Irish Lesson 71


In Irish, any "r" beginning a word gets the broad sound. Roll this "r" by placing the tongue tip near the hard ridge behind the upper front teeth as you pronounce "r. The tongue should vibrate during the sound. Practice on: ré (ray*), rá (raw*), rí, rás, rón, rún (roon), rud (ruhd), reatha (RA-huh), raca (RAHK-uh), reic (rek).

If an "r" is inside or at the end of a word, and if the nearest vowel is "a", "o", or "u", the "r" sound may be closer to the English sound. Examples: ordóg (ohr-DOHG), daor (day*r), port (pohrt), sráid (SRAW*-id). In other cases, the "r" is rolled to varying degree. Examples: orm (OH-ruhm), crua (KROO-uh), doras (DUH-ruhs).

Pronounce "rr" near an "a", "o", or "u" with the rolled sound, as in carr (kahr), carraig (KAHR-rig), tarraing (TAHR-ring).

When an "r" is inside or at a word end and the nearest vowel is "e" or "i", pronounce the "r" with its slender sound. Although this is a difficult sound to describe, you have heard it from Irish persons and, on radio and television, from performers seeking to imitate Irish accents. You should be able to recognize it when you have it correctly.

One way of forming the sound is to make a shallow pocket in the tongue tip, curling the tongue and placing the tongue tip near the top rear of your upper front teeth. Pronounce "r", and you should feel air blow down against your lower lip as your tongue drops. Do not let the tongue tip go forward as it drops, or you will make a sound like English "th".

Practice first on English "where", "Mary", and "we're here", pronouncing these with the Irish slender "r". Then try: fir (fir), féir (fay*r), féirín (fay*r-EEN), préachán (pray*-K*AW*N), péire (PAY*R-e).

If a slender "r" follows a consonant, a sound like (i) may come between the consonants. For example, "breá" may sound like (bir-RAW*), and "preab" may sound like (pir-RAB).


The saorbhriathar (say*r-VREE-huhr) or free form exists in all tenses. We will study the past tense of it now. In Irish, "It was put on the table" is "Cuireadh (KIR-uh) ar an mbord é. The negative is "Níor (NEE-uhr) cuireadh ar an mbord é", meaning "it was not put on the table". The questions are: Ar (er) cuireadh ar an mbord é?; Was it put on the table?

Nár (naw*r) cuireadh ar an mbord é?; Wasn't it put on the table?

For many verbs, form the past-tense saorbhriathar by adding "_ _ _ adh" or "_ _ _ eadh" to the root, which is the singular imperative. For "tóg", it becomes "Tógadh é (TOHG-uh ay*), meaning "It was taken".

Other examples:

briseadh é (BRISH-uh ay*); it was broken

níor briseadh é; it was not broken

ar briseadh é; was it broken?

tuigeadh é (TIG-uh ay*); it was understood

níor tuigeadh é; it was not understood

nár tuigeadh é; wasn't it understood?

Notice that in this form there is no aspiration by "ar", "níor", or "nár".

The two-syllable second-conjugation verbs, such as "ceannaigh" (KAN-ee), "cosain" (KUH-sin), "oscail" (OH-skil), and "freagair" (FRAG-ir), form the past-tense saorbhriathar a little differently. Learn these examples:

ceannaíodh é (KAN-ee-ohk* ay*), it was bought

cosnaíodh é (KUHS-nee-ohk* ay*), it was defended

osclaíodh é (OHSK-lee-ohk* ay*), it was opened

freagraíodh é (FRAG-ree-ohk* ay*), it was answered


Go through a progressive drill with the saorbhriathar of these verbs and words:

dún (doon), an doras; close, the door

cas (KAHS), an cúinne (KOON-ye); turn, the corner

stop (stohp), carr; stop, car

creid (kred), an scéal; believe, the story

mínigh (MEEN-ee), an cheist (hyesht); explain, the question

Examples: Ar dúnadh an doras? Níor dúnadh an doras. Nár dúnadh an doras? Dúnadh an doras.

When you have finished, check your sentences against these key words: casadh, stopadh, creideadh, míníodh (MEEN-ee-ohk*).


(The effort to improve television reception continues.)

Pól (pohl): Ná bíodh eagla ort (naw* BEE-ohk* AH-gluh OH-ruht). Oibreoidh mé an-chúramach (ib-ROH-ee may* AHN-k*oor-uh-mahk*). Don't be afraid. I will work very carefully.

Bláthnaid (BLAW*-nid): Suas leat, mar sin. Tá súil agam -- go bhfuil gach rud i gceart. Up with you then. I hope that everything is in order.

Pól: Is fusa an obair seo -- ná an druileáil (DRIL-aw*-il) a rinne mé (RIN-ye may*) -- ar an gcúldoras (GOOL-duh-ruhs) -- anuraidh (uh-NOOR-ee). Níl an t-adhmad seo (TEYE-muhd shuh) chomh crua (hoh KROO-uh) -- agus a bhí an t-adhmad sa chúldoras. This work is easier than the drilling I did on the back door last year. This wood isn't as hard as the wood in the back door.

Bláthnaid: Ná sleamhnaigh, mar sin féin (naw* SHLOU-nee, mahr shin fay*n). Níl mórán árachais (AW*-ruh-k*ish) agam ort. Don't slip, just the same. I don't have much insurance on you.

(c) 1998 The Irish People. May be reprinted with credit.