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  5. "Dè an obair a th' agad?"

" an obair a th' agad?"

Translation:What work do you have?

February 2, 2020



We say "What work do you do?" in English.


Yes, that's what I would say. If I said "what work do you have?" I would mean something different. I would either be inquiring about the availability of work (i.e. I'd be on my bike looking for a job), or I'd be asking a tradesman what jobs he had on the go at that particular moment. But even there I'd probably say "do you have any work?" for the former and "what work do you have on the go at the moment?" for the latter. "What work do you have?" is awkward any way you slice it.

It does say in the notes that sometimes the English translations might seem awkward as they're trying to get over the strict sense of the Gaelic, but I don't quite know why "What work do you do?" wouldn't be acceptable.


It must be a dialectal thing, but I wouldn't find it unusual if someone asked me what work I had. Anyway, we have to translate them as closely as possible, without creating room for confusion.

  • What work do you have? > Dè an obair a th' agad?
  • What work do you do? > Dè an obair a bhios tu a' deànamh?
  • Do you have any work? > A bheil obair sam bith agad?

That's why 'do' won't be accepted instead of 'have' - if you change them around in the English, you'd have a completely different sentence in the Gaelic :)


Again, that makes a lot of sense. I'm really grateful for all your efforts to explain these things. There's often a tension between a strictly accurate translation and what a speaker would actually say if they were expressing the same concept, and I think you balance this very well.


Thank you :)

Another thing to remember is that we, as contributors, know both what has been taught on the course and what hasn't. So sometimes we'll avoid translating something a certain way so as not to cause confusion in future iterations of the course.

This is probably most obvious in the way we chose to translate the present continuous exclusively as "I am ...ing", even when (in the example of stative verbs like 'see' or 'hear') you wouldn't usually do it that way (instead favouring "I see" or "I hear"). When we come to teach the present simple tense, there ought to be no confusion as to what we mean if we ask you to translate "I see" - we want you to say "Chì mi", and not "Tha mi a' faicinn" (I am seeing).


I totally get that. Mostly it comes off very successfully.


You have to allow English speakers to use the normal expression in English not force English to use a Gaelic construction. After all, you don't require us to translate this as "what work is at you?" even if that is what the Gaelic literally means. "What work do you have?" is what a person seeking employment would say to someone in a job centre. "What (work) do you do" is normal English I have heard and used all my long life. I don't know every English dialect (no one could) but I can't think of one off hand that would say "what work do you have?". If you really want to get into dialects, you may find something totally different. I once a farm labourer "what do you do?", and he looked puzzled. His mate said " 'ow you make out?" He nodded and said "Oh, cow 'and" !


In these examples, is "Dè an obair a th' agad?" for asking someone what kind of job they have, or what tasks they have to do? For example, if I were asking a coworker what they had left to do in a shift, I might say, "What work do you have left?" or, as a maths teacher I might ask students to "show your work," whereas if I were asking someone what their job is, I might ask, "What do you do for work?"

If it's the former, would it be appropriate to translate it as "What job do you have?" or is "job" another word entirely?

p.s. Thanks for everything you've done with this course! I see your replies during the lessons a LOT, and they're always so clear and very helpful. :)


I'm doubtful about this translation. I can see that the literal translation of "agad" points to "do you have". However in English the question "what work do you have" seems to me either to be someone asking for work, that is asking what work is available, or possibly asking a tradesman what work he has on the go at present. I don't think it's a phrase that would be used to ask someone their occupation, which seems to be what the Gaelic question is asking.


One could look at it as 'what job do you have?'. In other languages different forms of the verb to work is the same as the English noun ''job''.


What is the function of "an" here? How would you say "what is the job you have?"


“What work do you have?”
Explanations so far are ambiguous! Does this mean this literally, ie what one might ask their child about (home)work when they’ve just got home from school?!
Or asking a colleague what work they had?
Or if you were enquiring about jobs and the availability of work?

...or does this mean “having work” in the same sense as Gaelic uses the “at” preposition to mean possession and therefore implies a job or profession???
In which case (and I have seen the comments by Mod Joanne and if this does mean this sense then I disagree) the translation is “What work/job do you do?”

(If the latter and if necessary perhaps give a more literal translation in brackets. So:
“What job do you do? (lit. What work do you have?)”

(But this may all be irrelevant and it means the former, but nobody has explained the example context well enough and everyone is merely assuming it means a job?!)

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