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Native usage.

I thought I'd point out some features of spoken Irish of actual native speakers, that isn't obvious from the somewhat conservative nature of the written language. I assume here you've reached a high enough level on the tree, since these features wouldn't be met until that point.

(a) Native speakers quite often do not use the genitive. Especially if the noun is polysyllabic or is followed by an adjective. Younger speakers especially do not use the genitive.

The genitive plural is very rare in speech, outside of fixed phrases. Only older conservative speakers use it freely on most nouns.

(b) Adjectives, aside from very common ones such as:

Bán, mór, fuar, dubh, glas, marbh, bocht, óg, beag

are basically never in the genitive.

(c) The past habitual is reasonably uncommon in the spoken language.

(d) The preposition "um" is not really used.

(e) Mutation rules after numbers are not really fixed.

Chúig mbád Chúig bhád Chúig bád

(f) Some dialects still have a dative case, mostly in the south, and only for some words. Only applies to feminine nouns. To form it is simple:

Genitive ends in 'e': Knock off the 'e'

Nominative: fuinneog

Genitive: fuinneoige

Dative: fuinneoig

Genitive ends in a consonant: Make genitive slender.

Nominative: Lacha

Genitive: Lachan

Dative: Lachain

Nominative: Abha

Genitive: Abhann

Dative: Abhainn

(Note: Standard Irish and some dialects often use what was originally the dative as the nominative)

(g) The Northern and Western dialects still have a relative form of the verb (used after a = which/that/who/whose/whom). It often takes the form of adding an 's':

An fear a bhíonns ag ceannach bróg = The man who buys shoes

An bhean a ullmhaíonns an bord = The woman who prepares the table

In the North, it changes the present tense ending from -(a)íonn to -(a)íos or -(e)ann to -(e)as

An fear a bhíos ag ceannach bróg

(h) The verb "to see" can be "tchíonn" or "chíonn" instead of "feiceann".

April 28, 2015



Thanks for this post. So helpful.

I had read somewhere that the genitive case was "under pressure" and I'm happy to see practical examples of what that actually means. Ditto the dative.

Good news about the numbers too. When I make a mess of all those boats, I'll still be right in somebody's books. :D :D :D


The numbers really have no rules in native speech. The only thing to say is you usually use the singular, aon always lenites and dhá usually lenites. Thats it.


You're quite right about the genitive. There is an acknowledgement of this in the foreword of the revised standard. I understand the dative, where it still exists, is in a healthier state.

dar ndóigh, tá an teanga labhartha ag athrú go mór agus go gasta agus rinneadh iarracht na hathruithe sin a chur san áireamh agus an leagan athbhreithnithe seo den chaighdeán oi giúil á réiteach. Triaileadh, mar shampla, aitheantas a thabhairt don leathnú atá ag teacht a úsáid fhoirm an ainmnigh in ionad an ghinidigh sa chaint.



Thanks. Can I assume where it's not otherwise noted that these are true of all Gaeltacht areas?


Yes, unless noted the points are generally true and have been so for at least sixty years.


Thanks for your perspective. While I'm trying to learn according to the "standard" rules, it's always nice to know how a language as actually spoken by native speakers!


For tchíonn / chíonn, do they only apply in present tense conjugations?

My grammar book also notes dhein mé and níor dhein mé for rinne mé and ní dhearna mé respectively as alternatives for the past independent and past dependent forms of déan. Are these dhein forms still commonly used?


Yes, very commonly in Munster. Rinne would not really be heard in Kerry or Cork.


Sorry, I should also add that speakers who use "dhein" also use the synthetic forms. Like "dheineas" instead of "rinne mé".

Some of the extinct dialects (Tipperary) used rinneas.


The t(ch)í/chí- are forms are conjugated in other tenses, too. Please see the link below.



Hi. Would you mind creating a separate post that goes into greater detail on the native usage of the genitive, genitive plural, and adjectives in the genitive, with maybe a few examples of the standard and the native usage side by side? Having become somewhat familiar with the genitive, I'm having a hard time imagining how this native usage would be used as opposed to the standard.

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