Verbal nouns

Do you know how to use verbal nouns in Irish? Learn some helpful words and phrases and test yourself on others you may already know!

A verbal noun is a noun that is derived from a verb, usually by adding the suffix -ing in English.

Verbal nouns are used all the time in English.

  • I am playing football.

  • I was going by bicycle.

  • I will be buying sweets later.

Let's try to use the verbal noun in Irish for these sentences.

imir (verb play)

  • Tá mé ag imirt peil. - I am playing football.

téigh (verb go)

  • Bhí mé ag dul ar rothar. - I was going by bicycle.

ceannaigh (verb buy)

  • Beidh mé ag ceannach milseáin. - I will be buying sweets.

You will have noticed that the verbal noun can look very similar to the original verb, or very different, depending on what verb is used.

There are several rules to follow when changing a verb into the verbal noun - but one rule all verbal nouns follow is that they begin with ag - to help you remember, you can think of this as how verbal nouns in English end in -ing.

  • doing - ag déanamh
  • finishing - ag críochnú
  • breaking - ag briseadh
  • opening - ag oscailt

Spelling of verbal nouns

  1. Short verbs

If the verb is short, add –adh to broad verbs, and –eadh to short verbs.

VerbVerbal Noun
brisverb breakag briseadhbreaking
dúnverb close, shutag dúnadhclosing, shutting
mólverb praise, recommendag móladhpraising, recommending
fillverb returnag filleadhreturning
glanverb cleanag glanadhcleaning
  1. Long verbs

If the verb is long, add –ú to broad verbs, and –iú to short verbs.

VerbVerbal Noun
críochnaighverb finishag críochnúfinishing
ainmnighverb nameag aimniúnaming
ullmhaighverb prepareag ullmhúpreparing
ceartaighverb correctag ceartúreturning
léirighverb produceag léiriúproducing
  1. Verbs that take t

There are some verbs that change very little, by taking t as their ending.

VerbVerbal Noun
bainverb winag baintwinning
labhairverb speakag labhairtspeaking
oscailverb openag oscailtopening
eitilverb flyag eitiltflying
imirverb play (a game, sport)ag imirtplaying
tiomáinverb driveag tiomáintdriving
imighverb head off, exitag imeachtheading off, exiting
  1. Verbs that do not follow the rules

There are some verbs that do not follow the rules above, and have their own special endings, or do not change at all.

VerbVerbal Noun
caithverb spend, throwag caitheamhthrowing, spending
cuirverb putag curputting
ceannaighverb buyag ceannachbuying
éirighverb riseag éirírising
éist leverb listen toag éisteach lelistening to
foghlaimverb learnag foghlaimlearning
léighverb readag léamhreading
níghverb washag níwashing
oibrighverb workag obairworking
ólverb drinkag óldrinking
scríobhverb writeag scríobhwriting
siúilverb walkag siúlwalking
  1. Irregular verbs

The irregular verbs in Irish often do not follow any set rules in any of the tenses or forms in Irish, which is why they are known as irregular. They are commonly used in Irish, so it is good to learn them off.

VerbVerbal Noun
téighverb go, throwag dulgoing
faighverb getag fáilgetting
tarverb comeag teachtcoming
ithverb eatag itheeating
tabhairverb giveag tabhairtgiving
abairverb sayag rásaying
feicverb seeag feiceáilseeing
déanverb do, makeag déanamhdoing, making
clois / cluinverb hearag cloisteáil / ag cluinstinhearing
beir arverb catchag breir arcatching
verb beag bheithbeing