Tomhas na Teanga

Samhain/Nollaig 2004




Maybe some of you are not done with your Christmas shopping yet, so I want to suggest a terrific bi-lingual book of poetry to you…  My book is now available from all internet book sellers, and any store can get it, too.  So you don’t have to go to  only in order to get the book.  This means, for instance, that if you get it at, you can order it with other books and thus save on postage.  It’s best to search for the book title, in the poetry category.  The book is ‘An File ar Buile.’

Yes, I know that was a shameless plug, but I think it really is a pretty good book!


I have discussed how to wish a Merry Christmas and such things in other columns, so I won’t repeat myself.  They are all available in an archive at, under the ‘General Reading’ menu item (or you can also  just go directly to  But Nollaig shona daoibh, just the same!


Let’s talk about the weather.  Tá sé fuar – it is cold.  Pronounced ‘Toh shay fooer.’  Fuar rhymes with sewer.  The spelling makes sense in Irish, unlike English (too few sew in the sewer).  ‘Tá sé’ is a generic ‘it is,’ but in Irish the ‘is’ comes first.  ‘Sé’ means ‘it’ or ‘he.’

If you want to specifically say you are talking about the weather, you can say ‘Tá an aimsir fuar’ (am-sher) – the weather is cold.  Now we are using a noun instead of a pronoun.  ‘Aimsir’ can mean ‘weather,’ or it can also mean a period of time.  Christmas time is ‘aimsir na Nollag.’  It can also mean ‘tense’ when referring to verbs (present tense = an aimsir láithreach…).  And it can also mean a period of service.  ‘Tá sí in aimsir’ means she is a servant.  ‘Cailín aimsire’ is a maid/servant girl.


But you don’t need to know any of that – just say ‘tá sé fuar!’  Not cold?  ‘Níl sé fuar’

(neel).  Wet?  ‘Tá sé fliuch’ (flyukh – probably where ‘yuck!” came from!).  Dry?  ‘Tá sé tirim (tirrim, or trim (Munster)).  Hot (if only!) – tá sé te (te!). 


You can describe things in many ways using ‘tá sé/sí.’  Tá sé dorcha (dooracka) – it’s dark (outside, or wherever context points you).  Bright?  Tá sé geall (gyal).  When you get into the realm of opinion, you generally will add the helper word ‘go’ (short o) before the adjective:  Tá mé go maith (I’m fine); tá sé go deas (dyass) (he’s nice), tá sí go dona (dunna) – she’s bad (could mean ‘not well,’ also);  tá sí go hálainn (go puts an h before a vowel ) (ah-ling) – she’s beautiful.  Tá an aimsir go breá (brah) – the weather is fine/great.


Here’s another good winter word: sneachta (shnakhta – first ‘a’ like in ‘hat’) – snow.  To say there is snow, you can say ‘tá sneachta ann’ (on or owwn (Munster)).  That means snow exists, or there is snow there.  To say it is snowing, say ‘tá sé ag cur sneachta’ (egg curr).  This literally means it is sowing snow!  (How do you spell ‘so’ in English again?)


‘Tá’ is one of the few irregular verbs in Irish.  As in all languages, the most common verbs tend to be the most irregular.  The base form of ‘tá’ is ‘bí’ (bee) – and it’s easy to see the common Indo-European connections there with English.  Other forms are ‘bhí’ (vee) for past tense and ‘beidh’ (bay) for future tense.  Bhí an aimsir go dona inné (inyay – yesterday), ach (okh – but) tá sé go deas inniu (in-you(v) - today).  Beidh sé go hálainn amárach (a marr okh – tomorrow).


‘Bí’ is the only verb in Irish that has a present habitual tense – bíonn (bee ‘n), ‘it bees.’  Bíonn aimsir na Nollag go deas i gcónaí. (ih go nee – always).


There are more forms to this verb.  Take it slow!  But just to give some of the important ones, ní raibh (nee rev) is past tense negative.  An bhfuil (un will) is present tense question.  I’ll stop there!  Most verbs in Irish are rather simple, by comparison.


An raibh tú ag an gcarraig?  (carraige (in English) with a hard g instead of a soft g ending, and gc sounds like g (g eclipses the c)) – were you at the rock?  This means the Mass rock.  This is the title of a famous traditional song.  An mbeidh tú sa bhaile (un may too suh whylya – will you be home) amárach?  (have you noticed that I was, I will be, I am, were you, that he is, is just as irregular in English?)


In Irish, you answer a question with the verb that was used in the question.  There is no ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  An raibh tú sa bhaile inné?  Ní raibh.  An mbeidh tú sa bhaile amárach?  Beidh.  An bhfuil an aimsir go deas inniu?  Tá.  An mbeidh sé ag cur sneachta aimsir na Nollag?  Cá bhfios! (kah viss – who knows!)


Want to take a complete tour of Irish pronunciation?  My friend Gerry Kelly has put together a great multimedia web site for this.  You can get to it from the school website (given above), or go directly to


Tháinig buachaill beag abhaile óna cheachtanna san eaglais, agus bhí tuiscint nua aige maidir le scéal na Nollag.  D’fhoghlaim sé faoi na triúr saoi ón Oirthear a tháinig chun bronntanais a thabhairt don leanbh Íosa.  Bhí sceitimíní ar an mbuachaill le fonn an scéal seo a insint dá thuismitheoirí.
Ar shroicheadh a theach dó, thosaigh sé air.  “ D’fhoghlaim mé ar scoil inniu faoin gcéad Nollaig riamh!  Ní raibh Daidí na Nollag ann fós, fadó fadó, agus mar sin tháinig triúr fear tanaí ar a gcamaill chun na bréagáin go léir a thabhairt!  Agus ní riabh Rúdolf an Réinfhia Dearg-shrónach ann fós, agus mar sin bhí orthu spotsholas mór a chur ar siúl sa spéir go mbeadh siad in ann a slí a dhéanamh amach!”


Beannachtaí na Nollag oraibh go léir, agus Athbhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise daoibh!