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Useful Irish Phrases For Essays Leaving Cert Points

We're answering recurring questions from Snapchat (six25points) here. All answers relate to Higher Level Irish.

You may also like: Guide to Leaving Cert Irish (€) and Irish HL Paper 1 and 2 timing

1. What is the best way to study for the essay question? Would you recommend learning phrases or complete essays?

Firstly, I suggest learning phrasing that can be used in a variety of essays. 

I also recommend learning a variety of proverbs (seanfhocail) which can be incorporated easily into essays, such as 'Is fearr súil le glas ná súil le huaigh' (it's better to be optimistic).

I suggest you focus on learning vocabulary for specific titles, such as the health system, the economy, the Irish language, drugs/alcohol, young people, immigration, international relations (Brexit/ Donald Trump), the environment, terrorism, refugee crisis.... The election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the refugee crisis, the health system etc. are just some examples of current topics that may make an appearance in some form on the paper. I suggest learning vocabulary specific to these issues.

2. Can I choose the poem I read in the Oral examination?

No, the examiner decides which poem you read. 

This part of the exam is often overlooked in preparation for the oral as people see it as 'easy marks'

I recommend listening to podcasts in order to ensure your pronunciation is perfect. Once you have perfected this, make sure you are reading the poem in an appropriate tone. The examiner should sense the emotion in your words. The poem should not be read in a monotone.

3. Can the Irish Oral examination be based around the content of the picture series (sraith pictiúr) you are given? For example, if my picture series is 'cuairt ar aintín i Nua Eabhrac' will i be asked about holidays, shopping, etc?

The picture series you are given is completely separate to the conversation between you and the examiner. 

The important thing to remember is you lead the conversation in the Oral
For example, if you say you have a cousin in Australia, the examiner might ask you if you intend to pay them a visit. If you say you're saving your money for the summer, the examiner might ask you about holidays. Anything you say in passing may be perceived as a hint to the examiner to ask you further questions on that topic.

4. Would you have any tips for the picture series (sraith pictiúr) element of the Irish Oral examination?

You have four minutes to speak on the picture series in the exam. Personally, I would do my best to learn off as many phrases as I could for each picture series. You need to practice doing the picture series as much as possible. If you don't have anything learned off, it is easy to get quite stressed in the exam and you may not be able to think of good phrases on the spot and under time restraint. Move chronologically through the picture series. 

Say the picture number before you start on a new picture to keep you focused and to let the examiner know you have moved onto the next picture

..iPictiúr a haon... pictiúr a dó... pictiúr a trí.. Make sure you devote the same amount of time to preparing each picture series. Try to learn off phrases that can work well with different picture sequences. Learning proverbs (seanfhocail) that you can fit in easily is also a good idea. 

For example, 

  • Níl tuile dá mhéad nach dtránn. (Every bad thing comes to an end).
  • Imíonn an tuirse ach fanann an tairbhe. (the tiredness goes but the benefits stay)
  • Tús maith leath na hoibre (a good start is half the work)
  • Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir (time will tell)
  • Ní thagann ciall roimh aois (sense doesn't come before age)
  • Is fearr súil le glas ná súil le huaigh (it's better to be optimistic)
  • Ní neart go cur le chéile (there's strength in unity)

See more tips and an example of sraith pictiúr here.

5. What topics should I prepare for the Irish Oral examination?

1. Yourself (What kind of a person are you? Chatty? Studious? )

2. Your family(Who do you live with? Do you get along with them? What do your parents work at? )

3. Where you live (Facilities/ What kind of area is it?/ Any problems in your area? / What do you do for fun?)

4. Your school (your subjects/ the school day/ school rules/ the leaving cert/education system/points system)

5. The future (what do you want to do next year and why / college)

6. Hobbies (sport /music /reading/cinema )

7. Social media (do you use Facebook/twitter)

8. The weekend (describe what you to at the weekend- study/shopping ....)

9. Holidays ( Have you any plans? Where did you go last year?)

10. The Gaeltacht and the Irish language ( Have you ever been to the Gaeltacht? Do you like Irish? What can be done to promote Irish? ....)

11. The environment

12. The economy

13. Immigration/emigration ... (Brexit/ Donald Trump)

If you want to talk about your love of the Irish language, drop hints. For example, when she asks you about your family, say I'm always trying to get my sister to speak Irish at home. Or, if you are asked about school, say Irish is your favourite subject.

If you mention America, you may get asked your opinion on Donald Trump. If you mention you live on a farm, be prepared to talk about farming life.

Never give one word answers. 

If you are asked a question, such as 'Do you have an interest in politics?' and you don't wish to speak about this, don't just say 'No'. You could say you haven't a clue of what's going on in politics, you're too busy preparing for the Leaving Cert - or you'd much rather watch your favourite TV show than look at the news. Broadly speaking, try to keep up to date on current affairs as it is possible that you may be asked questions on current topics in the exam.

6. Should I continue speaking in the Irish Oral examination or allow the examiner to ask questions?

You should speak as though you are having a conversation with the examiner. For example, if she asks you where you live, you could say... I live in ____, its a lovely town in the country. There are lots of facilities in the town, such as a post office, a sports hall .... (continue talking about your town). Be very careful about what you may say in passing. For example, if you say you the youth club in the town is great, be prepared to expand on this. If you want to talk about the problems of drugs and alcohol, you could say: there's a pub in the town, but unfortunately there's often lots of fights outside it at night. I don't drink, but a lot of my friends go to the pub... Don't suddenly jump from listing the facilities in the town to talking saying that the health system is in ruins, for example. Let the conversation flow. 

Continue to expand on the question asked until the examiner interrupts. 

Be careful that you don't speak as though you are reciting material. Keep eye contact, don't speak too fast and try to use a tone appropriate to what you are saying. Communication is key.

7. What is the best way to prepare for the poetry and prose section of paper two?

I suggest going through the poem/short story and making sure you understand exactly what is going on. The poem will be given to you in the exam, so it is important that you understand every word of it. While preparing for the exam, take notes under headings, such as: the life of the poet, the theme, emotions in the poem, symbolism, use of language etc.

For the prose section, I recommend reading through the piece quite frequently in the build up to the exam to make sure you are very familiar with it. I also suggest taking notes under headings, such as the theme, characters, the insight we get from reading/watching etc. These headings may vary slightly from one piece to another.

8. Grammar - when is 't' used, for example 'rithim an tsaoil' vs 'an saol'?

This is an example of the 'tuiseal ginideach' (genitive case). 

9. Grammar- what is the rule for Irish nouns beginning with 's' in the Tuiseal Ginideach( genitive case)? For example, 'sochaí/suirbhé'

This depends on whether the word is masculine or feminine. Being able to incorporate the genitive case easily into your phrases will impress an examiner and may give you an edge in the exam. I suggest spending time trying to understand the 'tuiseal ginideach' as it is very important. There are some hints we can use to help us figure out whether a noun is masculine or feminine and these should be learned. You should also pay attention to the fact that there are exceptions to the rule. 

If you are not sure how how to put a certain word into the genitive case in the exam, don't guess, use a different word that you are more familiar with.
Masculine nouns beginning with 's' don't change after the word 'an', e.g. An sagart, an séipéal. But feminine nouns starting with 's', take a 't'... an tseachtain, an tsaotharlann. 

More notes will follow shortly.

10. Would you have any predictions for the poetry or prose question?

I would not advise basing your study around predictions. What happens if your prediction is incorrect? I advise you to study all poems and prose pieces. Predictions are for those who don't have the time to look over each poem/prose. I recommend you make the time.

11. Our teacher provides us with excellent notes and were advised to learn everything off, is this a good method?

Learning notes off is fine, but you need to make sure you answer the question in a relevant manner rather than reciting something vaguely related from the notes. In the exam, you will be asked to answer a specific question, and the examiner will notice straight away if you are just reciting notes. This is particularly important when answering the poetry and prose section. 

Always link back to the question. 

After you have studied a particular poem or prose, I suggest taking out your exam papers and doing a question. Use your notes when answering the question but make them relevant by linking back to the question being asked. 

12. I'm worried that my notes are too basic and not 'flowery' enough. I've been getting H1s all year but my work has only been corrected by my teacher. I fear that another examiner may not award me with the same mark. Should I be concerned? Is it possible to guarantee a H1 if you are not a native speaker? 

I'm not a native speaker, but I went into the exam quite confident that I could get top results. The key to doing well in Irish is your level of fluency. Take whatever chance you have to speak Irish, listen to Irish radio stations and read Irish newspapers. See if there are any after school groups in your area where they gather together and speak Irish. There may be some residential courses over the Easter break solely aimed at preparing students for the oral exam. This may be worth looking into if you feel you need to improve your level of fluency.

In regards to the your concern that your notes are too basic, you could see if it is possible for you to ask another Irish teacher to give you a second opinion on some of your Irish answers. Good phrases and 'seanfhocail' will go along way to improving the quality and standard of your answers. First of all, make sure you are answering the question. Then see how you can work on the quality of your phrasing. For example...

  • 'I'm healthy' : Tá sláinte an bhradáin agam / Táim chomh folláin le breac
  • 'Getting worse' : ag dul ó ghiolla na sliogán go giolla na mbairneach
  • 'He's working ' : Tá sé i mbun oibre 
  • 'He did his best ' : Rinne sé a seacht ndícheall
  • 'They did great work': Rinne siad obair na gcapall / D'oibrigh said go dian dícheallach
  • 'I hate it' : Ní lú orm an diabhal ná é
  • 'I don't have any time to myself ': Ní bhíonn faill suí ná seasamh agam
  • 'It cant be denied': Ní féidir a shéanadh
  • 'There's no sense to it': Níl ciall ar bith leis
  • 'Forever and ever/always': Fad is a bheidh an ghrian sa spéir 
  • 'She couldn't decide' : Bhí sí idir dhá chomhairle
  • ''The real truth' : An fhírinne lom
  • 'The climax came': Tháinig an buaicphointe
  • 'It's clear we don't have the same view': Is léir nach é an dearcadh céanna atá againn go léir'
  • 'I don't have a clue..': Níl a fhios agam ó thalamh am domhain 
  • 'First of all' : Ar an gcéad dul síos/ I dtosach báire / Ar dtús 

13. For question four on paper two, should I prepare 'An Triail' or spend my time preparing for the extra poetry?

I recommend doing whatever question your teacher has decided she will prepare with the class. For my Leaving Cert, I answered on 'A Thig ná Tit orm' because this was what my teacher was preparing with the class. My advice is to prepare one and prepare it well. 

Written by Laura who achieved 7 A1s in her Leaving Cert. 

I was doing up some postcard notes for a 6th class pupil I do grinds with however they would be useful for Junior cert too so thought i would put them up here! Some phrases may even be hepful with for Leaving cert so here you go!

I have more complicated sentences I can put up which would actually be more useful for HL Junior cert or leaving cert. If anyone is interested in them I can type them up for you? These are just very basic sentences that I have here as it was for a 6th class pupil doing a scholarship exam!

Cárta phoist – Postcard

Conas atá tú – how are you?

Tá mé ar fheabhas – i am great

Tá mé ar mo laethanta saoirse i _____ - i am on my holidays in _____

Conas atá do chlann? – How is your family

Tá bórn orm nach scríobh mé le fada – i am sorry i havent written in a while

Bhí áthas orm do litir a fháil – i was happy to get your letter

An Áit – The place

Tá mé i ______ - I am in _____

Is áit álainn é – it is a lovely place

Tá a lán le déanamh – there is a lot to do

Tá a lán siopaí agus bialanna – there are a lot of shops and restaurants

Tá an trá go hiontach – the beach is great


Cá bhfuil tú ag fanacht? – where are you staying?

Tá mé ag fanacht in óstán – I am staying in a hotel

Tá mé ag fanacht in árasán – i am staying in an apartment

Tá mé ag campáil – i am camping

Tá an seomra an deas – the room is really nice

Tá mé ag fanacht i dteach mo chara – i am staying in my friends house

Tá an óstán in aice leis an trá – the hotel is beside the beach

Tá an óstán an-mhór – the hotel is very big


Cé atá leat? – who is with you?

Tá mo chairde liom – I with my friends

Tá mo mham liom – I am with my mam

Tá mo theaghlach/chlann liom – i am with my family 

An Aimsir  - The weather

Bhí an ghrian ag taitneamh inné  - The sun was shining yesterday

Tá an ghrian ag taithneamh go hard sa spéir  - the sun is shining high in the sky

Tá sé te – it is hot

Tá dath gréine agam – I have a sun tan

Tá an teocht ard inniu  - the temperature is high today

Tá mé cosúil le tráta – I look like a tomato

Níl aon scamall sa spéir  - there are no clouds in the sky

Tá sé ró-the – it is too hot

Tá an aimsir go hálainn  - the weather is lovely

Tá an aimsir go dona  - the weather is bad

Tá sé ag cur báistí  - it is raining

Tá sé ag stealladh báistí – it is lashing rain

Tá sé fliuch – it is wet

Tá sé fuar – it is cold

Tá sé ag cur sneachta – it is snowing

Tá sé ceomhar  - it is foggy

Bhí mé fliuch go craiceann  - I was soaked to the skin


Bia – Food

Tá an bia go hálainn – the food is lovely

Tá an bia uafásach – the food is horrible

Ithim i mbialann gach oíche – i eat in a restaurant every night

Tá sé an-bhlasta – it is very tasty

Is aoibheann liom ____ – i really like _____

Ag dul abhaile? Going home?

Beidh mé ag dul abhaile i dhá seachtain – I will be going home in two weeks

Beidh mé ag filleadh abhaile amárach – I will be returning home tomorrow

Tá mé anseo ar feadh cúig lá – I am here for 5 days

Feichfidh mé thú an seachtain seo chuigeann – i will see you next week

Cad atá tú ag déanamh? What are you doing?

Chuaigh mé ag siopadóireacht inné – i went shopping inné

Cheannaigh mé bronnantas duit - i bought you a present

Rachaidh mé go dtí an trá amárach – i will go to the beach tomorrow

Thug mé cuairt ar ____ - i visited _____

Bíonn mé ag snámh gach lá – i swim everyday

Is maith liom an linn snámha – i like the swimming pool 

Na daoine – The people

Tá na daoine an-chairdiúl – the people are very friendly

Tá a lán cairde nua agam – I have a lot of new friends

____ is ainm di - ____ is her name.

Tá sí ina cónaí i _______ - she lives in ______