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  5. "Where are you from, teacher?"

"Where are you from, teacher?"

Translation:Cò às a tha sibh, a thidseir?

December 2, 2019



I'm sure I had in my notes that "Where are you from" was "Cò às a tha thu?" - but now I've come across "Cò às a tha sibh?" as a correct answer.

Was I wrong in my earlier note, or are both correct depending on the cirumstance?


In Scottish Gaelic there are two separate ‘you’ words:

  • thu is singular, informal you – the one you’d say to people with whom you are on first name terms (your friend, family member, etc.)
  • sibh is plural (used in every situation when you speak to more than one person) and also singular formal, so used when speaking to people whom one would address by sir, ma’am, miss etc. in English (a teacher, a stranger, elderly, etc.).

It’s similar to the use of French tu vs vous, or Russian ты vs вы, or German du, ihr vs Ihr, Sie.


’S e do bheatha. :)


I've only ever seen 'beatha' used as in 'uisge-beatha'. What is this? (And why the extra H?)


If I may add a couple of points to that, silmeth:

Firstly, 's e do bheatha is not traditional Gaelic, but it has been introduced to translate phrases that that are not traditional English, as my comment here and other people's discussion shows.

Secondly, for anyone not sure what it means by 'a calque on aqua vitae' means, it is something like this: when they first discovered distillation, before they understood what gas was, they saw that something was coming off the liquid that was being heated, rather like someone breathing out. They did not understand breathing or air, but they knew that breathing was evidence of life, so they thought that this spirit (i.e. the condensed vapour) was the 'life' of the liquid. It is no coincidence that the word spirit is related to inspire 'breathe in' and ex(s)pire 'breathe out' hence 'breathe your last'. For some reason, and quite unusually, this phrase aqua vitae (Latin for 'water of life') was translated into a number of languages. See aqua vitae in Wikipedia. So there are many words relating to distillation and distilled products that are related to breathing and to life in various languages. You will also notice that the word bheatha itself is remarkably similar to vitae, although it is a partial coincidence that we have a v in Latin and a bh in Gaelic. Note that it is universally accepted that these terms are used to refer to distillation, but no one seems to discuss why. The explanation I have given is my own. If anyone has any sources to provide an alternative explanation, or to back up my suggestion, that would be great. D


uisce-beatha = whiskey (i.e. Irish)
uisge-beatha = whisky (i.e. Gaelic, Scotch)


beatha means life; uisce-beatha is literally water of life, calque of Latin aqua vitae. The phrase ’s e do bheatha (or ’s e ur beatha) means you are welcome and is typically used after someone has thanked you, but doesn’t translate literally to anything sensible today – you can read about the history of the phrase on Akerbeltz wiki. But the do bheatha/ur beatha means literally your life, do is the singular your, possessive pronoun, and it causes lenition (hence lenited bheatha).


I wrote Cò às a tha sibhe a thidseir? and it corrected me (as simply a typo) to Cò às a tha sibhse, a thidseir?. I noticed in another sentence that it said thusa instead of thu. What do those extra letters at the end mean, and how important are they_


mise, thusa, sibhse, sinne, etc. are emphatic forms. They have the same basic meaning as mi, thu, sibh, sinn, but they put focus on the person in question.

eg. cò às a tha sibhse, a thidseir? might be asked after the teacher asks you where you are from, and you reply with ‘I’m from there-and-there. But now: where are you (and not me) from, teacher?’.


Tapadh leibh!


Why does this require an 'a' before thidseir when athair doesn't?


I believe (I'm just learning) this is due to the rule that omits the 'a' if the word that follows begins with a vowel. Thidseir begins with a consonant, so it gets the 'a'.


Correct. Irish speakers please note the difference.


I still dont understand why the "tha" is in the middle of the sentance rether then the front


See my reply under the Cò ris a tha an t-sìde coltach an-diugh? sentence and the what is the grammatical purpose of "a" in "Ciamar a tha i?" thread.

This question literally translates to something like where-is-it from-which you are, teacher?, the cò às… part means what-is-it from, where-from-is-it…, and then … a tha sibh is that you are, and since it is a full relative clause it needs its own tha (is) verb.


Ha ha your literal translation is like how many Scots and Irish speak in English, "where is it you're from?"


Can be somehow translated meaning of particulars cò and às?


Hi, did you look at the discussions linked in my post? It’s very analogical to them:

  • – ‘what?’, ‘what is it?’, a question word – in Gaelic question words work as if they had embedded copula, the ‘to be’ verb, so can be translated as: ‘what is it?’, ‘with what is (it)?’,
  • às – ‘from’, a form of the preposition à used after question words, before relative clauses, and before the definite article,


  • cò às – ‘what (place) from is it…?’, ‘where from is it…?’
  • a – relative particle, introducing relative clause, ‘that, which, whose, whom’, etc.,
  • thus: cò às a – ‘where is it from that…’,
  • tha – ‘is, are’, the independent present tense form of the verb bi to be,
  • sibh – ‘you’, formal form used to somebody you show respect – an older person or someone with whom you’re not on first-name basis,
  • a thidseir – ‘(o) teacher’, vocative of tidsear, used when addressing a teacher directly.

Thus the whole sentence means literally (as I wrote above): where-from-is-it that you are, o teacher?.


It's actually just the same as English. These question words go at the beginning. We do not have the normal word order '*You are from where?' in English. The Gaelic sentence changes in just the same way when we add a question word.


True, question words must go at the beginning, but I’d argue that Gaelic actually doesn’t change anything in syntax in questions – unlike English (and other Germanic languages) that moves the verb to the beginning of questions (or adds auxiliary do…? at the beginning).

Gaelic always sticks to its Verb - Subject - Object, or in case of the copula verb Copula (with optional subject) - Predicate - (Subject).

So if you have a sentence tha mi à Alba I am from Scotland and you want to turn it into question where are you from? you want to put the question word cò às where from? at the beginning, but you cannot just say *cò às tha thu…? because the verb must go first, always.

So you use the fact that the question words work like the copula and cò às can mean where from is (it)? and introduce the rest of the question with a relative clause: cò às a tha thu? where-from-is (it) that you are? – now, the word order is saved! You have both the copula and the question word in the beginning!


Ahh, I cant learn stuff as fast as DaibhidhR puts it out! XD Silmeth is also a big help, haha.

But I think it'll be a while of learning more Gaelic before I can understand all this


I've seen teacher spelled "tidsear", but I would think the lenited spelling then would be "thidsear". Am I missing something?


To form the vocative case (used when addressing someone), you put a before the name/noun, lenite it, and -- if it is masculine -- make the final consonant slender (indicated in spelling by inserting i and sometimes other changes alongside this). So tidsear becomes a thidseir.

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