Syntax of the Copula (Comhréir na Copaile)
|The copula in theidentification
The copula in theclassifactorial clause
The copula and adjectives
The copula in real conditional clauses
The copula in irreal conditional clauses
The copula in direct relative clauses
The copula in indirect relative clauses
|The copula in subjunctive clauses
The copula in matters of ownership
The copula in matters of origin
The copula in stating names
The copula in interrogative clauses
answers to interrogative clauses
emphasis in the copular clause
Here, the abbreviations used are: subject (S) und predicate (P)
in the case of a pronoun, the colour stands for if it's the subject (é/í/iad) or the predicate (é/í/iad). Copular forms appear in red (e.g.: is)
An identification clause is a copular clause with
a definite predicate noun "X is das Y".
The subject of the clause is equated to another term, subject and predicate are identical. (X = Y)
(In less common cases, one can find an indefinite predicate noun , see below)
Preceding definite predicative nouns(e.g. with an article) one must always
additionally include the appropriate pronoun é/í/iad
as a so-called subpredicate (fofhaisnéis), because a definite
noun is not allowed directly following the copula.
e.g.: í an bhean = the woman, é mo theach = my house
|present:||affirmative||Is + é/í/iad + P + S||Is é an sagart an fear||The man is the priest|
|negative||Ní + hé/hí/hiad + P + S||Ní hé an dochtúir an fear||The man is not the doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||Ba + é/í/iad + P + S||Ba é an dochtúir an bhean||The woman was/would be the doctor|
|negative||Níorbh + é/í/iad + P + S||Níorbh é an dochtúir an bhean||The woman was/wouldn't be the doctor|
In identification clauses, the subject comes sometimes before the actual
The principal syntax is maintained, while a subpredicate (é/í/iad) appears before the subject.
It doesn't depend on the following subject, but on the predicate.
(e.g. Is é mo bharúil go... not *Is í mo bharúil go...) sim:. "It is my opinion, that..."
|present:||affirmative||Is + é/í/iad + S + P||Is é mo bharúil go...||It is my opinion, that...|
|negative||Ní + hé/hí/hiad + S + P||Ní hé mo bharúil go ...||It is not my opinion, that...|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||Ba + é/í/iad + S + P||Ba é mo bharúil go ...||It was my opinion, that ...|
|negative||Níorbh + é/í/iad + S + P||Níorbh é mo bharúil go ...||It was not my opinion, that...|
are mostly é, especially, if the
predicate is a go-subordinating clause or infinitive with to.
Equivalent to the "it" in: "It is my opinion, that..."
This clause form is then chosen, when:
Also in clauses with go-subordinating clauses or verbal noun constructions
ná can come before the main predicate:
Is é an rud (ná) go bhfuil ceart agat = It is so, that you are right. Is é mo aidhm (ná) Gaeilge a thuiscint = It is my goal to understand Irish.
Here, a syntax change occurs, that contradicts the P-S-O-rule:
If these personal pronouns are the subject of the clause, they come mostly before the predicate.
As to why this is so see hier
"I am the Y"
|present:||affirmative||Is + pers.pron. + P||Is mé an dochtúir||I am the doctor|
|negative:||Ní + pers.pron. + P||Ní mé an dochtúir||I am not the doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||Ba + pers.pron. + P||Ba mé an dochtúir||I was/would be the doctor|
|negative:||Níor + pers.pron. + P||Níor mé an dochtúir||I was/would not be the doctor|
These clauses stress the noun (compare. Are you Seán? - An tú Seán?) and not the pronoun.
*: muid is actually used with the copula, although it is as a derivative of compounds and doesn't really seem to fit in here.
|present:||affirmative||Is + pers.pron. + S||Is mise an dochtúir||I am the doctor|
|negative:||Ní + pers.pron. + S||Ní mise an dochtúir||I am not the doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||Ba + pers.pron. + S||Ba mise an dochtúir||I was/would be the doctor|
|negative:||Níor + pers.pron. + S||Níor mise an dochtúir||I was/would not be the doctor.|
As the predicate, emphatic forms
of the personal pronoun are used (e.g. mise, tusa statt mé,
These clauses stress the pronoun (comp. Are you Seán? - An tusa Seán?).
Usually, this form is more common: (comp. I am the doctor vs. I am the doctor)
Gramatically, in German/English the pronoun remains the subject,
no matter which clause term is stressed (comp. Bist du Paul ? Are
you Paul? / Bist du Paul? Are you Paul?). clauses like
Ist Paul du? Is Paul you? are not possible. In Irish, it is indeed viable
as a predicate.
"he is the Y"
|present:||affirmative||Is + é/í/iad + P + é/í/iad||Is é an dochtúir é||He is the doctor|
|negative:||Ní + hé/hí/hiad + P + é/í/iad||Ní hé an dochtúir é||He is nicht the doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||Ba + é/í/iad + P + é/í/iad||Ba é an dochtúir é||He was/would be the doctor.|
|negative:||Níorbh + é/í/iad + P + é/í/iad||Níorbh é an dochtúir é||He was/would be nicht the doctor|
In unstressed, neutral clauses (so mostly) one encounters this clause form.
Then, is it natural that the noun is stressed.
It looks so as if the pronoun is repeated at the end, but the first é/í/iad is the obligatory subpredicate (while a definite noun is not allowed to directly follow the copula), the latter é/í/iad is the real subject.
Níorbh is listed here instead of níor, while é/í/iad begins with a vowel.
In Ulster, the pronoun at the end is omitted. That means that whatever
é/í/iad is closest to the copula, goes as the subject:
Ulster: Is é an fear. = He is the man. instead of
Standard: Is é an fear é. = He is the man.
In Ulster, the pronouns of the 3rd person act the same as those of the 1st and 2nd person.
|present:||affirmative||Is + pers.pron. + S||Is eisean an dochtúir||He is the doctor|
|negative:||Ní + pers.pron. + S||Ní eisean an dochtúir||He is not the doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||Ba + pers.pron. + S||Ba eisean an dochtúir||He was/would be the doctor|
|negative:||Níor + pers.pron. + S||Níor eisean an dochtúir||He was/would not be the doctor.|
As the predicate, howver, emphatic forms
of the personal pronoun are used
(e.g. eisean, é sin oder é féin statt é, í, iad)
In form, this is equivalent to the clauses with mise/tusa/sinne/sibhse as the predicate.
This is also used to to stress the pronoun.
A classifactorial clause is a copular clause with
an indefinite predicate noun "X is a Y".
Here a classification to a group/class is made ("It is a horse", d.h. "it" belongs to a class of living things, that one calls "horse")
(An indefinite predicate noun can, less commonly, but also appear in identification clauses, see below)
"the X is a Y"
|present:||Is + P + é/í/iad + S||Is dochtúir é an fear||The man is (a) doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||Ba + P + é/í/iad + S||Ba dhochtúir é an fear||The man was/would be a doctor|
|present:||P + is + ea + S||Dochtúir is ea an fear||The man is (a) doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||P + ba + ea + S||Dochtúir ba ea an fear||The man was/would be a doctor|
The pronoun é/í/iad (subsubject, fo-ainmní) can be omitted (in Ulster): e.g.: Is dochtúir (é) an fear.
The 2nd variation of the is actually a form of emphasis
with a trailing copular clause (like a left shift):
Dochtúir is ea an fear = lit.: "A doctor, is it the man"
Although in Munster, this is the general common form of the classifactorial clause
But, it will only occur in the affirmativen clauses.
A common form of emphasis in Connacht and Donegal would be
a relative clause with bí and the preposition i (as an
inversion of the clause Tá sí ina dochtúir, see
classifactorial clauses without the copula ):
Dochtúir atá inti = She is a doctor.
Rud a bhí ann nárbh fhurasta a dhéanamh = That is something, that is not easy to do.
"I am a Y"
|present||Is + P + pers.pron.||Is dochtúir mé||I am (a) doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||Ba + P + pers.pron.||Ba dhochtúir mé||I was/would be a doctor|
|present||P + is + ea + pers.pron.||Dochtúir is ea mé||I am (a) doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||P + ba + ea + pers.pron.||Dochtúir ba ea mé||I was/would be a doctor|
The 2nd variation is also here actually a form of emphasis
Dochtúir is ea é = "A doctor, is es er" (only in affirmative clauses)
"an X is a Y"
|present||Is + P + S||Is dochtúir fear||a man is a doctor|
|preterite/conditional:||Ba + P + S||Ba dhochtúir fear||a man was/would be a doctor|
To be mentioned is only the classifactorial clause, in which the indefinite
predicate noun also carries an adjective attribute.
The subject (as well as the predicate in the identification clause) can of course also have an adjective, without that this causes any special cases.
|present||Is + P + adj. + S||Is duine deas é.||He is a nice person.|
|preterite/conditional:||Ba + P + adj. + S||Ba dhuine deas é.||He was/would be a nice person|
|present||Is + adj. + an + P + S||Is deas an duine é||He is anice person.|
|preterite/conditional:||Ba + adj. + an + P + S||Ba dheas an duine é.||He was/would be a nice person|
The first form in the table demonstrates a regular classifactorial clause (X
is a Y), only that the predicate noun here also poseesses an adjective -attribute.
Especially so is the form below: Note the article an, despite an indefinite predicate! (although: X is a Y)
The difference between the two constructs lies in the emphasis (in the first
case the noun, in the second, the adjective is stressed):
comp.: Is duine deas é. = He is a nice person.
and: Is deas an duine é. = He is a nice person.
|present:||Is + adj. + S||Is deas é an duine!||The person is nice!|
|preterite/conditional:||Ba + adj. + S||Ba dheas é an duine!||The person was nice!|
predicative adjectives with the copula are limited to certain uses today, with all other uses they are rather uncommon. More commonly, a predicative adjective will appear with the verb bí : Tá an duine go deas = The person is nice.
In older textbooks this (bí and adjective ), despite
its common use, is stylistically frowned upon. However, it was not the copula
with predicative adjective , but the use of attributive adjectives was
Also: Is duine mór é sin = That is a big person (instead of Tá an duine sin mór or Is mór é an duine sin = That person is big).
The copula with a predicative adjective is also common in the following cases:
|present||Is + adj. + prep. + P + S||Is maith liom fuisce a ól||I like to drink Whiskey||"Is good with me, Whiskey to drink"|
|preterite/conditional||Ba + adj. + prep. + P + S||Ba mhaith liom fuisce a ól||I would like to drink Whiskey||"Would be good with me, Whiskey to drink"|
adjective , preposition and the following. predicate noun or prepositional
pronoun form together the predicate, a following noun, pronoun, subordinating
clause or infinitive construction form the (grammatical) subject.
e.g. Is maith liom fuisce a ól: maith liom is the predicate, fuisce a ól the subject.
Some nouns are used here like adjectives.
(e.g. fiú = worth, dóigh = expectation/opinion, eol = knowledge, cuimhin = rememberance, oth = regret, fuath = hate, mithid = (high) time, etc.)
e.g.: Is fiú duit é = it's worth it to you, is dóigh liom = I think it's possible/I think, mar is eol duit = as you know, is cuimhin liom = I remember, is oth liom é = I'm sorry, is fuath liom é = I hate it, is mithid dom imeacht = it's time for me to leave
The non-existant modal verbs must,
like, want are often substituted with
such phrases in Irish (I like = is maith liom, lit.: "is good with me", ba cheart
duit = you should, lit. "would be right to you")
The logical subject of the statement (the one that would like, should, can, etc.) is here part of the predicate (ba mhaith liom é = I would like it).
Because the preposition is used to lead in the logical subject in modal clauses, the omission of it makes it an impersonal modal statement (e.g.: Ba mhaith é = one would like it.)
Actually, the modal usage only secondary.
Primarily, there are base meanings of the copula and preposition:
le and do may also appear together:
Ní maith leis é ach is maith dó é = He doesn't like it but it is good for him.
|present||affirmative||Más||Más é an dochtúir é||If he is the doctor|
|negative||Mura||Murab é an dochtúir é||If he is not the doctor|
|preterite||affirmative||Má ba||Má ba é an dochtúir é||If he was the doctor|
|negative||Murar||Murarbh é an dochtúir é||If he was not the doctor|
Differences between classifactorial- und identification clauses are as above.
preceding a vowel, def. forms (see examples)
|conditional:||affirmative||Dá mba||Dá mba é an dochtúir é||If he were the doctor|
|negative||Murar||Murarbh é an dochtúir é||If he weren't the doctor|
clauses with murar do not differ, as one can see, between real or irreal conditions.
|present||affirmative||antecedent + is||an rud is féidir a dhéanamh||the thing, that is possible to do|
|negative||antecedent + nach||an rud nach féidir a dhéanamh||the thing that is not possible to do|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||antecedent + ba||an rud ab fhéidir a dhéanamh||the thing, that was/would be possible to do|
|negative||antecedent + nár||an rud nárbh fhéidir a dhéanamh||the thing that was/would not be possible to do|
Instead of ba , ab precedes a word beginning with a vowel or with f (see example: ab fhéidir = that was possible, ab álainn = that was beautiful). Instead of nár in a similar case, then nárbh
|present||affirmative||antecedent + ar||an fear ar maith leis an bord||The man, who likes the table|
|negative||antecedent + nach||an fear nach maith leis an bord||The man, who doesn't like the table|
|preterite/conditional:||affirmative||antecedent + ar||an fear ar mhaith leis an bord||The man, who liked the table|
|negative||antecedent + nár||an fear nár mhaith leis an bord||The man, who didn't like the table|
Prepositions may appear at the end of the clause (then use the copular form as in the above table) or as the beginning of an indir. relative clause (then combined forms with i, ó, de, do, trí, le, faoi,: see table of all copular forms)
e.g.: An fear ar maith leis an bord. = The man, who likes the
table. (lit. "The man that-is good with-him the table", note no eclipsis of
or: An fear lenar maith an bord. = The man, who likes the table. (lit. "The man with-that-is good the table")
Often this is in the following expression about stating a name. Here, the form
with a preposition at the end of the clause is unlikely:
e.g.: An fear darb ainm Seán. = The man named Seán. (lit.: "The man to-whom-is name Seán.")
The combination of generalising relative pronoun
and the copula is equal to the indirect relative form:
e.g.: Sin arbh eol dom = That is all that I know.
|subjunctive present||affirmative||Gura||Gurab amhlaidh duit!||The same to you!||"That-may be so-like-it to-you!"|
|negative||Nára||Nára fada uainn an lá!||May the day not be far off!||"Not-that-may be long from-us the day!"|
The subjunctive wird zumeist for wishes, curses and the like use the (Optative).
In copular clauses, it is uncommon and exclusively limited to set expressions.
forms ending with -b (gurab, nárab) precede a vowel (see above Narab ea! = Hopefully not!).
subjunctive preterite falls in with the conditional, here after dá = if: dá mba (see irreal conditional clause)
|present||is + le + P + S||Is le Pól an carr||The car belongs to Paul (lit.: "Is with Paul the car")|
|preterite/conditional:||ba + le + P + S||Ba le Pól an carr||The car belonged to Paul (lit.: "Was with Paul the car")|
Ownership is expressed in the construction is le "is with...".
|is + as + P + S||Is as an Ghearmáin mé||I am from Germany (lit.: "am from Germany I")|
Origin is expressed is as "is out of ...".
Instead of as also ó (in Munster) is possible: Is ón nDaingean mé = I am from Dingle
The subject can be introduced with do : Is as Doire dom = I am from Derry
|Name + is + ainm do + Person||Seán (Mac Mathúna) is ainm dom.||I'm (called) Seán (MacMahon).||"Seán (MacMahon) is name to-me"|
This clause form is known for its emphasis on the name
at the beginning of the clause (instead of the non-traditional normal clause
form "*Is ainm dom Seán")
It is possible also as an indirect relative clause.
e.g.: an fear darb ainm Seán. = The man named Seán. (lit.: "The man to-him-is name Seán")
|is + de + Name + S||Is de Bhrianach mé||I am an Ó Briain||"am from the Brianian I "|
|is + de mhuintir + Name + S||Is de mhuintir Bhriain mé.||I am an Ó Briain.||"am from Brian's people I."|
"belonging to a family" is meaning here more to which "Clan" one belongs (which
surname one has )
This is the common was of stating your last name
Instead of de mhuintir (for names with Ó) also de chlann Mhic (for names with Mac) or de chlann Uí (for names with Ó Maoil)
e.g.: Is de chlann Mhic Mhathúna mé = I am a MacMahon; Is de chlann Uí Mhaoil Eoin mé = I am an O'Malone
The object of the question is the predicate, and PSO structure follows the
copula. Only in the case of pronouns of the 1st and 2nd person can the (grammat.)
subject of the copula directly follow it (An tú an dochtúir
= Are you the doctor?)
A differentiation by classifactorial- und identifications clauses is made using the above models.
In placve of is or ba there are also special copular forms (in
the form similar to the verbal particle)
Although then there is no eclipsis after an/nach!
|tense||interr. form||preceding a vowel||L/E||example|
|present||affirmative||an||-||An eisean an dochtúir? = Is he the doctor?|
|negative||nach||-||Nach eisean an dochtúir? = Is he not the doctor?|
|preterite/conditional||affirmative||ar||arbh||L!||Ar dhochtúir é? = Was he a doctor?|
|negative||nár||nárbh||L!||Nár dhochtúir é? = Wasn't he a doctor?|
In Connemara instead of an also ar
(before mé, thú, muid, sibh) or ab
e.g.: Ar mise an dochtúir? = Am I the doctor?
Ab é an dochtúir é? = Is he the doctor?
as well as in place of ar also an mba, in place of nár also nach mba
e.g.: An mba é an dochtúir é = Was he the doctor?
"Ar mise an dochtúir?" can also mean "Am I the doctor?"(Connemara) as well as "Was I the doctor?" (standard).
The interrogatives cé,
cad, céard make mostly a copular construction (interrogative
= copula + predicate): "who/what is",
so that a supplementary answer of the question is made:
To simplify,one can call these clauses "simple copular clauses" .
Because basically, only the copular form "is / ba = is/was" is replaced with the word "cé / cér(bh) = who is/was".
1.1. Cé = Who is (in identification clauses)
cé + hé + subject
cé + pronoun
|cé hí an bhean sin?
cé hé an bhean sin?
|Who is the woman?
Who is the woman?
Who are you?
cérbh + é + subject
cér + pronoun
|cérbh í an bhean sin?
cérbh é an bhean sin?
|Who was the woman?
Who was the woman
Who were you?
é/í/iad = subsubject, é
= predicate (cé in this case copula + subpredicate)
(the combination of cé with a masculine pronoun, also cé hé, is preferred: cé hé an bhean sin)
with cé h-prefix preceding a vowel in the present.
Besides that, and less commonly, the form cérb is used preceding a vowel in the present: Cé hiad = Cérb iad? = Who are they?
cérbh can only be used preceding é/í/iad (or eisean/ise/iadsan).
The questions of ownership and origin (cé leis andcé
as) are formed as well without a relative clause, but
as permanent combinations with the copula (cé leis = lit. "with
whom is") and the clause supplementation is carried out as part of this
Cé leis an leabhar? = To whom does the book belong?
Cé as thú? = Where are you from?
1.2. Cé + article + noun = which, what sort of (in identification
|Singular||cén + predicate + subject||cén leabhar é sin?||Which book is that?|
|Plural||cé na + predicate + subject||cé na leabhair iad sin?||Which books are those?|
cén / cé na (which/what) acts here like an adjective.
Only in this form can the article directly follow the copula (or fuse with it: cé + an = cén)
1.3. Cad / cad é / céard = What is (in classifactorial
cad + seo/sin/siúd
|cad é seo?
|What is this?
What is that?
|Long form||cad é rud
cad é rud + pronoun
cad é an rud é + subject
cad é an rud + pronoun
|cad é rud leabhar?
cad é rud sin?
cad é an rud é leabhar?
cad é an rud é seo?
|What is a book?
What is that?
What is a book?
What is this?
|others||cad is + subject + ann||cad is leabhar ann?||What is a book?|
cad / cad é rud may be replaced by céard
(= cén rud) (céard is common in Connemara ) e.g. Céard
é? = What is it?
rud or an rud is equivalent in to the English "sort of a thing" (e.g.: what sort of a thing is that?)
It is something like a subpredicate.
Although rud = thing is used, just such a question may refer to people (Cad é an rud é? - Is múinteoir é. = What is he? - He is a teacher.)
cad is due to the prepositional pronoun ann ("in-it") as the end. Also similar are constructions with other prepositions (Cad is ainm duit? = What is your name? Cad is cúis leis? = What is the cause of it?)
The long forms are more often used when a definition is requested (as well as the form with cad is ... ann?) or then things are asked that can be seen, the short forms for things that can be heard.
2. Question with a clause supplement as the direct relative clause
2.1. direct relative clause with verbs
combinations of cé/cad and the following direct relative form of
the copula :
|Cé is fearr leat?
Cad is fearr leat
|Who do you prefer?
What do you prefer?
|Cé is ansa leat?
Cad is ainm duit?
|Who do you love the most?
What is you name?
|Cé ba mhaith leat?
Cad ba mhaith leat?
|Who would you like?
What would you like?
|vowel / fh||cé ab
|Cé ab fhearr leat?
Cad ab fhearr leat
|Who would you prefer?
Was would you prefer?
Such relative clauses occur regularly with adjectives, esp. comparatives (see
the examples in the table).
More commonly, they are also with copular-modal constructs (e.g.: Cad ba chóir dom a dhéanamh? = What should I do?).
The may also appear with nouns, always with a preposition(-alpronoun) at the end: (Cé ba chaptaen ort? = Who was your captain?, Cad is ainm duit? = What is your name? and the aforementioned "cad in classifactorial clauses" Cad is leictreachas ann? = What is electricity? ).
Although not with the pronoun (cérbh é not: *cé ba é).
Instead of cad of course also cad é, céard
cé may be supplemented by acu (= of them): Cé acu is fearr leat, tae nó caife? = Which do you prefer, tea or coffee?
3. Question with clause supplements as the indirect relative clause
3.1. Cé /cad with a prepositional pronoun and following indirect relative clause
Interrogatives like e.g. cé aige / cad aige (by whom, at what), cé dó / cad dó (to whom, to what end), cé air / cad air (on whom, whereupon), etc. are set combinations, that do not change. After this, an indirect relative clause always follows:
Exceptions: Cé leis (if as a question about ownership),
Cé as (if as a question about origin) is formed without
the relative clause. A relative clause with the copula like those under 3.1.
is, in this usage, not very common (e.g. wrong *Cé leis arbh é?)
The right thing here is a regular simple copular clause: Cé leis é? = Whose is it?, cé as thú = Where are you from?
Further (less common) exceptions can be seen under section 3.2.
3.2. Special form: Cé with the indirect copular relative clause
The forms listed here in the table are only here for purposes of thoroughness.
They are rather rare.
In the opposite clause to 3.1., here the interrogative and prepositional pronoun are not permanent, but the prepositional pronoun is already part of the relative clause.
|present :||consonant||cér*||Cér díobh thú?||What is your surname?||Who(-COP indir.) from-them you|
|vowel||(cérb)**||Cérb as duit?||Where are you from?||What(-COP indir.) from-that to-you|
|preterite/conditional:||consonant||cér*||Cér díobh é?||What was his surname?||Who(-COP indir.) from-them him|
|vowel / fh||(cérbh)**||Cérbh as duit?||Where were you from?||What(-COP indir.) from-that to-you|
* cér stands actually only before díobh
in questions of family origin.
** cérb / cérbh except in this expression (from Ulster) is rather unusual (hence the parentheses)
Due to the "duit" = lit. "to you", a possible form of the subject in the statement of origin (Is as ... dom = I am from ...), an indirect relative clause is necessary, not due to "as"!
This is also a copular construction, so the continuation of the question is only possible as:
|tense||cá + ar||preceding a vowel||L/E||example|
|present||cár||cárb||-||cárb eisean an dochtúir? = Where is he the doctor?|
|preterite/cond.||cár||cárbh||L!||cár mhaith leat dul inniu? = Where do you want to go today?|
Cá is a copular construction as well, so the continuation of the question is only possible as:
Cá is used in Ulster sometimes in place of cad/céard and cén.
This is also a copular construction, so the continuation of the question is only possible as:
Necessarily, a normal clause follows (with or without a copula) which explains
the matter, or an appropriate short answer.
Cén fear é? - (Is é) Séamas (é). = Which man is it? - (It is) Séamas.
Cén fear atá ann? - Pól agus Mícheál (atá ann). = Which man is here? - Paul and Michael (are here).
In German and English, one answers these questions with yes or no.
In Irish, there is no simple yes or no!
Hence, the following answer possibilities:
|type of question||yes / no||answer||example|
|identification (is X the Y?)||yes||Is + pers.pron.||An é Pól an dochtúir? - Is é. = Is Paul the doctor? - yes|
|no||Ní + pers.pron.||An é Pól an múinteoir? - Ní hé. = Is Paul the teacher? - no|
|classification (is X a Y?)||yes||Is ea||An dochtúir é Pól? - Sea. = Is Paul a doctor? - yes|
|no||Ní hea||An múinteoir é Pól? - Ní hea = Is Paul a teacher? - no|
|with adjective as the predicate||yes||Is + adj.||An deas é an duine? - Is deas. = Is the person nice?! - yes|
|no||Ní + adj.||Nach deas é an duine? - Ní deas = Is the person not nice? - no|
|with adjective as the attribute||yes||Is ea||An duine deas é? - Sea. = Is he a nice person? - yes|
|no||Ní hea||Nach duine deas é? - Ní hea. = Is he not a nice person? - no|
|with le (questions of ownership)||yes||Is + le + pron.||An leatsa an leabhar? - Is liom. = Does this book belong to you? - yes|
|no||Ní + le + pron.||An le Pól an teach seo? - Ní leis. = Does this house belong to Paul? - no|
|in copular -modal constructs||yes||Is + adj. etc*||An féidir leat é a scríobh? - Is féidir. = Could you write that down? - yes|
|no||Ní + adj. etc*||An maith leat caife? - Ní maith. = Do you like coffee? - no|
is ea is contracted to: sea
*: In adjective clauses with le and do, this is readily repeated in the answer
(is is actually part of the predicate):
e.g.: An maith leat caife? - Is maith liom. = Do you like coffee? - Yes.
An important use of the copula is the emphasis of single clause terms, that
shift to the beginning of the clause. With that, in non-copular clauses the
PSO-syntax can be skirted (cleft- und pseudo-cleft
clause, see: change in the word order in a clause
- with help of the copula).
These and other forms of the clause rearrangement can also be applied to the copular clause itself.
The cleft clause can also be used even in the copular clause itself:
Then the form is: is + word to be emphasized preceding the clause (also in the preterite/conditional one rather uses is)
|normal copular clause||emphasis|
|Is maith liom í. = I like her.||Is ise is maith liom. = Her I like .|
|Ba mhaith liom é. = I would like it.||Is liomsa ba mhaith é. = I would like it.|
|Ba cheart iad a bheith aige = He should have it||Is aige ba cheart iad a bheith = He should have it.|
Sometimes, this syntax is constantly used, e.g. in clauses about names:
e.g.: Seán is ainm dó. = His name is Seán. (instead of: *Is ainm dó Seán.)
Clauses with interrogatives and the copular relative clause use also this syntax of a split clauses.
e.g.: Cad ba mhaith leat? = What would you like?
pseudo-cleft clauses occur less commonly in copular clauses. The construction
is rather simple.
e.g. Séard í féin dochtúir. = That, what she is, is a doctor.
(normal syntax: Is dochtúir í. = She's a doctor.)
Here is a syntax that, due to its frequency, has already been mentioned by the classifactorial clauses. It demonstrates a rearrangement (left shift) of the predicate with the following unaltered copular clause, in which the predicate is represented by the antecedent pronoun ea (= "it").
|normal:||Is + P + é/í/iad + S||Is dochtúir é an fear||The man is (a) doctor|
|hervorg. predicate:||P + is + ea + S||Dochtúir is ea an fear||The man is (a) doctor|
A literal translation for this would be:
Dochtúir is ea an fear = "A doctor, is it the man"
This sort of emphasis only occurs in affirmative clauses.
It is primarily used in the dialect of Munster and suppressed there the"normal" clause form completely; there it is no longer seen as emphatic.
A subsubject (é/í/iad) as in "normal" classifactorial clauses is in the left shift unnecessary (because yes ea stands between copula and subject), and is omitted.
Cleft clauses demonstrate indeed a copular clause. Similar to classifactorial
clauses, also here a left shift is possible. With adverbs and adverbial provisions,
ea appears as the antecedent pronoun.
"normal" cleft clause: Is abhaile a théann an fear = It is homeward that the man goes.
left shift: Abhaile is ea a théann an fear = Homeward it is that the man goes.