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  5. "The heavy cow is here."

"The heavy cow is here."

Translation:Tha a' bhò throm an seo.

February 4, 2020



why is it a' bhò instead of am bò? I thought it was always "am" before B,F,M or P


Because the B no longer has a B sound when it is lenited to Bh - it sounds more like a V. The reason for using am instead of an is to make it easier to say, and that reason isn't there any more when the B sound isn't there.

This guy here explains it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-BwM8XY3vE Actually he goes on a bit, but if you start at 3 minutes in you only have to watch a minute and a half of it.


Great hair! Yeah, I knew that bit. That's not the question. Why does the definite article change at this point from AM to A'?


You are partly right, Douglas - masculine nouns beginning with b, f, m and p have "am" as the definite article (at least they do in the nominative case - there is a lot more fun to come with cases, genders and articles!). But feminine nouns beginning with b, m and p (and c and g) have "a'" as the definite article, and the initial letter of the noun lenites. Feminine nouns beginning with [f + vowel], [f + l], or [f + r] lenite the f with the definite article. As fh is usually silent, in effect the noun then begins with a vowel, an l, or an r, as appropriate and so these words get "an" as a definite article.

So - baile, a town, becomes am baile, the town, since baile is a masculine noun. But bò (a cow) becomes a' bhò (the cow) because bò is a feminine noun.

At the beginning, learning the gender of Gaelic nouns can have nightmare qualities to it if you get hung up on it - it's probably a better plan just to keep your ear and eye out for it at a low level, accept you will make lots of mistakes at the beginning, and let your brain deal with fixing the gender of nouns subconsciously - repeated exposure to words (or embarrassing mistakes) will eventually get you there.


Good explanation, I hadn't thought about it like that. Have a lingot.


Fantastic explanation.


Because of the V sound. Try saying it. Am bhò and an bhò don't roll off your tongue, but if you remove the consonant entirely, a' bhò kind of does.

At least, that's how I understand it. Bear in mind I was the idiot who didn't know why bò was lenited to bhò only three weeks ago (and so was subscribed to the thread, which is why I got the notification). Maybe one of the mods who actually know what they're talking about will come along and explain it better.


I'm losing the plot as to why bò is lenited to bhò here.


It's because it's 'the cow' instead of 'a cow' :)

a cow > bò

the cow > a' bhò


Ah, light dawns. I'm sure that's explained somewhere.

In fact it is actually second on my list of "things that have to be lenited" that features on my one-page crib sheet. I'm still getting it straight in my head and that one hasn't stuck yet. I thank you for your patience.


No bother at all :)


There are several muddled answers here. The correct sequence of events is that the word for 'the' used before feminine nouns causes them to lenite. As for why an changes to a', it's not a question of what the sound is, as it applies to ph but not to f. The reason is somewhere in the history of the language so we just have to accept it.

So, since is feminine, we have:

An + bò → a' bhò

The mbfp rule does not apply to the form of the article that causes mutation. It's not a question of what the sound is, since, with a similar argument to above, it applies to f but not to ph. It's just any consonant made with the lips where you don't expect lenition.

And we know that the is feminine because she is trom. That is not quite true as trom just means heavy. However, in the context where pregnancy is possible, such as with a cow, then trom would often be used and understood to to mean 'pregnant'. I think I would not normally talk about a 'heavy cow'. Accordingto Ngram, pregnant cow is about 10 times more common than heavy cow, so pregnant cow is in fact the translation that is most likely to be right. DImgur


Why is it saying an-seo is wrong an that it is an seo??


It's a change coming in Tree 2. It shouldn't mark you wrong, but an seo is the correct one. Until Tree 2 is released, this might keep happening.


That's intriguing. I was so sure it was *an-seo that I did not even look it up. But I have now. Both Dwelly and AFB are 100% on my side, with no occurrences of an seo. But Mark is 100% on your side, with 98 occurrences of an seo and none of *an-seo. It's most unusual for Mark to fail to mention a controversy, and also unusual for him to be 100% consistent in his examples.

GOC 1988 says such words (including exemplar adverbials of both time and place, but not mentioning this one) may be hyphenated. But by 2005 this has changed to

  • a list showing use of the hyphen in a long list of adverbials, which they describe as 'adverbial expressions of time and place (which they aren't all) which constitute units'.
    • a-màireach, a-nis, a-nochd, a-raoir, a-rithist, am-bliadhna, an-ceartuair, an-dè, an-diugh, an-dràsta, an-earar, an-uiridh a-bhàn, a-bhos, an-àird, a-nall, a-nìos, a-nuas, a-null a-chaoidh, a-cheana, am-feast, a-mhàin, a-riamh a-mach, a-muigh, a-staigh, a-steach
  • *an-seo, *an-sin and *an-siud are not on this list, but
  • It says, in a different part of the document, 'It should be noted that an seo, an sin and an siud should be spelt without a hyphen. (My emphasis)

No wonder there is confusion, and I feel most uncomfortable with this inconsistency, but I suppose you have no choice but to follow the current GOC.

So, to summarise,

Always use a hyphen, except in an seo, an sin and an siud, and don't ask why. D


Yeah, we're trying our best to align the course with GOC. 'An seo' is what I was taught in school, so 'an-seo' always looked a bit funny to me :)


Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly does GOC stand for? I'm really trying to understand that grammar and nuances of the Gaelic, and I find it hard to look up the finer points on DUolinguo. I'm loving it, mind you, (annoyed that I lost my 143 day streak because I had to deal with a family emergency) but there are aspects that are hard to understand from just the tips...


Sorry, GOC is the Gaelic Orthographic Conventions. It's a document from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) that outlines the spelling and grammar conventions of the language. The most recent edition (2009) can be found here:


I must say, it's a bit of a dry read on its own, but useful if there are any spellings/general conventions that you want to double check. It doesn't really explain the 'whys' of the rules :)


I'm still baffled by the inconsistency. The only thing I can think of is that seo, sin etc. are words in modern Gaelic, whereas *diugh, *màireach, * aren't. They were words, of course, although there is a bit of dispute about what they were as they have only existed in adverbials for quite a long time. D


Honestly, I don't really understand the logic either. Here are the relevant sections in the GOC:

5 c) Where the emphasising particle follows a noun or an adjective, the word should be hyphenated:

  • a brògan-se, ar càirdean-ne, mo leabhar-sa, mo sheacaid ùr-sa

However, adjectival forms of seo, sin and siud should be written as separate words:

  • an rud seo /an rud sa, an rud sin, an rud ud

d) Adverbial expressions of time and place which constitute units should be hyphenated:

  • a-màireach, a-nis, a-nochd, a-raoir, a-rithist, am-bliadhna, an-ceartuair, an-dè, an-diugh, an-dràsta, an-earar, an-uiridh

  • a-bhàn, a-bhos, an-àird, a-nall, a-nìos, a-nuas, a-null

  • a-chaoidh, a-cheana, am-feast, a-mhàin, a-riamh

  • a-mach, a-muigh, a-staigh, a-steach


I've just updated my big post above, having read your post and the GOC even more thoroughly.


Yes, it has also been hyphenated in earlier lessons, which is why I am confused. Hopefully it will come clearer as I get further into the language.


Funnily enough, I was looking over this exact thing again yesterday. I think because I always learned them as an seo, an sin, and an siud, I never really made the connection with other adverbials or questioned it.

What struck me more than anything yesterday was the adverbials of time - all hyphenated, except for:

  • a’ bhòn-dè (compare with an-dè )
  • a’ bhòn-raoir (compare with a-raoir )
  • a' bhòn-uiridh (compare with an-uiridh )

Why they haven't hyphenated them twice (a-bhòn-dè, a-bhòn-raoir, a-bhòn-uiridh ) is beyond me. It reads very clumsily to me.


Well that is crazy and I have never seen that before. That suggests two things

  • They think bòn is a feminine noun
  • They think this would make sense without a preposition.

The first is simply not true - it never has been in any known language; and the second is pretty implausible.

For 'the day before yesterday' AFB gives

  • a-bhóin-dé (because he has not read what GOC says on accents)
  • latha ron dé (without saying this is an adverb, and this makes perfect sense as a noun phrase)
  • air a' bhóin-dé which looks like some people think it is a noun

Dwelly gives

  • air bhòn-dé (which makes me wonder if AFB's accents are actually wrong, rather than just old-fashioned)
  • mòrainn (which is not relevant)
  • air a' mhoth an-dé (Arran) Listed under the noun moth. Given the main meaning of moth I think that describing this as 'fanciful' would be rather polite.

Mark gives

  • bòn-dè
  • a’bhòn-dè (with the missing space presumably a typo)

Since there is no plausible idea, so far, or in any dictionary of what bhòn means there is no way to construe it and determine what the logical spelling should be. But I don't accept a' as I don't believe it's a noun.

Bur for 'the night before last' AFB gives, amongst others

  • an dara bhòn-raoir

which suggests it might be short for *an dara oidhche bho an-raoir, since they would have counted inclusively and bho an could easily condense to bhòn. If this were a noun phrase then an would be the article, but as he says it is an adverb we can assume the an is the same as in an-dè - a preposition.

So overall, I can't see any evidence to suggest any likelihood that the first a is an article, and it being the same adverb as in an-dè is really the only option on the table. So only a-bhòn-dè is credible. D


bho an could easily condense to bhòn

This is my thinking; at least it's what seems most plausible to me.

I can't see any evidence to suggest any likelihood that the first a is an article

Well that's what I don't understand. If it were an article, then surely a-raoir would be a' raoir instead? And so the others would have spaces and not hyphens (an dè, an diugh, etc.)? I haven't a clue at this point..!


I think GOC must have been edited by people with no understanding of the underling grammar. I don't think anyone could suggest that an here is an article, unless it is in the dative (which it can't be or it would be * a' mhàireach, short for * air a' mhàireach or something). A preposition makes perfect sense. Just like the to in today, it is not one we are familiar with elsewhere, but that is clearly what it is.

Of course some Gaels have mistaken it for an article. I am certain the use in Scots of the day, the now, etc. is just a mistranslation by Gaels trying to learn Scots, of the Gaelic, not understanding that the an is an obscure preposition. D


Duolingo gets very confused with hyphens and so has been taught to ignore them. Usually it ignores what you write and you should ignore what it writes. If it said you had a typo just think it's stupid. But if it actually marked you wrong then it is a fault that needs reported.

But before you do you have to be absolutely certain that you did not make any other mistake that has confused it. The way to be absolutely 100% certain is to do this next time this or something similar happens:

Copy Duolingo's answer, using the copy-and-paste function. When the question comes round again, paste in the copied answer, put in the hyphen, and see if it then accepts it. If not, report it.


To be perfectly honest, I don't really care about being marked wrong per se, I just want to learn how to speak and write correctly. I have found some other errors the deeper I get into the lessons (on Level 3 now), but I'm hoping they are just small glitches.


Well as you can see from my other comment, it is a glitch but it is one caused by the team trying to keep up with changes in the GOC that they (and I) were not aware of. So it should get sorted out eventually.

As far as speaking correctly is concerned, they make it clear in the earlier GOC that you cannot write *anseo because that would make it look the stress was on the first syllable. Both an seo and an-seo show where the stress is, as it is always on the first syllable - or first syllable after the hyphen if there is one.


Thanks! I knew there needed to be a space of some sort to separate them out for the accent. Just wasn't sure if the hyphen also implied some other grammar that I was missing.


No. It just makes it easier to read, as an means 'the', 'in', 'their' and marks a question. So this just makes a fifth meaning for learners to struggle with. So it's a pity they took the hyphen out.


Oops I meant to do feedback, not discussion. I often like the accidental corrects, but I wrote am bò trom instead of a bhò throm, which really was taking the biscuit lol!


Well you managed to get the article and the adjective to agree with the noun. I have no idea why they accepted this as there is no suggestion in any dictionary I consulted (AFB, Dwelly and Mark) that this word is ever masculine, and nor have I ever heard it as masculine. It generally means the female of the species, although it can be used in a non-gender specific way, especially in the plural, just as in English.

The gender confusion seems especially odd if you have seen my post about what trom usually means in the context of a female (human or animal).

Note for others: the original comment said that this masculine form was accepted by Duolingo.


I shouldn't have been marked correct for this


Very honest of you, but there is nothing anyone can do about it unless you give us some clue as to what you wrote and in what way you think it is wrong.

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