Bi (irregular verb)

From Scottish Gaelic Grammar Wiki
(Redirected from Bi)
Jump to: navigation, search

The irregular verb bi is one of two verbs "to be" in Gaelic. It is often called the substantive be (as opposed to the copula Is). It is used

Bi is also used as the primary auxiliary

Bi is one of 11 irregular verbs in Gaelic.


Bi is never used to connect two noun phrases (John is a doctor, John is the doctor), nor is it used as the clefting particle (It is Susan who left), for those constructions use the Copula Bi is however used in the following contexts:

  • as the auxiliary in progressives
  • as the auxiliary in perfects
  • as the auxiliary in stative construction
  • as the be verb used with adjectives, prepositional phrases, and adverbs
  • as the auxiliary in 'nam 'nad 'na constructions marking professions and temporary states: Bha mi 'nam ghille 'nuair a ....

Summary of forms

  • Independent forms of the verb bi are used without any particles.
  • Unlike regular verbs, the dependent past tense particle do is never used with tha.

context independent After Cha(n) gun/nach after a'/an/am question particle
basic forms active past bha robh
Present tha eil bheil
Future bidh/bithidh bhi bi
Relative Future bi (used in negatives), bhios/bhitheas1 (used in positives)
impersonal1 past bhatar or bhathar or bhathas robhar
present thatar or thathar or thathas eilear or eileas bheilear or bheileas
future bithear bhithear bithear
relative future --- bhithear (after particles that trigger the relative future)
Conditional Mood active bhitheadh/bhiodh
(bhitinn2 in 1st sing)
(bhitheamaid2,4 in 1st pl)
(bithinn2 in 1st sing)
(bitheamaid2,4 in 1st pl)
impersonal bhite or bhithist(e) bite or bithist(e)
Imperative Mood 1st person singular bitheam2 ---
plural bitheamaid2
2nd person singular bi2
plural bithibh2
3rd person biodh/bitheadh
verbal noun a bhith 3


  • 1 with the relative future and impersonal forms of this verb, the pronoun tu is used instead of thu
  • 2 these forms are not used with any subject, they contain the subject in the inflection of the verb (Pro-Drop)
  • 3 infinitive use only
  • 4 rare

Non Conditional Moods (indicative, interrogative, negative)

Active Voice

Past tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
1 Bha mi an robh mi Cha robh mi nach robh mi
2 Bha thu an robh thu Cha robh thu nach robh thu
3 masc Bha e an robhl e Cha robh e nach robh e
3 fem Bha i an robh i Chan robh i nach robh i
1 pl Bha sinn an robh sinn Cha robh sinn nach robh sinn
2 pl Bha sibh an robh sibh Cha robh sibh nach robh sibh
3 pl Bha iad an robh iad Cha robh iad nach robh iad

Present tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
1 Tha mi a' bheil mi Chan eil mi nach eil mi
2 Tha thu a' bheil thu Chan eil thu nach eil thu
3 masc Tha e a' bheil e Chan eil e nach eil e
3 fem Tha i a' bheil i Chan eil i nach eil i
1 pl Tha sinn a' bheil sinn Chan eil sinn nach eil sinn
2 pl Tha sibh a' bheil sibh Chan eil sibh nach eil sibh
3 pl Tha iad a' bheil iad Chan eil iad nach eil iad

Future tense

The future tense in Gaelic is used to express the idea that an event will happen sometime after the speech time. Unlike English, the future tense can also be used with a present tense meaning, to express the idea that an action is habitual.

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question Relative Future1
1 bithidh mi am bi mi cha bhi mi nach bi mi a bhitheas mi
2 bithidh thu am bi thu cha bhi thu nach bi thu a bhitheas tu2
3 masc bithidh e am bi e cha bhi e nach bi e a bhitheas e
3 fem bithidh i am bi i cha bhi i nach bi i a bhitheas i
1 pl bithidh sinn am bi sinn cha bhi sinn nach bi sinn a bhitheas sinn
2 pl bithidh sibh am bi sibh cha bhi sibh nach bi sibh a bhitheas sibh
3 pl bithidh iad am bi iad cha bhi iad nach bi iad a bhitheas iad


  1. the relative future is used after certain particles such as ma or the particle used with questions a.
  2. Note that in the relative future the pronoun tu is used in lieu of thu.

Impersonal/Passive Voice

Gaelic verbs don't technically have a Passive verb form. Instead the passive is typically represented through a periphrastic construction using the verbs Rach or Tha + the passive marker air. It does, however, have an impersonal form. The Impersonal is used to indicate an indeterminate subject. bhatar mi' means "I was been"

Since Gaelic doesn't distinguish between subject and object pronouns (unlike it's sibling Modern Irish), it is very difficult to determine if these pronouns are subjects or objects. We list them here as if they were subjects, with the understanding that the pronouns in the following tables represent the logical objects of the verb

Past tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
bhatar an robhar cha robhar nach robhar

Present tense

The use of a passive in the present tense is odd, even in English. But here are the relevant forms if you should ever need them.

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
thatar a' bheilear chan eilear nach eilear

Future tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question Relative Future
bithear am bithear cha bhithear nach bithear a bhithear


  1. the relative future is used after certain particles such as a the particle used with questions, or ma "if".

Conditional Mood


Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
1 bhithinn1 am bithinn cha bhithinn nach bithinn
2 bhiodh tu2 am biodh tu cha bhiodh tu nach biodh tu
3 masc bhiodh e am biodh e cha bhiodh e nach biodh e
3 fem bhiodh i am biodh i cha bhiodh i nach biodh i
1 pl bhiodh sinn (bhiomaid3) am biodh sinn (am biomaid3) cha bhiodh sinn (cha bhiomaid3) nach biodh sinn (nach biomaid3)
2 pl bhiodh sibh am biodh sibh cha bhiodh sibh nach biodh sibh
3 pl bhiodh iad am biodh iad cha bhiodh iad nach biodh iad


  1. The 1st person singular form is never used with an overt pronoun, the verb contains the pronoun already.
  2. The pronoun tu is used here instead of thu
  3. The 1st person plural has a special inflected form, which like the first person singular is never used with a pronoun. This 1st person plural form is rarely used anymore.


Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
1 bhite mi am bite mi cha bhite mi nach bite mi
2 bhite thu am bite thu cha bhite thu nach bite thu
3 masc bhite e am bite e cha bhite e nach bite e
3 fem bhite i am bite i cha bhite i nach bite i
1 pl bhite sinn am bite sinn cha bhite sinn nach bite sinn
2 pl bhite sibh am bite sibh cha bhite sibh nach bite sibh
3 pl bhite iad am bite iad cha bhite iad nach bite iad

Imperative Mood

The Imperative mood is used when giving a command. 2nd person imperatives are the most common. In English these are translated with by just the verb "Hear!". 1st and 3rd person imperatives translated loosely as "Let me be", "let us be", "let he/she/them be". The 1st person plural and third person imperatives are the same as the conditional forms except without lenition

person form
singular 1 bitheam1
2 bi1
3 masc biodh e
3 fem biodh i
plural 1 biomaid1
2 bithibh1
3 biodh iad


  1. The 1st and 2nd person forms are used without subject pronouns.


  • Black, Ronald (2006) Cothrom Ionnsachaidh Peebles: Self-published.
  • Byrne, Michel (2002) Gràmar na Gàidhlig. Eilean Leòdhais: Stòrlann-Acair.
  • Deiseal Earranta tta (2006) Reference Cards: Sealbhairean Roimhearach/Riochdairean Roimhearach.
  • Mark, Colin (2004) The Gaelic-English Dictionary/Am faclair Gàidhlig-Beurla. London: Routledge
  • Mark, Colin (2006), Gaelic Verbs: Systemised and Simplified" 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Steve Savage Publishers.
  • Lamb, William (2003) Scottish Gaelic. 2nd edition. Munich: Lingcom Europa