseofar …? Nach ndúiseofar …?

E

2

Déireofaí ina h-onóir, cinnte. Somebody would rise in her honor, surely.

(Conditional) Ní éireofaí … An éireofaí …? Nach n-éireofaí …?

F

1

Fágadh na prátaí lofa sa ngort. The rotten potatoes were left in the field. 

(Past) Níor fágadh … Ar fágadh …? Nár fágadh …?

G

1

Glanfar an t-iasc ar ball. The fish will be cleaned (gutted) in awhile.

(Future) Ní ghlanfar … An nglanfar …? Nach nglanfar …?

I

2

Inseofar scéalta scanrúla Oíche Shamhna. Scary stories will be told on Halloween.

(Future) Ní inseofar … An inseofar …? Nach n-inseofar …?

L

2

Labhraítí an Ghaeilge ar fud na tíre. Irish used to be spoken throughout the country.

(Past Habitual) Ní labhraítí … An labhraítí …? Nach labhraítí …?

M

2

Mharófaí an fealltóir fuafar. Somebody would kill the loathsome traitor.

(Conditional) Ní mharófaí … An marófaí …? Nach marófaí …?

N

1

Nífí siad murach an easpa uisce. They would be washed but for the lack of water.

(Conditional) Ní nífí … An nífí …? Nach nífí …?

O

1

Ólfar deoch shláinte anseo anocht. A healing potion will be drunk here tonight. 

(Future) Ní ólfar … An ólfar …? Nach n-ólfar …?

P

1

Póstar sa séipéal gach seachtain. Somebody gets married in the chapel every week.

(Present) Ní phóstar … An bpóstar …? Nach bpóstar …?

R

1

Rití chun fógartha a thabhairt. Somebody used to run to give a warning.

(Past Habitual) Ní rití … An rití …? Nach rití …?

S1

1

Sheastaí siad le balla. They used to be stood against the wall.

(Past Habitual) Ní sheastaí … An seastaí …? Nach seastaí …?

S2

1

Sroichfí an cuspóir le pleanáil. The goal could be attained with planning.

(Conditional) Ní shroichfí … An sroichfí …? Nach sroichfí …?

S3

2

Smaoinítí go raibh adharca orthu. It used to be thought that they had horns.

(Past Habitual) Ní smaoinítí … An smaoinítí …? Nach smaoinítí …?

T

1

Taispeánadh a phas don oifigeach. His passport was shown to the officer.

(Past) Níor taispeánadh … Ar taispeánadh …? Nár taispeánadh …?

U

2

Ullmhaíodh dinnéar ar a seacht a chlog. Dinner was prepared at seven o’clock.

(Past) Ní ullmhaíodh … An ullmhaíodh …? Nach n-ullmhaíodh …?

Conditional Form – Examples

Conditional Mood – Regular Verbs

Réimniú
Conjugation

Samplaí
Examples

A

2

D’éireoinn i mo sheasamh chun Moncha a fheiceáil. I would rise to my feet to see Moncha.

Ní éireoinn… An éireoinn…? Nach n-éireoinn…?

B

1

Mharóidís an pleidhce fealltach. They would kill the treacherous fool.

Ní mharóidís… An maróidís …? Nach maróidís …?

C

2

Sheasfadh Áine ar a boinn fhéin. Áine would stand on her own (two) feet.

Ní sheasfadh sí… An seasfadh sí… Nach seasfadh sí…?

D

2

Dhúiseofá na mairbh leis an amhrán géar sin. You would awaken the dead with that shrill song.

Ní dhúiseofá… An ndúiseofá…? Nach ndúiseofá…?

E

2

D’éireoinn i mo sheasamh chun Moncha a fheiceáil. I would rise to my feet to see Moncha.

Ní éireoinn… An éireoinn…? Nach n-éireoinn…?

F

1

Dfhágfaidís gach uile rud ar son Dé. They would leave everything to serve God.

Ní fhágfaidís… An bhfágfaidís…? Nach bhfágfaidís…?

G

1

Ghlanfadh Rath as an áit ar an bpointe. Rath would clear out of the place immediately.

Ní ghlanfadh sí… An nglanfadh sí…? Nach nglanfadh sí…?

I

2

Dinseodh sé a chuid eachtraí dúinn. He would tell (relate) his adventures to us.

Ní inseodh sé… An inseodh sé…? Nach n-inseodh sé…?

L

2

Labhrófá Gaeilge leis an dream uilig. You would speak Irish to the entire group.

Ní labhrófá… An labhrófá… Nach labhrófá…?

M

2

Mharóidís an pleidhce fealltach. They would kill the treacherous fool.

Ní mharóidís… An maróidís …? Nach maróidís …?

N

1

Nífeadh Pádraig é fhéin óna pheacai. Pádraig would clense himself of his sins.

Ní nífeadh sé… An nífeadh sé…? Nach nífeadh sé…?

O

1

Dólfainn an chrois den asal. I would drink ‘heavily’ (Literally: ‘the cross off a donkey’s back’).

Ní ólfainn… An ólfainn…? Nach n-ólfainn…?

P

1

Phósfadh muid an túisce is féidir. We should marry as soon as possible.

Ní phósfadh muid… An bpósfadh muid…? Nach bpósfadh muid…?

R

1

Rithfeá ina dhiaidh na gasúir ainnise. You would run after the wretched children.

Ní rithfeá… An rithfeá…? Nach rithfeá…?

S1

1

Sheasfadh Áine ar a boinn fhéin. Áine would stand on her own (two) feet.

Ní sheasfadh sí… An seasfadh sí… Nach seasfadh sí…?

S2

1

Shroichfidís port roimh an stoirm thoirní. They would reach port before the thunder-storm.

Ní shroichfidís… An sroichfidís…? Nach sroichfidís…?

S3

2

Smaoineoinn ar bhréag níos fearr ná sin. I would think of a better lie than that. 

Ní smaoineoinn… An smaoineoinn…? Nach smaoineoinn…?

T

1

Thaispeánfadh sibh an bealach dóibh. You (plural) would show them the way.

Ní thaispeánfadh sibh… An dtaispeánfadh sibh…? Nach dtaispeánfadh sibh…?

U

2

D’ullmhódh Máire faoi choinne an scrúdaithe. Máire would prepare for the exam. 

Ní ullmhódh sí… An ullmhódh sí … Nach n-ullmhódh sí …?

Future Tense


Affirmative Statements

In making affirmative statements in the future tense, all changes are made at the end of the verb. First, identify the root of the verb as follows:

1. For the majority of First Conjugation (usually one syllable) verbs, the entire verb is the root [B-F-G-O-P-R-S1-S2].An exception is when the verb ends with “igh“. In that case, if there is an accented vowel immediately before the “igh“, simply drop the “igh” to expose the root. In all other cases, delete the “igh” and replace it with an “í[N] . Also, be aware that there are a few two syllable verbs in the First Conjugation which maintain two syllables in the root [T].

2. For Second Conjugation (usually multi-syllable) verbs, part or all of the end of the verb is generally removed to reveal the root. Whenever these verbs end in “(a)igh” (the most common type), simply drop that syllable [A-D-E-M-S3-U]. In most other cases, squeeze the vowels out of the last syllable and tack the remaining consonant(s) onto the end of the first syllable. For example, with the verb “codail“, squeeze the “ai” out of the second syllable and add the remaining “l” to the end of the first syllable to make the root – “codl…” [C-I-L].

Second, to the root add these endings:

1) For First Conjugation verbs, add:

  • “…fidh” if the root’s final vowel is slender (an ‘i’ or ‘e’), or
    “…faidh” if the root’s final vowel is broad (an ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’).

2) For Second Conjugation verbs, add:

  • “…eoidh” if the root’s final vowel is slender (an ‘i’ or ‘e’), or
    “…óidh” if the root’s final vowel is broad (an ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’).

Negative Statements and Questions

Negative statements and questions are constructed in the future tense by making these changes to the affirmative statement form:

  • 1) Negative Statements – Add ” ” before the verb, and “séimhiú” (lenite) an initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  • 2) Questions – Add “An” before the verb, and urú (eclipse) an initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  • 3) Negative Questions – Add “Nach” before the verb, and urú (eclipse) an initial consonant in the verb where possible. If the verb begins with a vowel, “n-” is added before the vowel.

 

Samplaí
(Examples)


Note: The letters like this “[A]” are keys to the linked examples.

Future Tense – Examples


Future Tense – Regular Verbs
Réimniú
Conjugation
Samplaí
Examples
A 2 Athróidh Deirdre dath a cuid gruaige. Deirdre will change the color of her hair.

Ní athróidh sí… An athróidh sí…? Nach n-athróidh sí…?
B 1 Buailfidh Eilís an bithiúnach. Eilís will beat the scoundrel.

Ní bhuailfidh sí… An mbuailfidh sí…? Nach mbuailfidh sí…?
C 2 Codlóidh Cáit sa gcoill leis na h-ainmhithe fiáine. Cáit will sleep in the forest with the wild animals.

Ní chodlóidh sí… An gcodlóidh sí…? Nach gcodlóidh sí…?
D 2 Dúiseoidh Cóilín óna néal codlata le gairid. Cóilín will soon awaken from his snooze.

Ní dhúiseoidh sé… An ndúiseoidh sé…? Nach ndúiseoidh sé…?
E 2 Éireoidh Stiofán as a phost amárach. Stiofán will quit (resign from) his job tomorrow.

Ní éireoidh sé… An éireoidh sé…? Nach n-éireoidh sé…?
F 1 Fágfaidh Bríd a bábóg sa gcliabhán. Bríd will leave her doll in the cradle.

Ní fhágfaidh sí… An bhfágfaidh sí…? Nach bhfágfaidh sí…?
G 1 Glanfaidh an t-arm na daoine ó na sráideanna. The army will clear the people from the streets.

Ní ghlanfaidh sé… An nglanfaidh sé…? Nach nglanfaidh sé…?
I 2 Inseoidh Barra scéal draíochta eile dúinn. Barra will tell us another enchanting story.

Ní inseoidh sé… An inseoidh sé…? Nach n-inseoidh sé…?
L 2 Labhróidh Seán leis na cailíní go léir. Seán will speak to all of the girls.

Ní labhróidh sé… An labhróidh sé…? Nach labhróidh sé…?
M 2 Maróidh Conor an rógaire a ghoid an clog. Conor will kill the rogue who stole the clock.

Ní mharóidh sé… An maróidh sé…? Nach maróidh sé…?
N 1 Nífidh Síle a cuid éadaigh bhréain san abhainn. Síle will wash her filthy clothes in the river.

Ní nífidh sí… An nífidh sí…? Nach nífidh sí…?
O 1 Ólfaidh Dracúla d’fhuil anocht. Dracúla will drink your blood tonight.

Ní ólfaidh sé… An ólfaidh sé…? Nach n-ólfaidh sé…?
P 1 Pósfaidh Daithí an cailín álainn. Daithí will marry the beautiful girl.

Ní phósfaidh sé… An bpósfaidh sé…? Nach bpósfaidh sé…?
R 1 Rithfidh Clár chun fios a chur ar na gardaí. Clár will run to get (send for) the police.

Ní rithfidh sí… An rithfidh sí…? Nach rithfidh sí…?
S1 1 Seasfaidh muid le chéile i gcoinne an namhaid. We will stand together against the enemy.

Ní sheasfaidh muid… An seasfaidh muid…? Nach seasfaidh muid…?
S2 1 Sroichfidh Cinaed na flaithis romhainn. Cinaed will reach heaven before us.

Ní shroichfidh sé… An sroichfidh sé…? Nach sroichfidh sé…?
S3 2 Smaoineoidh Roibeárd fúithi an oíche ar fad. Roibeárd will think about her all night long.

Ní smaoineoidh sé… An smaoineoidh sé…? Nach smaoineoidh sé…?
T 1 Taispeánfaidh Rath a hata nua dena cairde. Rath will show her new hat to her friends.

Ní thaispeánfaidh sí… An dtaispeánfaidh sí…? Nach dtaispeánfaidh sí…?
U 2 Ullmhóidh Cailín cluichí oideasacha daoibh. Cailín will prepare educational games for you.

Ní ullmhóidh sí… An ullmhóidh sí…? Nach n-ullmhóidh sí…?

Habitual Past Tense

AIMSIR GHNÁTHCHAITE – BRIATHRA RIALTA

Affirmative Statements

In making affirmative statements in the habitual past, changes are made at both the beginning and the end of the verb. The changes made at the beginning of the verb are the same as in the past tense. (See previous lesson.) Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. First, identify the root of the verb as follows:

1. For the majority of the First Conjugation (usually one syllable) verbs, the entire verb is the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. An exception is when the verb ends in “igh.” In that case, if there is an accented vowel immediately before the “igh,” simply drop the “igh” to expose the root. In all other cases, delete the “igh” and replace it with an “í”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. Also, be aware that there are a few two syllable verbs in the First Conjugation which maintain two syllables in the root. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

2. For the Second Conjugation (usually multi-syllable) verbs, part or all of the end of the verb is generally removed to reveal the root. Whenever these verbs end in “(a)igh” (the most common type), simply drop that syllable. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. In most other cases, squeeze the vowels out of the last syllable and tack the remaining consonant(s) onto the end of the first syllable. For example, with the verb “codail,” squeeze the “ai” out of the second syllable and add the remaining “l” to the end of the first syllable to make the root “codl…”. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Second, to the root add these endings:

1) For First Conjugation verbs, add:

If last vowel in root is 

‘e’ or ‘i’

a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’

I would…

…inn

…ainn

You (singular) would…

…teá

…tá

*He/She/We/You (pl.) would*…

…eadh

…adh

They would…

…idís

…aidís

2) For Second Conjugation verbs, add:

If last vowel in root is 

‘e’ or ‘i’

a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’

I would…

…ínn

…aínn

You (singular) would…

…íteá

…aíteá

*He/She/We/You (pl.) would*…

…íodh

…aíodh

They would…

…ídís

…aídís

Negative Statements and Questions

Negative Statements and Questions are constructed in the habitual past tense by making these changes to the affirmative statement form:

  • 1) Negative Statements – Add “” before the verb, and séimhiú (lenite) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  • 2) Direct Questions – Add “An” before the verb, and úrú (eclipse) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.
  • 3) Negative Questions – Add “Nach” before the verb, and úrú (eclipse) the initial consonant in the verb where possible.If the verb begins in a vowel, add “n-” in front of the vowel.

*Note: These endings are followed by specific pronouns (sé, sí, muid and sibh) or by personal names. The rest are combined forms and the pronoun is dropped. Example: “Bhuailinn” (I used to strike) already contains the subject.

Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Habitual Past Tense – Examples


Aimsir Ghnáth Caite – Briathra Rialta
Habitual Past Tense- Regular Verbs

Réimniú
Conjugation
Samplaí
Examples
A 2 D’athraíodh Lúcas a chuid éadaí gach bliain. Lúcas used to change his clothes every year.

Ní athraíodh sé… An athraíodh sé…? Nach n-athraíodh sé…?
B 1 Bhuaileadh Seán a chat agus seisean ar meisce. Seán used to beat his cat when he was drunk.

Ní bhuaileadh sé… An mbuaileadh sé…? Nach mbuaileadh sé…?
C 2 Chodlaíodh sé mar a bheadh rón ann. He used to sleep like a log (Literally, like a ‘seal’).

Ní chodlaíodh sé… An gcodlaíodh sé…? Nach gcodlaíodh sé…?
D 2 Dhúisíteá taibhsí le do srannach. You used to awaken ghosts with your snoring.

Ní dhúisíteá… An ndúisíteá…? Nach ndúisíteá…?
E 2 D’éirínn leis na héin. I used to rise with the lark.

Ní éirínn… An éirínn…? Nach n-éirínn…?
F 1 D’fhágaidís bronntanais cois na tine. They used to leave presents beside the fire.

Ní fhágaidís… An bhfágaidís…? Nach bhfágaidís…?
G 1 Ghlanadh Pádraigín a haghaidh le héadach. Pádraigín used to clean her face with a cloth.

Ní ghlanadh sí… An nglanadh sí…? Nach nglanadh sí…?
I 2 D’insíodh sí scéal maith, roimh an timpiste. She used to tell a good story, before the accident.

Ní insíodh sí… An insíodh sí…? Nach n-insíodh sí…?
L 2 Labhraíteá amach go hard ar son na hÉireann. You used to speak out loudly for Ireland’s sake.

Ní labhraíteá… An labhraíteá…? Nach labhraíteá…?
M 2 Mharaídís iad fhéin ag obair. They use to kill themselves working.

Ní mharaídís… An maraídís …? Nach maraídís …?
N 1 Niteá soithí as uisce salach chuile lá. You used to wash dishes in dirty water every day.

Ní niteá… An niteá…? Nach niteá…?
O 1 D’ólainn pionta beorach gach oíche. I used to drink a pint of beer every night.

Ní ólainn… An ólainn…? Nach n-ólainn…?
P 1 Phósadh daoine go hóg ar an oileán fadó. People used to marry young on the island long ago.

Ní phósadh daoine… An bpósadh daoine…? Nach bpósadh daoine…?
R 1 Rithteá timpeall na háite cosnochta. You used to run around the place barefoot.

Ní rithteá… An rithteá…? Nach rithteá…?
S1 1 Sheasadh Máirín ar leathchos sa bpairc. Máirín used to stand on one foot in the field.

Ní sheasadh sí… An seasadh sí…? Nach seasadh sí…?
S2 1 Shroichidís an baile roimh titim na hoíche. They used to reach home before nightfall.

Ní shroichidís… An sroichidís…? Nach sroichidís…?
S3 2 Smaoinínn go raibh an Ghaeilge furasta a fhoghlaim. I used to think that Irish was easy to learn.

Ní smaoinínn… An smaoinínn…? Nach smaoinínn…?
T 1 Thaispeánadh sibh gliomaigh don uaisle. You (plural) used to show lobsters to the nobility.

Ní thaispeánadh sibh… An dtaispeánadh sibh…? Nach dtaispeánadh sibh…?
U 2 D’ullmhaíodh Síle drámaí beaga don stáitse. Síle used to prepare little plays for the stage.

Ní ullmhaíodh sí… An ullmhaíodh sí … Nach n-ullmhaíodh sí …?

Irregular Verbs

Verb

Past

Present

Future


be

An raibh tú?

Bhí mé

raibh mé

An bhfuil tú?

Táim

Nílim

An mbeidh tú?

Beidh mé

Ní bheidh mé

Feic
see

An bhfaca tú?

Chonaic mé

fhaca mé

An bhfeiceann tú?

Feicim

Ní fheicim

An bhfeicfidh tú?

Feicfidh mé

Ní fheicfidh mé

Téigh
go

An ndeachaigh tú?

Chuaigh mé

dheachaigh mé

An dtéann tú?

Téim

Ní théim

An rachaidh tú?

Rachaidh mé

Ní rachaidh mé

Déan
do

An ndearna tú?

Rinne mé

dhearna mé

An ndéanann tú?

Déanaim

Ní dhéanaim

An ndéanfaidh tú?

Déanfaidh mé

Ní dhéanfaidh mé

Faigh
get

An bhfuair tú?

Fuair mé

bhfuair mé

An bhfaigheann tú?

Faighim

Ní fhaighim

An bhfaighidh tú?

Gheobhaidh mé

Ní bhfaighidh mé

Abair
say

An ndúirt tú?

Dúirt mé

dúirt mé

An ndeir tú?

Deirim

Ní deirim

An ndéarfaidh tú?

Déarfaidh mé

Ní déarfaidh mé

Verb

Past

Present

Future

Tar
come

Ar tháinig tú?

Tháinig mé

Níor tháinig mé

An dtagann tú?

Tagaim

Ní thagaim

An dtiocfaidh tú?

Tiocfaidh mé

Ní thiocfaidh mé

Ith
eat

Ar ith tú?

D’ith mé

Níor ith mé

An itheann tú?

Ithim

Ní ithim

An íosfaidh tú?

Íosfaidh mé

Ní íosfaidh mé

Tabhair
give/bring

Ar thug tú?

Thug mé

Níor thug mé

An dtugann tú?

Tugaim

Ní thugaim

An dtabharfaidh tú?

 Tabharfaidh mé

Ní thabharfaidh mé

Beir…ar
catch

Ar rug tú?

Rug mé

Níor rug mé

An mbeireann tú??

Beirim

Ní bheirim

An mbéarfaidh tú?

Béarfaidh mé

Ní bhéarfaidh mé

Clois
hear

Ar chuala tú?

Chuala mé

Níor chuala mé

An gcloiseann tú?

Cloisim

Ní chloisim

An gcloisfidh tú?

Cloisfidh mé

Ní chloisfidh mé

Past Tense

Affirmative Statements

In making the past tense, all changes are made at the beginning of the verb. Start with the basic verb and:

1. Séimhiú (add an “h” after) an initial consonant if it is a [B, C, D, F*, G, M, P] or [T]. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. (In other words, all consonants except L, N, R and sometimes S.) Séimhiú (add an “h” after) an initial [S] only if the following letter is a vowel or an [L, N or R]. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below. Otherwise, leave an initial S unchanged. An initial L, N or R remains unchanged. Add [D’] before an initial vowel or an initial [F*]. Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Negative Statements and Questions

Negative statements and questions in the past tense are made by adding the appropriate “verbal particle” before the basic verb, as follows:

Ar:     Direct Questions

Níor:  Negative Statements

Nár:   Negative Questions

Once the verbal particle has been added before the verb, the basic verb will change (if at all) exactly as in the affirmative statement form, with one exception. Once the verbal particle has been added, “D” is no longer needed before verbs starting with a vowel or an initial F.


* Note: When F takes a séimhiú it becomes silent so that the first sound heard in the verb is the following vowel. Because of this, “D'” is added before “fh” as though the verb started with a vowel.


Please refer to the samplaí (examples) in the chart below.

Past Tense – Examples

Aimsir Chaite – Briathra Rialta
Past Tense – Regular Verbs
Réimniú
Conjugation
Samplaí
Examples
A 2 Dathraigh Uaitéar a phlean. Uaitéar changed his plan.

Ar athraigh…? Níor athraigh… Nár athraigh…?
B 1 Bhuail Beatha an madra dána. Beatha struck the bad dog.

Ar bhuail…? Níor bhuail… Nár bhuail…?
C 2 Chodail Greag i gcró na gcearc. Greag slept in the henhouse.

Ar chodail…? Níor chodail… Nár chodail…?
D 2 Dhúisigh Treasa go moch ar maidin. Treasa awoke early in the morning.

Ar dhúisigh…? Níor dhúisigh… Nár dhúisigh…?
E 2 D’éirigh Caoimhín leis an ngrian, mar is gnách. Caoimhín arose at sunrise, as usual.

Ar éirigh…?… Níor éirigh… Nár éirigh…?
F 1 D’fhág Crios an naíonán sa siopa. Crios left the infant in the shop.

Ar fhág…? Níor fhág… Nár fhág…?
G 1 Ghlan Máirín a coinsias. Máirín cleared (cleaned) her conscience.

Ar ghlan…?. Níor ghlan… Nár ghlan…?
I 2 D’inis Liam bréaga dúinn. Liam told us lies.

Ar inis…?… Níor inis…..? Nár inis…?
L 2 Labhair Muiris leis an bhfear marbh. Muiris spoke to the dead man.

Ar labhair…? Níor labhair… Nár labhair…?
M 2 Mharaigh Ethel í fhéin leis an ól. Ethel killed (destroyed) herself with drink.

Ar mharaigh …? Níor mharaigh … Nár mharaigh …?
N 1 Nigh Seosamh a choróin ríoga. Seosamh washed his royal crown.

Ar nigh …? Níor nigh … Nár nigh …?
O 1 D’ól Éamonn a phionta go sciobtha. Éamonn drank his pint quickly.

Ar ól …? Níor ól … Nár ól …?
P 1 Phós Bairbe go hóg. Bairbe married young.

Ar phós…? Níor phós… Nár phós…?
R 1 Rith Sóisear ar nós na gaoithe. Sóisear ran like the wind.

Ar rith …? Níor rith … Nár rith …?
S1 1 Sheas an ghruaig ar cheann Thomáis. Thomas’ hair stood on end.

Ar sheas…? Níor sheas … Nár sheas …?
S2 1 Shroich Mollaí aois áirithe. Mollaí reached a certain age.

Ar shroich …? Níor shroich … Nár shroich …?
S3 2 Smaoinigh Pádraig tamaillín faoi. Pádraig thought about it for a while.

Ar smaoinigh…? Níor smaoinigh… Nár smaoinigh …?
T 1 Thaispeáin an buachaill a ghliomach d’Eibhlín. The boy showed his lobster to Eibhlín.

Ar thaispeáin …? Níor thaispeáin … Nár thaispeáin …?
U 2 D’Ullmhaigh Pádraigín deoch nimhiúl. Pádraigín prepared a poisonous drink.

Ar ullmhaigh …? Níor ullmhaigh … Nár ullmhaigh …?

Pronunciation Key

VOWELS

STRESSED AND UNSTRESSES SYLLABLES: In multi-syllable words, the syllables which are underlined are stressed (accented) in pronunciation. Keep in mind that as a general rule most Irish words are pronounced with the stress on the first syllable with any remaining syllables being unstressed.

Short Vowels

Symbol Used Here

Irish Examples
Click for sound

Nearest English Equivalent

a

bean, mac

bat

e

ceist, te

set

i

duine, im

sit

o

obair, seo

son

u

dubh, tiubh

book

Long Vowels

Symbol Used Here

Irish Examples
Click for sound

Nearest English Equivalent

a

ard, tá

far

e

mé, tae

i

buí, naoi

me

o

ceol, mór

more

u

siúl, tú

who

The Neutral Vowel

Symbol Used Here

Irish Examples
Click for sound

Nearest English Equivalent

mála, míle

about

Dipthongs

Symbol 

Used 

Here

Irish Examples
Click for sound

Nearest English Equivalent

ai

radharc

I, eye

au

leabhar

cow

bia, pian

pianist

fuar, suas

fluent

Broad Consonants

Symbol 

Used 

Here

Irish Examples
Click for sound

Nearest English Equivalent

b

bán, buí

-

d

-

f

faoin

-

g

Gaeilge

fog

h

hata, thit

hat

k

cad

cot

l

lón, mála

mill

m

maoin, mór

-

n

anam, naoi

-

p

paca

-

r

fuar

-

s

cás

-

t

tacht

-

v

vóta

wore

w

wigwam

wigwam

x

loch

German “Bach”

z

-

longa

long

dhá

Spanish “Agua”

d´z´

jab

job

Slender Consonants

Symbol 

Used 

Here

Irish Examples
Click for sound

Nearest English Equivalent

b

bí, beo

be, beauty

d

deo

-

f

fíon, fiú

feet, few

g

gé, Gaeilge

gay, egg

k

cé, cead

key, came

l

leon, míle

live

m

maoin, mór

may, me

n

ainm, ní

canyon

p

peaca

piece

r

fuair

-

s

cáis

she

t

tacht

-

v

bhí

very

x

cheol

Hugh, German “Ich”

z

xileafón

pleasure

loingeas

sing

dhíol

yes

Prepositional Pronouns – Examples

AG

at: 

Tá Máire ag an doras.

Máire is at the door.

possession:

Tá airgead mór agam.

I have a lot of money.

as a result of:

Tá mo chroí briste agat.

You’ve broken my heart.

AS

out of:

Bain as do phóca é.

Take it out of your pocket.

from a place:

Is as Gaillimh iad.

They are from Galway.

extinguished:

Tá an tine as.

The fire is out (extinguished).

CHUIG

to: 

Tháinig Síle chugam.

Síle came to me.

toward: 

Tarraing chugat iad.

Pull them towards you.

for: 

Rinne muid chuig glóire Dé é.

We did it for the glory of God.

DE

of:

Tá cuid de na daoine ag gáire.

Some of the people are laughing.

off:

Bain díot do chóta.

Take off your coat.

DO

to: 

Tabhair di an bláth.

Give the flower to her.

for: 

Fuair mé duit é.

I got it for you.

FARA

along with:

Bhí Míheál faru.

Míheál was in their company.

FAOI

under: 

Bhí Míheál faru.

The cat is not under the table.

about: 

Tá mé ag caint fút.

I am talking about you.

intention: 

fúm Eibhlín a phósadh.

I intend to marry Eibhlín.

IDIR

between:

Tá míle eatarthu.

There is a mile between them.

both:

Bhí idir sean agus óg ann.

Both young and old were there.

I

in: 

Tá diabhal inti.

There’s a devil in her.
(She’s a devil of a one.)

having become
something:

Táim i mo mhúinteoir.

I’m a teacher.

LE

with:

Tar liom.

Come with me.

as a result of:

Tá Cáit tinn le himní.

Cáit is sick with worry.

for the purpose of:

Tá scéal le hinsint agam.

I have a story to tell.

due to be:

Tá arán ansin le n-ithe.

There’s bread there to be eaten.

against:

Bhí a chos leis an mballa.

His foot was against the wall.

duration:

Tá muid anseo le mí.

We are (have been) here for a month.

ownership:

Is liom é.

I own it. (It’s mine.)

AR

on:

Tá cuileog ar an gcíste.

There is a fly on the cake.

to wear:

Tá hata uirthi.

She has a hat on.
(She is wearing a hat.)