Irish Lesson 5.

Idiomatic Uses of "ar", cont'd.

i) Debt

"Ar" can be used with "ag" and a form of "tá" to express the concept of owing money, or owing anything else for that matter:

Tá punt agam ort. You owe me a pound.
Tá punt aici orm. I owe her a pound.

"Ag" goes with the person being owed, and "ar" with the person who has to pay up. This is easier to remember if you think of the English expression "I have something on you".

ii) Obligation

"Ar" can be used to express obligation using a form of "tá" and an "infinitive" verb. The infinitive is the indefinite form of the verb which in English is preceded by the word "to" and which is used when there are two verbs in a sentence, e.g.:

I want to be alone.
- [verb 1] - [verb 2;infinitive] -
He doesn't know - how to speak English.
- [verb 1] - [verb 2; infinitive] -

The infinitive in Irish is also used as the second verb in a sentence. It is formed easily by taking the verbal noun and dropping the "ag". For example:

  Tá orm... -- I have to...
+ ag imeacht -- leaving
(take away "ag" to form infinitive)
= Tá orm imeacht. -- I have to leave.

  Bhí orainn... -- We had to...
+ ag dul -- going
(take away "ag" to form infinitive)
= Bhí orainn dul. -- We had to go.

As you can see, if what we are trying to say is "I have to..." then in Irish we express it as "is on-me..." Note that there is no subject pronoun as such -- we don't say "tá sé orm", for example.

Additional Idiom with "ag"

A handy "ag" expression I forgot to mention previously is "tá suim agam", which means "I am interested":

Tá suim agam i nGaeilge. -- I am interested in the Irish language.

Incidentally you should know have enough Irish to translate the following devout proverb:

Tá Dia láidir agus máthair mhaith aige.

All these words you have met before, except for "Dia", God.

Prepostional Pronouns of "i"

The combined forms for the word "i" (in) are:

i + mé = ionam
i + tú = ionat
i + sé = ann
i + sí = inti
i + muid = ionainn
i + sibh = ionaibh
i + siad = iontu

Most of these forms are not very common (tho' you do see expressions like "tá suim agam inti" -- "I am interested in her" etc.) but the masculine form "ann" is by far the most important of the lot. The reason is because it's often used idiomatically to express a kind of metaphysical quality of "being there" in certain statements. One of these idioms involves using "ann" as a replacement for English "there" (and instead of the specific Irish word "ansin"):

Bhí mé ann inné. I was there yesterday.
Tá banc agus eaglais ann. There's a bank and a church there.

"Ann" is also used to talk about the weather: instead of "it's raining", one would say "rain is in it":

Tá baisteach ann. It is raining. (báisteach [f.], "rain")


Tá ceo ann. It's foggy. (ceo [m.], "fog")
Tá gaoth ann. It's windy. (gaoth [f.], "wind")

-- which is an odd expression, but then again so is "it's raining"
(what's raining?)

"Ann" is also often seen after the word "atá", which is a combination of "a" (a relative pronoun, not to be confused with the possessive "a") and the verb "tá". "Atá" means "which is", "who is", or "that is", as in "the man who is here", "the house that is blue", etc. For example:

an duine atá ag dul the man that is going
an leabhar atá ar an mbord the book that is on the table
an fear atá anseo the man who is here

When "atá ann" is used after a noun, however, it can't really translated into English. In one of the stage directions at the beginning of an act in an Irish play there is this sentence:

"(An tráthnóna atá ann)." (It is afternoon).

Literally this sentence means "the afternoon that is in-it". "Ann" conveys the same kind of out-there quality in this case as it does with the weather in the examples above.

"i" + possessive pronoun, part 2

A couple of lessons back phrases like "tá sé ina thost" for "he is silent" and "bhí mé i mo shuí" for "I was sitting" were introduced. The combination of "i" plus a possessive pronoun is also used to join two nouns together, for example when trying to say that thing A is thing B. From the same Irish play mentioned above ("An Giall" (The Hostage) by Brendan Behan) there are these sentences:

"Bhí a athair ina easpag." -- His father was a bishop.
"Ní raibh sé ina chorporal, ach ina ghinearál." -- He was not a corporal, but a general.

In the first example Thing A is "a athair", his father, and Thing B is "easpag", a bishop. To join them we say that "his father was in his bishop", which sounds a bit surreal or even giggle-inducing but which just means "his father was a bishop". The literal translation of the second sentence, then, is "He was not in-his corporal, but in-his general", where Thing A is "he" and Things B are "corporal" and "general", respectively. Note how "corporal" and "ginearál" are aspirated by "ina", which refers back to "sé" and is masculine. If it were a woman being referred to, one would say "ní raibh sí ina corporal, ach ina ginearál" without the aspiration, following the rules for possessives we learned earlier.

This idiom is not confined to linking people with their professions or with their identities; in the Irish Bible there's a good example of it being used with inanimate nouns as well:

"Beidh teach Iacóib ina thine, (tine [f.], "fire")
agus beidh teach Iósaef ina lasair; (lasair [f.], "blaze")
ach beidh teach Éasau ina choinleach." (coinleach [m.], "rubble")

Notice that "tine" and "coinleach" are aspirated; this is because the "a" in "ina" is a masculine possessive pronoun, which in turn is due to the fact that "teach" (Thing A) is a masculine noun. The translation of the above passage is

"The house of Jacob will be a fire,
and the house of Joseph will be a blaze;
but the house of Esau will be rubble." (Ob. 1:18)

... but as usual, the literal meaning of the Irish version is "the house of Jacob will be in-its fire, / and the house of Joseph will be in-its blaze, / but the house of Esau will be in-its rubble."


"Le" means "with" (among other things) and is another hard-working Irish preposition like "ag" and "ar":

Tá siad sa teach le Seán. They are in the house with Sean.
An raibh tú le Tomás aréir? Were you with Thomas last night?

Note that it adds a small "h" to words beginning with a vowel:

le hEibhlín -- with Eibhlin

"Le" also means "by" when speaking of authorship:

leabhar le James Joyce -- a book by James Joyce

You can use it to express a length of time (note the use of the present tense in these examples):

tá muid anseo le bliain -- we have been here a year
(bliain, [f.])
tá Seán in Éirinn le mí. -- Sean has been in Ireland a month.
(mí, [f.])
tá Liam abhaile le seachtain. -- Liam has been home for a week.
(seachtain, [f.])

When "le" comes before the definite article "an" it changes to "leis" and, like "ar" and "ag", causes eclipsis on the noun (except with nouns beginning with "t" or "d"):

leis an gcailin -- with the girl
leis an mbuachaill -- with the boy


leis an taoiseach -- with the leader (taoiseach, [m.])
leis an dochtúir -- with the doctor (dochtúir, [m.])

As with "ag an" and "ar an", some people use aspiration instead of eclipsis after "leis an".

Le + Personal Pronoun

The combined (prepositional pronoun) forms are:

le + mé = liom (with me)
le + tú = leat (with you)
le + sé = leis (with him)
le + sí = léi (with her)
le + muid = linn (with us)
le + sibh = libh (with you)
le + siad = leo (with them)

Verbs with "le"

Some verbs require "le" to complete their meanings, e.g.

ag rá le -- saying to
ag súil le -- expecting
ag cuidiú le -- helping (someone)
ag bualadh le -- meeting (someone)
ag labhairt le -- speaking to, speaking with
ag éisteacht le -- listening to

Bhí sí ag éisteacht leis an raidió -- she was listening to the radio
Beidh siad ag bualadh léi ansin. -- They'll be meeting her there.
Nach raibh sé ag labhairt libh inniu? -- Wasn't he speaking with you today?
An mbeidh sé ag súil leat? -- Will he be expecting you?

There are oodles more idioms involving "le" but they'll have to wait until later.

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