A bit of grammar

N.B.: Note that in the Breton version of this grammatical précis, each word followed by an asterisk, like this "example*", can be found in a small vocabulary at the end of the précis.

I. Categories

In Breton, a distinction is made between regular, semi-regular and irregular verbs. Their infinitives do not always allow us to differentiate between them.

I.1. Regular verbs

I.1.1. A short definition

Regular verbs are... regular! This simply means that they always use the same way to be conjugated, which is why they are called regular verbs.

In order to conjugate a regular verb, take the infinitive, remove its verbal ending - if it has one, since it doesn't always have one - add the verbal ending of the tense and the person you want, and voilà!

E.g. Debr (to eat, ...)→ S1, present : debran ((I) eat)

E.g. Kemer (to take, ...) → S1, present : kemeran ((I) take)

I.1.2. A few things that you should know about regular verbs

a. New verbs that appear in all languages, tend to use the regular verb's system.

b. Children have a natural tendency to regularize all verbs when they learn to speak. And so do people when they are learning new languages.

c. In a fairly natural way, systems for regularizing irregular verbs can appear when their conjugation systems are too complicated.

I.2. Semi-regular verbs

Semi-regular verbs are verbs that are regular by "half". That is, their radicals or verbal bases are irregular and their verbal endings are regular (except for one or two verbs).

E.g. Sevel (to raise, ...) → whose radical is « sav » → which gives the S1 Savan (the same radical for all persons, for all tenses, past participle or verbal adjective, as well as to the imperative, but it is irregular because it is impossible to guess it from its infinitive)

E.g. The verb « donet » (to come, ...) in GW (Vannetais dialecte), and in KLT (Cornouaillais, Léonard, Trégorois dialects) « dont ». In GW we'll use the radical « da- » while in KLT « deu- ». The conjugation itself is very regular!

E.g. Verbs in "-a" or "-aat". They can be conjugated as regular verbs from an "-a" radical or as irregular verbs. For irregular conjugation, the -a radical is used only in S2 present tense, S2 in the imperative form, past participle, and sometimes only in S3 future tense. For other persons the radical without the "-a" is used.

E.g. Verbs in " -liiñ "/" -liañ "; " -niiñ "/" -niañ "; " -ial ", " -iat ", " -iout ", " -iiñ ", " -iañ " (without " -liiñ ", " -liañ ", " -niiñ ", " -niañ ") are irregular in KLT, and regular in GW. In irregular conjugation, only the regular stem (kuzuli-, koani-, sturi-) is used before endings beginning with a vowel other than "-i". The adapted radicals (kuzuilh-, koagn-, stur-) are used in front of endings beginning with "-i" when there is no ending (S3 present, S2 in the imperative).


I.3. Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs are quite different because they contain more exceptions. However, the logic is always the same: S1 will always end with "-n", P1 with "-mp", P2 with "-t" or "-c'h", P3 with "-nt", the past participle with "-et", the ending "-it" for P2 in the imperative, etc.

There are only four irregular verbs, and among them the auxiliary ones:

II. Variants of the infinitive

This may be surprising but in Breton it is possible that there is more than one way to write the infinitive:

  • Verbs with the ending "-añ" in KLT are written as "-iñ" in GW (e.g. kanañ > kaniñ (to sing, ...)), but some verbs with the ending "-iñ" in KLT are also written as "-iñ" in GW (e.g. debriñ (to eat, ...));

  • Verbs with the ending "-out" in KLT are most of the time written "-et" in GW (e.g. degouezhout > degouezhet (to arrive, ...)).

  • Verbs with the ending "-eiñ" or "-eriñ" in KLT are written "-oiñ" or "-oriñ" in GW (e.g. roiñ (to give, ...), digoriñ (to open, ...)).

  • It is possible to have several forms of a given verb in the same dialect (e.g. kanal and kan (to sing, ...).

III. Infinitive endings

The following endings are ordered from the most frequent to the rarest:

« -iñ »/« -añ » (2/3 of the verbs!)

« -aat »

« -at »

« -a »

« -iiñ », « -iañ »

« -al »

other terminations or no termination

« -out »

« -niiñ », « -niiañ »

« -liiñ », « -liañ »

« -el »

« -iat »

« -ial »

« -et »

« -iout »

« -in »

IV. Vocabulary

The word list in the vocabulary is arranged alphabetically. Vocabulary entries are in Breton and then comes the translation in the language of the article.

Adstumm : variant

Amreizh : semi-regular

Amzer-vremañ : present

Anv-gwan-verb : past participle

Anv-verb : infinitive

Dibenn : termination

Direizh : irregular

Displegadur : conjugation

Doare gourc'hemenn : imperative

Gour : person

L, Liester : plural

L3, Liester, trivet gour : third person plural

Pennrann : stem (of a verb)

Reizh : regular

U, Unander : singular

U1, Unander, kentañ gour : first person singular

Urzh al lizherennoù : alphabetical order

Verb : verb

Verb skoazell : auxiliary