Caibidil a Trí Déag: Sentences and Syntax (Abairt agus Comhréir)
|Direct relative clauses
Indirect relative clauses
Generalizing relative pronoun
Relative clauses are subordinate clauses, which refer back to a word (antecedent) in the primary clause. In Irish, they are introduced by a relative particle, more rarely by a relative pronoun. The relative particle is usually not a pronoun. Is links only an antecedent and a relative clause (thus it is a conjunction.)
In Irish, there is a distinction between direct and indirect relative clauses. In direct relative clauses, the antecedent is a direct subject or object. In indirect relative clauses, a there usually appears a further pronoun which has the function of an object, and which itself refers back to the antecedent.
For syntactic reasons, relative clauses are used by far more frequently than in English.
antecedent + a + verb + subject and/or object
form: One uses the direct relative particle (mír chobhneasta dhíreach)
Characteristics of the syntax:
If a sentence with a go/nach subordinate clause is converted into a direct relative clause, the go/nach subordinate clause is also converted into a direct relative caluse. The previous primary clause is converted into a module clause (clásal idiraisnéiseach) as in our example “whom I think.” It usually involves a verb of saying or thinking.
|Sílim go bhfuil an fear sásta||I think (that) the man is happy|
|direct relative:||Feicim an fear a shílim atá sásta.||I see the man whom I think is happy.|
The indirect relative clause (an clásal coibhneasta indíreach)
form: The indirect relative particle (mír choibhneasta indíreach) is used
Use: The indirect relative clause is either
A back-referencing pronoun (forainm iartheachtach) appears both in prepositional use (mostly as a prepositional pronoun) and in genitive use (as a possessive pronoun). Is can also appear as a prepositional pronoun in the form of an accusative object (without this pronoun a direct relative clause it necessary)
This back-referencing pronoun represents the antecedent (réamhtheachtaí) as an object. The antecedent is only more indirectly the object of the sentence (represented by the pronoun). In the direct relative clause however, the antecedent is always the direct object or the subject of the sentence.
I. prepositional use (on which.... / in which... / etc.)
Preposition with personal pronoun at the end of the clause
antecedent + a + verb + subject + preposition + pronoun
|an bord a bhfuil an forc air = the table that the fork is on.|
antecedent + ar + verb + subject + preposition + pronoun
an bord ar luigh an forc air = the table that the fork lay on.
personal pronoun is here the back-referencing pronoun.
Combinations of prepositions and personal pronouns are the most common occurences. (Prepositional_Pronouns).
Preposition before the relative pronoun
antecedent + preposition + a + verb + subject
an bord ar a bhfuil an forc = the table on which the fork is.
antecedent + preposition + ar + verb + subject
an bord ar ar luigh an forc = the table on which the fork lay
A preposition can introduce the relative clause. [Learners of English who remember being scolded not end sentences with prepositions will recognize this as the “proper” or “formal” form in English. In Irish, like in English, the previous form, with the preposition at the end, is more common and more natural in living speech – DN]
This variant is only encountered with a few prepositions (ar, as, do, i, le) and
it is only possible in affirmative sentences, not in negative ones: e.g.:
bord ar a bhfuil an forc = the table on which the fork is
An bord nach bhfuil an forc air. = the table that the fork is not on (negative)
In this case the relative particle is a genuine
relative pronoun, the so-called back-referencing relative
pronoun (forainm coibhneasta iartheachtach).
The back-referencing relative pronoun requires certain combinations of the prepsitions and the relative pronoun a / ar.
Of these, the most frequently appearing forms are lena(r), dá(r), ina(r)
II. genitive use (whose...)
Present et al.
antecedent + a + verb + poss. pron. + subject + object
an fear a bhfuil a mhac sásta = the man whose son is happy
antecedent + ar + verb + poss. pron. + subject + object
an fear a raibh a mhac sásta = the man whose son was happy
Here the possessive pronoun is the back-referencing pronoun. It must refer back to the antecedent of the relative clause. 
III. adverbial use
|Present. et al.||antecedent + a + verb + subject + object||Place||
an áit a bhfuil mé sásta
the place where I was happy
an t-am a dtiocfaidh mé anseo =
the time that I will come here
an fáth a mbeidh mé anseo =
the reason that I will be here
|Past:||antecedent + ar + verb + subject + object||Place||
an áit ar ól mé fuisce
the place where I drank whiskey
an t-am ar tháinig mé anseo =
the time that I came here
an fáth ar ól mé fuisce =
the reason that I drank whiskey
must be a general term of time / place / reason / and way. A
direct relative clause is equally possible here.
e.g.: áit = place, slí = way, caoi = manner, dóigh, fáth = reason, am =time, lá = day, oíche = night, etc. (uair however is not usual)
The antecedent can also occur in questions, e.g.: cén chaoi, cén fáth (Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? = How are you?)
uses are called adverbial, since the relative particle
here replaces the relative adverbs when, where, who, how, etc.
In English this is very common:
an áit a bhfuil mé sásta = the place where
an fáth a bhfuil mé sásta = the reason why I'm satisfied
an t-am a bhfuil mé sásta = the time when I'm satisfied
an tslí ar fhoghlaim mé Gaeilge = the way how I learned Irish
principle, this adverbial relationship can be convered into a
prepositional relationship (the place in which, the time at which,
etc.). This means that a back-referencing pronoun would be
(e.g. an áit a bhfuil mé ann / an áit ina bhfuil mé = the place that I am in).
the indirect relative pronoun with the preposition “i”
ina = in which was was reduced in the course of time
to the modern a.
In earlier times, i (in the sense of “in which,” as an abbreviation of ina) was written here.
(an áit ina bhfuil mé > an áit i bhfuil mé. today: an áit a bhfuil mé).
IV. use with a back-referencing personal pronoun as accusative object.
when the antecedent is an accusative object, a direct relative clause
However, direct relative clauses like "An fear a bhuail mé.”are ambiguous.
There is no way to distinguish whether the antecendet is the subject (”the man who hit me”) or the object (“the man whom I hit”).
the latter case, an unambiguous sentence structure with the
indirect relative particle is possible.
|Present et al..:||antecedent + a + verb + subject + é/í/iad||an fear a mbuailfidh mé é = the man whom I hit|
|Past:||antecedent + ar + verb + subject + é/í/iad||an fear ar bhuail mé é = the man whom I hit|
back-referencing pronoun (usually é, í, iad) is
Without it, a direct relative clause would be necessary.
Special properties of the indirect relative clause
A go/nach-subordinating clause
my be converted into an indirect relative clause if one turns the
main clause into a relative clause, similarly to
direct relative clauses. A prerequisite for this is a potential
back-referencing pronoun, or the creation of such (in the example below: air = upon it)
The main clause becomes an inserted clause (clásal idiraisnéiseach), in the example: "of which I thought ".
According to the Bráithre Críostaí, the inserted clause is a direct relative clause: "a shíl mé"
According to Ó Siadhail it is an indirect relative clause: "ar shíl mé"
|normal:||Shíl mé go raibh an forc ar an mbord.||I thought that the fork wason the table.|
|(in)dir. relative:||An bhfuil an forc ar an mbord a(r) shíl mé a raibh sé air?||Is the fork on the tableof which I thought, that it upon it was?|
conversion of the go/nach-subordinating clause is not required. Also sentences like this are possible:
An bhfuil an forc ar an mbord ar shíl mé go raibh sé air? = Is the fork in the table, of which I thought, that it was on?
The indirect relative clause (ar shíl mé ...) is comprised here as well of the prepositional pronoun air, referring back to bord, so it is a back-referencing pronoun.
Hence, three possibilities
come about of this sentence:
An bhfuil an forc ar an mbord a shíl mé a raibh sé air? (dir. + indir. relative clause)
An bhfuil an forc ar an mbord ar shíl mé a raibh sé air? (indir. + indir. relative clause)
An bhfuil an forc ar an mbord ar shíl mé go raibh sé air? (indir. relative clause + go-subordinating clause)
The indirect neg. relative clause
identical in form to the direct neg. relative clause
(as well nach/nár), with the exception of a naturally occurring back-referencing pronouns (in the
examples in bold)
A preposition is not possible as the introducer of the relative clause.
|Present, et al.||antecedent + nach + verb + etc.||
an bord nach
luíonn forc ar bith air = the table upon which no
an fear nach bhfuil a mhac sásta = the man whose son is not happy
an t-am nach mbeidh mé ansin = the time which I will not be there
an fear nach mbuaileann mé é = the man whom I do not hit
|Past:||antecedent + nár + verb + etc.||
an bord nár
luigh forc ar bith air = the table upon which no fork lay
an bhean nár tháinig a mac = the woman whose son didn't come
an t-am nár tháinig mé ansin = the time in which I did not come there
an fear nár bhuail mé é = the man whom I didn't hit
Clauses with the generalising relative pronoun a
|Present, et al.||a + verb + subject / object||Sin a bhfuil anseo = That is all there is|
|Past||ar + verb + subject / object||Sin ar tháinig anseo = That's all that came|
In this instance, a / ar
means: "everything which " or "all that"
even this a requires eclipsis, ar lenites! This generalising relative pronoun (forainm coibhneasta réamhtheachtach) looks the same as the indirect relative particle, but the antecedent is missing!
The missing antecedent (réamhtheachtaí) is expressed by the relative pronoun itself.
Hence the term "réamhtheachtach"
It can be the object (sin a bhfaca mé = that's all that I saw ), as well as the subject (sin a bhfuil anseo = that's all that's here) of the relative clause.
Sin a bhfuil is short and sweet for: That's all.
|Present, et al.||a + verb + de + noun||Féiceann tú a bhfuil d'fhir ann = You see all of the men which are there.|
|Past||ar + verb + de + noun||Chonaic tú a raibh de mhná ann = You saw all of the women which were there.|
With the help of the preposition de (= of) one can closer modify what is meant by "all".
emphasis of a selection with dá (= of all that which)
noun + dá + verb + object
Féiceann tú fear dá bhfuil ann = You see one man of all which are there
noun + dár + verb + object
An leabhar is fearr dár scríobh sé = The best book of all which he wrote
This dá is a combination of de (= of) and the general relative pronoun a (all that).
use of the form dá:
after gach + noun and
e.g.: gach ní dá mb'fhéidir = everything within possibility (lit.: "every thing of-all, that are possible ")
after timepoints-/locations, also in a rather adverbial sense:
e.g.: gach uair dá raibh mé ann = everytime I was there (lit.: "every time of-all, that was I in-it ")
gach áit dá mbím = everywhere I am (lit.: "[at] every place of-all, [at] which I am")
after iomlán = everything and other
e.g.: Iomlán dá bhfaca mé riamh = All I ever saw (lit.: "all of all, that saw I ever ")
negation of a = all with an méid
|an méid nach + verb||an méid nach bhfuil ann = Everything that isn't there (lit.: "the amount, that isn't there")|
nach is here a normal relative particle and not a pronoun, which is replaced by an méid. The whole clause is a normal direct relative clause.
negation of a = everything with diabhal (= devil)
|diabhal a + verb||diabhal a bhfuil ann = Nothing is there (lit.: "devil all that there is ")|
a is again the generalising relative pronoun, which is negated by diabhal.
diabhal a means then nothing.
With ach an only-clause is created: Diabhal a bhfuil ann ach leabhartha = Only books are there.
 The genitive use comes from the prepositional use (selectively, the prepositions ag, i, do)
an fear ag a bhfuil a mhac ann = the man whose son is there
an fear ina bhfuil a mhac ann = the man whose son is there
an fear dá bhfuil a mhac ann = the man whose son is there
(ag a > 'ga > gha > a, ina > 'na > a, dá > dhá > a)
ag a > 'ga > go - also the reason why in Munster, one uses go instead of a