Caibidil a Trí: The verb (an Briathar)
the verbal noun (an tAinm Briathartha)
Irish verbs have no infinitive (infinideach)!
There where one would use the infinitive in German or in English, stands the verbal noun in Irish.
The Irish verbal noun has strong similarities to the infinitive, even to the point like the German infinitive it can just as well be used as a noun (e.g.: malen - das Malen etc.)
The statement "no infinitive but just a verbal noun" is then not random.
The reasons for this are the common typical (and very different) noun endings of the verbal nouns (e.g. -acht, -íocht) as opposed to the German infinitive suffix -en; and the fact that it can stand in the genitive in certain cases as well as being able to carry a genitive attribute (object). In addition, it is often used with various prepositions (ag, a, do, chun, le, etc.) (the German infinitive actually only with "zu").
On the other hand, the Irish verbal noun has also verbal qualities:
it can carry an adverb, have direct (accusative) objects etc.
To sum up, one can say that the German infinitive has, like the Irish verbal noun, both substantive and verbal qualities. Both come somewhere between noun and verb form, the Irish verbal noun is closer to the noun, the German infinitive is rather seen as a verb form.
action word, verbal noun
Abbreviation used occasionally in this text: VN
The formation of the verbal noun is very irregular. Although, the given "regular" formation is quite common. But exactly the most common verbs like to use the "irregular" verbal noun endings.
The best is if one learns the verbal noun right along with the verb.
In the dialects, there are also partially different endings used (e.g. feiscint/feiceáil = see )
verbs of the 1st conjugation
further typical ("irregular") formations
- verbal noun suffix -adh or. -eadh
e.g. bris - briseadh (break), mol - moladh (praise)
Often the verb root is depalatalised
e.g. buail - bualadh (hit)
verbs ending in -áil: verbal noun
with the same ending -áil:
e.g.: péinteáil (verb = paint) - péinteáil (verbal noun "to paint")
verbs ending in a short vowel/consonant + -igh: verbal noun
ending in -í
(earlier -ighe, -idhe, latter, since many of these verbs ended earlier in -idh )
e.g.: suigh - suí (sit), nigh - ní (wash)
verbs ending in a long vowel (á, é, í, ó, ú) + -igh: verbal noun ending in -á,
-é, -í, -ó, -ú
(e.g. -ó earlier -óghadh, d.h. -ógh + -adh)
e.g.: dóigh - dó (burn)
- suffixless (same form as the verb stem)
e.g. ól - ól (drink)
- suffixless + depalatalisation of the verb stem
e.g. coisc - cosc (prevent)
- verbal noun ending -amh
e.g. déan - déanamh (make), seas - seasamh (stand), léigh - léamh (read)
- further verbal noun endings: -achtáil, -úint, -an, -int, -t, -im, -e, -áil, -ach, -acht, -achán, -áil, -aidh, etc.
verbs of the 2nd conjugation
- verbal noun ending: -ú
(earlier: -ughadh, also -igh > -ugh + -adh)
e.g. saothraigh - saothrú (work hard)
- verbs ending in a slender -l, -n, -r: verbal noun ending -t
e.g.: oscail - oscailt (open), imir
- imirt (play)
further typcal ("irregular") formations
- verbal noun ending: -í
e.g.: éirigh -éirí (rise), cónaigh - cónaí (live)
- suffixless (same form like the verb stem or minus -igh)
e.g.: aithris - aithris (imitate), foghlaim - foghlaim (learn), damhsaigh - damhsa (dance)
- suffixless + depalatalisation of the verb stem
e.g.: ceangail - ceangal (connect)
- further verbal noun endings: -ach, -acht, -achtáil, -achan, -eál, -áil, -int, etc.
verbal noun without a corresponding verb
e.g. from classes of people (mostly professions)
Verbal nouns can also be formed out of types of people (mostly professions), althought there is no real corresponding verb to it. These verbal nouns are most often used in the progressive
- -acht /-eacht
feirmeoir = farmer; Tá sé ag feirmeoireacht = He runs a farm. ("is he at farmer-being")
siopadóir = shopkeeper; Tá sé ag siopadóireacht = He runs a shop. ("is he at shopowner-being")
cabaire = chatterbox; Tá sé ag cabaireacht = He's chattering ("is he at chatterbox-being")
formation of the genitive of the verbal noun:
the verbal adjective as the genitive form
Although they are nouns, they form their genitive often using the verbal adjective [ 1 ]:
- if they appear in "infinitive" use
and especially then when they have a further genitive object or a possessive pronoun as an object.
bualadh (hit): chun a mbuailte = in order to hit her
foghlaim (learn): lucht foghlamtha na Gaeilge = Irish learners (lit." people of the learning of Irish ")
ól (drink): lucht ólta fuisce = whiskes drinkers ("people of the drinking of whiskey ")
- to form the participle with the prefix so-, do-, in- (see verbal adjective):
briseadh (break): sobhriste = fragile
- the"regular" verbal noun ending in -adh and -ú (as well as: -á, -é, -í, -ó) always
a genitive in the form of the verbal adjective (in infinitive and substantivised use)
e.g: glanadh - glanta (cleaning - of the cleaning), saothrú - saothraithe (hard work - of the hard work), suí - suite (sitting - of the sitting)
genitives, depending on the noun declension, form these (except verbal noun ending in -adh and - long vowel), if they:
- appear in "substantivised" or "infinitive"use (if they have no object ).
e.g.: bréith (bear): lá bréithe = birthday
("day of bearing ")
e.g.: ól (drink): lucht óil = drinkers ("people of the drinking "),
e.g.: foghlaim (learn): lucht foghlama = learners ("people of the learning ")
- the verbs ending in -áil with a verbal noun
ending in -áil use always
a substanivised genitive (-ála) and never the verbal adjective as the genitive, even not in the above mentioned cases.
Just as the many VNs ending in -áint (-ána), -úint (-úna), -cht (-chta)
substantivised genitive = verbal adjective
- verbs of the 2nd conjugation ending in -l,-n,-r with a verbal noun ending in -t
the form of the genitives is always either:
-te (form of the verbal adjective = form of the substantivised genitive, 2nd declension)
e.g.: oscailt - oscailte (open) or:
of the verbal adjective = form of the substantivised genitive, 3rd declension)
e.g.: imirt - imeartha (play)
In these cases (by coincidence) the verbal adjective and the substantivised genitive match.
formation of the plural of the verbal nouns:
A formation of the plural is only possible in substantivised use of the verbal noun.
Many verbal nouns form the plural according to their declension.
"regular" verbal noun ending in -adh and -ú form the plural as such
verbal noun ending in -adh:
plural by affixing an -í on the verbal adjective:
e.g.: glan (to clean): glanadh - glanta - glantaí
verbal noun ending in -ú (or long vowels)
plural ending -uithe or -ithe
e.g.: saothraigh (to work hard):
saothrú - saothruithe
(not to be confused with saothraithe, which is the verbal adjective and genitive singular of the verbal nouns)
use of the verbal nouns:
see under Syntax of the verbal noun
Gramadach na Gaeilge
© Lars Braesicke 1999 / 2002
[ 1 ]: Why is it that the verbal adjective is the genitive of the verbal noun?:
A normal noun in the genitive is mostly an attribute (e.g. "Seáin" in "teach Sheáin = Seán's house ") and is used just like an adjectival attribute (e.g. "álainn" in "teach álainn = a beautiful house ").
The substantivised genitive acts then as quasi the "attributive form" of the noun.
The verbal adjective acts normally as the "attributive form" of the verb (e.g. "tógtha" in "teach tógtha = built house ").
If the verbal noun now is in "infinitive" use
( in stress of its verbal qualities) as an attribute (and must be set in the genitive), one reaches for the already existant attributive form of the same verb (to the verbal adjective).