Why is Irish so hard?

Ok, this is day 2 of Irish on Duolingo and I find Irish to be the hardest language yet. It just doesn't have the same types of grammar as Germanic or romance languages. Maybe its just me but there doesn't seem to be any consistency in word order or endings....Any help?

January 15, 2015


Word order is VSO (Verb Subject Object).

I'll try to give a very basic overview of the present tense.

PRESENT TENSE - VERBS WITH ONE SYLLABLE, eg. glan (to clean), cuir (to put)

A, O, U = -aim, -ann, -aimid I, E = -im, -eann, -imid

Glanaim - I clean

Glanann tú/sé/sí - You/He/She clean(s)

Glanaimid/Glanann muid - We clean

Glanann sibh/siad - You/They clean

Ní ghlanaim - I do not clean

An nglanann tú? - Do you clean?

Cuirim - I put

Cuireann tú/sé/sí - You/He/She put(s)

Cuirimid/Cuireann muid - We put

Cuireann sibh/siad - You/They put

Ní chuirim - I do not put

An gcuireann tú? - Do you put?

PRESENT TENSE - VERBS WITH TWO SYLLABLES, eg. críochnaigh (to finish), éirigh (to get up)

A, O, U = -aím, -aíonn, -aímid I, E = -ím, -íonn, -ímid

Críochnaím - I finish

Críochnaíonn tú/sé/sí - You/He/She finish(es)

Críochnaímid/Críochnaíonn muid - We finish

Críochnaíonn sibh/siad - You/They finish

Ní chríochnaím - I do not finish

An gcríochnaíonn tú? - Do you finish?

Éirím - I get up

Éiríonn tú/sé/sí - You/He/She get(s) up

Éirímid/Éiríonn muid - We get up

Éiríonn sibh/siad - You/They get up

Ní éirím - I do not get up

An éiríonn tú? - Do you get up?


Ní + séimhiú (h).

Ní adds the letter h to all verbs except those starting with vowels or the letters st, l, n, r, sm, sp, sc. These can be remembered with this mnemonic: ST eLeaNoR SMiles in SPanish SChool.

An + urú (Mb, Gc, Nd, Dt, Ng, Bp, BHf)

An eclipses the letters b, c, d, t, g, p, and f. All that means is that you put another letter in front of it. You can remember which letters take which eclipses with this mnemonic:

My Brother

Got Caught

Not Doing

Dishes Tonight.

Nobody Gets

Blueberry Pie

Before He Finishes.

I hope this helps to clear a few things up. I completely understand your frustration. Irish can be an incredibly difficult language to learn from scratch. Nevertheless, I hope that you continue to learn it because it is a beautiful language that really needs more speakers!

January 15, 2015

I love your posts! They are always so informative!! (:

January 15, 2015

Maith cailín. Seo an-mhaith.

January 16, 2015

Thank you so much! I agree, it is a beautiful language. I have alot of Irish ancestry and would like to learn the language of my ancestors. Would you know where I could find a chart for these verb endings?

January 15, 2015

No problem at all. I'm very glad to be able to help you!

I really admire that you're learning Irish, even though it's very difficult. I'm sure that your ancestors would be delighted with you!

January 15, 2015

Go raibh maith agat!

January 16, 2015

One set can be found here.

January 15, 2015

This post has been inspired by the Lingot Gaeilge Gods. Go raibh maith agat.

January 23, 2015

Old posts filled with gold should never die! Lovely, succinct statement of some useful rules. I truly believe more of this put in simple terms would be super helpful for people everywhere learning Irish.

February 11, 2018

Remember, it's only your second day! :) Irish was hard for me at first too. There just aren't nearly as many shortcuts to take in terms of familiar cognates and grammar. But keep moving forward in the tree and do frequent reviews, and you will find that before long the older stuff starts becoming easier. I found that at first I had to practice older stuff a lot more frequently than Duo's algorithms were telling me to. Also, there are so many helpful links in the forums here for grammar and pronunciation help. At first, the explanations were kind of overwhelming, but I bookmarked things and after studying Irish for a month or two I went back and found the explanations to be very helpful. Good luck!

January 15, 2015

The reason it's so difficult is that it's not what you're used to. It'll get more familiar with time and become easier to understand, I'm certain of it. Just keep at it!

January 15, 2015

Agreed - nothing inherently difficult about it that you couldn't also see in other languages you're unfamiliar with.

January 17, 2015

Irish is kicking a lot of folks' behinds, so you're not alone at all. I've had to go over the basics over and over just to learn them. There's a reason I'm only on level 5. :/

January 15, 2015

Yeah, Irish is proving to be the most difficult language I've ever attempted...I think the biggest problem for me is actually the differences in pronunciation/spelling--since I can't get a handle on how a word is pronounced, I have trouble remembering what a word means, which makes recognizing the grammar difficult...

January 15, 2015

I have the same problem. Get book one of Buntus Cainte. The book has sixty lessons and two cds, and each lesson has a dialogue at full conversational speed. It helps.

January 16, 2015

+1 Buntus Cainte.

January 17, 2015

This video is definitely helpful!

January 16, 2015

Yea I’m on about day two as well and the structure isn’t hard it’s pronouncing things that is so difficult. The rules for what is silent and what isn’t is so different. Like half of the letters in lots of words aren’t said or are very subtle

November 14, 2018

Irish is a Celtic language. All of the other languages that you're learning on here are either Germanic or Romance languages, which tend to be grammatically similar to English and share many cognates with it.

January 15, 2015

It's definitely tough. Initial mutations, genitive case, all the different ways of using numbers... yikes. I'm pretty determined to get it though! A big thing that helps: immerse yourself as much as you can. Watch Irish TV (TG4 is great), YouTube channels, listen to Irish music, get some e-books that are completely as Gaeilge, join Gaeilge-only forums, etc. I joined a Gaeilge-only FB group and I just read what they post (like a total creeper, lol)... most of which I don't understand, but as time goes on, I'm finding I understand more and more. There's a Duolingo Irish study group on FB as well.

Good luck!

January 16, 2015

I started watching Pocoyo on YouTube from TG4. It is a show for preschoolers but totally cute and really beginner level.

January 16, 2015

It gets easier. Some things are difficult to grasp, but you just have to practice.

January 15, 2015

I will tell you what I told someone else here on Duolingo...

I think the main thing most people don't realize is that the Irish & English language are completely different. Sure they have some similarities when it comes to vocabulary, but that would be expected due to the geographical proximity of the speakers.

English is a Germanic lanaguge & it is related to languages like German, Dutch, Danish, and Swedish for example.

But Irish is a Celtic language & it is related to languages like Welsh, Cornish, Breton & Manx for instance.

It is your second day! You just need more practice (: ! Don't be discouraged! It just takes some time & perseverance! I wish you the best of luck! (:

January 15, 2015

Thanks. Yeah, that probably explains why swedish is so easy. :)

January 15, 2015

Irish and English are both members of the Indo-European language family so they aren't "completely different". They're definitely right up there though. o.0

I suspect what also throws people is they are likely comparing English to the Germanic or Romance languages, both of which it shares quite a lot with. I it were compared to, say, a Slavic or Indian language how similar is that to the English-Irish comparison? I don't know the languages to be able to answer that. :P

January 15, 2015

Indo-European is a massive family of languages. It also includes Hindi, Greek and Latin.

January 16, 2015

And persian ! (:

January 16, 2015

Yes, Irish and Welsh are both Celtic languages. But as far as I can see they are completely different. Welsh is much more related to Germanic, Romance and even Slavic languages in grammar and structure, even in vocabulary; but Irish has nothing do to do with any Germanic, Romance or Slavic languages.

I'm studying Welsh and Irish (both Celtic languages) and I can say that they are not even a little bit related. Maybe Irish could be more similar to Cornish, or Breton or Manx.

January 16, 2019

Although Irish is an Indo-European language (like English, French, Russian and Hindi), it's quite different from the Romance or Germanic languages that are common on Duolingo. :)

January 16, 2015

It is definitely harder in my opinion. Lots of practice and every day. And then you'll start to see some phrases and spellings and structures will start to become easier.

I am now starting to get the hang of the have the 'Is maith liom ' or 'I like ' sentences and some other basics. The basic questions are still giving me a headache, but with consistent practice I know I'll get there.

January 16, 2015
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