- 1 Intro
- 2 Phrases
- 3 Food and Drink
- 4 Feelings
- 5 Personal Details
- 6 Clothes
- 7 Pets
- 8 Weather
- 8.1 The Weather (is Frequently Awful)
- 8.2 Sìde vs. Aimsir
- 8.3 Conversation Starters 101: Cò Ris a Tha an t-Sìde Coltach?
- 8.4 Taking "Bi" to the Next Level - A bheil
- 8.5 Talking "Bi" to the Next Level After the Next Level - Nach eil
- 8.6 Ann
- 8.7 An-dràsta vs. A-nis
- 8.8 Gu math
- 8.9 Verbal Nouns
- 8.10 a’ faireachdainn
- 9 Phrases 2
- 10 Numbers
- 11 Family
- 12 Food 2
- 13 Colours
- 14 Home
- 15 About Me
- 16 Phrases 3
- 17 Body
- 18 Animals
- 19 Names
- 20 Hobbies
- 21 Travel
- 22 Feelings 2
Welcome to Scottish Gaelic on Duolingo!
Fàilte gu Duolingo na Gàidhlig!
Gaelic, although it may appear quite different at first is a very regular language with consistent grammar rules and a sensible spelling system that accurately represents Gaelic sounds.
There is no indefinite article in Gaelic. The word cù which means dog could be translated as either "a dog" or simply "dog". Nice and easy, so far so good. This skill does not explore words with the definite article (equivalent to "the") at all.
The basic word order of Scottish Gaelic is:
Verb | Subject | Object
The important thing to remember at this stage is that the verb (doing word) generally goes at the start of a sentence.
In a basic descriptive sentence the adjective would come at the end.
Tha | Anna | snog
Verb | Subject | Adjective
This sentence translates as "Anna is nice."
Using "tha" and "chan eil"
"Tha" and "chan eil" are both present tense forms of the verb to be. This verb is your friend. Think of it as your Gaelic bestie. There are lots of ways to use it that will unfold as the course progresses.
Seo is a useful word. It can mean either "this is" or "here is" although for consistency we have tended to translate it as "this is".
As a general rule, words are spelled as they're pronounced in Scottish Gaelic. Once you are comfortable with Gaelic spelling (don't worry, we'll help) then the system will be a learners best friend. Generally, stress is on the first syllable in Gaelic. We are lucky to have recordings from a range of speakers. Dialectal differences are actually quite small in Scottish Gaelic and our recordings are an example of the most standardised form of Gaelic. You will hear some small variations in accent, which will help prepare you for Gaelic in the wild. Pronunciation challenges found throughout our course will help accustom you to Gaelic sounds not found in English.
An 18 Letter Alphabet
The Gaelic alphabet contains 18 letters. This is the perfect amount of letters. Anything more would be frivolous and wasteful. There is no J, K, Q, V, W, X Y or Z. This is a major inconvenience during games of Gaelic Scrabble, but otherwise presents no difficulty.
IRN BRU is Scotland's best selling soft drink. It is fizzy and orange and comes from Cumbernauld.
Leat vs. Leibh
In this skill you will come across some simple ways of thanking people. Like many European languages the form you use will depend on who you are speaking to.
- Tapadh leat - When thanking one peer or one child.
- Tapadh leibh - When thanking someone older or more senior.
- Tapadh leibh - When thanking more than one person, regardless of age or formality needed.
This distinction runs through the language and although it can seem a little confusing at first, practice will embed it very quickly. You are very unlikely to offend anyone by choosing the wrong form, and even if you did they probably wouldn't have much craic anyway.
The Adjective follows the Noun
The adjective almost always follows the noun in Gaelic.
- cat mòr - a big cat
- cù snog - a nice dog
Masculine or Feminine?
All nouns in Gaelic have a gender, masculine or feminine. We used to have a neuter gender too but we lost it on a ferry in the middle ages.
The Magic of Lenition
The gender the noun often causes a special type of consonant mutation called lenition. You can see an example of this with the words like madainn and oidhche (both feminine nouns) and feasgar (a masculine noun).
- Feasgar math - Good afternoon / evening
- Madainn mhath - Good morning
- Oidhche mhath - Good night
Singular feminine nouns usually cause this lenition (in writing) in adjectives starting with the consonants:
- b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, and t
But not in those beginning with:
- l, n, r, sg, sm, sp, st, and vowels.
You don't need to memorise this now, the best way to become comfortable with is is gradual exposure throughout the course. Lenition happens for lots of reasons.
The Vocative Case
The vocative case is used when addressing something or someone. It is cool and sounds great and is absolutely worth learning. We do not go into it in (forensic) detail at this stage, but it helps to be able to recognise the vocative case in action at this stage, before we go to town on it in the Names 1.
Here are some examples:
Caraid is the Gaelic for "friend":
- caraid - nominative Case (the basic form) = Seo caraid (This is a friend).
- a charaid - vocative case (used to address someone) = Halò, a chàraid (Hello, friend).
Tidsear is the Gaelic for "teacher":
- tidsear - nominative case - Seo tidsear (This is a teacher)
- a thidseir - vocative case - Halò, a thidseir (Hello, teacher)
Piuthar is the Gaelic for "sister":
- piuthar - nominative case - Seo piuthar (This is a sister.)
- a phiuthar - vocative case - Halò, a phiuthar (Hello, sister)
When using the vocative with a noun starting with a vowel the "a" particle disappears. It is common in most languages when vowels come together like this for one of them to drop off:
Ollamh is the Gaelic for professor:
- ollamh - nominative case = Seo ollamh (This is a professor)
- ollaimh - vocative case - Halò, ollaimh (Hello, professor)
Food and Drink
I like Gaelic
In this skill, you will come across talking about your likes and dislikes.
- Is toil leam – I like
- Cha toil leam – I don’t like
These phrases don’t translate nicely into English word for word so for now, it’s best to just think of the full phrase as one item as this stage.
Leam - our first prepositional pronoun
A prepositional pronoun is when a pronoun (me, you, him etc.) comes together with a preposition (with, on, at etc.) to make a beautiful word baby. We will see many more examples of these in the course and you do not need to understand what a prepostional pronoun is at this stage to use leam like a champ.
In this lesson, we’re saying something is, or isn’t, liked “by me” using the prepositional pronoun leam.
Leam consists of two words:
- a pronoun - mi (me/I)
- and a preposition - le (with/by)
Is toil leam Gàidhlig – I like Gaelic (Gaelic is liked by me)
These will become clearer in future lessons so for now, remember the phrases Is toil leam and Cha toil leam to talk about your likes and dislikes and keep an eye out for future prepositional pronouns.
|with/by you (singular)||leat|
|with/by you (plural)||leibh|
Toil vs. Toigh
It is common to see toigh in place of toil.
Is toigh leam = Is toil leam
We have opted to teach toil as it is more common. These are two very similar but distinct words and neither is correct over the other.
Guga for beginners
Guga (or the Ness Chicken) is a famous delicacy from the Isle of Lewis. The people of Ness have been taking fledgling gannets from a remote rock in the ocean for food since time immemorial. The young birds are salted on the spot and brought back to the island for food. This is one of only two seabird hunts still continuing in Europe. The Royal Society for the Protection of birds regard the hunt as ecologically sustainable.
Guga is generally something you either love or hate. It tastes a bit like mackerel and the smell as it is cooked is generally a lot stronger than the taste. Some love it. It has once between describe as "strong duck stewed in cod liver oil and salt". Blasta! (Tasty!).
Haggis - Scotland's Mystery Mince
Haggis is all the best bits of a sheep (the lungs, heart and liver) rolled up into it's stomach and boiled. It is traditionally eaten on Burn's night on the 25th of January but is popular all year round. Vegetarian Haggis is also popular and worth a try. Neither variety roams free on the hills. The wild Haggis is extinct.
Now It's Personal (Pronouns)
A personal pronoun is a word that replaces the name of a person or persons and we are looking here at the basic forms of these. Gaelic also has forms used to show emphasis, which you will stumble upon on your quest in due course.
Personal pronouns in Gaelic are nice and simple. There is no distinction between "I" and "me", "he" and "him", "she" and "her", or "them" and "they" as we find in English. There is an informal singular word for "you" (thu) and also a formal / plural (sibh). This follows the same pattern we explored with leat and leibh.
|mi||me / I|
|e||he / him / it (when standing in for a masculine word)|
|i||she / her / it (when standing in for a feminine word)|
|sinn||we / us|
|sibh||you (to show respect to someone older or more senior, or for more than one person|
|iad||they / them|
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Just before anyone gets freaked out, saying sorry in Gaelic is pretty easy. We just wanted to shoehorn an Elton John reference in here.
In this skill we explore the use of "duilich" and "gabh mo leisgeul". Both of these can be used to apologise in different contexts.
- Tha mi duilich - You would generally use this when you are actually sorry i.e when you are experiencing the actual emotion of sorrow, are sympathising or are apologising with sincerity. Use this when things get real.
- Gabh mo leisgeul - This means "excuse me" and would translate word for word into English as "take my excuse". You would more likely use this when you bump into someone or spill their IRN BRU. You can also use it to flag someone down and get their attention.
Gaelic's Golden Rule - Broad with Broad / Slender with Slender
The Gaelic spelling can seem intimidating at first glance, although it is on the whole very sensible and regular once you are accustomed to the rules. This golden rule however will help you know if you are going in the right direction. Gaelic shares this rule with the Irish language.
In Gaelic vowels are regarded as either broad or slender.
- Broad - a, o, u
- Slender - i, e
When vowels are split by a consonant, they will either be broad and broad on both sides or slender and slender. This won't tell you exactly how to spell a word, but will generally rule out many wrong combinations.
Examples in the Feelings skill include:
- Broad with Broad - brònach, spòrsail, ciamar, Seumas
- Slender with Slender - leisgeul, duilich, toilichte
There are a few exceptions, but let's ignore them for now. These are usually words that were formerly a composite of two words that have been squished together.
Sibh - Shiv or Shoo
Most pronunciation differences in Gaelic are fairly mild. However, there are two common ways to say this word:
- Sibh (pronounced as shiv) - The most frequently heard in this course by far.
- Sibh (pronounced as shoo) - Common in Lewis and the North of Scotland. This occurs in a couple of places in the course. Bonus points when you spot it!
To Be Or Not To Be - Using the verb "Bi".
Like Spanish, Gaelic has two verbs which mean "to be". We have encountered two presents tense forms of bi so far:
Tha - The present tense positive form:
- E.g Tha Mòrag snog. - Morag is nice.
Chan eil - the present tense negative form:
- E.g. Chan eil Mòrag snog. - Morag is not nice.
I Am From - Using "Bi"
To describe where you are from you in Gaelic you can use the verb "bi" in combination with a preposition:
à - from
- Tha mi à Alba. - I am from Scotland.
- Tha IRN BRU à Alba. - IRN BRU is from Scotland.
- Chan eil mi à Alba. - I am not from Scotland.
- Chan eil IRN BRU à Sasainn. - IRN BRU is not from England.
None of the place names you come across in this unit have a definite article in front of them, we will explore this later on it the course.
To ask someone else where they are from you would use:
- Cò às a tha thu? - One person who is not significantly older or with more seniority
- Cò às a tha sibh? - More than one person or someone older or with more seniority
Is Mise Duo
The other verb that means "to be" is the copula is. Forms of bi like tha and chan eil are more often used to describe things. The verb is is often used to define things:
- Is mise Mòrag - I am Morag
Morag knows who she is. We hear ya Morag. Morag is not describing, but defining herself as Morag.
Spoiler: We can, and will do a lot more with this verb as we explore further.
To ask someone who they are you would use:
- Cò thusa? - One person who is not significantly older or with more seniority
- Cò sibhse? - More than one person or someone older or with more seniority
There is also a phrase for "what is your name" that we will encounter, but for the moment this will do the same job.
Emphatic Personal Pronouns - a first glimpse
Mise is the emphatic form of the personal pronoun mi.
Likewise, thusa is an emphatic from of thu and sibhse is an emphatic form of sibh.
Emphatic forms will be explored in detail, but remembering these as part of these common phrases will be really helpful at this stage of the tree.
Congratulations, you have used the two most common verbs in Gaelic! You are smashing this out of the park!
Shoes on me, Pants on you - Orm and Ort
Remember the prepositional pronouns leam (with me) and leat (with you)? Remember how fun that was? Good times, those were the days.
This skill introduces two new prepositional pronouns to conquer. They are really useful for describing what you are (or aren't) wearing, as well as having loads of other uses.
Orm - on me
This is a combination of the words air meaning on and mi (meaning me / I). Although in English we might say "on me", in Gaelic we must combine these words into one mighty superword.
- Tha drathais orm. - I have underpants on.
- Chan eil lèine orm. - I do not have a shirt on.
Ort - on you
This is a combination of the words air meaning on and thu meaning you. There is another word we use to show respect or when talking to more than one person. Probably best to begin with telling one person what they are wearing, before moving on to crowds.
- Tha drathais ort. - You have underpants on.
- Chan eil lèine ort. - You have a shirt on.
Is it a verb? Is it a noun? It's sort of both, and it is super useful. This is the first time we come across a verbal noun in this course. These are similar to "-ing" words in English. This is a common way of forming the present tense in Gaelic. If you can use one verbal noun (you can, you've got this), then you can use any of them.
Verbal Noun 1 - ag iarraidh
- Tha mi ag iarraidh fèileadh. - I am wanting a kilt.
- Tha mi ag iarraidh IRN BRU. - I am wanting IRN BRU.
- Tha mi ag iarraidh taigeis. - I am wanting Haggis.
Verbal Noun 2 - a’ ceannach
- Tha mi a’ ceannach fèileag. - I am buying a kilt.
- Tha mi a’ ceannach IRN BRU. - I am buying IRN BRU.
- Tha mi a’ ceannach taigeis. - I am buying Haggis.
This pattern repeats with almost all verbal nouns. Once you know one, it's just a case of learning new ones!
N.B When the word begins with a vowel the verbal noun is formed formed with ag:
- ag iarraidh
Gaelic vowels from different words do not like to hang out together and the G keeps them separate.
When the word begins with a consonant, the verbal noun is formed with an a' at the beginning:
- a' ceannach
I am wanting a kilt
Those of you from outside of Scotland may find these structures a little strange, but they more accurately reflect what is going on in the Gaelic than "I want a kilt". This type of structure is actually pretty common in Scotland, possibly in part due to the influence of Gaelic.
Phrasing it in this way will really help us to teach the differences between things that are happening more immediately (I am wanting) and things that happen regularly or as a matter of habit as the course progresses (I want).
Fèileag - Kilt
A kilt is a piece of cloth and SO MUCH MORE. Traditionally worn by men as part of Scottish Highland dress, they are also worn by women and children. Each family (or clan) has their own tartan (or several). Underpants are optional.
- Tha fèileadh orm. - I have a kilt on.
- Chan eil drathais orm. - I don't have underpants on.
Congratulations, you have just learned how to tell people if they are wearing clothes or not!
Agam - At Me
Agam is another prepositional pronoun and consists of the words aig (meaning "at") and mi (me / I). It would be wrong to say aig mi. We have to combine the two words into a superword - agam.
We don't have a verb like "have" in Gaelic (totally unnecessary, honest) but we can use combinations of "aig" to show possession.
- Tha peata agam. - I have a pet. (There is a pet at me)
- The cù agam. - I have a dog. (There is a dog at me)
Agad - At You
Agad is a combination of aig (at) and thu (you - informal / singular).
- Tha peata agad. - You have a pet. (There is a pet at you)
- Tha IRN BRU agad. - You have IRN BRU. (There is IRN BRU at you)
We can use lots more combinations of aig to show what we have and don't have.
Glè - Very
Lenition (adding an h after the first consonant) is part of what makes Gaelic so funky. The word glè causes lenition in the adjective that follows it whenever possible.
- Glè + beag = Glè bheag (Very small)
- Glè + math = Glè mhath (Very good)
You can't lenite a vowel. Just try it. It's impossible.
- Glè + òg = Glè òg (very young)
Is it a verb? Is it a noun? It's sort of both, and it is super useful. This may be the first time we come across a verbal noun in this course. These are similar to -ing words in English. This is a common way of forming the present tense in Gaelic. If you can use one verbal noun (you can, you've got this), then you can use any of them.
Verbal Noun 1 - a’ faicinn
- Tha mi a’ faicinn cat. - I am seeing a cat.
- Tha mi a’ faicinn muc. - I am seeing a pig.
N.B See the notes for Clothes 1 to see why we use "I am seeing" and not "I see".
Verbal Noun 2 - a’ cluinntinn
- Tha mi a’ cluinntinn cat. - I am hearing a cat.
- Tha mi a’ cluinntinn tunnag. - I am hearing a duck.
This pattern repeats with almost all verbal nouns. Once you know one, it's just a case of learning new ones!
This is the Gaelic for spider and it means "a fierce little stag". Another much less common word for spider is "poca-salainn" which means a bag of salt. Top class words. 10/10.
Currently the audio for damhan-allaidh doesn't work when the word appears on one tile due to the way the software reads the hyphen. It is read as normal in the recorded sentences.
The Weather (is Frequently Awful)
Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. To balance this out it was inflicted was some interesting weather! This is often a hot topic in Gaelic conversations and this skill will teach you to describe rain, snow, wind and also the word for sunny (in case you happen to be using your Gaelic abroad).
Disclaimer: It's not that bad. Just remember a jacket (seacaid).
The most simple way to describe the weather is to use tha + i + an adjective,
- Tha i fuar. - It is cold.
- Tha i fliuch. - It is wet.
- Chan eil i blàth. - It is not warm.
The word for "weather" (sìde) is feminine in Gaelic and so we teach the personal pronoun i and not e. The word for "day" in Gaelic (latha) is masculine and so you can also see e used in place of i. Phrases like Tha i fuar are certainly more common than Tha e fuar, but neither is wrong and you would be understood with either.
Sìde vs. Aimsir
There are two common words for weather in Gaelic:
Sìde and Aimsir
Both are common, both are feminine and both are equally easy to use. We have stuck with sìde at the moment so as not to overload your burgeoning Gaelic brains.
Conversation Starters 101: Cò Ris a Tha an t-Sìde Coltach?
This is how you ask what the weather is like in Gaelic. Moaning about the weather is like catnip for Scottish people. This is your in.
This is probably the longest phrase you have come across so far. Don't worry about its constituent parts at this stage, just think of it as a set phrase to remember. Cut yourself some slack if you muddle it up. It is very useful, so it is worth tackling. It is also very fun to say.
You could also say - Ciamar a tha an t-sìde? This is not wrong, but it is a lot less idiomatic and not nearly as common in everyday speech
Taking "Bi" to the Next Level - A bheil
This is the question form of "bi".
- Tha i fuar. - It is cold.
- Chan eil i fuar. - It is not cold.
- A bheil i fuar? - Is it cold?
To say "yes" you would respond tha.
To say "no" you would respond chan eil.
Talking "Bi" to the Next Level After the Next Level - Nach eil
This is the negative interrogative form of bi. I like to think of it as a question with an attitude. With most of these questions you would expect the answer to be yes, as they are not really genuine requests for information!
- Nach eil i fuar? - Isn't it cold?
- Nach eil Iain dona? - Isn't Iain bad?
Also, great for starting conversations about the weather or how terrible Iain is.
We come across another structure that at first glance looks a little more complicated using the preposition ann.
Ann is quite open ended but we use to indicate that something is present. It is very common when we are discussing the weather. It can mean "present", “here”, or “there”, depending on the context:
- Tha reòthadh ann. - There is frost.
- Tha dealanaich ann. - There is lightning.
This structure can be used for much more than the weather:
- Tha Seòras ann. - George is here.
- Tha cat ann. - A cat is here.
Practice makes perfect here. You will see this combination used a lot in Gaelic.
An-dràsta vs. A-nis
Gaelic has two common words meaning "now":
an-dràsta - just now, as in right at this moment; implies, that the situation could change.
a-nis - a more generalised now; could also mean nowadays.
- Tha Iain snog a-nis. - Iain is nice now.
- Tha Iain ann an-dràsta. - Iain is here just now.
Gu math is a really useful adverb that can be used in a few different ways. We have seen it used to indicate that someone is well:
- Tha mi gu math. - I am well.
We can also use it in combination with an adjective to change the meaning in a couple of ways. Context in a real conversation to which one is meant, but we accept both translations in the course.
Gu math as "quite" - as in "a little" or "a wee bit":
- Tha i gu math sgòthach. - It is quite cloudy.
- Tha i gu math blàth. - It is quite warm.
Gu math as "really" - as in "very" or "significantly".
- Tha i gu math gaothach. - It is really windy.
- Tha i gu math grianach. - It is really sunny.
See Clothes 1 for an explanation of what these bad boys are.
- Tha mi a’ faireachdainn sgìth. - I am feeling tired.
- Tha mi a’ faireachdainn fuar. - I am feeling cold.
N.B See the notes for Clothes 1 to see why we use "I am feeling" and not "I feel".
Certain exercises in the course involving tiles often render words like a’ faireachdainn as:
This is due to how the code reads the apostrophe, and is a problem shared with other courses. Duolingo staff are working on a fix. The correct form with an apostrophe should always appear first - but please do bear this in mind when the tile challenges appear.
Cheers! Slàinte is a Gaelic word for health and this is a common way to give a toast.
Slàinte is a feminine word and so it lenites (adds an 'h') to the adjective that follows when possible.
- Slàinte + math = Slàinte mhath.
a Chàirdean - addressing a group
This is a great way to address a group of people. The Gaelic word for "friends" is caraidean but this changes to a chàirdean in the vocative case (the form you use to address people or things).
Is sinne Runrig - Gaelic Superstars
Runrig is a now retired band, formed in the Isle of Skye in the 70s. They are popular, both in Scotland and overseas. Many people have learned Gaelic having first experienced the language through the lyrics of Runrig.
- Is sinne - We are
- Is sinne Runrig. - We are Runrig.
Sinne is the emphatic form of sinn (we / us).
Informal Singular vs. Polite / Plural
We have already seen this distinction between thu / sibh and leat / leibh.
The phrases taught in this unit are designed to give you things you can use from the very start. Don't worry about breaking them down into their individual parts at this stage. One thing to keep an eye on is the distinction between the informal singular that occurs in this unit.
- 'S e do bheatha - You are welcome (to someone of a similar age or younger)
- 'S e ur beatha - You are welcome (to more than one person or someone older or more senior)
- Dè an t-ainm a th’ ort? - What is your name (to someone of a similar age or younger)
- Dè an t-ainm a th’ oirbh? - To someone older or more senior.
Dè tha dol? - What's doing?
This is an extremely common phrase. A common response is chan eil mòran which means "not much".
A very informal way to say goodbye in Gaelic is tìoraidh (bye / cheerio) or tìoraidh an-dràsta (bye / cheerio now).
There are more formal ways to say goodbye in Gaelic:
- Mar sin leat - Goodbye (for someone of similar age or younger)
- Mar sin leibh - Goodbye (for multiple people or for someone older or more senior)
This phrase originated as a response to beannachd leat / leibh which literally literally means "blessing with you".
Mar sin leat / leibh would traditionally have been used as a response to a goodbye only and translates as "with you also".
This distinction is no longer strictly observed in modern Gaelic and both mar sin leat / leibh and beannachd leat / leibh can be used to say goodbye, regardless of who initiated the goodbye.
Aon (one) causes lenition
The numbers one and two in Gaelic cause lenition on the noun that follows whenever possible:
- aon + bàta = aon bhàta (one boat)
- aon + piseag = aon phiseag (one kitten)
Dà (two) causes lenition and is singular
Gaelic used to maintain quite a distinct "dual" form when referring to two things only. This has in many ways broken down, but it is important to know that two things in Gaelic are not regarded as plural. Dà (two), like aon (one) causes lenition on the noun that follows.
- dà + bàta = dà bhàta (two boats)
- dà + piseag = dà phiseag (two kittens)
Trì is the magic number
Plurals begin at three in Gaelic.
trì = 3 | ceithir = 4 | còig = 5
- trì bàtaichean - three boats
- ceithir bàtaichean - four boats
- còig piseagan - five kittens
Cia mheud? - How many?
This is how we ask "how many" in Gaelic. Unlike in English, when we ask this in Gaelic we use the singular form of the noun?
- bàta - boat
- bàtaichean - boats
- Cia mheud bàta? - How many boats?
A common alternative to cia mheud is cò mheud which means the same thing and occurs later on in the course.
That was pretty easy. COUNT yourselves lucky...tha mi duilich (I am sorry).
Feminine and Masculine Nouns
As we have seen, all nouns in Gaelic are either masculine or feminine.
Feminine nouns cause lention (adding an 'h') to the adjective that follows.
- piuthar + math = piuthar mhath (a good sister)
- piuthar + mòr = piuthar mhòr (a big sister)
- piuthar + beag = piuthar bheag (a little sister)
Vowels cannot lenite
- piuthar + onarach = piuthar onarach (an honest sister)
- piuthar + ainmeil = piuthar ainmeil (a famous sister)
L, N, R, and SG, SM, SP and ST do not take an extra 'h':
- piuthar + luath = piuthar luath (a fast sister)
- piuthar + neònach = piuthar neònach (a strange sister)
- piuthar + reamhar = piuthar reamhar (a fat sister)
- piuthar + sgriosail = piuthar sgriosail (a dreadful sister)
Adjectives lenite when they are linked to the noun but not in a simple descriptive statement, using for example tha:
- Piuthar mhath. - A good sister.
- Tha piuthar math. - A sister is good.
DISCLAIMER - Although words specific to men are generally masculine and those specific to women generally feminine this is not always the case. Boireannach (woman) is taught later in the course and is a masculine noun. That'll keep you on your toes!
Aon and Dà cause lenition
Who doesn't love a re-cap? Aon (one) and dà (two) cause lentition on the noun that follows if possible:
- aon bhràthair - one brother
- dà bhràthair - two brothers
- dà phiuthar - two sisters
There is a specific number that is used for counting two people. Strictly, this is the more correct way of two counting people:
- Dithis bhràthair - two brothers
- Dithis phiuthar - two sisters
The numbers used specifically for people (including dithis) will be taught in the next iteration of the course. Dà bhràthair and dà phiuthar are used (probably increasingly so) but this is less idiomatic.
Plurals are formed in a number of ways in Gaelic and we will explore this in detail (excruciating detail) later in the course.
We encounter some examples in this skill.
- piuthar - sister
- peathraichean - sisters
- bràthair - brother
- bràithrean - brothers
Againn - at us
Remember our good friends agam and agad. This is another one of those mighty prepositional pronouns with aig. Againn consists of aig (with) and sinn (we / us).
- Tha cù againn. - We have a dog.
- Tha uisge-beatha againn. - We have whisky.
An duine agam - My husband
Duine is the Gaelic word for a person or a man. The word agam is often used to show possession.
N.B. - We will explore words with the definite article soon!
- an duine - the man
- agam - at me
- an duine agam - my husband
The word duine doesn't really mean husband until it is combined with aig to show possession.
The Masculine Article
This is it, the moment we have all been waiting for. The formulation of the masculine article in Gaelic. My heart is in my mouth.
Words beginning with BFMP - Am
- am bàta - the boat
- am mions - the mince
- am piobar - the pepper
There are two great mnemonics to remember this:
- Big Fat Members of Parliament
- Big Fluffy Mucky Pigs
All other consonants - An
- an sùgh - the juice
- an leann - the beer
Vowels - An t-
- an t-uisge - the water
- an t-aran - the bread
- an t-ìm - the butter
I'll tell you what. That was worth the wait. Can't wait for the feminine article, buzzing for that.
Gaelic doesn't have a verb for "have". Who needs it right? Instead we can use the preposition aig (at) to show possession.
- Tha cat aig Calum. - Calum has a cat.
- Tha bàta aig Anna. - Anna has a boat.
Lenition (adding an h) after feminine articles
We come across some more examples of adjectives being lenited after feminine nouns here:
Dreasa is feminine noun. It means a dress.
- dreasa + gorm = dreasa ghorm (a blue dress)
- dreasa + geal = dreasa gheal (a white dress)
- dreasa + fada = dreasa fhada (a long dress)
- dreasa + dearg = dreasa dhearg (a red dress)
- dreasa dhearg - a red dress
- Tha dreasa dearg. - A dress is red.
Feumaidh mi / Feumaidh tu
- Feumaidh mi - I need
- Feumaidh mi biadh. - I need food.
- Feumaidh tu - You need.
- Feumaidh tu biadh. - You need food.
After feumaidh you use tu and not thu. We will see this with some other verbs and we will point it out whenever it occurs. We've got your back (druim).
Gu leòr - Galore!
The English word galore (think Whisky Galore) comes from the Gaelic "gu leòr" meaning enough.
- math gu leòr - good enough
- goirid gu leòr - short enough
A 'bonnet' or 'bunnet' is a type of functional but stylish woollen flat cap. The Gaelic for this is bonaid. The bonnet is a key part of a school of fashion we have just made up called "crofter chic".
The Grass is Blue - A Different Spectrum of Colour
It is often said that languages give you a different perspective on the world. The colour spectrum in Gaelic doesn't always align with the English one. One of the main differences is how Gaelic views blue and green.
- Liath - light blue but can also mean grey.
- Gorm - blue / blue-green
- Uaine - Green
- Gorm - Green in nature
- Tha am feur gorm. - The grass is green.
There are some other differences, which we will explain as we come across them and we will go into further detail on how Gaelic colours differ.
Remember our friends is toil and cha toil?
Get ready to meet the more questionable member of the family - an toil
- An toil leat am biadh? - Do you like the food? (Asking one person of a similar age or younger)
- An toil leibh am biadh? - Do you like the food? (Asking more than one person, or someone older or more senior)
Càite a bheil?
This is how you ask where something is:
- Càite a bheil am biadh? - Where is the food?
The Gaelic Orthographic Conventions document (not a page turner) recommends this now be written as Càit a bheil. This is pronounced the same and both spellings are frequently seen, although the one we have used is more retro. We will probably update this in the next iteration of the course.
Aige / Aice / Aca
- aca = aig + iad (at them)
- Tha taigh aca. - They have a house.
- aice = aig + i (at her / it)
- Tha taigh aice. - She has a house.
- aige = aig + e (at her / it)
- Tha taigh aige. - He has a house.
Aige and aice are fairly similar in pronunciation, context will almost always make it clear which one is being used.
A small house or a toilet? - An important distinction
The Gaelic for the small house is an taigh beag.
The Gaelic for a toilet is an taigh-beag.
All language is beautiful.
Ann an / Ann am
In this skill we start to look at ways to say where you are.
ann am - in (before BFMP)
- baile - a town ann am baile - in a town
- margadh - a market ann am margadh - in a market
Remember "Big Fat Members of Parliament"
ann an - in (before all other letters)
- sgoil - a school ann an sgoil - in a school
- ospadal - a hospital ann an ospadal - in a hospital
N.B although (ann an) and (ann am) resemble the definite masculine articles (an) / (am), we only use them before indefinite nouns (words without a the before them). We teach how to say "in the" later in the course.
This verbal noun can be combined with ann an/ ann am to show where you live:
- Tha mi a’ fuireach ann an Glaschu. - I am living in Glasgow.
("I live in Glasgow" would be an acceptable translation, but "living" more closely reflects what is going on with the Gaelic).
This verbal noun can be combined with ann an/ ann am to show where you work:
- Tha mi ag obair ann am Peairt. - I am working in Perth.
("I work in Perth" would be an acceptable translation here, but "working" more closely reflects what is going on with the Gaelic).
In Barra, not on Barra
In Gaelic you are in an Island, rather than on an island.
- ann am Barraigh - in Barra
- ann am Muile - in Mull
- ann an Leòdhas - in Lewis
An-seo / An-sin
Remember seo and sin? We can use these related words to show location.
- Tha mi an-seo. - I am here.
- Tha mi an-sin. - I am there.
Drop it like it's hot - the disappearing "mi"
In Gaelic it is quite common to drop the word "mi" in certain phrases when answering a question.
- Iain: Ciamar a tha thu, Eilidh?
- Eilidh: Tha mi gu math.
- Eilidh: Tha gu math.
- Iain: Ciamar a tha thu, Eilidh?
- Eilidh: Tha mi gu dòigheil.
- Eilidh: Tha gu dòigheil.
Tha Gàidhlig agam - I have Gaelic
This is how you would say you are a Gaelic speaker in the language. Whereas in English you might say you "speak" a language, in Gaelic you "have"" languages.
To say you speak some or a little Gaelic you would say.
- Tha beagan Gàidhlig agam. - I have a little Gaelic.
Commands and Plural / Polite Commands
Remember the "leat/leibh" and "thu/sibh" distinction. We'll it features in many of the phrases used in this unit.
The root (or basic) form of the verb is also the command form in Gaelic. This is how you boss people around in Gaelic speaking communities.
- thig - come
- thig a-steach - come in
When addressing more than one person or a person more senior, you use a special polite / plural command by adding aibh or ibh.
- Thigibh a-steach a chàirdean. - Come in, friends.
- Thigibh a-steach a sheanair. - Come in, Granddad.
We add "ibh" and not "aibh" because of Gaelic's golden spelling rule - broad with broad (a,o,u), slender with slender (i,e).
Congratulations (Enjoy your news)
Meal do naidheachd is how you would say congratulations to someone who is younger than you or around about your age.
- It literally translates as "enjoy your news" which is objectively nice.
For someone older / more senior or a group of people you would use:
- Mealaibh ur naidheachd. (Remember broad with broad!)
You don't need to worry too much about the details of these changes at this stage as we will break them down in much more detail. It is worth becoming accustomed to these common polite forms so that you can use these in the wild from the get go!
Gabhaibh mo leisgeul - Take my excuse
We have already met the informal / singular form "gabh mo leisgeul" in Feelings 1.
We would use "gabhaibh mo leisgeul" for saying excuse me to someone older / more senior or a group of people of any age.
- Gabhaibh mo leisgeul a chàirdean. - Excuse me, friends.
- Gabhaibh mo leisgeul a sheanmhair. - Excuse me, grandmother.
FULL HOUSE - Prepositional Pronouns with "aig"
BINGO! I am not sure if this is how bingo works but you have just collected your first full set of prepositional pronouns!
- agam - at me
- agad - at you (informal / singular)
- aige - at him / it (masculine noun)
- aice - at her / it (feminine noun)
- againn - at us
- agaibh - at you (formal / plural)
- aca - at them
Congratulations, you are basically Donnie Dòtaman. If you don't know who Dòtaman is then please consider this the only piece of homework the course will ever issue!
Gaelic has some different colours that we use for hair and fur.
- ruadh - red / ginger (not dearg)
falt ruadh - red hair
- bàn - fair / blonde (not buidhe or geal)
falt bàn - fair hair
- liath - grey (not glas)
falt liath - grey hair
Your head and your hair are on you
- Tha falt donn ort. - You have hair.
- Tha ceann mòr ort. - You have a big head.
Using "agam" in this instance would imply that you have come into possession of a hair or a head!
Using "agam" is perfectly normal with most body parts however!
Tha beul mòr agam! - I have a big mouth!
Broilleach is a body part, not a chest of drawers
For the avoidance of doubt refers to the area above your stomach but below the neck. It is not furniture or something pirates would store treasure in before submerging.
Duine - a person or a man
Duine is a word that has a dual meaning. It can mean either "man" or the ungendered "person" depending on the context.
Prepositional Pronouns with "air"" - air / oirre
We have previously used prepositional pronouns with "air" to describe what we are wearing and in this skill we use them to talk about our hair (and also our head). air (on) + e = air (on him) Tha falt fada air. - He has long hair.
air (on) + i = oirre (on her) Tha falt fada oirre. - She has long hair.
The Feminine Article
All words in Gaelic are either masculine or feminine. We have already come across the masculine article in Food 2, but this is the first time we have come across the feminine article, outside of the odd set phrase.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
- It is slightly more complicated than the masculine article, but not by much.
- The rules are the rules. Gaelic is a very regular language. Once you know them you know them.
- Don't try and memorise which words are masculine and feminine in a list. You will gradually notice patterns related to gender, and memorise which category common words fall into. We will hold you hand. Don't worry about remembering the genders of all words you come across, unless you find that helps. As the saying goes, Fort William wasn't built in a day.
Category 1 - B C G P M
a’ + lenition
bean (a wife)
a’ bhean (the wife)
caileag (a girl)
a' chaileag (the girl)
grian (a sun)
a’ ghrian (the sun)
piuthar (a sister)
a’ phiuthar (the sister)
màthair (a mother)
a mhàthair (the mother)
Category 2 - F
an + lenition
faoileag (a seagull)
an fhaoileag (the seagull)
feannag (a crow)
an fheannag (the crow)
Category 3 - S followed by vowels, n, r and l
an + t-
sùil (an eye)
an t-sùil (the eye)
sràid (a street)
an t-sràid (the street)
slige (a shell)
an t-slige (the shell)
Category 4 - All other sounds
an + no change
ialtag (a bat)
an ialtag (the bat)
eaglais (a church)
an eaglais (the church)
deoch (a drink)
an deoch (the drink)
rèis (a race)
an rèis (the race)
nathair (a snake)
an nathair (the snake)
staidhre (a staircase)
an staidhre (the staircase)
sgoil (a school)
an sgoil (the school)
Correction - Fuil (blood) is spelt with an accent on the u in this skill which is incorrect. We have it earmarked to change it, but that requires us to create a new version of the current tree. As soon as we are able to, we will change this. The pronunciation in the sound files is still correct. Thanks for your patience!
The Vocative Case
Gaelic has four cases. The perfect amount for any language. Much of what we have looked at has been in the nominative case - which could be described as the basic way of doing things. Think of it as vanilla flavour.
Here is a sentence in the nominative case:
- Tha Seumas math.
Gaelic has a special case that we use when addressing people or even things (saying hello, how are you etc.).
This is called the vocative case. Think of it as strawberry flavour.
In the following sentence the word Seumas is in the vocative case. We will break down below exactly how this case work. It is one of Gaelic's many interesting features.
- Madainn mhath, a Sheumais.
There are two other cases in Gaelic which we do not explore in detail at this stage - the dative case (pistachio flavour) and the genitive case (chilli flavour).
1. Leniteable Consonants (but not F for now)
B C D G M P S T
Add an a before the noun. This is known as a vocative particle.
Lenite the word (add an h after) and slenderise (add an i at the end).
- Madainn mhath, a Chaluim.
- Madainn mhath, a Thormoid
- Halò, a Phàdraig.
- Feasgar math, a Sheumais.
Add an a before the noun.
Lenite the word (add an h after). Feminine names don't slenderise.
- Halò, a Mhairead
- Madainn mhath, a Bheathag
####2. Names that begin with a consonant or comination that does not lenite (R,N,L, SG, SM, ST, SP)
Masculine: Add vocative particle (a) and slenderise when possible.
- Ruairidh - Halò, a Ruairidh.
NB. The name Ruairidh is already slenderised and you can't double slenderise or your tongue would fall out, obviously.
Feminine: Add vocative particle (a)
- Raonaid - Halò, a Raonaid.
- Leagsaidh - Halò, a Leagsaidh.
3. Names that begin with F
Names that begin with f followed by a consonant follow pattern number 1.
- Frìseal (Fraser) : Frìseil >Halò, a Fhrìseil.
- Flòraidh (Flora) - Halò a Fhlòraidh
Names that begin with F followed by a vowel follow a different pattern. The vocative particle (a) is omitted but otherwise they follow the same patterns as above. Maculine names lenite and slenderise. Female names only lenite.
- Fionnlagh (Finlay) - Halò, Fhionnlaigh.
- Fearghas (Fergus) - Halò, Fhearghais.
Vowels in Gaelic hate each other. Specifically, they hate to be seen next to one another. When two vowels would appear together in Gaelic, often one is dropped. This makes Gaelic streamlined like a wet cormorant.
The vocative particle (a) is dropped before a vowel because of this vowel vendetta.
Masculine names beginning with vowels still slenderise.
Aonghas (Angus - a man's name)
- BROKE / WRONG - Halò a Aonghais.
- BESPOKE / RIGHT - Halò, Aonghais.
Ealasaid (Elizabeth - a woman's name)
- BROKE / WRONG - Halò, a Ealasaid.
- BESPOKE / CORRECT - Halò, Ealasaid.
It would generally be considered rude to translate a French name such as Pierre into Peter in English. The same is not true for Gaelic. Most native Gaelic speakers would be known by their Gaelic name in Gaelic, and its "translation" in English. Someone known as "Oighrig" in Gaelic would almost certainly known by it's translation "Effie" in English . We want to show learners what actually happens in Gaelic communities and so we have followed this convention.
Some Gaelic names such as Iain and Mòrag are so common in Scottish English that they are not translated in the course.
It is becoming increasingly common for parents to give children a Gaelic name as their given / recorded name, which is lovely.
The Past Tense of "Bi"
Up until now we have mainly been dealing with the present tense (living in the moment). In this skill we encounter that past tense forms of the verb "bi". We have already encountered its present tense forms: tha, chan eil, an robh and nach robh and we will show examples of these side by side with the past tense forms for comparison. See if you can spot a pattern.
- Bha mi fuar. - I was cold.
- Tha mi fuar - I am cold.
- Cha robh mi blàth. - I was not warm.
- Chan eil mi blàth - I am not warm.
- An robh e math? - Was it good?
- A bheil e math? - Is it good?
- Nach robh sin sgoinneil? - Wasn't that brilliant?
- Nach eil sin sgoinneil? - Isn't that brilliant?
Gaelic has no word for "yes" or "no".
Similar to our sister languages Irish and Manx, Scottish Gaelic has no catch-all word for yes and no. We get on perfectly fine without it. Yes and no are clearly overrated.
In Gaelic we answer a question by "echoing" a verb. You use the positive or negative form of the verb that the question was asked in. This sounds complicated, but in practice it is fairly easy to get the hang of.
When asked the following question:
- A bheil thu sgìth? - Are you tired?
You should answer either:
- Tha. - Yes
- Chan eil - No
If we change the verb, the answer to question also changes:
An robh thu sgìth? - Were you tired?
Bha - Yes
Cha robh - No
How to talk about talking
In Gaelic we often combine a verbal noun with a preposition:
- (Verbal Noun) a' bruidhinn - talking
- (Preposition) ri - with
- Chan eil mi a' bruidhinn ri Iain. - I am not talking with Iain.
Often in English we would use "talking to". The literal meaning of prepositions like "ri" don't always align neatly between Gaelic and English. Look out for this. These little differences are part of what makes learning a language special.
Gaelic has a few different ways to make a noun plural. The following isn't an exhaustive or overly technical list, but it will give you an overview of some of the most common ways of doing so!
1. Adding ean / an
Keep the broad with broad (aou) and slender with slender (ie) rule in mind when looking at these examples.
- stèisean > stèiseanan
- (station > stations)
- eilean > eileanan
- (island > islands)
- tiocaid > tiocaidean
- (tickets > tickets)
2. Adding aichean / ichean
- càr > càraichean
- (car > cars)
- bàta > bàtaichean
- (boat > boats)
- trèana > trèanaichean
- (train > trains)
- bus > busaichean
- (bus > buses)
3. Slenderising the Noun
Nouns are slenderised by adding an i before the last consonant.
- cat > cait
- (cat > cats)
- òran > òrain
- (song > songs)
Gaelic can make a noun plural using some regular ways not listed above and in ways that follow few or any rules at all. (dangerous rebel nouns)
- cù - coin
- (dog > dogs)
- piuthar > peathraichean
- (sister > sisters)
The key here is not to get bogged down in trying to memorise every possible plural formation. Gaelic's plurals aren't overly complicated, but the best way to learn them is spotting patterns through gradual exposure.
The Plural Article
Gaelic has only two plural articles in the nominative case and they aren't affected by the gender of the noun! Yay!
Use this before consonants:
- càraichean > na càraichean
- (cars > the cars)
- coin > na coin
- (dogs > the dogs)
- bàtaichean > na bàtaichean
- (boat > the boats)
Use this before vowels. Gaelic vowels hate hanging out next to each other and so we need a bouncer "h-" to keep them separate.
- uinneagan > na h-uinneagan
- (windows > the windows)
- eileanan > na h-eileanan
- (islands > the islands)
The State of you - states of being with "air"
In Gaelic we often use the preposition "air" (on) to describe states of being.
- orm - on me
- ort - on you
- air - on him / it
- oirre - on him / it
- Tha an t-acras orm.
I am hungry
Literally this translates as the hunger is on me.
- Tha an t-acras ort.
You are hungry.
Literally this translates as "the hunger is on you".
- Tha an fhearg oirre.
She is angry.
Literally this translates as "the anger is on her."
- Tha an fhearg air.
He is angry.
Literally this translates as "the anger is on him".
BINGO - Prepositional Pronouns with Air
We have now collected all the prepositional pronouns with air. Gotta catch 'em all!
- orm - on me
- ort - on you
- air - on him / it (masculine)
- oirre - on her / it (feminine)
- oirnn - on us
- oirbh - on you (plural and/ or polite)
- orra - on them
Greas ort! / Greasaibh oirbh!
This is a handy way to tell someone to get their skates on (hurry up) in Gaelic.
Literally, it would translate as "hurry on you".
Orra vs. Oirre
The pronunciation of these words is quite similar. In the wild, context should make it pretty clear which one is being used. The rr in orra (on them) is more rolled. Don't sweat this one, it'll come with practice and context is your friend.
Emphatic Pronouns - Pronouns with OOMPH
Emphatic Pronouns are extra special forms of pronouns that show emphasis. They don't have a direct equivalent in English. You would just use stress and tone of voice.
- mise - me
- thusa - you
- esan - him / it (masculine)
- ise - her / it (masculine)
- sinne - we / us
- sibhse - you (plural / polite)
- iadsan - they / them
1. Use emphatic pronouns when you want to emphasise
Tha thusa fuar. - YOU are cold.
Tha esan fuar. - HE is cold.
Tha iasdan fuar. - THEY are cold.
2. You generally use them when identifying.
This commonly happens when the pronoun appears by itself or when using the verb "is".
- Mise! - Me!
- Thusa a-rithist! - You again!
- Is mise Calum. - I am Calum.
- Is sinne Calum agus Mòrag. - We are Calum and Morag.
We will have lots more opportunities to practice this as the course progresses and we will explore phrases with is + emphatic pronouns in more detail as the course expands.