Introduction to Irish: Lesson 1

If you locked on the "Introduction to Irish" link because you thought you were going to learn Irish slang, you are mistaken. The dialect of English spoken in Ireland is actually alled Hiberno-English. Irish, on the other hand, is sometimes mistakenly called Gaelic and is actually a member of the Gaelic branch of the Celtic language family. (Other Gaelic languages include Scots Gaelic and Manx.)

Irish spelling is notoriously difficult for speakers of English. Although it is much more regular than English spelling, it is very different from English and because different dialects pronounce things differently, it takes some time to get used to. I would suggest listening to Irish-language podcasts to hear a sample of it. For now, I will not include phonetic transcriptions of Irish words.

The word for "is/am/are" is tá.

In Irish, the basic word order is Verb-Subject-Object.

"I" is

To say "I am Irish," one would say Tá mé Éireannach.

If "American" is "Meiriceánach," how would you say "I am American"?

1 translation: I am American

Right. So what if you don’t want to say that you’re American (because you very well may not be), but you want to ask someone if he or she is American. How do we do that? Well in Irish, to form questions, one must use other forms of a verb. "To be" in Irish is difficult because, like in many other languages, "to be" is irregular. To say "is/am/are," we use the word "tá", but to ask if someone is, you use an bhfuil.

I know "bhfuil" looks impossible to pronounce, but like I said earlier, Irish pronunciation is difficult at first for English speakers, so we’ll just ignore it for now.

If "you" in Irish is , how would you say "Are you Irish?"

2 translation: Are you Irish?

If "he" is , what about "Is he Irish?"

3 translation: Is he Irish?

So now we know I, you, and he, and we can say that I am/you are/he is Irish or American, and we can also ask the question. But what if he isn’t Irish?

To negate "to be", the word is níl.

4 translation: He isn’t Irish

If "she" is ...

5 translation: She isn’t Irish

Say you’re talking about Sean, who you thought was Irish. Someone referrs to his being American. You would want to say, "Isn’t he Irish?"

To use the negative question form in Irish, you use nach bhfuil.

6 translation: Isn’t he Irish?

Try again:

7 translation: Isn’t Mary American?

Here are the plural pronouns:

We: muid

You: sibh

They: siad

In Irish, plurals are not formed by adding an s, like they are in many other European languages. They are often formed by changing word endings or adding letters to the middle of words.

The plural for Meiriceánach is Meiriceánaigh
The plural for Éireannach is Éireannaigh

8 translation: We are Americans

9 translation: Are you guys Irishmen?

10 translation: They aren’t Americans

11 translation: Isn’t she an Irishwoman?

Other nationalities (in case you're curious):

Briton: Briontanach

French: Francach

Canadian: Ceanadach

Spanish: Spáinneach

Italian: Iodálach

Chinese: Síneach

Indian: Indiach

German: Gearmánach

Answers to Lesson 1

1 answer: Tá mé Meiriceánach
2 answer: An bhfuil tú Éireannach?
3 answer: An bhfuil sé Éireannach?
4 answer: Níl sé Éireannach.
5 answer: Níl sí Éireannach
6 answer: Nach bhfuil sé Éireannach?
7 answer: Nach bhfuil Mary Meiriceánach?
8 answer: Tá muid Meiriceánaigh
9 answer: An bhfuil sibh Éireannaigh?
10 answer: Níl siad Meiriceánaigh
11 answer: Nach bhfuil Éireannach?