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  5. "Tha balla aig an taigh seo."

"Tha balla aig an taigh seo."

Translation:This house has a wall.

January 16, 2020



I got this entirely by it being about the only sensible set of words from the option, but the grammar is beyond me. In new iterations, please could there be more grammar included in the tips bit?


The technique is to concentrate on understanding the Gaelic not on putting it into good English.

Once you know that verbs go at the beginning, that you may have to insert a in English and that you translate seo as here then you should be able to understand

Is (a) wall at the house here.

Just don't worry about how to say it in English until you know what it is trying to say.


But that's what's defeating me... without more grammar, I can't really understand the Gaelic. I've got that the verb is at the front, and that the subject (essentially) of this house is at the end, but I'm just having to guess that that's how the sentences are constructed, rather than this being in the notes. I guess I've always learned other languages with an equal measure of grammar and usage, and the lack of grammar in the course (especially with a difficult, at least to me) language is frustrating at times.


I understand your frustration. I guess you have previously learnt languages like French, Spanish and German that have the same basic structure as English.

But the Celtic languages are different. That's why I suggest you don't go for the good English, but the version I suggest that has the same word order as the Gaelic except for the verb position.


That left me with essentially: "is a wall has this house", which left me perplexed. I guess what's making it difficult is that I can't always spot the subject, because (unlike in Latin, say) the endings don't change, and nor does the verb (it's tha whether it's me, you, they etc). Without a bit more of a handle on sentence construction (from more grammar guidance) I'm feeling like I'm just guessing at it all (and therefore wouldn't know how to create my own sentences). In Latin poetry, the words can be in a very unusual order, but I could still work it out, because I knew the 'rules' but I don't have much grasp of the 'rules' here - hence my desire for more in the tips sections.


Sounds a bit like Yoda, when you put it like that...


Some interesting points comparing with Latin.

Proto-Indo-European had at least 8 cases (exact number disputed) so all western languages have undergone case merger. Gaelic has retained more than most - you should try possessives in Welsh with no genitive marking. We still have the dative, genitive and vocative. it just happens that we have lost the nominative/accusative distinction. But apart from clauses with relative or interrogative pronouns, which can be genuinely ambiguous once the pronoun has been drawn to the front, and one archaic structure that you will not meet on this course, the subject always comes before the object - it's VSO. The confusion in this sentence is caused by you introducing the second verb 'have' in the translation when there is no such verb in Gaelic. Use the translation I suggest, 'Is (a) wall at the house here', assume the noun or pronoun immediately after the verb is the subject and move it to the front: '(A) wall is at the house here' (or just accept that Gaelic word order is like English questions) and there you are.

I have refrained from making too many comments about Latin on Duolingo as I don't know how many people speak it here. But here are a few things to look out for:

  • Words that cause lenition often correspond to Latin words that end in a vowel (e.g. nom fem sing corresonding to Latin words like mensa).
  • when an i is inserted before a final consonant (slenderization) this usually corresponds to an i or e in the Latin ending (O Brute = A Bhrutais). (You will meet it on other cases as well.) (You should restrict yourself to masc and fem examples in Latin. The neuter is often the opposite, but is irrelevant to Gaelic.)
  • Absolute constructions (in accusative and introduced by agus and using the verbal noun)
  • Impersonal verb forms ending in r, corresponding to passive forms in Latin.

If you are interested in any specific similarities or differences, just respond to this post.


Going to answer I was. Then article I found

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/12/hmmmmm/420798/ Rare is OSV but rarer is OVS. OVS use Klingon and the same do very few human languages. Here described is it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klingon_grammar


Ah - there's a helpful post on another discussion thread on this.


I had trouble with this one, too, but can only assume that as I practice more and more, it'll become clearer. I'm learning two other languages that each have their own set of difficulties, but as a native English-speaker, the challenge with Gaelic definitely is in sentence structure.

I think the other reason this sentence was especially challenging is because the meaning itself is awkward even in English. "This house has a wall"...kind of a funny thing to say.


What's stumping you is that Gaelic uses prepositional nouns to denote possession, instead of the verb "to have," and furthermore, that the thing possessed comes before the posessor.

Tha cat agam: a cat is by me; I have a cat. Tha cat aig Iain: the cat is by Iain; Iain has a cat. Tha cat aig an balach. The cat is by the boy; The boy has a cat. Tha cat aig seo balach: the cat is by this boy; this boy has a cat. Does that help?


That is a good point well explained. There are literally hundreds of posts on this site where people think one of the words means 'has' and they are totally confused, about which word it is, about what the other words mean, or the word order. So whilst the English sentence does have a has in, it is very clear that translating aig as has is a catastrophic way to try and teach Gaelic. I am aware you have recently done some editing to help put this right, which is very useful, but I am not sure the choice of translations for the preposition is ideal.

Of course any preposition is translated a whole host of different ways in different sentences, but aig is usually regarded as having a default translation of at and dictionaries give

at, from, to (AFB and Mark)
1 At, near, close by. 2 In possession. 3 On account of. 4 For. 5 On. (Dwelly)

It is therefore traditional to calque these possession sentences using at.

It is a convention as much as anything else, but by is not in the usual list of translations. However, to show that it is somewhat arbitrary, see how the same possessive structure is calqued in different languages

Gaelic: aig = at
Irish: le = with (although it could also be by)
Welsh: gyda, gan = by


@PatriciaJH I think this is the best explanation I've seen. Thank you!


It would be really helpful if the literal translation (verbatim) was included with every correct translation - even if it doesn't make sense. I think it helps us put things in order.


Absolutely. It is just that they are constrained by the way the Duolingo system works. This would be helpful with many if not all languages, except where you are leaning one extremely similar to you own so you would have thought that Duolingo would have implemented it.


I'm trying to figure out the structure. How does this look? an/agam = my an/agad = your an/aig = his/her an/seo = this? an/sin = that? "tha........an taigh sinn" -> that house has a wall?


Is wall at the house here.

Note that sin means there. Sinn that you used in one example, means 'we, us' as in Sinn Féin 'We Ourselves'.


Not easy to use in everyday conversation. What house doesn't?


so is aig for objects and non-living things?


Aig just means 'at' and is the standard way to say 'have', 'has', regardless of living or not. 'I have a wall', 'the house has a wall'. Same structure.


I hope it has more than one; otherwise, what's holding up the roof?


People have been living in one-walled houses in Scotland for thousands or years

Broch of Mousa, from Wikipedia Broch of Mousa, from Wikipedia


For those in America, the Navajo hogan can be a round single wall as well as multi sided. Not to mention the tipi.


Good point. I did not know the Navajo had such permanent dwellings until now. That just shows the difference between what you see on the TV and real life. Reading about them on Wikipedia I spotted two intriguing similarities with Scotland and Gaelic.

Firstly the door faces east, to welcome the rising sun, with associated beliefs.

Secondly, the word in Navajo is hooghan [hoːɣan] thus displaying the same broad gh sound that we have in Gaelic, that is pretty rare in Europe.


They put 'horse' in the word bank just to see if I was paying attention, I suppose.

I was not.


'They' in this case is the Duolingo computer, not the course writers. They don't even get to check what words have been chosen as the 'wrong' words, which can lead to problems. It does seem that the computer does quite often deliberately choose words that are confusable.

By what appears to be an amazing coincidence, the words used to be confusable in Gaelic/Irish. The Irish for 'house' is teach, so we had

  • an teach 'the house'
  • an t-each 'the horse'

It has been suggested that the Gaelic for 'house' and the Irish for 'horse' changed to avoid confusion. I think it is more likely that the Gaelic for 'house' was influenced by the Welsh-like language which the Gaels encountered when they arrived in Britain – the Welsh is .


I would certainly hope a house has a wall.


Is it common for the object to precede the subject, please?


No. The subject is the wall: the wall is at the house. There are various verbs in English that require a different structure in Gaelic with a different subject. There is only one structure, so far as I can think, that has the actual grammatical subject at the end, and that may or may not be covered later as it is formal/old fashioned. I won't confuse you by giving it now, but anyone who speaks Irish will be much more familiar with it.


Difficult to have a house without walls. So how about a wall around a house?


Well, that's reassuring...


I'm trying to unfollow and Duolingo won't let me.


Not to beat a dead horse - but "A wall is on this house" was marked wrong - isn't that what the statement actually says?


No - it says 'A wall is at this house.'

But that is not acceptable English, so they need to teach this is how you say 'has'.

If it used air 'on' it would mean the house was 'wearing' a wall, although it could also mean something (like a roof) was literally 'on' the house.


You are so so helpful, Daibhidh, and patient. Tapadh leibh!


I am not going to forget this sentence.


I put "aige" instead of "aig" what is the difference, please??


This can be confusing until it is explained, but at least this one is easy to explain.

aig = 'at'
aige = 'at him', 'at it' (for masculine words)
aice = 'at her', 'at it' (for feminine words)

There is a specific reason for the confusion that is worth pointing out. That is that one common preposition has the same word for the the first two, and a different word for the third:

air = 'on'
air = 'on him', 'on it' (for masculine words)
oirre = 'on her', 'on it' (for feminine words)

There are also three others, ri(s), le(is) and à(s), that will join the list when you learn about adding s to prepositions, but I don't think we have covered that yet.


Thanks for the explanation. The reason I put "aige" is because I thought taigh was masculine. I have used air and oirre previously in relation to hair colour, etc.but definitely not ri yet!!


Your reasoning is excellent. It is very easy for people (such as teachers) who understand something to think that it is obvious how it works. And to anyone out there who thinks prepositions could not possibly change gender, have a look at what happens in Welsh to the preposition gan (taken from Duolingo Welsh Notes Possession Gan)

gynno fe gynni hi
with him with her

Note that whilst this preposition gan is usually translated as 'with', it is the one that would be used in some dialects of Welsh to say "Tha balla aig an taigh seo" in a structure exactly the same as the Gaelic.

Note that this only works with pronouns in Welsh, but it does make the point.

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