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"Labhraím Gaelige, an bhfuil tú?"

A friend on another website, one designed for text-based roleplaying, posted a thread where he said that he dislikes the English language. The titular sentence of this thread came to me somewhat easily-ish, so I posted it as a response. I'm guessing that he doesn't speak Irish as he called me a nerd later for being able to construct a sentence in another language, but regardless, I just want to make sure that the sentence that I wrote accurately translates as "I speak Irish, do you?" correctly and that I didn't make a stupid mistake like forgetting the letter "h".

October 18, 2015



Tá an Ghaeilge agam, an bhfuil sí agat(sa)?


Doesn't that translate to "I have the Irish, does she you have?", or something of the sort?


No, it translates literally as:

"I have the Irish, do you have her?"

"Labhair" the verb is used to convey the act of speaking. However it is not used to convey the fact that one can speak a language.

You "have" a language in Irish.

I am curious as to why my answer was down voted.


Go raibh maith agat.


It's "Tá gaeilge agam". (no an) .. It was not I who down voted you!


You're both right. The definite article is used when referring to languages in the broad sense An Ghaeilge, an Béarla, an Laidin, an Eabhrais, Irish, English, Latin, Hebrew.

But Foras na Gaeilge doesn't use the definite article in it's promotional materials.


As a fairly authoritative source, Peadar Ua Laoghaire, the most prolific writer in modern Irish, Mo Scéal Féin, 1915:

Mura mbéadh an áit ’n-ar rugadh agus ’n-ar tógadh me, ámhthach, ní bhéadh an Ghaelainn agam, agus mura mbéadh an mháthair a tugadh dom ní bhéadh an Béarla agam.

As can be seen: "An Ghaelainn"

There's nothing wrong with Gaelainn/Gaeilge without the "an" either.

Although anybody reading should note there is a slight nuance between "An Ghaeilge" and "Gaeilge" (this is true generally of proper nouns with and without the article). Gaeilge is basically the same as the English word "Irish", An Ghaeilge refers to the language in total conceived of as a distinct entity.

For example:

Bhí roinnt Gaeilge le cloisint sa chathair = There was some Irish to be heard in the city.

Bhí an Ghaeilge ina príomh-theangain an uair sin = Irish was the primary language at that time..

In the second example we are talking about the language "Irish" as an entity in a state.

It's a hard distinction to make. It doesn't exist in at least my dialect of English.


Whether or not "I live in USA" is correct in English has no bearing on "Tá an Ghaeilge agam" being correct in Irish. The example from Peadar Ua Laoghaire shows it is used natively and has been for over 100 years at least. Besides "an Ghaeilge agam" has several results on google, it's specifically with the present tense "tá" that it has few.

Similarly with "an Ghaeilge agat". I can give you other examples of native works with "an Ghaeilge" being used to convey the ability to speak the language. I don't understand why the example from Peader Ua Laoghaire is insufficient.

What in particular about Irish grammar leads to believe this sentence is incorrect?


If you have had plenty of exposure to Irish then you'd know that the sentence I gave is the same, the verb is just in a different mood.

Search for "go bhfuil an ghaeilge agam" or "go bhfuil an ghaeilge agat/aige/aici". There are several results. I don't believe it is ultra-rare as I have heard it several times in the Gaeltacht.


I am also curious as to how you reason that the sentence is never said. I'll come back with more references, modern ones.


Alright a modern reference:


from 2007, see:

"go bhfuil an Ghaelainn aige"

"go bhfuil an Ghaelainn acu"

Although I have to say the Irish of Peadar Ua Laoghaire doesn't differ much from modern Munster Irish except for some nominal grammar, he doesn't really use outmoded phrases that much and certainly something simple like "Tá (an) G(h)aeilge agam" hasn't changed much. So I don't know what "1915(!!!) lol" is about.

Irish is not like English in that a google search may not give you an accurate picture of native use. The vast majority of search results will be from L2 speakers and organisations. It is easier to ensure an accurate picture by going to books written by known native speakers, most of which will predate 1940.


If you had any exposure at all to any native speaker of Irish you would know that use of "an Ghaeilge" is very common.


You wouldn't use the emphatic form here, i.e. "agatsa"?


You certainly can, I've edited the post above.


Another problem with your sentence is that you are using two different verbs. Irish doesn't have the equivalent of a generic "Do" in this particular sense (the response to a question), instead you repeat the same verb. So you would respond to An ritheann tú with Rithim

Your sentence has the answer first, and then the question, but it should follow the same rule: Labhraím Gaelige, an labhraíonn tú?, though as AnLonDubhBeag points out, that's not the way you would ask about the ability to speak a language.


Thanks guys. I tried thanking you all individually, but that got a bit repetitive and it'd take quite a while, so I'm just using this post as a blanket "thanks" to all who respoonded.


By the way it looks, you put, "I speak Irish, are you?" All you need to do is put, "Labhraim Gaeilge, an (leabhraíonn) tú?"


Go raibh maith agat.


Regarding labhair for 'speak (a language)'. Ó Dónaill offers Gaeilge a labhairt 'to speak Irish' and Lucht labhartha an Bhéarla, 'English speakers'. Is labhair occasionally accepted with (teanga X) agam preferred?


Labhair is the act of speaking, not the ability. labhraím (an) G(h)aeilge means 'I habitually speak Irish', no 'I have the ability to speak Irish'


Ah, thank you for the clarification.

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