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Verbs: irregular, past & present

Verbs can be a bit tricky in Gaelic, especially when it comes to the irregular verbs, which do not follow the same pattern as other verbs. Consequently, familiarising yourself with these ten irregular verbs will prove helpful in many conversation situations

There is a common rule for using Gaelic verbs to talk about past events (i.e. the past tense).

Past tense regular Vverbs

Let us first consider a’ togail (lifting). When using the past tense, the verb takes on the following forms:



Cha do thog

Didn't lift

An do thog thu?

Did you lift?

This is a consistent pattern for most regular Gaelic verbs, such as with ag òl (drinking). We include dh in front of òl, since it begins with a vowel.



Cha do dh'òl

Didn't drink

An do dh'òl...?

Did ... drink?

However, as mentioned before, the ten Gaelic irregular verbs do not follow this pattern. Gaelic is fortunate in that there are only ten irregular verbs (compared to around 200 that exist in English), but it can still be a challenge to get used to them. So, let’s take this opportunity to get some practice with the Gaelic irregular verbs!

A' dol - Going

Let’s start with a’ dol (going), a verb which comes up very often in day-to-day Gaelic conversation. To talk about going, or not going, somewhere in the past we would use chaidh (went) or cha deach (did not go):

Chaidh mi fhèin agus aon charaid gu cuirm-chiùil aig Caisteal Dhùn Èideann.

Myself and one friend went to a concert at Edinburgh Castle.

Cha deach ar caraid Anna ann idir.

Our friend Anna did not go there at all.

Ag ràdh - Saying

Another commonly-used irregular verb is ag ràdh (saying), the past tense for which is thuirt (said) and cha tuirt (did not say):

Thuirt i gun robh i sgìth.

She said that she was tired.

Cha tuirt i guth mu dheidhinn anns a’ mhadainn

She didn’t say anything about it in the morning.

Bha i ag ràdh gun robh i air a bhith ag obair ro thrang.

She said that she has been too busy working.

A' faighinn - Getting

Then there is a' faighinn (getting), for which you would say fhuair (got) or cha d'fhuair (did not get) when referring to something obtained or not obtained in the past, or gheibh (will get) or chan fhaigh (will not get) when referring to the future.

Fhuair sinn tagsaidh chun an talla ach gheibh sinn bus an ath thuras.

We got a taxi to the hall, but we will get a bus next time.

Chan fhaigh sinn tagsaidh tuilleadh, bha e ro dhaor.

We will not take a tax anymore, it was too expensive.

A' cluinntinn - Hearing

To say something was heard or not heard in the past, use either chuala (heard) or cha chuala (did not hear).

Chuala mi gun robh luchd-ciùil ainmeil gu bhith ann.

I heard that famous musicians were there.

Cha chuala mi seinneadairean às an Spàinn roimhe seo.

I had not heard signers from Spain before this.

Chuala sinn luchd-ciùil às an Fhraing, ach cha chuala sinn feadhainn à Alba.

We heard musicians from France, but we did not hear any from Scotland.

A' faicinn - Seeing

The past tense for a’ faicinn would be either chunnaic (saw), chan fhaca (did not see), or am faca? (did … see?):

Chunnaic sinn dannsairean à Canada, ach chan fhaca sinn feadhainn à Iapan.

We saw dancers from Canada, but we did not see any from Japan.

Am faca tu fhèin a leithid riamh?

Did you ever see the like?

A' tighinn - Coming

Finally, there is a’ tighinn (coming), for which the past tense is thàinig (came) or cha tàinig (did not come):

Thàinig mise dhachaigh aig aon uair deug, ach cha tàinig mo charaid dhachaigh gu meadhan-oidhche.

I came home at 11 o’clock, but my friend didn’t come home until midnight.