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  5. "We are James and Mairi."

"We are James and Mairi."

Translation:Is sinne Seumas agus Màiri.

May 13, 2020



Is it possible to say "Tha sinn Seumus agus Màiri"? It was marked wrong.


No, it’s not. Gaelic has two to be verbs with different uses, the copula is and the substantive verb bi whose form tha is.

Seumas agus Màiri James and Mairi is a noun phrase. And you cannot use a noun phrase as the predicate (the thing that goes after is in English X is Y) of the bi verb – it is only used to describe things and people and their whereabouts (its predicate must be an adjective, an adverb, or a prepositional phrase), not to say what or who they are:

  • tha sinn mòr we are big (the predicate is an adjective),
  • tha mi gu math I am well (the predicate is an adverb),
  • tha e an-sin he is there (again, an adverb: there),
  • tha an cat air a’ bhòrd the cat is on the table (the predicate is a prepositional phrase).

To say who you are always must use the copula is or some idiomatic phrase. Introducing – identifying – yourselves, saying who you are (with some definite predicate):

  • is sinne Seumas agus Màiri we are James and Mairi;
  • is mise an t-oileanach a bha an-sin an-dè I am the student who was there yesterday;
  • ’s e seo an taigh agam or just seo an taigh agam this is my house.

While saying what you are – classifying or defining yourself – typically uses some idiomatic phrases (when the predicate is indefinite):

  • ’s e oileanaich th’ annainn or tha sinn nar n-oileanaich we are students;
  • ’s e baile mòr a th' ann an Glaschu Glasgow is a city/big town;
  • ’s e cat a th’ ann it is a cat.

See how identifying uses the copula is directly. Classifying (indefinite predicates: students, a (big) city, a cat, etc.) idiomatic phrases are used. ’S e oileanaich a th’ annainn literally means: it is students that is in us, it has the verb tha but its predicate is annainn in us – a prepositional phrase. Tha sinn nar n-oileanaich is another idiomatic phrase, lit. we are in our students, it directly uses the verb tha but its predicate again is a prepositional phrase: nar n-oileanaich in our students.

Here, copula could be also used in a high-register poetic or archaic language (but not in modern regular speech): is oileanaich sinn, is baile mòr Glaschu, is cat e.

But you cannot just simply use tha in this case.

EDIT: also a lot more details and examples in my Guide to Scottish Gaelic ‘to be’, the linking verbs: substantive ‘bi, tha’ & the copula ‘is’: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/45459577


Thank you for this


I think it would be better if translation of names were not required. I cannot think of any situation where I could use it. If I went to Scotland with James, I would still call him James and if I met there Seumas, I would call him Seumas. It seems rather useless to me and annoying.


Can anyone explain why "sinn" is "sinne" here? The tips state it is the emphatic form of sinne. But what does that mean and how does it apply here? Thanks


Yes, it is the emphatic form. Generally emphatic forms are used to put more emphasis on the pronoun, or to contrast two pronouns (I did this and not you, so often used when comparing multiple persons).

But they are also used in identification clauses, ie. sentences where you say what particular person(s) somebody is or some people are. So to say I am the man you saw you say is mise an duine a chunnaic thu… (and not just is mi…) and to say we are James and Mairi you say is sinne Seumas agus Màiri (and not just is sinn…). That’s just how such sentences are formed.

I think the reason for emphatic pronouns here is that originally the pronouns worked as predicate and not the subject here, so the meaning was rather James and Mairi are us or the man you saw is me and, at least in older language, the predicate of the copula was the stressed part of the sentence. So, since the pronouns were the stressed part, emphatic pronouns (and not generally unstressed regular ones) were used.

See also the Identification – Definite Predicates part of my Guide to Scottish Gaelic ‘to be’, the linking verbs: substantive ‘bi, tha’ & the copula ‘is’: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/45459577

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