Irish: Lesson Thirteen

The Third Declension

i) Genitive

Nouns of the 3rd declension can be either masculine or feminine, and they end with a consonant. Their genitive is usually formed by adding "-a", and if the last vowel in the noun is "i" then a process opposite to slenderization, called "broadening", also takes place -- the slender vowel or vowels in the noun are dropped or turned into broad ones:

Nominative: beannacht [f.] -- a blessing
Genitive: beannachta -- of a blessing
Nominative: feoil [f.] -- meat
Genitive: feola -- of meat
Nominative: cuid [f.] -- share, portion
Genitive: coda -- of a share, of a portion
Nominative: fuil [f.] -- blood
Genitive: fola -- of blood
Nominative: áth [m.] -- a ford
Genitive: átha -- of a ford
("Baile Átha Cliath",
literally "town of the hurdle ford" -- Dublin)
Nominative: mil [f.] -- honey
Genitive: meala -- of honey
("Cluain Meala",
literally "meadow of honey" -- Clonmel)

Final "t" is dropped from nouns ending in "-int", and becomes "th" in words ending in "-irt":

Nominative: imirt [f.] -- playing; performance
Genitive: imeartha -- of playing
Example: páirc imeartha -- playing field
Nominative: canúint [f.] -- dialect
Genitive: canúna -- of a dialect

ii) Plural

Nouns of this declension ending in "-aeir", "-éir", "-eoir", "-óir", and "-úir" are all masculine and form the plural by adding "-í":

Nom. Sing. Gaeilgeoir -- Irish-speaker
Nom. Plur. Gaeilgeoirí -- Irish-speakers
Nom. Sing. saighdiúir -- soldier
Nom. Plur. saighdiúrí -- soldiers

Nouns ending in "-cht" are all feminine and have plurals in "-aí":

Nom. Sing. mallacht -- curse
Nom. Plur. mallachtaí -- curses
Nom. Sing. eolaíocht -- science
Nom. Plur. eolaíochtaí -- sciences

Masculine nouns of one syllable ending in a broad consonant have plurals in "-anna" or "-aí":

Nom. Sing. loch -- lake
Nom. Plur. lochanna -- lakes
Nom. Sing. rud -- thing
Nom. Plur. rudaí -- things

The Fourth Declension

This declension includes most nouns ending in a vowel, diminutive nouns ending in "-ín", and some masculine nouns ending in a consonant.

i) Genitive:

The genitive form in this declension is the same as the nominative, for example

(king) --> mac an rí (the king's son).

ii) Plural:

Nouns ending in -ín form their plurals with -í:

Nom. Sing. cailín -- girl
Nom. Plur. cailíní -- girls
Nom. Sing. toitín -- cigarette
Nom. Plur. toitíní -- cigarettes

Nouns ending in -a or -e also form plurals with -í or -aí:

Nom. Sing. slabhra -- chain
Nom. Plur. slabhraí -- chains
Nom. Sing. file -- poet
Nom. Plur. filí -- poets

Nouns ending in -le or -ne take the plurals -lte and -nte:

Nom. Sing. baile -- town
Nom. Plur. bailte -- towns
Nom. Sing. sloinne -- surname
Nom. Plur. sloinnte -- surnames

Nouns ending in -í, -aí, -aoi, or -é, have strong plurals in -the:

Nom. Sing. croí -- heart
Nom. Plur. croíthe -- hearts
Nom. Sing. garraí -- garden
Nom. Plur. garraíthe -- gardens
Nom. Sing. saoi -- wise man
Nom. Plur. saoithe -- wise men
(in poetry "saoi" can also mean "warrior")

Nouns with plurals in -nna:

Nom. Sing. cú [m.] -- hound
Nom. Plur. cúnna -- hounds
Nom. Sing. fia [m.] -- a deer
Nom. Plur. fianna -- deer
Nom. Sing. fleá [f.] -- feast
Nom. Plur. fleánna -- feasts

The Fifth Declension

Nouns of the 5th are usually feminine; their final vowel is normally "i", or they end in a vowel. Note that the Collins Gem Irish dictionary assigns nouns to only four declensions; it usually lists fifth declension nouns as irregular.

i) Genitive

The genitive is usually formed either by adding "-each" or by dropping the final "i" and adding "-ach":

Nominative: beoir -- beer
Genitive: beorach -- of beer
Nominative: litir -- letter
Genitive: litreach -- of a letter
Nominative: cathair -- city
Genitive: cathrach -- of a city

If they end with a vowel, they may add "n" or "d":

Nominative: cara -- friend
Genitive: carad -- of a friend
Nominative: pearsa -- person
Genitive: pearsan -- of a person

Or alternatively, they may just broaden their nominative form, but otherwise remain unchanged:

Nominative: athair -- father
Genitive: athar -- of a father
Nominative: Albain -- Scotland
Genitive: Alban -- of Scotland
Nominative: abhainn -- river
Genitive: abhann -- of a river

ii) Plural

Many nouns in the declension form their plural by adding "-a" to the genitive form, not the nominative:

Nom. Sing. cathair -- city
Gen. Sing. cathrach -- of a city
Nom. Plur. cathracha -- cities
Nom. Sing. comharsa -- neighbour
Gen. Sing. comharsan -- of a neighbour
Nom. Sing. comharsana -- neighbours

But important irregular plurals include

athair -- father
--> aithreacha -- fathers
máthair -- mother
--> máithreacha -- mothers
abhainn -- river
--> aibhneacha -- rivers

And so end the declensions.

Genitive Plural

The definite article of the genitive plural is always "na", which causes eclipsis and prefixes "n-" before a noun beginning with a vowel.

The genitive plural itself is formed in one of three ways. A "weak" genitive plural is one that is the same as the nominative singular, for example:

Nom. Sing. an crann -- the tree
Gen. Plur. na gcrann -- of the trees
Nom. Sing. an cat -- the cat
Gen. Plur. na gcat -- of the cats
Nom. Sing. an bhróg -- the shoe
Gen. Plur. na mbróg -- of the shoes
Nom. Sing. an t-éan -- the bird
Gen. Plur. na n-éan -- of the birds

By contrast, "strong" genitive plurals are those which are the same as the nominative plural:

Nom. Plur. na deochanna -- the drinks
Gen. Plur. na ndeochanna -- of the drinks
Nom. Plur. na cailíní -- the girls
Gen. Plur. na gcailíní -- of the girls
Nom. Plur. na haithreacha -- the fathers
Gen. Plur. na n-aithreacha -- of the fathers

A handful of nouns are neither weak nor strong but form a genitive plural that is different from the other forms. Here are a few common examples:

Nom. Sing. bean -- a woman
Gen. Plur. ban -- of women
Nom. Sing. caora -- a sheep
Gen. Plur. caorach -- of sheep
Nom. Sing. súil -- an eye
Gen. Plur. súl -- of eyes
Nom. Sing. ealaín -- an art
Gen. Plur. ealaíon -- of arts
Nom. Sing. binn -- cliff, peak
Gen. Plur. beann -- of the cliffs, of the peaks

Strong plurals include all nouns of the 3rd, 4th and 5th declensions, as well as many of the 2nd and some of the 1st. Weak plurals only predominate in the 1st declension.

Conditional Tense

We learned the conditional tense of "bi" in Lesson Ten. The conditional of regular verbs falls into the usual division of two conjugations:

i) 1st conjugation -- cuir, "put"; bog, "move"

chuirfinn -- I would put bhogfainn -- I would move
chuirfeá -- you would put bhogfeá -- you would move
chuirfeadh sé -- he would put bhogfadh sé -- he would move
chuirfeadh sí -- she would put bhogfadh sí -- she would move
chuirfimis -- we would put bhogfaimis -- we would move
chuirfeadh sibh -- you would put bhogfadh sibh -- you would move
chuirfidís -- they would put bhogfaidís -- they would move

ii) 2nd conjugation -- beannaigh, "bless"; bailigh, "gather"

bheannóinn -- I would bless bhaileoinn -- I would gather
bheannófá -- you would bless bhaileofá -- you would gather
bheannódh sé -- he would bless bhaileodh sé -- he would gather
bheannódh sí -- she would bless bhaileodh sí -- she would gather
bheannóimis -- we would bless bhaileoimis -- we would gather
bheannódh sibh -- you would bless bhaileodh sibh -- you would gather
bheannóidís -- they would bless bhaileoidís -- they would gather

Verbs beginning with a vowel or with "f" have "d'" in front of them:

D'ólfainn -- I would drink
D'fhoghlaimeodh sé -- he would learn

Conditional Statements

There are two ways of saying "if" in Irish, depending on whether the thing being speculated about is likely to come to pass or unlikely. If it's likely, the word "má" (if) is used with the present tense:

Má bhuaileann tú leis... -- If you meet him...
Más duine macánta é... -- If he is an honest man...
(más = má + is)

But if the condition is unlikely to be fulfilled, the eclipsing word "dá" (if) is used with the conditional tense:

Dá mbuailfeá leis... -- If you were to meet him...
(lit: "if you would meet with him")
Dá mba dhuine macanta é... -- If he were to be an honest man...

Irish has a separate word meaning "if... not", which is the eclipsing word "mura":

Dá gceannófá é... -- If you were to buy it...
Mura gceannófá e... -- If you were not to buy it...

"Mura" before the past tense of regular verbs becomes "murar", which aspirates:

Murar chaith tú é... -- If you didn't throw it...

... and when it comes before the past tense form of the copula, "ba", it combines with "ba" to become "murab":

Murab é sin é... -- If that isn't it...

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