Caibidil a hAon: The Noun (an tAinmfhocal)

The Cases (na Tuisil):

the nominative (an tuiseal ainmneach)
  nominative singular (ainmneach uatha)
  nominative plural (ainmneach iolra)
    weak plural (lagiolra)
    strong plural (tréaniolra)
  nominative dual (ainmneach déach)
the genitive (an tuiseal ginideach)
  use of the genitive
  genitive singular (ginideach uatha)
  genitive plural (ginideach iolra)
  lenition and eclipsis in the genitive
the dative (an tuiseal tabharthach)
  use of the dative
  autonomous dative forms
  dative singular (tabharthach uatha)
  dative plural (tabharthach iolra)
  lenition and eclipsis in the dative
the accusative (an tuiseal cuspóireach)
  the accusative (an tuiseal cuspóireach)
the vocative (an tuiseal gairmeach)
  use of the vocative
  construction of the vocative
  vocative singular (gairmeach uatha)
  vocative plural (gairmeach iolra)

  apposition (an chomhaisnéis)

finity of nouns
  finite nouns (ainmfhocail chinnte)

Im Irish there are 5 cases: the 4 like those in German as well as the vocative as the 5th case. Iin the official standard there are supposedly only now 3 cases, whereby nominative, accusative and dative are combined. The dative has, however, often its own forms and even if the form of the cases is the same, there are other rules for lenition and eclipsis, therefore, it is not practical/possible to do without the dative. Nominative and accusative are always the same, so that even defenders of the dative don't see the accusative any more as an autonomous case, so that 4 cases remain: nominative/accusative, genitive, dative and vocative. Here, all 5 cases are described, because they are also discussed singly in Irish language grammar references in Irish. In Irish grammar books in English, the nominative/accusative/dative are combined as the "common case".

the nominative (an tuiseal ainmneach):

The nominative is used as the subject of a clause. Additionally it is used as the subject and predicative noun of a copular clause.
Nominative- and accusative forms are identical.
The dative form is also, with a few exceptions, identical to the the nominative form.
In the dialects, often non-standard dative forms are also used in the nominative (e.g. Éirinn instead of Éire, in Conamara e.g. bróig instead of bróg)

The nominative is used with the following prepositions: seachas, go dtí
(both contain a verb form, whose subject is the noun in the nominative: seachas = seach + is, go dtí = "until coming")

nominative singular (ainmneach uatha)

This is the base form, as one would find in the dictionary.

nominative plural (ainmneach iolra)

Forming the plural (iolra) is even in the standard quite irregular, and that it is often different in the dialects, this makes the matter even more difficult.
Basically, one can speak of two different ways of forming the plural :

the weak plural (an lagiolra):

This is almost exclusively present in the 1st + 2nd declension, but is quite common.

1st declension: nominative plural = genitive singular e.g.: leabhar - leabhair
or: plural suffix -a e.g. cleas - cleasa
2nd declension: plural suffix -a e.g.: bróg - bróga

It is called weak, because only the stem is modified in the plural, a stem-supplementary (consonant containing "real") plural suffix is not present. The plural forms are different in the genitive ( = nom. sing.) and sometimes also in the vocative( suffix -a).
In some dialects, instead of the the weak plural form, strong plural suffixes are often given preference (e.g. nasc-nascanna instead of naisc)

the strong plural (an tréaniolra):

It is formed by adding different suffixes:
e.g.: í, -acha, -anna, -tha etc. (e.g.: bás - básanna)

It is called strong, because the stem in the plural is "supplememnted" with additional consonants (-í was formerly written -idhe).
The consonants of the plural suffix are used in all cases, although formerly modified (e.g.: nominative/accusative -anna, genitive -ann, dative -annaibh), though today in all cases (nominative, genitive, dative and vocative) unchanged (e.g.: -anna).
Originally, these suffixes were limited to certain declensions (e.g. -acha for nouns of the 5th decl. mit -ach im genitive, -anna auf jene mit -ann im genitive), they spread out in Modern Irish over the other declensions.
Their "popularity" is due to the clarity of the tagging as a plural, comp. naisc (weak plural ) with nascanna (strong plural ).
Often, different plural suffixes are used, partially also seemingly several plural suffixes: In Connacht e.g. -thaí (-tha + -í), -annaí (-anna + -í), etc. (where this -í is probably the dative-plural suffix -ibh, spoken in Connacht as [i:])

nominative dual (ainmneach déach)

Not to remain unmentioned that in Irish there are still traces of the dual (the pair, an déach).
It occurs only following the number 2 (dhá).

The dual form (not only in the nominative, but in all cases, also in the genitive-dual and dative-dual) is always the same as the dative-singular:
e.g.: cos = a foot (nominative-singular), cosa = feet (nominative-plural )
ar an gcois = on the foot (dative-singular),
dhá chois = two feet (nominative/genitive/dative-dual)
In the genitive-dual, the genitive-plural form can also be used (where the genitive following a number is rather atypical)
see also footnote in Chapter 11 (Numbers)

the genitive (an tuiseal ginideach):

use of the genitive

The form of the genitive is not used when:

the partitive genitive and the partitive dative (an ginideach rannaíoch agus an tabharthach rannaíoch)

particulars of definite genitive-attributives

genitive singular (ginideach uatha)


genitive plural (ginideach iolra)


lenition / eclipsis in the genitive

the dative (an tuiseal tabharthach):

use of the dative:

autonomous dative forms:

Sometimes (like in dialects and in older literature), one finds other dative forms:

dative singular (tabharthach uatha)

The dative of all nouns in the 2nd declension (not only the 5 above mentioned words) is formed via palatalisation: e.g. bróg-bróig, fearg-feirg, fuinneog-fuinneoig, teach-tigh
The dative of the 5th declension with the genitive on a borad -n or -d is formed palatalisation of the genitive: e.g.: Éire (Nom.)-Éireann (Gen.)-Éirinn (Dat.), fiche (Nom.)-fichead (Gen.)-fichid (Dat.)

Often, these dative forms of both declensions appear instead of the nominative:
e.g. Éirinn colloq. much more common than the official Éire = Ireland, today always Albain instead of Alba = Scotland, abhainn instead of abha = river
in Connemara bróig instead of bróg, fuinneoig instead of fuinneog (words of the 2nd decl.) in the nominative.

In the1st , 3rd and 4th declension, the dative form is, since a long time, always the same as the nominative form.
In the 1st declension, some dative forms in a few set W suffixes (as mentioned above: ceann = head- os cionn = overhead ) are maintained. (the dative was once formed via "u-colouration" of the final consonant)

The dative irregular nouns: the dative of bean ist mnaoi, that of is (e.g. sa ló = per day)

dative plural (tabharthach iolra)

The dative plural of all declensions is formed with the addition of the suffix -ibh. (originally related to the latin suffix -ibus, comp.: viribus = the men) (e.g. fear-fearaibh, bróg-brógaibh etc.).

The form depends on the nominative-plural , independent of the other declension:

nominative plural   dative plural example
palatalised depalatalised + -aibh an fear - na fir - leis na fearaibh (with the men)
-(a)igh -(e)achaibh an marcach - na marcaigh - ag na marcachaibh (with the riders)
suffix -a suffix -aibh an bhróg - na bróga - sna brógaibh (in the shoes)
suffix -e suffix -ibh an cara - na cairde - ag na cairdibh (with the friends)
suffix -í suffix -íbh an cailín - na cailíní - leis na cailíníbh (with the girls)
suffix -anna suffix -annaibh an bus - na busanna - sna busannaibh (in the busses)
suffix -acha suffix -achaibh an nead - na neadacha - sna neadachaibh (in the nests)

In some dialects of Munster this form often replaces the nominative-plural (fearaibh = men, instead of fir).
Also the additional nominative plural suffix, common in Connacht, -í stems from the old dative plural (e.g.: -annaibh > -annaí; through the local pronunciation of -ibh as [i:])
As a real dative, this is hardly in use any more and has been replaced in the standard by the nominative-plural.

lenition / eclipsis in the dative

Because the dative only follows a preposition, the rules of lenition are defined by the preposition.

without article:
After ag, as, chuig, fara, le there is neither lenition nor eclipsis.
After ar, de, do, faoi, ionsar, ó, roimh, trí, thar, um one lenites (general terms do not follow after ar and thar)
After i one eclipses. (also after the today rarer iar = after, go = with)

with the singular-article:
In the standard, for most prepositions there is a choice, either lenition (common in Ulster) or eclipsis (in Munster and Connacht) (ar an mbád or ar an bhád = on the boat)
After den (de + an), don (do + an) and sa(n) (i + an) the standard lenites (den chathaoir = of the chair, san fharraige = in the sea)
d, t, s are neither lenited nor eclipsed (den doras = of the door, ar an doras = on the door, don sagart = to the priest)
Feminine nouns beginning with s (+ vowel or l, n, r) receive a t- prefix (ar an tsráid = on the street)

In the dialects, lenition and eclipsis are governed by different rules (see also the overview article and preposition)

with the plural article
No lenition or eclipsis.

the accusative (an tuiseal cuspóireach):

The accusative form is always the same as the nominative form.
The rules of lenition and eclipsis are, as well, same as in the nominative.
So can one tell the accusative from the nominative - only via the function/syntax.

the accusative is used with a direct objecten of a verb and of the clause:
e.g.: Chonaic mé an fear = I saw the man (direct accusative object: an fear)
The direct object of the verbal noun is in the accusative, if it precedes it and is connected to a = to.
e.g.: an fear a fheiceáil = to see the man
As in German, the accusative is used in adverbial time expressions
e.g.: Bhí mé ann an oíche sin / an bhlian seo caite = I was there last night/ last year (accusative-time expression: an oíche sin or. an bhliain seo caite)

Aside from those, the following prepositions require the accusative: ach, gan, idir, mar, ná
idir requires the dative with nouns in the plural (there, idir has more the meaning of "among": idir mná = among women)

the vocative (an tuiseal gairmeach)

use of the vocative

The vocative ist the"form of address", used when speaking to a person or thing (if you are the sort to talk to inanimate objects)
There is no such case in German, but in other languages(comp. latin: Marce Aurelie = Marcus Aurelius!, Domine! = Lord!, et tu, Brute? = you too, Brutus?)

The vocative form is not used by nouns and adjectives (but always the vocative particle), if

formation of the vocative:

vocative singular (gairmeach uatha)


vocative plural (gairmeach iolra)

Apposition (Comhaisnéis)

This is the term for 2 or more nouns following one another, that lexically belong together.
e.g. an tAthair Ó hAnluan = Father Ó hAnluan, Seán gabha = Seán, the blacksmith
Mostly, the 2nd noun is today in the nominative. But for the following cases:

definite nouns (ainmfhocail chinnte)

A noun counts as definite, when
  1. it is with the article e.g.: an fear = the man
  2. it is with a possessive pronoun e.g.:  bhur bhfear = your man
  3. it occurs with gach (every) e.g.: gach fear = every man
  4. it is numerated , e.g.: fear a haon = man Nr.1
  5. i is a proper name, e.g. Seán
  6. it is a unique place or person (then always without article) e.g. neamh = Heaven, ifreann = Hell, Dia = God
  7. it's carrying anoter definite noun as the genitive attributive e.g. teach an dochtúra = the house of the doctor, teach Sheáin = the house of Seán's
    (see particulars of the definite genitive attributive)
  8. it's in the vocative e.g.: a fhir = man!

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[ 1 ]
Ó Siadhail in "Learning Irish" states that for the Cois-Fhairrge-dialect (Connacht)only then the genitive is used, if the noun is definite and after quantities, otherwise nominative (lenited only, if a further attribute follows)
All in all, even the genitive seems to be disappearing more and more, nominative forms are seen as a replacement not only in the singular but also in the plural.
[ 2 ]
Earlier, there were autonomous genitive plural forms for nouns with the nom. pl. ending in -anna: -ann and for nouns of the 4th declension ending in -í (-idhe): -eadh (an cailín - na cailínidhe - na gcailíneadh)
[ 3 ]
Earlier, there was a difference between dative and accusative after prepositions (location vs. direction)
comp. the adverb, stemming from a contraction isteach = inside (lit.: "into the house") and istigh = inside (lit.: "in the house"). As well: amach = outside and amuigh = outside (eigtl. i mach = into a field and i maigh = in a field)
According to O'Nolan, the use of eclipsis after a preposition and article is a sign of the accusative use in the sense of motion (e.g.: ar an mbord = on to the table, as opposed to lenition (ar an bhord) as a sign of the dative of location (= on the table). This differentiation has been lost, now depending on the dialect one either just lenites or just eclipses.