Irish Language Blog

An Teach is saoire (ba shaoire ?) in Éirinn … Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

I recently noticed an eye-catching article about a house for sale in Ireland, announcing that it was the cheapest house in Ireland (nasc thíos; 17 Aibreán 2014).  It’s located in Magheracorran (Machaire an Chorráin) in Co. Donegal, between Letterkenny and Donegal Town.  How big is it?  Reasonably big — 4 bedrooms, about 1800 sq. feet (167 sq. m.).  And it’s detached, with a front and rear garden and a built-in conservatory, all of which should make it fairly desirable.

Naturally that piqued my curiosity, and also made me think, that’s a great way to practice superlative forms of adjectives in Irish.

Cén luach atá ar an teach seo?   Well, that’s not actually clear from the article, since the house was to be auctioned off.  But the “reserve price” (praghas forchoimeádta) was €15,000 (US $22,000).  So presumably the catchy headline, “The cheapest house in Ireland is up for sale,” really means the house with the cheapest reserve price.

Either way, it provides us with an opportunity to practice “foirmeacha  sárchéimeacha aidiachtaí” in Irish (superlative forms of adjectives).

When we want to say the biggest, smallest, best, worst, etc. of anything in Irish, the noun comes first (opposite word order to English):

the biggest house in Ireland: an teach is mó in Éirinn

the smallest house in Ireland: an teach is lú in Éirinn (for links to a couple of candidates, see below)

the smallest house in Wales: an teach is lú sa Bhreatain Bheag.  I’ve actually visited this one and would definitely say it’s worth a gander, especially if you’re visiting Conway, Wales, where it’s located.  For the curious, here are “na toisí:” H x W x D (airde x leithead x doimhneacht):  méadar: 3.1 x 1.83 x 3.05; troigh: 10’2″ x 6 x 10.  Agus is teach dhá stór é!  Achar urláir: 3.05 x 1.8m; 10′ x 5’9″

If we want to do “best” and “worst,” the words will be “is fearr” and “is measa.”

Is é an t-amhránaí is fearr ar domhan é.   He is the best singer in the world.

Tá boladh an scúinc ar cheann de na bolaithe is measa ar domhan.   The smell of the skunk is one of the worst smells in the world.

So far the adjectives we’ve been using are irregular (mór / is mó; beag / is lú; maith / is fearr; olc / is measa).

The good news is that most adjectives in Irish are regular and the superlative form is quite predictable, following one of the following rules, depending on how the original word is spelled.   In each case, we start with the word “is” [say “iss” not “iz”]

a) if the adjective ends in a broad consonant (i.e. if it’s next to the vowels a, o, or u), slenderize the ending and add a final “e”: daor / is daoire; saor / is saoire; dubh / is duibhe, srl.

b) if the adjective already ends in a slender consonant, except for “-úil,” just add “e”: tirim / is tirime

c) if the adjective ends in “-úil” (and there are lots), broaden the final -l and add “-a”: misniúil / is misniúla; dathúil / is dathúla

And yes, there are some sub-patterns and occasional other irregularities, but these rules will cover the lion’s share.

So getting back to “the cheapest house,” it would be:

an teach is saoire in Éirinn [“is saoire” is pronounced  “iss SEER-uh]

To say, “the most expensive house in Ireland,” it’s “an teach is daoire in Éirinn.”

If we want to say “the house that was cheapest” in Ireland, or “the cheapest house that was in Ireland,” we have to make a change, not just to the main verb, but to the “-est” form:

an teach ba shaoire in Éirinn: the house that was cheapest in Ireland (“is” changes to “ba,” which then triggers lenition, so the new pronunciation is “buh HEERzh-uh”

Apparently the house sold at auction for €33,000 ($ US 45,055), which no doubt makes it no longer “the cheapest,” but at least it gave us an opportunity to practice “is saoire” and “ba shaoire.”

Can you think of some good examples of superlatives?  The driest place in the world?  The most expensive watch in the world?  Lots of food for thought there.  SGF – Róislín

Naisc:–.html (17 Aibreán 2014) (2 Bealtaine 2014; gives the selling price of €33,000)

Hidden Belfast – Belfast’s Smallest House

A Tiny House From Ireland (NB: This house type has a catchy name in Irish, athrú [AH-hroo], meaning “change.”  Love seeing Irish used in product names!  Can’t I just imagine an Irish language IKEA!  I always wonder what all those Swedish names mean!)

Gluais: luach (price); praghas [sounds like “price”] price; scúnc, skunk; stór, story of a house (storey)

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