1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Irish
  4. >
  5. Lenition, Eclipsis, and a Pre…


Lenition, Eclipsis, and a Preposition Question

Hi everyone!

I'm new to Duolingo and very new to Irish (this is the first language I've seriously attempted to learn as a native English speaker), so thanks in advance for your help and feedback!

I'm doing my research on how lenition and eclipsis work, and have a question coming up that might seem silly to some. Because I've seen lenition and eclipsis used in what seem to be very similar circumstances, how do you know when to use one versus the other? (Like I said, this might be simpler than I'm making it, but there's so much to learn and it's easy to get rules mixed up at least initially!).

I also have one specific question. How would you spell/say "into the woods/forest" correctly in Irish?

Thanks again - so excited to be learning Irish!

December 6, 2018



On the phrase "into the woods," would it be something like "isteach an fhoraois," with that lenition, and if so, how would the pronunciation change with the lenition? I looked it up in the Teanglann pronunciation database and it only gives the pronunciations for "foraois". Thanks!


The English preposition “into” representing inward motion is translated by isteach i ; isteach here is an adverb meaning “inwards”. “Into the woods” could be isteach sa choill or isteach sa doire ; isteach san fhoraois is more “into the forest”. The pronunciation of fh is silent, so just remove the f sound from foraois to pronounce fhoraois. The ch of choill is pronounced like the German ch of Bach.

There’s one situation where either lenition or eclipsis can be applied. With several prepositions followed by the definite article an, the noun following an can be either lenited (in Ulster Irish) or eclipsed (in the other dialects), e.g. tríd an choill (Ulster) or tríd an gcoill (others) [“through the woods”]. This course teaches the use of eclipsis in this situation, but it should also accept lenition in this situation when exercises take Irish input.


You can hear an fhorais here in Duolingo. As scilling points out, it typically means "forest" rather than "woods", though for pragmatic reasons of geography, "forests" in Ireland are relatively small, and there isn't necessarily a huge difference between the way the two words are actually used.

While Duolingo has a number of exercises using the plural na coillte for "the woods", focloir.ie prefers the singular an choill, as in scilling's example. (I'd rely on focloir's advice over Duolingo on this).

You can hear the phrase isteach sa in th exercise Téann sí isteach sa teach

I don't think that Duolingo has a recording of choill. You can hear the unlenited version on teanglann.ie.

I'd also suggest that "when to use one versus the other?) is not the best approach to take with regard to lenition and eclipsis. You will be better off if you can answer "Does this word need to be lenited or eclipsed in these circumstances?". It's a slightly different approach to the question, but it makes more sense to learn how possessive adjectives work (they use both lenition and eclipsis), rather than learning all the circumstances that require lenition (including some of the possessive adjectives) in isolation from learning the circumstances that require eclipsis (which includes some of the possessive adjectives).


Thank you for the response! Yes, that's essentially the question I'm getting at with your last bit of advice here, since it all runs together for me. I've never been much of a grammar person and seeing the rules laid out have always confused me even for English, so this is definitely a challenge! I appreciate all the clarification here and as you said, am trying to figure out the best approaches to learning that create as little confusion as possible (quite the task ;) ). I'll be doing a lot more study in this grammar book and reading the discussions moving forward, for sure!


An tUrú vs. An Séimhiú

(I still have no idea which is which in English, urú = mb and séimhiú = bh)

In general, prepositions with the indefinite article and all the singular possessive pronouns (except a when it means she) add a séimhiú. Also for an + fem. nom. sg., the past/conditional/imperfect tenses, for (most) negatives and the past/conditional of the copula.

ALSO, NEVER PUT A SÉIMHIÚ WHEN DNTLS ARE COMING TOGETHER! i.e. when these letters come together, there is no séimhiú-ing e.g. an díospóireacht (the debate - a feminine noun but there's no h!)

The urú is generally for prepositions + definite article as a general rule. Also after the definite article and the genitive plural. And for the question form for all the tenses except the past (except

I've just realised this topic is far too long to explain, but surprisingly enough Wikipedia explains it quite well here

"Into The Woods"

Irish has a couple of different words denoting "woods/forest". "Coill" personally, implies something found in Ireland a small-ish forest or woods. "Foraois" is something you'd find on the continent, like in Germany and is this massive collection of trees. "Garrán" is another word maybe? It's smaller than a coill and is more like a little group of trees, kind of like a woodland but in the wild I guess. All are feminine except garrán.

You're translation would be:

  • Isteach sa choill
  • Isteach san fhoraois
  • Isteach sa gharrán

Giota comhairle (word of advice), maybe stick with coill as it's the more "Irish" word as in its used to describe what we find here.


Read this and "isteach sa choill" is the best translation tbh.


(I still have no idea which is which in English, urú = mb and séimhiú = bh)

Urú = “eclipsis” (e.g. mb, where the b is “eclipsed” by the m) and séimhiú = “lenition” (e.g. bh ; from Latin lenis, “soft, smooth, mild”).


That’s not always the case, e.g. maidin shamhraidh.

Learn Irish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.