I be short of material at the weekends

Further to Gerry’s inquiries into words that only Irish people use, I wish to add my own: the verb to be.

In standard English, this verb is irregular:

I am

You are

He is

She is etc.

In Irish English, the irregular version of the verb is also used, in exactly the same situations as in standard English, but there is also a regular version of the verb, that is, it follows the same rules as verbs such as play, jump, kick, fart:

I be

You be

He bes

She bes etc.

The regular version of the verb is used specifically to denote an action performed habitually:

I be out drinking in the field every Tuesday night;

The midges be eating the scalp clean off you in summertime;

He bes at the golf (i.e. he is a keen golfer)

It doesn’t be used interchangeably with the irregular version.

I’m not quite sure of the origins of this. I know that in Irish you have a verb – bheith- which performs the same function, and this may well have been borrowed from there.

It bes quare and useful, though. I quite like it.

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September 2006

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