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Verbal Nouns

So, since it seems people are confused about Verbal Nouns, I'm going to try and explain them, and their uses, here.

Some conventions:

Bold is going to be used for incorrect forms, whereas italics will be used for all Irish stuff and (English translations will be in parentheses)

So the verbal noun generally has two main uses: as the present continuous (English -ing) and as an infinitive (English to ___). To form each of these, you use them in different ways.

Present continuous

So to form the gerund, you use ag followed by the verbal noun. Tá mé ag ithe (I am eating)

Now, if there verbal noun in this case has an object, that object is put in the genitive case. Tá mé ag ithe éisc (I am eating a fish).

However, if this object is a pronoun, it cannot be at the end. Instead, ag changes to do, and then it is followed by the possessive pronoun corresponding to the original pronoun, with the appropriate mutation. You also need to remember do + a is á (written dhá in some dialects), and do + ár is dár. Note: in some dialects, it remains ag and doesn't change to do.

Tá mé ag ithe iad will instead be Tá mé á n-ithe (remember a meaning "theirs" eclipses). This can also be used to refer to the subject as well, but you must add the reflexive pronoun. Tá sé á bhualadh féin (He is hitting himself)

However, if you have your object fronted (for emphasis, possibly) or you use a question word that responds to the object (What are you saying?/ You are saying what?), you will not use ag. Instead, you would use something similar to the infinitive, explained below.

Céard atá tú a rá? (What are you saying?)

Note: for this latter construction, Duolingo often gives you a passive one instead, yet translates it as active. Céard atá á rá agat is not active, and is better translated as "What is being said by you?"


The other main use is as the infinitive. This is the form you will see after phrases like Is maith liom, etc. To form it, without an object, you just use the verbal noun. Is maith liom ithe (I like to eat).

If this one has an object, the object goes in the front, you add the particle a and lenite if possible. Is maith liom bia a ithe To negate this, you use gan in front of the object. Tá mé sásta gan míle a shiúl (I am happy not to walk a mile)

It can also be used for other things, such as the passive (which Duolingo uses a lot, though it translates it as active), and can be used with certain other words to convey intention/purpose/duty (le), "going to" (chun), "just after" (the origin of the Hiberno-English "I'm after ...") (tar éis), something that isn't done (gan), and the status following an action (ar). I won't go into any of these until asked, as it can get complicated.

If you have any questions, please ask me and I'll try and make things clearer!


November 15, 2014



I am struggling like hell with these twists and turns, but this has helped thanks.


you have 'is maith liom ithe' for i like to swim :p

EDIT: i forgot to see a massive thanks!!


Oops! Originally had Is maith liom snámh, but changed it to better contrast with the following example.


Does the rest of it make enough sense?


ya i really think Team Irish should use most of this to add to their tips and notes if you were ok with it :)

oh and p.s. are you from galway? me too!


Actually, nah. I'm from America, and have no connection to Ireland (well, that isn't distant). I was just in Galway my first time there and fell in love (plus, my main and most influential Irish teacher is from there).

And glad it makes sense. If there's any other topics you're confused about, I can make a post about them as well.


Your English “-ing” examples are present participles rather than gerunds; for example, “I am eating” uses the present participle “eating”, but “I like eating” uses the gerund “eating”.


That's my bad. Guess that's what happens when they all have the same form! Actually, looking again, I can't find anything about Irish having a gerund.


Irish doesn’t have gerunds; Irish has verbal nouns, and among their uses is to translate English gerunds, e.g. “Eating is good.“ → Tá ithe go maith.


Thanks for this Great, it's a great clarification.


I have two questions. 1. Whats the difference of saying "Táim ag léamh leabhair. " vs. "Tá leabhar á léamh agam." 2. I notice "bí" has a verbal noun "bheith" but i don't understand how or why its used. "Tá sé chun a bheith cur báistí inniu." Why is the "bheith" in there?


Táim ag léamh leabhair - "I a reading a book"
Tá leabhar á léamh agam - "A book is being read by me"

Here are some other examples that use this passive construction:
Tá an tae á théamh acu - "The tea is being heated by them"
"Beer is being drunk by me" - Tá beoir á hól agam
Tá Gaeilge á labhairt agam - "Irish is being spoken by me"

I'm not quire sure what to make of "Tá sé chun a bheith cur báistí inniu." chun (a) bheith typically means "in order to be" (or something similar, depending on the sentence).

As with other verbal nouns, bheith can be used to express an infinitive - bheith ar tí rud a dhéanamh - "to be about to do something", bheith ag titim as a chéile - "to be falling apart", goile láidir a bheith agat - "to have a strong stomach". With other verbs, the verbal noun is also used to form the progressive (tá mé ag rith, tá sí ag léamh, etc), but that doesn't work quite the same way with , as tá mé ag bheith obviously doesn't make any sense.


So i guess "Tá sé chun a bheith cur báistí inniu" would mean "it is to be raining today"?


No, it doesn't even mean that - it's not just illogical, it's just a couple of random words thrown together that don't actually go together that way - just word soup.


Really? Thats very strange. Thats the structure that rosetta stone teaches. I wonder what else is off in that course


This is the only page on the whole internet that Google reports as including the phrase bheith cur báistí. Are you sure that that's what rosetta stone teaches?


I wish it would let me take a screen shot and post it but yeah. I just double checked the lesson. Every single time it wants to express what the weather "going to be" its "tá sé chun a bheith" followed by either te, fuar, scamallach, or "ag cur báistí" for rain or "ag cur sneachta" for snow. I've looked through teanglann, it seems "cur" can mean "sending down" but "báistí" is little strange because it doesn't translate to rain. but if you go the other way, rain can translate to "báistí


Here u go, this google search shows the rosetta stone pdf https://www.google.com/search?ei=wAyzXPSILZHZ5gLssIb4Bg&q="tá+sé+chun+a+bheith+ag+cur+báistí+inniu"&oq="tá+sé+chun+a+bheith+ag+cur+báistí+inniu"&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-serp.1.0.35i302i39.11173.15109..17593...0.0..0.275.1967.3j8j3......0....1.K0z7Ttlpq_c It seems i was forgetting to put an "ag" in there this whole time. I dunno if that makes it make more sense to you


ag cur ... is very common - ag cur sneachta for "snowing", both ag cur báistí and ag cur fearthainne for "raining", ag cur allais for "sweating", ag cur fola for "bleeding", etc.

You use the genitive after ag + verbal nun, so báistí is the genitive of báisteach, fola is the genitive of fuil, etc.

chun can mean "(go) to", but used with a verb, as in chun a bheith usually means "in order to", so I would say rinne mé é sin chun a bheith réidh - "I did that (in order) to be ready", but I wouldn't use it for "going to be raining". Maybe it's used that way somewhere, but it sounds strange to me - beidh sé ag cur báistí amárach - "It will be raining tomorrow".

There is only a single example of chun a bheith ag on focloir.ie: "they were supposedly there to do some work" - chun a bheith ag obair a bhí siad ansin, mar dhea

You can find plenty of examples "in the wild", but they don't usually mean "going to".


I think Duo needs to redo the section on the verbal noun and break it up into sections based upon whether the object is a noun, a pronoun, is the infinitive or passive. Mixing them up into one large skill is obviously confusing to more than me. And it would reinforce the constructs if there was some structure to the lesson, so newcomers to the language could recognize and reinforce it in their minds. This to me was a very bad section of duo

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