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Eureka Moments with the Irish Copula: A Crib Sheet

The copula looked easy at first glance. But the devil was in the detail.

Drawing on my own series of eureka moments, I've pulled together all the information I encountered while completing the Duolingo Irish lessons, focusing on Classification and Identification sentences. I’ve tacked on a brief teaser at the end for negation, question/response, copula inherent in questions, and other idioms. When you spot errors, please post and I will make corrections.

Since this “crib sheet” has grown to the length of a short chapter, I don’t always include numerous examples. But if you have favorite Duolingo examples just say the word and I’ll add them.


Use the copula "is" to link the subject (noun/pronoun) to the predicate (noun/pronoun) in a relationship of equivalence.

X = Y

Equivalence comes in two flavors, classification (X is "a" Y) and identification (X is "the" Y):

--The predicate is always INDEFINITE (a teacher, a doctor, an animal, teachers, doctors, animals)
--Expresses class membership. X (the subject) belongs to class Y (the predicate).

Is dochtúir í. She is a doctor. (classification: “She” belongs to the class “doctor.”)

Is fear é. He is a man. (classification: "He" belongs to the class “man”.)

Is portán é. It is a crab. (classification: “It” belongs to the class “crab.”)

Ba dhochtúir mé . I was a doctor. (classification: “I” belonged to the class “doctor.”) Ba causes lenition

B’aisteoir é. He was an actor. (classification: “he” belonged to the class “actor”.) Use b’ if the following word begins with a vowel

--The predicate is always DEFINITE, i.e., noun with definite article (the river, the trees, the shop), noun with a possessive pronoun (my horse, your book, their ice cream) or proper noun (Niamh, Dublin, Apple).
--Expresses identity of subject and predicate. X (the subject) and Y (the predicate) refer to the same entity.

Is í an dochtúir an bhean. The woman is the doctor. (identification: “The woman” and “the doctor” refer to the same person.)

Is é mo dheartháir é. He is my brother. (identification: “He” and “my brother” refer to the same person.)

Is é Pól uachtarán na hÉireann. Paul is the President of Ireland. (identification: “Paul” and “the President of Ireland” refer to the same person.)

Is í an léachtóir í. She is the lecturer. (identification: “She” and “lecturer” refer to the same person.)

An important HINT while we’re dealing with basics. Don’t confuse “is” with “tá”. Use “is” when the predicate is a noun/pronoun and use “tá” when the predicate is an adjective.

Is capaill iad. They are horses.

Tá sí óg. She is young.

As you can see from all examples above, the copula uses the pronouns é, í, iad instead of sé, sí, siad (used with and all other conjugated verbs).

The copula also the uses ea, the neuter pronoun meaning “it”.

Emphatic pronouns are used in some copula constructions: mé/mise, tú/tusa, sibh/sibhse, . The emphatic forms are usually preferred for the 1st person and 2nd person with the copula.

Is mise Tara. I am Tara.

The copula construction follows this basic pattern:


Is dochtúir é. He is a doctor.

This basic pattern can be tweaked slightly by the insertion of a subpredicate. The historical explanation for subpredicates is the subject of fractious debate, but for standard Irish, the pragmatic explanation most commonly presented is that a DEFINITE NOUN cannot stand directly after the COPULA. To prevent this from occurring a pronoun, called at “subpredicate,” is inserted.

If the subject of a sentence is a DEFINITE noun (the woman, my father, Paul), then the subpredicate will be a pronoun (í, é, iad, etc.) agreeing in gender/number with the subject. In the example below the subpredicate "é" is inserted between the copula "is" and the DEFINITE noun "an fear". Is dochtúir é an fear. The man is a doctor. ("é" agrees in gender/number with the DEFINITE noun subject "an fear")

If the subject of a sentence is a DEFINITE noun (the man, my mother, Niamh) and the predicate is also a DEFINITE noun (the man, my mother, Niamh), then the subpredicate will be a pronoun (í, é, iad, etc.) agreeing in gender/number with the subject. In the example below the subpredicate "é" is inserted between the copula "is" and the DEFINITE nouns "an dochtúir" and "an fear". Is é an dochtúir an fear. The man is the doctor ("é" agrees in gender/number with the DEFINITE subject "an fear")

If the predicate is an INDEFINITE noun (a man, a doctor, a girl), that predicate can be shifted to the front of the sentence for emphasis, then the subpredicate ea, the NEUTER PRONOUN, will be used regardless of the gender/number of the subject. The INDEFINITE predicate is shifted to the front of the sentence and the subpredicate "ea" is placed between the copula and the DEFINITE noun subject. Dochtúir is ea an fear. The man is a doctor! (doctor emphasized; "ea" the neuter pronoun is used regardless of gender/number of subject)

You can get a better idea of how subpredicates work by looking at further examples below showing the copula in sentences of CLASSIFICATION, “X is a Y” (predicate is INDEFINITE : a woman, a doctor, a boy) and IDENTIFICATION, "X is the Y" (predicate is DEFINITE : the doctor, my brother, Paul).


Now we have all the pieces and some stickum. Let’s make our own sentences. The point here is to consolidate "all of the above" into common colloquial patterns that you can use in everyday speech.

CLASSIFICATION, the predicate is always INDEFINITE

"X is a Y"

Is dochtúir í.

She is a doctor.

copula (Is ) + predicate (INDEFINITE NOUN dochtúir ) + subject (PRONOUN í )

both subject and predicate are INDEFINITE

"the X is a Y"

Is dochtúir é an fear.

The man is a doctor.

copula (Is ) + predicate (INDEFINITE NOUN dochtúir ) + subpredicate (é ) + subject (DEFINITE NOUN an fear )

subject is DEFINITE; predicate is INDEFINITE

Literally: The man is he, a doctor.

A subpredicate (é) is placed before the DEFINITE noun subject (an fear). It matches the subject in gender/number

"X is a Y" (with EMPHASIS)**

For emphasis shift the predicated “dochtúir” in the sentence Is dochtúir í. (She is a doctor) to the front of the sentence. In the resulting blank space, Dochtúir is ___ í. insert ea, the neuter pronoun, regardless of the gender/number of the noun being emphasized.

Dochtúir is ea í.

She is a doctor! (doctor emphasized)

predicate (INDEFINITE noun Dochtúir; emphasized) + copula (is ) + subpredicate (ea ) + PRONOUN subject (í )

Literally: A doctor, is it she.

IDENTIFICATION, the predicate is always DEFINITE

"She is the Y"

Is í an léachtóir í.

She is the lecturer.

Copula (Is ) + subpredicate (í ) + Predicate (DEFINITE noun an léachtóir ) + pronominal subject (í )

predicate is DEFINITE noun; subject is PRONOUN, 3rd person

Literally: She is she, the lecturer.

"I am the Y"

Is mise an dochtúir.

I am the doctor.

Copula (Is ) + subject (mise ) + predicate (an dochtúir )

EMPHATIC pronoun preferred in 1st and 2nd persons

predicate is DEFINITE noun; subject is PRONOUN, 1st and 2nd person

"The X is the Y"

Is é an dochtúir an fear.

The man is the doctor.

Copula (Is ) + subpredicate (é ) + predicate (DEFINITE noun an dochtúir ) + subject (DEFINITE noun an fear )

literally: "The man is he, the doctor."

predicate is DEFINITE; subject is DEFINITE

"Séamus is the Y"

Is é Séamus an múinteoir.

Séamus is the teacher.

Copula (Is ) + subpredicate (é ) + subject (DEFINITE:PROPER NOUN Séamus ) + predicate (DEFINITE noun an múinteoir )

predicate is DEFINITE; subject is DEFINITE (Proper noun)

(pronoun added after copula; agrees in gender/number with the subject)

"This/that is the Y"

Is é seo an peann.

This is the pen.

subject is a demonstrative pronoun


Some people describe the copula as a defective verb. Some describe it as a particle. On the practical level, if you think of the copula as a particle rather than as a verb, it makes it very easy to understand how other particles like ní, níor, an, ar, etc. can replace the copula in negative sentences or in question/response.

replaces is in negative sentences (add "h" if word following begins with a vowel.)
Níor replaces ba in negative sentences (causes lenition)
Níorbh replaces ba in negative sentences if the word following begins with a vowel

Ní fear mé. I am not a man
Ní mé an dochtúir. I am not the doctor.
Ní hí an léachtóir í. She is not the lecturer. (add "h" if word following begins with a vowel.)
Ní hé an dochtúir an fear. The man is not the doctor. (add "h" if word following begins with a vowel.)

Níor dhochtúir í. She was not a doctor. (causes lenition)
Níorbh aisteoir é. He was not an actor. (use níorbh if following word begins with a vowel)



An replaces is (DOES NOT cause eclipsis when replacing copula)
Ar replaces ba
Arbh replaces ba if the word following begins with a vowel
-----Ar replaces is in Connacht Irish; ab if the following word begins with a vowel.
Nach replaces is for a negative question
Nár replaces ba for a negative question
Nárbh replaces ba for a negative question if the word following begins with a vowel


USE ea in the response if the predicate is INDEFINITE (h-prothesis , add an initial “h” to "ea" following : Ní hea.)

Use the personal pronoun (í, é, iad, etc. ) that matches the gender/number of the subject if the predicate is DEFINITE (add "h" if word following begins with a vowel: Ní hé.)


An dochtúir í? Is she a doctor? (no eclipsis) Is ea. Yes, she is. Ní hea. ((add "h" if word following begins with a vowel.) No, she isn’t.
An portán é? (no eclipsis ) Is it a crab? Is ea. Yes, it is. Ní hea. (h-prothesis) No, it isn’t
An dochtúir é Pól? Is Paul a doctor? (no eclipsis) Sea. (Sea is the contracted form of Is ea) Yes. Ní hea. (h-prothesis) No, he isn’t.
An peann é sin? (NO ECLIPSIS) Is that a pen? Is ea. Yes, it is. Ní hea. (h-prothesis)

An é an portán é? Is it the crab. Is é. Yes it is. Ní hé. (h-prothesis) No it isn’t.
An í Máire mo mhúinteoir? Is Mary my teacher. Is í. Yes, she is. Ní hí. (h-prothesis) No, she isn’t.
An é Pól an dochtúir? Is Paul the doctor? Is é. Yes, he is. Ní hé. (h-prothesis) No, he isn’t.

An mise an léachtóir? Am I the lecturer? Is tú. Yes you are. Ní tú. No you aren’t.
An sibhse a tuismitheoirí? Are you her parents? Is muid. Yes we are. Ní muid. No we aren’t.
An tusa Seán? Are you Seán? Is mé. Yes, I am. Ní mé. No, I am not.

An é seo an peann? Is this the pen? Is é. Yes, it is. Ní hé. (h-prothesis) No, it isn’t
An é sin m'athair? Is that my father? Is é. Yes, it is. Ní hé. (h-prothesis) No, it isn’t
-----Ar dochtúir í (Is she a doctor?) Connacht Irish
-----Ab ise an dochtúir (Is she the doctor?) Connacht Irish

Ar mhúinteoir í? Was she a teacher? (+lenition) Ba í. Yes, she was. Níorbh í. No, she wasn’t.
Arbh é an múinteoir? Was he the teacher? Ba é. Yes, he was. Níorbh é. No, he wasn’t.
Nach dochtúir mé? Am I not a doctor?
Nar dochtúir mé? Was I not the doctor?


The copula is inherent in many question words. In those instances, the response will also take the copula.
Take a look at a couple of examples from the Duolingo course to understand this more fully:

Cé? = Who [is]? The copula is is inherent in (Who is?). So the response to questions also includes the copula.
Cé tú? Who are you? (copula inherent in ) / Is múinteoir mé. I am a teacher.
Cé hí? Who is she (copula inherent in ; h-prothesis) / Is múinteoir í. She is a teacher.
Cé hé? Who is he? (copula inherent in ; h-prothesis) / Is múinteoir é. He is a teacher.
Cé hiad? Who are they? (copula inherent in ; h-prothesis) / Is múinteoirí iad. They are teachers.

Cér? = Who [was]? The copula ba is inherent in cér (Who was?). So the response to cér questions also includes the copula.
Cérbh? Who [was] (Use cérbh instead of cér if the following word begins with a vowel)
Cér tú? Who were you? / Ba mhúinteoir mé. (+lenition) I was a teacher.
Cerbh iad? Who were they? / Ba mhúinteoirí iad. (causes lenition) They are teachers.

Cad =What [is]? (the copula is is inherent in cad )

Cad é do cheist? What is your question? That is: What is it, your question?
This sentence has two clauses:

Cad é What [is] it
do cheist your question

Knowing the copula is inherent in cad helps us understand another Duolingo example:
Cad atá sin? What is that? More literally: What is it, which that is?

Cad What [is it] the copula is is inherent in cad; “it” is also implied in this instance
a is a relative pronoun which/that (“which” used with a comma, “that” used without a comma) introducing a new clause (tá sin=that is)
sin that

So two clauses:
Cad What [is it]
atá sin which that is (a and contract to atá )


Liking and Preference
Is maith linn seacláid. We like chocolate.
Ba mhaith liom é sin. I would like that.
B'fhearr liom tae. I would prefer tea.
Arbh fhearr leat caifé? Would you prefer coffee?

Yu Ming is ainm dom. My name is Yu Ming. (Literally: Yu Ming is name to me)

Place of Origin
Is as Éirinn di. She is from Ireland.

Is linne é. It is ours. (Literally, It is with us [permanently]. linne= linn + the emphatic suffix –ne
Is le Pól an carr. The car belongs to Paul. (Literally: The car is with Paul [permanently].)

an fear is mó the biggest man

I made no attempt at a comprehensive survey of the literature or anything else. I went for whatever caught my fancy. :D :D :D

My main references were the Duolingo “Notes and Tips,” sentences and attached posts! Additional sources consulted include:

For the catalog of syntax:

Thoughts on Linguistic Theory:

Terms and Examples:

Ongoing translation of the Caighdeán into English: https://caighdean.home.blog/chapter-7-the-copula/

February 18, 2015



Not scary after all. Just different.

Okay, heading back to the lessons (I'll save this link).

I have to live up to my green and orange.


Actually, you still look at little scared. :D

But don't worry. If a teddy bear can sort this stuff out, it should be a piece of cake for a wise old owl like you.


Brilliant work, heathermagoo! Your post has been a tremendous help for me, I'll definitely keep it bookmarked. Go raibh míle maith agat!


Thank you, 40ShadesOfGreen. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil sé úsáideach duit.


This is great, but seo an peann would only be correct in Northern Irish. Otherwise copula sentences starting with seo, sin & siúd need a pronoun, i.e. seo é an peann.


Greetings Moilleadoir,
I just tracked back to see where I had come up with the "simple form," and sure enough it was from Barbara Hillers' textbook Buntús na Gaeilge based on Ulster Irish. I added it to the list assuming it was standard, but from your note it looks like I assumed wrong. So, I think my safest course is just to eliminate that example. I appreciate your pointing it out. Thanks, Heather :D :D :D

UPDATE Oh, lordy! Knocksedan just pulled out the Caighdeán and it looks like he found an exact match for the simple form.

8.6.1 (c) .... Sin madra; Seo an mála; Siúd an fhírinne; ....

So, I'm going to sit tight for now till I get a little more clarity. :D
All very interesting.


I didn’t say it was caighdeánach, just that in other dialects it feels very wrong. Scottish Gaelic also doesn’t use a pronoun in these kind of sentences.

In fact the Caighdeán simply allows both usages — 8.6.1 (b) “…roimh an bhforainmneach pearsanta…” and 8.6.1 (c) “…thar ceann an fhorainmnigh phearsanta…”.

So, I’d say you shouldn’t choose one over the other, but include both.

Barbara Hillers’ book is a great free resource and I’m pretty sure she also explains this dialect difference.


Thanks, Moilleadoir and Knocksedan for all the input. I'm always grateful to learn more about Irish and your comments are enlightening.

I'm just going to remove the example:
Seo an peann. This is the pen. (Simple structure. Is é can be dropped in affirmative statements.)

My hope is always that the crib sheet will help people through that first encounter with the copula; it was a bit of a puzzle for me and I'm sure that's a pretty common experience. So better not to present anything here that could possibly add to the confusion. I'm going through the Duolingo Irish course again for review, and if I encounter any good examples of this pattern, I will add it back.

Poking around in the past to reply to your comments, I just encountered a TG Lurgan video that I had posted on the forum way back when I created the crib sheet. At the time, I thought it was wonderful fun, and I haven't changed my mind (you can turn on the captions if they don't come on automatically).

Béic Amach

Heather :D


If I want to say your niece is a lawyer, there are no articles. Would I say - Is dlíodóir í do neacht.


That's right, though the possessive adjectives also play the part of a definite article in this type of construction....


For native speakers, the ba form is normally the conditional. It only becomes the past tense in context. So, it's more correct to say that Ba dhoctúir í means "She would be a doctor" but can also be the past, instead of suggesting it the other way around. Also, for tenses/moods/aspects that don't have a copular form, you can't use it. Is docthúr thú can never be "you will be a doctor". You would say Beidh tú i do dhochtúir instead.

So, essentially, the one issue I had is with you using ba as the past, since that's the marked (not normal) form for native speakers, with the unmarked (the natural interpretation) being the conditional.

Also, just to add a little dialectal variety: Before a vowel in Connacht Irish, can become cérb, so you get Cérb í instead of cé hí. An, instead on an in the present tense, you'll see ar, with ab before a vowel.

Ar dochtúir í (Is she a doctor)

Ab ise an dochtúir (Is she the doctor)


Thanks so much for all your explanations throughout the course!

A great help start-to-finish.

Would that only apply to ba or does it extend to níor/níorbh?

For this crib sheet I'm sticking with ba in the past tense for my "X is Y" translations. RTE.ie is using the past tense for their ba translations in http://www.rte.ie/tv/turasteanga/tt.pdf . And I see so many examples of "X is Y" without markers translated in the past tense in www.focloir.ie "advanced search". I think I'll just run with the crowd. :D :D :D
But to emphasize your important point, I've added a number of conditional Ba mhaith liom-type expressions to the Other Idiomatic Uses section.
And I've added ar/ab to the question particles, along with your examples.


It's for all the conditional/past forms.


Holy cow! So when Dwalin the dwarf is eating Bilbo's dinner the the beginning of the first The Hobbit movie, he hears a knock, and says, "That would be the door," instead of "That was the door", it's literally what it would mean in Irish (or Gaelic, since the actor is Scottish)? It's a phrase that I always thought was curious because I've never heard it anywhere else.


Australian English definitely has subtle influence from Irish then because it's really common. Maybe not so much in the US and other parts of the world but it is relatively normal to here that and not sound weird.


That's a common way to speak here in the part of Ireland I live. I just assumed everyone said it.


go raibh maith agat


Ná habair é. :D Hope it proves useful.


Nice job. How did you manage all that formatting?


Thank you! Markdown markup.


Thank you so much!!!


My pleasure!
Go raibh míle, Síle! That's a different way to say "thank you" that I picked up from Clisare:
Truncate "Go raibh míle maith agat" and add Sheila/Síle to make it rhyme.


Thanks a lot for putting this together. I highly appreciate it. I send a lingot to you


Glad it was useful. :D I just read through it and found it a good review.


This is really a first rate essay. I gave you two lingots. Have you noticed you have more than twice as many lingots as up votes?


Thank you for the lingots. I had't noticed there were twice as many lingots as upvotes, but now I see everyone has been very generous. :D

I learned a lot putting it together and hope it helps other learners also.


Thank you for the reference to "Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom" ("我的名字是于明") as well, a humorous yet moving short film (full version is about 13:20) about a young man who, looking for a change in his life, learns Irish and travels to Ireland; a couple links, in case one expires:


Thanks for the links, TelltheSeal. Yes, a big favorite. I love the part where Yu Ming meets "Father Jack" and heads for Connemara. :D


Hi Heather.

thank you for this well thought out piece. It's very good and has helped me a lot.

I think you might have a typo when you say:

"Use the personal pronoun (í, é, iad, etc. ) that matches the gender/number of the subject if the predicate is INDEFINTE "

because the examples you then give where you do this have definite nouns (eg an portán) in them...

or maybe I am reading it wrong?


Hi Timmo,
Thanks for your comment and careful reading. Over time and with everyone's combined efforts, the crib sheet is approaching accuracy.

I've now changed INDEFINITE to DEFINITE in the second paragraph of the following response explanation, under "QUESTION/RESPONSE":

"USE ea in the response if the predicate is INDEFINITE (h-prothesis , add an initial “h” to "ea" following Ní: Ní hea.)

Use the personal pronoun (í, é, iad, etc. ) that matches the gender/number of the subject if the predicate is DEFINITE (add "h" if word following ní begins with a vowel: Ní hé.)"

:D :D :D Heather


Exactly what I needed today!!


Very, very good. I wish I had seen this before. I'll be referring to this quit a bit in the future I think.

A recommendation though. In relationship to the use of the definite article with the copula, use "definite article" instead of "definite noun". Yes, I know, a definite noun by definition takes a definite article, that should be self evident, but ... duhhh ... it took me forever to get that to click over in my think head. And it is the definite article, after all, that is causing the problem not the poor noun.


Proper nouns (names of people and places) are definite without having a definite article. Possessive adjectives can also effectively make a noun "definite".

Is é Pól an múinteoir - "Pól is the teacher"
Is é mo dheartháir é - "he is my brother"
Is deartháir é - "he is a brother"


I knew about the possessive adjectives but like you said, they play the part. Missed the proper nouns. Bizarre rule. She said that there was a heated discussion or some such about the origins of this rule, could you or anyone else give me a reference to an article or book with a not too heavy discussion of the topic?


Thanks for this!!


Go raibh mile maith agat! Your work has answered so many questions that Duolingo exercises pose.


GRMA!! I think I still need some clarification though-

In a sentence like "Is í an léachtóir í" is the pronoun í used both before and after both the subject and predicate because the subject 'she' is indefinite?

If I were to say that 'Orlaigh is the lecturer' would I say: "Is í Orlaigh an léachtóir"

Here do the subject and predicate switch places because the subject is definite? In which case you no longer need to use the pronoun twice?

In the case of: "Is mise an dochtúir" Do you not need to use a pronoun twice, despite also being indefinite, because the first pronoun was emphasized?

Thank you!!


The sub-predicate in Is í an léachtóir í is there because the copula can't come next to a definite article - in other words, it's there because an léachtóir is definite, not because "she" is indefinite (is "she" indefinite?)


Ah ok!

I dont know, actually haha! I guess if "she" is definite, then why wouldn't you be able to simply say "Is í an léachtóir" with í being the subject in the same way as "Is mise an léachtóir"?


Or, conversely, if 'she' is definite, and therefore the same type of subject as a name, say, why wouldn't you say

"Is í an léachtóir Orlaigh"?


Ha, Ha! You can see why we needed a crib sheet. :D

Let's take your example
"Is í an léachtóir í."

You only use this particular construction if:

the subject and the predicate refer to the same person (she= the lecturer)

your subject is in the third person (é, í, iad)

the predicate is definite: (noun with definite article (an bhean), noun with a possessive pronoun (mo chara) or proper noun (Niamh).

And keep in mind this is the pattern for standard Irish. In some dialects you use it differently or don't use it at all.

Your example breaks down gramatically like this:

Is (copula) +í (subpredicate) + an léachtóir (predicate:definite noun) +í (subject)

Literally, you could translate it as: She (subject) is (copula) she (subpredicate), the lecturer (predicate:definite noun).

You can pursue the grammar in more depth over at:


Another useful thing to remember is that it is very common to use the emphatic forms for the first and second person pronouns with the copula.

Is mise an traein.
I am the train.


This is so confusing! I thought the subject couldn't follow the copula. When you wrote 'is mise an traein', I thought it meant 'the train is me'. A bit like 'who are you?' 'I am the manager' versus 'who among you is the manager?' 'the manager is me'. Am I wrong? I want to understand this stuff but it is sooo difficult!


Tá tú i gceart, a Khatie. Because the subject in the sentence is emphatic (mise) it technically becomes the predicate because of the emphasis. If you substitute unstressed (correct but I don't think it is much used) it reverts to the subject.

Is mise an traein. = The train is me.
Is mé an traein. = I am the train.

To avoid confusion (clearly, without success) I tend to translate both versions as "I am the train." :D :D :D

To address your implied question, "Is the word order always copula + predicate + subject?" the answer is "no." If you would like to dig in a little deeper, take a look at
"Syntax of the Copula"

Still, as much as I love analyzing and synthesizing all the grammar stuff, in the end, I've often found that drilling and internalizing the examples is my most productive course.


First of all, that video is ADORABLE! And thank you again!!

It seems the only complication that arises with the copula is in Identification- where the predicate is definite. All Classification uses of the copula seem to place the Indefinite Predicate before the subject.

With Identification, it seems that there are two basic formulae, with variation: Cop+SP+Pred+Sub, and Cop+SP+Sub+Pred(though no SP if subject is first/second person pronoun)

Predicate before subject uses: if subject is a 3rd person prounoun "She is the Y"; if subject is is definite "the X is the Y"

Subject before Predicate uses: Subject is the name of a person "Séamus is the Y"; Subject is a demonstrative pronoun "that is the Y"; Subject is 1st/2nd person prounoun "I am the train"

Does that seem right? I checked out some of the links above and saw some conflicting information- the CorkIrish wordpress site says that the predicate always precedes the subject in the use of the Copula, therefore in the sentence "Is mise an Traein" they claim that 'mise' is in fact the predicate. Dont know which is right, I just want to figure out how to stop getting every "Is.." question wrong haha!


Maith thú, a Iain. :D :D :D
Looks like you have the framework sorted out.

Yes, you are correct about mise being considered the predicate. I just answered the same point for Katie.

"Because the subject in the sentence is emphatic (mise) it technically becomes the predicate because of the emphasis. If you substitute unstressed (correct but I don't think it is much used) it reverts to the subject.

Is mise an traein. = The train is me.
Is mé an traein. = I am the train."

For more take a look at the description in "Syntax of the Copula"

As far as getting the Duolingo exercises correct, you could try referring to the identification examples with definite predicate cited in that description as a model. I see they snuck in a third person emphatic (eisean) to be thorough, but I don't think that will throw you. It works exactly like first and second person pronoun emphatics, but I think the emphasis is more pronounced, because that construction is less common.

Is mise an múinteoir = I am the teacher
Is tusa an múinteoir = You are the teacher
Is eisean an múinteoir = He is the teacher
Is é an múinteoir é = He is the teacher
Is é an múinteoir an fear = The man is the teacher
Is é an fear an múinteoir = The man is the teacher
Is é Pól an múinteoir = Paul is the teacher


Alrighhhhttt!!! Thank you HeatherMagoo!!


Wait in the case of a 1st/2nd person pronoun, if you don't use the emphatic 'mise/tuse' and instead simply use 'mé/tú', would you still use the same sentence structure?

"Is mé an traein" vs "Is an traein mé"?


Wait no, in the last example, the indefinite subject 'me' doesn't follow the same rules as the other indefinite subjects, right? I think if I read that correctly up there, the "I am" statements are separate from the rules of Indef Subject + Def Predicate?

I don't think I have ever seen "Is mé an dochtúir me", is that right?


wait so when you say" Is í an léachtóir í." and that means , she is the lecturer. does she is a lecturer translate to: Is léachtóir í?


Yes, correct! Is í an léachtóir í. She is the lecturer. Is léachtóir í. She is a lecturer


Níor dhochtúir í. This SHOULD be SHE was not a doctor. (surely?)


If the predicate of a sentence is also a DEFINITE noun (the man, my mother, Niamh) and the predicate is also a DEFINITE noun .... SHOULD read... If the SUBJECT of a sentence is also a DEFINITE noun (the man, my mother, Niamh) and the predicate is also a DEFINITE noun (surely?)


Thanks for the close reading. Error corrected. All corrections welcome. :D :D :D


Well, this took a lot of the mystery out of the Duolingo lesson on questions. They introduced the topic with no explanation at all about why "atá" and other small words were in the questions. What a relief to get these explanations. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking time to put this together!


very helpful thanks


Take this lingot.


GRMA! Is é seo seoladh Dé. Tá sé an-chabhrach!


The crib sheet was fun to put together, and I'm always happy to hear that has been useful! :D

I just noticed this book online. It is dual-language -- Gaelige and English on facing pages. I haven't delved into it yet, but it's packed with examples.

The Copula in Classification Sentences: Modern Irish Paradigms for Learners by Gerald A. John Kelly


Thanks for the book recommendation. It is perfect timing: I have just started translating the Caighdeán into English https://caighdean.home.blog/ (group project if anyone wants to help) and I began with the chapter on the copula (what better way to learn it, right?). I feel sure this book will be helpful - my copy is due to arrive on Friday.


Iontach! When I came across that title my first thought was how much help it could be with understanding An Caighdeán.

Your project will benefit many people. Thanks for putting up the link. I have found the Caighdeán to be a terrific resource, but it's not an easy read for people learning Irish.

I wonder if scilling would be interested in helping with something like that. I don't know if they are still active on the forum.

Adh mor ort. :D :D :D


I got the book, and the examples are plentiful and helpful, but I have to say that @heathermagoo's explanations of the copula in this discussion are much clearer than those in the book. To be fair, he wrote the book primarily as a reference ("paradigm" in his words) rather than a primer, so you'd expect it to have more examples than explanations.

I didn't notice at first that the author, Gerald A. John Kelly, is the Jerry Kelly of philo-celticsociety@yahoogroups.com, who teaches online courses for Scoil Ghaeilge Ghearóid Tóibín


Somehow dual language presentations involve me actively in the language patterns. Also it appealed to me that the author is on a mission.

I added a link to your copula chapter up in the references, just in case learners don't make it this far down into the comments. :D


What does seoladh Dé mean? "God's guide"?


it means nothing. I was trying to say "Godsend" and relied on a machine translation without checking it.


It got the point across, and that's the important thing


Thanks. I'm just looking at your translation of the Caighdeán. That's an ambitious project.


That's probably an understatement.


I feel like its so easy but so hard at the same time


heathermagoo , Good on you for the crib sheet! Much appreciated, still to be fully understood. I’m a newcomer from a land down under. You are a giddy wonder!


Go raidh maith agat mo chara


...is é mo dhearthair é but is é Pol Uachtaran na hÉireann, without the second ,"e" at the end.


The second é in is é mo dhearthair é is the "he" in "he is my brother".

There is no "he" in "Paul is the President of Ireland".


This post was quite helpful, thank you

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