1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "The wall is bad."

"The wall is bad."

Translation:Tha am balla dona.

February 24, 2020



Why "am" instead of "an"? How can you tell which version you're meant you use?


Before labial sounds (P, B, M, F) you use am, otherwise an. It’s just like in- changing to im- in English eg. in imperfect instead of inperfect, imbalanced instead of inbalanced, immortal and not inmortal – the consonant becomes similar to the next sound, dental n changes to bilabial m.

Just notice that in Scottish Gaelic f is also treated as a labial sound (eg. am fìon the wine, and not an fìon, vs. English infrequent) because the Gaelic /f/ used to be pronounced with two lips instead of the lower lip and upper teeth (as English /f/).


Ahhhh that makes sense. Thanks! Just a follow on; from what I've figured out "an t-" just goes on words starting with a vowel. Is that correct?


There are two instances where t- appears, both after the definite article:

  1. as you mentioned – before vowels (where otherwise no lenition happens), eg. an t-athair the father, an t-ubhal the apple,
  2. instead of s when it is lenited, eg. an t-sùil the eye, an t-slige the shell, an t-sagairt of the priest, leis an t-sagart with the priest (the t-s- is pronounced as just t).

In both of those instances historically this t- is actually part of the article (which originally was *sindos, *sinda, *sindon, etc. in Proto-Celtic, then lost the endings and initial s- and evolved into ind, int, in in Old Irish, and then in most cases lost the final d/t and became modern an, am, a’.

Coincidentally just today I’ve written another post about history of t replacing s after the article instead of a regular lenition.


Awesome! Thanks so much!


Can you explain why the compuitar picture and the internet picture are the same?


Love the allusion to belladona. Or la bella donna :)

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