1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Irish
  4. >
  5. "Bhean" vs. "Bean"?


"Bhean" vs. "Bean"?

Hello, I'm still a beginner in learning Gaeilge, and I have a bit of confusion about the difference between "bhean" and "bean" and the right places to use words such as those. I've searched for answers under the discussion, but ended up being more confused by wordy explanations. Can anyone clarify what initial word mutations are and when they are used in simple terms?

February 26, 2015



Have you done lenition and eclipses yet? Bhean is the lenited form of bean, lenition occurs after the definite article and when using "my, your, their" etc.

It occurs by placing an h after the first letter in a word

Look up the notes on lenition and it will show you a few other examples....

Mo chara (my friend) Do phortan (your crab) An bhean dearg (the red woman)

Feiceann me an Bhean agus an cailin (I see the woman and the girl)


It's actually be an bhean dhearg. Feminine nouns lenite the following attributive adjective, even with DNTLS. Though, to be honest, you'll often hear natives not use it. But, then again, you'll hear them using it.


Yeah, native speakers would say both "an bhean dearg" and "an bhean dhearg"!


There are four types of initial word mutations:

  • lenition, which adds an h after an initial b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, or t ;
  • eclipsis, which precedes an initial b with m, an initial c with g, an initial d with n, an initial f with bh, an initial g with n, an initial p with b, an initial t with d, an initial lower-case vowel with n-, and an initial upper-case vowel with n ;
  • H-prothesis, which precedes an initial vowel with h ; and
  • T-prothesis, which precedes an initial lower-case vowel with t-, an initial upper-case vowel with t, and an initial s followed by a vowel, l, n, or r with t.

Both lenition and eclipsis can be applied to nouns, adjectives, or verbs; H-prothesis can be applied to nouns, adjectives, pronouns, or verbs; and T-prothesis can be applied to nouns.

There are several instances in which each of these mutations can be applied, so a list of simple terms to explain when each mutation is used would be fairly lengthy.

The only difference between e.g. bean and bhean is that bhean has been lenited.


Ahh, okay. I think I somewhat understand it now. Go raibh maith agaibh!

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