The letter “f” gets two slightly different sounds in Irish, depending on whether the nearest vowel is “a, o, u” or “e, i”. Each sound differs a little from the usual English sound.
For the broad sound, near an “a, o, u”, start with the inside of the lower lip against the edge of the upper front teeth. Then move the lips out to an extended, rounded form as you make the sound. Try:
fá, fán, fód, fúm (foom), fuar (FOO-uhr), fáilte (FAW*L- tye), faisean (FASH-uhn), folamh (FUHL-uhv), fud (fud).
Also: flaith (flah), flós, flúr, fras (frahs), frog (frohg), scríofa (SHKREE-fuh), tógfar (TOHK-fuhr).
For the slender sound, near an “e, i”, start with the lower lip in the same position, but then draw it back slightly as you make the “f” sound. Try: féin (fay*n), féach (FAY*-ahk*), fill (fil), fear (far), feirm (FER-im), caithfear (KAH-fuhr).
If an (i) sound is to follow a broad (f) sound, a “u” is placed between the “f” and “i”. In pronouncing the combination, you will find that a sound resembling an English “w” comes between. For example: fuil (fwil), fuinneog (fwin-YOHG), fuinneamh (FWIN-yuhv).
Make sure you go over the pronunciation sections regularly, so that you will improve your pronunciation and develop the ability to pronounce new words before you look at the pronunciation guide. By now you should be ready to read most of the Irish in these lessons before you look at the pronunciation guide. We will gradually drop more of the pronunciation guide from the Irish words and sentences.
To express the negative in the past tense for most verbs, you must put “níor” (NEE-uhr) before the imperative, and you must also aspirate the imperative’s initial consonant, if possible. For example:
Níor dhíol sé an bád (NEE-uhr yeel shay* un baw*d), He didn’t sell the boat.
Níor fhan sé liom (NEE-uhr ahn shay* luhm), He didn’t wait for me.
Níor ól sé é, He didn’t drink it.
To ask a question in the past tense, put “ar” (er) before the imperative and aspirate the imperative’s initial consonant if possible. Some examples:
Ar thuig tú í? (er hig too ee), Did you understand her?
Ar fhan sibh? (er ahn shiv), Did you wait?
Ar ól siad é? (er ohl SHEE-uhd ay*), Did they drink it?
To say “Didn’t she put it on the table?”, which is the negative imperative, put “nár” (naw*r) before the imperative and again aspirate the initial consonant if possible, as in:
Nár chuir sí ar an mbord é? (naw*r k*ir shee).
The answer to this question is either “Chuir sí” or “Níor chuir sí”.
This is a suitable time for a simultaneous drill on aspiration pronunciation and the past tense of irregular verbs.
Here is a list of verbs that includes all the aspirated sounds, both broad and slender. Go over them until you can say the past-tense forms, having covered the last three forms (in the third column) and looking only at the imperative (in the second column).
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