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Dear Bitesize: adverb positioning and asking the Irish for something

Dear Bitesize: adverb positioning and asking the Irish for something

In today’s Dear Bitesize post, I’m answering two questions that came in recently to Bitesize Irish. First of all, a member was wondering where adverbs are placed in a sentence. Another question we received was how to ask the Irish Gaelic word for something.

Here we go:

Where do adverbs come in a sentence in the Irish language?

Before I answer that, I’m aware that you may be wondering what an adverb is. According to the Oxford dictionary, an adverb is “a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc.” Examples of adverbs in English are gently, quite, now, and very, to name but a few. The Irish language word for adverb is dobhriathar /duh-vree-hur/. Some examples of Irish adverbs are go ciúin, go maith, inniu and ar maidin. You’ve probably happened upon quite a few in any Irish you’ve read or heard.

Now, let’s get back to that question. Adverbs mostly appear in sentences under the following circumstances:

  • Before simple personal or prepositional pronouns as the object:

Bhí do cháca inné agam (Your cake was yesterday by me) = I had your cake yesterday.

  • After emphatic pronouns ( -sa, féin, seo):

Bhí do cháca agamsa inné (Your cake was by me yesterday) = I (emphatic) had your cake yesterday.

  • They can also move to the beginning:

(Is) inné a bhí do cháca agamsa / Inné (is ea) a bhí do cháca agamsa = Yesterday, I had your cake.

Don’t let all those grammar terms faze you. The most important thing to do is to study the example sentences themselves. In the first example, see how inné comes before agam. See how in the second example, emphasis is being placed on agam, turning it into agamsa and therefore shifting inné to after it. In the third example, you can see that inné is at the beginning of the sentence and that is or is ea are optional. Like almost everything else in the Irish language, there are exceptions to the rules.

Now, onto the second question.

How do I ask how something is said in Irish?

You could ask with either of the following sentences, depending on the dialect you may prefer:

Connacht Cén chaoi a ndeirtear ___? /Kayn khwee ah nyer-tur/ 

Munster Conas a deirtear ___? /Kun-uss ah jer-tur/ 

Ulster Cad é mar a deirtear ___? /Kuh jey mor ah jer-tur/

Now listen to the above:

Adding as Gaeilge /oss Gaylgeh/ to the end of any of the above sentences can help clarify your question.

The above sentences use deirtear, the passive form of the verb abair in the present tense. This means that the sentence isn’t asking how any particular person says whatever word that’s in question but how it’s generally said.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading!

If you’ve ever got any grammar questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Le gach dea-ghuí (Best wishes)


P.S. If you’re jumping into rules like this in the Irish language, consider signing up for our Explore membership. It equips you with the fundamental rules of the Irish language, on your journey to speaking Irish.

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