The possessive

Do you know how to talk about possession in Irish? Learn some helpful words and phrases and test yourself on others you may already know!

Aidiachtaí sealbhacha

Possessive adjectives

In English, you use words to show that someone owns something all the time - my book, your ball, his friend, her apple, their cat, our house.

These are known as possessive adjectives. In other words, they describe to whom something or someone belongs.

In Irish, there are also words that show possession. They have the same role in Irish as they do in English as they show who has ownership over something or someone.

However, unlike in English, they change the spelling and the sound of the word that comes after them.

The possessive adjectives in Irish are...

  • mo - my
  • do - your (singular)
  • a - his
  • a - her
  • ár - our
  • bhur - your (plural)
  • a - their

There are differences in how to treat the words that follow these possessive adjectives, depending on whether the word begins with a consonant or a vowel.

Words beginning with consonants

If the word following the possessive adjective begins with a consonant and not a vowel, there are three main rules to remember.

  • For mo (my), do (your) and a (his), add a séimhiú or h to the word after the first consonant. For example, carr becomes mo charr (my car)
  • For a (her), don't change the spelling of the word in any way. For example, carr becomes a carr (her car)
  • For ár (our), bhur (your) and a (their), add an urú to the word before the first consonant. For example, carr becomes ár gcarr (our car)

Learn more about adding a séimhiú or urú to words in this guide.

Words beginning with vowels

If the word following the possessive adjective begins with a vowel (a, e, i o or u) there are four main rules to remember.

  • For mo (my) and do (your) the spelling of the word does not change, but drop the o in the mo and do and replace it with an apostrophe. For example, úll becomes m'úll (my apple)
  • For a (his), don't change the spelling of the word in any way. For example, úll becomes a úll (his apple)
  • For a (her), add a h to the word before the first vowel. For example, úll becomes a húll (her apple)
  • For ár (our), bhur (your) and a (their), add n- to the word before the first consonant. For example, úll becomes ár n-úll (our apple)

Below, you can find a table that reflects all these rules. Learn it off as it will come in handy when you want to talk about something you or someone else owns!

PossessiveIrishWith tábla (table)PossessiveIrishWith athair (father)
mymomo tháblamymom'athair
yourdodo tháblayourdod'athair
hisaa tháblahisaa athair
heraa táblaheraa hathair
ourárár dtáblaourárár n-athair
yourbhurbhur dtáblayourbhurbhur n-athair
theiraa dtáblatheiraa n-athair

There is one small exception to the rules above - that is for words beginning with the consonant f.

Words that begin with f and are followed by a vowel, like fuinneog (window) or fiacla (teeth), still take a séimhiú or h directly after the consonant - so fuinneog becomes fhuinneog.

However, mo and do drop their o and take an apostrophe, as if it were a vowel. For example, fiacla becomes m'fhiacla.

Words that begin with f but are followed by another consonant such as freagra (answer) also take the séimhiú or h and don't affect mo or do in any way. For example, freagra only becomes mo fhreagra.