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  5. Cha toigh leam OR cha toil …


Cha toigh leam OR cha toil leam?

Hi, I saw on "gaidhligtoolkit" (http://gaidhligtoolkit.ceangalg.net/learn-gaelic/06-likes-dislikes/part-1/) that they use "toigh" instead of "toil" which is used on Duolingo. Which is the correct form?

January 27, 2020



I believe "toigh" is an alternate form of "toil".

DL accepts "toigh" in most of the places where you can type "toil" - it's the one I tend to use when I'm not thinking about what I'm typing.

There may be some subtle differences but they may be so insignificant as to not matter in day-to-day use...there are fluent and native speakers in the forum, maybe we'll get something definitive =)


There was a comment somewhere in the early tips that they had included "toigh" somewhere in the course. I found it in the throwaway answers to one of the multiple-choice questions! (I don't know if there are more examples.)


I believe it used to be "toigh" but "toil" is now the accepted modern form.......


Something similar that's bugging me is "chan eil". I had a teach-yourself-Gaelic book about 50 years ago when I was at school (and it's surprising how much of the basic stuff I still remember). I swear that book spelled it cha 'neil, or cha 'n eil or something like that. I have seen chan eil more recently and thought it might be a typo, but that seems to be the way it is. I wonder if anyone knows if my memory is totally playing tricks or if there was once an apostrophe somewhere in there?


Interesting patterns from two old books that I have; some things are different and some things are the same.

Elementary Course of Gaelic, Duncan Reid, 4th Edition, 1931, pages 39 and 50.

Tha mi. I am.
Am bheil mi ? / Am beil mi ? Am I ?
Cha ’n ’eil mi. I am not.
Nach ’eil mi ? Am I not ?
Bha mi. I was.
An robh mi ? Was I ?
Cha robh mi. I was not.
Nach robh mi? Was I not ?

MacLaren’s Gaelic Self-Taught, 4th Edition,1941?, page 17.

Tha mi. I am.
Am bheil mi ? am I ?
Cha ’n eil mi. I am not.
Nach eil mi ? am I not ?
ma tha mi. if I am.
mur eil mi. if I am not.
ged a tha mi. though I am.
ged nach eil mi. though I am not.
gu ’m bheil mi. that I am.
nach eil mi. that I am not.

For comparison, SQA Gaelic Orthographic Conventions page:


And the English pdf, 2009:




Thanks, so I wasn't imagining it. Who would have thought a teach-yourself book that I studied alone for a few weeks would have stuck for 50 years! But I still keep stopping after typing "cha" and reaching for the apostrophe, which is simply nuts because I had never set a finger to a keyboard back then.


This is interesting and I was thinking what was missing that prompted them to put the apostrophe in. There are three different ones here, plus one that should be there:

Cha 'n
No one knows exactly where this word comes from. It is not the same in Irish. They use ni. In Old Irish there is also a rare word nicon which might have something to do with it. But the result is there is no suggestion this word was ever two or that anything has gone missing. So I guess someone put it in to show how clever they were - that they 'knew' it was an abbreviation.

Chan 'eil
This is of course the most irregular verb in Gaelic, as the verb 'to be' is in many languages. This is a 'suppletive form' - it is not connected to tha in the same way that went is not connected to go.
The original verb would have been feil, so the correct form would have been *chan fheil (Some people may not have covered this yet, but you will.) Since feil has been lost it is easy to see how the silent fh was forgotten about, so the apostrophe is historically correct.

Am bheil / Am beil (modern A bheil)
Obviously lots of confusion. Under the normal rules of Gaelic this would be Am feil. But this seems to have come from Irish. Under their rules (not ours) the f would become a bh, because of a mutation that does not occur in Gaelic. They spell this An bhfuil. We have no way to spell it, but An bheil would seem sensible - except that in Gaelic (not Irish), an changes to a' before a bh (as in a' bhean). So the logical spelling would be with the apostrophe in a'.

Nach 'eil
Nach does not cause a mutation in Gaelic so this should be *nach feil according to Gaelic rules. But according to the Irish rules mentioned above this is nach bhfuil. So the apostrophe is historically correct, as something - whether an f or a bhf has gone missing.

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