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Can we say "mo duine" - my husband

Can't we say "mo duine" = my husband Or should we always say = an duine agam ? If the later, why?

December 18, 2019



Always an duine agam.

First, if you wanted to use mo, you need lenition, so *mo dhuine (mo duine is just plainly ungrammatical), but that doesn’t mean my husband. I am not a native (or even competent) speaker, so I cannot comment how that phrase sounds like to one, but I guess that it’d be a pretty weird way of saying my person.

And for my wife you’d say mo bhean (and not *an bhean agam). For both you could say mo chèile (my spouse). That’s just how those concepts are expressed in Gaelic.

I have no idea why the language settled on using alienable (an X agam) possession for husband, when for the rest of close family it uses the inaliebale (mo X) one.

Compare the article about possessives and the one about kinship on Akerbeltz, especially this paragraph from the former:

So, what's considered inalienable in Gaelic? Blood relatives are, a wife (but not a husband!), clothes, children, parts of your body and certain special entities as kings, queens, and religious icons. A very nice illustrative example is the difference between mo làmh and an làmh agam. The first one talks about your hand that's attached to your body and therefore inalienable - but the second expression would suggest you're talking about a severed hand that you're holding in your own hand!!! Or, less macabre, seo an làmh agam might mean you're showing your hand in a game of cards - this is my hand (of cards).

(In Irish, though, there is no distinction between alienable/inalienable possession, and there my wife is mo bhean (chéile) and my husband is m’fhear (céile), while duine means only person).


As a lapsed native speaker, I think duine must have changed in meaning over the years. I always remember duine as an alternative word for man, like duine agus bean, and I noticed that it’s still the case in Nova Scotia based on a YouTube video I saw somewhere.

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