Irish language

All the verbs you will need as men and women of action

Learning the verbs in Irish

Robert McMillen

Go mbeannaí daoibh, hello this dreary Bealtaine, agus bhur gcéad fáilte isteach chuig The Bluffer’s Guide to Irish.

Right, yez have had it easy so far, time to take a torch, grab a machete and take a journey through the na briathra - verbs in Irish. (Shrieks).

Verbs are words of motion, things you do so they are essential if you want to speak Irish.

The present habitual tense (sorry for the jargon) but it just means actions you do regularly. Every verb has a root. For instance, do is the root for does, did, done, will do, doing, etc. etc.

Take the root ól in Irish meaning drink.

To say you drink regularly you say ólaim - I drink. There is no - me in it, just one word will do, like bebo - I drink in Spanish.

For other people, you would say ólann tú - you drink, ólann sé - he drinks, ólann sí - she drinks, ólann muid - we drink, ólann sibh - you (plural) drink and ólann siad - they drink.

Easy peasy, Japaneasy.

(Now don’t worry, you can be drinking once a week or once a year, or you could be drinking water or tea or you could be imbibing WKD through a straw as part of your pre-swall routine, the word stays the same. It is not at all judgemental!)

Now you know the verb ending, you can try them out with tóg - to life, or fág - leave or scríobh - write.

If a root finishes with a slender vowel (don’t panic, a slender vowel is simply either e or i) then the present tense changes slightly. Cuir is the word for put (and many other meanings). Because the last vowel is i, one of the two slender vowels, the endings are cuirim - I put, cuireann tú - you put, cuireann sé - he puts, cuireann sí - she puts, cuireann muid - we hit, cuireann sibh - you (pl) put, cuireann siad - they put.

Again write down the present tense for buail - hit or éist - listen.

There is another group of verbs, and they end in -igh or -aigh, verbs like críochnaigh - finish, or triomaigh - to dry but let’s have a look at mothaigh - feel, so that you can tell your shrink how you’re dealing with learning Irish.

It goes mothaím - I feel and you’ll notice the i has a fada.

Then we’re off to mothaíonn tú - you feel, mothaíonn sé - he feels, mothaíonn sí - she feels, mothaíonn muid - we feel, mothaíonn sibh - you feel, and mothaíonn siad - they feel.

Now, there are a few other verbs which don’t follow the rules but we won’t worry about them for now.

So, good readers, that was your introduction to Irish verbs and whatever you can do in the 21st century, there is a verb in Irish for it.

The good news is that help is at hand too. If you google the term “Irish verbs” you will see a lot of useful cards with lists of verbs on them that might help you.

Another great resource is at On this website, that also has an English-Irish dictionary, an Irish-English dictionary and an Irish-Irish dictionary, you can enter a verb you want to use and it will show you all the different endings you’ll need.

It might look complicated but we’ll find out more next week.

Irish language

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