Verbs: Irregular, Past & Present
Verbs can be a bit tricky in Gaelic, especially when it comes to the irregular verbs, which do not follow the same pattern as other verbs. Consequently, familiarising yourself with these ten irregular verbs will prove helpful in many conversation situations
There is a common rule for using Gaelic verbs to talk about past events (i.e. the past tense).
Past Tense Regular Verbs
Let us first consider a’ togail (lifting). When using the past tense, the verb takes on the following forms:
- Didn't lift
- Did you lift?
This is a consistent pattern for most regular Gaelic verbs, such as with ag òl (drinking). We include dh in front of òl, since it begins with a vowel.
- Didn't drink
- Did ... drink?
However, as mentioned before, the ten Gaelic irregular verbs do not follow this pattern. Gaelic is fortunate in that there are only ten irregular verbs (compared to around 200 that exist in English), but it can still be a challenge to get used to them. So, let’s take this opportunity to get some practice with the Gaelic irregular verbs!
A' dol - Going
Let’s start with a’ dol (going), a verb which comes up very often in day-to-day Gaelic conversation. To talk about going, or not going, somewhere in the past we would use chaidh (went) or cha deach (did not go):
- Myself and one friend went to a concert at Edinburgh Castle.
- Our friend Anna did not go there at all.
Ag radh - Saying
Another commonly-used irregular verb is ag ràdh (saying), the past tense for which is thuirt (said) and cha tuirt (did not say):
- She said that she was tired.
- She didn’t say anything about it in the morning.
- She said that she has been too busy working.
A' faighinn - Getting
Then there is a' faighinn (getting), for which you would say fhuair (got) or cha d'fhuair (did not get) when referring to something obtained or not obtained in the past, or gheibh (will get) or chan fhaigh (will not get) when referring to the future.
- We got a taxi to the hall, but we will get a bus next time.
- We will not take a tax anymore, it was too expensive.
A' cluinntinn - Hearing
To say something was heard or not heard in the past, use either chuala (heard) or cha chuala (did not hear).
- I heard that famous musicians were there.
- I had not heard signers from Spain before this.
- We heard musicians from France, but we did not hear any from Scotland.
A' faicinn - Seeing
The past tense for a’ faicinn would be either chunnaic (saw), chan fhaca (did not see), or am faca? (did … see?):
- We saw dancers from Canada, but we did not see any from Japan.
- Did you ever see the like?
A' tighinn - Coming
Finally, there is a’ tighinn (coming), for which the past tense is thàinig (came) or cha tàinig (did not come):
- I came home at 11 o’clock, but my friend didn’t come home until midnight.