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  5. "The blood is red."

"The blood is red."

Translation:Tha an fhuil dearg.

March 5, 2020



Everyone seems happy with "dearg"? I thought it should be "dhearg"?


No, not everyone. No one has queried it yet on this question, but they have on the almost identical question Blood is red which I answered 4 days ago, and on about twenty other questions that various people have answered.

(If you want to see how common it is and you are on a laptop, proceed as follows: (1) duplicate this tab (so you don't lose this thread); (2) find the search box in the top right hand corner; (3) search for predicative; (4) at least half the 39 (and counting) hits you get are to do with this issue; (5) that means that you can choose whose explanation you find the easiest.)

But here are two answers according to your knowledge of grammar.

In Gaelic, like in other Celtic languages and most (edited to most after Anne998711's comment – thank you) Germanic languages, attributive adjectives agree but predicative ones do not.

In French, Spanish, etc. adjectives always agree

La sangre roja es roja 'The red blood is red'

But in German and Gaelic, adjectives only change if they are part of the same phrase, not when you are saying something is red.

Das rote Blut ist rot
Tha an fhuil dhearg dearg

These so-called predicative adjectives come after the verb in German, French and English so they are easy to spot, but Gaelic word order makes this harder to see

An fhuil dhearg 'the red blood'
Tha an fhuil dearg 'the blood is red'

So when translating from the English, use this simple rule:

Any adjective separated from the noun by a verb in English does not change.

Note that virtually no basic grammar books actually discuss this point in detail. People who write grammars for Germanic and Celtic languages (such as the Duolingo Gaelic notes) think their way is obvious and don't discuss it much, and people who write grammars for Romance languages think their way is obvious and don't discuss it at all (as far as I know). They aren't.

As an extreme example, there is a situation where the lenition is the only way to tell the two apart in Gaelic - which would make it impossible in a situation where lenition did not occur anyway:

Gaelic German English
Tha an nighean chàirdeil coibhneil Das freundliche Mädchen ist nett The friendly girl is kind
Tha an nighean càirdeil coibhneil Das Mädchen ist freundlich und nett The girl is friendly and kind

. D


Thank you for this comprehensive explanation. I did eventually recall some reference to this situation in the Duolingo tips and found it under the subject “Family”. It gives the example: Piuthar mhath. - A good sister Tha piuthar math. - A sister is good.


Found it, now you have told me what to search for. Not very noticeable or detailed. But at least it's there.


Geniale Antwort, danke.


Awesome answer, thanks! My mother tongue, Danish, is actually weird in this regard, the predicative adjectives have to agree as well - but in a different way than the attributive ones! I never realised that before, haha.


OK. I had to read up on Danish grammar to see what was going on here. I have never studied Danish but I know the basics of German, Norwegian and Old Norse.

As for whether there are predicative endings at all, it seems that some languages have retained this feature and other haven't. But interesting to note that not even the Germanic languages can agree on this. I have now corrected my comment above – thank you.

But as for them having different endings from attributive adjectives, this is not quite right according to Wikipedia. Of course Wikipedia may have misled me. It says there are two forms used attributively, with one of them being used predicatively, so the odd one out is not the predicative, but the definite attributive. The predicative forms agree with the attributive forms that are used sometimes.

et stort hus indefinite attributive
huset er stort predicative

det store hus definite attributive

Of course it is easy to think of the definite form as the 'normal' attributive form, because it is much more common than it is in, say, German (where it is called the weak adjective declension). Wikipedia lists three situations where you would use it in Danish but not in German

Peters store hus
hans store hus
mit store hus


Mi fhèin cuideachd, but when 'an fhùil dhearg' was marked wrong I was put in mind of what my Gaelic teacher often said, that d often "resists lenition".


That was a sensible suggestion and it could have been that, but be aware that letters resist lenition under specific circumstances, not as the mood takes them. I describe it in https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/36085803?comment_id=38116981


I did not understand the explanation why dearg did not lenite in this example, but later in the same lesson both adjectives in 'the red crab and the black crow' did lenite. When I opened this thread I felt I had come in half way through a long conversation that I had not been party to. I didn't understand the explanation given at all. What is meant by the technical words 'attributive' and 'predicative' adjectives and what is meant by adjectives 'agreeing'?


Both of these are good questions, as they are quite difficult to explain, especially if you do not have experience of languages like French or German.

Because of differences in word order it is much easier to tell the difference in English than in any of the Celtic languages. We use adjectives in two ways

Attributive These are adjectives that go before the noun in English: the red crab, the black crow. Its just part of the thing you are talking about.

  • In many languages these words often change according to whether the word is masculine or feminine, singular or plural etc. So
    • còta dearg 'red coat' because còta is masculine singular
    • crùbag dhearg 'red crab' because crùbag is feminine singular
    • crùbagan dearga 'red crabs' because crùbagan is plural (not covered yet).

Predicative These are adjectives which are not next to the noun in English. It is when you say the crabs are red or something like that.

  • In this sort of sentence the adjective never changes in any way in modern Celtic or Germanic languages. So

    • tha an còta dearg 'the coat is red'
    • tha an crùbag dearg 'the crab is red'
    • tha na crùbagan dearg 'the crabs are red'.

You can see the problem in Gaelic - the adjective still seems to be in the same place. So you can only figure out which it is if

  • You understand the rest of the sentence structure, or
  • You have the English, or
  • You can see if the adjective has changed or not - but this only works if it is a situation where you would expect the adjective to change anyway.

I am sorry it is a bit confusing, and I hope that helps a bit. Also note that in some other situations it is practical to change the long technical terms, but there is not really any better way to distinguish these two situations, that are important in the modern Celtic and Germanic languages, so it is best to accept these long words.

If you do know any Romance languages, the difference is not at all important there, as adjectives always change, so you do not need to worry about which category they are.

To look on the bright side, the difference is usually only one letter, and Duo counts that as a typo not an error! D


Your explanations are amazing and always so helpful!


I believe the bfmp-rule only applies to masculine nouns; fhuil is feminine :)


For the moment, but note that rule will break down later, so better to think that it only applies with words that don't cause lenition.


So if you were to say "The red blood is red." Would it be "Tha an fhuil dhearg dearg."?


Precisely. You've understood it.


I thought nouns that began with b, f, m and p took am as the rather than an.


There is confusion here because it has not been made clear that the an that doesn't cause lenition (e.g. before a masculine noun) is completely different from the one that does (that you might put before a feminine noun).

An (no lenition)

am before mbfp
insert t- before vowels

An (+ lenition)

a' before ph, ch, bh, gh, mh (i.e. when lenition visible, except f )
no lenition of d, t, s
insert t- before s (learn about that later).

So the important thing is to keep these two beasts separate in your mind.

We will meet other examples of pairs of similar words where completely different rules apply to the one that causes lenition and the one that doesn't.

In particular we will meet several words that follow the mbfp rule but none of them cause lenition. D


Faint but pursuing....


It's different when it's fh, the f thing only applies when the f is followed by a vowel. But more generally, I'm still a bit confused by this myself. I thought that fh counted as a vowel, but I didn't think vowels got "an".


Vowels do get an an:

an eaglais 'the church'

They also get a t- but only if it's the sort of an that doesn't cause lenition.

Fh is silent so fh + vowel counts as a vowel. But fhl would count as an l and fhr would count as an r.


Wonderful explanation!


Moràn taing for your explanation! I was having fun with gaelic until now! Ahahaha this is rather difficult! My brain is in a mess now

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