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Gaelic, or How to Use the Verb "To Be" in Every Single Sentence

No seriously, up until now I don't think I've ever learned how to form a sentence without any form of that verb. It's even there when the "main" verb is something else! (Like in: Tha mi a' coimhead air Seumas – I'm looking at James). But I also haven't gotten through the whole tree yet – so, spoilers aside, is "to be" really such a special verb that Gaelic cannot live without it, or do other verbs exist without it, and I just need to get to the later lessons?

March 11, 2020



Similarly, however, English uses articles for virtually every noun. Yet in Gaelic the indefinite article is dropped (I'm assuming because it is implied). So to a Gaelic speaker learning English, it might seem tiresome to put an indefinite article in front of every noun. Every language has its quirks, which you just have to learn to deal with.


Yes, but the verb to be is by far the most common. You can do it other ways though.

For example: bidh mi a' leughadh an leabhar leughaidh mi an leabhar

Both mean "I will read the book". They have slightly differing connotations, for example bidh implies habit, but they both translate to "I will read the book" in English.


The later lessons will give you the delightful redundancy of describing people: "It is a policeman that I am." I'm also very pleased that I've learned to ask, "Are you a lazy police officer?" because there's no way that conversation could go wrong.


Poileas grànda would be worse I guess. :)


In your example, your English sentence uses "to be" as well: "I'm" = "I am". Why wouldn't Gaelic? :)

That said, the kindof-absence of "yes" and "no" (replaced with a positive or negative verb, most often "(it) is" or "(it) isn't") does make it a bit more prevalent than in English.


With the correct bit of"tha" + the verbal noun you can form the present, present habitual, imperfect, pluperfect and conditional tenses, even one version of the passive voice. It's so useful in giving beginners some way of communicating, which is why it's almost always taught first. There are plenty of more difficult options to come if you stick with it.....


Just be patient as they prepare to expand the course or until you can add some supplementary learning materials. Then you'll get to put sentences into the future and plain past tenses without a form of 'to be'. In the present you have to use 'to be' together with the verbal noun.

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