Irish Lesson 3.

Possessive Pronouns

The possessive pronouns in Irish correspond to the English pronouns, "my", "your", "his", etc. Each one can affect a following word by either aspiration or eclipsis.

Pronoun Meaning What it does
mo my causes aspiration on the next word; becomes "m'" before a vowel
do your causes aspiration on the next word; becomes "d'" before a vowel
a his causes aspiration on the next word
a her puts "h" on a word beginning with a vowel; no other effect
ár our causes eclipsis on the next word; puts "n-" before a word beginning with a vowel
bhur your [pl.] causes eclipsis on the next word; puts "n-" before a word beginning with a vowel
a their causes eclipsis on the next word; puts "n-" before a word beginning with a vowel

Note especially the ambiguity of "a", which can mean either "his", "her", or "their". It is the effect on the following word that will usually demonstrate which sense the pronoun has, but occasionally (e.g. before a non-aspirable and non-eclipsable consonant) there won't be any change in the following word and at those times you'll have to rely on context alone.

Here are some examples using the words "teach" (house) and "árasán" (flat, apartment):

mo theach -- my house m'árasán -- my flat
do theach -- your house d'árasán -- your flat
a theach -- his house a árasán -- his flat
a teach -- her house a hárasán -- her flat
ár dteach -- our house ár n-árasán -- our flat
bhur dteach -- your house bhur n-árasán -- your flat
a dteach -- their house a n-árasán -- their flat

etc.

Residence

To state where you live, you can use a form of "tá" along with the phrase "i mo chónaí". "Cónaí" is a masculine noun meaning dwelling or residence; "i mo chónaí" therefore means "in my residence". (The eclipsing word "i", which has been mentioned before, means "in"; it is, coincidentally, also spelt "in" when it comes before a vowel).

Tá mé i mo chónaí i dToronto. I live in Toronto.
Bhí tú i do chónaí i mBaile átha Cliath. You lived in Dublin.
Tá mé i mo chónaí in Arizona. I live in Arizona.

The possessive pronoun "a" (his, her, their) and the first person plural possessive "ár" combine with "i" to form "ina" and "inar", respectively:

Tá sí ina chónaí in Éirinn. She lives in Ireland.
Tá muid inar gcónaí i Nua-Eabhrac. We live in New York.
An raibh siad ina gcónaí i mBoston? Were they living in Boston?

Indefinite Article

This is a bit of a deceptive heading, as there is no indefinite article in Irish corresponding to English "a" or "an". So the word "teach", for example, can mean either "house" or "a house".

Some Other Uses of "i"

The preposition "i" is sometimes used for an idiomatic rendering of continuous action which involves particular verbal nouns. Instead of saying "I am sitting" -- tá mé ag suí (where "suí" is the verbal noun for "sitting") -- you instead say "I am in my sitting": tá mé i mo shuí. A similar construction can be used with nouns. For example, "tost" is a masculine noun meaning "silence"; "he is silent" is rendered as "he is in his silence", tá sé ina thost. There is no hard and fast rule for the use of this construction as far as I know; but in any case one becomes used to it when it appears in texts, conversations, etc.

Saying "in the..."

When expressing "in the", the word "i" is not used; instead, a special form called "sa" takes over. It causes aspiration except to words beginning with d, s, and t:

sa chistin in the kitchen (cistin, [f.])
sa ghairdín in the garden (gairdín, [m.])

but:

sa teach in the house  
sa dorchadas in the darkness (dorchadas, [m.])
sa seomra in the room (seomra, [m.])

The Preposition "ag"

"Ag" just means "at" and, in addition to appearing sometimes in front of the verbal noun, it has a life of its own in which it serves the same functions of its English equivalent:

ag an teach -- at the house
ag an doras -- at the door

However, this combination of "ag" plus "an" causes eclipsis -- the only exceptions being, in this case, words beginning with "d" and "t", as in the examples above. The other eclipsable consonants however are still changed:

ag an bhfuinneog -- at the window (fuinneog, [f.])
ag an mbanc -- at the bank (banc, [m.])
ag an gcoláiste -- at the college (coláiste, [m.])

Note that both feminine and masculine nouns are affected in the same way -- there is no distinction of gender after "an" as there usually is. This is a direct result of "ag" acting upon the noun.

Idioms with "ag"

i) "to have"

Oddly enough, Irish has no real verb that corresponds with the verb "to have" in English. To say in Irish that someone has something, you must say that something is "at" someone. This of course is where "ag" comes in:

Tá teach ag Séamas. -- James has a house.

The Irish here literally means "there is a house at James". Now, if you want to use "ag" with a personal pronoun and say that "I have", "you have", "he has", etc., you can't just put "ag" in front of "mé", "tú", "sé", etc. The word "ag" combines with each personal pronoun to form a distinct entity called a "prepositional pronoun":

ag + mé = agam Tá leabhar agam. I have a book.
ag + tú = agat Tá leabhar agat. You have a book.
ag + sé = aige Tá leabhar aige. He has a book.
ag + sí = aici Tá leabhar aici. She has a book.
ag + muid = againn Tá leabhar againn. We have a book.
ag + sibh = agaibh Tá leabhar agaibh. You (pl.) have a book.
ag + siad = acu Tá leabhar acu. They have a book.

Examples:

Tá teach mór acu. They have a big house.
An bhfuil mac aige? Does he have a son?
Bhí arán againn. We had bread. [etc.]

In Irish, if you want to say that you or someone else can speak a certain language, you have to use the above method and say that the language is "at" the person in question:

Tá Gaeilge agam. I speak ["have"] Gaelic.
Tá Béarla aici amháin. She only speaks ["has"] English.

ii) "to know"

"Ag" is also used to express the equivalent of "to know", a verb which also does not appear in Irish. The construction for "I know" is "its knowledge is at me". The word for "knowledge" is the masculine noun "fios"; the pronoun for "its" is, as we learned before, "a" which in this case aspirates "fios":

Tá a fhios ag Síle. -- Sheila knows. (lit: its knowledge is at Sheila)
Tá a fhios againn. -- We know. (lit: its knowledge is at us)
An bhfuil a fhios aici? -- Did she know? (was its knowledge at her?)

iii) "fond of"

The way to say that someone is fond of something is that "dúil" ([f.], "liking, urge") is "at" someone "in" something; for example, "I am fond of beer" becomes "Liking is at me in beer", or in Irish:

Tá dúil agam sa leann. (leann [m.], "ale, beer")

There are even more of these little ag-inspired gems but they will have to wait for another lesson.

Adjective & Noun Agreement

You've already been introduced to sentences using "tá" to join a noun with an adjective, similar in form to "tá an oíche fuar", "the night is cold". As in English, the noun and adjective in this sentence are separated by "tá" or "is" and so they do not affect each other. But when an adjective is placed directly beside an noun (as in the English phrases "cold night", "sunny day", "big house" etc.) the adjective in Irish will be aspirated if the noun it's next to is feminine. In the example above, "oíche" (meaning "night") is feminine, and yet "fuar" (meaning "cold") is not aspirated because "tá" separates the noun from the adjective. When they are placed together, however, "fuar" is aspirated:

oíche fhuar -- cold night

Another example of this is the phrase "Oíche mhaith!", meaning literally "good night" and corresponding to the English expression.

Masculine nouns qualified by adjectives are not affected in this way, e.g. lá fuar, a cold day.

Féin

The word "féin" is used for emphasis, and can be used in two ways. One is as a reinforcement for a personal pronoun, corresponding to the English word "-self":

Bhí mé féin ag an teach inné. I myself was at the house last night.

After a noun, it can convey the sense of one's "own":

mo theach féin -- my own house;
ár leabhar féin -- our own book

The name of the Irish political party Sinn Féin incorporates this word and literally just means, "We Ourselves" -- "sinn" is an alternative form for "muid".

Adverbs

Generally an adjective can be turned into an adverb by adding the word "go" before it:

maith -- good go maith -- well
réidh -- smooth go réidh -- smoothly

"Go" adds an "h" to any adjective beginning with a vowel:

áirithe -- particular; go háirithe -- particularly

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