In sentences with relative clauses of the type in which the word “who” or “what” is in the nominative case, such as
“I saw the man who collects newspapers”, chonaic mé an fear a bhailíonn nuachtáin,
you often need to express the negative. In the sentence above, this would be:
Chonaic mé an fear nach mbailíonn nuachtáin, I saw the man who doesn’t collect newspapers.
“Nach” (nahk*) connects the clauses for the negative, for all tenses except the past, where “nár” (naw*r) takes its place. Even in the past tense, however, the irregular verbs “déan”, “abair”, “téigh”, “feic”, “faigh”, and “tá” are preceded by “nach”.
Read aloud the following examples of “nach” or “nár” usage with the nominative relative structure. Try to develop a general sense of how the relative clause is formed, so that you will be ready for the practice at the end of this lesson:
Seo é an buachaill nach mbearrann sé fós é féin, this is the boy who does not shave (himself) yet.
Cuirim sa bhosca na píosaí aráin nach bhfuil ite, I put into the box the pieces of bread that are not eaten.
Tugann sé do Mháire staidéir mhargaidh (STAH-day*r VWAHR-uh-gee) nach n-ordaíonn sí, he gives Máire marketing surveys that she doesn’t order.
Faighim (FEYE-im) leabhair nár tháinig tríd an bpost, I get books that didn’t come through the mail.
Déarfaidh mé é sin leis an gcigire nár scríobh litir ar bith chugam (HOO-uhm), I will say that to the inspector who didn’t write any letter to me.
Ná díol an bhó nár ith a féar, don’t sell the cow that didn’t eat its grass.
For the few irregular verbs that take “nach” in the past tense:
Labhróidh Seán leis an bhfear nach ndearna an obair i gceart, Seán will talk with the man who didn’t do the work properly.
Ghlan mé na fuinneoga nach raibh briste, I cleaned the windows that weren’t broken.
Imeoidh Bláthnaid ar eitilt nach ndeachaigh fós chuig Boston, Bláthnaid will leave on a flight that didn’t go to Boston yet.
Labhraím gach lá le múinteoir nach bhfoghlaimíodh an Iodáilis, I talk every day with a teacher who didn’t used to study Italian.
Is é sin an bus nach dtéadh ar an ardbhóthar, that’s the bus that didn’t used to go on the highway.
Fuair mé na hainmneacha de na páistí nach n-óladh bainne, I got the names of the children who didn’t used to drink milk.
Taispeáin dom an duine nach mbeidh ann amárach, show me the person who won’t be here tomorrow.
D’éisteamar leis an amhránaí nach n-imeoidh roimh an samhradh seo chugainn (rev-uh SOU-ruh shuh HOO-in), we listened to the singer who will not leave before next summer.
Dúirt sé é sin le daoine nach gcreidfeadh é, he told that to people who wouldn’t believe it.
Sin é an t-iascaire nach rachadh amach tar éis meán-lae, that is the fisherman who wouldn’t go out after noon.
Cuir Gaeilge ar na habairtí seo leanas; translate these following sentences into Irish:
I put out the cat that howled (béic) all night.
I gave milk to the cat that didn’t howl all night.
I will see the woman who lost the ring.
I would see the woman who didn’t lose the expensive ring.
Key: Chuir mé amach an cat a bhéic an oíche go léir. Thug mé bainne don chat nár bhéic an oíche go léir. Feicfidh mé an bhean a chaill an fáinne. Feicfidh mé an bhean nár chaill an fáinne daor (or “costasach”).
Notice that tenses can be mixed in this sentence forming.
For example, “I saw ___ who will ___” or “He would give ___ that was ___”.
This apparently formidable subject becomes simple when the everyday meaning of it is explained by illustration:
I prepared the lunch that Seán ate, d’ullmhaigh mé an lón a d’ith Seán.
He will sell the boat that he bought last year, díolfaidh sé an bád a cheannaigh sé anuraidh.
The rule for “nach” and “nár” hold here, too. Samplaí:
D’fhill sé ar an doras nár oscail an múinteoir, he returned to the door that the teacher didn’t open.
Chuir mo mháthair ar an mbord an gloine nach bhfaca mé, my mother put on the table the glass that I didn’t see.
The danger of ambiguity or misunderstanding can arise here, however. Obviously, in the sentences just preceding, there is no mistaking who or what is doing or receiving the action in the second clause. For example, a door does not open a teacher, nor does a boat buy a person.
In other situations, however, the meaning may not be clear:
Sin é an fear a thuigeann Seán, This could be either “That is the man who understands Seán” or “That is the man whom Seán understands”.
To avoid the ambiguity, follow this pattern:
Sin é an fear a dtuigeann Seán é; that is the man whom Sean understands; and keep the meaning of “Sin é an fear a thuigeann Seán” as “That is the man who understands Seán”.
The “a” relative word in this usage eclipses instead of aspirating. In the past tense, “ar” and “nár” serve, with an “é”, “í”, or “iad” at the sentence end. The six irregular verbs “déan”, “abair”, “téigh”, “feic”, “faigh”, and “tá” are preceded by “a” and “nach” in the past, with eclipses occurring. Examples:
Chonaic mé an fear a bhuaileann mná, I saw the man who strikes women.
Chonaic mé an fear nach mbuaileann mná, I saw the man who doesn’t strike women.
Chonaic mé an fear a mbuaileann mná é, I saw the man whom women strike.
Chonaic mé an fear nach mbuaileann mná é, I saw the man whom women don’t strike.
Chonaic mé an fear ar bhuail mná. Chonaic mé an fear ar bhuail mná é.
Chonaic mé an fear a fhuair Seán. Chonaic mé an fear a bhfuair Seán é.
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