Appendix:Irish prepositions

Historically, the Irish declined prepositions developed from the merger of the independent preposition and the possessive pronoun. There is also a set of undeclined prepositions.

Simple prepositions govern the dative case (with some exceptions), while derived prepositions govern the genitive.

Prepositions may trigger initial mutations on proceeding words.

Preposition lists and case governance edit

In Modern Irish, simple prepositions nearly always govern the dative, aka prepositional, with a few exceptions governing the accusative.[1] Derived prepositions govern the genitive. In the lists below, prepositional governance is assumed unless otherwise indicated.

The declined prepositions are:[rfi 1]

    ag, ar, as, chuig, de, do, faoi, fara, i, idir,a, p [rfi 2] ionsar, le, ó/ua, roimh, thar, trí, um.

The undeclined prepositions are:

    a, amhaila, dar, gana, go/go dtía, is, mar,[rfi 3] os, seachasa.

One-word prepositions derived from substantives, all governing the genitive and all undeclined, include:

    coisg, fearachtg, tighg, timpeallg, trasnag.

The preposition chung is ultimately derived from a verb, governs the genitive, and is declined using the personal forms of chuig.

All two-word prepositional phrases[2] govern the genitive. Most are formed as combinations of a preposition plus a substantive, e.g., ar nós, i ndiaidh, tar éis[3] etc.

Paradigm edit

Number Person Suffix Notes / Exceptions
Singular 1st broad + m slender: ó/ua (uaim)
2nd broad + t slender: do (duit), ó/ua (uait)
3rd m various slender forms:
  • + e: ag, chuig, roimh, um
  • + is: fara, le, thar
  • + d(h): ó/ua, trí
  • radical: as, de, faoi
  • altered radical: ar, do, i
broad: as, do (dó), i (ann)
3rd f unvoiced + thi
  • spelling rules:
  1. subject to dntls rule: as, i(n)
  2. m(h)thi > mpi: roimh (roimpi), um (uimpi)
  3. irregular, elide th: ag (aici), chuig (chuici), le (léi)
  4. irregular, insert s: thar (thairsti)
  • except: fara (farae)
Plural 1st + inn
2nd + ibh
3rd two forms:
  • + ibh: de, do
  • unvoiced + thu: all others
  • symmetries with 3rd sg f "spelling rules" above (including fara in rule 3)
  • except: le (leo)

Declension table edit

Person ag ar as chuig de [4] do fara faoi [5] i/in [6] idir [7] le ó/ua [8] roimh trí thar um
1st sg agam orm [9] asam chugam díom dom faram fúm ionam - liom uaim romham tríom tharam umam
2nd sg agat ort asat chugat díot duit farat fút ionat - leat uait romhat tríot tharat umat
3rd sg m aige air as chuige de farais faoi ann - leis uaidh roimhe tríd thairis uime
3rd sg f aici uirthi [rfi 4] aisti chuici di di farae fúithi inti - léi uaithi roimpi tríthi thairsti uimpi
1st pl againn orainn asainn chugainn dínn dúinn farainn fúinn ionainn eadrainn linn uainn romhainn trínn tharainn umainn
2nd pl agaibh oraibh asaibh chugaibh díbh daoibh faraibh fúibh ionaibh eadraibh libh uaibh romhaibh tríbh tharaibh umaibh
3rd pl acu orthu astu chucu díobh dóibh faru fúthu iontu eatarthu leo uathu rompu tríothu tharstu umpu
  • The preposition ionsar = i + ar is declined as ar.
  • Three prepositions ending in vowels (le, fara, trí (sg only[10][11])) use the 3rd sgm form before the article, e.g. leis an....
  • Prepositions ending in vowels (de, do, faoi, i, le, ó, trí) undergo contractions with other parts of speech, in particular the article. These forms are summarised in the Wiktionary template {{ga-preposition contractions}}.
  • Some contractions with the article, especially those of i, retain the s of Proto-Celtic *sindos:
    • i + an → insan > sa(n)[12]
    • i + na → insna > sna
    • dialectic variants:
      • de + na → desna
      • do + na → dosna.

Third person suffixes edit

The third person forms of Old Irish simple prepositions are case dependent (accusative or prepositional). The singular masculine forms are irregular,[13] but the singular feminine, and the plural forms are tractable:[14]

3rd per acc prep
sgf + e + i
pl + u + ib

In modern Irish, only fara has + e in the 3rd sgf, although it is not derived from an Old Irish preposition, but rather from ferr (the comparative of maith). All others have standardised to + i.

In the 3rd pl, only de and do have + ibh. All others have standardised to + u. The 3rd pl of le (leo) derives directly from an Old Irish variant.

Initial mutations edit

Indefinite edit

The simple prepositions may trigger initial mutations on proceeding words. The paradigm in Modern Irish is very similar to Old Irish (cf. Etymology below), with a few exceptions, notably:

  • the "mixed mutation" prepositions: idir, ar, thar, gan
  • those derived with significant changes: as, chuig, roimh
  • amhail
Mutation type Prepositions
No mutation ag, amhail, as, chuig, fara, gan, idir... agus... (both... and...), seachas;

chun, cois, fearacht, timpeall, trasna

AspirationH [15] go, le
LenitionL de, do, faoi, idir (between), mar, ó, roimh, trí, um
No mutation for generalised,
lenition for specificL
ar,[16] thar
Lenition for generalised,
no mutation for specificL
gan [17]
EclipsisN i

Definite edit

In Old Irish, the article in triggers case-dependent mutations. In the singular, the accusative triggers eclipsis, while the prepositional triggers lenition.

As prepositional grammar evolved in Modern Irish, the dialects diverged. Ulster Irish[18] favoured the prepositional lenition, while the others, the accusative eclipsis.

In summary, for prepositions governing the dative, with the singular article:

  • Ulster Irish: lenition
  • Other dialects: eclipsis, except:


  • lenition is subject to the dntls rule
  • lenition tends to trigger t-prothesis on s, especially for feminine nouns, e.g., sa tsráid
  • eclipsis tends not to occur on d/t, e.g., ag an doras

Etymology table edit

Pronoun form Middle Irish [19] Old Irish [20] Proto-Celtic PIE
ag ∅, p oc ∅, p *onkus ?
ar ∅L, p [ep 1] ar L, a, p *ɸare *pr̥h₂i
for ∅, a, p *uɸor *upér
íar N, p ? ?
as ∅, p [ep 1] a H, p → ass *exs *h₁eǵʰs
chuig ∅, p chuige co H, a → cuci [21] ? *ḱóm
de L, p di L, p [22] *tu ?
do L, p [ep 2][rfi 5] do L, p
fara ∅, p ferr *werros *wers-
faoi L, p fo L, a, p *uɸo *upo
i N, p i N, a, p *en *h₁én
idir ∅L, p eter L, a *enter *h₁enter
ionsar i + ar
le H, p re fri H, a *writ- *wert-
le la H, a *let- *letos
ó L, p [ep 2] ó, úa L, p [23] *awyos *h₂ewh₂yos
roimh L, p [rfi 6] re, ri N, p *ɸr- *per-
trí L, p [ep 2] trí L, a [24] ? *terh₂-
thar ∅L, p tar ∅, a
um L, p imm L, a *ambi *h₂m̥bʰi
amhail ∅, a amal L, a [25] ? *sem-
gan L∅, a cen L, a *kina  ?
go H, p [ep 3] co H, a [rfi 7] ? *ḱóm
is [rfi 8] ? ? ?
mar immar *ambi [26] *h₂m̥bʰi
os ∅, p [rfi 9] úas ∅, p *ouxsos *h₃ewps-
seachas ∅, a [27] sech ∅, a [rfi 10] ? ?
chun g dochum g [28] ? ?
cois [ep 3] cos *koxsā *koḱs-
fearacht [rfi 11] feracht [rfi 12] ? ?
tigh [ep 3] tech *tegos *(s)teg-
timpeall g [ep 3] timchell g ? ?
trasna g tarsna g tarsno g ? ?

Other prepositions:

Other Old Irish prepositions:

Notes edit

  1. ^ Also referred to as common, or even nominative (as here on Wiktionary).
  2. ^ Except go dtí, which is a re-purposed subjunctive
  3. ^ In this phrase, tar is the Old Irish preposition, Modern thar, see Gregory Toner, Sharon Arbuthnot, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, Marie-Luise Theuerkauf, Dagmar Wodtko, editors (2019), “éis”, in eDIL: Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language
  4. ^ The underlying root of de is di (see etymology below), hence díom etc.
  5. ^ The underlying root of faoi is fo, fu (see etymology below), hence fúm etc.
  6. ^ Retains the n when declined, broadened as ion-.
  7. ^ idir has no singular synthetic forms in the standard.
  8. ^ Both forms exist in Old Irish. In Modern Irish, the independent preposition and its contractions are based on ó, while the declension uses ua-
  9. ^ Orthographic change, a→o.
  10. ^ That is, tríd an..., but trí na
  11. ^ Ar aghaidh leo ansin tríd an gcoill go mall
  12. ^ San before a vowel and lenited f. The form sa obeys the dntls rule, even though the n is missing, e.g. sa bhosca, but sa tsráid, sa tigh. In these forms, the original preposition i has disappeared.
  13. ^ Stifter, Lesson 18.1
  14. ^ There is only a couple of exceptions to the paradigm shown.
  15. ^ Also called h-prothesis.
  16. ^ Eclipsis in certain phrases, e.g. ar ndóigh
  17. ^ Lenition of b/p, g/c, m only, i.e., not d/t, f, s, i.e., dntls + f.
  18. ^ As well as Scots Gaelic
  19. ^ Entries for Middle Irish are given only if they differ significantly from Old Irish.
  20. ^ Supscripts /∅, L, H, N/ indicate the mutation triggered; /a, g, p/ indicate the case/s governed.
  21. ^ 3rd sg m of co.
  22. ^ 3rd sgf of do
  23. ^ From attested Primitive Irish ᚐᚃᚔ (avi)
  24. ^ From the PIE zero grade form *tr̥h₂-
  25. ^ Also gives the suffix -amhail > -úil.
  26. ^ Proposed etymology. See also um above.
  27. ^ Also as older, literary preposition seach.
  28. ^ Proclitic form of tochim (cf. dochum, tochim on eDIL), verbal noun of do·cing (cf eDIL)

Etymology pointers edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 under Etymology 1 in this entry.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 under Etymology 2 in this entry.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 under Preposition in this entry
  4. ^ under Etymolgy 5 in this entry

Requests for information edit

  1. ^ see Prepositions on Nualeargais for claims that i, thar and trí may take the accusative.
  2. ^ see idir on Nualeargais.
  3. ^ but see Irish declension on Wikipedia, claiming nominative.
  4. ^ orthographic change?
  5. ^ etymology at this entry quotes Proto-Celtic *do. However, the etymology at Old Irish do quotes Proto-Celtic *tu.
  6. ^ etymology at entry quotes SGa rem-, but is this not, as indicated by the ProCel quote, re/ri + mo? Therefore, the Ga pronoun is derived from the SGa first person singular
  7. ^ cites PIE *kom, but see chuig above.
  8. ^ no information for this word as a preposition. See is2 on Teanglann:FGB.
  9. ^ entry needs separate etymology Preposition, based on Old Irish úas.
  10. ^ no Old Irish entry yet.
  11. ^ no etymology in this entry.
  12. ^ cf eDIL?

Wiktionary templates edit

External links edit

See also edit