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This page pertains to UD version 2.

VERB: verb


Verbs typically inflect for tense and mood. Verbs signal events and actions. Verbs can constitute a minimal predicate in a clause, and govern the number and types of other constituents which may occur in the clause.

Irish is a VSO language, thus the verb comes first.

Irish verbs sometimes inflect for person in the form of synthetic verbs. (e.g. ithim “I eat”; ithimid “we eat”)

There are four moods: indicative, imperative, conditional and subjunctive. Tenses include present habitual, simple past, past habitual and future.

There is an autonomous verb form, which most closely correlates to the English passive. However it is not technically a passive form as the subject is “understood” and the nominal argument is an object (e.g. tugadh an liathróid dó “the ball was given to him” (lit. somebody gave the ball to him)).

Copula vs substantive verb ‘to be’

There are two translations of the English verb `to be’ in Irish:

These forms behave very differently syntactically. In UD v2, the copula is tagged as AUX.

substantive bí The substantive verb behaves just like normal Irish verbs. It inflects for person, number and tense. It can never be used for an identity construction with two noun phrases. If it is used for identity, it follows the pattern of Verb NP PP (e.g. sé ina mhúinteoir “he is a teacher” (lit. He is in his teacher)) The pattern followed here is: VERB SUBJ PRED

The substantive verb is also used in conjunction with a verbal noun to form progressive aspectual phrases. (e.g. sé ag rith “he is running” (lit. he is at running)).


Source: Studies in Irish Syntax. Nancy Stenson (1981), Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.

VERB in other languages: [bg] [bm] [cs] [da] [en] [et] [eu] [fi] [fro] [fr] [ga] [grc] [hu] [hy] [it] [ja] [kk] [kpv] [myv] [no] [pcm] [pt] [ru] [sl] [sv] [tr] [uk] [u] [urj] [yue] [zh]