Over 3000 new Irish words are being created every year. However, out of all the Irish words, the verbs are one of the most significant to the Irish language because Irish is a verb-subject-object language, also known as a VSO. However, English would be a subject-verb-object language. The verbs play such a consequential role which is why some special rules and exceptions go with the verbs to make the words flow nicely. Amongst the languages of the World, only about 8% of numerous languages that exist today use the verb-subject-object style.
An example of how this sentence structure operates is that in English ‘she called him’ would be translated to ‘ghlaoigh sí sé’. However, if this was directly translated into English, it would be ‘called she him.’ Therefore, you would imagine that using Google translate for Irish is a bit awkward which is why Irish teachers generally advise against using Google translate for Irish sentences, which does make the language that bit harder to learn. However, learning Irish is attainable and if you want to learn the application of verbs or you might even be a Leaving Cert student that needs to brush up on the rules surrounding the verbs.
This article will outline the main rules surrounding the regular verbs in the past, present and future tense.
Where are the Verbs Relevant in the Leaving Cert?
The obvious answer to this question is everywhere. In fact, when you start your journey of learning Irish, one of the first things you learn is how to apply the Irish verbs correctly. If you are assessed in an scrúdú Gaeilge, as it is called in Irish, one of the first exams would be focused on your ability to construct a sentence in the verb-subject-object format. To begin, the oral is the first component of the Gaeilge Leaving Cert exam that you would do, consisting of 40%, and clearly, to answer the questions asked by the examiner, you need to use your verbs. Questions will be asked in the past, past and future tense, and for some, questions would also be asked in the conditional tense, known as ‘modh coinníollach.’
Secondly, the aural exam is the next component of the exam to be done, worth 10%. While the answers written for the aural are quite short, some must be written in a sentence. For example, the question could ask what Neasa did yesterday morning and the answer could be she ran to the school, which is translated as rith sí go dtí an scoil. Notably, this is directly translated as ran she to the school. The verb would be ran, the subject would be she, and the object would be the school.
Moreover, verbs are embedded all over the written exam. In Paper One, the written composition consists of a blog, story, letter, email, and conversation for Ordinary Level, and an essay, newspaper, story, debate and speech for Higher Level. In each of these, the answer would be quite lengthy and will generally consist of more than 20 verbs. The bigger the variety of verbs, the better because it shows a non-repetitive piece, which can easily stand out.
In Paper Two for Higher Level, the last question of the reading comprehensions requires students to give two points in an answer of about 60 of their own words. These points given in the students’ own words would incorporate a few verbs to illustrate their point. Undeniably, the second half of Paper Two, which is the poems, stories, films, drama or literary piece, would consist of over 40 verbs, with some being repeated a few times in different tenses.
Overall, this shows that without a knowledge of the verbs and how they operate in Irish, then there really is no point in advancing further in learning the language. By the way, it is okay to forget how a particular verb or tense works from time to time, but it is essential to brush up on them and ensure that you know how the verbs and their varying tenses work before you go into the Leaving Cert or even Junior Cert exam.
Therefore, this article will focus on basic regular verbs in the past, present and future tense. While the conditional tense can be asked to a few students doing the Junior or Leaving Cert oral exam, it does follow a special set of rules, so it will not be covered in this article. In fact, some teachers just tell students to learn a few verb examples in the first person to use if they are asked a ‘modh coinníollach’ question!
What are the Rules for Past Tense Irish Verbs?
There are four categories of verbs in Irish. The first type is broad vowels of usually one syllable. The second type is slender vowels of usually one syllable. The third type is broad vowels of usually two syllables, and the fourth type is slender vowels of usually two syllables. Words of one syllable usually just add an ‘h.’ For example, ‘cuir’ which means ‘to put,’ would be ‘chuir’ in the past tense, and ‘mol,’ which means ‘to praise’ would be ‘mhol’ in the past tense.
However, for the ‘we’ part ‘amar’ is added for type 1 verbs and ‘eamar’ is added for type 2 verbs according to the rule ‘caol le caol agus leathan le leathan.’ The former means slender, and the latter means broad. Basically, a, o, u is broad and i, e is slender. So, ‘cuir,’ being slender, would change to ‘chuireamar’ to mean we put in the past tense and ‘mol,’ being broad, would change to ‘mholamar’ to mean we praised.
Similarly, the two-syllable words also take ‘h’ to change into past tense and for the ‘we’ part, type 3 verbs take ‘íomar’ and type 4 verbs take ‘aíomar.’ ‘Tosaigh’ which means ‘to start’ would become ‘thosaíomar’ which means ‘we started,’ and ‘bailigh,’ meaning ‘to collect,’ would become ‘bhailíomar’ for ‘we collected.’ Notably, they lose the ‘aigh’ and ‘igh’ for the ‘we’ part. Also, there are irregular verbs that have their own rules like ‘dean,’ meaning ‘to do,’ which changes to ‘rinne’ to mean ‘we did.’ However, I will just focus on the regular verbs. The passive tense for when it is unknown who did the action also has special rules which will not be covered in this article.
What are the Rules for Present Tense Irish Verbs?
In the present tense, there is no ‘h’ at all for regular verbs. For the ‘I’ part, type 1 verbs take an ‘aim’ and type 2 verbs take an ‘im.’ So, ‘mol’ becomes ‘molaim’ for ‘I praise’ and ‘cuir’ becomes ‘cuirim’ for ‘I put’ in the present tense. Also, ‘tosaigh’ becomes ‘tosaím’ to mean ‘I start’ and ‘bailigh’ becomes ‘bailím’ to mean ‘I collect.’ Observing the change, you can tell that the rules applied for two-syllable words are that Type 3 take an ‘aím’ and type 4 take a ‘ím’ and similar to the past tense, the ‘aigh’ and ‘igh’ is dropped for the ‘I’ part.
For the ‘we’ part, type 1 verbs take an ‘aimid’ and type 2 verbs take an ‘imid.’ Therefore, ‘mol’ becomes ‘molaimid’ to mean ‘we praise’ and ‘cuir’ becomes ‘cuirimid’ for ‘we put’ in the present tense. Two-syllable words drop the ‘aigh’ and ‘igh’ with type 3 verbs taking an ‘aímid’ and type 4 verbs taking a ‘ímid.’ This way, ‘tosaigh’ changes to ‘tosaímid’ meaning ‘we start’ and ‘bailigh’ changes to ‘bailímid’ meaning ‘we collect.’
For the ‘you/he/her/they’ part, type 1 verbs take ‘ann’ and type 2 verbs take ‘eann’ which is why ‘mol’ becomes ‘molann siad’ for ‘they praise’ and ‘cuir’ becomes ‘cuireann siad’ for ‘they put.’ Two-syllable words still drop the ‘aigh’ and ‘igh’ but type 3 verbs take an ‘aíonn’ and type 4 verbs take a ‘íonn.’ So ‘tosaigh’ becomes ‘tosaíonn siad’ for ‘they start’ and ‘bailigh’ becomes ‘bailíonn siad’ for ‘they collect.’
What are the Rules for Future Tense Irish Verbs?
In the future tense, there is no ‘h’ at all for regular verbs. Type 1 verbs take a ‘faidh’ and type 2 verbs take a ‘fidh.’ This rule changes ‘mol’ to ‘molfaidh’ and ‘cuir’ to ‘cuirfidh’ to mean ‘will praise’ and ‘will put’ respectively. Again, two-syllable words drop the ‘aigh’ and ‘igh’ but pick up ‘óidh’ for type 3 verbs and ‘ífidh’ for type 4 verbs. Hence, ‘tosaigh’ becomes ‘tosóidh’ and ‘bailigh’ becomes ‘bailífidh’ to mean ‘will start’ and ‘will collect’ respectively. The ‘we’ aspect adds ‘faimid’ to type 1 verbs and ‘fimid’ to type 2 verbs so ‘mol’ becomes ‘molfaimid’ and ‘cuir’ becomes ‘cuirfimid.’ Conversely, type 3 adopts ‘óimid’ and type 4 adopts ‘ífimid,’ so ‘tosaigh’ becomes ‘tosóimid’ and ‘bailigh’ becomes ‘bailífimid.’
Studying the Verbs with Superprof
Wrap your head around these complex verb rules with the help of a Superprof tutor!
As seen from the examples above, the verbs are very complex and need a lot of time to get around, given the many rules and exceptions to the rules. This article has covered the regular verbs in the past, present and future tense. On top of the online resources available, Superprof Irish tutors are available to teach you the verbs in these tenses, as well as the conditional and imperfect tenses.
The passive tense to describe when something is done carries special rules and a Superprof tutor could guide your understanding of these rules and also teach you how to conjugate irregular verbs into different tenses. By the tutors adopting different teaching styles, you can find a Superprof tutor that suits your learning abilities for you to get familiar with the Irish verbs. You could also go through the Leaving Cert syllabus with them to ensure that you have an adequate guide to the Irish Leaving Cert.
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