Live Q&A: Irish Language Beginners’ Questions – No Query Too Simple!


In this month’s Bitesize Live Q&A Ben and Eoin welcomed you to submit your beginner learners’ questions about the Irish language. Topics covered included blended approaches to learning, learning from poetry and song, prepositions, initial mutations, the Irish primary school system and preserving the linguistic and cultural richness of the language.

Here’s a taste of the discussion..

John asked for advice on Prepositions – particularly relating to irish terms for the English word ‘in’ (i, in, sa, san, isteach) and when to use which one.

Ben explained that ‘i’ is used where the article (”the”) does not occur before the noun, e.g. “in a bank’ > “i mbanc”. ‘In’ is used in the same way but where the noun begins with a vowel, e.g. “in an office” > “in oifig”. Sa” is used when we are referring to a singular noun when the article ‘an’ (the) is present. So, we have ‘an banc’ (the bank) > “sa bhanc” (in the bank). ‘San’ is used in the same way but for a singular noun beginning with a vowel: san oifig.

Tom asked what the best approach is to learning eclipsis (urú ) and lenition (séimhiú)?

Ben recommended that Tom expose himself to the Irish language as much as he can – both reading and listening. That way the brain will eventually get acquainted with these changes.

There are a lot of different instances in which séimhiú and urú can occur, and a lot of rules involved in remembering them all, so it may be useful to focus on them one rule at a time. For instance, if today you were to study the way that that the possessive adjectives cause séimhiú and urú – my, your, his, her etc. – you could then spend the next week or two on the look-out for examples of this rule – whether that be when listening to the radio, talking to people or when reading a book or online content such as a journal or social media. That way you are focusing on one distinct aspect of eclipsis and lenition, and when you are comfortable with that aspect you can consider learning the next set of rules using the same approach.

Check out this special Q&A session that Ben & Niall did in 2022 on How Words Change In Irish (initial mutations)

James said that one thing that gives him trouble is finding the right irish word to use in that place of the english word ‘to’ (i.e. when to use ‘go’, ‘go dtí’ and ‘chuig’).

Ben explains that ‘chuig’ is preferred when talking about going to an event rather than a place, i.e. “ag dul chuig ceolchoirm” (going to a concert) or “ag dul chuig cluiche peile” (going to a football match). Ben points out that ‘chuig’ is not used in the Munster dialect.

We use ‘go’ and ‘go dtí’ when talking about going to a place’, i.e. “ag dul go dtí An Spáinn” or “ag dul go Corcaigh’. You will notice that ‘go dtí ‘ is used when the article appears before the noun, whereas simply ‘go’ is used when the article does not feature. Another option rather than ‘go dtí’ is to use ‘chun’. Do bear in mind, though, that after ‘chun’ the noun changes to its genitive form, e.g. “ag dul chun na Spáinne” (going to Spain)or “ag dul chun páirce” (taking the field).

Michele lives in an Irish speaking region and her Husband speaks Irish the language. She tried going to conversational classes but did not find them helpful. she asks if she could memorise verb conjugation first and then add rest.

Ben explains that different approaches to learning work better for different people than others, and suggests that Michele might benefit most from a blended approach that includes both learning verbs from a grammar book and interacting with people in everyday life through Irish, given that she lives in An Ghaeltacht. Ben suggests that Michele might like to join a club or society, or doing some voluntary work in the area, in order to benefit from regular exposure to the language in an everyday context.

Here are some of the resources that were recommended in this Q&A:

Poetry for the Junior Cycle on

Gaschaint interactive lesson on prepositions

P.S. What did you learn from this Q&A? Leave a comment below!

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