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Part III

Of Combinations of Words, or Syntax

I SHALL not here repeat such rules of Syntax as it was necessary to notice in the preceding parts of this Grammar, and shall omit such as are not agreed on among preceding grammarians.


1. — The Article agrees with its Substantive, in gender, number, and case ; it is always placed before it, unless an adjective intervene : we have already seen what initial changes it causes in Nouns.

2. — When .the Article is preceded by a Particle ending in a vowel, the a is omitted, and the n is united to the Particle ; an apostrophe should properly be placed between them —

Ex. do'n, for do na, gcailin, to the girl

If the particle be a in, the article is omitted, as a ḃfiaḋnuise in the presence ; if it be ann in, the article requires s to be prefixed, as ann san, in the. In this case, if the following noun begin with a vowel, the n is united to it, with an apostrophe, thus — ann sa n'uair in the hour ; but if with a consonant, the n is omitted, as ann sa dtig, in the house.

3. — When two substantives come together, one governing the other in the genitive case, the article is omitted from the first substantive, and sometimes omitted altogether ; as ,a mac an báird, the son of the bard, Cairlean Cilleamoire, the Castle of Kilmore: the latter case occurs, when there is no limit in the signir fication of the substantives, or where the noun governed is a proper name.

4. — If a possessive pronoun be joined to the noun governed, the article is omitted ; as obair (not an obair), ar laiṁ, the work of our hands.


5. — When two substantives signifying different things come together, the latter is in the genitive case ; the substantive is put in the same case also, if it follow the active infinitive, or participle, thus — iar meallaḋ a ċaraid, after the deceiving of his friend.

6 — Substantives signifying the same person or thing require the adjective between them ; and, in poetry, compound substantives sometimes have the adjective inserted between the parts of the compound.

7. — An adjective is usually placed after its substantive in the sentence ; except sometimes, when it is strongly predicated of the noun, thus —is laidir an féar sin, that is a strong man: or, being of one syllable, it may combine with it as a compound, thus — og-ṁairt, a heifer, literally, young beef; and in the latter case the initial of the substantive must in general be aspirated. Initial aspirations, &c. shall be treated of separately.

8 — An adjective agrees with its substantive in gender, number, and case ; but not necessarily — 1. where the adjective is in the predicate of a sentence, and the noun the subject, as ataid ṫaiṫentasa uile fírinneaċ, all thy commandments are faithful ; or 2. when the adjective modifies the verb, and not the substantive, as rinn me an scian geaur, I made the knife sharp, (I sharpened the knife ) but, if I would say I made the sharp knife, it must be thus — rinn me an scian ġeur, aspirating the initial to make it agree with the feminine substantive.

9. — Adjectives signifying profit, proximity, fitness, or the reverse, require a dative case ; such as denote skill, knowledge, power, dimension, &c. require the same case, governed by the preposition air, or sometimes by de ; while those which signify equality, or similitude (and, as Neilson adds, emotion of mind,) require a dative also, but governed by the prepositions le or re.

10. — All numerals up to 10, or any multiples of 10, are placed before their nouns ; but other numbers have the noun between the words composing them, thus — se ccrann ar ḟiċit, twenty.six trees. This rule, as given by Neilson, requires the noun to be thus placed, whenever the numeral is expressed by two or more words.

11. — The numeral 2, and all the multiples of 10, prefixed to a substantive, have it in the singular number, thus — da fear, two men, da fear deag , twelve men; but, if an adjective be added, that must be in the plural, thus —da cran mora, two great trees.

This singular rule induced some grammarians to suppose that there was a dual number in this tongue ; but it applies as well to the use of the numbers 20, 100, and 1000, as to that of 2. Neilson says, that after ba the noun must be in the ablative case.


12. — The personal pronouns, in which alone there is a distinction of case, agree with their antecedent in gender, number, and case.

13. — If the antecedent be a sentence, the pronoun agreeing with it must be in the third person singular: if it be a noun of multitude, or consist of two persons or things, the pronoun must be in the third person plural; as drong do ḃioḋ re foġla ar muir iad, they were a people that were robbers at sea.

14 — Possessive pronouns are used in a singular manner, in connexion with nouns or verbs signifying office, condition, position, or identity, thus biḋ mé mo riġ, was a king ; this, if literally translated, would be I was my king, &c. The Scotch sometimes translate this idiom, in using the English tongue, ex. gr. they say, he was his lane, for he was alone. The instance of the reflected verb will present to the student another example of this peculiar mode of expression. In such sentences the phrase, in my state of, or such like, is understood. The article is sometimes used in a similar way, thus — ta se na ṡesaṁ, . is standing.

15 — The compound possessive pronouns require a dative case, as am tiġ, in my house.

16.— Relative pronouns always precede the verb, but they are often only understood, and not expressed.

17. — Demonstrative pronouns immediately follow the noun to which they belong, as an fear so, this man; except the substantive verb be understood, in which case they precede it, thus — so an fear, here is the man.

18. — Interrogative pronouns always precede the noun or verb to which they belong; and they combine with the personal pronouns in the asking of questions, without the aid of the substantive verb, thus — an e an fear, is he the man ?


19 — The verb agrees with its nominative, which generally follows it, in number and person.

20. — Active verbs govern the accusative case.

21. — If two or more nouns join to form the nominative case, and the first of them be in the singular number, the verb must be so too, even though the others be in the plural ; and, if the nominative case be a noun of multitude, the verb must be in the plural.

22 — The particle do must be used in the past tense of verbs beginning with an f., or a vowel ; but in all others it may be omitted : and, when used as above, it loses the o in the active voice, and unites with the verb, thus — d'aiṫir he knew.

23. — The accusative case is never put between the nominative and the verb.

24. — The auxiliary verb is often elegantly omitted. Ex. Oir (is) éiṡinn ar dDia, . he (is) our God.

25. — The instance of a nominative case before a participle in English, as the man being dead, (or the ablative absolute in Latin) is expressed in Irish by a dative case, wich the preposition do, thus—air mbeiṫ do'nn fir marḃ.

26 — The infinitive mood and participles govern a genitive case, when the action refers to a determinate object, and follows the verb, as da ceannaċ an ċapail, to buy the mare ; but, if the object be not determinate, it goes before the verb like the nominative, as capuil a ċeanaċ, to buy a mare. If the object, though determinate, precede the verb, it will be in the accusative, as an tór do ṡantaḋ, to covet the gold.

27. — The auxiliary verbs, with the aid of a noun, and certain prepositions united with personal pronouns, supply the place of verbs signifying power, necessity, want, knowledge, possession, or any affection of the body or mind, thus — ta airgiod agam, I have money : buḋ ocras orra, they were hungry. The prepositions thus used are do and le, with as, is, ḃí, and ag, ar, and uaḋ with bí, fuil, tá and raiḃ.

28. — When as or is follow a word ending with a rowel, or ba or buḋ precede a word beginning with one, the verb unites with the word, thus — mas (ma is) ḟior sinn, if that be true; b'eiġeann daṁ, I was obliged.

29. — The present participle, with the auxiliary verb, is used to express the continuance of a thing; thus — tá me ag leaġaḋ mo leaḃair, I am reading my book.


30 — an in has sa subjoined to it, when before a consonant. The prepositions a,i, go, le, re, and tre, have an s added to them where they precede an article, thus— as, is, gus, leis, ris, tres..

31. — When de, the contraction of do e, of it, is used to express the comparative degree, the word 'na, or iona, than, is never used before the noun.

32. — A preposition prefixed to a which, requires the subjunctive mood, as air in a raiḃ Finn, the place where Finn was : if the preposition be understood, and if the i in in be omitted for the sake of euphony, the n must still be retained, and written thus — 'na raiḃ , in which he was.

33. —THe measure or extent of a thing is expressed by air, thus—da troiġ air irde, two feet high.


34. — The conjunctions agus, and, and no, or, couple the same cases of nouns.

35. — Agus is often contracted into as and s, , so also is the auxiliary verb is often written s ; when as and is meet together they are contracted into 'sas, , as 'sas mór an aḃaoir, and great is the work; and, when the vocative case follows 's, the vocative sign is added to it, thus — 'sa Ḋia, and oh God !

36. — When two or more adjectives come together, which are relatives to the same ubstantives,Agus is often omitted; as tá sí óg maiseċ she is young (and) beautiful.

37. — The negative generally precedes the disjunctive.


38. — None of the interjections govern a case, except only mairg, which requires a dative.


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grammar of the irish language—mason—1842
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