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Dear Bitesize: Firefighters, Cars, and the Vocative Case

Dear Bitesize: Firefighters, Cars, and the Vocative Case

In today’s Dear Bitesize post, I’m answering three questions that came in recently to Bitesize Irish Gaelic. First of all, Dan wanted to know the word for “firefighter” in Irish Gaelic. Another Irish language learner wished to know the Irish word(s) for a car and yet another wanted to know why names are sometimes said differently.

Here we go:

What is the correct phrase for “firefighters”?

In my opinion, the most common term for firefighters in Irish is “fir dóiteáin.” “Fir tine,” “fir mhúchta tine”  and “fir mhúchta dóiteáin” is also acceptable. Therefore, one firefighter can be either “fear dóiteáin,” “fear tine,” “fear múchta tine” or “fear múchta dóiteáin.” You can also replace “fear” (man) with “bean” (woman) in the above phrases if you’re referring to female firefighters., though they will be written a little differently: Bean dóiteáin, bean tine, bean mhúchta tine and bean mhúchta dóiteán. “Tine” is the word for fire, any kind of fire. “Dóiteán” is a word for a fire/blaze. “Múch” is to extinguish/quench.

Have a listen to the above words.


Now, on to our second question.

“Do ghluaistean” means your car but I thought the Irish word for car was “carr.” Are both of them correct?

There are a number of words for “car” in Irish. “Carr” and “gluaisteán” are the most common. The other words, “mótar” and “cairt” are informal.

Listen to them here:


Now, last but not least:

Can you please explain why the spelling of “Seán” becomes “A Sheáin” in the following sentence: “A Aogáin, seo é mo chara nua Seán. A Sheáin, seo é Aogán, seanchara liom”?

The reason why “Seán” changes to “A Sheáin” is because Seán is being addressed directly. This change is what is called the vocative case. They are pronounced differently to make the listener more aware of the fact that they are being spoken to.


Most European languages once had a vocative case. To my knowledge, some Slavic languages, such as Polish and Ukrainian, have retained it. A number of non-European also have a vocative case. You can read more about the vocative case in Irish Gaelic here.

It’s fascinating the similarities between Irish and other world languages.

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

If you’ve ever got any grammar questions, don’t hesitate to email info@bitesize.irish.

Le gach dea-ghuí (Best wishes)


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