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  5. "Bíonn sé le do mháthair."

"Bíonn le do mháthair."

Translation:He does be with your mother.

August 27, 2014



Looking forward to the non-Hiberno-English speakers asking what the devil "he does be" is supposed to mean in British- and American-English!


Well, it does have an equivalent in African American Vernacular English: Habitual "be".

He be workin' = He is always working (Bíonn sé ag obair)


That depends on whose AAVE - in these parts (Schenectady, NY), "He be workin'" just means he's working in general terms (most likely right now, and he has a regular job). As I understand the Irish now, after several posts, the closest would of the Irish above would be: He's working now and he always works, or generally works.

But explaining Irish in terms of highly dynamic AAVE isn't really going to help many folks, is it?


African-American Vernacular English


African American Vernacular English. It's an American dialect. :)


My understanding is that "He does be working" just means he has a job; he's not necessarily there right now.


I'm pretty certain that's wrong. 'Does be working' means he is normally working and he is working right now. I'm sure scilling has a source.


Argh, I'm going to need to recalibrate my brain. It's too tense.


Scilling is wrong on this issue. The Hiberno-English "does be" definitely does not imply that he is working right now, except in the habitual sense that allows you to say "I'm working in the Civil Service", even when you're sitting in a restaurant on a Saturday night, and very clearly not working at that particular moment - "I work in the Civil Service" is a more technically accurate statement, and is the preferred translation of Bím ag obair sa Státseirbhís.

It doesn't entirely preclude the activity actually happening right this minute (you can say bím ag obair sa státseirbhís on a Monday afternoon in your office), but it definitely doesn't imply it.

There are lots of examples of bíonn on focloir.ie that demonstrate this, including lots of examples of bíonn X ag verbal-noun, even though ag verbal-noun is how you would express the progressive form of the verb, in the absence of bíonn.

"he's a snorer" - bíonn sé ag srannadh
"they're good for a laugh" - bíonn an-chraic leo, bíonn an-spraoi leo
"he has a foul mouth" - bíonn drochbhéal air
"she plays around" - bíonn sí ag dul le fir eile, bíonn fir eile aici, bíonn sí i gcúpla nead
"she sucks her thumb" - bíonn sí ag diúl ar a hordóg
"children are spontaneous" - bíonn páistí oscailte
"he collects works of art" - bíonn sé ag bailiú saothair ealaíne


It sounds a bit West Country to be honest. He be alright he be. ;)


Thats because west country English is still very Celtic English as the Celtic people were driven there when the Romans invaded ! I grew up in Somerset and realized this when I first staryed learning Irish a few years ago. Elinor


Bionn sé le do mháthair. Would it be accepted if i said(He is with your mother.) I got it right by using He does be...


Was always told you never say 'does be' or 'do be'


You don't. Irish people do say it in English because it is a tense in Irish. It's called the habitual tense. It translates as "He can generally be found working - with your mother"


Being Irish this translation made complete sense to me. I live in london and sometimes use this construction without realising. It doesn't take my English friends long to correct me. They do be doing it all the time!


There's a lovely thing about these Duolingo discussion fora. Those of us who have never been to Ireland get a little exposure to Hiberno-English as well.


To indicate that something is habitual in standard American English, we do not use the form of the verb with "do" but rather simply the verb. If I habitually sit in a particular chair, "I sit in that chair." We use "do" to indicate emphasis: "I don't think you sit in that chair. I do sit in that chair!"


People around here would say "I usually sit in that chair" or "I am usually with my mother" to point out habitual nature of an act, but Duo doesn't accept that translation.


de ghnáth = usually


I would definitely report that. I've used "usually" in at least one of the habitual present sentences, and I'm sure it was accepted; maybe it was bím ag rithe le mo dhartháir?


Exactly the same in British English.


These same constructions are used in Irish English as well, "do be" is just available as another possibility which can add clarity. "I sit in this chair" would be interpreted as habitual, as opposed to "I am sitting..." for the present moment. "I do sit in that chair!" would be interpreted as an emphatic version of the above.


I love Hiberno-English! Please, keep it coming! It's good to learn forms and phrases that one might hear from English speakers in Ireland as well while learning Irish!


The verbal mood bíonn doesn't exist in standard English, as far as I know only in some non-standard dialects. In standard English this should be translated as "he is normally" or "he is usually" in order to reflect the habitual nature of the Irish form.


I know the 'do be' construction is not grammatical for most English speakers around the world but.. is it really that hard to deal with in the context of a Duo lesson?

I think literal or closer-to-literal translations are extremely useful even if they sometimes happen to be ungrammatical in the learner's first language.

In learning Korean, I used literal translations all the time and found them invaluable. For example, the standard way to say "I am tall" in Korean would translate as something like "In the case of me, height is big". That's weird in English, but I don't care because I'm not worried about my English.

For what it's worth, I'm Irish and the "do be" construction is not part of my dialect.


Literal, non grammatical translations are fine. But they still need toake some sort of sense. "Do be" is nonsense in American English. It's impossible to determine what it means looking at it. And still confusing even after explained.


I find that surprising. This is the concept to be grasped:

"Do be" constructions indicate the habitual tense.

I don't mean to sound flip but that honestly doesn't seem expecially difficult to me. If you're participating in the discussion you've probably already got it. Or am I crazy? Maybe it seems less confusing to me because I have encountered this usage before.

I take your point that the problem is not that the translation is too literal, but that its closer-to-literal quality is achieved by means of a non-standard and (to some) confusing structure. Maybe a simple "habitually" in parentheses would have been a better way to do it.

Still, the amount of head scratching and indignation this usage generates surprises me.


I can see why you're scratching your head! For what it's worth, one thing that I think may be going on for those of us who are native American English speakers is that, while the concept of habitual present makes sense to us (at least after seeing it a few times!), we're struggling to come up with an English translation for bíonn that sounds normal and natural to our ears, that accurately conveys what the Irish is saying — and, perhaps most challenging of all — that Duolingo will accept! In any event, for me the discussions of the possible English translations have been very helpful as I try to wrap my head around the shades of meaning of various Irish usages, tenses, moods, etc.


Imagine the confusion for those of us who aren't even native English or American speakers lol.


Just throwing my two cents in. As a former truck diver I have travelled all over the United States and parts of Canada. I have heard the "I do be" colloquialism many times in Canada and in the New England area. I.e. "I do be here most times before sun up" or " I do be working most weekends." I've even caught my self using it at times however I think I got it from watching to many pirate movies as a kid.


I think the confusion for the non-Irish here is just that this isn't a good sentence to get the meaning across. If it was "he's there every day" or every Monday he's at the cinema or he's always complaining- people would get it right away and not be complaining!


I'm irish and would definitely use this construction in my speech but not writing and struggled with this answer! Little frustrating


I am Irish and in my 40s and I and a lot of people I know use "Does be" almost every day in normal conversation. It seems perfectly natural to me to use this construction


I always learned that it was grammatically incorrect to say "does be". It's a colloquial phrase that we have figuratively beaten out of us when we were growing up. There has to be another way to define this.


It's a legitimate part of the dialect but good luck telling that to English teachers


I feel languages could be taught so much better by explaining dialects and when to use 'proper' forms Than just calling everything non-standard 'incorrect'


I am absolutely enthralled by the concept of registers. The fact that I can speak one level of English with my future baby and write a formal, academic paper on a an intellectual topic of my choice on a completely different level in the self-same language is just fascinating.


It is a legitimate part of A dialect, but it's unreasonable to expect speakers of OTHER dialects to translate it as such. When I (and most everyone who speaks English around me) refer to a habitual present action, the simple present is used, with an occasional "usually" thrown in for good measure. Neither is incorrect, nor correct, simply variation. Duolingo should be accepting both. What goes for the goose, goes for the gander.


in grade school we learned to never write in our books. In college, we were told to write in them. We needed to learn respect for books in grade school, but once we had that respect, we were ready for a whole new level of learning. It just depends where we are in our learning process as far as what is "right."


In grade school, the books belonged to the school, and were returned to the school at the end of the school year, to be used by other pupils in the following year. In college (i.e. tertiary education), we had to buy our own books, so they were ours to do with as we pleased.


That is generally how it works in the United States as well. I find my students now, though, are reluctant to write in their books, because the books are terribly expensive, and they want the resale value to be high. Unfortunately, I find that they do not take notes as well now and find it more difficult to discuss the text. Of course, that doesn't explain why they don't take notes on print-outs, so I guess maybe I'm just fooling myself.


Since I’m a US citizen who went to school in the States, that’s the viewpoint that I was expressing. (When I’d attended college, I wrote my notes on index cards kept in my books.)


I gave you a Lingot bc if I were your student i'd take notes.


Well, thanls.


As a Dubliner, raised by Dubliners, I wouldn't be translating this the way Duolingo does. I'd usually use "usually" .


Well........I had a friend from Donegal, born in the thirties, and he used 'does be' in conversation , together with a few other things like 'she be's crabbid in the mornings' etc etc


I checked with a couple of my native user friends and they cringed. There is no question that the "does be" usage is correct as a translation but they were really surprised that simply using "usually" in conjunction with the verb was not accepted as a legitimate translation. Both teach Irish to aspiring future Irish speakers. I think a little "water in the wine" approach here is proper, particularly for those whose first language may not be English, even though they are fluent in it.


It's not something you'd generally say in conversation, but it seems the only way to show how "Bí" (continuous present) differs from "Tá" (this present moment).


But, of course, this issue comes up when translating from almost any language to any other. One might as well insist that an imperfect past in French be translated into English as "He did be with your mother" or maybe "He was being with your mother." We do not do so, when teaching French, but rather simply teach the student that when translating any English past tense into French, one must consider whether it was an ongoing action or a single, discrete action. Similarly, when teaching English to a French person, I could insist that he translate "I am going" to "je suis allant." It would be dreadful French, but I suppose it would emphasize to the Francophone learner that this was a different form than "I go" or "I do go."


"He is usually with your mother" seemed like a reasonable translation to me, but Duo says otherwise.


To me, "he is usually with your mother" means sometimes he is, sometimes he isn't, which isn't what Bíonn sé le do mháthair implies.

Most of the people learning Irish on Duolingo would probably say Táim ag foghlaim na Gaeilge ar líne, but strictly speaking, once you have made a habit of it, Bím ag foghlaim na Gaeilge ar líne is the correct construction.


Thanks to everyone in this thread who took the time to explain the difference between Bí and Tá. In early lessons I often wondered how to distinguish between continuous present and at this present moment, now I know. Yay


Does anybody understand why "bím ag rith le mo dheartháir?" is translated at "I often run with my brother", but this cannot be translated as "He is often with your mother"?


Bím ag rith is present habitual progressive; it means “I often run and am currently running”. (Rithim is the translation of “I (often) run”.) Bíonn sé is present habitual, but not progressive; it means “He often is” rather than “He often is and is currently”.


I know that other Irish people have corrected you on this, but you keep repeating this error:

Bím ag rith is present habitual progressive; it means “I often run and am currently running”.

Bím ag rith DOES NOT MEAN "I am currently running", except in the sense that a regular runner can say "I'm currently running 4 times a week", even when they aren't actually running.

In fact Ó Dónaill actually uses the example Bíonn siad ag rith thart cosnochta in the entry for rith, and translates it as "they run about barefoot" - there is no "currently" about it.

Other examples from Ó Dónaill are Bíonn sé ag caint leis féin - "he talks to himself" and Bíonn na páistí ag déanamh garanna beaga dom - "the children do little turns for me". The Hiberno-English "he does be talking to himself" reflects that progressive form, but again, doesn't imply that it is happening at this very minute, only that it is recurring.


I think the answer to your question is just that Duolingo is frequently inconsistent. Annoying, but there it is. I had these two exercises one after the other, and consequently got this one wrong. Came here to see if there was a reason I was unaware of, and saw the food fight! What fun!


I do be not understand


This is a grammatical construct that essentially doesn't exist in "standard" English. Over the centuries, as Irish people learned to speak English, and found that this useful grammatical construct didn't exist in English, they used "do be" to translate bíonn into English. Many English speakers in Ireland can still understand the grammatical distinction that is being made here, though it is clear that many other English speakers simply can't understand the distinction between and bíonn, or at least they can't unambiguously express it.


I must say that I am amused to read statements like: “It's technically an extant construction, but never used, very alien,” “Extant where? I'd never heard of this being a thing before coming to Ireland”. “This is ridiculous. I've never heard this English construction before in my life”. “this sentence just doesn't work in any type of English. It isn't grammatically correct.” “He does be with your mother (sic) is a ridiculous statement in English. This needs to be treated in a clearer way and translated into something people who speak English might actually say”. As a native speaker of Hiberno-English, for whom the habitual present is as normal as breathing, I can't help but take a wicked joy in seeing people get huffy because the English they speak is lacking a tense. It's the huffiness that amuses. (Though it might be the impertinence of “my English is better than your English in spite of the fact that my English is lacking something your English has”). Here's an idea: perhaps any English that is lacking the continuous present should be described as Lesser English. It does seem to have problems expressing a fairly simple idea. One can, albeit clumsily, express the idea in Lesser English: “He is habitually with your mother”. “He might not be with your mother now, but often he is. Maybe more often than not”. “You are likely to find him with your mother, but he isn't always with her. No”. “He might be with your mother. He is quite often. Though maybe not now”. “Sure, I wouldn't put it past him to be with your mother this very minute. But he might not be. He isn't always, but sometimes he is. Quite often, in fact”. Etc. Oh, but my joy is robbed from me by: “Was always told you never say 'does be' or 'do be'”. “I always learned that it was grammatically incorrect to say "does be". It's a colloquial phrase that we have figuratively beaten out of us when we were growing up”. “It's a legitimate part of the dialect but good luck telling that to English teachers”. “I checked with a couple of my native user friends and they cringed”. What a shame, to exchange riches for dross, and “For shame!” the half-educated teachers who should know better, but embrace the Lesser and decry the superior language that should be their heritage. "You have disgraced yourselves again!

On the other hand, the examples given from foclóir.ie are translated there into a simple present: "he is a snorer", "they are good for a laugh", "he has a foul mouth", "she plays around", "she sucks her thumb", "children are spontaneous", "he collects works of art". Lesser English cannot directly express the habitual or usual nature of the actions, it hath not the competence to do it. Hiberno-English can, of course. So should duolingo be accepting “He is with your mother?” Of course not. Lesser English requires something clumsy like “usually” even if that is often not exactly what is meant by “bíonn”. In my opinion duolingo should stoop to accepting “usually”. Or not, and let a discussion ensue that will draw attention to the continual present. Oh, that's what duolingo did!


Thank you! I have found this to be the most comprehensible explanation of how "does be" is used. But the problem is I would still never say it - unless perhaps I lived in Ireland for a certain length of time. Therefore it does not occur to me to use this in my translation into English and so I am always marked wrong. I would appreciate an understanding on the part of Duolingo of our problems as speakers of Lesser English, and an acceptance (albeit reluctant) of some alternative constructions AS WELL AS 'does be' (not instead of.) It would be an encouragement for "effort" on the part of us lesser speakers who, I suppose, generally are, after all, more or less beginners in Irish.


So 2 sentences ago I was expected to translate "I often run with my brother" with the construct 'Bím ag rith', but if I translate this as "He is often with my mother" it's wrong????


It's wrong in the other exercise too, as that was a particularly lame attempt to deal with the fact that English just doesn't have a direct equivalent of bíonn.


Does this sentence mean "he is with your mother" as in they are in a relationship or "he is spending time with your mother right now"? I don't know what 'does be' mean because it's not English


It has nothing to do with relationships, and it is not describing "right now". It means that he is habitually in your mother's company.

The English that you learned doesn't have this "habitual be", so you don't know how to express this concept, but that doesn't mean that the concept doesn't exist, or that it can't be expressed in English, it just means that you haven't yet grasped this concept.


Do be or not do be, that is the question.


Coming to Irish from English, I see a lot of people in the comments complaining about the English translation for this.

In English, at least as far as I can think of off the top of my head, there aren't ways to express the verb "to be" in the present tense that would differentiate between the habitual and present. If I say "I am with my friend", it's ambiguous without context whether I mean habitually or presently.

To be honest, it just seems like this is an instance (a couple of which I've seen now while learning Irish) where the Irish is clearer than the English, and some people are just mad about that fact lol.

EDIT: I wanted to check first, and they do in fact accept "He is with your mother". Not sure if that is a new addition, but either way, if you do not want to use "do/does be", that would be the way to translate it. I see a lot of people saying they would express this in English using the words "often" or "usually", but those words aren't in this sentence.


does thinking of it as "he tends to be" help?


This is a very 'clunky' translation. I know it is sometimes used by a minority of people in rural Ireland, but it is not an English construction that most Irish people use. I think it's a pity that Duolingo doesn't put these phrases in a context - e.g. 'He is with your mother every Wednesday' - that would clarify which tense they want you to use.


What kind of English is, he does be with your mother?


The best kind of English, the kind that you still hear in Ireland on occasion.

In Irish, "bíonn sé le do mháthair" and "tá sé le do mháthair" do not mean the same thing, and so they are translated as "he does be with your mother", and "he is with your mother". The first sentence describes a habitual occurrence - it isn't necessarily happening at this very minute, but it is an ongoing and recurring event that hasn't stopped recurring.

"Tá sé le do mháthair san ollmhargadh" - they're in the supermarket together right now.
"bíonn sé le do mhathair san ollmhargadh" - he either brings her to the supermarket whenever she goes, or he meets her there, and I always see them together whenever I bump into your mother at the supermarket.


Because "often" is a different word altogether. Bím-I do be- usually... Go miníc - often


Are there any Wheel of Time readers here? I have absolutely no problem with the "I do be" construction, because that's the way Illianers talk. LOL! I just picture Bayle Domon saying the line and move on. ;) (And yes, I was very surprised at the lack of wink-wink-nudge-nudge comments among the 111 that are currently here. :) )


It seems that sometimes this means often and sometimes does be or do be or whatever. When does "often" work?


It never means "often". But because English speakers don't have an direct analog for bíonn, they have to come up with fudges that kind of, sort of might sometimes mean the same thing, but not really, like.


Thank you. Now I have at least one to report.


I am not getting the difference with 'with'. In another example it is 'troideann an munteoir leis an tuismitheoir' but here it is 'le'. Which circumstances cause 'leis' and which 'le'?


le before a definite article is always written as leis.

le an -> leis an
le na -> leis na

This is not the prepositional pronoun leis (liom, leat, leis etc), it's just le, modified.

leis an múinteoir - "with the teacher"
le do mhathair - "with your mother"


Perfect, thanks.


The best translation is tends to be.. e.g I tend to be working Fridays. He tends to be with your mother- etc.we dont say do be in English like that well at least not in Ireland.


This construction has generated a lot of comments ... I'm not getting how "does be" is different than "is." This is causing serious problems when I try to figure out sentences when going from English to Irish.


What on earth does "does be" mean??


Some here talk about "work", but that word is not even in the translation. What does " He does be with your mother" mean? I still don't understand it.


I would never ever ever say "He does be" and would never ever ever think of saying it. It has no meaning at all for me, whatever people explain on this page about it. I think that certain other translations should be accepted as possible correct alternatives. I wrote "He is often with your mother." and according to the explanation in the "Tips" I don't see why that can't be an acceptable alternative answer as could "He is regularly with your mother."


Why can't they say he is often / is usually / is habitually?


I'd guess because people would be asking where the word for "often" is in the original sentence. The nearest translation to "bíonn sé" is "he bes" or "he does be". It looks awkward written down but perfectly normal in speech.


I'm Irish, yes we all know 'do be' and 'does be' are not correct English but they are used and at the same time it seems strange to see them written down. I would say "I go running with my brother" (would not have expected to see 'often' in the translation) and "he does be with my mother" but I think you need to think in Irish for such sentences and not try to translate directly.


If bíonn is the present habitual of to be, what is ? Because up to now in Duolingo, all the translations of into Englush have essentially always been rendered in the present habitual.


is “be” without the habitual aspect, e.g. tá ocras orm means that I’m hungry, not that I’m habitually hungry.

[deactivated user]

    Your english is incorrect. You cannot say does be.


    You just said "does be"!.

    English doesn't have an equivalent verb form for bíonn. As Irish speakers learned to speak English, they realized how limited English was in not having a separate present habitual form of "be", so they developed this structure so that they could retain the functionality of bíonn when speaking English. Other English speakers, who never knew what they were missing, didn't adopt this particular feature into their own limited versions of English, but English speakers in Ireland still retain this structure, and an inherent understanding of what it means, even in areas that haven't spoken Irish for generations.


    Why can't I say : he does be your mother's? It is technically correct!


    No, it isn't "technically correct".

    le do mhathair doesn't mean "your mother's".


    This is incorrect English. You cannot say does be. You have to say he is with your mother or include the word usually\regularly and say he is usually with your mother


    "cannot say does be"? You obviously can say "does be", it's written there, plain as day, at the top of the page.

    "usually/regularly" are not adequate replacements for bíonn, and bíonn sé le do mháthair does not mean "he is with your mother" (Tá sé le do mháthair), "he is usually with your mother" (Bíonn sé le do mháthair de ghnáth) or "he is regularly with your mother" (Bíonn sé le do mháthair go minic).


    "He is often with your mother" should be accepted.


    Why? Bíonn sé le do mháthair doesn't mean ""He is often with your mother".


    after your example of "Bím ag rith le mo dhearthair" with your answer "I often run with my brother", should this not follow "he is often with your mother"? There seems to be a lack of consistency here.


    There will never be consistency as either people understand the habitual tense or they dont.

    "Bim ag rith le mo dhearthair" can be perfectly translated as "I run with my brother", the habitual tense in English does not need the "often".

    "I work at tesco" "He cuts the grass" "She walks the dog"

    So why the lack of consistency? because some people have no real idea of what the habitual is in English. Its not a proper tense. So to try explain, depending on the part of the world they are from people make translations like "I often run", when you can just say "I run"

    With is also a habitual tense in English, "Is Paul single?" "No he's with Mary". If someone said this to you, you would not think "He is with Mary right now this second", you would think he is habitually with mary. "Who is he with every friday at 2pm?" "He's with his mum" (the habitual is in the reply but for someone who does not understand you might add in "normally" or something).

    This is why some people get confused, English does have a "habitual" tense, and it is often interchangeable with the "present", in Irish they are not interchangeable. This can seem to be very confusing for non Irish people. (English in Irish has a habitual tense).

    Although a lot of the translations people come up with adding in "often"/"usually"/"generally"/"Normally" are not what a proper translator would do, they are done on here a lot purely to try help people understand the habitual tense.

    Once you understand the habitual, then you can ignore the other translations, and take them for what they are, an attempt at explaining the habitual to people.


    This is a terrible sentence to have as a translation. It's definitely one I would say in speech, but I wouldn't use it in written form in practically any context. Even if I was writting to someone who sould also say such a thing.

    From what I can tell 'He is usually with your mother' should be accepted.


    I love the folks that are saying we don't use this phrasing in American English. Clearly you've never spent time with older folks in Appalachia or been to Smith Island.


    This seems like a very strange phrase in English.


    Yes, outside of Ireland it is strange. But among Irish people speaking English, it's pretty common, and the reason is because this gnáthláithreach / habitual present doesn't really exist in English, so translations often feel a bit awkward to non-Irish people.


    Sounds like a Belfast insult - he does be getting a slap if he keeps carrying on with her!


    I guess it really do be like that sometimes, huh


    I hear a strong stress on "le. " Is that the way it would be said?


    Should it be 'he is with your mother'


    https://www.duolingo.com/dictionary/Irish/b%C3%ADonn/c40625585e7c119e68304fa852a463b8 "is (usually)" is given here as a translation along with "do be" Bottom line there isn't a good equivalent for this word in Standard English. The closest we can get is "do be" or "is (usually)"

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