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Irish Gaelic
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The Autonomus Verb

An Saorbhriathar

Irish, like most lanugages, has verb forms for first, second, and third persons, as well as singular and plural. These link an action being performed with the person or thing performing the action:

brisimI break

briseann tú — you break

briseann séhe breaks

brisimidwe break

briseann sibhyou break

briseann siadthey break

briseann an fear — the man breaks

briseann na mná the women break

But Irish also has a form that is impersonal, that simply expresses an action being performed without any reference to who or what does the action. This is used when the person performing the action is either unknown or unimportant.

In some cases, this can be translated as “One…” or “People…” or an indefinite “They…”

Óltar a lán tae in Éirinn – One drinks a lot of tea in Ireland

People drink a lot of tea in Ireland

They drink a lot of tea in Ireland

An bhfuil a fhios agat cad a thugtar ar Big Mac san Fhrainc?

Do you know what they call a Big Mac in France?

A Dhia! Mharaíodh Cionnaith!

Oh my God! They killed Kenny!

It can also be translated by the English passive:

Dúntar an geata gach oíche ar a dó an chloig.

The gate is closed every night at two o’clock

They close the gate every night at two o’clock

Briseadh an fhuinneoig agus mise ag an oifig

The window was broken when I was at the office

They broke the window when I was at the office

Certain verbs have specialized meanings in the autonomous form:

Faightear a leithéid seo ar fud na tire

One finds things like this all over the country =Things like this are available all over the country

Feictear dom nach bhfuil sin ceart

It is seen to me that that is not right

=That doesn’t look right to me

Samhlaíodh go raibh sé chun cur

It was imagined that it was going to rain

=It seemed like it was going to rain.

Forms of the Autonomous Verb

  • In the Present Tense, the ending is -tar for verbs ending in a broad consonant, and -tear for verbs ending in a slender one.
  • In the Past tense, the ending is -(e)adh or -(a)íodh
  • In the Past Habitual, it ends in -t(a)í
  • In the Future, it ends in -f(e)ar
  • and in the Conditional it ends in -f(a)í

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  1. Sieirál said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    This is very helpful. I liked the one phrase that has to do with South Park! :)

  2. brianocuinn said,

    November 27, 2008 @ 2:39 am

    lol i liked that too. but how come it’s :

    A Dhia! Mharaíodh Cionnaith!

    and not

    A Dhia! Maraíodh Cionnaith! ???

  3. dreadfulphobia said,

    July 23, 2017 @ 4:42 pm

    BOAH! Ich hasse wandern! Aber gute Fotos habt ihr gemacht ^^

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