Speak Irish: Counting in Irish

Speak Irish: Counting
By Bob Carney

Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise! Tá súil agam go bhfuil tú go maith.  There are different number systems in Irish, just as there are in English. In English, we say one thing or two things if we’re counting something, but if we’re putting things in order we say the first or second thing and so on. In Irish, there is a basic set of numbers used for telling time, phone numbers or addresses or if you’re inclined to stand around on street corners and count out loud. A second system is used for counting things, while a third is used for counting people.

In the basic number system, if the number starts with a vowel, the letter h is placed in front of it. The numbers 0 thru 10 use a helper word in front of them, a (uh). In English, the numbers thirteen thru nineteen use a variant of the number ten, teen. In Irish, a variant of ten is also used. In the number twelve, the word for two causes lenition or softening to the word that follows it.

Basic Numbers in Irish 
a náid (uh noyj) zero                                                        a sé  (uh shay) six

a h-aon (uh hayn) one                                                      a seacht (uh shakht) seven

a dó (uh doe) two                                                              a h-ocht (uh hawkht) eight

a trí (uh tree)  three                                                          a naoi (uh nee) nine

a ceathair (uh kya-her) four                                             a deich (uh jeh)

a cúig (uh koo-ig)  five

Basic numbers 11-20 in Irish
a h-aon déag (uh hayn jayug) eleven                            a sé déag (uh shay jayug) sixteen

a dó dhéag (uh doe yayug)  twelve                                a seacht déag (uh shakht jayug) seventeen

a trí déag (uh tree jayug) thirteen                                  a h-ocht déag (uh hawkht jayug) eighteen

a ceathair deag (uh kya-her jayug) fourteen                a naoi déag (uh nee jayug) nineteen

a cúig déag (uh koo-ig jayug) fifteen                              fiche (fih-huh) twenty

Multiples of Ten in Irish
fiche (fih-huh) twenty                                                        seachtó (shahk-toe) seventy

tríocha (tree-kuh) thirty                                                    ochtó (awhk-toe) eighty

daichead (dah-khayd) forty                                              nócha (no-kuh) ninety

caoga (kay-guh) fifty                                                          céad (kayd) hundred

seasca (shas-kuh) sixty

A pattern develops  counting from twenty to a hundred, below are some examples.

fiche a dó (fih-huh uh doe) twenty-two

tríocha a trí (tree-kuh uh tree) thirty three

seachtó a cúig (shahk-toe uh koo-ig) seventy-five

*refer back to Nov.2021  iIrish for more on telling time using basic numbers

Counting Things in Irish
When counting things in english, not only do we use a number, but we also use the plural version of the thing we are counting, one box, two boxes. In Irish there is no need for that, but, softening and eclipsing can occur. Also if only one thing is being counted we add the word alone to it, as in one box alone.

aon (ayn) softens  one                                                          seacht (shahkt) eclipses seven

dhá (ghaw) softens two                                                        ocht  (awkht) eclipses eight

trí (tree) softens  three                                                          naoi (nee) eclipses nine

ceithre (keh-ruh) softens four                                              deich (jeh) eclipses ten

cúig (koo-ig) softens five                                                       amhain (uh-woyn) alone

sé (shay) softens six

Things to Count in Irish
bosca  (bos-ka) box                                                                eochair (uhk-er) key

nóiméad (no-mayd) minute                                                euro (yur-oh) euro

carr (karr) car                                                                          cupán (kup-un) cup

bord (board) table                                                                  cathaoir (ka-heer) chair

rud (ruhd) thing                                                                      pionta  (pyunt-uh) pint

aon bhosca amháin (ayn wuhss-ka uh- woyn) one box alone or one box

dhá bhord (ghaw word) two tables

trí charr (tree karr) three cars

ceithre chathaoir (keh-ruh ka-heer) four chairs

cúig phionta (koo-ig fyunt-uh) five pints

sé nóiméad (shay no-mayd) six minutes

seacht n-eochair (shahkt nuhk-er) seven keys

ocht gcupán (awkht gup-un) eight cups

naoi rud (nee ruhd) nine things

deich n-euro (jeh nuur-oh) ten euros

Notice that only words beginning with certain letters can be softened or eclipsed.

Counting Money in Irish
Cé mhéad sín? (kaw vayde shinn) How much is that?

dhá euro (ghaw yur-oh) two euros

dhá euro deich cent (ghaw yur-oh jeh sent) two euros and ten cents

dhá euro caoga cent (ghaw yur-oh kay-guh sent) two euros and fifty cents

cúig euro seachtó  cent (koo-ig yur-oh shohkto sent) five euros and seventy cents

Counting Things Beyond Ten in Irish
Counting things above the number ten is a little different in Irish, from eleven to nineteen, the name of the thing you’re counting is inserted between the numbers. From twenty and beyond the word for and, agus (ah-gus) is also used but is almost always shortened to ‘s. For example, fifteen boxes would be five box ten, twenty-five boxes would be five box and twenty. Softening and eclipsing are still required.

Cé mhéad atá ann? (kah vayde uh-taw ahn) How many are there?

trí bhosca déag (tree wuhs-ka jay-ug) thirteen boxes

Tá trí bhosca déag. (taw tree wuhs-ka jay-ug) There are thirteen boxes.

ceithre bhosca ‘s fiche (keh-ruh wuhs-ka iss fih-huh) twenty-four boxes

Ní  ceithre bhosca ‘s fiche. (nee keh-ruh wuhs-ka iss fih-huh) There are not twenty-four boxes.

seacht mbosca ‘s tríocha (shohkt mos-ka iss tree-uh-ka) thirty seven boxes

An bhfuil seacht mbosca ‘s tríocha? (ahn will shohkt mos-ka iss tree-uh-ka) Are there thirty-seven boxes?

cúig bhosca ‘s seasca (koo-ig wohs-ka iss shas-ka) sixty-five boxes

Nach bhfuil cúig bhosca ‘s seasca? (nahk will koo-ig wohs-ka shas-ka) Aren’t there sixty-five boxes?

Counting People in Irish
aon duine amháin (ayn din-uh uh-woyn) one person alone or one person

beirt (baerch) two people

triúr (tru-ihr) three people

ceathrar (kya hrer) four people

cúigear (kooih-gur) five people

seisear (shesh-er) six people

seachtar (shohk-tur) seven people

ochtar (awhk-tur) eight people

naonúr (nee-noor) nine people

deichniúr (jeh-noor) ten people

New session of Speak Irish Cleveland classes are starting January 11th, we’d love to see you there. Tóg go bog é!

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

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