One of the first things you learn is that you can’t put two nouns together by using the verb tá. Using tá you can tell what something is like, or where it is, but you can’t tell what it is, or who somebody is – that is, instead, told using the copula, which is a part of speech of its own, not a verb. (Grammarians and textbook authors often suggest that the copula, is, is another verb for “to be”. This is misleading, because is has a syntax of its own, very different from how normal verbs are used in a sentence. It is better to see is as a distinct part of speech. Tá, on the other hand, is a verb.)
However, people do sometimes feel pressed to combine two nouns using tá, and they are not always quite familiar with how this is done correctly. They tend to put mar “as, like” before the second noun. While this is not wrong (well, not always), I myself feel very seldom even tempted to do so, because I use other instruments.
To start with, i + possessive pronoun. This should be part of every Irish speaker’s toolbox.
Tá mé i mo mhúinteoir. I am a teacher.
Tá mé i m‘fheirmeoir. I am a farmer.
Tá mé i m‘fhisiceoir. I am a physicist.
Tá mé i m‘eachtránaí spáis. I am a space adventurer.
Tá mé i mo ridire. I am a knight.
Tá mé i mo chaptaen spásloinge. I am a spaceship captain.
Tá mé i mo theangeolaí. I am a linguist.
Tá tú i d‘fheirmeoir. You are a farmer.
Tá tú i d‘fhisiceoir. You are a physicist.
Tá tú i d‘eachtránaí spáis. You are a space adventurer.
Tá tú i do ridire. You are a knight.
Tá tú i do chaptaen spásloinge. You are a spaceship captain.
Tá tú i do theangeolaí. You are a linguist.
Tá sé ina fheirmeoir. He is a farmer.
Tá sé ina fhisiceoir. He is a physicist.
Tá sé ina eachtránaí spáis. He is a space adventurer.
Tá sé ina ridire. He is a knight.
Tá sé ina chaptaen spásloinge. He is a spaceship captain.
Tá sé ina theangeolaí. He is a linguist.
Tá sí ina feirmeoir. She is a farmer.
Tá sí ina fisiceoir. She is a physicist.
Tá sí ina heachtránaí spáis. She is a space adventurer.
Tá sí ina ridire. She is a knight.
Tá sí ina captaen spásloinge. She is a spaceship captain.
Tá sí ina teangeolaí. She is a linguist.
Tá muid inár bhfeirmeoirí. We are farmers.
Tá muid inár bhfisiceoirí. We are physicists.
Tá muid inár n-eachtránaithe spáis. We are space adventurers.
Tá muid inár ridirí. We are knights.
Tá muid inár gcaptaein spásloinge. We are spaceship captains.
Tá muid inár dteangeolaithe. We are linguists.
Tá sibh in bhur bhfeirmeoirí. You (guys) are farmers.
Tá sibh in bhur bhfisiceoirí. You are physicists.
Tá sibh in bhur n-eachtránaithe spáis. You are space adventurers.
Tá sibh in bhur ridirí. You are knights.
Tá sibh in bhur gcaptaein spásloinge. You are spaceship captains.
Tá sibh in bhur dteangeolaithe. You are linguists.
Tá siad ina bhfeirmeoirí. They are farmers.
Tá siad ina bhfisiceoirí. They are physicists.
Tá siad ina n-eachtránaithe spáis. They are space adventurers.
Tá siad ina ridirí. They are knights.
Tá siad ina gcaptaein spásloinge. They are spaceship captains.
Tá siad ina dteangeolaithe. They are linguists.
Tá mé ag obair i mo mhúinteoir. I am working as a teacher.
Bhí sí ag obair ina múinteoir. She was working as a teacher.
Chaith Seán trí bliana sa tSaimbia ina mhúinteoir. Seán spent three years in Zambia as a teacher.
Bhíodh Cathal ina mhúinteoir ó am go ham. Cathal used to work as a teacher occasionally.
Chuir Séimí aithne ar a lán neachanna eachtardhomhanda nuair a bhí sé ina chaptaen spásloinge. Séimí got acquainted with a lot of extraterrestrial beings when he was a spaceship captain.
Nuair a bhí sé ina mhúinteoir bhí dearcadh eile aige ar an gceist seo. When he was a teacher, he had a different view of this question. (= Ina mhúinteoir dó bhí dearcadh eile aige ar an gceist seo.)
The idea behind this construction is being in the role, say, of a teacher. A child could also say: Tá mé i mo Gharda “I am (being) a policeman” (i.e. the child refers to the role of a policeman in a game).
There is one thing to be noted about this construction. The possessive pronoun (or possessive adjective, both terms are used) mo, do, a, a, ár, bhur, a has the power of the definite article. Thus, when you want to tell us that Nero was an Empire of Rome, you cannot say ?bhí Nearó ina Impire na Róimhe. In the construction Impire na Róimhe we have a noun (Impire) qualified by a definite genitive (na Róimhe), You cannot put a definite article before this, and you cannot put a possessive pronoun/adjective before it either. In this example, it is better to use the preposition ar to refer to the entity Nero was an emperor of: bhí Nearó ina Impire ar an Róimh. It is also possible to say bhí Nearó ina Impire Rómhánach, but it sounds kind of literary.
A related construction is Múinteoir atá ann. As you should know, ann is the word for “there” in the existential sense, but it is also the combination of the preposition i and the third person singular masculine pronoun, “in it, in him”. These three constructions are more or less interchangeable:
Is múinteoir é = Múinteoir is ea é = Múinteoir atá ann.
There is a dialect difference: the third one is markedly Ulster dialect.
Similarly: Is múinteoir mé – Múinteoir is ea mé – Múinteoir atá ionam
Is múinteoir thú – Múinteoir is ea thú – Múinteoir atá ionat
Is múinteoir í – Múinteoir is ea í – Múinteoir atá inti
Is múinteoirí sinn – Múinteoirí is ea sinn – Múinteoirí atá ionainn
Is múinteoirí sibh – Múinteoirí is ea sibh – Múinteoirí atá ionaibh
Is múinteoirí iad – Múinteoirí is ea iad – Múinteoirí atá iontu.
In Ulster, where this is a common construction, there is a tendency to use ann for all third persons, so you should not be amazed to see Múinteoir atá ann used to refer to a woman, or Múinteoirí atá ann.
Note that a similar construction is used for referring to the innate qualities of a person. Thus, you could also say: Tá comhábhair an mhúinteora ann “He has all the makings of a teacher” (i.e. he is innately qualified to become one). And, while ar refers to (notionally transient) diseases (tá slaghdán orm), i refers to permanent invalidity: tá cam reilige ann “he is club-footed”.
Another preposition used in this way is ar. It is most typically used when we suggest relative position, and it can be used when the noun is definite and qualified by a superlative adjective construction:
Tá sé ar fhir chróga na hÉireann “he is one of Ireland’s [most] courageous men” (the superlative is here notional, but not needed in the construction; word for word it means “he is among the courageous men of Ireland”)
Tá sé ar na fir is cróga in Éirinn “he is among – i.e. one of – the most courageous men in Ireland”. Note that we can’t have the genitive form here, because the definite article is a necessary part of the superlative construction, and a definite genitive cannot follow a definite noun. We work around this problem by using in Éirinn “in Ireland” rather than the genitive form.
Tá sé ar an bhfear is cróga in Éirinn “he is the most courageous man in Ireland”. This is the “relative position” use of ar, which we see even in the following:
Tá sé ar fhear chomh cróga is a rugadh in Éirinn riamh “He is as courageous a man as ever was born in Ireland”.