Compound Definite Genitive

When two genitive nouns appear together in a compound, the article is repeated for each genitive noun.

On the coast of Scotland and Wales.
Ar chósta na hAlban agus na Breataine Bige.

Suspended Genitive

A noun cannot take genitive form when it is followed by another noun already in genitive case.

Hata fir an Phoist
Hata fhear an Phoist
The Hat of (the) Man of the Post

In the above example, Fear is prevented from taking genitive form by an Phoist.

In such instances, the would-be genitive noun remains in nominative case and is lenited.

Note

Keep in mind that placenames have been around through numerous shifts in grammar, and are not always affected by this rule.

Baile Átha Cliath
Town of (the) Ford of Hurdles

Negative Prefix (an- / ain-)

The prefix an (broad) or ain (slender) is used for two purposes:

In some cases, it gives a noun or adjective its opposite meaning:

Creideamh / Faith
Ainchreideamh / Infidelity

Aoibhneas / Happiness, bliss
Anaoibhneas / Unappiness

In other cases, it denotes a noun or adjective as being particularly bad or unnatural:

Focal / Word
Anfhocal / Unsavoury expression, misrepresentation

Neart / Strength
Ainneart / Overwhelming strength

Note

It should not be confused with the intensifying prefix An- which is always hyphenated, as in An-fhuar. See Intensifier (an-).

“Ceann”

Ceann can be used in the vein One when referring to inanimate things and animals:

Sin é an ceann atá agam. / That is the one [thing] I have.

Cá mhéad madadh atá agat? – Trí cinn. / How many dogs do you have? – Three [animals].

Duine is needed to refer to people in this way:

Sin é an duine a mharaigh í. / He’s the one [person] who killed her.

Intensifier (an-)

The intensifying prefix an- usually lenites a following consonant:

maith.
an-mhaith.

The exception is when the following consonant is d, t or s:

an-deas
an-suimiúil
an-te

Usage in Munster

In Munster, an- is pronounced and is sometimes spelled as ana-.

When pronounced in this way, a following d, t or s can be lenited:

an-dheas / ana-dheas
an-shuimiúil / ana-shuimiúil
an-the / ana-the

“Gealltanas, Dualgas, Tiomantas”

Gealltanas, Dualgas and Tiomantas are often translated as Commitment.

This isn’t wrong, but although Commitment is used interchangably for a number of meanings in English, Gealltanas, Dualgas and Tiomantas have specific and non-interchangeable meanings in Irish:

Gealltanas / Pledge, Promise
Dualgas / Obligation, Duty
Tiomantas / Dedication

Knowing the difference will prevent improper usage:

Thug sé gealltanas go bhfillfeadh sé.
He made a promise to return.

dualgas ort é a dhéanamh.
It is your duty to do it.

Léiríonn sé sin a dtiomantas do chearta daonna.
It shows their dedication to human rights.

“Ar son”

Ar son is often translated as For. It might be more properly translated as For the benefit of.

Ar son na cúise. / For [the benefit of] the cause.
Ar son na bhfoghlaimeoirí. / For [the benefit of] the learners.

To express some of the simpler meanings of For, it would be more suitable to use Le haghaidh or I gcomhair:

Chaith mé coinín ar son an dinnéir.
Chaith mé coinín le haghaidh an dinnéir.
I caught a rabbit for dinner.

Bhuail mé leis ar son agallaimh.
Bhuail mé leis i gcomhair agallaimh.
I met with him for an interview.

Pronoun Order

When treating with multiple pronouns, – Mé, Tú, Sí, Sé, Muid, Siad, Thú, etc, – there is an order which should be preserved:

FIRST PERSON PRONOUNS: mé, muid
SECOND PERSON PROUNOUNS: tú, sibh / Thú
THIRD PERSON PRONOUNS: sé, sí, siad / é, í, iad

Contrastive forms are treated like their non-contrastive counterparts. Nouns and names are included as THIRD PERSON.

Examples

Mé féin agus Peadar. Not Peadar agus mé féin.

Tú féin agus é féin. Not é féin agus tú féin.

Tusa agus eisean. Not seisean agus thusa

Muid féin agus ár gcuid cairde. Not ár gcuid cairde agus muid féin.

Heavy Shifting

If the [OBJECT] of an Irish sentence is complex or long, it can be shifted to the end of a clause.

Below is an example of a sentence with a complex noun-phrase highlighted. It’s word order has been preserved.

Cuir na Gaeil na Spáinnigh a tháinig i dtír chun báis.

Below is the same sentence with the complex noun-phrase shifted to the end:

Cuir na Gaeil chun báis na Spáinnigh a tháinig i dtír.

To draw a parallel, the same practice occurs in English:

She placed on the table in front of us a large earthenware bowl filled with fruit.

Pronoun Postposing

Irish generally follows a rigid [VERB] [SUBJECT] [OBJECT] word order:

[Fuair] [sé] [nuachtán] [óna dheartháir an lá cheana].
[VERB] [SUBJECT] [OBJECT] [INDIRECT OBJECT]

However, when the object is a pronoun, – mé, thú, é, í, muid, sibh, iad, – it tends to move to the end of the clause.

If we switch out Nuachtán for É, we get:

[Fuair] [sé] [óna dheartháir an lá cheana] [é].
[VERB] [SUBJECT] [INDIRECT OBJECT] [OBJECT PRONOUN]

“Tá a fhios agam”

Questions

When asked a question involving a fhios, it is usual to repeat a fhios after the verb:

An bhfuil a fhios agat é?
a fhios.

Knowing People

Tá a fhios agam is not used in the context of knowing a person. Instead, Aithne / Recognition is used:

Tá aithne agam air.
I have recognition on him.

Diminutives (-án)

Occasionally some nouns will take the (now archaic) diminutive suffix -án rather than the more common -ín:

CisCiseán / Little basket
CnocCnocán / Little hill
CraobhCraobhán / Little branch, Twig
LeabharLeabhrán / Little book, Manual

However, this usage is not universal, and their diminutive will occasionally be rendered with -ín.

A relic from Old Irish

The suffix -án was a feature of Old Irish. Words which took the suffix -án in Old Irish have largely become first declension masculine nouns in their own right.

See Noun Ending (-án) for more information about this.

Noun Ending (-án)

The Old Irish suffix -án could be used to express a range of things. While it can’t be freely placed at the end of Modern Irish words anymore, a word ending with -án still signals some of its old meanings:

  1. to express the smallness of a noun. Leabhrán / Little book, Manual.
  2. to derive a tool or instrument from a noun. Cosán / Footpath.

Knowing this can be helpful in figuring out the meaning of a word. If you’re not familiar with Gluaisteán, but you are familiar with Gluais, then you’ll be able to guess that Gluaisteán is either a little motor or a tool derived from a motor. From here, it’s not a leap to realising it means Car.

Examples

Some nouns where -án is used to derive a tool or an instrument:

Ard / HighArdán / Stage, Platform
Bréag / Lie, DeceptionBréagán / Toy
Eitil / FlyEitleán / Airplane
Gluais / MotorGluaisteán / Car
Guth / VoiceGuthán / Telephone
Rialta / RegularRialtán / Regulator
Scáth / Shadow, ReflectionScáthán / Mirror
Scoilt / SplitScoilteán / Fissure
Siúl / WalkSiúlán / Walkway
Tine / FireTinteán / Fireplace, Hearth

Some nouns where -án is used to express smallness:

Bior / Spike, Pointed ShaftBiorán / Pin
Cis / CrateCiseán / Basket
Cnoc / HillCnocán / Little hill
Craobh / BranchCraobhán / Twig
Leabhar / BookLeabhrán / Little book, Manual

Diminutives (-ín)

The suffix -ín is used to express smallness. It can also be used to express endearment, or belittlement.

Sráid / Sráidín
Street / Lane, Alleyway

Final broad consonants are made slender, except for ch:

Gob / Goibín
Teach / Teachaín

Final unstressed vowels are dropped:

Geata / Geaitín

-ín can be used on any name or noun and does not affect a noun’s gender.

Bád / Báidín / masculine
Cearc / Circín / feminine
Cró / Cróín / masculine
Hata / Haitín / masculine
Seán / Seáinín / man’s name
Siopa / Sipín / masculine

“Áit”

The feminine noun Áit can be (and frequently is) referred to with a masculine pronoun.

Sin é an áit a bhfuil sé ina chónaí.

The noun is still grammatically feminine for all other purposes:

An áit. / Not An t-áit.
Áit mhór.
Ar fud na háite.

See also: Gender Disagreement.

Feminine of Reference

Some masculine nouns are frequently referred to with feminine pronouns.

carr agam, agus tá an-mhór.

The noun is still grammatically masculine for all other purposes:

An carr. / Not An charr.
An t-eitleán. / Not An eitleán.
Tá carr mór agam. / Not Tá carr mhór agam.

Following is an incomplete list of masculine nouns which take feminine pronouns.

Modes of Transport, Machines and Containers

  • Bád
  • Bus
  • Carr
  • Clog
  • Eitleán
  • Leoraí
  • Meaisín
  • Rásúr
  • Soitheach

Certain Animals

  • Capall
  • Francach

Certain Clothing

  • Caipín
  • Geansaí

‘Leabhar’

Not only does the masculine leabhar get sí/í when referred to with a pronoun, but a following adjective can also be lenited.

Leabhar mhór or Leabhar mór

See also: Gender Disagreement.

“Áfach”

Áfach is not used at the start of a sentence, as However is in English.

Here are some ways to express the meaning of However at the start of a sentence:

Ina ainneoin sin, … / In spite of that, …
Mar sin féin, … / All the same, …
Bíodh sin mar atá, … / Be that as it may, …
Ach, … / But, …

Contrastive Pronouns and Féin

Féin cannot be used directly after the contrastive pronouns (Mise, Tusa, Sise, Seisean, Muidne, Sibhse, Siadsan).

Mise or Mé féin, but never Mise féin.

To use féin with a contrastive pronoun, you must add a simple pronoun between them:

Mise féin.

Tusa féin.

Mise féin a dhear na cúrsaí sin. / I myself designed the courses.

Compound Subjects

A compound subject or object is when there are two or more objects present to a verb.

mé féin agus Peadar sásta.

When working with a compound subject, there are a few rules to keep in mind:

The first-person comes first

First-person pronouns, such as mé, mise, muid and muidne should be placed before the other subjects.

Mé féin agus Peadar. Not Peadar agus mé féin.

Muid féin agus ár gcuid cairde. Not ár gcuid cairde agus muid féin.

Féin is added to pronouns

féin agus Peadar. Not Mé agus Peadar.

féin agus é féin. Not tú agus é.

Only the first pronoun in a compound uses the subject pronoun

Tá mé féin agus é féin. Not Tá mé féin agus sé féin.

In this example, mé féin is the only part of the subject that directly follows . Every pronoun that doesn’t directly follow the verb uses the object form of the pronoun; so rather than using , we use é.

Contrastive pronouns can be used as normal

Mise agus thusa.

Thusa agus ise.