"Tha ministear eile anns an eaglais."

Translation:There is another minister in the church.

August 11, 2020

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The speaker is clearly saying Tha ministears eile anns an eaglais. Reported.


How would we say "another minister is in the church"? Are the two English sentences the same in Gaelic?


Oups. I misread your message and answered a question you did not ask. My bad. Removed the previous message.

As for your actual question – there is no difference in meaning in English between another minister is in the church and there is another minister in the church – both mean exactly the same thing. It’s just that English doesn’t like indefinite subject (another minister, a cat, water, a hobbit) before the verb in such sentences, so you say things like:

  • there is another minister in the church,
  • there is a cat on the table,
  • there is water in the lake,
  • in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit

because another minister is in the church, a cat is on the table, water is in the lake sound weird on their own, and in a hole in the ground a hobbit lived doesn’t make a good beginning of a story.

There is nothing like this in Gaelic (nor in many other languages of the world – but it does exist in Norwegian as det er… and in Danish as der er…, and probably other Scandinavian languages).


Must be a Germanic thing since Dutch has it too. Er zit veel eten op tafel = there is a lot of food on the table.


Which presumably means that we (the English) got it from over the North Sea, as we clearly did not get it from any Celtic language?


I now think this is a general Germanic feature (and thus probably inherited in English). See above for the Dutch example, also in German there is es gibt in eg. es gibt einen Mann there is a man, lit. it gives one man with one man in accusative; and it also has other similar constructions: da ist… (there is…) and es ist… (it is…) – I’m not sure what’s exactly the difference between them.

So for some reason it seems to me that generally the copula wasn’t used with indef. subjects for existentials in Germanic languages and they came up with other strategies (typically replacing the subject with some dummy there or it) for this type of sentences.

But I don’t know, one would need to check how Gothic, Old English, and Old Norse managed, that would probably shed some more light on the historical details. I didn’t delve too much into it myself.


Yes, I nearly gave the German example but I realized my German was not good enough to know if it was used all the time - in all the situations you listed in your previous post, for example. There is also a structure in French (il y a 'it there has') which also has the noun as the object (although they don't actually have noun cases) and again I am not quite certain when it is optional or compulsory. But I have wondered if these strange structures are at least partly the result of people with a VSO language (whether Celtic or some language now lost) trying to speak an SVO language, and just finding a substitute for tha (or whatever) in a language that does not like starting with a verb unless it is a question.


How can you tell when the sentence means 'the' rather than 'a'. I am confused about this because I see 'an' used as both 'the' and 'a' and so I often get these kinds of questions wrong.


an is never used for a (the indefinite article) – Gaelic doesn’t have indefinite articles at all.

But you’re probably confused by the word ann an meaning in which has nothing to do with the definite article an meaning the. If you see ann an that’s really a single word meaning in, nothing definite about it, there’s no the in it. In older times it used to be just an (like the def. article), that’s probably why it got doubled to ann an – to avoid ambiguity and confusion (which today causes confusion in learners’ heads…).

Now, ann an changes to just anns before the definite article. So whenever you see anns an or anns na that means in the.

Compare: ann am bàtain a boat (ann am means in, bàta means a boat), anns a’ bhàtain the boat (anns means in, a’ bhàta means the boat in the dative case),

  • ann am bàtaicheanin boats (ann am = in),
  • anns na bàtaicheanin the boats (anns = in, na bàtaichean = the boats).


Got it! Moran Taing!

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