How to say “must” and “can”
This article was contributed by Michael.
How to say “must”
Irish is in many ways a more expressive language than English.
We have four different meanings covered by the English word ‘must’, and five ways to express them.
‘I absolutely must’ is Is éigin dom.
Is éigin dom mo thicéid a cheannach chun na laethanta saoire inniu, nó beidh sé ró-dhéanach.
“I must book my tickets for the holiday today, or it will be too late.”
The plain ‘I must, I have to’ is caithfead, caithfidh mé or ní mór dom.
Caithfead fanúint, caithfidh mé fanacht, sa bhaile anocht.
“I must stay at home tonight.”
Ní mór do dhaltaí gach ceist a fhreagairt.
“Students must answer every question.”
‘I morally must’ is Tá orm.
Tá orm bheith cróga nuair a thugaim cuairt chuig an dochtúir.
“I must be brave when I visit the doctor.”
‘It logically must be’ is Ní foláir nó go bhfuil sé.
Bhí sé ag stealladh báistí lasmuigh – ní foláir nó go bhfuil tú fliuch báite.
“It’s teeming rain outside – you must be soaking wet.”
How to say “can”
There are several ways to express this in Irish.
‘You can go there’ can be expressed as:
Féadann tú dul ann. (The older literary form, still in use).
Tá tú ábalta dul ann. (’You are able to go’ – perhaps the commonest Munster form).
Tig leat dul ann (’It comes to you to go’ – an Ulster expression using an older form of the word for ‘comes’ – tagann in Standard Irish.)
Tá tú in ann dul ann. (’It is in you to go’ – a common Connacht form).
Tá sé ar do chumas dul ann. (You are capable of going).
“Féidir” activates the le/do distinction seen throughout the language: le refers to opinion, do to objective fact:–
Is féidir leat dul ann (You think you can go there [but you might be wrong]).
Is féidir duit dul ann (You really can go there [whether you believe it or not]).
N.B. that the phrases with ‘ábalta’ and ‘in ann’ can be used with any of the tenses:
Bhíos/Bhí mé ábalta; Bhíos/Bhí mé in ann: I was able
Táim/Tá mé ábalta; Bhíos/Bhí mé in ann: I am able
Béad/Beidh mé ábalta; Béad/Beidh mé in ann: I will be able
Bheinn ábalta; Bheinn in ann: I would be able
N.B. that b’fhéidir means ‘perhaps’. It is followed by go + an indirect relative clause:–
b’fhéidir go bhfuil siad in ann imeacht (perhaps they’ll be able to go away)
If you’re into your grammar, but starting to learn to speak Irish Gaelic, you can learn online with Bitesize Irish Gaelic.