Speak Irish: A Family Affair in Irish

Speak Irish: A Family Affair
By Bob Carney

Before we get started on this months topic focusing on family, an teaghlach, on behalf of all of us that have been involved in the Speak Irish Cleveland classes, I’d like to express our gratitude to everyone at PJ McIntyre’s. Pat And Doug and all the servers and staff who have gone out of their way to accommodate us these past nine years. McIntyre’s has become home for us and part of our family. Go raibh míle maith agaibh!

As we get to know someone better, we often discuss our families and marital status, how many children or grandchildren we have or brothers and sisters. One thing that came up in a recent class was about answering questions. In the past we’ve talked about the lack of a universal word to express yes or no in Irish.

When responding to a question, the correct way is to use the positive or negative version of the verb used in posing the question. HOWEVER! In actual conversation, sometimes the word sea (shah) will be used for yes and ní hea (nee-ha) for no for a simple response.

In our examples, I will use the correct verb to respond, but you do have that option.

AN TEAGHLACH  (ahn tye-lohk) the family

tuismitheoir  (toosh-ma-hor) parent                           fear céile (far kay-lee) husband

tuismitheoirí (toosh-ma-hor-ee) parents                    bean chéile (ban kay-lee) wife

athair (ah-her) father                                                      uncail (un-kel) uncle

aithreacha (ah-rahk-ah) fathers                                    uncailí (un-kel-ee) uncles

máthair (ma-her) mother                                               aintín (ahn-teen) aunt

máithreacha (mah-rahk-ah) mothers                         aintíní (ahn-teen-ee) aunts

páiste (paw-stchuh) child                                              nia (nee-uh) nephew

páistí (paw-stchee) children                                         nianna (nee-uh-na) nephews

leanbh (lah-niv) baby                                                     neacht (nohkt) niece                                                

leanaí (lah-nee) babies                                                   neachtanna (nohkt-ah-na) nieces

mac (mack) son                                                               seanathair (shan ah-her) grandfather

mic (mick) sons                                                               seanmháither (shan-ma-her) grandmother

iníon (in-yeen) daughter                                               garmhac (gar-vahk) grandson

iníonacha (in-yeen-ah-ka) daughters                         garmhic (gar-vick) grandsons

deartháir (dreh-har) brother                                        gariníon (gar-in-yeen) granddaughter

deartháireacha (dreh-har-uh-kuh) brothers             gariníonacha (gar-i-yeen-uh-kuh)   

deirfiúr (drih-foor)  sister                                              buachaill (boo-uh-kill) boy

deirfiúracha (drih-foor-uh-kuh) sisters                      buachaillí (boo-uh-kuh-lee) boys

cailín (kall-yeen) girl                                                       cailíni (kall-yeen-ee) girls

Asking and Answering Questions in Irish
An bhfuil tú pósta? (ahn will too poe-sta) Are you married?

An bhfuil tú fein pósta? (ahn will too fayne poe-sta) Are you married yourself?

An bhfuil tusa pósta? (ahn will tuh-suh poe-sta) Are you married?  (using the emphatic pronoun for you)

Tá/níl (taw/neel) yes/no

Tá me pósta. (taw may poe-sta) I’m married.

Níl mé pósta. (neel may poe-sta)

Tá mé singil. (taw may shing-el) I’m single.

Tá mé scartha. (taw may skar-huh) I’m seperated.

Tá me colscartha. (taw may kohl-skar-huh) I’m divorced.

Is baintreach mé. (iss byne-truhk may) I’m a widow/widower.

An bhfuil páistí agat? (ahn will paw-schtee ah-gut) Do you have children?

An bhfuil páistí agatsa? (ahn will paw-schtee ah-gut-sa) Do you have children?

An bhfuil páistí agaibh? (ahn will paw-schtee ah-giv) Do y’all have children?

Questions in Irish Concerning Children
In the above questions concening children, we are asking if there are children at you. The second question uses the emphatic form of agat (at you) and the third uses the plural form for asking more than one person. The asking verb is still a form of tá, an bhfuill, so tá and níl are acceptable as a response.

Níl páistí ar bith agam. (neel paw-schtee ar bih ah-gum) I have no children. There are no children at me.

Níl páistí ar bith againn. (neel paw-schtee ar bih ah-gihn) We have no children.

Tá, tá beirt agam, mac agus iníon. (taw,taw byurt ah-gum, mack ah-gus in-yeen) Yes, I have two, a son and daughter.

Cén aois atá siad? (kayne eesh ah-taw shee-ud) What ages are they?

Tá Siobhán seacht mbliana agus Seán deich. (taw shih-von shohkt mleena ah-gus shawn jeh) Siobhán is seven years and Sean is ten.

In the above examples two counting systems were used, one for counting people and the other for counting things, years. See the January issue of  iIrish for more on counting. We can also change the pronoun at the end of the question to be more specific. Cén aois atá sé? What age is he? Or, cénaois atá sí? What age is she?

Cé mhéad deartháir atá agat? (kah vayd dreh-har ah-taw ah-gut) How many brothers do you have?

Duine amháin (din-uh uh-woyn) One (lit. one person)

Cé mhéad deirfiúr atá agat? (kah vayd drih-foor ah-taw ah-gut) how many sisters do you have?

Triúr (troo-ihr) Three (lit.three people)

The Irish for my is mo and the word for your is do. It will cause a softening on nouns beginning with a consonant that follow them.

Deartháir (brother) mo dheartháir (moe yer-har) my brother

Deirfiúr (sister) do dheirfiúr (doe yer-foor) my sister

Máithair (mother) mo mháithair (moe wah-her) my mother

Mo and do are shortened when they are followed by a noun beginning with a vowel.

Athair (father) m’athair (muh ah-her) my father

Aintín (aunt) d’aintín (dahn-teen) your aunt

Seo iad mo thuismitheoirí. (sho ee-ud moe hoosh-muh-hor-ee) These are my parents.

Seo í mo dheirfiúr. (sho ee moe yer-foor) This is my sister.

Seo é mo dheartháir. (sho ay moe yer-har) This is my brother.

To get practice with the language, we will sometimes enact different situations in our Speak Irish Cleveland classes. This allows us to use what we have learned and customize what we know to use appropriately. You can try this easily by changing the vocabulary to talk about your own family.


*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Rían and Aisling and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected].


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