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
regular formation:

further typical ("irregular") formations

verbs of the 2nd conjugation
regular formation:

further typcal ("irregular") formations

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

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 ]:

substantivised genitive

genitives, depending on the noun declension, form these (except verbal noun ending in -adh and - long vowel), if they:

substantivised genitive = verbal adjective

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.
The "regular" verbal noun ending in -adh and form the plural as such

verbal noun ending in -adh:
plural by affixing an 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

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Gramadach na Gaeilge

© Lars Braesicke 1999 / 2002

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[ 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).