Ar Dienga Galedonag
4. Verbs

Chapter 4: Verbs

The basic verb

The basic form of the verb is that which is used along with both to form sentences and in some other situations. Most, but not all, of these end with the letter -i, and is the form that will be seen in dictionaries.


The tenses are almost always formed by using the appropriate tense of the verb both to be as an auxiliary, which comes first in the sentence, along with the complement marker on (present tense) or eth (past tense). There are also, however, inflected forms used in the present, preterite and conditional tenses.

Es hi'n penni levrai á'r siop
[dath een penny leev-ruh aar shop]
She is buying some books at the shop

Bennoth hi levrai ar mora nó
[penn-oth ee leev-ruh urr more-uh noh]
She bought some books this morning

The following table shows how the most common tenses are formed, using the verb penni to buy as an example.


es he'n penni

he is buying

present habitual penn he he buys


roth he'n penni

he was buying


es he eth penni

he has bought


roth he eth penni

he had bought


bennoth he

he bought


bidh he'n penni

he will buy

future perfect

bidh he eth penni

he will have bought

conditional pensa he he would buy


bes he'n penni

he would be buying

conditional perfect

bes he eth penni

he would have bought

Conjugation of regular verbs

Regular verbs follow a standard pattern of conjugation. To illustrate this, the following table shows the conjugation of the verb gueli 'to see':

Present (see/sees)
Preterite (saw)
Conditional (would see)
1st Person gueli mi guelin ni guelo mi guelson ni guelsa mi guelsan ni
2nd Person gueles ti guelig gi guelos ti guelsog gi guelsas ti guelsag gi
3rd Person guel he/hi guelan ho gueloth he/hi guelson ho guelsath he/hi guelsan ho

In practice, the conditional tense is not used so much nowadays, but it is useful to be aware of these forms.

Affirmative sentences

Affirmative sentences (AFF) are those that state or 'affirm' a fact. This is as opposed to negative (NEG) and interrogative (INT) sentences (see below). The affirmative conjugation of both to be is as follows:


esi mi

I am

esin ni

we are

esas ti

you are

esig gi

you are

es he/hi

he/she is

esan ho

they are

ro mi I was ron ni we were
ros ti you were rogh gi you were
roth hé/hi he/she was ron ho they were
bidha mi I shall be bidhan ni we shall be
bidhes ti you will be bidhag gi you will be
bidh he/hi he/she will be bidhan ho they will be
besa mi I would be besan ni we would be
besas ti you would be besag gi you would be
bes he/hi he/she would be besan ho they would be

Affirmative marker 'va'

The affirmative marker va can be placed before verbs to indicate that a statement is being made (rather than a question or negative). It is entirely optional:

(Va) glúo mi ar nauithan or ar radio ar mora nó
[(va) klee-so mee er noo-ith-un orer rad-yo er more-uh noh]
I heard the news on the radio this morning

(Va) bidha mi on oskil ar dorus áith
[(va) bi-thuh mee un oskel er doruss aa-eeth]
I'll open the door for you

With the present and imperfect of both, va can be used as an intensifier:

Va roth nán kaudhal derinoch
[va roth naan kow-thal derry-noch]
There was a meeting there last night

Va's mi'n gaith
[vahss meen ga-eeth]
I am going

Interrogative sentences

As the verb usually comes at the beginning of most sentences, there needs to be some way of telling whether a question is being asked. This is done, as above, with a marker before the verb, an°. The verb both, however, has special forms, as shown in the following table.


an vel mi?

am I?

an velin ni?

are we?

an veles ti?

are you?

an velig gi?

are you?

an vel he/hi?

is he/she?

an velen ho?

are they?

an ro mi? was I? an ron ni? were we?
an ros ti? you were an rogh gi? were you?
an roth he/hi? he/she was an ron ho? were they?
an vidha mi? shall I be? an vidhan ni? shall we be?
an vidhes ti? will you be? an vidhag gi? will you be?
an vidh he/hi? will he/she be? an vidhan ho? will they be?
an vesa mi? would I be? an vesan ni? would we be?
an vesas ti? would you be? an vesag gi? would you be?
an ves he/hi? would he/she be? an vesan ho? would they be?

With other verbs the interrogative marker is usually used to indicate questions.

An °bennos ti ar tíg?
[aar benn-os teer tee]
Did you buy the house?

Negative sentences

In the negative, the marker used is:

°benno mi ar tíg
I didn't buy the house

Ná oskloth he ar dorus
He didn't open the door

The negative conjugation of both is shown below.:


ná vel mi

I am not

ná velin ni

we are not

ná veles ti

you are not

ná velig gi

you are not

ná vel he/hi

he/she is not

ná velen ho

they are not

ná ro mi I was not ná ron ni we were not
ná ros ti you were not ná rogh gi you were not
ná roth he/hi he/she was not ná ron ho they were not
ná vidha mi I shall not be ná vidhan ni we shall not be
ná vidhes ti you will not be ná vidhag gi you will not be
ná vidh he/hi he/she will not be ná vidhan ho they will not be
ná vesa mi I would not be ná vesan ni we would not be
ná vesas ti you would not be ná vesag gi you would not be
ná ves he/hi he/she would not be ná vesan ho they would not be

Negative interrogative sentences

There are also negative-interrogative sentences, when a negative question is being asked, e.g. 'weren't you cold?'. These use the same forms as for the interrogative, but prefixed with the marker nan°:

Nan roth he eth gaith á'r skol?
[nan roth eh eth ga-ith aar skoll]
Did he not go to school?

Nan °veles ti'n úar?
[nan vell-uss teen oor]
Are'nt you cold?

Nan °vidhag gi'n gaith?
[naar vith-ee geen ga-ith]
Won't you be going?

Nan °bennos ti'r tíg?
[naar benn-os teer tee]
Didn't you buy the house?

Irregular verbs

As in English and many other languages, there is a group of verbs in Caledonian that are very irregular in the way they form their tenses. The main verbs in this group are detailed below.




Past Conditional


do/make denni- ren denna-
derth say deri- dur dera-
dúth come dú- don doga-
téith go gul- gú- raga-
íth eat í- (í mi, ís ti...) íso- ísa-
clíth hear clí- clíso- clísa-
taurth give túi- túo- tavra-
felith see fel- felso- felsa-

Modal verbs

Modal verbs are special verbs that act like auxiliaries and are used with other verbs. In English, these are verbs like 'can' (be able to), 'must' (have to), 'should' (ought to), 'may' etc. Whereas most verbs use the non-past inflection for the future tense, the modals use this to indicate the present tense. They are used like buth except that complement markers like an and eth are not used.

Bedi 'can', 'be able'

An important modal verb is bedi can, be able to. This can be used with or without buth, as in English:

Bedig gi °dhenni hé
[beddy gee thenny eh]
You can do it

Dag gi an bedi °dhenni hé
[da geen beddy thenny eh]
You are able to do it

Note the use of an in the second sentence as it uses a form of buth, which blocks mutation of the following verb-noun, whereas in the first sentence, denni is mutated under the VS*O system.

Cathi 'must', 'have to'

Another important modal verb is cathi must, have to. This verb is not usually used with buth except in the future and conditional tenses.

Cathig gi °déith
[kathy gee dayth]
You must go

Bith mi an cathi °déith
[bith meen kathy dayth]
I will have to go

Cathon ho uerthi ar tíg
[kath-on oh werth-eer tee]
They had to sell the house

Certhi 'should', 'ought to'

This verb is used to express an action that ought to be done and has not been done yet.

Certh hé °déith
[kerth eh dayth]
He ought to go

Certhin ni °benni ar tíg nán
[kerth-in nee benn-eer tee naan]
We should buy that house

Passive constructions

In general, the passive is expressed by saying that the subject 'gets' or 'receives' his, her or their action (as a verb-noun) 'through' someone or something e.g.:

Gevoth ar líver én benni dro han dhín
[gev-oth er lee-ver eh benny droh han theen]
The book was bought by an old man
(lit. 'The book got its buying by old man')

Gevoth hí é felith ai'r siopai
[gev-oth ee eh fell-ith aar shop-uh]
She was seen at the shops
(lit. 'She got her seeing at the shops')


The imperative is usually expressed by using the appropriate 2nd person form of the verb:

Beres ar líver aim
[berrus teer lee-ver ahm]
Bring the book to me (to one person)

Pennig ar tíg
[penn-igg urr tee]
Buy the house (to more than one person)

The phrase 'let's' do something follows the same pattern but replaces the pronoun with ni:

Cades ni °déith ai'r siopai
[kadd-uss nee dayth aar shop-uh]
Let's (the two of us) go to the shops

Cadig ulla ni avri ar avriad
[kadd-igg ool-luh nee ow-reer owry-add]
Let's all sing the song

More complex sentences

There are two types of complex sentences, relative and indirect, and they involve two clauses linked by a particular link-word. To translate from the English the link-word must be identified and removed, and the clauses coverted to two self-contained sentences that make up the new snetence in Pictish.

Relative complex sentences

These have 'who' or 'which/that' as the link word between the two clauses.

  1. This is the man who works at the shop
    This is the man. He works at the shop
    Dá anó'r dín. Daith hé'n guithi ans ar siop
    Dá anó'r dín sui'n guithi ans ar siop
  2. This is the man whom John knows
    This is the man. John knows him
    Dá anó'r dín. Sion an (knows) hé
    Dá anó'r dín sa vel Sion an (knows)
  3. This is the man who could do the work
    This is the man. He could do the work
    Dá anó'r dín. °Vedath hé °dhenni ar guith
    Dá anó'r dín sa °vedath hé °dhenni ar guith

Indirect complex sentences

These involve a subordinate clause that represents and thought, statement or question in itself, introduced by the main clause. In Caledonag the two parts of the clause are linked by a° in the affirmative and na° in the negative.

  1. I believe that she is ill
    Credi mi a vel hi'n °ding
    [kreddy mee uh vell een ding]
  2. I don't believe that she is ill
    Na °gredi mi a vel hi'n °ding
    [nuh greddy mee uh vell een ding]
  3. I believe that she is not ill
    Credi mi na vel hi'n °ding
    [kreddy mee nuh vell een ding]
  4. She said the train was late
    Dur hi a vel ar tréin derinag
    [door ee uh vell urr train derry-nagg]
  5. He says that he will not be working
    Derith hé na vith hé'n guithi
    [derr-ith eh nuh vith ayn gwithy]

'Yes' and 'no'

In common with many Celtic languages, there are no specific words for 'yes' and 'no' in Pictish. These depend upon the words in the original sentence, so if someone asks if you are cold then the answer is 'I am' or 'I am not'.

Q. (Ár) vel hi ans tíg? [(aar) vell ee uns tee] Is she at home?
A. Vel. Yes. Nel. No.

Q. (Ár) oth hi ans tíg deridith? Was she at home yesterday?
A. Oth. Yes. N'oth. No.

Q. (Ár) vith hé'n guithi avori? Will he be working tomorrow?
A. Vith. Yes. Ga °vith. No.

Q. Ár dhur hé ga vitha he'n guithi? Did he say that he would be working?
A. Dhur. Yes. Ga °dhur. No.

Q. Credes ti ga vel hi'n °ding? Do you believe that she is ill?
A. Credim. Yes. Ga °gredim. No.


© Alex Middleton 2009