Previously, we learned the present tense for active indicative verbs. Starting with the next lesson, Lesson Nine, we will begin to learn the additional tenses (imperfect, preterite, and future) for active indicative verbs. In this lesson, we will learn all of the remaining tenses for the active indicative of the Gaulish verb ‘to be’ as well as define what the remaining tenses mean. We will learn the verbal construction for how to express ‘to have’ in Gaulish. We will also learn the Gaulish demonstrative adjectives. Finally, we will learn the irregular declension of benā (woman).


In Lesson One, we learned the present active indicative for the Gaulish verb essi, ‘to be.’ Now, we will learn the remaining tenses: imperfect, preterite, and future. First, let’s define what each tense means.

The imperfect tense is a past progressive tense. This means that the action happened in the past but has not been completed yet. It is translated as “was/were –ing” or “used to X.” Examples in English would be “I was sleeping” or “she used to go.”

The preterite tense is the past tense, meaning that the action was a single, completed event. It is translated as “–ed” or “have/has –ed.” Examples in English would be “I walked” or “they have left.”

The future tense denotes an action that will occur in the future. It is translated as “will” or “shall.” Examples in English would be “we will come” or “they shall win.”

For the verb ‘to be,’ there is also the habitual present tense. It is used for an action that is a regular occurrence. It is translated as “usually” or “regularly.” For example, the English “I am sick” would be an example of the copula use of ‘to be,’ while “I am usually sick this time of year” would be an example of the habitual present use.

The paradigm for all of the active indicative tenses (including the present tense) for the Gaulish verb essi ‘to be’ is in the below table.

1st sing immi biīu eia(n) būa(n) bisiū
2nd sing ei biies eiāi būas bisies
3rd sing essi biiet eiāt būe bisiet
1st pl em(m)os biiomos eiāmos būames bisiomos
2nd pl esue biiete eiāte būate bisiete
3rd pl sent(i) biiont eiānt būar bisiont


In Gaulish, like other Celtic languages, there is no verb meaning ‘to have.’ Other Celtic languages use a construction involving the verb ‘to be’ with a pronominal form added to the beginning of the ‘to be’ verbal form.

There is one example of such a construction in Gaulish epigraphy. It comes from an inscription on a vase from Banassac: lubi rutenica onobiia tiedi ulano celicna. The form tiedi is believed to represent ti etsi with a literal meaning of ‘there is to you’ and with a subsequent meaning of ‘you have.’ This construction is a periphrastic expression, i.e. “talking around” to get to a meaning.

Based on the above attested example, the construction to express ‘to have’ in reconstructed Gaulish is as follows:

pronominal suffix + ‘to be’

The pronominal suffixes were introduced in Lesson Two, where we learned that they are used to emphasize the subject of the verb.

If the subject has one singular thing, then the form essi is used. If the subject has more than one thing, then the form sent(i) is used. Thus, the correct form of ‘to be’ that is used is based on the object number rather than the subject number.

The forms for the present active indicative would be:

I have mīessi mīsent(i)
You have tiessi tisent(i)
He has īsessi īssent(i)
She has sīessi sīsent(i)
We have nīsessi nīssent(i)
You (all) have suīsessi suīssent(i)
They (masc) have iisessi iissent(i)
They (fem) have siesessi siessent(i)


The boy has horses.
mapos īssent epūs.

mapos – subject so in nom. sing.
īssentīs pronoun because mapos is masculine + sent because horses is plural
epūs – horses are the object so put in acc. pl.

We have a son and a daughter.
nīssenti mapon etic duxtren.

nīssentinīs pronoun because subject is ‘we’ + senti because objects are ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ so more than one
mapon etic duxtren – objects so put in accusative singular for each one

FINAL NOTE: The periphrastic construction for ‘to have’ is not discussed in the Iextis Galation grammar. However, the construction is used a few times in sample sentences. The above is based on the sample sentences in conjunction with scholarly discussion about the Banassac inscription especially Delamarre (2009, p. 167).


Demonstrative adjectives are words that modify a noun and describe the spatial relationship, whether it be in terms of space or time. These are translated into English by the words “this” (plural “these”) which designate near, and “that” (plural “those”) which designate far. In Gaulish, the two forms are:

sondos, sondā, sindon – this, these

sindos, sindā, sin – that, those

Like regular adjectives, there are forms for masculine, feminine, and neuter, and the demonstrative adjectival form will match the gender of the noun it is modifying.

Also, they decline like regular 2nd and 1st declension adjectives. The neuter sin has nom. and acc. sing. forms of sin and nom. and acc. pl. forms of sindā. The remaining cases for sin are identical to the cases of the masc. sindos. Examples would be:

rēdont epūs sindūs.

They are riding those horses.

ibetsī uinon sindon.

She is drinking that wine.


The Gaulish benā is a 1st declension noun but it has an irregular declension because the root changes. The paradigm for benā is below.

Nom benā mnās
Voc bena mnās
Acc benin mnās
Gen mnās mnānon
Dat mnāi mnābo(s)
Inst mnāi mnābi(s)
Loc mnāi mnābi(s)


Going forward, we will be using a Gaulish dictionary for the vocabulary that we don’t already know. This will help you become familiar with looking up words in a Gaulish dictionary.


Translate the following sentences into English.

1. mapos īssent cunās meiūs.
2. bardoi canont dī uergā drutisamā uiron and mnānon.
3. gabie texton sindon matrē mou.

Click for answer key.

1. The boy has quite large dogs.
2. The bards sing about the very brave deeds of men and women.
3. Take this gift to my mother.

Translate the following sentences into Gaulish.

1. I am usually happy but now I am sad. (Feminine Subject)
2. Winter is the coldest season but he has a quite warm cloak.
3. The woman has a torc as golden as the sun.

Click for answer key.

1. biiū lauenā extos nu immi trougetā.
2. giamos essi amman ougrisamon extos īsessi sagon temmios.
3. bena sīessi torcon concanecon/caneciseton sonnū.