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  5. "Is bean mé."

"Is bean mé."

Translation:I am a woman.

August 25, 2014



It's odd how instead of "I am a woman" it's I woman am, when literally translated.

  • 1832

Actually, it's "Am woman I/me." VSO word order, and my first impression is that here woman is operating as the subject and the speaker as the object, which is an interesting take on things.


The verb "to be" never takes an object, in English or in Irish. In this sentence, both "I" and "a woman" refer to the same person who is the subject of the sentence.


If like you say the person ("I") is the subject, then is the VSO really the formula of an Irish neutral utterance? Logically, I agree, there's no object in "I am a man", it's merely a statement of identity. But in formal grammar terms, "I" is the subject, "am" is the verb and "a man" is still... the object for the lack of a better formal term, right? So, help me understand (and some languages' beauty really is in a different view of reality), should we rather think of this idea in Irish way as of "a man is me"? Yet, if we put logical stress on "man", then "the" is required in English, which is probably not the case here. So, coming back to the formula, is it really VSO or rather VOS? Thank you for reading through :)


In the sentence I am a woman, "I" is the subject and "the woman" is a subject complement (to be specific, it is a predicate noun). On top of that, the copula is a defective verb with separate rules of grammar to every other verb in Irish.

Try not to think in terms of what phrases would literally translate to in English - this will confuse you when you move on to new skills which use the same Irish words in slightly different ways that "break" the English framework you had been relying on. Learn the patterns and practice them, and eventually they will start to feel more natural to you :)


Thank you! I'll try hard not to try too hard :)


"Man" in your sentence is a predicate nominative-a noun that renames the subject. Linking verbs like is, don't take objects, only action verbs do that.


In French, we call it a complement, an object. Or maybe I'm not good enough at linguistics.


No, in this type of sentece (I am a woman / Je suis une femme), there is no object/complement. A woman/une femme is an ‘attribut du sujet’, a subject complement.

The verb ‘to be’ and its French equivalent ‘être’ can’t have objects.


I thought the same, subject and predicative are linked by the verb to be, it is just another order.


V(PN)S verb + predicate nominative=subject


V(SC)S verb + subject complement = subject

or simply: verb stating that the following two nouns are equal. noun=noun


It's the same with a lot of languages where words are flipped like that. "Le chat noir" in french literally translates to "the cat black" in english.


Because French came from Latin, in Portuguese and Spanish is like this too.


I understand it as a question. "is..."


It’s not a question; in Irish, the verb usually comes first in a sentence, but verbal particles such as An would come before a verb to introduce a question.


So, the original formula is Verb+Subject+Object >> there is no Object >> Verb+Subject >> Add a subject complement after the Subject >> Verb+Subject+S.C. So the S.C.'s order is after the Subject, right?


The short answer to this is that the copula (is ... mé, etc) is different to all other verbs and it doesn't obey the normal rules for verb order :)


Linking Verb+S.C.=S

Is + bean = mé


Given the lack of an indefinite article, how can it be translated as "I am a woman." On the other hand, if the answer is that the "a" is required for a good English translation, why isn't "bean agus cailin" translated as "A woman and a girl"?


Irish doesn't have an indefinite article. Any time you see a noun without the definite article ('an'), it can be translated into English with or without the English indefinite article.


The indefinite article "a" is used in the more common statement in English. "I am woman." is a song and a powerful feminist statement. One needs to know that the Irish statement is the only way to say both, but that it is used for the common statement most of the time. In English, when you say something about yourself, you will use either the indefinite article or the definite article with a noun, unless you are saying that you are the entire category as in the song. If you say "I am woman." then you are not just saying you are a woman, like many others, but that you are the whole category representing them all. "A woman and a girl" is also accepted for "bean agus cailín" as well as "woman and girl", because the phrase could be talking about two people or two categories of people.


I will try to explain with an example.

It's the same thing with English/French.

French has more articles than English.

When you say I eat chocolate, in French you need an article, the "some" translation is mandatory: Je mange DU Chocolat. (du = some)

That's difficult for a French that is beginner in English to translate "I eat chocolate"., but no article = partitive article = some. It's an habit to take.

When you say "Men like war" in English, it's also confusing for a French beginner in English, because there is no article. And French needs article!

You have to translate it in French "THE men like THE wars", as articles are mandatory. So every time, as a French, I see a sentence with no article in English, and it's a generality, I have a hint I have to translate if adding "the" in French,.

Men like war => LES hommes aiment LA guerre.

So, you see, when it's always the same translation, the same kind of meaning, you know how to add the missing articles.


The "s" is supposed to sound like "sh" when it is next to an "i", is it not?


Usually that’s the case, but is is generally an exception; however, its s does sound like “sh” when it’s next to a pronoun that begins with a slender vowel — is é, is í, is iad, is ea.


It also sounds like this recording on Forvo, so I must be mistaken.


The copula 'is' is one of the few exceptions where s is pronounced 'broad' despite coming beside an i. I don't personally know why.


What is the difference between bhean and bean, how come bean is used and not bhean.

  • 1452

That question has been asked and answered at least 3 times already in this Sentence Discussion.

The Irish for "woman" is bean. Certain grammatical features in Irish cause lenition of the following word (a séimhiú or "h" is added after the initial letter). One of the causes of lenition is the singular definite article an when it comes before a feminine noun. Another source of lenitition are the singular possessive adjective mo and do, for example.

As there is no source for lenition in Is bean mé, bean isn't lenited.


I'm confused about the word for "woman". Early lessons showed woman was "bhean" and that's what online translators show for 'woman' but this singular question has 'woman' as 'bean' and online translators don't do anything with 'bean', can any of you shed light on this for me?

  • 1452

The Irish for "woman" is bean.

You probably recognize that there isn't any difference between "Woman" and "woman" - whether the first letter is capitalized depends on the context in which the word occurs - it will always be "Woman" if it's at the beginning of a sentence, and it is usually "woman" if it's not the first word, though there if you are referring to women in general, you might write "Woman". But the spelling of the word doesn't change.

English only has one type of "initial mutation", capitalization. Irish has additional initial mutations, one of which, lenition, gives rise to bhean. The words hasn't changed, it isn't a "different spelling of woman", it is bean used in a grammatical context that calls for it to be lenited, just as "woman" becomes "Woman" when it's the first word in a sentence.

There are a number of grammatical triggers for lenition. Like most European languages other than English, nouns in Irish are gendered, and a feminine noun like bean is lenited after the singular definite article in the nomination case:
Tá bean ag léamh - "a woman is reading"
Tá an bhean ag léamh - "the woman is reading"
The singular possessive adjective mo, do and a ("his") cause lenition:
Tá mo bhean chéile sa charr - "My wife is in the carr"

There are other grammatical sources of lenition, and there are other "initial mutations (ag an mbean), but for now, those two sources explain most of the examples of bhean that you will encounter.

The bottom line is that bean is the Irish for "woman", and it only becomes bhean when there is a grammatical source for that. There is nothing in this exercise to trigger that change, so it doesn't happen.


lol there is a lot of terminology in there for someone who is by far not a linguist, so most of your response went right over my head. but I think I get the gist of it, thank you.


Comparing capitalisation (something pertaining to writing and spelling) and lenition or other phonetical mutations (pertaining to phonetics and phonotactics) doesn’t make much sense to me.

The problem is that Irisg learners have to acquire new sounds (phonemes) and distinctions between slender and broad consonants. I personally can’t hear the difference (it’s still too subtle to my ears).

  • 1452

The person asking the question is asking a question about writing and spelling, not about phonetics. They see the same word spelled 3 different ways, and are confused by that. The only "initial mutation" that they have ever encountered in English is capitalization - therefore they have a basis for understanding that initial mutations don't change the meaning of a word.

That this explanation doesn't make much sense to you is neither here nor there - it wasn't addressed to you, as you aren't trying to wrap your head around the idea of how the same word can be spelled in different ways and still mean the same thing.


I'm living in Irish so I decided to brush up on my Irish skills but I'm confused as to why "I am woman" is wrong if "an" has no direct translation.

  • 1452

The structure of an identification statement "I am X" is not the same as the structure of a classification statement "I am a X".

Is bean mé is a classificatorial clause - "I am a woman".


Is it supposed to be "bean" or "bhean" for woman? I've been corrected by the system both ways telling me I have a typo, and I'd like to learn which way is ACTUALLY correct


Certain grammatical situations require lenition, e.g. turning bean into bhean. One common example is after the definite article an for feminine nouns, e.g. an bhean.


I don't know if Munsterisms is acceptable here, but another way to say it is "Is bean ea mé".


That alternative form would actually be Bean is ea mé.


An unemphatic form that is generally used only in Munster Irish.

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