Caibidil a Trí: The verb (an Briathar)

Tense and Mood (an Aimsir agus an Modh)

Tempus (an aimsir)
present tense (an aimsir láithreach)
habitual present tense (an aimsir gnáthláithreach)
preterite (an aimsir chaite)
imperfect (an aimsir neamhfhoirfe) or habitual preterite (an aimsir gnáthchaite)
future (an aimsir fháistineach)
perfect (an aimsir fhoirfe)
Modus (an modh)
indicative (an modh táscach)
imperative (an modh ordaitheach)
conditional (an modh coinníollach)
subjunctive (an modh foshuiteach)
Genus verbi (an fhaí)
active (an fhaí ghníomhach)
passive (an fhaí chéasta)
progressive (an fhoirm leanúnach)
intentional (an fhoirm thimchainteach aidhme)
relative form (an fhoirm choibhneasta)

Tempus (an aimsir)

present tense (an aimsir láithreach)

Non-habitual present tense and habitual present tense have a common form.
( is the only verb with separate forms for habitual and non-habitual) [ 1 ]
The usage differs: This use is quite similar to the English.
The use of the present tense in place of the future (in the German e.g. "wenn wir kommen"="if we come" instead of "wenn wir kommen werden"="if we will come") is not common, (mostly the future is used: e.g. nuair a thiocfaimid = if we will come), except after má = if and cha = not (see future)

In the direct relative clause: there is a special relative form with an s-suffix in the 3rd person.
e.g: an fear a ghlana(nn)s an carr = the man who is cleaning the car.
Synthetic suffixes remain unchanged. e.g.: an carr a ghlanaim = the car that I clean.

Only seldom there is, in der 3rd person, a historical present tense (an láithreach stairiúil), that appears in narratives (otherwise in the preterite), as a stilistic tool to make a current action "more present". Instead of -ann in Ulster the old present tense suffix -(a)idh is used. e.g.: Glanaidh sé = he cleans. One may also use the relative form -(e)as , even if no relative connection is present: e.g.: Glanas Seán na soithí = Seán cleans the dishes

habitual present tense (an aimsir gnáthláithreach)

Obviously there is a difference in Irish between the 2 aspects of action: habitual and non-habitual (somewhat comparable to the Russian perfect and imperfect aspect)
The habitual present tense exsists as its own form only for the verb = to be.
Tá sé = he is (present tense)
Bíonn sé = he is (habit. present tense)
For all other verbs there is only one common form for non-habitual and habitual present tense. Colloquially, mostly the habitual present tense is meant (except with verbs of the thought, feeling and the senses)
It is used for actions, that regularly (normally, generally, often, sometimes, seldom, never) take place

In the direct relative clause: there is a special form with an s-suffix (e.g. a bhíos = that is, in Conamara a bhíonns)
e.g: an carr a bhíos glan i gcónaí = the car that is generally is clean.

preterite (an aimsir chaite)

The preterite is used like the German preterite. It is, although, additionally used in the situations where the German perfect and plusquamperfect is used. It describes a one time (punctual) action in the past.
It is the normal narrative form in prose..
e.g. Chonaic mé = I saw, I have seen, I had seen

Just a side - (to explain the conjugation different from the other tenses ):
The preterite suffixes stem from the singular (-as, -is, -) of the old Irish. s-preterite,but in the plural (-amar, -abhar, -adar) the former deponential (passive-) conjugation.

imperfect (an aimsir neamhfhoirfe) or habitual preterite (an aimsir gnáthchaite)

The imperfect is the habitual form in the past. It us used similar to the habitual present tense. But it is, as opposed to that, available for all verbs as an individual form. It describes a recurring or continuous (non-punctual) action in the past (Engl.: "I used to ...")
In form, it's the same as the subjunctive-preterite, but here, lenition and a d'-prefix occurs
e.g.: Dhéanadh sé an obair go maith = He did (normally, regularly, ...) the work well.

future (an aimsir fháistineach)

The future is used like the German future I, where often also a desired event in the future is played out: Beidh deoch agam = I would (like) to have a drink
A use of the present tense in place of the future (as in German) is not common, except sometimes by the verb .
After the conjunction má = if and the verbal particle cha = not the habitual present tense always follows instead of the future.
e.g. Glanfaidh tú = you will clean: má ghlanann tú = if you clean/will clean, cha ghlanann tú = you don't clean/will not clean

In the direct relative clause there is, as in the present tense, a special relative form with an s-suffix.
e.g: an fear a ghlanfas an carr = the man who will clean the car.

perfect (an aimsir fhoirfe)

The perfect is, as a tense, used much more seldomly (as in German or English), instead of this mostly the preterite is used, or the present tense for continuing actions.
The Irish perfect can only be used, if the action has just recently ended (vgl. dt. term "vollendete Gegenwart"=present perfect) and is appears necessary to mention this condition; or if the condition/the result of the action is to be described (similar to the perfect in Greek).It is not a dependent tense as in English (independent from conjunctions, adverbs or other subordinating clauses).
There is also no simple formation of the perfect using a conjugation as a suffix;
Instead, compound forms (periphrastic forms) with the auxilliary verb are used, that often have a passive meaning.
Through preterite forms of bí a sorf of perfect preterite (plusquamperfekt) is formed, through future forms, a future perfect (in German future II).

Forming the perfect with the verbal adjective

transitive form of + object + verbal adjective + ag + subject*
intransitive form of + subject + verbal adjective

*:in Irish, subject and object are actually the other way around, the rendering here is more based on a German grammar
The fact that in Irish that subject and object are switched also means that this construction actually is a passive-perfect is.

With transitive verbs, this is basically a perfect passive form (see below).
It can, when relocated, also be translated as an active-perfect (because bí + ag means "have")
e.g.: Tá an bord briste agam = I have broken the table/ the table was broken by me. (lit.: "The table is broken at-me")
With transitive verbs that only have an indirect objecte (preposition + object, e.g. beir ar rud = catch something), the preposition remains the same also with the verbal adjective and introduced the logical subject (a grammat. subject is missing). This is also mainly passive
e.g.: Tá beirthe ort = you are caught, Tá beirthe agam ort = I caught you.
With intransitive verbs this has naturally only a perfect and no passivie meaning.
e.g.: Tá siad imithe go hÉirinn = The went away to Ireland.
The result of the action is always in the foreground. (in the examples: "the table is broken", "you are caught", "they are away").

formation of the perfect with the verbal noun

form of + subject + tár éis / i ndiadh + verbal noun

This form puts the emphasis on the fact that an action was completed just now.
e.g.: Tá mé tar éis snámh = I just now swam (lit.: "I am after the swimming")
form of + subject + ar + verbal noun

This form emphasises the status of an action and is passive. Technically seen, it acts as a passive participle (ar oscailt = "being open").
In this use no lenition occurs after ar.
e.g.: Tá an clog ar stad. = The clock has stopped. Tá an doras ar oscailt = The door is opened.
ar + verbal noun + genitive-object + do + subject
ar + possessive pronoun + verbal noun + do + subject

The form with do + subject is the "real" perfect: (ar comes from iar = after ). Instead of ar one can also use tar éis etc. (see more about that under syntax of the verbal noun)
But this form is only usable as a subordinating clause or adverbially, not as an independent clause. It describes the preclusion of the action (with respect to the action of the main clause)
In this use, ar lenites (earlier there was eclipsis after iar/ar)
e.g.: Ar oscailt an dorais dom = After I had opened the door, ar dhéanamh na hoibre duit = after you have done the work.
In combination with the possessive pronoun a/ár one gets the forms arna/arnár (e.g. arna ól dom = after I have drunk it lit.: "after-its drinking to-me").
These occur also in verbal noun constructions as the perfect passive participle (e.g. arna chur in fhoilsiú ag ... = published by...) without do + subject.

Modus (an modh)

indicative (an modh táscach)

The indicative is the form dealing with reality, of normal statement- and narrative forms in all above mentioned tenses.
(I am, I was, I will be, etc.). It is with that the most common form.

imperative (an modh ordaitheach)

The imperative is the command form, used for commands and requests.
Es gibt ihn nur in einer tense (present tense)
One can divide it into: For the negative imperative (prohibitive) there is an own negating particle (prohibitive particle) ( e.g.: ná glan é! = don't clean it!)
In this way, negativen clauses are always clear:
Ní ghlanaimid = we don't clean, Ná glanaimid = let us not clean!

The autonomous form is especially used for prohibit signs. In German one uses rather the infinitive, in English, the progressive.
e.g.: Ná caitear tobac! = No smoking! (lit.: "one uses not tobacco!").
The 3rd person (jussive) is especially used in idiomatic phrases, in which the grammatical and logical subject are not the same, like: Ná bíodh eagla ort! = Have no fear! (lit.: "not be fear on-you")

The use of the imperative is pretty much equivalent to the German. Besides these, it is sometimes used in constructions in the meaning "is ... or if not ...":
e.g.: Bíodh sé sásta nó ná bíodh = if he is happy or not (lit.: "be he happy or not be")

conditional (an modh coinníollach)

This is the conditional form.
That means the action is dependent on certain (named or unnamed) conditions.
In German one uses a rearranged form with "würden"=would (e.g. ich würde gehen, wenn...) =I would go, if...
And also in the usage it is very similar to the German "würde"- form: The conditional exists only in one form, this is for all tenses the same.
e.g.: Rachainn = I would go/I would have gone

subjunctive (an modh foshuiteach)

The subjunctive is the possibility form
The subjunctive is only possible in 2 tenses: It is (was) used for:

Genus verbi (an fhaí)

active (an fhaí ghníomhach)

The active is the form that tells us that the subject of the clause is the agent (e.g. glanann sé = he cleans)
Oppositely, the passive tells us that the logical subject of the clause experiences something (e.g. tá sé á ghlanadh = he is being cleaned)
The active exists in all above mentioned tenses and modi (see there)

passive (an fhaí chéasta)

The passive is the experiential form. The subject of the clause "experiences" an action.
There is no simple passive in Irish. Instead, the following (periphrastic) phrase is used:
form of + subject + verbal adjective (+ ag + agent)

e.g.: Tá an bord briste agam. = The table was broken by me. / I broke the table.
A clause of this sort with the verbal adjective of a transitive verb says that something was done (by me) = passive,
but also that I have done something (perfect, read more there).
The passive is always perfective in tense because it always stresses the status following an action.
The agent is included with ag... (comp. bí = have) also: I have broken the table
autonomous form of the verb (Saorbhriathar) + object

e.g.: Briseadh an bord = The table was broken.
the autonomous form is not the passive, but allows a translation in the passive sense.
e.g.:Déantar é. = It will be done.
It is not possible to include the agent (by whom it was done).
The translation of this form into German/English is done with the impersonal pronoun man/one:
e.g.: Déantar é. = One does it.
form of + subject + do + possessive pronoun + verbal noun

e.g.: Tá an teach á thóigeáil = The house is being built (lit.: "The house is to-his construction")
This form is similar to the normal progressive with the pronoun as the object, but here, the possessive pronoun is always referring to the subject of the clause, and from this we get a progressive-passive construction.


progressive (an fhoirm leanúnach)

As in English, there is also in Irish a special progressive.
This looks similar to the German colloquial form of: (e.g. "I bin am/beim Einkaufen") = I'm at shopping. (also sim. to the English: The children are at play )
form of * + subject + ag + verbal noun + genitive-object

*instead of also verbs of sense, start/finish and motion are possible.
In direct relative-clauses, a (lenites) instead of ag.
Through a conjugation of bí (or other verbs), the progressive is possible in all tenses.
Important is the difference between the:

If the object should be a personal pronoun (e.g.: I'm building it right now),the verbal noun is placed preceding a in the progressive instead of the appropriate possessive pronoun, instead of ag then the standard do.(do + a = á)
form of + subject + do + possessive pronoun + verbal noun
Tá sé do mo bhualadh = He is hitting me (right now) Tá sé dár mbualadh = He is hitting us (right now)
Tá sé do do bhualadh = He is hitting you (right now) Tá sé do bhur mbualadh = He is hitting you (pl.)(right now)
Tá se á bhualadh = He is hitting him (right now) Tá sé á mbualadh = He is hitting them (right now)
Tá sé á bualadh = He is hitting her (right now)

In Munster, as in Ulster, one uses also ag mo, ag do, ag ár, ag bhur. In the 3rd person also here, á.
In Munster, instead of ag mo, also am, instead of ag do, ad. In Ulster,ag is often omitted completely.
In Connacht, the standard form is used, but, instead of á, dhá
all forms are here in a table of examples

for more about the progressive see: Syntax of the verbal noun

intentional (an fhoirm thimchainteach aidhme)

form of + subject + ar tí + object + a + verbal noun

e.g.: Bhí mé ar tí an carr a dhíol = I was just about to sell the car
Similar to ar tí also ag bráth, ar thob, ag dul ag see syntax of the verbal noun

relative form (an fhoirm choibhneasta)

These relative forms are only for analytic verb suffixes in the present tense, habitual present tense and future in direct relative clauses. They have the s-suffix in common (-as/-eas or -fas/-feas)

 present tense
present tense
1st conjug.-as/-eas-anns/-eanns-fas/-feas
2nd conjug.-íos/-aíos-íonns/-aíonns-ós/-eos

In the present tense the form -as/-eas is the tradtional standard form. In Connacht, it fused with -ann/-eann zu -anns/-eanns.
In Ulster, both of the forms with -as/-eas als auch mit -anns/-eanns in the present tense are used.

They are used if the antecedent is the subject of the relative clause, often also if it is the direct object.
  an fear a ghlana(nn)s an carr = the man that cleans the car.(present tense)
  an fear a cheannaío(nn)s an carr = the man that buys the car. (present tense)
  an fear a ghlanfas an carr = the man who will clean the car. (future)
  an fear a cheannós an carr = the man who will buy the car. (future)

It is (except in Munster) very common.
In the official standard, this form (with one exception) does not exist and is replaced with normal present tense-/future-verb forms:
  an fear a ghlanann an carr = the man that cleans the car. (present tense)
  an fear a ghlanfaidh an carr = the man who will clean the car. (future)
The exception is the verb "lean = follow" in the present tense (...a leanas = that follows).
  an t-alt a leanas = the article that follows

If the s- form is used or not, the 3rd person sg. is always used (also in other tenses), if the antecedent is the subject of the relative clause (as in German/ and sort of English).
  Is mise a scríobhann litir = I'm the one, that writes a letter. (nicht: *is mise a scríobhaim ...!)
  Is mise a scríobha(nn)s litir = I'm the one, that writes a letter.
  Is tusa a scríobhadh litir = You're the one, that normally wrote a letter
  Is sinne a scríobhfaidh litir = We're the ones that will write a letter
  Is sinne a scríobhfas litir = We're the ones that will write a letter

Other (synthetic) verb suffixes can only occur if the antecedent is the object
  litir a scríobhaim = the letter that I write,
  litir a scríobhaimid = the letter that we write,
  litir a scríobhthá = the letter that you normally write,
  litir a scríobhfaimid = the letter that we will write

The relative form in the present tense of the irregularen verb = be is atá.
Similar to the old spelling adeir, adúirt (today a deir, a dúirt) is the relative form of the verb abair = say.

The relative form of the copula is is in the present tense or ba (preceding a consonant), ab (preceding a vowel and fh) in the preterite

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Gramadach na Gaeilge

© Lars Braesicke 1999 / 2000

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[ 1 ]
In older grammar books(P.W. Joyce: A Grammar of the Irish Language, 1922) all verbs are still divided into simple present tense (synthetic verb suffixes: -im, -ir, -imid, -tí, -id + older suffix of the 3rd person sg. -idh) and habitual present tense (analytic suffix -ann/eann for alle persons):
simple present tense: buailidh sé = he is hitting,
habitual present tense: buaileann sé = he hits(always)

Today, this difference is hardly ever encountered (except by irregular verbs):
The simple present tense: deir sé = he says, habitual present tense: deireann sé = he says(always)
Otherwise, the simple present tense and present tense-progressive fall into one in spoken Irish, while the suffix -ann expresses the habitual (and partially also the simple) present tense.