Irish: Lesson 15

Verbal Adjective

In English we can make an adjective out a verb by" adding "-ed" to the end of it, and we call this adjective the verbal adjective. For example, if we take the verb "stop", we can form the adjective "stopped", e.g. "the clock was stopped". (Of course there are a number of verbal adjectives in English that don't end with "-ed", such as "broken", "lost", "drawn" etc.)

In Irish too there are a couple of different endings for a verbal adjective:

i) 1st Conjugation:

If the verb ends in "t" or "th", only "e" is added to the root, and "h" is dropped:

caith (spend)
--> caite (spent)
loit (destroy)
--> loite (destroyed)

If the verb is one of the majority which ends in "b", "c", "f", "g", "m", "p" or "r", the verbal adjective endings are "tha" and "the", depending on whether the final vowel in the root is broad or slender, respectively:

lúb (bend)
--> lúbtha (bent)
glac (take, accept)
--> glactha (accepted)
loisc (burn)
--> loiscthe (burnt)
scaip (scatter)
--> scaipthe (scattered)

Verbs ending in "bh" or "mh" lose these endings and take the ending "fa":

gabh (catch)
--> gafa (caught)
scríobh (write)
--> scríofa (written)

ii) 2nd Conjugation

These verbs, which typically end in "&aigh;igh", "eoigh" etc., drop the "gh" and usually add "te" or "the":

beannaigh (bless)
--> beannaithe (blessed)
luaigh (mention)
--> luaite (mentioned)
báigh (drown)
--> báite (drowned)

There is also a handful of verbs which take "ta" as their verbal noun ending, among them the irregular verb "déan" (do, make); hence the title of the traditional song "Tá Mo Chleamhnas Déanta" (My Match is Made).

Compound Prepositions

Apart from "go dtí" (to), all prepositions of two words are called "compound prepositions" and put the noun following into the genitive case. The most common of these are:

ar aghaidh -- opposite i gcaitheamh -- during
ar chúl -- behind i gceann -- at the end of
ar feadh -- for (the extent of) i gcuideachta -- in the company of
ar fud -- throughout i lár -- in the middle of
ar nós -- like i láthair -- in the presence of
ar son -- for the sake of i measc -- among
d'ainneoin -- in spite of i ndiadh -- after
de bharr -- as a result of in aghaidh -- against
de chois -- near in aice -- near
de réir -- according to in éadan -- against
i bhfianaise -- in the sight of os cionn -- above
os mhair -- before tar -- after


doras -- door
--> an aghaidh an dorais -- against the door
Dia -- God
--> ar son Dé -- for God's sake
teach -- house
--> os cionn an tí -- above the house
dinnéar -- dinner
--> tar éis na dinnéir -- after the dinner

One distinguishing feature of the compound preposition is that they can't be followed by a normal object pronoun like "mé", "thú", "é" etc. Instead, the possessive adjective corresponding to the pronoun is placed in between the two parts of the preposition. (The reason for this is because only the first part of the compound preposition is really a preposition; the second part is just a noun that has become trapped into accompanying it wherever it goes).

For example, suppose I want to say "after you". "After" is "i ndiaidh". Instead of using "thú" I have to use the corresponding possessive, which in this case is "do", and put it between "i" and "ndiaidh". Now, the reason why "diaidh" is eclipsed in "i ndiaidh" is because it comes after "i". If I put "do" between them", "diaidh" is no longer followed by "i" but by "do", which causes aspiration. So "after you" becomes "i do dhiaidh", e.g. "tháinig an madra i do dhiaidh" -- "the dog came after you". ("Diaidh" is an old obsolete word meaning "wake" or "rear". So the literal translation of "i do dhiaidh" is "in your wake").

To take another example, suppose I want to say "above us". "Above" is "os cionn". Instead of using "muid", we use the possessive "ár" (our). "Ár" causes eclipsis on nouns, and "cionn" is a noun (it's a form of "ceann", meaning "head"). So "above us" is "os ar gcionn" (meaning literally "above our head").


When counting aloud, the numbers one to twenty in Irish are as follows:

0. - náid 11. - a haon déag
1. - a haon 12. - dó déag
2. - a dó 13. - a trí déag
3. - a trí 14. - a ceithear dúag
4. - a ceathair 15. - a cúig déag
5. - a cúig 16. - a sé déag
6. - a sé 17. - a seacht déag
7. - a seacht 18. - a hocht déag
8. - a hocht 19. - a naoi déag
9. - a naoi 20. - fiche
10. - a deich 21. - fiche a haon;
22. fiche a dó, etc.
30. - tríocha 40. - daichead
50. - caoga 60. - seasca
70. - seachtó 80. - ochtó
90. - nócha 100. - cead
101. - cead a haon 120. - cead is fiche
230. - dhá chead is tr&ieacute;ocha 231. - dhá chead tríocha a haon
1,000 - míle 3,972. - trí mhíle, naoi gcéad seachtó a dó
10,000 - deich míle 1,000,000 - milliún

The prefix "a" (which puts "h" before a numeral beginning with a vowel) is used when counting aloud, in arithmetic, in telling the time, in naming telephone numbers, in betting, and as ordinals after nouns (e.g. seomra a dó -- Room 2; ceacht a cúig déag -- Lesson Fifteen etc.)

This prefix is omitted in card games ("an t-aon hart", the ace of hearts), in denoting frequency ("thit sé faoi dh&oeacute;", he fell twice), to specify a definite number ("scrios amach an ceathair", cross out the 4), or to indicate a choice of two numbers ("lá nó dhó", a day or two).

Before a noun, all the numbers are as above (except for "dó", which becomes "dhá", and "ceithear", which becomes "ceithre") and leave out the "h". No matter what the number is, the noun following it is always in the singular, e.g. "aon chapall", one horse, "dhá chapall", two horses, etc. (Adjectives modifying these nouns, however, are always plural). Numbers one to six cause aspiration on the noun and numbers seven to ten cause eclipsis (e.g. "seacht gcapall", seven horses). In higher numbers, the noun is placed between the two parts of the number, e.g. "trí chapall déag", thirteen horses, "ocht gcapall déag", eighteen horses. The exception to this is the multiples of ten like "fiche", twenty, "tr&ieacute;ocha", thirty, etc.; these are single words and have no effect on the following noun.

An older, more traditionally Celtic form of counting is by multiples of "fichid", twenty:

"trí chapall ar fhichid", 23 horses,
"trí fichid capall", 60 horses,
"sé fichid capall" 120 horses, etc.

Ordinal Numbers

The ordinal numbers are as follows:

an chéad -- the 1st
an dara -- the 2nd
an triú -- the 3rd
an ceathrú -- the 4th
an cúigiú -- the 5th
an séú -- the 6th
an séachtú -- the 7th
an t-ochtú -- the 8th
an naoú -- the 9th
an deichiú -- the 10th

As with the cardinal numbers, ordinals after "tenth" put a noun in between two parts of the number, and in ordinals ending in "1st" or "2nd" have different forms. For example "the eleventh day" is "an t-aonú lá déag", "the twelfth day" is "an dóú lá déag", "the thirteenth day" is "an triú lá déag", etc.

Normally the possessive adjective isn't used with an ordinal -- instead of saying "mo chéad mhac", for instance, you would say "an chéad mhac aige".

Personal Numerals

A feature unique to Irish is the existence of numbers referring to people alone. One person can be referred to as "duine" or "aon duine amháin", but for higher numbers of people there are special numerals:

beirt / dís = two people
triúr = three people
ceathrar = four people
cúigear = five people
seisear = six people
seachtar = seven people
ochtar = eight people
naonúr = nine people
deichniúr = ten people
aon duine dhéag = eleven people
dáréag = twelve people

For numbers of people higher than twelve, the ordinary system of numbering is used:

"13 people" is "trí dhuine dhéag", etc.

These personal numerals can qualify a personal noun, or stand alone, e.g.:

beirt -- two people
beirt fhear -- two men
bhí triúr ann -- there were three people there
bhí triúr ghasúr ann -- there were three boys there

The personal numerals can't be used in front of impersonal nouns at all, but can be used standing alone to refer to impersonal objects in counting, e.g.:

Q. Cá mhéad leabhar atá agat? -- How many books do you have?
A. Ceathrar. -- Four.

"Ceann" in counting

The Irish equivalent of the English word "one"v in counting (as used in phrases like "ten big ones", etc.) is "ceann", literally "head". The cardinal numeral two has the effect of aspirating it and numbers seven to ten eclipse it. Unlike regular nouns following numbers, "ceann" is put in the plural ("cinn") from number three up:

Q. Cá mhéad? -- How many?
A. Dhá cheann. -- Two.
A. Trí cinn. -- Three.
A. Seacht gcinn. -- Seven.

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