How to learn Irish verbs

Updated April 17, 2017

Irish, sometimes known as Gaelic or Irish Gaelic, is a Celtic language spoken in certain parts of the Republic of Ireland. According to the Ethnologue Language Report, there are approximately 391,000 Irish speakers throughout the world, with small Irish-speaking communities also found in the UK, US and Canada. If you want to be able to speak Irish fluently, one of your main tasks will be to master the use of Irish verbs. This can be challenging at first, but with regular study and practice you will make progress.

Understand the basics of Irish grammar. It is important to have some knowledge of the structure of the language so that you can start to form simple sentences. Know that in Irish the predicate (verb or verb phrase) comes in first place in the sentence, rather than the second place as in English. So a sentence such as "Chunnaic an duine each an dé" translates literally into English as "Saw the man a horse yesterday" rather than "The man saw a horse yesterday."

Learn to recognise whether a verb belongs to the first conjugation or the second conjugation group. Regular Irish verbs are split into these two groups and which group a verb is in influences how you should conjugate it. First conjugation verbs normally only have one syllable, while second conjugation verbs have two syllables or more.

Memorise the correct endings for regular verbs in the present tense. You add different endings to the verb stem depending on the person and type of verb. A first conjugation verb such as "bris" (to break) is conjugated as follows: "brisim" (first person singular), "briseann tu" (second person singular), "briseann se" (third person singular), "brisimid" (first person plural), "briseann sibh" (second person plural), "briseann siad" (third person plural). A second conjugation verb such as "eitil" (to fly) is conjugated with slightly different endings: "eitlim" (first person singular), "eitlionn tu" (second person singular), "eitlionn se" (third person singular), "eitlimid" (second person plural), "eitlionn sibh" (second person plural), "eitlionn siad" (third person plural).

Study the conjugation of irregular verbs. Irregular verbs use the same endings as regular verbs, but changes take place in the stem of the verb itself. Luckily there are only a few irregular verbs in Irish but they include some very common verbs such as "abair" (to say), "feic" (to see) and "ith" (to eat). Practise writing out the conjugations of these verbs every day until you are confident that you know them by heart, then enlist the help of a friend to test your newly acquired knowledge.


Once you have mastered the present tense of Irish verbs, you can move on to more complicated tenses such as the past, future and conditional.

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About the Author

Rachel Turner has been writing professionally since 2007. She has been published in a variety of local and regional publications such as "Redbrick" and "Window Magazine." Turner holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematical sciences from the University of Birmingham and is a Chartered Accountant.