Irish/Unit 1/Lesson 4

< Irish‎ | Unit 1

In this lesson, you will learn about:

  • The consonants d, f, ch, and p
  • Forming sentences with "tá" and "is"
  • Prothesis, an initial mutation affecting vowels

Forming Sentences with "Tá" and "Is"Edit

be pronunciation
is, are (present tense of "bí") pronunciation
is is (present tense copula) pronunciation
dubh black pronunciation
teach house pronunciation
fuar cold pronunciation

English uses "is", and the other forms of the verb to be, to form many kinds of sentences. For some types of "is" sentences, Irish uses its own form of the verb to be. For others, it uses a different construction, called a "copula" (in Irish, "an chopail").

Let's look at each type of sentence first. Then we'll talk about when to use each of them.

Using Tá (is, are)Edit

We've learned that, to make a simple sentence in Irish, you use the order "verb-subject-object":

Léann Niamh leabhar
Reads Niamh (subject) a book (object)

The same principles apply when the sentence uses the verb to be. To translate the English sentence:

the book is black

you would say, in Irish:

an leabhar dubh
is the book black

The verb comes first, like the verb léann did in our earlier example, but don't be confused by the English equivalents: in Irish this is a statement, not a question.

is the present tense of the Irish verb to be, , and translates to "is" or "are". Here are a few more examples:

The job is good. Tá an post go maith.
The houses are cold. Tá na tithe fuar.

Using the CopulaEdit

I, me pronunciation
fear man pronunciation

Sometimes, where English would use the verb to be, Irish instead uses a construction called the copula. The particle indicating a copula (in the present tense) is is. This can be confusing to English speakers: although it looks like the English verb to be "is", the Irish particle is is not a form of any verb.

Sentences with is use a different word order than sentences using . As an example, let's look at two sentences where the subject is , the Irish word for "I" or "me".

Tá mé fuar I am cold
Is fear mé I am a man

The first sentence, with , follows the standard Irish V-S-O word order. In the second, the subject comes last.

fear |mé
a man |I

Which to Use WhenEdit

So when should you use and when should you use is? These two constructions are very different in the Irish language and a native speaker would never confuse them.

Uses of the CopulaEdit

The use of the copula is limited in Irish to the following, specific, yet frequently occurring uses:

  • coupling of the predicate noun and the subject in classificatory and identificatory clauses e.g.

Is dochtúir í Niamh. = Niamh is a doctor.

Is é an dochtúir í. = She is the doctor.

  • certain adjective uses , especially modal verb-like uses with prepositions le, do, etc. e.g.:

Is maith le Niamh an leabhar. = Niamh likes the book.

  • adjectives of subjective assessment and of equivalence. e.g.:

Is ionann iad = They are the same.

Is maith sin! = That is good!

  • Superlatives e.g.:

An fear is mó = the biggest man (the man that is the biggest)

  • origin- and ownership (with the prepositions as, de, le) e.g.:

Is as Corcaigh é = He is from Cork.

Is le Niamh an carr. = The car belongs to Niamh/ It's Niamh's carr..

  • to emphasize single parts of speech and to loosen up the sentence structure (cleft- and pseudo-cleft clauses ) e.g.:

Is é an fear a dhéanann na bróga = He's the man who makes the shoes. (That's the man who makes the shoes.)

  • full queries (questions with interrogatives). These always contain a copular construction, even if it's mostly not to be seen. e.g.:

Cé a rinne sin? = Who did that? (Who is it, that did that?)

Properties of the CopulaEdit

The copula exists only in 3 base forms:

  1. IS present tense (also future) [No Lenition/ Eclipsis]
  2. BA preterite (imperfect, conditional) [Causes Lenition]
  3. GURA subjunctive

The copula does not exist in the imperative.

The copula also has no "verbal noun". Instead, transcriptions with and the preposition i must be used.

e.g. Bí i d'fhear! = Be a man! [literally: Be in your man!]

bheith ina fhear = to be a man [literally: being in his man]

Copular forms are inflexible, and not conjugable. All forms are actually the 3rd person singular.

With Tá the subject pronouns sé, sí, síad follow the verb to mean he is, she is, or they are. After the copula however, personal pronouns of the 3rd person in their "object form" follow:

é, í, iad instead of sé, sí, siad

Tá sí go maith (She is well)


Is cailín maith í (She is a good girl)

Certain different syntax rules apply. These follow also the basic syntax P-S-O:

In an Irish sentence, the predicate comes first, then the subject, then the object (P-S-O) Léann sí leabhar (She reads a book)

In copular clauses, the predicate is introduced by the copula. So: copula - predicate - subject. An object is not used. Is leabhar é (It's a book)

A Few More ConsonantsEdit

Let's take a closer look at a few of the words we encountered above, and the last few common Irish consonants.

Next Lesson

In Lesson 5, you'll learn about:

  • Personal Pronouns
  • Basic and Compound Prepositions
Previous Lesson Wikibooks Irish Next Lesson