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Mastering na Briathra Neamhrialta: The Key to Speaking Irish Fluently

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Are you a Leaving Certificate student struggling to understand na briathra neamhriathla, or "irregular verbs," in the Irish language? Don't worry, you're not alone! These verbs can be challenging because they do not follow the usual rules for conjugation in the past tense and must be memorized individually.


But fear not, there are some helpful strategies you can use to make learning these verbs a little easier. One tip is to break them down into smaller groups based on their endings in the present tense. For example, verbs that end in -igh in the present tense (such as "feigh" and "déan") are more likely to follow a similar pattern in the past tense. This can make it easier to remember how to conjugate each verb correctly.


Another useful technique is to use mnemonic devices to associate the past tense of a verb with its meaning. For example, the verb "téigh" (to go) becomes "d'imigh" (I went) in the past tense. This can be remembered by thinking of the phrase "I'm outta here!" to represent the idea of leaving.

It's also important to remember that the past tense of na briathra neamhriathla is often used in Irish to express habitual actions or events that occurred regularly in the past. This is known as the "imperfect" tense and can be formed by adding the prefix "d'-" to the past tense of the verb.



For example, the sentence "D'fhág mé mo mhála ar an mbus" (I left my bag on the bus) uses the imperfect tense of the verb "fhág" (to leave) to express a habit of forgetting one's bag on the bus.

In Irish, verbs are conjugated based on their person and number (i.e. first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, first person plural, etc.). This means that the ending of the verb changes depending on who is performing the action.

Regular verbs in Irish follow a set of predictable patterns for conjugation. For example, the verb "to speak" (labhairt) is conjugated as follows:

  1. First person singular: labhraím (I speak)

  2. Second person singular: labhraíonn tú (you speak)

  3. Third person singular: labhraíonn sé/sí/sí (he/she/it speaks)

  4. First person plural: labhraímid (we speak)

  5. Second person plural: labhraíonn sibh (you (plural) speak)

  6. Third person plural: labhraíonn siad (they speak)

As you can see, the ending of the verb changes depending on the person and number of the subject. However, with irregular verbs, these patterns do not hold and the verb must be memorized in its different forms.

Some common irregular verbs in Irish include "to be" (bí), "to have" (tá), and "to go" (téigh). These verbs are conjugated as follows:

"To be":

  1. First person singular: táim (I am)

  2. Second person singular: tá tú (you are)

  3. Third person singular: tá sé/sí/siad (he/she/it is)

  4. First person plural: táimid (we are)

  5. Second person plural: tá sibh (you (plural) are)

  6. Third person plural: tá siad (they are)

"To have":

  1. First person singular: táim (I have)

  2. Second person singular: tá tú (you have)

  3. Third person singular: tá sé/sí/siad (he/she/it has)

  4. First person plural: táimid (we have)

  5. Second person plural: tá sibh (you (plural) have)

  6. Third person plural: tá siad (they have)

"To go":

  1. First person singular: im (I go)

  2. Second person singular: imíonn tú (you go)

  3. Third person singular: imíonn sé/sí/siad (he/she/it goes)

  4. First person plural: imímid (we go)

  5. Second person plural: imíonn sibh (you (plural) go)

  6. Third person plural: imíonn siad (they go)

In conclusion, mastering na briathra neamhriathla is an essential skill for any Leaving Certificate student of the Irish language. While there is no easy rule for conjugating these verbs, with practice and dedication, you can improve your proficiency and gain confidence in your ability to use them correctly.


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