If the letter “e” in Irish has a síneadh (SHEEN-uh) over it – “é” – pronounce it like the first part of the vowel sound in English “may”. Do not add the (ee) sound; say “may” very slowly, and you will hear it. Our pronunciation guide symbol for é is (ay*), in which the asterisk tells you that the sound resembles the English “ay” but has an audible difference.
In pronouncing é, hold the sound for a longer time than you would the English sound (ay). Compare Irish “mé féin” (may* fay*n) with English “may feign”.
Practice on these words: sé (shay*); béal (bay*l); déan; fé; clé; réim (ray*m); spéir (spay*r).
If the letter “e” has no síneadh over it, and if it is at a word end or followed by an “i”, pronounce it like the “e” in English “let”. Examples: eile (EL-e); eire (E-re); eitilt (E-tilt); beir (ber); leid (led); creid (kred).
Do not lengthen this sound as you do the “é” sound.
If “e” precedes other vowels, it may get no sound, or the vowels together may have a particular sound of their own. For example, in the word “meá”, the “e” is unsounded and merely tells you to give the “m” its slender sound, with lips near the teeth: (myaw*), differing from “má” (maw*) with lips protruded.
In words like “fear” (far), the “ea” combination has its own sound, resembling the “a” in English “at”.
We continue with the saorbhriathar (say*r-VREE-huhr), or free form, of the irregular verbs in the past tense. Here are four more:
dúradh (DOO-ruh), it was said
ní dúradh, it was not said
an ndúradh? (un NOO-ruh), was it said?
nach ndúradh?, wasn’t it said?
rinneadh (RIN-yuh), it was done, it was made
ní dhearnadh (YAHR-nuh), it wasn’t done, it wasn’t made
an ndearnadh? (NYAHR-nuh), was it done?, was it made?
nach ndearnadh?, wasn’t it done?, wasn’t it made?
tugadh (TUG-uh), it was given
níor tugadh (NEE-uhr TUG-uh), it wasn’t given
ar tugadh?, was it given?
nár (naw*r) tugadh?, wasn’t it given?
fuarthas (FOO-uhr-huhs), it was found, it was gotten
ní bhfuarthas (nee VOOR-uhr-huhs), it wasn’t found, it wasn’t gotten
an bhfuarthas?, was it found?, was it gotten?
nach bhfuarthas?, wasn’t it found?, wasn’t it gotten?
Masculine nouns: bun (bun), bottom; barr (baw*r), top; toitín (tuh-TYEEN), cigarette; cipín (ki-PEEN), match
Feminine nouns: cuileog, an chuileog (kwil-YOHG, un k*wil-YOHG), a fly; fadhb, an fhadhb (feyeb, eyeb), problem; doirtim, ag doirteadh (DIRT-im, uh DIRT-uh), pour
goidim, ag goid (GID-im, uh GID), steal
geallaim, ag gealladh (GAL-im, uh GAL-uh), promise
geallaim duit é, I promise it to you
A progressive drill on the saorbhriathra of the eight irregular verbs of this lesson and Lesson 74 will help fix these forms in your mind.
The example: With the words “thángthas” (HAW*NG-uh-huhs); “go dtí an teach” (goh DEE un TAHK*); “chuig an gcathair” (hig un GAH-hir). to the city; go through this drill:
Ar thángthas go dtí an teach?; níor thángthas go dtí an teach; nár thángthas chuig an gcathair?; thángthas chuig an gcathair. The meaning is: “Did people come to the house?”, etc.
Chuathas (K*OO-uh-huhs); amach; isteach. Did people go?, etc.
Chualathas (K*OOL-uh-huhs); an madra; an cat. Was the dog heard?, etc.
Chonacthas (K*UHN-uhk-huhs); Seán; Seoirse. Was John seen?, etc.
Dúradh (DOO-ruh); leis é; an scéal leo. Was it told to him?, etc.
Rinneadh (RIN-yuh); anseo é; in Éirinn é. Was it made here?, etc.
Tugadh (TUG-uh); an cóta do Sheán; an léine do Shéamas. Was the coat given to John?, etc.
Fuarthas (FOOR-uhr-huhs); an leabhar ann; an leabhar eile istigh. Was the book found there?, etc.
Gealladh (GAL-uh) dom é, ach ní bhfuair mé é. An bhfacthas duit go ndearnadh an obair in am? Níor goideadh rud ar bith ach ár gclog. Nach ndoirtear amach é tar éis an dinnéir? Lasfar an solas ar a seacht a chlog. Aontaíodh (AY*N-tee-ohk*) leat.
Key: It was promised to me, but I didn’t get it. Did it seem to you that the work was done in time? Nothing at all was stolen but our clock. Isn’t it poured out after dinner? The light will be lit at seven o’clock. People agreed with you.
Notes: “Aontaím leat” (AY*N-teem lat) means “I agree with you”. “Aontaíonn sé liom” means “He agrees with me”. This is a second-conjugation verb, with its imperative or command, “Aontaigh! (AY*N-tee), meaning “Agree!” The past saorbhriathar becomes “aontaíodh”.
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