I, Me, He, Him, Etc.

If you’re an American of a certain age, you may remember a Schoolhouse Rock video called Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla, which taught children about the proper use of pronouns.

(If you’re not an American of a certain age, give it a look…it’s hilarious and informative!)

A pronoun, as we learn from this fun musical video, is a short word that takes the place of a noun: I/Me, He/Him, She/Her, It, etc.

If you’re already a Bitesize subscriber, you’ve probably already encountered Irish pronouns, particularly in Lesson: Creating short sentences.

Subjects and objects

Just like a noun, a pronoun can be the subject of a verb:

 

Mary is eating./She is eating.

Joe runs every day./He runs every day.

The ball fell off the shelf./It fell off the shelf.

It can also be the object of the verb:

 

Joe saw Mary eating./Joe saw her eating.

I see Joe run every day./I see him run every day.

They pushed the ball off the shelf./They pushed it off the shelf.

The fancy grammatical term for these, if you’re curious, is “the subjective form” and “the objective form.” A pronoun takes a subjective form if it’s the subject of the sentence and an objective form if it’s the object of the sentence.

Subjective forms in Irish

In Irish, the objective forms of pronouns are:

 

(may):

Chonaic Máire aréir: I saw Máire last night.

(too): You (singular)

An bhfaca Máire aréir? Did you see Máire last night?

(shay): He

Chonaic Máire aréir. He saw Máire last night.

(shee): She

An bhfaca Máire aréir? Did she see Máire last night?

Muid* (mwij) : We

Chonaic muid Máire aréir. We saw Máire last night.

Sibh (shiv): You (plural)

An bhfaca sibh Máire aréir? Did you see Máire last night?

Siad (SHEE-ud): They

Chonaic siad Máire aréir. They saw Máire last night.

* “Muid” is used in Ulster and Connacht. In Munster, they use an older form, “sinn” (shin) for “we.”

Wait! What about “it”?

 

As with many European languages, all nouns in Irish are either grammatically “masculine” or “feminine.” Thus Irish doesn’t have a single, neuter, word corresponding to the English “it.”

Instead, you use “sé” for “it” if the word is grammatically masculine, and “sí” if the word is grammatically feminine:

Bhuail an carr an balla: The car hit the wall./Bhuail an balla. It hit the wall.

Bhí an obair deacair. The work was difficult./Bhí deacair. It was difficult.

Objective forms in Irish

As in English, some Irish pronouns take on a slightly different form when they’re the object of the verb:

(too) becomes Thú (hoo)

(shay) becomes é (ay) (this corresponds to the English “him”)

(shee) becomes í (ee) (this corresponds to the English “her”)

Siad (SHEE-ud) becomes iad (EE-ud) (this corresponds to the English “them”)

Some examples:

Chonaic mé aréir thú. I saw you last night.

Chonaic tú aréir é. You saw him (or it ) last night.

Chonaic sé aréir í. He saw her (or it) last night.

Chonaic sí aréir iad. She saw them last night.

Yours, mine, ours

A pronoun form that Irish lacks is the “possessive pronoun”:

 

Whose car is that? It’s mine.

That desk over there is yours.

Those cookies are ours.

Instead, Irish uses a special emphatic form of a prepositional pronoun, using the preposition “le” (with), to take the place of the possessive pronoun.

If you haven’t encountered prepositonal pronouns yet, or if you just want to refresh your memory, check out the July 25 blog post Prepositions in Irish. A brief summary: A prepositional pronoun combines a preposition with a pronoun to create a word that may mean something very different from the sum of its parts.

Bitesize subscribers can take advantage of our audio-rich lessons to learn how to form prepositional pronouns in Lesson: Prepositional Pronouns and to learn more about emphatic endings in Lesson: Say It With Emphasis – Part 1 and Lesson: Say It With Emphasis – Part 2.

Here’s how it works:

 

Le + mé + emphatic ending = liomsa (LYUM-suh): mine

Le + tú + emphatic ending  = leatsa (LYAT-suh): yours

Le + sé + emphatic ending  = leisean (LEH-shan): his

Le + sí + emphatic ending  = léise (LAY-ee-sheh): hers

Le + sinn* + emphatic ending = linne (LIN-yeh): ours

Le + sibh + emphatic ending = libhse (LIV-sheh): yours

Le + siad + emphatic ending = leosan (LYOH-ssan): theirs

* “Sinn” rather than “muid” is used here, because it’s the older form of “we.”

Some examples:

Cé leis an carr seo? Is liomsa é!  Whose car is this? It’s mine!

An leatsa an peann sin? Is that pen yours?

Is leisean iad. Those are his.

Practice makes perfect!

This all may seem a bit complicated, but really Irish pronouns are no more difficult to sort out than those of other languages. With a little practice, you’ll be surprised at just how quickly this all becomes very natural!

Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla would be proud! “‘Cause sayin’ all those nouns over and over can really wear you down!” (you did watch the video, didn’t you?)

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How much of this did you already know about pronouns? Let us know your thoughts below.

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8 thoughts on “I, Me, He, Him, Etc.”

  1. Steven Lindsley

    This blog is just grand! That pronoun video, however, was really strange. Why did you make me watch that?!

  2. Well, you didn’t HAVE to watch it…though it definitely brings home the importance of pronouns! It would be a rough world without them, that’s for sure (especially if you know someone named Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla!) 😉

    The Schoolhouse Rock videos (while admittedly sometimes a bit on the odd side) were great mnemonic aids for children in the ’70s and ’80s, helping them to remember basic grammatical, mathematical, and scientific concepts, as well as important historical points.

    Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

  3. Steven Lindsley

    Haha, I’m not too upset Audrey. 🙂 Actually, one thing I like about this blog and the Bitesize program is that it covers grammatical concepts early on (like what a pronoun is), and how it all works in Irish.

  4. No worries — I figured your comment was a little tongue-in-cheek!

    I try to explain grammatical terminology as clearly as possible, as I’ve found that many of my fellow Americans weren’t really exposed to it in school (in fact, I didn’t learn what the names for the parts of speech were until I started studying French in high school…they weren’t covered in my so-called “grammar school” experience at all!) I imagine that varies quite a bit from state to state (and certainly from country to country). And, of course, unless one has to work with those terms on a regular basis, they’re easy to forget, even if they were learned in school.

  5. they still make elementary school children watch Schoolhouse Rock videos these days. all because the videos are old doesn’t mean they aren’t still seen in schools.

  6. That’s nice to hear, Vivienne. They’re really effective for teaching. My daughter didn’t get them in school (she’s 19), but we bought them on DVD for her. By the time she was five, she could parse an English sentence with the best of ’em, knew her multiplication tables, and could tell you when the 19th Amendment took effect.

    They were originally broadcast in the 70s on Saturday morning TV during cartoons…that’s when I first encountered them. I still remember humming the tune to the Constitution song during a middle school test on the Preamble!

  7. magnificent post, very informative. I’m wondering why the other
    experts of this sector don’t realize this. You should continue your writing.

    I’m confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Alethea, I will share this with the Bitesize team. I completely agree, Audrey has written some great content and it’s lovely to hear when it has been useful. Slán, Paula @ Bitesize

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