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Irish Language Lessons

Irish Lesson 98

The fourth declension of nouns

This group of nouns is the simplest in one respect: the genitive or possessive form is the same as the basic or nominative form. An example: bosca (BOHSK-uh), an bosca, an bhosca, na boscaí (BOHSK-ee); box, the box, of the box, the boxes.

The word bosca is masculine. A feminine noun of this declension is banaltra (BAHN-uhl-truh), an bhanaltra, na banaltra, na banaltraí (nuh BAHN-uhl-tree); nurse, the nurse, of the nurse, the nurses.

There are several plural endings in this declension. One common one is an "-í" (ee) added to nouns ending in "-a"

Examples: Masculine

babhta (BOU-tuh), an babhta, an bhabhta (VWOU-tuh), na babhtaí; bout, etc.

cárta (KAW*R-tuh), an cárta, an chárta, na cártaí; card, etc.

fógra (FOHG-ruh), an fógra, an fhógra (OHG-ruh), na fógraí; notice, advertisement, etc.



bearna (BAR-nuh), an bhearna (VAR-nuh), na bearna, na bearnaí; gap, blank space in a questionnaire, etc.

eala (AH-luh), an eala, na heala, na healaí; swan, etc.

mala (MAHL-uh), an mhala (VWAHL-uh), na mala, na malaí; eyebrow, etc.


Not all fourth-declension nouns ending in "-a" form their plural in this way. Another way: Most masculine fourth-declension nouns ending in "-ín" (een) add "-í" for the plural. Examples:

cailín, an cailín, an chailín, na cailíní; girl, etc.

toitín (ti-TYEEN), an toitín, an toitín, na toitíní; cigarette, etc.

gairdín (gahr-DEEN), an gairdín, an ghairdín, na gairdíní; garden, etc.


Here are some phrases that contain some fourth-declension nouns in various forms:

ar eagla na heagla (ah-gluh); in fear of fear, meaning "just in case, to be on the safe side."

lá an dreoilín (droh-LEEN); wren day.

duine na dúiche (DOO-i-he); a person of the district.

ar shlí na firinne (er hlee nuh FEER-in-ye); (literally: on the way of the truth), gone to eternal reward, dead.


Vocabulary of fourth-declension nouns

Masculine (firinscneach)

hata (HAH-tuh), an hata, an hata, na hataí; hat, etc.

páiste (PAW*SH-te), an páiste, an pháiste (FAW*SH-te), na páistí; child, etc.

práta (PRAW*-tuh), an práta, an phráta, na prátaí; potato, etc.

nia (NEE-uh), an nia, an nia, na nianna; nephew, etc.

seomra, an seomra, an tseomra, na seomraí; room, etc.

cóta, an cóta, an chóta, na cótaí; coat, etc.

céilí (KAY*-lee), an céilí, an chéilí, na céilithe (KAY*-li-he); dance, etc.

balla (BAHL-uh), an balla, an bhalla (VWAHL-uh), na ballaí; wall, etc.

gloine (GLIN-e), an gloine, na ghloine, na gloiní; glass, etc.

gúna (GOON-uh), an gúna, an ghúna, na gúnaí; dress, etc.


Feminine (baininscneach)

bá (BAW*), an bhá (VWAW*), na bá, na bánna; bay, etc.

eorna (OHR-nuh), an eorna, na heorna, (no plural); barley, etc.

oíche (EE-he), an oíche, na hoíche, na hoícheanta (HEE-huhn-tuh); night, etc.

léine (LAY*-ne), an léine, na léine, na léinte; shirt, etc.

saoirse (SEER-she), an tsaoirse (un TEER-she), na saoirse, (no plural); freedom, etc.



álainn (AW*-lin) is "beautiful", but dathúil (dah-HOO-il) is "handsome:, na madraí dathúla (MAH-dree dah-HOO-luh), the handsome dogs.

Is dathúla Seán ná Brían; Seán is handsomer than Brian.

oiriúnach (ir-OON-ahk*), suitable. Seomra oiriúnach, seomraí oiriúnacha; a suitable room, suitable rooms.

Tá Gráinne níos oiriúnaí don phost ná Treasa (GRAW*N-ye; ir-OON-ee; fohst; TRAS-uh); Gráinne is more suitable for the job than is Treasa.

clúiteach (KLOO-tyahk*), famous; filí clúiteacha, famous poets.

Is clúití Gráinne ná Eilís; Gráinne is more famous than Eilís.

ceomhar (KYOH-wuhr), foggy; ceomhaire, foggier


deonach (DYOHN-ahk*), voluntary, volunteer; oibritheoir deonach (ib-ri-HOH-ir), a volunteer worker.

A Volunteer in the Irish Republican Army is óglach (OHG-lahk*), an t-Óglach, an Óglaigh (OHG-lee), na hÓglaigh; Volunteer, the Volunteer, of the Volunteer, the Volunteers.

Sean-Óglach is a former or veteran Volunteer.



By now, you have enough Irish grammar to need many more words than these lessons can give you. You are also meeting new Irish words and forms of speech that you have not seen in these lessons. Dictionaries, grammars, and manuals will be helpful to you now. Here are some of the materials available:

Foclóirí (foh-KLOH-ir-ee)

Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Irish-English dictionary), ed. Niall Ó Dónaill.

This is the largest and most modern one. It superseded that of an t-Athair Ó Duinnín (Dineen's dictionary).

English-Irish Dictionary, ed. Tomás de Bhaldraithe.

This is the leading one, offering many examples of good style and alternative expressions. The book requires patience and care by the beginner, because of its comprehensiveness.

There are smaller dictionaries, too. The Learner's Irish-English and English-Irish Dictionaries are examples. The two have been bound together into a single small volume printed by Talbot Press.

Simple grammars include the familiar Progress in Irish. For those who have finished this, the Réchúrsa Gramadaí, by Brian Mac Giolla Phádraig, is a next step. It is almost entirely in Irish, and it has countless examples of usage, extensive word lists, and paradigms or form changes for verbs and nouns.

Anois is Arís is a language manual and practice book for the RTÉ language programs on television in Ireland. The authors, Donall Ó Baoill and Éamon Ó Tuathail, have oriented the program and book toward situations, and you will be able to understand and benefit from the book,

These books are readily available at Irish stores and can be ordered through many other stores having contacts with Irish publishers.

Irish Lesson 99

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