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  5. "Was the window open?"

"Was the window open?"

Translation:An robh an uinneag fosgailte?

February 14, 2020



why is this not an t-uinneag?



uinneag is feminine so uses just an; masculine words use an t-. See the notes at https://www.duome.eu/tips/en/gd for all the ways to create a definite article


The essential Part B of the answer is how exactly you are supposed to know uinneag is feminine.

Firstly you need to learn as you go along. Because it was an uinneag you have now learnt that is feminine. You need to notice every time there is a clue about the gender of a noun. That is how children learn, even before they understand the rules of grammar. But they also learn patterns. The pattern here is that all nouns that end in -ag are feminine because it is the feminine diminutive suffix. The only exception is aiseag 'ferry' which is masculine.

If you like to go into the history it is more complicated than that. The word was originally neuter in Old Norse but it was mistaken for feminine when it was borrowed into Old Irish, probably because the Old Irish equivalent of -ag made it look feminine.


Ah - brilliant - thank you!


Is bha was in affermative and robh interrogative?


Yes. See my answer above for fuller details. I've called it 'statement' rather then 'affirmative' and 'question' rather than 'interrogative' because people don't agree about terminology, but you get the idea. Robh is interrogative/negative/both.


Thanks! So that makes nach negative question, I suppose.


Yes. In many languages they don't really teach negative questions as they are easy once you have learnt negatives and questions. But Gaelic, Irish and, to some extent English have this 1 + 3 structure where it is easiest to teach all the dependent forms at the same time as there is only one extra word to learn for the negative questions that works in all tenses in the same way as an and cha.


Still a wee bit uncertain as to why bha cannot be used here.


Bha would be a declarative statement, the window was open. An robh makes it a question, was the window open?


Some people would just say that is the question form - learn it, but there is a bit of pattern to it which is suspiciously similar to modern English, so a bit of analysis will clarify things once and for all.

In English we are completely used to having one structure for positive statements, and a different structure for negatives and questions:

- Positive Negative
Statement I went I didn't go
Question Did I go Didn't I go

In this particular case, with an irregular verb, we don't just have a different structure but a completely different verb form.

Well Gaelic does exactly the same. For every tense for every verb. So for each tense and each irregular verb you learn, work on the basis that you have to learn two words

one for the green bits (called the independent form)
one for the blue bits (called the dependent form)

So in this example we have

- Positive Negative
Statement Bha Cha robh
Question An robh Nach robh

If you are aware of this from the beginning life becomes much easier.

If you think this is a lot of work it is a lot fewer forms than many languages because

  • there are only four tenses
  • there are virtually no endings for different people (I am, you are, she is etc.) which multiply all your learning by six or seven in many languages.


Thank you. I can see now that this is a question and that bha cannot be used here. Thank you for your very helpful reply.

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