# Verb Suffixes in Irish

(Probably only of interest to other beginners. There are a few footnotes, marked like this^1.)

I looked into verb conjugation a while ago, as part of the grammar programs I've been playing with. I stumbled upon something that made an almost audible `click' in my head, and made some things much clearer:

Theorem 1 (Conservation of Suffixation)

Other than the difference of "f" and "ó" in the future and conditional tenses, the suffixes of the two conjugations are exactly the same.

This is probably obvious to most fluent speakers, but is never explicitly stated in any text I've seen. You need to remember one set of suffixes, and a few rules.

I'll demonstrate with the verbs: mol, bris, beannaigh, and bailigh; using the 1st person present and past. The usual endings are (the past tense endings are from the Munster dialect. There are no endings in the Standard dialect):

            Present     Past
1st Conj    -(a)im      -(e)as
2nd Conj    -(a)ím      -(a)íos

but we can reduce these to: -im, -as.

The most important rule to remember is: `caol le caol agus leathan le leathan'. This rule is often sidestepped, but here it is very important. "-im" really means `add a slender "m" sound', and "-as" means `add a broad "s" sound.'

So if we want to add a slender "m" to the broad "l" of "mol", we need to pad the suffix with an "a":

        "mol" + "im" -> "mol" + "aim" -> "molaim"
"bris" ends in a slender consonant, so it doesn't need anything between it and the slender suffix:
        "bris" + "im" -> "brisim"
For the second conjugation, we use the root^2 form of the verb, instead of the stem as is usually given.
        "beannaigh" + "im"
Here we invoke the second rule: if a word ends in "igh" and the suffix is slender, then the "ighi" or "ighe" is written as "í". Thus
        "beannaigh" + "im" -> "beannaighim" -> "beannaím"
        "bailigh" + "im" -> "bailighim" -> "bailím"
In the past tense, we lenite and then add "as":
        "mhol" + "as" -> "mholas"
"bris" ends with a slender consonant, so it needs some padding before we add the broad "s":
        "bhris" + "as" -> "bhris" + "eas" -> "bhriseas"
and for the second declension verbs:
        "bheannaigh" + "as" -> "bheannaigh" + "eas" -> 
        "bheannaigheas" -> "bheannaías"
which brings us to the third rule: if an "a" follows "í", it is written "o":
        "bheannaías" -> "bheannaíos"
Next we have the future and conditional tenses. Here we add "f" for the first conjugation, and replace "(a)igh" with "ó" in the second, before adding the suffix. We could think of "igh" as a suffix added before the "im" type suffixes, and "aigh" as the padded form added to broad consonants. Thus this intermediate "igh" is not added in the future or conditional, and "ó" is added in its place in the 2nd conj.
        "mol" + "f" + "idh" -> "molf" + "aidh" -> "molfaidh"

        "bris" + "f" + "idh" -> "brisf" + "idh" -> "brisfidh"

        "beann(aigh)" + "ó" + "idh" -> "beannó" + "idh" -> "beannóidh"

        "bail(igh)" + "ó" + "idh" -> "bail" + "eo" + "idh" ->
        "baileo" + "idh" -> "baileoidh"
Here we encounter the last of our rules: if "ó" follows a slender consonant, it is written "eo".

To summarize^3:

We need to memorize the suffixes (standard dialect):

            present     past       future       imperfect    conditional
1st sing:     -im        -        -f, -idh         -inn       -f, -inn
    plur:     -imid      -amar    -f, -imid        -imis      -f, -imis

2nd sing:     -ann       -        -f, -idh         -t, -á     -f, -á
    plur:     -ann       -        -f, -idh         -adh       -f, -adh

3rd sing:     -ann       -        -f, -idh         -adh       -f, -adh
    plur:     -ann       -        -f, -idh         -idís      -f, -idís

there are similar forms for the others (autonomous, subjunctives, etc) and the other dialects. Many of the irregular^4 verbs follows these rules as well. This also shows why verbs like "guigh" seem to follow 2nd conj rules in some cases and 1st conj in others:

"guigh" + "ann" -> "guigh" + "eann" -> "guigheann" -> "guíann" -> "guíonn"

"dóigh" and "léigh" are a bit different:

"dóigh" + "ann" -> "dó" + "ann" -> "dónn"

thus there's another rule about when vowels meet, but this is not too hard to see once the other rules are understood.

And the four rules:

  1. slender with slender, broad with broad. a slender suffix needs some padding between it and a word ending in a broad consonant. likewise for a broad/slender meeting.
  2. "igh" + "i" or "e" is written "í"
  3. "í" + "a" is written "ío"
  4. "ó" after a slender consonant is written "eo".

There are some 2nd conj verbs that don't end in "igh", but if you add "igh" to the stem before the suffix, they follow the rules:

"cosain" (past, 1st, plural) is "chosnaíomar"

        "cosain" -> "cosn" -> "chosn"
        "chosn" + "igh" + "amar" -> "chosn" + "aigh" + "amar" ->
        "chosnaigh" + "amar" -> "chosnaigh" + "eamar" -> "chosnaigheamar" ->
        "chosnaíamar" -> "chosnaíomar"
I'm sure I've missed some things, and hope someone will correct my errors. Whether or not this way of thinking is any easier depends on the person and the situation. Your mileage may vary. No warranty expressed or implied. May be harmful if taken in large quantities.