Irish Language Blog

Love (Grá) and the Art of Applying Initial Consonant Mutations in Irish Posted by on Feb 14, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In recent blogs and a few others from previous years, we’ve looked at ways to say “I love you,” in Irish.  Often these phrases include initial consonant mutation, so what better way to practice the mutations than with variations on a theme of “grá“?

In this blog, I’ll use some of the phrases we learned in previous blogs, but this time I’ll leave some blanks to be filled in.  In some cases, the blank will be just one added letter.  In a few other cases, the first two letters will be needed, which makes this a vocabulary review as well as a mutation workout (hmm, that sounds strange, but I guess it works).  If two letters are needed, there will be two blanks.

Oh, and there may be some repetition in the answers.  I guess there are only so many ways to say “I love you” in typical use, unless we turn to some of the more unique, less everyday phrases, perhaps from other languages.  One example would be the Japanese expression for, “The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” as suggested by Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) and posted in 2013 by Masato Hagiwara on Quora (nasc agus an tSeapáinis thíos).  Hmmm, not that Natsume probably expected the phrase to be translated into Irish, but why not?  It would be “Tá an ghealach go hálainn, nach bhfuil?”  That would be interesting to try on your significant other, in Irish, the next time the mood strikes, wouldn’t it?

But anyway, back to the more typical Irish.  The answer key, to the extent possible in one blog entry, will include a brief explanation of why the consonants change.

  1. Mo ___ ___rá t___ú.  You (are) my love.  Really a little more like saying, “My love you (are),” if you consider the word order.
  1. Is tú mo ___ ___rá. You are my love.
  2. Is tú mo c__uisle. You are my pulse, with “pulse” here being a term of endearment.
  1. Is tú mo ___ ___uirnín.  You are my darling.
  1. Is tú grá geal mo ___ ___roí. You are the bright love of my heart.
  1. Táim i ___grá leat. I am in love with you.
  1. Tá mo ___ ___ roí istigh ionat(My heart is within you), or more literally, “inside in you.”

And here are a few phrases that don’t require initial consonant mutation.  Why?  Because the “st-” combination, found in the words “stór” and “stóirín,” never takes mutation in Irish.  It’s exempt from lenition and eclipsis.

  1. Is tú mo stór.  You are my sweetheart.
  2. Is tú mo stóirín.  You are my (little) sweetheart

And if those phrases don’t give you enough ways to proclaim your affection, you might like to try the following quote from J. M. Synge, which I have translated from his Hiberno-English original to Irish.  For present purposes, I’ve also changed the line from the 3rd-person to the 2nd-person so it’s in direct address.  In other words, instead of Synge’s main character Christy talking to the Widow Quin about his darling Pegeen, this is a line you could say, if you dare, to the object your affection

  1. Nach bhfuil mé tar éis grá-sholas réalta an eolais a fheiceáil agus é ag taitneamh as d’éadan

(“Amn’t I after seeing the love-light of the star of knowledge shining from your brow …)  For the translation, I kept the Hiberno-English “Amn’t I,” but of course one could change it to “Aren’t I.”  I also added the phrase “and it” (agus é) for smoother flow in Irish.

So with all the phrases we’ve been practicing, you should have plenty of choices for saying “I love you” in Irish.  And with the extra attention to differences like “grá” and “ghrá” and “ngrá”  you should be well prepared to take care of the mutations as you go.  Hope that works, for Lá Vailintín, or any other time of year!  – Róislín

Nasc don abairt i Seapáinis:,  Agus seo cuid de phost Masato (April 11, 2013): … “Here’s one of my favorite stories to tell Japanese characteristics — when the great Japanese novelist, Soseki Natsume, found one of his students trying to translate “I love you” into “我君ヲ愛ス,” (lit. I love you) he suggested it be translated as “月が綺麗ですね” (lit. The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?) instead. Just imagine — a Japanese couple sitting side by side, looking up the moon together, and one of them says this — it would be enough to convey his/her feelings to the other. ”


1. Mo ghrá thú. You (are) my love.  Or really a little more like saying, “My love you (are),” if you consider the word order.  (“ghrá” after the possessive adjective “mo” and “thú” instead of “” because it’s separated from where the verb would be if there were a verb in this sentence.  But, remember, as previously stated, this sentence is complete without an actual verb.

  1. Is tú mo ghrá. You are my love. (“ghrá” after “mo“)
  1. Is tú mo chuisle. You are my pulse, with “pulse” here being a term of endearment. (“c” of “cuisle” becomes “ch” after “mo“)
  1. Is tú mo mhuirnín.  You are my darling. (“m” of “muirnín” becomes “mh” after “mo“)
  1. Is tú grá geal mo chroí. You are the bright love of my heart. (“c” of “croí” becomes “ch” after “mo“)
  1. Táim i ngrá leat. I am in love with you. (“g” of “grá” becomes “ng” after “i“)
  1. Tá mo chroí istigh ionat(My heart is within you), or more literally, “inside in you.” (“c” of “croí” becomes “ch” after “mo“). Some versions of this say “isteach” instead of “istigh;” I’ve seen both.

Examples 1 through 5 and example 7 all show “lenition” (adding the “h) while example 6 shows “eclipsis,” covering over the original first letter.

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