1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "Chan eil mathan anns an taig…

"Chan eil mathan anns an taigh agam."

Translation:There is not a bear in my house.

January 22, 2020



I was laughing at just the issue of whether or not a bear (any bear) is running around in the house no matter who it belongs too. I know this section is titled "Pets" but really....


I think it may be this sort of bear

(By Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/7237653442/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41208714)


I have noticed that mathan has been use for both singular (bear) and plural (bears)


In what context have you seen mathan used as a plural? The normal plural (in the nominative and accusative case) would be mathain.

In the genitive plural, you would see, for example, taigh nam mathan - the house of the bears or the bears' house, but this course has not covered the genitive case as yet.

Alternatively you may have seen it in the Gaelic equivalent of the English "how many bears?" which would be any of "co mheud mathan?", "cia meud mathan?" or "cia mheud mathan?", depending, I assume, on the local dialect of the speaker.


Well you now have me wondering what I saw.

I think it was along the lines of "Tha mathan ann an Canada". I know that it literally means "A bear is in Canada". But I seem to remember, maybe as an alternative, "Bears are in Canada"


There is no way to check directly if there is any sentence where mathan is translated as bears, and there are some typos in this course. However, if it did happen we could expect some comment. I have searched the comments for any that contain both mathan and bears and found nothing. I checked for mhathan which could be singular or plural (but not yet covered in the course) and found nothing. But searching for mathain revealed

A bheil mathain ann an Alba?
Are there bears in Scotland?

My guess is that this is what you are thinking of. The i is pretty easy to miss as

  1. You might not have appreciated at the time that the i could make a word plural
  2. This is a pretty odd plural. I can't think of any other words that end in -an and form their plural in this way.

However I did some research. A string search in Mark for -ain, -ain found 141 hits. Going through some of this list I found that they all fitted into one of four categories:

  1. Diminutives such as balachan 'little boy'
  2. Animals (including birds especially) and plants, such as miondan 'long-tailed titmouse' and of course mathan
  3. Obscure words that I have never heard of and that I am never likely to need, such as dùnan 'dunghill'
  4. Borrowings from English, such as bargan 'bargain'

There was literally a handful of other words that I might actually need, such as amadan 'fool'.

I suspect that most of (2) and (3) are diminutives originally anyway.


We get bears in houses a lot in the Rockies. But none of them are pets. So I thought it was "I do not have a bear in the house." Silly me.


Is the "D" sound in taigh from this particular speaker usual


Agreed! I guessed it from the context, but I wasn't sure. How common is this, does anyone know?


silmeth explains this in https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/37411008?comment_id=37419144

I don't consider this question correct, as I consider this to be a different word, not a different pronunciation of the same word. With Irish orthography it would be written an dtaigh.

As for how common it is, it used to be said that it was a standard feature (albeit in slightly varying forms) of Lewis Gaelic. My suspicion is that it is dying out very rapidly as the proportion of Gaelic speakers that are literate in Gaelic increases, precisely because it is an unwritten feature, unlike in Irish, where it is written, and so is, quite literally, preserved in writing.

I would like to hear from a younger Leòdhasach if this is true.


Why is it 'anns' and not 'ann' again?


Up there with "Tha a' bàta-falbhain agam loma-làn easgannan" as a useful phrase...


Tha am bàta-falbhain [...]

Please correct or it will confuse the Hungarians.


When am I ever going to use this?! I keep at least three bears in my house at all times :/


It is important to remember that you don't just have to learn the Gaelic that you use, but also the Gaelic that you could hear other people using. You might say

Tha trì mathanan san taigh agam
There are three bears in my house

and someone else, much less fortunate than you, might reply

Chan eil mathan anns an taigh agam-sa, gu mì-fhortanach
There isn't a bear in MY house, unfortunately

If you had not learnt this sentence you would not understand their plight. D


Could we translate this as "A bear is not in my house"?


I would accept it as it shows you understand the Gaelic grammar, but it is not good English, and it does not show you understand what the Gaelic means.


Yes, you could, and it's perfectly correct to do so.


"There is no bear in my house" would be more natural in English.


Not in my dialect

  • 1198

I'd think "There are no bears in my house" would be the most natural English.


The placement of "agam" is interesting here. So I guess "I don't have a bear in the house" would be "chan eil mathan agam anns an taigh"?


Wouldn't that be "My bear is not in the house"?


I'd never thought of it like this before, but perhaps it helps to think of agam in these sentences as meaning belonging to me:

  • Gaelic: Chan eil mathan anns an taigh agam.
    • Literal English: There is not a bear in the house belonging to me.
    • English: There is not a bear in my house.
  • Gaelic: Chan eil mathan agam anns an taigh.
    • Literal English: There is not a bear belonging to me in the house.
    • English: I don't have a bear in the house.
  • Gaelic: Chan eil am mathan agam anns an taigh.
    • Literal English: The bear belonging to me is not in the house.
    • English: My bear is not in the house.


Your analysis of the three structures is clear and helpful, but there is a wee error. Different prepositions are used for different specific relationships. Aig (hence agam) is the general purpose way of saying it's yours, but it is not used for ownership. You can use it for your friend, your wife, your servant, your master, your team, your turn, your chair (the one you happen to be sitting in at the moment, even in someone else's house), so even when ownership is impossible. To imply 'belonging to', actual ownership, you use a different preposition, le (hence leam). There are other prepositions for other specific relationships.


I see your point, and would welcome a better phrase than "belonging to me" that would work in all my examples and any other situation where agam is used to indicate some form of possession. Perhaps, "that is mine"? I was looking for a single English phrase that could cover both the usage in Tha taigh agam - I have a house and Tha an taigh agam beag - My house is small, but perhaps there is no ideal English phrase for that purpose.


Well I see your point. I have never seen mine used for calquing agam. It's a good idea. The problem is that my in English is a very nebulous concept. It can cover inalienable relations (mo in Gaelic) as well as all the different relations I mentioned as well as the ones I didn't mention such as my cold (orm in Gaelic) that is afflicting me, my picture (that represents me), my gift (that I have given and is no longer mine), my gift (that someone plans to give me but is not yet mine) and lots of other things. I thought there simply wasn't an exact match in English, but I think mine fits the bill pretty well. The issue is of course that it does not convey the sense of there being a preposition, but I can't think of anything better.


Close, more like "(One of, any of) my bears is not in the house."

"Cha'n eil am mathan anns an taigh."


So. This is where my uneducated head struggles. Not - bear - in house - of mine. By far, the hardest part of the Gaidhlìg, for me, is that everything seems to be said inside out, upside down, roundabout, topsy turvy. ...Yes, I am aware this is exposing my own ignorance and lack of education.


It's not your education that is at fault, but Western education. At school we tend to only learn languages, such as French, German and Spanish, that have the same basic sentence as English (except they lack some features of English that are of Celtic origin, such as I am working and I did not work). This means you never have to deal with an alien structure.

This is not the same across the world. As soon as Japanese person has learnt English, or a Tamil has learnt Hindi (which they both have to do at school) then they are exposed to a language with an alien structure.

But this then leads to a second problem. The teaching methodology used here and elsewhere is suitable for French and German but simply inappropriate for Gaelic. If you ever get to go to a live class, the teacher may write the Gaelic on the board, the English underneath, and then use arrows to show which Gaelic word connects to which English one. You just can't do this in Duolingo. Then there is the fact that there is no way to link the sentences to the notes. In the same way you can click on a word to find its meaning, wouldn't it be useful if you could click on a word, or even a letter such as one of those hs they keep on inserting, and they could tell you, in specific terms, what it was doing and why it was in that position in the sentence.

The best I can do here is give you a calque on this sentence. Yours is a good effort as you worked it out yourself but it is not ideal. D

Chan eil mathan anns an taigh agam
Not is bear in the house atme


Well said. Nowhere is this more evident and influential than the learner understanding the Gaelic Verbal Noun as a Participle, just as is natural to French, Spanish, and English.


Ah but I don't think the -ing words in English are participles. We are taught that they are present participles, despite that fact that they are used in ways largely unrecognisable to French or Spanish. Later on you might be told that they double up as German-like verbal nouns. But I am certain there is a third element to them - they cover the use of the Celtic verb-noun, again giving us sentences that don't really fit with the French or the German at all. So they are actually, in my opinion, one word-form that represents the amalgamation of three different things in different languages. D


Unsure of how long ago your nessage has been up so you may no longer be needing this info but this link helped me a lot with structure.


Hope it helps :)


It's not as interesting as any of the above fascinating discussion, but this task is marked wrongly when "isn't" is used for "is not". This is inconsistent with other tasks that DON'T (oops, "DO NOT"


This is the second time I have seen an almost identical comment in 24 hours. The other one was on doesn't. I wonder if Duolingo has some form of indigestion at the moment.


I seem to remember Joanne saying a few times that the contractions are handled by Duo core and they didn't have to do anything to accept contractions - it would be interesting to see if it's happening across multiple courses.


So do I. But I don't do not know any way to search for recent posts across languages. There probably isn't is not one.


I've noticed in the last few days on another course that some things previously marked correct or classed as typos are now marked wrong. That was in "Type what you hear" exercises, so might not be relevant here as, from past experience, I don't think those exercises are (or were) checked in the same way. But something does appear to have changed recently.


Someone is in denial

Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.