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  5. "Tá an leabhar á léamh againn…

" an leabhar á léamh againn."

Translation:The book is being read by us.

September 9, 2014



I'm confused between "á léamh" and "ag léamh". the other sentence in this lesson says "Táim ag léamh an nuachtán stairiúil".

Is this "á léamh" because they're using "ag" in "againn"?


Táim ag léamh an leabhair = I am at the book's reading = I am reading the book

Táim á léamh = I am at its reading = I am reading it (á = ag + a)

Tá an leabhar á léamh agam = The book is at its reading by me = The book is being read by me.


I have seen this before and been a little confused...

So are both correct? Táim ag léamh and Táim á léamh?

I notice a couple of weeks ago when my skydrive was starting (I have windows running in Irish) that the message came up "Tá skydrive á rith"

Or is it - Táim ag léamh leabhar and Tá leabhar agam agus táim á léamh? as in I have a book and I am reading it.

Sorry if I have confused the situation even more :)

Beir bua



Both are grammatically correct, but they have different meanings. I have put literal translations in brackets. I recommend attempting to understand the sentences from their literal translations, as understanding them this way will allow you to understand/anticipate more advanced sentences.

The most important difference between Irish and English here is that Irish uses nouns where English uses verb forms.

For example:

Táim ag déanamh na bróige = I am making the shoe.

'Déanamh' is actually a noun meaning 'a construction', 'a making'. For example:

Is fearr liom a dhéanamh san = I prefer that one's construction (An uncommon sentence, but just to emphasise the point.)

'Déanamh' does not mean 'making'. The sentence above actually literally means:

Táim ag déanamh na bróige = I am at the shoe's construction.

Táim ag léamh = I am reading (I am at a reading)

Táim ag léamh an leabhair = I am reading the book (I am at the book's reading)

Táim á léamh = I am reading it (I am at its reading)

You do not say 'ag léamh é' in Irish for 'reading it'. (It actually makes no sense in Irish)

Now you can also say sentences like:

Tá an leabhar á léamh = The book is being read. (The book is at its reading)

Tá skydrive á rith = Skydrive is being run. (Skydrive is at its running)

In this case the 'á' is used to form a passive sentence. You can use 'ag' to indicate who is performing the action:

Tá an leabhar á léamh agam = The book is being read by me. (The book is at its reading by me/due to me)

Tá skydrive á rith ag Windows = Skydrive is being run by Windows. (Skydrive is at its running due to Windows)


Could you say 'ta skydrive ag rith'?


Yes indeed you can.

Tá skydrive ag rith = Skydrive is at a run = Skydrive is running


I think I might have found an explanation, but it's a bit confusing...

"Tá mé ag léamh an nuachtáin" is an active sentence with a noun object in genitive.
Its formula is: tá + subject + ag verbal noun + object

"Tá an leabhar á léamh againn" is a passive sentence.
The formula here is: tá +subject + do + possessive pronoun + verbal noun + ag whoever is performing the action

The combination of do and the possessive pronoun a turns into á.

That's my interpretation of it. Here is where I found this info: http://nualeargais.ie/gnag/verbnom1.htm#verlPassiv
(under "progressive tense passive", but also look up "progressive tense with a pronominal object" on the same page)


Á is actually a combination of "ag + a" literally meaning "at its".

The "do + possessive" is a long extinct construction in Irish, that had a slightly different meaning and does not really relate to the modern language. Nualeargais is probably the best grammar on the web, but this point is often mistakenly presented as early 20th century grammars presented it as a theory when linguists were not as familiar with the language.

I can give some references on this if others a interested.


But is it completely extinct? 'Cause Learning Irish (pg 68) mentions it as dhá (Mar shampla, tá an teach dhá thóigeáíl), and Connemara generally uses do in those situations Tá sé do mo bhualadh instead of the standard Tá sé ag mo bhualadh.


Just to note, standard Irish does use "do mo".

do + possessive was used to indicate "in order to do something" (it's actually nothing to do with the sentence being passive as Nualeargais says)

ag + possessive was used to indicate a continuous action with a pronominal object.

In Classical Irish for example, the sentence above would have been: Tá an leabhar aig a léamh againn = The book is at its reading.

Bourke's 1856 grammar contains a section discussing this. John O'Donovan's 1845 grammar also discusses this on p.383-384

In Munster for example the prepositions simply contracted:

ag mo = am'

ag do = ad'

ag a = ghá = á

Tá sé am' bhualadh = He is at my hitting = He is hitting me.

In Ulster Irish we still have: Tá sé a' mo bhualadh = He is hitting me.

In Mayo: Tá sé ag mo bhualadh

Perhaps in Galway Irish that there was some confusion between "do + a" and "ag + a", however it is difficult to say as "dhá" and "ghá" have the same pronunciation. So "dhá" could just as easily be "ghá" coming from "ag + a". Especially if we look at the other forms.

Even though Ó Siadhail writes "do mo", he indicates the pronunciation as "go mo", which we know evolved from "ag + mo". So we are only talking about the third person form in Galway possibly evolving from "do + possessive".

Also the pronunciation is dhá only for Cois Fharraige, in other parts of Galway we have á/gá (see An Teanga Bheo: Gaeilge Chonamara p.52), with gá certainly coming from "ag + a".

And even in this case, it doesn't have the meaning of "do + possessive pronoun", but always "ag + possessive" pronoun, even in Cois Fharraige Irish.

For this reason, i.e.:

(a) do + possessive" absent in all dialects, except possibly one form in one subdialect

(b) Meaning always ag + possessive in all dialects

I think it is better to ignore this discussion of "do" present in most grammars.

Unfortunate that the Caighdeán (Standard Irish) uses "do" though, which is a gross error! Those who drew up the Caighdeán were under the influence of faulty theories concerning what Classical Irish was like, see Stair na Gaeilge, Maynooth, p. 745


Just to note, standard Irish does use "do mo".

That's my bad then. I was going off my Irish book used in school, which was written by a man from Kerry, and stresses ag mo, and by the fact my native Lettermullen teacher was surprised that I knew the do mo construction. I just put two and two together wrong!'

And, given what you've just told me, I agree that perhaps it's best to avoid it, and understand now why it was in our book as ag mo instead of do mo. Thanks for clearing all that up.


The location of this discussion in Bourke’s The College Irish Grammar is pp. 136–137 — he’d noted that the replacement of ag by do was a 19th century innovation.


As per scilling's post, Bourke notes that ag->do occured in some dialects in the 19th century. Although none of those dialects survive (one of them did influence the Caighdeán).

This confusion came from an earlier do based construction in Classical Irish being confused with the ag construction.


Oh it's not your fault or anything, this stuff is just incredibly convoluted, I mean you actually have books today saying slightly inaccurate information due to being under the influence of incorrect ideas about 14th century grammar from authors from 1890.


Ooohh, I see. Thank you for explaining! :)


How would you say "We have a book to read"?


Tá leabhar le léamh againn.


I'm still confused about something. In this context it makes no sense, but if I wanted to say: the book is reading it. I should look for a verb that makes more sense but I've only just started this subject and don't have the vocabulary yet. So suppose this is some Disney movie or something and the book is reading a newspaper. Tá an leabhar á léamh? Is it only the additional "ag" that makes it passive? Or the implausibility of the meaning? Or did I get this completely wrong? Because I've just read the grammar tips and it was all Tá Pól á {...}, So in analogy the book is reading it.


The sentence Tá an leabhar á léamh is ambiguous; it could be interpreted either as in the active voice (“The book is reading him/her/it/them”, where the é / í / iad that’s embedded in á does not refer to an leabhar ) or in the passive voice (“The book is being read”, where the é that’s embedded in á does refer to an leabhar ). The additional presence of againn eliminates the ambiguity, since its presence means that the sentence must be in the passive voice, because againn would specify an agent, and an active voice statement would already have its agent in the subject, thus not needing an agent to be specified separately.


Go raibh maith agat!


One issue is that this construction isn't accurately translated by the English passive. The focus structure is quite the reverse. If you read Noonan's "A Tale of Two Irish Passives" in Fox & Hopper 1994, he lays out a lot of analysis of texts to point this up fairly clearly. I think I have the paper somewhere in my filing cabinet.


What the ultimate goal of the speaker of the sentence and what would achieve that goal in the Native Language and again, in the Foreign Language is what determines the appropriate translation. The English passive may not be the most accurate translation, but it is the translation that achieves the same goal of the Irish sentence, or achieves a close approximation.


Surely an active translation adequately translates this, as well as the passive one given as the answer. "We are reading the book" makes just as much sense, and the arguments given below suggest either rendition is possible.


This question gives an irish sentence, and tells me to write this sentence in irish and then only marks it right if i answer in english


Nobody reading the Irish discussion forums can do anything about technical issues like this. Take a screenshot showing your answer and the expected answer, and submit a bug report(https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/articles/204728264-How-do-I-report-a-bug) with details of what platform you are using.

You can also post the same details in the Troubleshooting forums. https://www.duolingo.com/topic/647


And tá beor à hol agam was I am drinking beer! Will someone explain PLEASE? Apart from writing down the sentence and repeat it without understanding if ever I come across it again, I see no solution. And when the sentence is just slightly different?


The sensible place to ask questions about tá beor à hol agam is in the Sentence Discusssion for tá beor à hol agam (https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/9773214) and its reverse translation "I am drinking beer" (https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/5499983), where the issue of translating a sentence in the passive voice into the active voice was one of the original points raised, over 6 years ago.

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