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Simple prepositions
Compound prepositions
Prepositional pronouns

Irish has many types of preposition and these play an important role in the structure and semantics of the language. There is a basic division into simple and compound types with the additional category of prepositional pronouns which are important for expressing semantic roles and relations in sentences.

Simple prepositions

The simple prepositions of Irish are similar in function to those of English. They do, however, demand different mutations, something which should be noted with each of them. In the case of idir there is a difference in meaning depending on whether mutation (lenition) follows or not (zero mutation).

1) ag + Ø ag doras an tí
  ‘at’ ‘at the door of the house’
2) ar + Ø ar bord an chistin
  ‘on’ ‘on the kitchen table’
3) as + Ø as teach a dhearthár
  ‘out of’ ‘out of his brother’s house’
4) chun + GEN chun na cathrach
  ‘towards’ ‘to the city’
5) de + L iasacht de phunt
  ‘to’ ‘the loan of a pound’
6) do + L rud a insint do dhuine
  ‘to’ ‘to tell something to someone’
7) faoi + L faoi cheann an tí
  ‘under’ ‘under the roof of the house’
8) i + N i mbéal na ndaoine
  ‘in’ ‘on everybody’s lips’
9a) idir + L idir shean agus óg
  ‘both’ ‘both old and young’
9b) idir + Ø idir teangeolaithe
  ‘between’ ‘between/among linguists’
10) ionsar + L ionsar bharr an chnoic
  ‘toward’ ‘towards the top of the hill’
11) le + H le huibheacha úra
  ‘with’ ‘with fresh eggs’
12) ó + Ø ó thosach an earraigh
  ‘from’ ‘since the beginning of spring’
13) roimh + L roimh teacht na nUigingigh
  ‘before’ ‘before the coming of the Vikings’
14) thar + Ø thar sáile ‘overseas’ (lit.: over sea-water)
  ‘over’ thar cionn ‘excellent’
15) trí + L trí shléibhte Chonamara
  ‘through’ ‘through the mountains of Connemara’
16) um + L um Cháisc (no homorganic lenition, i.e. /b, p, m/)
  ‘about, at’ ‘at Easter’

de, do, faoi, i, ó combine with the article to give den, don, faoin, sa (san before vowels), ón:

Thóg sí toitín den pháiste. ‘She took a cigarette from the child’
Rinne sí don ghasúr é. ‘She did it for the boy’
Tá airgead sa bhosca. ‘There is money in the box’

Compound prepositions

These all consist of a preposition, known from the group of simple prepositions, plus a further element which may occur only in combination with a particular preposition or which may exist as a separate element, usually a noun. The compound prepositions take the genitive case (with a few exceptions, see below).

Tar éis an bhéile gabhfaimid abhaile.
‘We’ll go home after the meal.’
Cuir an láí ar chúl an tí.
‘Put the spade behind the house.’
Déanfaidh Nuala a cuid oibre i gcaitheamh an lae.
(caitheamh = action marker from verb caith ‘spend’)
‘Nuala will do her work during the day.’

List of the most common compound prepositions

ar aghaidh ‘opposite’ i gcóir ‘for (purpose)’
ar chúl ‘behind’ i lár ‘in the middle of’
ar feadh ‘for (templ.)’ i láthair ‘in the presence of’
ar fud ‘throughout’ i mbun ‘in charge of’
ar nós ‘like’ i measc, among’
ar son ‘on behalf of’ i ndiaidh ‘after’
d’ainneoin ‘despite’ i rith ‘during’
de bharr ‘as a result of’ in aghaidh ‘against’
de chóir ‘near, unusual’ in aice ‘next to’
de dhíobháil ‘for want of’ in áit ‘instead of’
de réir ‘by, according to’ in éadan ‘against’
faoi bhun ‘under’ in ionad ‘instead of’
faoi cheann ‘under (temp.)’ le cois ‘as well as’
faoi choinne ‘in order to for’ le haghaidh ‘for (purpose)’
go ceann ‘for (temp.)’ le hais ‘beside’
i bhfeighil ‘in charge of’ le linn ‘during’
i bhfochair ‘in X’s company’ os cionn ‘above’
i dteannta ‘together (with)’ os coinne ‘opposite’
i dtrátha ‘about (temp.)’ os comhair ‘before’
i gcaiteamh ‘during’ tar éis ‘after’
i gceann ‘after (temp.)’ thar ceann ‘on behalf of’

The following compound prepositions do not take the genitive:

go dtí ‘as far as’
maidir le ‘as for, with regard to’

Prepositional pronouns

The prepositional pronouns are synthetic forms which arose due to the merger of personal pronouns with prepositions in pre-historic Irish. There are sixteen prepositional pronouns in Irish which are important because they indicate semantic roles and relations in sentences.

Base form 1sg./pl. 2sg./pl. 3sg.m./pl. 3sg.f.
ag ‘at’ agam agat aige aici
  againn agaibh acu  
ar ‘on’ orm ort air uirthi
  orainn oraibh orthu  
as ‘out of’ asam asat as aisti
  asainn asaibh astu  
chun, chuig ‘towards’ chugam chugat chuige chuici
  chugainn chugaibh chucu  
de ‘from’ díom díot de di
  dínn díbh díobh  
do ‘to’ dom duit di
  dúinn daoibh dóibh  
faoi ‘under’ fúm fút faoi fúithi
  fúinn fúibh fúthu  
i ‘in’ ionam ionat ann inti
  ionainn ionaibh iontu  
idir ‘between’
  eadrainn eadraibh eatarthu  
ionsar ‘to’ ionsorm ionsort ionsair ionsuirthi
  ionsorainn insoraibh ionsorthu  
le ‘with’ liom leat leis léi
  linn libh leo  
ó ‘from’ uaim uait uaidh uaithi
  uainn uaibh uathu  
roimh ‘before’ romham romhat roimhe roimpi
  romhainn romhaibh rompu  
thar ‘over’ tharam tharat thairis thairsti
  tharainn tharaibh tharstu  
trí ‘through’ tríom tríot tríd tríthi
  trínn tríbh tríothu  
um ‘about’ umam umat uime uimpi
  umainn umaibh umpu  

Certain roles can be identified as typical of certain prepositions (in combination with pronouns).

ag = experiencer

Tá tinneas cinn aici. ‘She has a headache.’

air = object of experience

Theip an plean air. ‘The plan failed on him.’

faoi = object of derisory action

Rinneadh magadh faoi. ‘People were mocking him’

The following sentences illustrate further uses of prepositional pronouns:

Bhain sé seachaint na háite astu.
(extract-PAST she avoidance place-GEN out-of-them)
‘She got them to avoid the place.’ i.e.
‘She stopped them from coming to the place.’

Rinne mé dearmad fúibh. (< faoi + sibh)
‘I forgot about you.’

Tá ceithre orlach agam ort. (< ag + ; < ar + thú)
‘I’m four inches taller than you.’

Is linn an teach siúd. (le + sinn)
‘We own that house over there.’

Níl morán muiníne aici astu. (< ag + ; < as + siad)
‘She hasn’t much confidence in them.’

Níl aithne ag Pól ar Mháire.
(is-not acquaintance at Paul on Mary)
‘Paul does not know Mary.’

Tá dhá orlach ag Pól ar Mháire.
(is two inch at Paul on Mary)
‘Paul is two inches taller than Mary’

Níl cuimhne agam uirthi. ‘I don’t remember her.’
(is-not memory at-me on-her)

Níl eolas agam uirthi. ‘I don’t know her.’
(is-not knowledge at-me on-her)

Níl cion agam uirthi. ‘I don’t like her’
(is-not fondness at-me on-her)

Tá siad ag magadh faoi. ‘They are mocking him.’
(is they at mocking under-him)

Tá siad ag gáire faoi. ‘They are laughing at him.’
(is they at laughing under-him)


If there is a valid generalisation concerning the semantics of the prepositional pronouns of Irish then it is that they are used in verbal structures expressing emotions and mental states (known in some linguistic studies as ‘pysch’-verbs), i.e. they indicate feelings, perceptions, attitudes, etc., rather than actions. The following is a selection of such verbs in modern Irish. They all use a form of either is or followed by a noun and then an appropriate prepositional pronoun.

is cuimhin liom ‘I remember’
tá cuimhne agam ar an lá sin ‘I remember that day’
is cuma liom beo ‘I don’t care at all’
is dóigh liom ‘I suppose’
is feasach dom é ‘I am aware of it’
is fuath liom an áit sin ‘I hate that place’
is gráin liom an teangeolaíocht ‘I dislike linguistics’
tá an ghráin agam ar an teangeolaíocht ‘I dislike linguistics’
is ionann an cás domsa é ‘it is all the same to me’
is mór liom duit é ‘I envy you it’
is oth liom a rá go ‘I'm sorry to say that’
is oth dhom do chás ‘I am sorry about your trouble’
is saoth linn rud ‘we deplore something’
tá aithne aige an mo dheartháir ‘he knows my brother’
tá cion agam ar Nuala ‘I am fond of Nuala’
tá súil agam do dtiocfaidh sí ‘I hope she will come’
tá an-áthas/an-bhuíochas orm ‘I am very pleased/grateful’
tá dúil aige san ól ‘he is fond of the drink’
tá éad aige leo ‘he is jealous of them’
tá faitíos air roimh an fharraige ‘he is afraid of the sea’
tá feabhas orm ‘I am better’
tá fonn orm ‘I would like to’
tá gá againn le ‘we need’
tá spéis agam sa leabhar sin ‘I am interested in that book’