Prepositions

I am planning to fill up this page with FAQ about the usage of prepositions.

I also recommend the very useful guides on prepositions on the Akerbeltz page, and TAIC Lessons 5-7, 17-18, 45, 47, 55 Appendix 1, and Supplement 1.

What is the difference between ann and anns?

The difference between ann and anns lies with the article. For example, are you talking about a boat or the boat?

  • ann am bàta = in a boat
  • anns a' bhàta = in the boat

Here's a list of other prepositions that add an s with the article:

  • le bàta = with a boat
  • leis a' bhàta = with the boat

  • à bàta = from/out of a boat
  • às a' bhàta = from/out of the boat

  • ri bàta = against/to a boat
  • ris a' bhàta = against/to the boat

In this list, ann has the peculiarity that without the article, it's not just ann, but ann am/ann an.

When do I say an or am?

There are three grammar words that alternate between an and am, depending on what sound the next word starts with.

  • ann am/ann an: in (a)
  • an/am: the (masculine article, nominative case)
  • an/am: their (possessive pronoun, 3rd person plural)


The rule of thumb is, if the next word starts with b, p, f, or m, use am. With all other consonants or vowels, use an. Some examples:

  1. ann am bàta = in a boat
    am pòsadh = the wedding
    am fabhra = their eyelid

  2. ann an taigh = in a house, ann an abhainn = in a river
    an doras = the door, an ubhal = the apple
    an sùil = their eye, an athair = their father

  3. ann an gàrradh = in a garden/yard
    an cù = the dog
    an cas = their leg


So much for the writing - try to memorise bpfm and Bob's your uncle.

However, when it comes to the pronunciation, the story is somewhat different. Try to watch what your mouth is doing with the first consonant when pronuncing
bàta, taigh,etc. Specifically, where you are doing stuff. You will notice that with group 1, you are using your lips, group 2 is pronounced with the tip of your tongue somewhere behind your teeth, and group 3 at the back of your mouth.

Now, what is happening with
an/am? The consonant in an/am moves to where the following consonant is. So, in group 3, it's rather pronounced as "ng", but it is spelled with an n, because the Latin alphabet lacks a symbol there. As to memorising this, well, no need to memorise anything really, just move it to where the following sound is!

BTW, in some dialects the first consonant of the following word can become very soft, up to the point of disappearing, e.g. you say something like "a ngas" for
an cas.
An deasachadh mu dheireadh: 30mh dhen Fhaoilleach 2013 20:19:56