1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Irish
  4. >
  5. "Tá uisce ag an bportán."

" uisce ag an bportán."

Translation:The crab has water.

August 26, 2014



This form threw me a bit - especially after reading the hints section and reading the prepositions like "ag an."


There is a hints section???!!


Only on the desktop site. :(


But you really have to read it.


I log into a browser on my phone and can read the tips there.


A useful rhyme I leaned at school. Mary; Bakes; Pies (which) Never; Get; Cooked Now (a); Dreadful; Toothache Bothers her; Father N-AEIOU (he says)



I'm slightly confused by this rhyme. Can you please explain it? Thanks!


It is like the mnemonic for the order of operations in arithmetic -sally.. this is the mnemonic for eclipses. mary bakes pies: m eclipses b, as in ag an mbuachail. b eclipses p, as in ag an bportan..


This is amazing!


So when you pronounce eclipsed words you kind of swap the sound of the first letter for the new letter? I'm confused!


Yes. The reason why this is done is it mean that you can tell when reading the word what the word looks like without eclipsis, so 'bportán' is pronounced as if it's 'bortán' and you can tell that the original word is 'portán'. While initially confusing, it's actually a really useful feature of the orthography.

Here's more information about eclipsis: http://www.nualeargais.ie/gnag/eklipse.htm


...and in Welsh, they don't keep the original letter, but write the equivalent of 'ag an bórtán'


Yup, which can get confusing under some circumstances. The way Irish does things looks weirder, but at least you still have the hint as to what the original word is.


Yes. In Welsh you have a "total eclipsis"; in Irish it's only partial (at least, to look at)!


Yes, it works similarly for c, p and t, but for b, d and g, it's more similar to the nasal mutation. Plus Welsh eclipses m and Irish doesn't have ll and rh. Some of the rules are also similar. Lenition is more similar to the aspirate mutation, even though lenition means ''softening'', so they clearly have different ideas of what softening actually is.


bless you it all makes sense now


Is there supposed to be a "b" before "portán"? Thus threw me off a bit. Is it a typo?


Can someone please explain what eclipsis is? Or share a link to an article? I don't quite understand it. Thank you! :-)


There are notes on it here: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/ga/Eclipsis

The gist is that when eclipsis is in effect, unvoiced sounds (f, p, t, c) become voiced (bh (v), b, d, g; which are written as 'bhf', 'bp', 'dt', 'gc' to preserve the original spelling), and voiced sounds (b, d, g) become nasalised (m, n, ng, but written mb, nd, ng to preserve the original spelling).

Now to dive deeper in to the sciencey bits.

As to why this happens, it's generally that the last letter in the previous word used to be a nasal sound, such as 'n', 'm' or 'ng'. When this final letter disappeared, it left its mark on the word that followed it.

You can see this most clearly if you look at the preposition 'i', which means 'in'. Historically, this was 'in'[1], just like in English, but the final nasal consonant was mostly lost over time (though it was preserved when 'i' comes in front of a word starting with a vowel), so whereas once you might've said 'in portach'[2] to say 'in a bog', now it's 'i bportach', as the nasal sound has been lost, but its echo is still seen in the eclipsis of the word that follows it.

As to why eclipsis is used with 'ag' as in 'ag an bportán', that's because technically 'pórtan' here is in the dative case (which you mostly don't have to worry about except with certain nouns as it's identical to the regular nominative case 99% of the time). The dative case is the case used with virtually all simple prepositions, including 'ag'. Where knowing this is important is with the 'an': while the nominative and dative 'an' mostly look alike in the modern language, in older versions of the language, they were different, and the dative 'an' triggers eclipsis[1].

To give you an example in English, once upon the time, the indefinite article was always 'an'[1]. If English had progressed the way that Irish did, then we would have 'a' and 'an' (before vowel sounds), but you'd write 'the cat' and 'a gat', 'the boy' and 'a moy', 'the goat' and 'a ngoat'. Much the same thing happened with the dative definite article in Irish, hence 'ag an bportán'.

[1] A simplification, but essentially true.

[2] This process happened over a millenium and a half ago, back in the 5th or 6th century, back in the Ancient Irish era, so it's likely you wouldn't have said 'in portach' but something not exactly dissimilar. I don't have an etymological dictionary to check what it actually might've been based off of the Old Irish spelling, unfortunately.


Agus tá portán i n-uisce. Does this mean "and the crab is in the water"? Or is it "Tá portán i an uisce" because of the definite article?


Before a vowel, "i" becomes "in", so "Agus tá portán in uisce" means "And a crab is in water".

"And the crab is in the water" would be "Agus tá AN portán SAN uisce".


How is "ag" different than "aici/aige"?


ag is the basic form used with nouns, e.g, ag an gcailín, ag an mbuaichall, ag an mbean, ag an bhfear.

aici/aige is combining "ag" = "to have" with the pronoun "she" --> she has and aige is with the pronoun "he" --> he has (this is explained in detail in a later section).


In Irish most prepositions are usually written on their own, but when you use them together with a pronoun (me, you, he, she, it, us, them), the two words get contracted together to make what are known as prepositional pronouns


Don't crabs live in water i-


These sentences do not make sense to me. I can't get them because they don't make sense in English to me. :(


One month on, are they making anymore sense Becky?


Well, not this one, lol, but yes, most of them are making more sense and frankly the ones that aren't I am trying not to worry about. I just move on now. My biggest problem now is trying to use enough of it to retain some of it.


Here is a lingo for your perseverence. Ádh mór ort.- Good luck.


Go raibh maith agat!


I don't understand the word order here. I thought Irish went: Verb, Subject, Object. But here "Water" is the object and comes before the subject, "The crab".


Irish doesn't have a verb for "have", a characteristic that it shares with Russian, for example. Instead, it uses the phrasal verb tá .. ag.

"X has Y" - tá Y ag X.

The object in the English sentence becomes the subject in the Irish sentence.


So would a more literal translation of the sentence be something like "water is at the crab" and Duolingo adjusts the answer to reflect the meaning of the sentence?


is this the same as: Tá uisce portán aice ?


No, if you mean to say "Tá uisce phortán aige", that would translate as "He has the water of a crab".


Does this mean that lenition (portán -> phortán) is necessary to put a word into the genitive case? Does it always work like this?


That particular topic is quite complicated; we will try to expand the notes in the Genitive Case skill to offer guidance.


Thank you! I know it's likely a different team, but do you by any chance have any intel on whether the programmers plan to make those notes available for the mobile app? (Sorry if I'm the hundred-and-seventh person to ask!)


No intel on this, I'm afraid. We'd love this to happen too!


Just scroll down at this link to the computer version page: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/ga/Eclipsis


In this case, where "portán" is a masculine noun of the first declension, it would be lenited. But that, as Lancet said, is a very long story...


What about "Tá uisce aige an bportán"?


That would mean “He/it has water the crab”, with an unnecessary eclipsis added for good measure.


'aige' mean 'at him'. If 'him' is the crab, then it has to come after the preposition, thus 'ag an bportán' - 'at the crab'.


So why doesnt tá uisce an bportan aige not work? Glms for being basic.


Because Tá X ag Y is the general idiom for “Y has X”.

Note that Tá uisce an phortáin aige, the closest grammatically correct version of your sentence, means “He/it has the crab’s water”.


If the conversation was about a crab who has water, you could say "Ta uisce aici/aige"


Good Lord, the order's backwards from English. @_@


It might look like it, but it's not. The super literal translation of this (though keeping English word order) is 'There is water at the crab'. So the order isn't backwards (aside from the verb coming first in Irish, and that the verb 'bí', when used intransitively, is used to make existential statements), but that Irish doesn't have a direct equivalent of the English verb 'to have', and possession is instead done using the phrasal verb 'bí + ag'. Thus what is literally translated as 'there is water at the crab' actually means 'the crab has water'.

This might seem weird, but this exact construction actually occurs in a lot of the world's languages, Finnish and Russian being two European examples other than the Celtic languages. In fact, there are some interesting things to note about languages with 'have' and languages without 'have': http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/LING_a_00076


When do u use ag?


There are many instances when you'd use ag. For instance, most cases of English 'at' would use it. Here, it's used because Irish has no verb for have. Instead, something is 'at' someone.


Why is it "the crab has 'got' the water" but "the crab has the water" is not acceptable?


There is no an before uisce, so it should be 'The crab has (got) water'. If either of those wasn't accepted, please report it.


Why does ag mean "has" with everything else, but it is "has got" here? I got it wrong the first time around because of the "got". Someone explain please?


If it wasn't accepted as 'The crab has water', please report it.


Help me! I thought it was 'Water has the crab'


That would be Tá an portán ag uisce. The order is basically [Form of ] + [possessed item] + ag + [possessor]


why not just say, Tá an portán uisce"? Is it not the same thing? The way it is written, it almost sounds like the water has the crab! How would you say, "the crab is in the water"? It seems it would be damn close to this sentence. I was doing great with this course, until this confusing chapter!


Tá an portán uisce would be nonsensical. To say 'the crab is in the water' you'd say Tá an portán san uisce.


When is ag v aige used?


Sorry, saw explanation above


Not that i understand the explanations as i dont understand the grammatical terms. Ill just try and learn the patterns as i will never get all the grammar terms.


ag, ar, le, roimh etc are called "prepositions". In English, words like "at", "on", with", "before" are prepositions. They are used to indicate relations between nouns.

A "pronoun" in English is a word that substitutes for a noun. "I", "me", "you", "he", "him", "it" etc are all pronouns (there are many classes of pronouns).

In Irish, when the object or complement of a preposition is a pronoun, they combine together to form a prepositional pronoun.
ar an mbord - "on the table" ("the table" is a noun, it doesn't combine with ar)
orm - "on me" ( is a pronoun, so it does combine with ar to produce orm)
roimh an bportán - "before the crab" (noun, so no combining)
roimhe - "before him/it" (pronoun, so you combine to form a prepositional pronoun)

The added complication in this case is that Irish, like Russia and Hindi, doesn't have a verb for "have", and instead uses the verb and the preposition ag for this purpose, so tá uisce ag an bportán means "the crab has water", but tá uisce aige means "he/it has water", because ag doesn't combine with the noun an portán, but it does combine with the pronoun.

Grammatical terms are just labels - you can speak English without knowing those terms, and you can learn Irish the same way that you learned English, by trial and error, bit by bit. But if you want to leverage your knowledge of English to help you learn Irish, learning those labels can be helpful, so that you can use your understanding of how "verbs" work in English to apply to "verbs" in Irish, and you can understand why different rules might apply to an "adjective" rather than a "noun". Other people won't take the time to explain everything in very basic terms every time you ask a question, so if you want to use the help that other people offer, make the effort to understand the terms that they are going to use. People aren't going to explain the difference between a "vowel" and a "consonant", they'll expect you to look it up yourself.

Learn Irish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.