Irish declension

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The declension of Irish nouns, the definite article, and the adjectives is discussed on this page. (For pronouns, see Irish morphology.)

Nouns[edit]

Gender[edit]

Nouns in Irish are divided into two genders, masculine and feminine. While gender should be learned when the noun is learned, there are some rules that can be followed:

In general, words ending in a broad consonant are masculine, while words ending in a slender consonant are feminine.

There are some exceptions, mostly dealing with specific endings and suffixes; for example, words ending in -óir/-eoir and -ín (with a slender /ɾʲ/ and /nʲ/ respectively) are masculine, while words ending in -óg/-eog (with a broad /ɡ/) are feminine. This leads to some unexpected gender assignments, such as cailín "girl" (masculine) and gasóg "boy scout" (feminine).

Case[edit]

Irish has four cases: common (usually called nominative, but it covers the role of an accusative as well), vocative, genitive, and dative.

Nominative[edit]

The nominative is used in the following functions:

  1. Sentence subject
    Tá an cat ag ól. "The cat is drinking."
  2. Sentence object
    Bhris Seán an fhuinneog. "Seán broke the window."
  3. Predicate of the copula
    Is amadán é. "He is an idiot."
  4. Object of the prepositions gan "without" and go dtí "up to"
    gan an t-airgead "without the money"
    go dtí an t-am "up to the time"

Vocative[edit]

The vocative is used in direct address, and is always preceded by the particle a, which triggers lenition. (In spoken Irish this particle is often omitted, especially before a vowel sound.) The first declension is the only declension in which the vocative is distinct from the nominative.

  • Cá bhfuil tú, a mhic? "Where are you, son?"
  • A Sheáin, tar anseo! "Seán, come here!"

Genitive[edit]

The genitive indicates possession and material of composition:

  • hata an fhir "the man's hat"
  • clann na mná "the woman's children"
  • coinnleoirí an easpaig "the bishop's candelabra"
  • fáinne óir "a ring of gold, a golden ring"
  • bróga leathair "shoes of leather, leather shoes"

The object of a verbal noun also requires the genitive:

  • ag caitheamh airgid "spending money"

The object of a compound preposition is in the genitive. Formally, these prepositions are actually prepositional phrases.

  • ar chúl an dorais "behind the door" (lit. "on the back of the door")
  • ar feadh míosa "one month long" (lit. "for the duration of one month")
  • ar son na hÉireann "for Ireland's sake"

Dative[edit]

The dative is used with the object of most simple prepositions except gan and go dtí. In the standard language, the dative of a noun is identical to the nominative, but some dialects have distinct datives in the second and fifth declensions. Even in the standard language, Éire "Ireland" has a distinct dative: Éirinn.

  • ag an athair "at the father"
  • as an teach "out of the house"
  • ar an arán "on the bread"
  • in oráiste "in an orange"
  • go hifreann "to hell"
  • leis an airgead "with the money"
  • ó Éirinn "from Ireland"

Declension[edit]

There are five recognized declensions in Irish. The makeup of the declensions depends on three factors:

  1. the gender of the noun
  2. the formation of the genitive singular
  3. relation of genitive singular to nominative plural

The following chart describes the characteristics of each declension class:

Nom. sing. ends with: Gen. sing. ends with: Gender
First declension Broad consonant Slender consonant Masculine
Second declension Broad or slender consonant -e/-í Feminine
Third declension Slender or broad consonant -a Masculine or feminine
Fourth declension Vowel or -ín (no change) Masculine or feminine
Fifth declension Vowel or slender consonant Broad consonant Mostly feminine

First[edit]

The first declension is made up of masculine nouns. The nominative singular ends in a broad consonant, which is made slender in the genitive singular. The most common formation of the plural has the opposite pattern: the nominative ends in a slender consonant, the genitive in a broad consonant (these plurals are known as weak plurals in comparison with strong plurals which maintain the identical form for all cases in the plural). The dative is identical to the nominative in both numbers, although an obsolete dative plural in -aibh is still sometimes encountered in old-fashioned literary style.

bád "boat" Singular Plural
Nominative bád /bˠaːd̪ˠ/ báid /bˠaːdʲ/
Vocative a bháid /ə waːdʲ/ a bháda /ə waːd̪ˠə/
Genitive báid /bˠaːdʲ/ bád /bˠaːd̪ˠ/
Dative bád /bˠaːd̪ˠ/ báid (obsolete bádaibh)

When /x/ in the gen. sing. and nom. pl. of a polysyllabic word is made slender, it also becomes voiced, thus:

  • /x/ > /ç/ > /j/. The resulting /əj/ is written -(a)igh and is pronounced /iː/, /ə/, or /əɟ/, depending on dialect.
marcach "a horseman" Singular Plural
Nominative marcach /mˠaɾˠkəx/ marcaigh /mˠaɾˠkiː/ ~
/mˠaɾˠkə/ ~ /mˠaɾˠkəɟ/
Vocative a mharcaigh /ə waɾˠkiː/ ~
/ə waɾˠkə/ ~ /ə waɾˠkəɟ/
a mharcacha /ə waɾˠkəxə/
Genitive marcaigh /mˠaɾˠkiː/ ~
/mˠaɾˠkə/ ~ /mˠaɾˠkəɟ/
marcach /mˠaɾˠkəx/
Dative marcach /mˠaɾˠkəx/ marcaigh (obsolete marcachaibh)

Some nouns undergo a vowel change before the slender consonant of the genitive singular/nominative plural:

  • ball, baill /bˠaːɫ̪, bˠailʲ/ - an (internal) organ, component part
  • bonn, boinn /bˠuːn̪ˠ, bˠiːnʲ/ - a sole, coin
  • ceann, cinn /caːn̪ˠ, ciːnʲ/ - a head
  • fear, fir - a man
  • iasc, éisc - a fish
  • mac, mic /mˠak, mʲɪc/ - a son (Note: The first consonant is made slender in the gen.sg./nom.pl. as well!)
  • poll, poill /pˠoːɫ̪, pˠailʲ/ - a hole

Many words of this declension form the plural with one of the endings -(a)í, -ta, -tha, -anna. These are known as "strong plural" endings, which means the plural is identical in all cases in the standard language. Some examples:

  • aonach, gen. sg. aonaigh, pl. aontaí - a fair
  • bealach, gen. sg. bealaigh, pl. bealaí - a way
  • carr /kaːɾˠ/, gen. sg. cairr /kaːɾˠ/, pl. carranna /kaɾˠən̪ˠə/ - a car
  • glór, gen. sg. glóir, pl. glórtha - a voice
  • leanbh, gen. sg. linbh, pl. leanaí - a child
  • néal, gen. sg. néil, pl. néalta - a cloud
  • rós, gen. sg. róis, pl. rósanna - a rose
  • samhradh, gen. sg. samhraidh, pl. samhraí - a summer
  • scéal, gen. sg. scéil, pl. scéalta - a story
  • toradh, gen. sg. toraidh, pl. torthaí - fruit

Some nouns have a weak plural (a plural where the genitive is different from the nominative, and is identical to the form of the nominative singular) in -a:

  • ceart, gen. sg. cirt, nom. pl. cearta, gen. pl. ceart - a right
  • cleas, gen. sg. clis, nom. pl. cleasa, gen. pl. cleas - a trick
  • úll, gen. sg. úill, nom. pl. úlla, gen. pl. úll - an apple

Other strong plural formations are found in:

  • bóthar, bóthair; bóithre - road
  • breitheamh, breithimh; breithiúna - judge
  • briathar, briathair; briathra - verb
  • cloigeann, cloiginn; cloigne - skull
  • doras, dorais; doirse - door
  • ollamh, ollaimh; ollúna - professor
  • solas, solais; soilse - light

Second[edit]

The second declension is made up of mostly feminine nouns, and features a nominative singular form that can end in either a broad or a slender consonant. The genitive singular ends in a slender consonant followed by -e. The most common plural form has a broad consonant followed by -a in the nominative, and a broad consonant alone in the genitive. The vocative is the same as the nominative, as is the dative in the standard language.

bróg "shoe" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative bróg /bˠɾˠoːɡ/ bróga /ˈbˠɾˠoːɡə/
Genitive bróige /ˈbˠɾˠoːɟə/ bróg /bˠɾˠoːɡ/
Dative bróg /bˠɾˠoːɡ/
 (obsolete/dialectal bróig)
bróga /ˈbˠɾˠoːɡə/
 (obsolete brógaibh)
deoir "tear" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative deoir /dʲoːɾʲ/ deora /ˈdʲoːɾˠə/
Genitive deoire /ˈdʲoːɾʲə/ deor /dʲoːɾˠ/

In Connacht Irish and Waterford Irish it is often the case that all nouns of the second declension in the nom. sg. end with a slender consonant (e.g. bróig "a shoe").

In some Munster varieties as well as the old literary language, the dative singular is distinct and ends in a slender consonant alone (in effect the dative sg. is formed by dropping the -e from the genitive sg.), e.g. i mo bhróig "in my shoe". (Historically, nominative forms like bróig are descended from the old dative.)

When /x/ in the gen. sing. is made slender, it is also voiced, so /x/ > /ç/ > /j/. /əjə/ becomes /iː/, and is written -(a)í.

girseach "little girl" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Std. dative girseach /ˈɟɪɾˠʃəx/ girseacha /ˈɟɪɾˠʃəxə/
Genitive girsí /ˈɟɪɾˠʃiː/ girseach /ˈɟɪɾˠʃəx/
Dative girseach /ˈɟɪɾˠʃəx/
 (obsolete/dialectal girsigh)
girseacha /ˈɟɪɾˠʃəxə/
 (obsolete girseachaibh)

Polysyllabic words that end with a slender consonant take a weak plural in :

eaglais "church" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative eaglais /ˈaɡɫ̪əʃ/ eaglaisí /ˈaɡɫ̪əʃiː/
Genitive eaglaise /ˈaɡɫ̪əʃə/ eaglaisí /ˈaɡɫ̪əʃiː/

Many words in this declension form a strong plural with one of the endings -t(h)a,-te, -(e)acha or -eanna:

  • áit, áite, áiteanna "place"
  • coill, coille, coillte /kailʲ, ˈkelʲə, ˈkailʲtʲə/ "forest"
  • iníon, iníne, iníonacha "daughter"
  • obair, oibre, oibreacha "work"
  • spéir, spéire, spéartha "sky"
  • tír, tíre, tíortha "country"
  • tonn, toinne, tonnta /t̪ˠuːn̪ˠ, t̪ˠɪnʲə, t̪ˠuːn̪ˠt̪ˠə/ "wave"
  • ubh, uibhe, uibheacha "egg"

Other strong plural formations are found in:

  • fiacail, fiacaile; fiacla - tooth
  • gualainn, gualainne; guaillí - shoulder
  • scian, scine; sceana - knife (NB irregular genitive singular)
  • sliabh, sléibhe; sléibhte (m.) - mountain (note irregular genitive singular and masculine gender)

Third[edit]

The third declension is made up of masculine and feminine nouns. It is characterized by the genitive singular in -a. The majority of nouns in this class form the plural in -(a)í. The final consonant of the stem may be broad or slender: it retains its quality in the plural, but is always broad in the genitive singular.

Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative broad or slender cons. -(a)í
Genitive broad cons. + -a -(a)í
bádóir (m.) "boatsman" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative bádóir /ˈbˠaːd̪ˠoːɾʲ/ badóirí /ˈbˠaːd̪ˠoːɾʲiː/
Genitive bádóra /ˈbˠaːd̪ˠoːɾˠə/ badóirí /ˈbˠaːd̪ˠoːɾʲiː/
rás (m.) "race" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative rás /ɾˠaːsˠ/ rásaí /ˈɾˠaːsˠiː/
Genitive rása /ˈɾˠaːsˠə/ rásaí /ˈɾˠaːsˠiː/

Feminine nouns in -áint and -úint lose their t in the gen. sg.; those in -irt have -th- instead of -t- in the gen. sg.

  • bagairt, bagartha, bagairtí (f.) "threat"
  • canúint, canúna, canúintí (f.) "dialect"

Many words in this declension form the plural with one of the endings -anna or -acha:

  • am, ama, amanna (m.) /aːmˠ, ˈamˠə, ˈamˠən̪ˠə/ "time"
  • anam, anama, anamacha (m.) "soul"
  • droim, droma, dromanna (m.) /d̪ˠɾˠiːmʲ, ˈd̪ˠɾˠumə, ˈd̪ˠɾˠumən̪ˠə/ "back"
  • loch, locha, lochanna (m.) "lake"
  • troid, troda, troideanna (f.) "fight, struggle"

Some words in Munster Irish also have a separate dative form:

  • nom. drom, dat. droim, gen. droma, pl. dromanna (m.) /d̪ˠɾˠoumˠ, d̪ˠɾˠiːmʲ, ˈd̪ˠɾˠomə, ˈd̪ˠɾˠomˠən̪ˠə/ "back"

Fourth[edit]

The fourth declension is made up of masculine and feminine nouns. It is characterized by a genitive singular that is identical in form to the nominative/vocative/dative singular. The singular may end in a vowel or a consonant (usually the diminutive suffix -ín). The most common plural ending is -(a)í.

Singular Plural
All cases Vowel or consonant (usually -ín) -(a)í
balla (m.) "wall" Singular Plural
All cases balla /ˈbˠaɫ̪ə/ ballaí /ˈbˠaɫ̪iː/
comhairle (f.) "(piece of) advice" Singular Plural
All cases comhairle /ˈkoːɾˠlʲə/ comhairlí /ˈkoːɾˠlʲiː/
cailín (m.) "girl" Singular Plural
All cases cailín /ˈkalʲiːnʲ/ cailíní /ˈkalʲiːnʲiː/

Many words of this declension form the plural with the following endings -tha/-t(h)e, -((e)a)nna or -((e)a)cha:

  • ainmhí; ainmhithe (m.) "animal"
  • aturnae; aturnaetha (m.) "attorney"
  • baile; bailte (m.) "village"
  • bus; busanna (m.) "bus"
  • cliamhain; cliamhaineacha (m.) "son-in-law"
  • cneá; cneácha (f.) "wound, sore"
  • cnó; cnónna (m.) "nut"
  • cró; cróite (m.) "outhouse; eye of a needle"
  • dlí; dlíthe (m.) "law"
  • dosaen; dosaenacha (m.) "dozen"
  • ga; gathanna (m.) "ray, radius"
  • gé; géanna (f.) "goose"
  • léine; léine, léinte (f.) "shirt"
  • rá; ráite (m.) "saying"
  • rí; ríthe (m.) "king"
  • sloinne; sloinnte /ˈsˠɫ̪ɪnʲə, ˈsˠɫ̪iːnʲtʲə/ (m.) "last name"
  • teanga; teangacha (f.) "language, tongue"
  • tine; tinte (f.) "fire"

Other strong plural formations are found in:

  • ainm; ainmneacha (m.) "name"
  • airí; airíona (m.) "characteristic, symptom"
  • aithne; aitheanta (f.) "commandment"
  • bruach; bruacha (m.) "bank (of river etc.)"
  • cine; ciníocha (m.) "race, tribe"
  • duine; daoine (m.) "person, human being"
  • gabha; gaibhne (m.) "blacksmith"
  • gnó; gnóthaí (m.) "business"
  • oíche; oícheanta (f.) "night"

One noun in this class has a weak plural:

  • bó, bó; ba, bó (f.) - cow

Fifth[edit]

The fifth declension is made up mostly of feminine nouns and is characterized by a genitive singular that ends in a broad consonant that has been added to the nominative/vocative/dative singular. The most common plural is weak, formed by adding -a to the genitive singular.

Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative Vowel or slender consonant Gen. sg. + -a
Genitive broad consonant Gen. sg. + -a
pearsa "person" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative pearsa /ˈpʲaɾˠsˠə/ pearsana /ˈpʲaɾˠsˠən̪ˠə/
Genitive pearsan /ˈpʲaɾˠsˠən̪ˠ/ pearsana /ˈpʲaɾˠsˠən̪ˠə/
cathair "city" Singular Plural
Nominative/Vocative/Dative cathair /ˈkahəɾʲ/ cathracha /ˈkaɾˠəxə/
Genitive cathrach /ˈkaɾˠəx/ cathracha /ˈkaɾˠəxə/

In some Munster Irish varieties as well as the old literary language, the dative singular is distinct and ends in a slender consonant (in effect the dative sg. is formed by palatalizing the genitive sg.), for example, do phearsain "to a person", ón gcathraigh "from the city". In Éire, Éireann "Ireland" the dative Éirinn is still used in the standard language.

Some words form the genitive singular by changing the final consonant of the nominative singular to broad. The plural is then strong -eacha.

  • abhainn, abhann, aibhneacha /aunʲ, aun̪ˠ, ˈavʲnʲəxə/ "river"
  • athair, athar, aithreacha (m.) "father"
  • deartháir, dearthár, deartháireacha /ˈdʲɾʲahaːɾʲ, ˈdʲɾʲahaːɾˠ, ˈdʲɾʲahaːɾʲəxə/ (m.) "brother"
  • máthair, máthar, máithreacha "mother"

Other strong plural formations are found in:

  • bráthair, bráthar; bráithre (m.) "brother (monk), friar"
  • cara, carad; cairde /ˈkaɾˠə, ˈkaɾˠəd̪ˠ; ˈkaːɾˠdʲə/ (m.) "friend"
  • namhaid, namhad; naimhde (m.) "enemy"
  • Nollaig, Nollag; Nollaigí "Christmas"

Some nouns have weak plurals; here the genitive singular and genitive plural have the same form:

  • caora, caorach; caoirigh, caorach - sheep
  • lacha, lachan; lachain, lachan - duck

Verbal nouns[edit]

The most productive verbal nouns end with -(e)adh (1st conjugation) or -(i)ú (2nd conjugation). These originally belonged to the third declension, but synchronically are best regarded as separate declensions.

The 1st conjugation verbal noun in -(e)adh has a genitive singular in -te/-ta and a plural in -t(a)í.

  • briseadh, briste; bristí "breaking"
  • moladh, molta; moltaí "praising; recommendation"

The 2nd conjugation verbal noun in -(i)ú has a genitive singular in -(a)ithe and a plural in -(u)ithe. These endings are pronounced the same regardless of the spelling distinction.

  • scrúdú, scrúdaithe; scrúduithe "examining, examination"
  • síniú, sínithe; sínithe "stretching"

Irregular nouns[edit]

The following nouns are declined irregularly:

  • bean, mná; mná, ban (f.) "woman"
  • deirfiúr, deirféar; deirfiúracha (f.) /ˈdʲɾʲɛfʲuːɾˠ, ˈdʲɾʲɛfʲeːɾˠ, ˈdʲɾʲefʲuːɾˠəxə/ "sister"
  • deoch, dí; deochanna /dʲɔx, dʲiː, ˈdʲɔxən̪ˠə/ (f.) "drink"
  • Dia, Dé; déithe (m.) "God"
  • lá, lae; laethanta (m.) "day"
  • leaba, leapa; leapacha (f.) "bed"
  • mí, míosa; míonna (f.) "month"
  • muir, mara; mara (f.) "sea"
  • olann, olla (f.) "wool"
  • talamh, talaimh (m.) or talún (f.); tailte "land"
  • teach, tí; tithe (m.) "house"

Articles[edit]

The definite article has two forms in Irish: an and na. Their distribution depends on whether the noun is singular or plural, the case of the noun, and the initial sound of the noun. Each entry of the table gives an example of a noun starting with a consonant and one of a noun starting with a vowel.

Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine both genders
Nominative an cat
an t-éan
an bhróg
an eaglais
(do) na cait
(leis) na héin
Dative (i) den chat
san éan
don bhróg
den eaglais
Dative (ii) ag an gcat
ag an éan
faoin mbróg
tríd an eaglais
Genitive an chait
an éin
na bróige
na heaglaise
na gcat
na n-éin

Dative (i) is used with all prepositions in Ulster usage; elsewhere it is used only with den "from the", don "to the", and sa(n) "in the". Dative (ii) is used outside Ulster with other prepositions.

The article never lenites a following t or d, and an s is lenited to ts (pronounced [t̪ˠ, tʲ]) rather than the usual sh.

There is no indefinite article in Irish, so depending on context cat can mean "cat" or "a cat".

Adjectives[edit]

Almost all adjectives in Irish can be used either predicatively or attributively. A predicative adjective is one that forms a part of the predicate, like red in the sentence The car is red. An attributive adjective directly modifies a noun, as in the red car.

A predicate adjective in Irish does not inflect:

  • Tá an fear sin beag. "That man is small."
  • Tá na fir sin beag. "Those men are small."
  • Tá an bhean seo beag. "This woman is small."
  • Tá na mná seo beag. "These women are small."

A predicate adjective expressing a value judgment is often preceded by the particle go. This particle attaches an h to a following vowel.

  • Tá mé go maith. "I'm fine" (lit. "I am good.")
  • Tá an scéal go holc. "The story is bad."
  • Bhí an aimsir go hálainn. "The weather was beautiful."

In Ulster, go is not generally used in these cases.

An attributive adjective mostly follows the noun and is inflected:

  • an fear beag "the small man"
  • an fhir bhig "of the small man" (genitive)

There are three classes of declension of adjectives in Irish, which correspond to the first four declensions of nouns:

Nom. sg. ends with: Gen. sg. masc. ends with: Gen. sg. fem. ends with:
1st/2nd decl. slender or broad cons. slender consonant slender consonant + -e
3rd decl. slender cons. (mostly -úil) slender consonant broad consonant + -a
4th decl. vowel = nom. sg. = nom. sg.

First/second declension[edit]

bocht "poor" Masc. sg. Fem. sg. Plural
Nominative bocht bhocht b(h)ochta
Genitive bhoicht boichte bocht(a)
bacach "lame" Masc. sg. Fem. sg. Plural
Nominative bacach bhacach b(h)acacha
Genitive bhacaigh bacaí bacach(a)
ciúin "quiet" Masc. sg. Fem. sg. Plural
Nominative ciúin chiúin c(h)iúine
Genitive chiúin ciúine ciúin(e)

Third declension[edit]

misniúil "brave" Masc. sg. Fem. sg. Plural
Nominative misniúil mhisniúil m(h)isniúla
Genitive mhisniúil misniúla misniúil, -úla
cóir "just" Masc. Sg. Fem. Sg. Plural
Nominative cóir chóir c(h)óra
Genitive chóir córa cóir, córa

Fourth declension[edit]

This declension does not inflect.

crua "hard" Masc. sg. Fem. sg. Plural
Nominative crua chrua c(h)rua
Genitive chrua crua crua

Irregular adjectives[edit]

Masc. sg. nom. & gen. Fem. sg. nom. Fem. sg. gen. Pl. nom./gen. Gloss
álainn álainn áille áille "beautiful"
breá bhreá breátha b(h)reátha "fine"
deacair dheachair deacra d(h)eacra "difficult"
gearr ghearr giorra g(h)earra "short"
socair shocair socra s(h)ocra "still"
tapaidh thapaidh thapaí t(h)apaí "fast"
te the te t(h)eo "hot"
tirim thirim tirime t(h)iorma "dry"
Notes
  • The nominative plural undergoes lenition only if the noun ends with a slender consonant: cait bhacacha "lame cats". Otherwise, the adjective in the nominative plural does not lenite: táilliúrí bacacha "lame tailors".
  • The long form of the genitive plural (e.g. bochta, bacacha, ciúine) is used when the noun has a strong plural, e.g. máithreacha bacacha "of lame mothers". The short form (e.g. bocht, bacach, ciúin) is used when the noun has a weak plural, e.g. cat bacach "of lame cats".
  • The dative has the same form as the nominative.
  • The vocative has the same form as the nominative except in the masculine singular of the 1st/2nd declension, where it has the same form as the genitive.

Comparative[edit]

Irish adjectives have a comparative form equivalent to the comparative and to the superlative in English. The comparative does not undergo inflexion and is the same as the feminine singular genitive in regular and many irregular adjectives.

Regular formation[edit]

Base form Comparative form Gloss
álainn áille "beautiful/more beautiful"
bacach bacaí "lame/lamer"
bocht boichte "poor/poorer"
ciúin ciúine "quiet/quieter"
cóir córa "just/more just"
crua crua "hard/harder"
deacair deacra "difficult/more difficult"
gearr giorra "short/shorter"
misniúil misniúla "brave/braver"
socair socra "still/stiller"
tapaidh tapaí "fast/faster"
tirim tirime "dry/drier"

Irregular forms[edit]

Base form Comparative form Gloss
beag "small/smaller"
breá breátha "fine/finer"
dócha dóichí "possible/more possible"
fada faide "long/longer"
fogus foisce "near/nearer"
furasta fusa "easy/easier"
iomaí lia "many/more"
ionúin ansa "beloved, dear/more beloved, dearer"
maith fearr "good/better"
olc measa "bad/worse"
te teo "hot/hotter"
tréan tréine or treise "strong/stronger"
mór "big/bigger"

Syntax of comparison[edit]

There are two constructions to express the comparative:

1) Copula + comparative form + subject + ("than") + predicate. The preterite of the copula causes lenition, while the present tense does not.

  • Ba thréine Cáit ná Cathal. "Cáit was stronger than Cathal."
  • Is airde Seán ná mise. "Seán is bigger than me."
  • B'óige an madra ná an cat. "The dog was younger than the cat."
  • Is fearr Gaeilge bhriste ná Béarla cliste. "Broken Irish is better than clever English."

2) níos/ní ba/ní b’ + comparative + + predicate. Níos is used if the sentence is in the present or future tense.

Ní ba/ní b’, which triggers lenition, is used if the sentence is in the past tense. Ní b’ is used before words starting with vowels and ní ba before those starting with consonants.

  • Tá an ghrian níos gile ná an ghealach. "The sun is brighter than the moon."
  • Beidh Peadar níos saibhre ná a athair. "Peadar will be richer than his father."
  • D'éirigh Peadar ní ba shaibhre ná a athair. "Peadar became richer than his father."
  • Bhí Seán ní b’airde ná mise. "Seán was bigger than me."

A superlative is expressed as a relative clause: noun + is/ba/ab + comparative form.

  • an cailín is tréine "the strongest girl" (lit. "the girl who is the strongest")
  • an cailín ba thréine "the strongest girl" (lit. "the girl who was/would be the strongest")
  • an buachaill is óige "the youngest boy" (lit. "the boy who is the youngest")
  • an buachaill ab óige "the youngest boy" (lit. "the boy who was/would be the youngest")

References[edit]

  • Christian Brothers (1994). New Irish Grammar. Dublin: C. J. Fallon. 
  • Gramadach na Gaeilge agus litriú na Gaeilge: An Caighdeán Oifigiúil. Dublin: Oifig an tSoláthair. 1994.