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  5. How to say "Can" in Gaelic?


How to say "Can" in Gaelic?

March 8, 2020



Be aware that 's urrainn dhomh only means " can" in the sense of "i am able to". If you mean "I may/ i am allowed to" then you should use faodaidh/ am faod/ chan fhaod. Lazy english often uses "can" for both these meanings. Gàidhlig makes clear distinction.


That's a point, I hadn't thought about that other meaning in English. I don't think I'm in the habit of using "can" in that sense but I certainly recognise it.

There's quite a lot in Speaking Our Language about faodaidh / am faod / chan fhaod, as I recall.

ETA: In the sense of a question though, I certainly have used it like that. "Can I do that? Please Mum!"


What's the literal translation of "urrainn" anyway? To fit in with "dhomh" being "for me"? I mean in the sense that "an taigh agam" is "the house that is at me" and "tha cabhag orm" is "haste is on me".


It means "ability".


Thank you, I wondered if it was something like that. Have a lingot!


I have been watching the old Can Seo programmes (and no that's not the answer, "Can" in Gaelic means "say", the title of the programme means "Say this"). But anyway, according to that, the Gaelic for "I can" is "‘S urrainn dhomh". Although the programme is 40 years old and spelling conventions have changed so I don't know how reliable that is.

My notes from the programme actually read

An urrainn dhut = Can you?

‘S urrainn dhomh = I can

Chan urrainn dhomh = I can’t

We've met "dhut" already as "for you", as in "Chan eil Irn Bru math dhut". I think I smell another beautiful prepositional pronoun "word baby" for us to learn in a later stage of the course.

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