The letter "a" has several sounds in Irish. If the
"a" has a síneadh (SHEEN-uh) over it -- "á"--
pronounce it like the vowel in the English word
"tot", but sound it for a longer time. The sound
will be between an English (aw) in "paw" and an
English (ah) in "ma".
Make sure that you open the mouth wide and place
the tip of the tongue just below the lower teeth.
The lips should be spread to the sides more than
for English "aw". Practice on: ál, ádh
(aw*), ár, bá, cá, dá,
fá, bláth (blaw*), arán (uh-RAW*N).
We use the letter group (aw*) for this sound, indicating
that it is similar to but not exactly like English
In many cases where the "a" has no síneadh
but is alone in the accented syllable, the sound
is more likely to resemble English (ah) in "ma".
Examples: mac (mahk), capall (KAH-puhl), cad (kahd),
fada (FAH-duh), cara (KAH-ruh). It will be easier
for you to give it this sound at first rather than
a short (aw*) sound, which is actually what it gets
in most of Ireland. Later, you can gradually switch
to the more correct sound, as you hear Irish speakers
An "a" in an unaccented syllable often sounds like
(uh) in English "uh-huh" or "love". Examples: fada
(FAH-duh), aníos (uh-NEES), capall (KAH-puhl).
When other vowels, such as "e" or "i", or aspirated
consonants, such as "bh, dh, gh, mh" are next to
"a", the pronunciation of the letter group may differ
from (aw*), (ah), or (uh). we will review this next
For the irregular verbs, the past-tense saorbhriathar
(say*r-VREE-huhr), or free form, is fairly irregular.
Learn these four this week:
thángthas (HAW*NG-uh-huhs), people come
níor thángthas (NEE0uhr HAW*NG-uh-huhs),
people didn't come
ar thángthas? (r HAW*NG-uh-huhs), did people
nár thángthas (naw*r HAW*NG-uh-huhs),
didn't people come?
chuathas (K*OO-uh-huhs), people went
ní dheachthas (nee YAK*-huhs), people didn't
an ndeachthas? (un NYAK*-huhs), did people go?
nach (nahk*) ndeachthas?, didn't people go?
chualathas (K*OOL-uh-huhs), it was heard
níor chualathas, it was not heard
ar chualathas?, was it heard?
nár chualathas?, wasn't it heard?
chonacthas (K*UHN-uhk-huhs), it was seen
ní fhacthas (nee AHK-huhs), it was not seen
an bhfachthas? (un VWAHK-uhs), was it seen?
nach bhfacthas?, wasn't it seen?
To make conversation easier, you need words that
reduce or increase the force of adjectives. For
example, it helps to be able to say that something
is "fairly good" or that weather is "very cold".
One way to do this is by addition of a prefix. "An
- " (ahn) means "very". It aspirates all consonants
except "d, t, s". Examples:
an-bheag (AHN-vyuhg), very small
an-chiúin (AHN-HYOO-in), very quiet
an-deas (AHN-dyas), very pretty
an-tirim (AHN-TIR-im), very dry
an-saibhir (AHN-SEYE-vir), very rich
(roh) means "too". It aspirates all consonants.
róbhaolach (roh-VWAY*-luhk*), too dangerous
róchaol (roh-K*AY*L), too narrow
ródheacair (roh-YAK-ir), too difficult
róthirim (roh-HIR-im), too dry
cuíosach (KWEE-sahk*), fairly
cineál (KIN-aw*l), somewhat
réasúnta (ray*-SOON-tuh), fairly,
____ go hiomlán (goh HUM-law*n), quite, entirely
measartha (MAS-uhr-huh), fairly, moderately
____ ar fad (er FAHD), quite, entirely
There are other and longer expressions for some
of these meanings that are in better style and are
more Irish, but they are more difficult, and we
will not take them up here. An example is "Is beag
nach bhfuil mé marbh", meaning, "I am almost
dead", literally "It is little that I am not dead".
Dia dhuit, a Liam. Hello, William.
Dia's Muire dhuit, a Phádraig. Conas
tá tú inniú? Hello, Patrick.
How are you today?
Ó, táim cuíosach maith.
Conas tá tú féin? Oh, I'm fairly
well. How are you?
Beagnach marbh leis an obair. Agus tá
an aimsir an-te (AHN-te). Nearly dead with the work.
And the weather's very hot.
Ach níl sé rothirim, ar aon chuma
(er AY*N K*U-muh). But it's not too dry, anyway.
Bhí sé cineál tais (KIN-aw*l
tash) inné. It was somewhat damp yesterday.
Tais ar fad. Beidh (be) sé measartha
fuar i gceann tamaill. Quite damp. It will be fairly
cold in a while.
Tá orainn bheith (ve) an-churamach in
aimsir mar sin. We must be very careful in weather
Tá an ceart (kyart) agat. Bhí
an-slaghdán (AHN-sleye-DAW*N) orm ag an am
seo anuraidh (eg un oum shuh uh-NOOR-ee). You are
right. I had a terrible cold this time last year.
"An - " can precede a noun, too, and give it
an intensified meaning. "An-slaghdán" means
an outstanding or bad cold. "An-scoláire"
(AHN-skuh-LAW*-re) is an outstanding or excellent
1998 The Irish People. May be reprinted with credit.