Irish: Lesson Fourteen

Genitive After Prepositions

As well as indicating possession, the genitive case of a noun is used after certain specific prepositions such as "chun" (to), "cois" (beside), "dála" (by), "fearacht" (like, as), "timpeall" (around) and "trasna" (across):

An Róimh -- Rome
--> chun na Róimhe -- to Rome
an domhan -- the world
--> timpeall an domhain -- around the world
an pháirc -- the field
--> trasna na páirce -- across the field

The genitive is also used after all "compound" prepositions (prepositions of more than one word), e.g. "ar fud" (throughout), "ar son" (for the sake of), "i ndiaidh" (after), "os cionn" (above) etc.
This will be discussed more fully in another lesson.

Plural of Adjectives

Adjectives agree with nouns in case and number, which means that when a noun is plural its adjective is plural, when a noun is genitive its adjective is genitive, and so on. As mentioned in Lesson Three, this only applies when the adjective directly qualifies the noun.

The most common way to form the plural of an adjective is to add "-a" to it:

teach mór -- big house
--> tithe móra -- big houses
cailín óg -- young girl
--> cailíní óga -- young girls

If the adjective's final vowel is slender, "-e" may be added instead:

áit ciúin -- quiet place
--> áiteanna ciúine -- quiet places

Adding these final vowels can cause the loss of the previous final vowel:

duine láidir -- strong man
--> daoine láidre -- strong men

Adjectives ending in "-úil" change to "-úla" in the plural:

duine leisciúil -- lazy man
--> daoine leisciúla -- lazy men

Some common irregular plurals are

álainn (beautiful) --> áille;
tirim (dry) --> tiorma;
uasal (noble) --> uaisle;
te (hot) --> teo;
breá (fine) --> breátha.

You've learned that adjectives following a singular feminine noun are aspirated e.g. "eaglais mhór" (big church). In the plural, adjectives following feminine plural nouns are not aspirated, but they are aspirated if they follow a masculine plural noun whose ending is slender, i.e. whose last vowel is a slender one (e or i). Contrast the feminine word "súil" (eye) with the masculine word "bád" (boat). We want to apply the word "gorm" (blue) to both of them in the plural:

Singular: súil ghorm -- a blue eye
Plural: súile gorma -- blue eyes


Singular: bád gorm -- blue boat
Plural: báid ghorma -- blue boats

Because the plural of "bád", which is "báid", has the slender vowel "i" at the end, it aspirates the adjective that comes after it, whereas the feminine plural leaves the adjective unaffected -- almost the opposite to what happens in the singular.

Genitive Singular of Adjectives

The behaviour of adjectives when they follow nouns in the genitive is as haphazard as that of the nouns themselves, but luckily the Christian Bros. managed to isolate the nine different kinds of adjective and describe their genitive forms depending on whether they're following a masculine or feminine noun. Note that feminine adjectives are never aspirated in the genitive singular or in the plural, but masculine ones are:



Gen. Sing. Masc.

Gen. Sing. Fem.

Nom. Plural

1. bán, "white" bháin báine bána
2. díreach, "straight" dirigh dirí díreacha
3. bacach, "lame" bacaigh bacaí bacacha
4. leisciúil, "lazy" leisciúil leisciúla leisciúla
5. mall, "slow" mall maille malla
6. maith, "good" maith maithe maithe
7. buíoch, "grateful" buíoch buíthí buíocha
8. gnách, "usual" gnách gnáthaí gnácha

The usual disclaimer applies: there's little point in memorizing these forms or worrying about them; as long as you can generally recognize them when they appear in an Irish text you'll get used to them over time.

Genitive Plural of Adjectives

How an adjective is declined in the plural depends on the noun it's qualifying. In Lesson 13 we learned the difference between a strong-plural noun and a weak-plural noun. Weak nouns have the same genitive plural and nominative singular, but strong nouns have the same genitive plural and nominative plural. If an adjective follows a strong-plural noun, it has the same form for all cases of the plural, e.g.:

Nominative Plural: na cailíní óga -- the young girls
Genitive Plural: na gcailíní óga -- of the young girls

But if an adjective follows a weak-plural noun, it has the same form in the genitive plural as it does in the nominative singular:

Nominative Plural: na fir óga -- the young men
Genitive Plural: na bhfear óg -- of the young men

Infinitive with Object

Previously, we learned that the infinitive form of the verb is just the verbal noun without "ag" in front of it:

ag dul -- going
--> Ba mhaith liom dul abhaile. -- I'd like to go home.

ag caitheamh -- smoking
--> An féidir liom caitheamh? -- May I smoke?

There is no direct object in these sentences. When one is added, the infinitive changes in form slightly -- it is aspirated when possible and is prefixed by "a". If we change the second sentence in the example above and add "toitín" (a cigarette) as the direct object, we get

An féidir liom toitín a chaitheamh? -- May I smoke a cigarette?

Note how the infinitive then gets pushed to the end of the sentence. Some other examples:

ag fáil -- getting
--> Bhí sé ag iarraidh radharc maith a fháil. -- He was asking to get a good view.
(lit: he was asking a good view to get)
ag díol -- selling
--> Ba mhaith léi an teach a dhíol. -- She would like to sell the house.
(lit: she would like the house to sell)

Subjunctive Tense

The present subjunctive is a tense that isn't even covered in some Irish textbooks, but is one that learners find very useful, because it covers the idea of wishing something and so appears in some famous Irish proverbs and blessings. It's considered an old-fashioned tense for daily speech (except in set phrases) but still appears often in print.

The subjunctive is normally formed from "Go" (which eclipses, and adds "n-" to a verb beginning with a vowel), plus the subjunctive form of the verb, plus the subject, plus the thing being wished for. For instance, the subjunctive form of "teigh" (go) is "té":

Go dté tú slán. -- May you be well.
(lit: may you go well)

Or again, the subjunctive of "tabhair" (give) is "tuga":

Go dtuga Dia ciall duit. -- May God give you sense.

Or to take a third example, sometimes the wish is also a curse, like this one from Tory Island in Donegal:

Go ndéana an Diabhal toirneach de d'anam in Ifreann. -- May the Devil make thunder of your soul in Hell.

The Irish phrase for "thank you" -- go raibh math agat -- uses the subjunctive of "bi" and literally means "may there be good at-you".

The subjunctive of regular verbs is as follows:

1st Conjugation:

a) "mol": mola mé, mola tú, mola sé, mola sí; molaimid; mola sibh, mola siad.
b) "bris": brise mé, brise tú, brise sé, brise sí; brisimid; brise sibh, siad.

2nd Conjugation:

a) "beannaigh": beannaí mé, beannaí tú, beannaí sé, beannaí sí; beannaímid; beannaí sibh, beannaí siad.
b) "bailigh": bailí mé, bailí tú, bailí sé, bailí sí; bailímid; bailí sibh, bailí siad.

E.g. "go mbeannaí Dia thú" -- May God bless you.

Three Irregular Verbs

Over the next few lessons I'll gradually give the forms for the ten Irish verbs that are at least partly irregular. The three I'll give today are feic, "see", tabhair, "give", and abair, "say".

1) Root: "feic"; Verbal Noun: "ag feiceáil"

Present Tense: feicim; feiceann tú, feiceann sé/sí; feicimid; feiceann sibh, feiceann siad.
Past Tense: chonaic mé, chonaic tú, chonaic sé/sí; chonaic muid, chonaic sibh, chonaic siad.
Past Tense, Negative: ní fhaca mé, ní fhaca tú, ní fhaca sé/sí; ní fhaca muid, ní fhaca sibh, ní fhaca siad.
Future Tense: feicfidh mé, feicfidh tú, feicfidh sé/sí; feicfimid; feicfidh sibh, feicfidh siad.
Conditional Tense: d'fheicfinn; d'fheicfeá; d'fheicfeadh sé/sí; d'fheicfimis; d'fheicfeadh sibh; d'fheicfidís.
Present Subjunctive: feice mé, feice tú, feice sé/sí; feicimid; feice sibh, feice siad.

Past Passive: chonachthas

was seen").

2) Root: "tabhair"; Verbal Noun: "ag tabhairt"

Present Tense: tugaim; tugann tú, tugann sé/sí tugaimid; tugann sibh, tugann siad.
Past Tense: thug mé, thug tú, thug sé/sí thug muid, thug sibh, thug siad.
Future Tense: tabharfaidh mé, tabharfaidh tú, tabharfaidh sé/sí tabharfaimid; tabharfaidh sibh, tabharfaidh siad.
Conditional Tense: thabharfainn; thabharfá; thabharfadh sé/sí; thabharfaimis; thabharfadh sibh; thabharfaidís.
Present Subjunctive: tuga mé, tuga tú, tuga sé/sí tugaimid; tuga sibh, tuga siad.

Past Passive: tugadh ("was given").

3) Root: "abair"; Verbal Noun: "ag rá"

Present Tense: deirim; deir tú, deir sé/sí deirimid; deir sibh, deir siad.
Past Tense: dúirt mé, dúirt tú, dúirt sé/sí dúirt muid, dúirt sibh, dúirt siad. (Also "dubhairt").
Future Tense: déarfaidh mé, déarfaidh tú, déarfaidh sé/sí déarfaimid; déarfaidh sibh, déarfaidh siad.
Conditional Tense: déarfainn; déarfá; déarfadh sé/sí déarfaimis; déarfadh sibh; déarfaidís.
Present Subjunctive: deire mé, deire tú, deire sé/sí; deire deirimid; deire deire sibh, deire siad.

Past Passive: dúradh ("was said")

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