Éiridh e is ceannaidh e? or the Future tense

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OK, let's do the simple bit first. How to form the future tense, that is.

There is just one future tense in Gaelic (unlike German for example which has two) but unfortunately this one future comes in the guise of three different grammatical forms. Basically this means that depending on where or how you use a future verb, its form changes. Why? Because it does - you don't want the long explanation. But not to worry, it's not rocket science.

There are two ways of looking at this. You can either say that the form depends on the grammatical function of the verb or say that the form depends on what goes in front of it. Either works. But to make things easier, here's an example to begin with:

Independent Relative Dependent
cuiridh mi có (a) chuireas? an cuir mi?
add -(a)idh prefix a, lenite and add -(e)as use the root form of the verb
I will put who will put? will I put?

Let's start with the first way of looking at it - verb function. In the first column, cuiridh is standing 'independently' as it were. It's taking the first position in the sentence, nothing's in front of it, it's just making a statement.

In the second column, it has a 'relative' function meaning that it relates two concepts when two sentences are joined together to reveal a relationship. Sentences in which two concepts are related, from the joining of two distinct sentences, are called 'relative sentences'. In English, relative sentences generally involve a relative pronoun like that or who. The sentence 'this is a hawk' and 'it caught a chicken' gives us 'this is a hawk who caught a chicken' (or, 'this is a hawk that caught a chicken'). The relative particle, a, who/that, relates the two concepts and ties the two sentences together. In Gaelic, the relative particle a is mandatory.

In the third column, we find all the instances which don't go in the first two columns. However, in all these instances, there's a word, or rather a 'particle', coming in front of the verb. The difference between these particles and a, the relative particle, is that they modify the meaning. For example, these other particles can form positive questions, negatives, and negative questions. The label 'dependent particle' is based on the verb becoming 'dependent' on something else for its intended meaning.

The other way of looking at it is the verb's form. If there is nothing whatsoever in front of the verb, you must use the independent form.

If there is any of a group of relative particles (see below) which generally finish with the relative particle a, you must use the relative form.

And finally, if there is any other particle coming in front of it, you must use the root form.

Relative Particles Dependant Particles
a relative particle cha(n)** not (negation)
bhon a since (because) an question
carson a why nach negative question
ciamar a how gus an until
dé (a) what far an where (relative)
cuine a when (question) càit an where (question)
có (a) who gun that (complementiser)
ged a although mun before
nuair a when (relative) mur(a) if not
mar a as nan if (conditional 2)
na that which (relativiser*) ma if (conditonal 1)

*see the pages on conditional **lenites

Incidentally, to keep meaning clear, with regard to these particles, it makes sense to use a fairly "conservative" spelling. If you adopt the "progressive" way of not spelling all silent letters, you get sentences like tha 's am có bhuaileas 'n cù!. That sentence is fair enough in spoken Gaelic, but it isn't helpful for the learner or people trying to make sense of a written text. If that sentence was rendered, with the original vowels, as tha fios agam có (a) bhuaileas an cù!, that "conservative spelling", with all the a's, makes it easy to spot which of them are relative particles and which are dependent particles

And even those who use a "progressive" spelling system, can't completely get away from the relative particle, a, because it re-appears when something interposes itself between the particle and the a, for example, có na daoine a bhuaileas coin?

Where to next? On to vowels and f to see that a prefixes dh' to verbs beginning with a vowel or with an f which gets lenited. The -as and -eas thing is simply a spelling alteration to obey the broad/slender spelling rule. So here are a few examples of verbs in the future so you'll get the feel of it:

root independant relative dependant
cuir cuiridh mi có (a) chuireas? an cuir thu?
ceannaich ceannaichidh mi nuair a cheannaicheas cha cheannaich!
bruich bruichidh mi ged a bhruicheas càit am bruich mi?
lorg lorgaidh mi ma lorgas mi nan lorg mi
sgrìobh sgrìobhaidh mi na sgrìobhas tu* nach sgrìobh mi?
òl òlaidh mi! cuine a dh'òlas mi? chan òl mi!
feuch feuchaidh! có (a) dh'fheuchas? am feuch thu?
ith ithidh tu*! dé (a) dh'itheas tu*? mun ith thu
iarr iarraidh e! a dh'iarras an iarr e?

Oh joy, another footnote. This one is on the personal pronouns. With future forms, just use your normal mi, e, i, sinn, sibh and iad - except for thu which switches back to its original form of tu. Why? Errr pass, you don't want to know.

Is that it? No, not quite. There is something else. "Something elusive, Master."

Show of hands, who knows what syncope is? Contrary to common belief in the editorial staff room, it's not a multiplied image of a sin ... but Greek for "falling together". Gaelic has inherited this wonderful habit of collapsing syllables when it feels there are too many of them. Actually, a lot of languages do this, but Gaelic does it a lot. This is relevant to this page because it explains forms like fosglaidh, when you might be expecting *fosgailidh.

What happens is that whenever you get a verb with two or more syllables ending in a liquid (-n, -ng, -nn, -l, -ll, -r, -rr), the second syllable collapses when you add the future endings -(a)idh and -(e)as. Oh, and -nn and -ng change to -n-. Interestingly, even though they contain two syllables, words like falbh [faLav] do not qualify for this because their second syllable is due to secondary articulation, meaning that it's not historic but due to the way our mouths work.

Because of the verbal ending -(a)ich taking over, verbs of this nature aren't very plentiful, but some of them are very common, so you have to know them. Here's a list of some of them:

root independant relative
bruidhinn bruidhnidh a bhruidhneas
fosgail fosglaidh a dh'fhosglas
foghain foghnaidh a dh'fhoghnas
tachair tachraidh a thachras
tarraing tàirnidh* a thàirneas*
freagair freagraidh a fhreagras
tagair tagraidh a thagras
bagair bagraidh a bhagras

*short for tàirngidh and tàirngeas which (similar to ingne > ìne) both shorten -rng- to [RNʲ].

There are some apparent exceptions which aren't exceptions. Words like tuirling and fulaing don't do this kind of thing because the resulting consonant clusters are not permitted in Gaelic. Tuirling would yield *tuirlngidh and fulaing would give *fulngidh, but -rlng- and -lng- are impossible combinations in Gaelic. Which is why understanding phonology is important.

OK, here's the last leg: there are one or two oddballs. These are words like innis, éirich and fuirich. Innis is simply odd and has innsidh and a dh'innseas for its future forms.

Éirich is more interesting because it has éiridh and a dh'éireas. So why is that interesting? Because it's a form frozen in time. Those of you who have Irish will know that the root form of verbs, in Irish, ends in -igh such as éirigh (éirich), giorraigh (giorraich), dealraigh (dealraich), and so on. And that's what it used to do in Common Gaelic and Old Irish.

So you would have created the future by making forms like éirighfhidh (-idh is short for -fhidh). But we're digressing. In Common Gaelic, the predecessor of modern Scottish Gaelic, verbs ended in -igh, too. But at some point, Gaelic began to devoice final consonants (see final devoicing) so -igh [ij] became the more familiar -ich [-iç].

But something interesting happens when final devoicing sets in, and many languages undergo final devoicing, at some stage. For example, in German, Tod "death" and tot "dead" are both pronounced the same, [tʰoːt], because Tod has undergone final devoicing. But, when we add a suffix, such as a genitive ending, the d is suddenly voiced again resulting in Todes 'of death' [toːdəs]. Anyway, the same thing used to happen in Gaelic. Now back to Gaelic.

So, éirigh became éirich but reverted back to éirigh- when you stuck something onto it, giving you éirighidh, which then shortened to éiridh. Similarly, you would have heard a lot of forms like ceannaich + idhceannaidh, and so on, some time back. But that has virtually disappeared, giving way to the regularised ceannaichidh. Still, there are a few exceptions where we get frozen forms like éiridh.

And that's it really.

Beagan gràmair
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