Caibidil a Seacht:
personal pronouns (na Forainmneacha Pearsanta)
mé and tú appear occasionally (fitting to the rather
short pronunciation) as me or mi and tu without an accent
(as by mise and tusa)
The genitive form of the personal pronoun is the possessive
The terms "subject form" and "object form" are contradictory. Better terms would
be subjunct form (for subject form) and disjunct form (for object
form), but these terms are used seldomly. The term "copular form" is used here,
since this form is not always identical to the object form.
The subject form (foirm ainmneach)
- is used if the pronoun directly follows the verb and is the subject
of the sentence.
e.g.: Ólann sé bainne = he drinks milk
- is not used, if synthetic
verb forms are used, because here, the subject is already signified (e.g.:
ólaim bainne = I drink milk, tuigimid = we understand),
except exceptionally- and selectively in the 3rd pers. plural: (e.g.: tuigid
siad / tuigeann siad = they understand)
The object form (foirm chuspóireach)
- There are differences in the subject form of the 2nd person sing. (thú
instead of tú) and the 3rd person (é/í/iad instead of
For sinn and sibh there were once forms without s (inn, ibh), today
- It is used if the pronoun does not directly follow the verb (no matter
if it is the subject or the object)
e.g.: Ólann Seán é = Seán
drinks it. (object)
e.g.: Ólann sise agus eisean bainne = She and he drink
milk. (actual subject!). Here though after agus tú, not
- as the object, is denotes also reflexivity, if necessary for clarity, together
with the reflexive pronoun féin =
self: e.g.: Nímse mé (féin) = Ich wash myself).
Ghortaigh sé é féin = He hurt himself
- It is also used with the autonomous form
of the verb (dir object): Glantar é = one cleans it
- It is used after non-conjugable prepositions.
e.g. gan é = without him (also here tú instead of thú:
gan tú = without you)
- not used after conjugable prepositions
(instead of their compound forms with a preposition, i.e. prepositional pronouns
s.b.) also not *ag é but aige = by him
- not used after zusammengesetzten
prepositions (instead of dessen possessive pronouns)
- not used, if it should be the
direct object of a verbal noun (e.g. in the progressive form) (here instead
of its use of possessive pronouns, in the progressive
form with the preposition do: e.g.: Bhí mé do bhur mbualadh
= I have beaten you ("I was to your beating") see also tenses
The copula form (foirm chopaileach)
- identical to the object form, except the tú mostly appears
unlenited and there is here a neuter pronoun ea.
- The forms é, í, iad are always bound to the copular
form is in spoken Irish [òe:], [òi:],
[òi@d]). This is also partially written so:
'sé, 'sí, 'siad (with and without an apostrophe). Then,
they are the same as the subject forms.
- They are used if the pronoun is the subject/predicate (or subsubject/subpredicate)
of a copular clause.
Is tusa a rinne é = It was you who did it; Is eisean
a rinne é = He did it; Is é mo mhuinteoir é
= He is my teacher.
The polite form (foirm an ómóis)
- A polite form really doesn't exist, i.e. one speaks to strangers and people
of higher authority with tú = you.
e.g.: Conas atá tú, a dhuine uasail? = How do you do, Sir?;
Conas atá tú, a Uachtaráin? = How do you do, Mr. President?
- An exception lies in the address of clergy, here one can use sibh
= you(pl.) ("iolra an ómóis = the plural of honour):
e.g.: Conas atá sibh, a Athair? = How are we, Father?
Appropriately one must also use the 2nd person plural in possessive- and prepositional
pronouns or verbs
e.g.: Ólaigí, a Athair, más é bhur dtoil é
= Drink, if you please, Father!
forms (foirmeacha tréise)
- besides the above forms, (mise, tusa, etc.) there are also forms
with féin (mé féin,
tú féin, etc.) or with demonstrative
pronouns (in the 3rd pers.: é sin, í siúd, iad
- they serve to emphasise a pronouns, also called "contrast forms".
- thes must be related in some way, like a series of personal pronouns (e.g.:
mise agus tusa = you and I)
- also common in identification copular clauses as the predicate (e.g.: Is
mise Pól = I am Paul instead of Is mé Pól)
- The forms mise, tusa, eisean, ise, etc. are only used for persons,
not for inanimate nouns, the forms with féin or sin
may also be used for inanimate nouns
neuter pronoun (an forainm pearsanta neodrach)
ea (old script form eadh),
pronunciation: [a:] (Standard and Munster), [æ:] (in Connacht).
It is mostly bound to is to make sea,
spoken: [òa:] or [òæ:].
It is known as the "neuter" pronoun ("it"), a leftover of the (today otherwise
It can only be used with the copula and also only:
- in classification clauses (with an indefinite predicate noun) e.g. múinteoir
is ea an bhean = the woman is a teacher, Múinteoir is ea í
= She's a teacher (literal translation: "Teacher it is, that she is").
- in reference to an indefinite predicate noun: e.g.: Is múinteoir
íse ach ní hea mise = She is a teacher, but I am not.
- in short questions, answers: Seán a rinne é, an ea? = Seán
did it, isn't that so? Is ea = Yes
- ní hea as the corrective: Is dócha, ní hea,
is deimhin gur rinne sé é = It is possible, no, it is sure,
that he did it.
- is ea a to connect an adverbial indicators with the main clause :`e.g.
Thall ansiúd is ea atá sí ina cónaí
= It's over there, where she lives.
- an ea go in the meaning "is it so that..." An ea nach bhfuil tú
sásta? = Is it so that you are not satisfied?
- más ea (féin) = even if it is so: Ach más
ea, déanfaidh mé é = But even if so, I will do it.
(in altered pronunciation as the filling word> muise, mhuise = indeed)
- to preclude an action: Is ea a chuamar ar fud na tíre = What we
had done, was to go through the entire country.
- is ea is + comparative in constructions with the abstract
noun in the meaning desto: dá mhéad é is
ea is fearr é = the bigger, the better
In other uses only sé/é orsí/í is
used, depending on the antecedent, for what the it stands. If the gender
of the antecedent is unknown or a subordinating clause, then one uses sé
or. é, and never ea.
The same applies for the usage of a "impersonal it": Tá sé
ag cur baistí = It's raining.
eadhon (eadh + ón, -ón is
the old emphatic suffix in the neuter)
It is used in written language still as the replacement for the abbreviations
like "which is called", "namely" or "that is" (Latin"id est", i.e., in Irish
often .i. abbreviated, also in English "viz.").
In Irish, the pronoun stands alone, the copula (is) is omitted.
amhlaidh is a remaining prepositional pronoun
out of amhail = like and eadh = it (lit.: "like it").
Today mostly used as an adverb in the meaning "so": Tá sin amhlaidh
= So it is
is amhlaidh is + comparative appeard in the usage "so", "the..."
, esp. in combination with the abstract noun
Often, is amhlaidh is also similarly used like is ea.
prepositional pronouns (forainmneacha réamhfhoclacha)
With many prepositions there are compound forms
with the personal pronouns, i.e. the prepositions are, so to say, conjugated.
e.g. ag : agam, agat, aige, aici, againn, agaibh, acu.
muid / sinn:
- Sinn is the older form and is probably predominantly used in Munster,
(but known worldwide as in the party name Sinn Féin = Ourselves)
- Muid is made up of the present tense verb suffix -imid (e.g. tuigimid
= we understand);
- Muid is today more often as sinn and stems as a pronoun originally
In older grammar books[ 1 ] the
use of muid was very much frowned upon, but without success.
- Occastionally, muid is recommended as a subject form after analytical
verb forms (e.g.: tuigeann muid thú = we understand you), sinn
on the other hand to be used as the object form (e.g.: tuigeann tú
sinn = you understand us). Muid appears still also the object form.
tú / thú:
Generally, tú is the subject- and copular form and thú is the
object form, but in both cases there are too many exceptions, so that this had
to be appended:
An unlenited tú/tusa is used:
- as the subject of a verb (glanann tú = you clean)
- directly after the copula (is tusa mo ghrá = you are my love)
- with the verbal noun (tú a bheith ann = that you are there, tú
a chloisint = to hear you)
- after agus (glanann mise agus tusa = you and I clean)
- after non-conjugated prepositions (idir tusa agus eisean = between you
and him, gan tusa = without you)
A lenited thú/thusa is used:
- as the object of a verb (glanaim thú = I clean you, glantar thú
= one cleans you)
- with der copula, if es not directly danach steht: cér díobh
thú? = what's your name?, cé as thú = where are your
from?, mo cheol thú = bravo, is dochtúir thú = you're
the order of the pronouns:
In German/English the 1st person ("I") always comes last, at least it should.
In Irish it is the other way around.
If there should follow more than one pronoun after another, the following applies:
- 1st person (mé, muid/sinn)
- 2nd person (tú, sibh)
- 3rd person (é í, iad and nouns)
in a list, a pronoun of the 3rd person comes after a noun
Bhí mise is tusa is eisean ann = He, you and I were there.
Bhí mise agus mo chairde in Éirinn anuraidh = My friends and
I were in Ireland last year
an múinteoir agus eisean = he and the teacher
agreement in gender and number:
Usually, pronouns of the 3rd person (sé = he, sí = she)
agree in number and gender with the appropriate noun.
Pertaining to the gender, there are exceptions
only in the cases of
- persons: nouns, no matter which grammatical gender, are represented
by pronouns of the natural genders:
e.g.: an cailín = the girl (masculine noun!), but the pronoun
- sí, í = she
This applies also for occupational terms.
e.g. an múinteoir = the teacher (masculine noun!), but the pronouns
sé, é by male teachers, sí, í by
- nautical terms: Irish terms for ships can either be feminine (long
= ship) or masculine (bád = boat). In any case one uses
e.g.: Is bád deas í = It is a pretty boat
- áit, uair are feminine nouns, but use masculine pronouns.
e.g.: Is é an áit is fearr é = It is the best place.
- for some nouns (certain vehicles, machines, animals) like carr
= car, capall = horse, leabhar = book are partially using masculine or
- Subpredicates and other pronouns together with interrogatives are
mostly masculine: Cé hé an bhean sin? = Who is that
woman? Always masculine are prepositional pronouns with interrogatives:
Cé aige a raibh an ginmhilleadh? = Who had the abortion?
In number there are exceptions made in
the case of
- collective nouns (cnuasainmneacha): collective nouns are nouns
in the singular, that signify a group of persons, things (e.g. slua = crowd,
muintir = people, beirt = a twosome, buíon = troop, clann = children,
One refers back to them with plural pronouns:
e.g.: Is iad an bheirt is fearr iad = They are the two best ones (an
bheirt: singular, iad: plural),
An mhuintir a raibh mé leo = The people, by whom I was. (an
mhuintir: singular, leo: plural)
Emphatic suffixes (iarmhíreacha
The forms -se, -sean, -ne come after a slender final sound, the forms
-sa, -san, -na after a broad final sound.
*: -e is used after a double-n: sinn-ne > sinne, againn-ne > againne
These suffixes are mentioned here, because they are closely related to the
Thes serve as contrast and emphasis
They are used only in reference to persons, not in reference to inanimate
things or animals.
If a person is repeatedly mentioned in a sentence, the suffix can only be used
the first time (e.g. Nímse mé féin = I wash myself)
They can be added to the following parts of speech:
- nouns (if with possessive pronouns) e.g.: a theachsan
= his house
- adjectives (if with possessive pronouns and noun) e.g.: a theach
mórsan = his big house
- personal pronouns e.g.: seisean = he, sinne = we,
muidne = we
- prepositional pronouns e.g.: aigesean = by him, linne
= with us
- synthetic verb forms e.g.: tuigimse = I understand, tuigfinnse
= I would understand, tuigeamarna = we understood
According to the origin, they are weakend forms of the demonstrative
pronouns: seo (> sa/se), sin (> san/sean). -ne is a
shorthand form of the personal pronoun sinn (or the older form sni).
"Sinne" is also actually a double "sinn".
Alternatively to that, the pronouns féin
(e.g.: mé féin, tú féin, é féin)
or, in the 3rd person, the demonstrative pronouns
seo, sin, siúd may be used (e.g.:
é sin, í sin, iad sin). These alternatives are also to
be found in usage.
Gramadach na Gaeilge
© Lars Braesicke 1999 / 2000
[ 1 ] Graiméar na Gaedhilge leis na Bráithreachaibh Críostamhla, 1906:
in reference to muid: "On no account should this corruption be imitated by the student"