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  5. "I need to go, Alasdair."

"I need to go, Alasdair."

Translation:Feumaidh mi falbh, Alasdair.

December 20, 2019



What does "feumaidh mi falbh" mean literally ... "need I to go" ?!


Yes. Falbh is the verbal noun, and it translates as 'go', 'going' or 'to go' in different sentences. So you have probably offered the best calque.


Why isn't this vocative - or is this the vocative for a name starting with a vowel - confused


It is - names beginning with a vowel are just used "as is" in the vocative. I recall this from a previous attempt at learning Gaelic, but I think I saw it explained in the Tips somewhere.


And while it's a male name I think it's already pre-slenderised, so you don't need to worry about that.


would you also say 'feumaidh mi rach' in Gaelic? Can rach/a' dol play the same role?


Yes and no. You cannot tell from the English what the go means. If it means 'go away, leave' then falbh is the correct translation. But in any other sense of go, such as 'go to the shop' or 'go for a walk' you would use dol

But rach is the wrong part of this irregular verb. You need the verbal noun, dol.


One question: Is a word like "falbh" considered to have one syllable or two with the sort of vowel inserted in between? Or is this of no relevance whatsoever for Gaidhlig?


Good question as people are frequently confused by this. The rule is simple:

For any rule based on word structure - not just just this problem, but also rules that start "If it starts with..." or "If it ends with..." then you always go by the written form.

This is because the grammar is based on how it used to be pronounced eons ago, and the spelling tells us that. A good example that you will meet later is that dh and th count as dentals (sounds made with the tongue on the teeth). Of course they aren't but they look like it as they contain d and t. (If you try this and it seems wrong, note that your tongue must touch your front teeth, as in English th when pronouncing d and t in Gàidhlig!)


So falbh is a single syllable word and Alba is a two syllable word then? Does that make fhathast a two syllable word despite being pronounced àst?


Falbh - yes.

Alba - yes.

Fhathast. Depending on the speaker and the register, you will often hear this as 2 syllables, or at least 1½.

Old poetry would always obey these rules for the purpose of metre, but I am not sure if modern poets are so fussy. Gaelic is no longer the sort of culture where people criticise poets for this sort of thing. Unlike French where you are still expected to count the written syllables (e.g. verte has two syllables).


Thank you so much for answering an clarifying this so well! "Fhathast" was another word I wanted to ask about. (And "verte" really feels like it has two syllables for French song/poetry.)


Yes you are absolutely right: verte does have two syllables - for songs/poetry. The system in French is that in order to keep the old material scanning they perpetuate the old pronunciation system and they now have two completely different systems - one for songs/poetry and one for prose. This is further perpetuated by the prescriptive nature of French where the Académie française tells people what is right. See this Duo discussion for a fine example.


Thank you for this reply, also because it clarifies why the spelling is so ... complicated, and gives us a good reason to learn it correctly!


It helps with the vocab as well as the grammar. For example bràthair is easier to recognise as brother than the spoken form, and whereas athair is clearly just father with the f missing, the spoken form is pretty well unrecognisable. And not just with English words. In leabhar 'book', the bh is usual pronounced /w/ in this word, which makes it difficult to recognise. However, bh is more usually pronounced /v/ in other words, which makes the word recognisable as French livre, Welsh llyfr (since they write /v/ as f ). But it gets better. Bh isn't just a /v/, but "a /v/ that used to be a /b/ ". Now you can recognise Spanish libro, Latin liber (from which English library). And for the final bonus, if you know any of these words it will help you with the gender, as leabhar, livre, libro, liber, llyfr are all the same gender - masculine.


I really enjoyed your comments above, thanks.
I would guess that the English "book " is derived from the German "buch", which is neutral gender. Father and brother also from the german "vater" and "bruder".


It's certainly related, but not descended. We have very few words from German, except very modern borrowings like Angst. The traditional view is that most short simple common words in English (e.g. book) come from Anglo-Saxon, a West-Germanic language, making English and German (another West Germanic language) first cousins. We also have a few very common words (such as they) from Norse (a North Germanic language) making English and German second cousins as well. Our long fancy words (like erudition) almost all come from Norman French, Latin or Greek. In addition we probably get more words from the Celtic languages than has been recognised.

Book comes from Old English bōc and using that link you can trace it all the way back tof find its ancestors and cousins. If you do that, you find that it has always been feminine, except in West Germanic languages such as German and Frisian. This is very odd, but does explain one anomaly. How can Buch take an umlaut in the plural, as this is historically impossible for neuter nouns? I don't know how many neuters do take the umlaut in the plural, but this is interesting. D


would it be 'feumaidh mi rach' or 'feumaidh mi dol' here?


Feumaidh mi dol.


Would "Feumaidh mi a' dol" be acceptable too?


No. There are different ways in which the verb noun is used in different constructions and they are not interchangeable. You use a' dol after the substantive verb ('to be')

Tha mi a' dol
I am going

and not in any other circumstance.

You may be struggling to get this to sound right because you may have been told that feumaidh means 'need'. This would make you try to find some way to translate the 'to'. It doesn't mean this, except in Gaelic that is very highly contaminated by English. This has been controversial, as they started teaching that it did mean this but have now accepted that there is another way to say 'I need'.

Rather, feumaidh means 'need to', or 'must'. Once you know the correct translation of this word, then the whole sentence makes sense

Feumaidh mi dol
I need to go
I must go

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