The Declension of Adjectives

As mentioned in and adjectives can be used predicately, i.e. following the verb To Be. The adjective never changes in this situation :
Masculine noun Tha am balach beag - The boy is small
Feminine noun Tha a' chaileag beag - The girl is small
Plural nouns Tha na balaich beag - The boys are small
Tha na caileagan beag - the girls are small

Adjectives which directly qualify their nouns are said to be used attributely. These adjectives must agree with their nouns in three ways: number, gender and case.  dealt with the nominative case of both the nouns and their adjectives. These are only mentioned again here for comparison.

Lenition of Adjectives
All adjectives can be lenited except for those beginning with: l, n, r, sg, sm, sp or st

Masculine Nouns
The nominative, dative and genitive forms of masculine nouns were met in , ,
and respectively. The change in the adjective closely matches the change in its noun except that the adjective is always lenited in the genitive singular :
Nominative Dative Genitive
Singular Use the basic form For definite nouns lenite the basic form Lenite the basic form and insert an i if final vowel is broad

gille glic - a wise boy

an gille glic - the wise boy

le gille glic - with a wise boy

leis a' ghille ghlic - with the wise boy

gille ghlic - of a wise boy

a' ghille ghlic - of the wise boy

cat mr - a big cat

an cat mr - the big cat

le cat mr - with a big cat

leis a' chat mhr - with the big cat

cait mhir - of a big cat

a' chait mhir - of the big cat

Plural All plurals add a terminal -a or an -e to the basic form

gillean glice - wise boys

na gillean glice - the wise boys

le gillean glice - with wise boys
leis na gillean glice - with the wise boys

ghillean glice - of wise boys

nan gillean glice - of the wise boys

cait mhra - big cats

na cait mhra - the big cats

le cait mhra - with big cats

leis na cait mhra - with the big cats

chat mra - of big cats

nan cat mra - of the big cats

Nominative Dative Genitive

Nouns (whether masculine or feminine) which have a final i in their plural always lenite the following adjective

Feminine Nouns
The nominative, dative and genitive forms of feminine nouns were met in ,
and respectively :
  Nominative Dative Genitive
Singular For definite nouns lenite the basic form lenite the basic form and
insert an i if final vowel is broad
insert an i if final vowel is broad and add
a terminal

caileag ghlic - wise girl

a' chaileag ghlic - the wise girl

le caileig ghlic - with a wise girl
leis a' chaileig ghlic - with the wise girl

caileige glice - of a wise girl

na caileige glice - of the wise girl

cis mhr - a big affair

a' chis mhr - the big affair

le cis mhir - with a big affair

leis a' chis mhir - with the big affair

cise mire  - of a big affair

na cise mire - of the big affair

Plural All plurals add a terminal -a or an -e to the basic form

caileagan glice - wise girls

na caileagan glice - the wise girls

le caileagan glice - with wise girls
leis na caileagan glice - with the big girls

chaileagan glice - of wise girls

nan caileagan glice - of the wise girls

cisean mra - big affairs

na cisean mra - the big affairs

le cisean mra - with big affairs
leis na cisean mra - with the big affairs
chisean mra - of big affairs

nan cisean mra - of the big affairs

  Nominative Dative Genitive

As mentioned in the trend is for feminine singular dative nouns, particularly in the spoken language, to be identical to the nominative. This erosion is also reflected in the agreement of the adjective.

A characteristic of monosyllabic feminine singular genitive adjectives is the addition of a terminal  -e.  Polysyllabic feminine singular genitive adjectives do not generally add a terminal -e. Monosyllabic feminine singular genitive adjectives resist this trend since the corresponding monosyllabic feminine singular genitive nouns have mostly retained the terminal -e (see ).

There is at present considerable variation regarding declension of the feminine singular nouns and their adjectives. Except for some common idiomatic structures the nominative has all but replaced the dative in the spoken language. Regarding the feminine singular genitive there exists a higher register (formal prose and speech) which uses grammatical forms and a lower register (colloquial spoken and often written) which exhibits a marked erosion toward the equivalent dative form for both nouns and adjectives :
High Register Various Intermediates Might Arise † Low Register

caileige glice - of a wise girl
na caileige glice - of the wise girl

caileige ghlic
na caileige ghlic

caileig ghlic
na caileig ghlic

faoileige mire - of a big seagull
na faoileige mire - of the big seagull

faoileige mhir
na faoileige mhir

faoileig mhir
na faoileig mhir

cise mire  - of a big affair
na cise mire - of the big affair

cise mhir
na cise mhir

cis mhir
na cis mhir

limhe glice - of a wise hand
na limhe glice - of the wise hand

limhe ghlic
na limhe ghlic

limh ghlic
na limh ghlic

Low register adjectives should only be used with their corresponding low register nouns. Associating high register adjectives with low register nouns and vice versa should be avoided. Likewise, intermediate forms are best avoided.

Internal Modifications in Adjectives

Polysyllabic adjectives are slenderised by inserting an i after a final broad vowel or changing a final ea to i. There is never any terminal -e added for the feminine genitive singular. In fact, polysyllabic adjectives exhibit the same erosion toward the equivalent masculine form:


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive

beartach - rich

beartaich bheartaich beartaich

bidheach - beautiful

bidhich bhidhich bidhich

dleas - loyal

dlis dhlis dlis

freagarrach - suitable

freagarraich fhreagarraich freagarraich

salach - dirty

salaich shalaich salaich

There is no internal change where the adjective already has a final i or when the it ends in a vowel :


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive
cofhartail - comfortable   chofhartail cofhartail
cruinn - round   chruinn cruinne
eireachdail - handsome   eireachdail eireachdail
fada - long   fhada fada
tana - thin   thana tana
tinn - ill   thinn tinne

However, most monosyllabic adjectives with a final broad vowel undergo an analogous process of slenderisation as nouns (see and ). As with nouns the process can involve internal vowel modification with the slenderisation of the final vowel to i .

To help you the section shows the fully slenderised feminine genitive singular adjective from which other forms can be derived.

Type 1

An i is inserted after the broad vowel. This type contains mostly those with a final a or ao in the basic form :


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive
Singular (terminal -e)

rd - high

ird ird irde

blth - warm

blith bhlith blithe

caol - narrow

caoil chaoil caoile

mr - big

mir mhir mire

Type 2

An i is inserted after a change in the single broad vowel, e.g. o >> ui and a >> oi. Neither modification is particularly common but they are found in a number of commonly used adjectives :


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive
Singular (terminal -e)
bog - soft buig bhuig buige
dall - blind doill dhoill doille
donn - brown duinn dhuinn duinne
gorm - blue guirm ghuirm guirme
trom - heavy truim thruim truime

Type 3

The substitution of a final broad vowel in a diphthong with i, e.g. ea and eu >> ei :


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive
Singular (terminal -e)
dearg - red deirg dheirg deirge
deas - right deis dheis deise
geur - sharp gir ghir gire
searbh - bitter seirbh sheirbh seirbhe

Type 4

The substitution of a diphthong with i, e.g. ea >> i :


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive
Singular (terminal -e)
beag - small big bhig bige
geal - white gil ghil gile
sean - old sin shin sine

Type 5

The substitution of the diphthong ia with i :


Internal Change Masculine Genitive
Singular (lenited)
Feminine Genitive
Singular (terminal -e)
cian - distant cin chin cine
ciar - dusky, swarthy cir chir cire
liath - grey lith lith lithe

Adjectives Coming Before the Noun

There are a few common adjectives which can only be used before a noun :

ath - next

a h-uile - every
corra - a few deagh - good

dearbh - very, exact, ideal

droch - bad

for - true, exceptional

gach - each

iomadach, iomadh - many a

promh - main, prime
mion - minor, petty sr - exceptional
seann - old

These adjectives do not change in any case. They all however lenite the following noun except for a h-uile, iomadach/iomadh and gach :
an ath bhliadhna - next year a h-uile duine - everyone
corra dhuine - a few men deagh dhrachdan - good wishes
an dearbh rud - the ideal thing droch shde - bad weather
for ghaisgeach - a true hero gach madainn - each day
iomadach l / iomadh l  - many a day promh shrid - main street
mion chnanan - minority languages sr bhoireannach - an exceptional woman
seann chraobh - old tree

Some other conventional adjectives may also be seen before a noun, when particular emphasis is required, in which case they all lenite the following noun. A number of associations have become permanent indicated by a hyphen :
mr bheinn - great mountain dearg amadan - a total fool
cruaidh fheum - desperate need cruaidh-chs - extreme hardship
garbh bheinn - rough mountain dubh-fhacal - enigma (dark word)
dearg chuthach - derangement dubh-chineadh - intense criticism



ath - next (before noun)

beartach - rich

bog - soft

breac - speckled
caol - narrow cian (cin also as basic form) - distant
ciar - dusky, swarthy cl - left
cruinn - round dall - blind
deagh - good (before noun) dearbh - exact, the very (before noun)
deas - right (side) droch - bad (before noun)
garbh - rough grach - stupid
gruamach - grumpy, gloomy mlis  - sweet
g - young sean - old (after noun)
seann - old (before noun) searbh - bitter
sracte  - torn trom - heavy


amadan (m) - fool, clown

bata (m) - walking stick, baton
cineadh (m) - criticism cnan (m), cnain (f) - language
cs (m) - hardship cuthach (m) - rage
faobhar (m) - edge of a blade gaisgeach (m) - hero
gleans (m) - shine, finish grdh (m) - love
greim/grim (m) - grip, a portion of food mran (m) - much, many, a lot

turas (m) - trip, journey, instance

bruach (f) - bank (of river &c)

corrag (f) - finger
drachd (f) - wish, tiding feadhainn (f) - some, ones (collective noun)
lmh (f) - handle

All exercises use the high register. As you do these think about the low colloquial forms you are likely to hear

EXERCISE 1 Translate into English

1.Bha mran uinneagan beaga anns an t-seann chaisteal ann

2.'S toil leam flraichean gorma ach 's beag orm an fheadhainn phurpaidh
3.Gherr mi mo chorrag air faobhar na sgeine gire 4.Tha mo bhean a' glanadh nan soithichean salach
5.Thid sinn a-rithist an sin an ath thuras 6.A bheil sibh elach air promh shrid a' bhaile ir?
7.Tha e na amadan leis a' bhriogais ghoirid bhric air 8.Thug an duine deagh chomhairle dhuinn
9.Bha an dearg chuthach oirre le feirg mhir 10.Tha na caoraich dhubha ag ithe an fheir mhlis

11a.Bha mi nam laighe fon ghrin bhlith
11b.Bha mi nam laighe ann an teas na grine blithe

12a.Bha an t-eun breac air druim an eich dhuibh
12b.Tha na h-ein bheaga air druim na caorach duibhe
13a.Cm grim math air lmh a' chopain daoir
13b.Cm an copan daor sin sbhailte nad ghrim
14a.Shuidh corra dhuine cmhla air a' chathair mhir ghuirm
14b.Shuidh mi air an fheur ghrod fhliuch
15a.Fosgail doras an t-semair bhig
15b.Din doras na h-eaglaise bige
16a.Rinig a h-uile duine mullach na beinne irde
16b.Bha iad air mullach an t-seann chaisteil
17a.Chaidh e a-muigh anns an uisge throm
17b.Thinig i a-staigh dhan t-semar bhlth
18a.Bha a' ghlainne ghlan nam limh dheis
18b.An robh am peann nad limh chl? Bha
19a.Tha dideag bhriste aig a' chaileig ig
19b.Tha dideag na caileige ige briste
20a.Tha an cat fon bhrd bheag
20b.Tha an c fon chathair bhig
21a.D tha cerr air spg na piseige bige?
21b.D tha cerr air spg a' choin bhig?
22a.'S e droch naidheachd a tha ann
22b.'S e deagh naidheachd a tha ann
23a.Tha seacaid dhonn agam le pcaid mhir oirre
23b.Tha pcaid na seacaide duinne agam sracte
24a.'S toil leam gleans an fhuilt bhin fhada aice
24b.'S toil leam gleans an fhuilt chir ghoirid aige
25a.Chluich iad anns an allt gharbh
25b.Shiubhail iad air an abhainn ghairbh
26a.Tha iomadach duine ann dhen bharail nenaich sin
26b.Tha iomadh t ann dhen bharail ghraich sin
27a.Choimhead mi air obair a' bhalaich thruim
27b.Choimhead mi air obair na caileige truime
28a.Seo bata na cailliche doille
28b.Seo bata a' bhodaich dhoill
29a.Chuala mi an sgeul bho nighean an duine ghruamaich
29b.Chuala mi an naidheachd bho mhac na mn  gruamaich
30a.Bha na caileagan ga nan suidhe air an leabaidh bhuig chofhartail
30b.Bha na balaich ga nan suidhe air a' chloich fhuair chruaidh

EXERCISE 2 Translate into English

anns an ite shbhailte; air oidhche chiin; leis na balaich dhona

biadh nan cearc(an) dubha; eaglais a' bhaile mhir; bruach na h-aibhne luaithe

air a' mhuir ghuirm; aig deireadh na sgeulachd fada; aig an uinneig fhosgailte

spg a' chait dhuinn; lmh a' chopain chruinne; anns a' ghlainne chruinn

teas l ghrianaich; bhon oibriche dhleas; anns an allt dhomhainn

fad a fuilt lith; thairis air an drochaid chaoil; earball na lucha bige

comhairle duine ghlic; cobhair deagh charaid; blasad bainne ghoirt

cel a guth bhidhich; air a' chois chl agam; air na h-achaidhean gorma

teas nan teintean bltha; cinn nam balach beaga; grdh na caileige bine

1.There were many small windows in the old castle 2.I like blue flowers but I dislike the purple ones
3.I cut my finger on the edge of the sharp knife 4.My wife is cleaning the dirty dishes
5.We'll go there again next time 6.Are you acquainted with the main street of the new town?
7.He's a fool with his short speckled pattern trousers 8.The man gave us some good advice
9.She was delirious with a great anger 10.The black sheep are eating the sweet grass
11a.I was lying under the warm sun
11b.I was lying in the heat of the warm sun
12a.The speckled bird was on the back of the black horse
12b.The small birds were on the back of the black sheep
13a.Keep a good grip on the expensive cup
13b.Keep that expensive cup safe in your grip
14a.A few folk sat together on the big blue chair
14b.I sat on the rotten wet grass
15a.Open the door of the small room
15b.Close the door of the small church
16a.Everyone reached the top of the tall mountain
16b.They were on the roof of the old castle
17a.He went out in the heavy rain
17b.She came in to the warm room
18a.The clean glass was in my right hand
18b.Did you have a pen in your left hand? Yes
19a.The young girl has a broken toy
19b.The young girl's toy is broken
20a.The cat is under the wee table
20b.The dog is under the wee chair
21a.What wrong with the wee kitten's paw?
21b.What wrong with the wee dog's paw?
22a.It's bad news
22b.It's good news
23a.I have a brown jacket with a large pocket on it
23b.The pocket of my brown jacket is torn
24a.I like the shine of her long blond hair
24b.I like the shine of his short dark hair
25a.They played in the rough burn
25b.They travelled on the rough river
26a.Many a man is of that strange opinion
26a.Many a woman is of that silly opinion
27a.I looked at the work of the heavy boy
27b.I looked at the work of the heavy girl
28a.Here's the old blind woman's walking stick
28b.Here's the old blind man's walking stick
29a.I heard the story from the grumpy man's daughter
29b.I heard the news from the grumpy woman's son
30a.The young girls were sitting on the soft comfortable bed
30b.The young boys were sitting on the cold hard stone

in the safe place; on a calm night; with the bad boys
the food of the black hens; the city('s) church; the bank of the rapid river
on the blue sea; at the end of the long story; at the open window
the brown cat's paw; the handle of the round cup; in the round glass
the heat of a sunny day; from the loyal worker; in the deep burn
the length of her grey hair; over the narrow bridge; the tail of the small mouse
the advice of a wise man; the help of a good friend; the taste of sour milk
the music of her beautiful voice; on my left leg; on the green fields
the heat of the warm fires; the small boys' heads; the love of the fair girl

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