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  5. "How do you spell that word?"

"How do you spell that word?"

Translation:Conas a litríonn tú an focal sin?

November 9, 2014



I don't get the grammatical structure here. I do not understand why the "a" is needed in the sentence. Can somebody please explain it?


The explanation in Gramadach na Gaeilge leaves something to be desired, but basically, the interrogative contains a form of the copula - it might be more literally read as "how is it that you spell...". The a is the "that".


Surely you could use the saorbriathar here?


The English question includes a subject, so it’s not unreasonable to have the Irish translation also include one. A question like “How is that word spelled?” might be a better candidate for translation with an Irish autonomous verb.


But in the natural interpretation of this sentence in English, "you" is a generic subject; it could be rephrased using "one", or the passive voice.

Does Irish also have a generic sense of "tú"? If not, then while using should still be accepted (since the English could be interpreted as "How do you spell it?"), it shouldn't be the preferred translation.


I agree. You don't really want to know how an individual spells a word (unless you're his teacher) but you are asking how does one spell a word, and that calls for the passive.


It didn't like it when I did!


It seems logical to use saorbhriathar!


Duolingo seems to like conas but not cén chaoí


or "cén dóigh". Cainiúint till I die baby


I tend to use the Connacht form 'Ce' chaoi' instead of 'conas' so I find this weird.


Would it make sense to leave out the tú and just have Conas a litríonn an focal sin? If the question isnt really how do YOU spell it but how does one spell it generally?

  • 1452

No. If you left out the , then an focal sin would become the subject of the verb - "how does that word spell", without any object.

Instead, you would use the saorbhriathar or autonomous form of the verb, in which the actor in the sentence is not expressed - Conas a litrítear an focal sin?, which is usually translated with the English passive sentence "How is that word spelled?"


...is 'lítritear' a passive construct, like 'itear' ?

  • 1452

litrítear is the present tense saorbhriathar or "autonomous" form of litrigh. Itear is the present tense saorbhriathar or "autonomous" form of ith.

The saorbhriathar or "autonomous" is used in Irish where you use the passive voice in English to avoid identifying the "actor":
"it's spelled with a double s" - litrítear é le dhá s
"it's spelt with an 'i'" - litrítear é le 'i'

litrítear é le dhá s is in the active voice.

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