GC's Gaelic for Beginners

Lesson 8 - All Things Come in Fours, or Let's talk about the weather!

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1. Let me once more start off with a little pronunciation note. Now that we're through with the plosive sounds, let's tackle the nasals. Since n is a bit of an oddball, we'll leave it for later and just have a look at m for now. It's simply [m] like you know it for both broad and slender contexts, and when you lenite it to <mh>, you get a [v~]. The ~ means that you nasalize the following vowel. If you have trouble with that, don't worry about it overmuch, you won't be saying anything different by accident. So, if you can't produce nasalized vowels, just stick with a [v] for starters and you'll be fine.

2. Let's have a look at verbs. In the last bit of Beag air Bheag we did, you will have come across "A bheil... ?" for "Is... ?". Note that it looks entirely different from "Tha" = "Is". These are two different forms of the same verb: Gaelic distinguishes between the so-called dependent and independent forms. You use the dependent form whenever you have something in front of the verb like a question word, or a negation. So, the question word "a" in "a bheil" causes the verb to take the dependent form "bheil", rather than the independent form "tha". This might seem confusing at first, but it only takes some getting used to. We'll all keep making mistakes along the way, but that's just part of the process, right? Just be glad that this isn't Brezhoneg and you don't have to learn lots of personal endings as well!

Since "bi" is an irregular verb, I personally found it easiest to learn it thinking of it as a system of four:

A bheil? - Positive question form (is it?)
Nach eil? - Negative question form (isn't it?)

Tha - Positive sentence/answer form (it is)
Chan eil - Negative sentence/answer form (It isn't)

So, why is it "Ciamar a tha thu?"? A short answer to this problem is that this is a different a, so for now just try to remember it. We'll learn why this is later.

Go to TAIC, Lesson 1. Read their explanations and listen to the examples, then do the exercises.

3. There's a lot of vocabulary to learn. The best way to do this is to practice (who likes crammming long lists of words without using them anyway), so ask each other how you are. Tha mi thrang. A bheil sibh trang cuideachd?

4. Since we've been talking about the weather, let me expand on this as well with some vocabulary. I'll use (b) = boireannta for feminine nouns, and (f) = fìreanta for masculine nouns. Since the article can take some different forms, I'll add that too.

an t-sìde (b) / an aimsir (b) - the weather
grianach - sunny
fuar - cold
blath - warm
brèagha [bri:a] - beautiful
uabhasach - awful
stoirmeil - stormy
an t-uisge (f) - water/rain
an t-sneachda (f) - snow
tha an t-uisge ann - it is raining (literally: the water is there)
fliuch - wet

And some more about questions. You can say:

Nach eil i fuar - Isn't it cold?
Tha i fuar, nach eil? - It's cold, isn't it?
Tha i fuar, a bheil? - It's cold, is it?
Chan eil i fuar, a bheil? - It's not cold, is it?

Since Gaelic has no words for "yes" or "no", you have to repeat the verb to answer:

Tha - yes (it is)
Tha, tha i fuar - yes, it is cold

Chan eil - no (it isn't)
Chan eil, chan eil i fuar - no, it's not cold

So, let's continue talking about the weather: Nach eil i brèagha?
Last edited: 16 June 2022 07:45:39