Irish accents are tricky. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years about how to write an Irish accent that I want to share with you.
How do you write an Irish accent?
You write an Irish accent by softening vowels, sprinkling in regional expressions, breaking words into syllables, emphasizing the “R’s” in words, dropping the “G” in words that end in “-ing,” and removing “if” and “to” from phrases. Also, use dialogue tags like, “she said in a thick, Irish accent.”
For the rest of this article, I’m going to break down exactly how to write an Irish accent with tons of specific examples. Let’s get to it!
12 Best Tips To Write an Irish Accent
The Irish accent is one of the most distinctive and identifiable accents in the world.
Here are the 12 very best ways to write an Irish accent.
1) Soften Vowels
You don’t need to put on a thick Irish accent to write one.
Since the key is softened vowels, too much of an accent will make it difficult for people who are unfamiliar with this dialect to understand what you’re writing (or saying, if your work is produced as an audiobook).
Americans tend to pronounce the letter A, “ay”. An Irish accent would pronounce it “ah” or “aw.”
It is crucial to be aware of this in every word, but especially with vowels that come in the middle of a word. In some cases, people from Ireland might drop their T’s altogether when speaking certain words such as ‘butter,’ which becomes ‘bu’er.’
Don’t use hard “T” sounds. It should sound more like a soft “D”. This is the same as the American accent.
Shorten “o” sounds like in the word ‘hot’ so it sounds more like ‘haht.’
When writing, spell out words phonetically so that the reader understands how to pronounce the words.
2) Sprinkle in Regional Words and Expressions
To give your writing authenticity, sprinkle in regionalisms from time to time. In this way, you show your reader that you know what you’re talking about and make it easier for them to understand what the character is saying.
Use words like “grand” instead of good. In Ireland, “grand” can mean big or nice, so use this in dialogue where appropriate to give your writing personality and flavor.
“Yer man” is a phrase used in Ireland to refer to a certain person. It means, “your guy.”
3) Focus on Word Choice Over Pronunciation
When writing, you should focus more on the words themselves rather than their exact pronunciation. However, using the Irish pronunciation of words is more appropriate in dialogue rather than narrative writing.
For example, you can choose “right” or “rite.” Both are correct, but one is more appropriate for narrative and the other is more appropriate for dialogue.
In dialogue, pronunciation is more important. You can use “hail” instead of hall. This can also be spelled “haile.”
The most important thing is that readers can follow along without confusion. In doing so, you’ll make them feel more connected to the story and your characters.
4) Drop the “G” in “-ING” words
Speakers of the Irish language typically don’t pronounce the “G” in “-ING” words.
One example: The expression, “A doin'” is the Irish pronunciation equivalent of “a doing.”
A good example of this would be if a character said, ” I’m doin’ just fine” instead of “I’m doing just fine.”
5) Leave No “R” Unpronounced
Irish speakers, while speaking English, do not drop the ‘R’ from words. They typically use a rolling “R” sound instead of a flat “R” sound when they speak.
In the Irish language, the “R” is changed from an “ar” sound to an “our” sound. It is less of a hard “R” sound and more of a softened “R” sound similar to that in the word “core.”
Instead of saying, “Where are you going?” an Irish person would say, “Whe’r ye goin’?”
When Irish speakers speak English, they often blend their native language into an English sentence.
Another important thing to remember is that an Irish speaker usually won’t pronounce the “R’s” at the end of words if they are followed by a word beginning with a vowel.
6) Pepper These Words into Your Dialogue
So, now, sure, sorry—These are words that typically come from Irish speakers.
They can really help your dialogue sound authentic. Irish people are frequently adding these words into their day-to-day conversations.
Hearing an Irish person say, “sorry” all the time can make it seem like they are constantly apologizing. To the Irish, “sorry” is an endearment and a way of being polite.
A great illustration of this dialogue is, “oh sorry, just a sec. Sorry, there it is.”
7) Have Your Character Answer “Yes” or “No” Questions Like This
In Irish, there is no equivalent to the English “yes” or “no.”
Therefore, your Irish character wouldn’t answer questions with these words. Instead, they are more likely to answer simple questions with two or three-word phrases.
For example, your Irish character might answer the question, “Did you arrive?” with, “I have.”
A few other ways an Irish character might answer is:
- I will
- He did
- She is
- They are not
8) Break Some Words Into Two Syllables
In the Irish language, some words are broken into two syllables. For example, “Thursday” is pronounced as if it were, “Tuh-Sa.”
This is true for most shortened words in the Irish language.
In the Irish language, “pint” sounds like “pin-t.”
Here are three other examples of shortened and split words:
- Three = T-ree
- Cold = Co-eld
- Warm = Wa-rrim
When writing dialogue for an Irish character, you might want to have them speak with this dialect as well. In this way, it will be easier for people who are unfamiliar with this dialect to understand the “sound” of the dialogue.
9) Describe Possession with These Phrases
The Irish don’t have a verb for “to have.” Instead, possessions are described with the phrases, “with me,” “on me,” or “in me.”
For example, if your Irish character is describing what she is carrying, she would say something like “I’ have a blue purse with me.”
Another way to articulate these phrases is by saying, “My icebox broke on me.”
10) Use Ye for Plural Expressions
To pluralize a word, many Irish speakers use the word “Ye.” To an Irish speaker, “ye” means both you and your.
Take the phrase “you, guys.”This would be made into, “Ye guys.”
An Irish speaker wouldn’t ask, “Can you come to my house?” they would more likely ask, “Can ye come to me house?”
11) Skip “If” Sometimes
Irish speakers skip “if” and opt for the simple present and past tense verb structure.
The saying, “If I go over there, he will get mad,” would translate to an Irish speaker as, “I went over there and he got mad.”
This type of sentence structure emphasizes the use of the past tense even for speaking in conditional contexts and situations.
12) Also, Drop “To” From Many Phrases
In English, many phrases include the word “to.” For example, in the expression “want to,” you would use the infinitive verb “want” and add the word “to” after it.
An Irish speaker would say, “She’s gone the park,” instead of, “She’s gone to the park.”
It’s common to say things like, “I will go” or “She would run.” In Irish, these phrases would be translated using the present tense.
An illustration of how Irish speaker uses these phrases is to say something like this:
- “I am goin’ to the store.”
- “She is runnin’.”
Remember that, even though some phrases are translated word for word, they don’t necessarily match up exactly in terms of pronunciation.
A good example is, “Come here” becomes “C’mere”
How To Describe an Irish Accent
An Irish accent is a dialect in the English language which is spoken by people from Ireland. It can also be defined as an impression of the Irish language being spoken with a non-rhotic accent.
Here are a few traits to describe the accent more thoroughly:
1. Unique Vocabulary
The Irish language has a unique vocabulary that forms part of the accent’s lexicon. For instance, the word “drunk” is pronounced as “dhrunk.” Additionally, they have words like “cod” for a fool and “snuffing” to mean sniffling.
2. Unique Pronunciation
The Irish language has very stilted pronunciation. They are well-known for their broad accents that are sometimes difficult to understand.
For instance, “day” is pronounced as “deh” while “spider” is pronounced as “spehr.”
They also might use only the first letter of some words, like in the word, “castle.”
3. Unique Grammar and Syntax
Irish speakers make use of unique grammar and syntax while talking and it is usually influenced by their native dialect.
For instance, “Are ye tired for sleepin?’ sounds like “Are ye tire for sli-pin?”
4. Different Slang Terms
The Irish have a huge amount of slang terms. This makes it difficult for other people who are not from the country to understand them clearly.
A few of their slang terms include “bacon,” which is a derogatory term for police, and “nosebag,” which means to eat hungrily.
If you want more fun examples, here are over 101 Irish slang terms.
5. Intonation and Abruptness in Speech
Irish people usually speak with an abrupt tone and use a higher pitch in their voice when they deliver a sentence.
Moreover, they don’t make full stops when speaking.
For instance, instead of saying “Hello there! How are you?” as two separate sentences, an Irish person might blend the two questions into one long, “’ello thar! How are ye?”
Here’s an excellent video on how to do an Irish Accent fast:
Video by The Actors Academy via YouTube—How to write an Irish accent?
The Best Way To Write an Irish Accent
The best way to write an Irish accent is by evoking the accent.
Don’t try to write an Irish accent with all Irish words or only using English words. Instead, use the Irish language to sound like an Irish speaker.
You can say “Ai wahn-na gwo” instead of saying “I want to go,” and “Khal-leh” instead of “castle.” Just remember that the vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and syntax of the Irish accent vary throughout the country.
Reading this article is a great first step in the right direction.
Next, listen to the accent as much as possible on YouTube, audiobooks, or by interacting with Irish speakers on online language communities.
This will help you write accurate portrayals of an Irish accent and not unintentionally misrepresent the language.
While you are writing an Irish accent, it’s best to study a native speaker or a person who is from Ireland to make sure you know how they speak.
From there, you can correct your tone and write an accurate portrayal of what they sound like.
How To Write an Irish Accent (Resources)
Check out these resources for learning how to write an Irish accent:
- Complete Irish Beginner to Intermediate Course: Learn to read, write, speak and understand a new language (Teach Yourself)
- Speak Irish Now (book)
- English to Irish Accent Generator (website)
For learning foreign languages for your fiction, my favorite resource is Rosetta Stone.
Final Thoughts: How To Write an Irish Accent
If you struggle with writing Irish accents (or any accents), don’t panic. Almost every other writer has been there.
Give yourself a little patience, bookmark this article so you can come back to it during your writing, and check out the suggested resources.
Speaking of resources, here are some of my favorites for writing:
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