Verb forms not found in the Caighdeán

To start with: I am not particularly happy with the war people wage against the Caighdeán Oifigiúil, because I have seen too much printed material in make-believe dialect which has been about as riddled with clumsy English-influenced syntax as the worst school Irish you ever saw. The reason why people detest the Caighdeán Oifigiúil is that bad Irish (i.e. bad syntax and word-for-word translation from English) usually goes hand in hand with the Caighdeán. However, they then tend to follow the clue in the wrong direction and adopt morphological features (i.e. words and inflectional forms) from some dialect, while sticking to English-influenced constructions and syntax. (For the linguistically challenged, here is a simple explanation of the concept of syntax: it is how words depend on each other in the sentence as a whole. The Irish term for syntax is comhréir, i.e. mutual consistency, and that pretty much summarizes it.)

I must say though that many people parroting away about how bad the Caighdeán is are those who seize upon any convenient excuse not to learn Irish. I have my issues with the Caighdeán but as standard languages go it isn’t that bad. (Of course, these days they are changing the Caighdeán in new ways. You can rest assured I couldn’t care less about their new Caighdeán. I have my own ideas of what standard Irish should be, and those ideas are firmly rooted in the Irish of the Gaeltacht folklore and literature. I teach you my own caighdeán, and that’s the end of it.)

This does not mean that it is not sensible to learn the word forms not used in the Caighdeán. The best linguistic models (even syntactic models) are to be found in Gaeltacht literature, which for natural reasons is written in more or less dialectal language. Thus, it is important to see to it that your quest into that world will not be stopped by your unfamiliarity with the non-Caighdeán forms. (Note though one of the reasons why I am nowadays critical of the anti-Caighdeán stance is the fact that the Caighdeán as defined by the unabridged Irish-language edition of the Christian Brothers’ grammar is solidly based on the syntax of the best native writers. The problem is, again again again, that people don’t read that particular grammar or focus on syntax.)

Here are the stems of strong verbs including those not used in the Caighdeán. (There will, I hope, be a later blog post about those personal endings which are most typical of Munster dialects.)


For the verb feic!/feiceáil ‘to see’, the main problem is the stem tchí-, chí-, tí- (based on earlier ad-chí, do-chí). In the mythical good Irish of bygone days this was the form used in statements and in direct relative (and note that in direct relative clauses the t- is not lenited!). The stem feic- was used after go, ní, nach, an. 

Thus, the present tense has the form tchí, chí, tí when it is not preceded by any verbal particles other than the direct relative a. (The added -onn in present as well as the broad -os of the direct relative are allowed but not required.) After ní, go, an, nach the feiceann form is preferred.

Similarly, the future tense has the forms tchífidh [tʃ-], tífidh, chífidh (and where applicable, it takes the direct relative broad -s: an fear a tchífeas/chífeas/tífeas a leithéid de radharc ‘the man who’ll see such a sight’). After the verbal particles, the stem is again feic-: ní fheicfidh, go bhfeicfidh, nach bhfeicfidh and so on.

The conditional mood has the forms tchífeadh [tʃ-], tífeadh, chífeadh – but after the verbal particles, go bhfeicfeadh, ní fheicfeadh and so on.

The habitual past tense has the forms tchíodh, tíodh, chíodh – and after the verbal particles: go bhfeiceadh et cetera.

The tchí- stem can be pronounced tiu-, tʃu- in Ulster, but is seldom so written.

Even in the Caighdeán there is the absolute vs dependent distinction in the past tense: chonaic vs go bhfaca, ní fhaca, an bhfaca, nach bhfaca.

The chí/feic– distinction is however most typical of Ulster. In Munster, at least in colloquial Kerry Irish, the chí- stem has been generalized (in the way feic- has been generalized in the caighdeán), so that we have such forms as go gcíonn, ní chíonn in the present, go gcífidh in the future and so on. The ch- is usually delenited in the absolute forms: cíonn, cífidh – but of course it is lenited after the direct relative a. (Actually, direct relative a tends to become do in Munster.)

In the past tense Kerry Irish also keeps the absolute stem even in the dependent forms, so you should not be surprised to see forms such as gur chonaic, níor chonaic rather than go bhfaca, ní fhaca in Kerry literature. And of course, these days the verbal particles ending in -r are becoming extinct in Kerry, so I guess go gconaic, ní chonaic are quite common too. Personally, though, I think these are vulgar dialect that should only be used where very colloquial style is called for.

Note that the old form for “I saw”, still used in Munster, is chonac (pronounced more like ch’nuc though).

The autonomous (impersonal) form is chonacthas/go bhfacthas, but as dialects go chonaiceadh is not that uncommon – I’d say it is most typical of Munster. 

Note that in the sense ‘seemed to’, you often see b’fhacthas. B’fhacthas dom ‘it seemed to me’. This sort of thing is found at least in Ulster and Connacht.

The verbal noun is feiceáil, with some typical provincial alterations: feiceál in Connemara, feiceáilt in Ulster. In Munster, feiscint is common. 

FAIGH!/FÁIL ‘to find, to get’

Then faigh. Now that’s a nice one. To start with, the present tense in the “good old Irish” used to be gheibh, and the faigh- stem is only ever used after the verbal particles. 

Even in the Caighdeán, the future tense has a somewhat similar distinction: gheobhaidh vs ní/go/nach/an bhfaighidh. Note that here even eclipses.

And similarly in the conditional mood: gheobhadh vs ní/go/nach/an bhfaigheadh

In the Caighdeán, we use faigheann rather than gheibh, but Ulster Irish basically keeps the gheibh vs faigheann distinction, and in Munster gheibh has become gheibheann and is also used in dependent forms, so that you encounter such forms as ní gheibheann, go ngeibheann

After chan, we can use the faigh- stem: chan fhaigheann; but as I have pointed out elsewhere, the construction chan gheobhann (future form with -ann substituted for the future ending) also exists in the dialect. I have seen it in literature only once – the writer was an Ulsterman but not a native Irish speaker, and he used it for dialectal plausibility – and there are some instances in East Ulster folklore. I must say though that using this kind of expressions is precisely the kind of petty dialect enthusiasm that I have grown suspicious of, and I would prefer people to take more interest in syntax and idiom.

Note that gheobhaidh has the direct relative form gheobhas. Giving the form gheibh a direct relative ending where applicable (gheibheas) is hardly wrong, but it is not required or necessary.

The past tense is fuair, as you should know, and it takes the -r-less verbal particles. And even here, ní eclipses: fuair, an bhfuair, nach bhfuair, ní bhfuair, go bhfuair. Note though that the Ulster particle chan lenites: chan fhuair. The autonomous form is fuarthas, although fuaireadh does have some currency in dialects. There is also the completely irregular autonomous form frítheadh or fríth, which can sometimes be spotted in Connacht or Clare literature (Sean-Phádraic Ó Conaire uses it). It takes the -r particles, as far as I know, and resists lenition, as autonomous forms of regular verbs do.

The verbal noun is fáil; the Ulster variant is fáilt. The participle is faighte, but in Munster, there is the form fachta.

ITH!/ITHE ‘to eat’

Then let’s consider ith. As you certainly know, the future and conditional moods use the stem íos-: íosfaidh, d’íosfadh. The past tense is usually regular in all dialects: d’ith. However, you should remember that the irregular form d’uaidh, níor uaidh, nár uaidh, gur uaidh (it can also be written d’uaigh or d’ua) is sporadically found in folklore. It is a remnant of classical Irish rather than part of any particular dialect. I have seen it (as d’ua) in a folklore volume from Clare.

FÁG!/FÁGÁIL ‘to leave’

Fág!/fágáil ‘leave’ is basically a regular verb. However, in Ulster it has the irregular future form fuígfidh – as in the song Fuígfidh mé an baile seo nó tá sé dúghránna – and similarly the conditional mood d’fhuígfeadh; and in Connacht it has the past form d’fhága rather than d’fhág

TAR!/TEACHT ‘to come’

Tar!/teacht shows quite a lot of variation. Tagann is the present form, you say? Well yes, but in Ulster they typically prefer thig. (Obviously, tig and tigeann as well as the direct relative form thigeas also exist in dialects. In fact, tig- forms are found even in Connacht.) Tag- can be pronounced teag- in dialects, but this is seldom written.

The subjunctive present has theoretically the form taga, but in Ulster both tige and tara are found (with extra -idh added in pronunciation if the following word is not a pronoun). Thus: fan go dtaga mé, fan go dtaga Seán in the caighdeán, but in Ulster:

fan go dtara mé, fan go dtaraidh Seán


fan go dtige mé, fan go dtigidh Seán.

Now you obviously ask me what the hell the subjunctive present is, because they never taught you that at school. Well, I am afraid I’ll need to blog about that separately.

Anyway, Ciarán Ó Duibhin, who is much more versed in Ulster Irish than yours truly, told me that for Ulster the rule is that you never have the tag- stem – instead, you have either the tar- or the t(h)ig- stem in those forms that don’t have t(h)ioc-. (Future and conditional forms are in Ulster tiocfaidh, thiocfadh, as anywhere else.) The past habitual, which is in Ulster also used as past subjunctive, is thigeadh: dá dtigeadh sé abhaile, bheinn breá sásta

The past tense has, as everybody should know, the form tháinig. The caighdeán recommendation is to use the -r particles with it: níor tháinig, gur tháinig, ar tháinig, nár tháinig, but actually such forms as ní tháinig, go dtáinig, nach dtáinig, an dtáinig are quite widespread in dialects (even other dialects than Munster). The Ulster cha is used without -r: cha dtáinig

Note that the historically correct synthetic form for ‘I came’ is thánag. However, this is only used in Cork. In Kerry, thána (in analogy with chuala ‘I heard’) is used. 

The imperative of gabh! can be used in Ulster in the meaning “come!” – which has given rise to the word goitse, goitseo “come here” (basically gabh anseo).

The verbal noun is usually teacht, but the parallel form tíocht exists at least in Connemara. The verbal noun tends to be permanently lenited in many dialects (i.e. theacht, thíocht).

TABHAIR!/TABHAIRT ‘to give, to bring’

Tabhair!/tabhairt used to have the (permanently lenited) present form bheir when not preceded by verbal particles (tugann is always used after them: ní thugann, cha dtugann, an dtugann, nach dtugann, go dtugann). In Ulster, such forms are still used, but even there tugann is common even without verbal particles. The form tabhrann (in Ulster pronounced tóireann) also exists, but I tend to think it is very colloquial (in the sense ain’t and gonna are very colloquial English). 

Similarly, the future and conditional forms (tabharfaidh and thabharfadh in the caighdeán) distinguish in Ulster between bhéar- forms used in independent or direct relative position: bhéarfaidh (future), bhéarfas (future direct relative) and bhéarfadh (conditional mood).  T(h)abhar- stem is used after verbal particles: ní thabharfaidh, nach dtabharfaidh, go dtabharfaidh, an dtabharfaidh; ní thabharfadh, nach dtabharfadh, go dtabharfadh, an dtabharfadh, cha dtabharfadh. (Note that Ulster Irish does not use cha[n] before the future form – instead, the present form caters for both present and future, cha dtugann = ní thugann AND ní thabharfaidh.)

The written form tabhar- conceals many different phonetic realizations, such as tiúr- and tóir-. These are seldom written even in relatively dialectal texts, though.

The habitual past is in Ulster bheireadh, but after verbal particles –thugadh, -dtugadh: ní thugadh, cha dtugadh, an dtugadh, go dtugadh, nach dtugadh. 

The verbal noun is tabhairt, but of course there are different ways to pronounce it, such as tiúirt and tóirt – these are seldom written. The participle is tugtha, but tabhartha is used in the set expression leanbh tabhartha “illegitimate child” (also páiste ceo, páiste gréine, páiste díomhaointis). 


In the caighdeán, the cluin- and clois- stems are perfectly equal, and nothing keeps you from using them in free variation (if you are not trying to imitate the preferences of a particular dialect). Present is thus cluineann or cloiseann, future is cluinfidh or cloisfidh, and conditional is chluinfeadh or chloisfeadh

Cluin = clois has the present form chluin in Ulster; this is permanently lenited, but responds to eclipsis: go gcluin, nach gcluin, an gcluin.

The past tense of course has the form chuala, impersonal form chualathas; note though that the regularized cluineadh is also known in dialects. Both chuala/chualathas and cluineadh take the -r particles (ar, nár, níor, gur), but such forms as go gcuala are not unheard of. The verbal noun has the standard forms cloisteáil and cluinstin, but there are several nonstandard ones such as cluinstint, clos, cloisint, cluinsbheáilt (the last one I mined from some very marginal Ulster dialect and made a point of using it back when I tried to cling to Ulster Irish). The participle is cloiste or cluinte.

The form for ‘I heard’ is in Kerry simply chuala with no ending or pronoun added. In Cork, it is chualag (under the influence of thánag). Chualas for ‘I heard’ is an innovation based on the regular verb; it is more typical of those dialects where the synthetic form is only used in poetry or in answering a question.

Note that the verbs mothaigh!/mothú (in Ulster often mothachtáil in the verbal noun) and airigh!/aireachtáil both meaning basically “to feel” are often used in the meaning “to hear”. (As far as I know, braith!/brath is not used in this sense, though.)

BEIR!/BREITH ‘to bear; to seize upon, to catch’ 

Beir has regular present: beireann. The past tense is in the caighdeán based on the rug- stem: rug mé, rug tú. However, there is a tendency in several dialects to spare the rug- stem for the autonomous verb rugadh ‘was born’, and use bheir in the sense of catching, seizing. Many writers of Irish, even those who use a relatively caighdeán kind of style, would write rugadh Einstein in Ulm ‘Einstein was born in Ulm’, but beireadh ar Veerappan i bPapparapathi ‘Veerappan was caught in Papparapathi’.

I seem to recall (but this is on strictly ‘I seem to recall’ basis) that in Connemara the rugadh/beireadh distinction is expressed as rugadh/rugthas (or rugadh/rugús). I should check the literature though.

In Ulster, the regularized past forms bheir mé, bheir tú are usually used, although they can be confused with the old present of tabhair!/tabhairt. 

In future and conditional, the written forms are béarfaidh, bhéarfadh, although at least in Ulster the pronunciation is more like beirfidh, bheirfeadh to keep them distinct from the forms of tabhair!/tabhairt

The verbal noun is breith, the participle is beirthe – but the form rugtha does find some idiomatic use in some dialect, I think.

DÉAN!/DÉANAMH ‘to do, to make’

The present is regular in the standard language: déanann, ní dhéanann, go ndéanann, nach ndéanann, an ndéanann. However, in Ulster (< ghní, do-ghní) is still used when not preceded by verbal particles (and you do find it sporadically in other dialects too). The spelling ghní is sometimes used, but it should not be interpreted too phonetically, because that gh- is not pronounced – it is rather a way to keep ghní distinct from both the verbal particle ‘not’ and the stem of the regular verb nigh!/ní ‘to wash’. Note that at least for some speakers, initial slender n- can be audibly lenited; the initial n- in (gh)ní ‘does’ is permanently lenited, while the one in níonn ‘washes’ is not, if it is not preceded by a leniting verbal particle.

The form used after the verbal particle in Ulster is déan or téan, often sounding more like deán or teán. Thus, ní dhéan/ní théan/ní dheán/ní theán; cha dtéan/cha ndéan/cha dteán/cha dtéan; go dtéan/go ndéan/go dteán/go ndeán, and so on.

The past is rinne, with the form dearna used after the verbal particles: ní dhearna, go ndearna, nach ndearna, an ndearna and so on. We saw above that the impersonal past of the verb ‘to hear’ can be cluineadh although the personal forms use the chuala stem; similarly, déanadh has some currency in the spoken language instead of rinneadh. The form used after the verbal particles is dearnadh: ní dhearnadh, nach dhearnadh, go ndearnadh, an ndearnadh – but I am positive I have seen ní dhearnthas in some Munster text. (Update: yes, ní dhearnthas is used in Co. Cork Irish, probably because they indeed have the form dhearnag in the first person singular, under the influence of thánag ‘I came’ and chualag ‘I heard’. This I have never seen in any folklore book, but Breandán Ó Buachailla tells in his book about Cork Irish that the dhearna stem is used even in positive statements, i.e. where you would in the standard language use the rinne stem: do dhearnag ‘I did’, do dhearnamar ‘we did’ etc.)

Sometimes we see the rinn- stem used after verbal particles: níor rinne, gur rinne and so on. This occurs in some places in Connemara. 

Déanadh takes -r particles: níor déanadh, ar déanadh; this sometimes occurs with dearnadh too: níor dearnadh. Both in Connemara.

In Ulster, the past forms are rinn rather than rinne and dearn/tearn rather than dearna: thus, ní thearn/ní dhearn, go dtearn/go ndearn, cha dtearn/cha ndearn

In some places in Munster, the past of déan is based on the dein stem, and it is regular: dhein sé, deineadh: níor dhein sé, níor deineadh (such forms as go ndein sé, go ndeineadh occurring instead of gur dhein sé, gur deineadh are not due to irregularity of irregular verbs, but to the more common loss of -r particles in Munster Irish). I am not versed enough in Munster Irish to tell, whether this dein- stem is phonetically very different from the déan- stem used in other forms. 

Habitual past, future, and conditional forms are regular in the Caighdeán. At least in Ulster, though, habitual past is based on the (gh)ní- stem; and not just conditional but also future forms are permanently lenited: dhéanfaidh. And as in present and past, the verb in Ulster does not seem to be able to decide whether its stem vowel is or éa, and whether its first consonant is t or d. Thus, we get forms such as cha dteánfadh, cha dteánfaidh, go dteánfadh, go dteánfaidh, and so on.

The verbal noun is déanamh and the participle is déanta, but in the recently published book on East Ulster Irish, Scéalta Mhuintir Luinigh, I have spotted teanamh, which seems to be another example of Ulster t- for d- in this verb.

ABAIR!/RÁ ‘to say, to sing’

The present is deir, and in the Caighdeán it is the same after verbal particles: go ndeir, nach ndeir, ní dheir, an ndeir. Some textbooks suggest that there is a difference in meaning between deir and deireann, but this is bonkers: I say it is one of style.

Note that deir is not lenited after direct relative particle: an fear a deir nach bhfuil sé sásta ‘the man who says that he is not satisfied’. This is due to the fact that historically a- is part of the stem. This is why some writers prefer adeir to a deir.

The impersonal present is deirtear. The old form ráitear should be avoided, as it is hardly living language anywhere. The old formula ris a ráitear is sometimes used, but this is in today’s Irish purely facetious; it means ‘which is called’, i.e. ar a dtugtar or a dtugtar…air/uirthi/orthu in better and more modern Irish.

The historically correct way obviously was to use the abair-/abr- stem after verbal particles: ní abraíonn/ní abrann, go n-abraíonn/go n-abrann, an abraíonn/an abrann, nach n-abraíonn/nach n-abrann; an abraítear/an abart(h)ar etc. However, even where abr- stems survive, they are not always used according to this rule – in Ulster, ní dheir is seen alongside ní abraíonn or ní abrann, and in Connacht, you see such forms as abraíonn used without any verbal particles. 

Very much the same applies to future and conditional forms, which are based on the déar- stem (déarfaidh, déarfadh) with the d- resisting aspiration after the direct relative particle (a déarfas, a déarfadh), but not after (ní dhéarfaidh, ní dhéarfadh).

Again, the use of the abair-/abr- stem after verbal particles has been most stable in Ulster. Note though that the abr- forms in Ulster show the usual Ulster features of second conjugation verbs in conditional and future. Thus, the conditional and future endings are either two-syllable: abróchaidh [abrahi], abróchadh [abrahu] (note that in Ulster, non-initial long o is realized as short but clear [a]) or intrusive: abórfaidh [abarhi], abórfadh [abarhu]. 

The habitual past form is deireadh, with the impersonal form deirtí. It is not lenited except after ; such forms as dheireadh, dheirtí with a regularized lenition of the initial consonant are typical of Waterford Irish. The abair-/abr- stem after verbal particles is again possible: ní abraíodh, ní abraítí or ní abart(h)aí. But note again that where the ab(ai)r- stem does exist, it is often used even where you would except deir-: I am positive I have seen d’abraíodh rather than deireadh in folklore volumes from Mayo, at the very least.

The past is dúirt, the past impersonal is dúradh (dúrthas is dialectal.) The personal endings are added to dúr- stem, and the first person form used in Munster is dúrt (old orthography dubhart). However, both in Ulster and Connacht, the past form is frequently reanalyzed as d’úirt, which gives rise to such forms as níor úirt, nár úirt, ar úirt, gur úirt (note that the caighdeán recommendation is ní dhúirt, nach ndúirt, an ndúirt, go ndúirt). This is orthographically often represented as níor (nár, ar, gur…) dhúirt or níor (etc.) ‘úirt. Similarly, the impersonal form is in these dialects húradh or húrthas (the addition of h- to the initial vowel of past impersonal is a regular feature in those dialects). The initial d- resists lenition after direct relative a (and of course some writers prefer to spell the direct relative form as one word, adúirt).

The verbal noun is (rádh, ráidht, ráit are seen in Ulster literature), ráite is the participle.

TÉIGH!/DUL ‘to go’

This verb has a number of issues. We saw above that gabh! is used for ‘come!’ in Ulster, but at least in Connacht the forms of gabh!/gabháil are more typically substituted for forms of téigh, such as future (gabhfaidh for rachaidh) and conditional (ghabhfadh for rachadh). 

The present form is téann. However, in Ulster they use théid with all personal pronouns. It is permanently lenited but it responds to eclipsis: go dtéid, nach dtéid, cha dtéid… 

The future form is rachaidh and the conditional form is rachadh. However, in Munster these forms are created from the ragha- rather than racha- stem at least if they end in personal endings, thus raghainn for rachainn ‘I would go’, and raghad for rachaidh mé ‘I will go’. The -f- is used only in the impersonal form: rachfar (raghfar), rachfaí (raghfaí). 

The past tense is chuaigh, and the past form used after verbal particles is deachaigh (an ndeachaigh, go ndeachaigh, nach ndeachaigh, ní dheachaigh). While -igh is the standard spelling, some people insist on -idh as the historically correct spelling, but as you know this is not phonetically relevant anywhere. 

In Munster, expect such forms as gur chuaigh and (due to loss of -r particles) go gcuaigh. And in Ulster, there is again some confusion about the first consonant: cha dteachaigh, an dteachaigh etc.

The impersonal past is chuathas/go ndeachthas; the form chuadh (or chuathadh)/go ndeachadh is dialectal.

The verbal noun is dul, obviously, but in Ulster and Connacht, ghoil (delenited only after ag: ag goil) is preferred. It is obviously another example of gabh invading the paradigm of this verb. It is sometimes written ghabháil, but as far as I know the real honest-to-God gabháil has even in those dialects a full pronunciation [gawa:l’] to keep it distinct from ghoil. The participle is dulta, but the construction ar shiúl is preferred at least in Ulster.

There will be a separate post about  and is of course.


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