Irish: Lesson Ten

Habitual Present of "bi"

In addition to the normal present tense of "bi", which is "tá", that verb also has something called a habitual present tense to describe a state of being that extends over a period of time. For example, while we would use "tá" to translate a sentence like "I am at home now", we would use the habitual present to translate a sentence like "I work nights" or "I am often at home on Monday":

bím  --  I tend to be
bíonn tú  --  you tend to be
bíonn sé  --  he tends to be
bíonn sí  --  she tends to be
bímid  --  we tend to be
bíonn sibh  --  you tend to be
bíonn siad  --  they tend to be

This is often used with adverbs of time like "go minic" (often), "riamh" (ever), "i gcónaí" (always), or "uaireanta" (sometimes), or with days of the week like "(An) Luan" (Monday) or "(An) Aoine" (Friday):

Bím anseo gach lá.  --  I am here every day. (gach, "each")
Bíonn an bia go deas anseo.  --  The food is good here. 
Bímid sa bhaile ar an Luan.  --  We are at home Mondays. (sa bhaile, "at home")
Bíonn sí tinn go minic.  --  She is often sick.
Bíonn céilí anseo ar an Aoine. --  A ceilí is held here on Fridays.
Bíonn siad ag obair san oíche. --  They work nights.

The negative is formed with "ní", which aspirates, and a question asked with the eclipsing word "an":

Ní bhíonn ocras orm ar maidin.
      I don't feel hungry in the morning.

An mbíonn an aimsir go breá i gCalifornia?
      -- Is the weather nice in California?

Fortunately, "bí" is the only verb with a "present habitual" tense. To express a present habitual action other verbs just use the simple present tense.

Conditional of "bi"

The conditional of "bi" expresses what would be (if some other condition were filled):

bheinn --  I would be
bheifeá  --  you would be
bheadh sé  --  he would be
bheadh sí  --  she would be
bheimis  --  we would be
bheadh sibh  --  you would be
bheidís  --  they would be


Bheadh sé sin go deas. --  That would be nice.
Is minic a bheadh sé fliuch.  --  It would often be wet.
An mbeifeá sásta leis sin?  --  Would you be happy with that?
Ni bheinn.  --  I wouldn't be.
An mbeadh toitín agat?  --  Would you have a cigarette? (toitín [m.])

Past Passive

Also called the "past impersonal", this tense is used to describe action that happened to something in the past, e.g. "the bicycle was stolen", "the key was lost". To form this tense with a 1st conjugation verb, take the root and add "-adh" to it (or "-eadh" if the last vowel in the root is "e" or "i"). For 2nd conjugation verbs, chop off the "-igh" in the usual manner and add "-íodh". When the subject of the sentence is a pronoun, it tends to get pushed to the right by other elements in the sentence:

tóg  "build", "raise"
--> Tógadh i 1900 é.  -- It was built in 1900.
--> Tógadh i nDoire mé.  -- I was raised in Derry.

goid  "steal"
--> Goideadh mo rothar.  -- My bicycle was stolen.

bris  "break"
--> Briseadh an fhuinneog.  -- The window was broken.

bronn ar  "award"
--> Bronnadh duais air.  -- He was awarded a prize. (duais [f.], "prize, gift")

bunaigh  "found, establish"
--> Bunaíodh i 1820 é.  -- It was founded in 1820.

foilsigh  "publish"
--> Foilsíodh "Ulysses" i 1922.  -- "Ulysses" was published in 1922.

An irregular verb worth mentioning here is the past impersonal of the verb "beir" (bear), which is "rugadh" (was born):

Rugadh i mBéal Feirste mé.  --  I was born in Belfast. 


The preposition "faoi" has a number of meanings, most notably "below" or "under" (when describing the position of an object -- e.g. "under my head" or "below the stair") and "about" (when talking about something concerning an object -- e.g. "about economics", "about the event" etc.) "Faoi" combines with the definite article to form "faoin".

faoin staighre  --  under the stair
faoi bhrón  --  sad (literally: "under sorrow")
faoi Nollaig  --  around [or] about Christmas-time
leabhar faoi Londain  --  a book about London

The prepositional pronoun forms are:

faoi  mé  fúm
faoi  tú  fút
faoi  sé  faoi
faoi  sí  fúithi
faoi  muid  fúinn
faoi  sibh  fúibh
faoi  siad  fúthu

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