"Does he have a big head?"
Translation:A bheil ceann mòr air?
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Why is this air and not oirre (or whatever the male version of that is)?
It's because air is the masculine equivalent of oirre. It can mean both 'on' and 'on him'. Here's a table of those prepositional pronouns:
|Prepositional Pronoun||English Translation|
|ort||on you (singular)|
|oirbh||on you (plural)|
Is the suggestion that he has a small head in a bag (for instance)?
So there's two ways of translating this sentence from English:
- A bheil ceann mòr aige? - Does he have a big head? (in a bag, for example; not his own head)
- A bheil ceann mòr air? - Does he have a big head? (on his shoulders; his own head)
We use air for body parts that are 'on him', so to speak (falt, sùilean, ceann, etc.). We use aige for things he owns/is holding/has in his possession (bàta, taigh, cù, etc.).
If you use aige with body parts, it suggests he is in possession of them (i.e. they aren't his own). With clothing, you can use either or. The difference there is that using air suggests he is wearing the item, whereas using aige suggests that he owns/is holding the item, but isn't necessarily wearing it:
- Tha brògan aige. > He has (owns) shoes.
- Tha brògan air. > He is wearing shoes.
That's brilliant, thank you! I was assuming because of the 'a' that 'air' was part of the 'agam, agad, aige, aice' pronouns, not that it was part of the 'orm, ort, oirre' pronouns (I'd assumed it would also have an 'o' at the start if that was the case)! That makes perfect sense!