Irish Lesson 65


When a “g” is near “a”, “o”, or “u” in an Irish word, it is called a broad “g”. Pronounce it like the “g” in the English words “go” and “good”, but try to press the sides of the tongue against the upper back teeth and use more force than with the English equivalent.


gá (gaw*), a need; gairdín (gahr-DEEN), garden; gó (goh), a doubt; gual (GOO-uhl), coal; gabhar (GOU-uhr), goat; gáire (GAW*-i-re), laughter; gadhar (GEYE-uhr), dog; gann (goun), scarce; gob (guhb), beak; glám (glaw*m), a group; glan (gluhn), clean; glaise (GLASH-e), greenness; glór (glohr), a voice; glúin (GLOO-in), knee; gnáth (gnaw*), usual; gnó (gnoh), business; gnús (gnoos), grunt; grá (graw*), love; gradam (GRAH-duhm), an honor; gró (groh), crowbar; grod (gruhd), hasty; gruaig (GROO-ig), hair.

If the broad “g” comes just before a slender vowel, there is often a sound like English (uh) or (w) between the two. Examples: “ae” and “ao” are pronounced (ay*), so “gaelach” Irish or Gaelic, may sound somewhat like (GWAY*-luhk*), and “gaoth” wind, may resemble (gway*), but the “g” is nevertheless pronounced as for “gá”.

In the word “goid”, to steal, the “o” tells you that “g” gets its broad sound. The “o” is not pronounced. The word sounds slightly like (gwid), although our simplified pronunciation guide gives (gid); you must remember to give the “g” its broad sound.

“Guí”, to pray, is similar. The broad “g” sound causes the word to resemble (gwee) somewhat, although our pronunciation guide gives (gee).

With combinations like “gl”, “gn”, and “gr”, this effect is not as apparent. “Gloine” (GLIN-e), glass; “gnaoi” (gnee), affection; “groí” (gree), sturdy, are examples. All have the broad “g”, of course.

Pronounce an aspirated broad “g” at the beginning of a word as if it were unaspirated: gairdín (gahr-DEEN), mo ghairdín (muh gahr-DEEN). Sometimes the back of the tongue is lowered slightly to let a little air past, but this is not very noticeable in most modern pronunciation.

An aspirated broad “g” inside a word is usually part of a letter group with a special sound which has no (g) in it: togha (TOU-uh), election; faghairt (FEYE-irt), eagerness.


In English, you can say either “The son pays the bill” or “The bill is paid by the son”. In Irish, you know how to say only “Íocann an mac an bille” (EEK-uhn un MAHK un BIL-e). In Irish, this is the most common and the preferred way to express the English form.

If, however, you don’t want to say who pays the bill, or don’t know, there is another form that can be used and is common in Irish. It is the free form or autonomous form. Examples:

Íoctar an bille (EEK-tuhr un BIL-e), the bill is paid (meaning that someone pays the bill).

Dúntar an doras (DOON-tuhr un DUH-ruhs), the door is closed (meaning that someone closes the door).

Cloistear é (KLISH-tuhr ay*), he is heard.

Bailítear na nuachtáin (BAHL-ee-tuhr nuh NOO-uhk*-taw*-in), the newspapers are collected (meaning that someone collects them).

Feictear iad (FEK-tuhr EE-uhd), they are seen.

The rule: Add “tear” or “tar” to the imperative or basic part of the verb. “Tear” if the nearest vowel is “e” or “i”; “tar” if it is “a”, “o”, or “u”. Examples:

cuir, cuirtear é (kir, KIR-tuhr ay*), it is put

glan, glantar é (gluhn, GLUHN-tuhr ay*), it is cleaned

For verbs like “ceannaigh” and “deisigh”:

ceannaítear é (KAN-ee-tuhr ay*), it is bought

deisítear é (DESH-ee-tuhr ay*), it is repaired

For verbs like “oscail” and “freagair”:

osclaítear é (OH-sklee-tuhr ay*), it is opened

freagraítear é (FRAG-ree-tuhr ay*), it is answered

Learn the proverb: Ní mar a shíltear, bítear (nee muhr HEEL-tuhr, BEE-tuhr). Containing two of these free forms, it means “Not as it is thought, does it be”, or “Things are not as they seem”. “Bítear” is the free form of “bíonn” (BEE-uhn); “bím breoite” (beem BROY-te) means “I am ailing” or “I am continually ill”.


Cuir Gaeilge ar na h-abairtí seo leanas (kir GAY*-lig-e er nuh HAH-bir-tee shuh LAN-uhs), put Irish on the following sentences:

He is listened to; letters are written daily; much milk is drunk here; work is done in the other room; autos are repaired there; people come here often; Irish is spoken here; it is believed; people go there now and again.

Key: Éistear leis (AY*SH-tuhr lesh); scríobhtar litreacha gach lá (SHKREEV-tuhr LI-trahk*-uh gahk* law*); óltar mórán bainne anseo (OHL-tuhr moh-RAW*N BAHN-ye un-SHUH); déantar obair sa seomra eile (DAY*N-tuhr OH-bir suh SHOHM-ruh EL-e); deisítear gluaisteáin ann (DESH-ee-tuhr GLOOSH-taw*-in oun); tagtar anseo go minic (TAHG-tuhr un-SHUH goh MIN-ik); labhraítear Gaeilge anseo (LOU-ree-tuhr GAY*-lig-e un-SHUH); creidtear é (KRED-tuhr ay*); téitear ann anois agus arís (TAY-tuhr oun un-NISH AH-guhs uh-REESH).

Note that in English you cannot say, “It is come here often”. Instead, you must use some expression such as “People come here” or “This place is frequented”, etc. The Irish free form corresponds largely to the English passive but is perhaps more useful.

Note also that what you have learned in this lesson covers only the present tense. The free form for past and future differ in the word ending, as you will see.

©1998 The Irish People

Irish Lesson 64 | Irish Lesson 66

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