Irish Language and Hiberno-English


Let´s take a look at the English language spoken in Ireland. Especially on the informal level, there are some differences:

Grammar derived from Irish

  1. Irish lacks words that directly translate as "yes" or "no", and instead repeats the verb in a question, possibly negated, to answer.

    "Are you coming home soon?" - "I am."

    "Is you mobile charged?" - "It´s not."


  1. The Irish equivalent of the verb "to be" has two present tenses, one for cases which are generally true or are true at the time of speaking and the other for repeated actions. Thus, "you are (now, or generally)" is tá tú, but "you are (repeatedly)" is bíonn tú. Both forms are used with the verbal noun to create compound tenses. Some Irish speakers of English, especially in rural areas, use the verb "to be" in English similarly to how they would in Irish, using a "does be/do be" construction to indicate this latter continuous present:

    "He does be working every day." Bíonn sé ag obair gach lá.

    "They do be talking on their mobiles a lot." Bíonn siad ag caint go leor ar a fóin póca.


  1. Irish has no perfect tenses; instead, "after" is added to the present or past continuous:

    "Why did you hit him?" - "He was after showing me cheek."

A similar construction is seen where exclamation is used in describing a recent event:

    "I´m after hitting him with the car!" Táim tar éis é a bhualadh leis an gcarr!

    "She´s after losing five stone in five weeks!"

When describing less astonishing or significant events, a structure resembling the perfect in German can be seen:

    "I have the car fixed." Tá an carr deisithe agam.


  1. In rural areas, the reflexive version of pronouns is often used for emphasis or to refer indirectly to a particular person, etc., according to context. Herself, for example, might refer to the speaker´s boss or to the woman of the house.

    "Tis herself that´s coming now."

    "Was it all of ye or just yourself?"


  1. There are some language forms that stem from the fact that there is no verb to have in Irish. Instead, possession is indicated in Irish by using the preposition at, (in Irish ag). To be more precise, Irish uses a prepositional pronoun that combines ag and (me) to create agam. In English, the verb "to have" is used, along with a "with me" or "on me" that derives from Tá ... agam. This gives rise to the freguent:

    "Do you have the book?" - "I have it with me."

    "Have you change for the bus on you?"

    "He will not shut up if he has drink taken."

Somebody who can speaka language "has" a language, in which Hiberno-English has borrowed the grammatical form used in Irish:

    "She does not have Irish."


When describing something, rural Hiberno-English speakers may use the term "in it" where "there" would usually be used. This is due to the Irish word ann (pronounced "oun") fulfilling both meanings.

    "Is it yourself that is in it?"

    "Is there any milk in it or will I get some in the shop?"






(Všechny informace byly převzaty z materiálů získaných od lektorky kurzu)

Watch a short video that depicts the language situation in Ireland in a funny way.