Irish only has a handful of irregular verbs, so breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, as with most languages, it's the commonly used verbs that are irregular. So the sooner you face them, the better.

If you look up the irregular verbs in your foclóir, you may see a big conjugation table and assume you'll have to memorise the whole thing. Wrong! It's really much easier than that. It will help if you remember this guiding principle, which may not be obvious to the beginner:

The irregular verbs use the same endings as the regular verbs. Only the stem changes.

There are a few exceptions, of course.

One very good way to learn these verbs is simply to read this list of questions and answers, out loud, once a day for a week or two. After that, you will find that you know most of them without having made an effort to memorise. Then you can focus on the particular ones that give you trouble.

abair say

presentAn ndeir tú?Deirim / Ní deirim
pastAn ndúirt tú?Dúirt / Ní dúirt
futureAn ndéarfaidh tú?Déarfaidh / Ní déarfaidh

beir catch, give birth to

presentAn mbeireann tú?Beirim / Ní bheirim
pastAr rug tú?Rug / Níor rug
futureAn mbéarfaidh tú?Béarfaidh / Ní bhéarfaidh

clois hear

presentAn gcloiseann tú?Cloisim / Ní chloisim
pastAr chuala tú?Chuala / Níor chuala
futureAn gcloisfidh tú?Cloisfidh / Ní chloisfidh

déan make, do

presentAn ndéanann tú?Déanaim / Ní dhéanaim
pastAn ndearna tú?Rinne / Ní dhearna
futureAn ndéanfaidh tú?Déanfaidh / Ní dhéanfaidh

faigh get

presentAn bhfaigheann tú?Faighim / Ní fhaighim
pastAn bhfuair tú? Fuair / Ní bhfuair
futureAn bhfaighidh tú?Gheobhaidh / Ní bhfaighidh

feic see

presentAn bhfeiceann tú?Feicim (Chím in Ulster)/Ní fheicim
pastAn bhfaca tú?Chonaic / Ní fhaca
futureAn bhfeicfidh tú?Feicfidh (Chífidh in Ulster)/Ní fheicfidh

ith eat

presentAn itheann tú?Ithim / Ní ithim
pastAr ith tú?D'ith / Níor ith
futureAn íosfaidh tú?Íosfaidh / Ní íosfaidh

tabhair give

presentAn dtugann tú?Tugaim / Ní thugaim
pastAr thug tú?Thug / Níor thug
futureAn dtabharfaidh tú?Tabharfaidh / Ní thabharfaidh

tar come

presentAn dtagann tú?Tagaim / Ní thagaim
pastAr tháinig tú?Tháinig / Níor tháinig
futureAn dtiocfaidh tú?Tiocfaidh / Ní thiocfaidh

téigh go

presentAn dtéann tú? Téim / Ní théim
pastAn ndeachaigh tú?Chuaigh / Ní dheachaigh
futureAn rachaidh tú?Rachaidh / Ní rachaidh


presentAn bhfuil tú?Tá (or Táim)/Níl (or Nílim)
pastAn raibh tú?Bhí / Ní raibh
futureAn mbeidh tú?Beidh / Ní bheidh


When I was learning these responses, I found it helpful to record these exercises on tape, so I could respond as if I were in conversation. If you would like to practice this, feel free to use these audio files. I tried to tone down my Ulster dialect a bit, but if your dialect is different, you may find my pronunciation confusing. NOTE: I am not a native speaker; I am not a teacher; I am not fluent.

present tense (mp3)
past tense (mp3)
future tense (mp3)

Note: I originally published this article on E2.