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PostPosted: Sun 25 Mar 2012 9:14 pm 
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For a complete list of wombat explanations, see: viewforum.php?f=34

The Article

Irish has only one article: the definite article. The article has two forms, an and na. an is used in front of singular nouns (with the exception of feminine nouns in the genitive case, but we'll discuss that later), and na is used in front of plural nouns.

Gender

Nouns in Irish are either masculine or feminine. There used to be a neuter gender, but it's gone now. (You can see the remnants of it in certain placenames.) Some grammatical changes work differently for masculine and feminine nouns, so knowing the gender of a noun is important.

There are some rules of thumb for guessing whether a noun is masculine or feminine, as I explain on another thread. Those rules work most of the time, but it's best to learn a noun's gender along with the noun itself.

Using The Article
The easiest way to remember a noun's gender is to practice using the noun with the definite article. That's because the article can cause a change to the noun depending on its gender. The table below summarises the changes that occur. We'll go through it line by line. If you read the table out loud to yourself every day for a week, you'll probably be able to remember the rules.

Image

Note: These rules deal only with the "nominative case". In other threads, we'll talk about the genitive and vocative cases.

If a noun begins with a consonant (other than d, t, s)...
...and it's masculine, then there's no change to the noun after an.
...and it's feminine, then you lenite it after an.

In the table, the line an fear ... an bhean, demonstrates this rule. fear is masculine, and bean is feminine (which is pretty easy to remember)

Try it! Put the definite article, an in front of these nouns: cat (masculine), bád (masculine), bróg (feminine), cistin (feminine), béal (masculine), farraige (feminine). Highlight to see the answers: an cat, an bád, an bhróg, an chistin, an béal, an fharraige

If a noun begins with s...
...and it's masculine, then there's no change to the noun after an.
...and it's feminine, then it takes a "t" after an (no t before sc, sm, sp, st)

An easy way to remember that there's no t before sc, sm, sp, and st is the phrase scalions smell spicy in stew. (Another easy way to remember it is to notice that pronouncing "tsc", "tsm", "tsp" or "tst" at the beginning of a word would be quite a challenge!)

In the table, the line an sagart ... an tsráid, demonstrates this rule. sagart (priest) is masculine, and sráid (street) is feminine.

Try it! Put the definite article, an in front of these nouns: seilf (masculine), súil (feminine), scamall (masculine), srón (feminine), stoirm (feminine). Highlight to see the answers: an seilf, an tsúil, an scamall, an tsrón, an stoirm

If a noun begins with a vowel...
...and it's masculine, then you prefix "t-" to it after an.
...and it's feminine, there's no change to the noun after an.

In the table, the line an t-arán ... an eochair, demonstrates this rule. arán (bread) is masculine, and eochair (key) is feminine.

Try it! Put the definite article, an in front of these nouns: asal (masculine), éan (masculine), uirlis (feminine), áit (feminine). Highlight to see the answers: an t-asal, an t-éan, an uirlis, an áit


If a noun begins with d or t...
...there's no change to the noun after an.

This is a example of a general rule called DeNTaLS DoTS: after d,n,t,l,s we usually don't lenite d,t,s. Since an ends in "n", if the noun begins with d or t, we don't lenite it.

In the table, the line an tine, demonstrates this rule. Although tine (fire) is feminine, we don't lenite it after an.

Try it! Put the definite article, an in front of these nouns: turas (masculine), dúil (feminine). Highlight to see the answers: an turas, an dúil


Plural nouns
With plural nouns, na is used. The gender doesn't matter, so the rule is simple.
- If the noun begins with a consonant, it doesn't change after na.
- If the noun begins with a vowel, it takes a "h" after na.

Try it! Put the definite article in front of these plural nouns: cait, asail, éin, tithe. Highlight to see the answers: na cáit, na hasail, na héin, na tithe


Have you noticed the big colourful letters in the chart, t-, L, and h? They serve as a quick visual reminder that masculine nouns sometimes need a prefix t- after the article, feminine nouns are usually lenited, and plural nouns might need a "h" in front.

__________

OK, time for more practice. Put the definite article in front of the following nouns. One person might do Group 1, another Group 2, etc.

Group 1:
bád (masculine)
ordóga (plural)
nós (masculine)
seoid (feminine)
stáisiúin (masculine)
áis (feminine)
uan (masculine)
feadóga (plural)
saghas (masculine)
dámh (feminine)
fál (masculine)
amadán (masculine)
dán (masculine)

Group 2:
dóigh (feminine)
carr (masculine)
alt (masculine)
oráistí (plural)
spéir (feminine)
obair (feminine)
seol (masculine)
uiscí (plural)
spórt (masculine)
leithreas (masculine)
mac (masculine)
dinnéar (masculine)

Group 3:
seamróg (feminine)
ábhar (masculine)
maidin (feminine)
eireaball (masculine)
éisc (plural)
oifig (feminine)
pairc (feminine)
páipéir (plural)
solas (masculine)
dualgas (masculine)
tobar (masculine)

__________

Now let's work backwards. I've given you the correct form of the article with the noun. Without consulting a dictionary, can you figure out whether the noun is masculine, feminine, or plural? (There will be some where you can't tell just by looking at the form it takes after the article.)

an saghas
an tseamróg
an dúil
na héisc
na páipéir
an carr
na huibheacha
an cháil
an mhíl
na bialanna
na fionta
an tsáil
an phéist
na heochracha
an bád

ImageTo the extent possible under law, Amy de Buitléir has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

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