Abair (irregular verb)

From Scottish Gaelic Grammar Wiki
Revision as of 12:17, 22 October 2015 by Cpatton (talk | contribs) (Uses)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

The irregular verb Abair means "to say". Abair is one of 11 irregular verbs in Gaelic.


A common idiomatic usage: when used by itself, it means something along the line "what a...!" or "Say, look!".

Abair latha math!

'What a good day!'

Abair duine laghach!

'What a nice man'

Abair car breagha!

'What a beautiful car!'

Summary of forms

  • Independent forms of the verb abair are used without any particles.
  • Dependent forms of the verb abair are used after an, nach, gun and other verbal particles.
  • Unlike regular verbs, the dependent past tense particle do is never used with abair.

context independent Dependent
basic forms active past thuirt (or thubhairt) tuirt
Future their abair3
Relative Future --- their
impersonal1 past thuirteadh tuirteadh
future theirear abrar3
relative future --- theirear
Conditional Mood active theireadh2
(theirinn1 in 1st singular)
(abrainn1,3 in 1st sing)
impersonal theirte abairte
Imperative Mood 2nd person singular abair1,3 ---
plural abraibh1,3
verbal noun ràdh


  • 1 these forms are not used with any subject, they contain the subject in the inflection of the verb (Pro-Drop)
  • 2 takes tu rather than thu in the 2nd person.
  • 3 Abair is rarely used to mean "Say" in the imperative and dependent forms in the future and conditional, instead the regular verb can is more often used.

Non Conditional Moods (indicative, interrogative, negative)

Active Voice

Past tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question embedded
1 thuirt mi an tuirt mi cha tuirt mi nach tuirt mi gun tuirt mi
2 thuirt thu an tuirt thu cha tuirt thu nach tuirt thu gun tuirt thu
3 masc thuirt e an tuirt e cha tuirt e nach tuirt e gun tuirt e
3 fem thuirt i an tuirt i cha tuirt i nach tuirt i gun tuirt i
1 pl thuirt sinn an tuirt sinn cha tuirt sinn nach tuirt sinn gun tuirt sinn
2 pl thuirt sibh an tuirt sibh cha tuirt sibh nach tuirt sibh gun tuirt sibh
3 pl thuirt iad an tuirt iad cha tuirt iad nach tuirt iad gun tuirt iad

Present tense

As is common in Gaelic, there is no present tense form of the verb. When a simple present meaning ("I say something") or a progressive meaning (I am saying something) is intended, the periphrastic construction is used with the present tense of the verb bi (be), i.e., tha, along with the verbal noun.

Tha mi ag ràdh
be.pres 1s prog say.vn
I'm saying/I say

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 their mi an abair mi chan abair mi nach abair mi a their mi
2 their thu an abair thu chan abair thu nach abair thu a their thu
3 masc their e an abair e chan abair e nach abair e a their e
3 fem their i an abair i chan abair i nach abair i a their i
1 pl their sinn an abair sinn chan abair sinn nach abair sinn a their sinn
2 pl their sibh an abair sibh chan abair sibh nach abair sibh a their sibh
3 pl their iad an abair iad chan abair iad nach abair iad a their iad


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

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. thuirteadh can be best translated as "someone said". When used with a pronoun, the pronoun represents the logical object of the verb. So "thuirteadh e" means "Someone said it". This is often translated as "it was said", hence the typical "passive" label.

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 (the thing that was said, not the sayer).

Past tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question
3 masc thuirteadh e an tuirteadh e cha tuirteadh e nach tuirteadh e
3 fem thuirteadh i an tuirteadh i cha tuirteadh i nach tuirteadh i
3 pl thuirteadh iad an tuirteadh iad cha tuirteadh iad nach tuirteadh iad

Present tense

The use of a passive in the present tense is odd, even in English. We leave this blank here.

Future tense

Declarative Question Negative Negative Question Relative Future1
3 masc theirear e an abrar e chan abrar e nach abrar e a theirear e
3 fem theirear i an abrar i chan abrar i nach abrar i a theirear i
3 pl theirear iad an abrar iad chan abrar iad nach abrar iad a theirear iad


  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 theirinn1 an abrainn chan abrainn nach abrainn
2 theireadh tu2 an abradh tu chan abradh tu nach abradh tu
3 masc theireadh e an abradh e chan abradh e nach abradh e
3 fem theireadh i an abradh i chan abradh i nach abradh i
1 pl theireadh sinn (theireamaid3) an abradh sinn (an abramaid3) chan abradh sinn (chan abramaid3) nach abradh sinn (nach abramaid3)
2 pl theireadh sibh an abradh sibh chan abradh sibh nach abradh sibh
3 pl theireadh iad an abradh iad chan abradh iad nach abradh 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
3 masc theirte e an abairte e chan abairte e nach abairte e
3 fem theirte i an abairte i chan abairte i nach abairte i
3 pl theirte iad an abairte iad chan abairte iad nach abairte iad

Imperative Mood

The imperative of abair is rarely used to mean "say!". Instead it often has the meaning of "What an X" Abair an duine What a guy!".

To express an imperative meaning say, most speakers will use the regular verb can instead.


  • 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. http://www.savagepublishers.com/138.html
  • Lamb, William (2003) Scottish Gaelic. 2nd edition. Munich: Lingcom Europa