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  5. "She was a wonderful friend."

"She was a wonderful friend."

Translation:Ba chara iontach í.

December 5, 2014



Why "chara" and not "cara"?


You asked this two years ago, but I was also wondering, so I'm sort of trying to answer my own questions, and basically talking to myself. I can find examples in teanglann.ie where the word "ba" is used and it seems that it does cause lenition in the word that follows it (e.g. Ba mhaith liom... (I would like to) and other examples at https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/ba)

Why it does that, I still don't know, but maybe it's not necessary to understand why, but simply that it does that.

While I'm at it, I really have difficulty sometimes figuring out how to find words like this in dictionaries like teanglann. I'm not sure whether "ba" is a form of "is" or "bi" or something else entirely, and either I don't really know how to use teanglann properly or it's badly laid out for some words, because I can't find the proper grammar page that lays out this particular verb's form in the different tenses. (I keep getting "ba could be a grammatical form of: bó" - well yes, but no!)

The search continues.


ba is both the past and the conditional form of the copula is. It's unfortunate it is also the plural of , and it doesn't get linked in the "could be a grammatical form of" link in teanglann.ie, but it should be clear from this example and ba mhaith liom that it's a form of the copula, because the present tense forms of both of them use is - is cara í and is maith liom, and ba is clearly listed in the entry for is.

I think ba is a bit unusual in this respect - teanglann.ie is usually very good at pointing you to the correct word, but it is not very forgiving about fadas. Fadas are not just for decoration, and if you're looking something up in teanglann.ie, you should try to get your fadas right.

Whether you interpret ba as past or conditional is a matter of context, and conventional practice. It's always understood as the conditional is ba mhaith liom, and is usually the past in ba X é/í/iad.


GRMA! I think I was trying to find is in all its forms (the conjugation of it, including any possible negative/question forms) but not having much luck. I suppose it's because it doesn't exist in all the forms that most verbs do, which is why it can't be found (at least by me) in teanglann.ie.

However, I think the answer to what I was looking for is at http://nualeargais.ie/gnag/kopul4.htm.

"The copula exists only in 3 base forms: - present tense (in part, at the same time the future) is - preterite (same time imperfect, conditional) ba - subjunctive (rare) gura "

and so on.


I'm confused - the various forms of is are listed at the top of the entry for is in the Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla , with ba shown as the affirmative in the Past and Conditional.


Oops. Apparently I missed that part! GRMA!


I feel like I missed a section of the tree. Where did we learn the past tense of the copula? I've seen "Ba" several times in this review, but don't remember learning it. I'll gladly go back and repeat whatever section it was in.


Would Ba chara go hiontach í be correct?


go is only used with those adjectives when they're used with a form of . If they're used with is, you won't need the go. Also, a note: if this sentence was said out of the blue, native speakers would parse it as "She would be a wonderful friend". The past tense interpretation of the copula is the marked form, where as the conditional is the unmarked.


I’m not following what you mean by “marked form” and “unmarked form” of the copula — would you explain it further?


The "unmarked form" is basically the general interpretation - the one that is normally used, and would be assumed out of the blue. The "marked" form is the one used in special cases.


So how do I get around the interpretation as conditional? Could I say something like "bhí sí ina cara iontach", or would that refer to one specific point in the past rather than to a general attribute of her?


You could, yes. Really, just use context.


Thanks — as far as I could tell, there was no difference in the written forms of conditional ba vs. past ba, so I was wondering if marked/unmarked had to do with a written difference that I’d missed.


Nope. Though a note from An Teanga Bheo: Ghaeilge Chonnamara: Is minic nach mbíonn séimhiú ar lorg ba (foirm stairiúil na copaile): ba fear maith é... Ach, bíonn séimhiú de ghnáth ar aidiachtaí áirithe: ba bhreá... There's also some interesting stuff to note on GnaG, though it doesn't refer to the plain form of the preterite/conditional, but to conjunctions, questions, etc.

Also, as to markedness, it's just a linguistics term I've found useful. Here's the Wikipedia entry


So I could use this sentence, say, at a funeral to say that she was a wonderful friend to pay for piano lesson for my kid when I couldn't afford them? (I'm not trying to be funny, just to come up with a sentence that is both clearly past and clearly not past habitual.)

BTW, I'm kind of a grammar nerd and love this kind of discussion--it's probably why I'm tongue-tied when trying to speak Irish.


You could, but I feel the structure with i still might be more appropriate. And I understand! I always asked the weirdest questions about it too.


Please tell me what is wrong with: 'B'iontach an cara i'.


Your word order is wrong. The word order for a copular sentence should be ba/is noun1 (adjective) noun2. You seem to have used an order of ba/is adjective noun1 noun2. If you were trying to say "She was an excellent artist", since the word for "artist" is ealaíontóir which begins with a vowel, then you would be correct to merge ba with the next word, i.e. B'ealaíontóir iontach í.


It's not that simple. While the general rule is that you use the copula to link nouns, the copula can be used with adjectives to express a subjective judgement (and in some other cases). Expressing how wonderful someone or something is or was falls squarely into the "subjective judgement" category.

If you look at the FGB entry for iontach you'll find a number of examples using the copula, and you'll find examples like "it was an amazing sight" - b'iontach an radharc é and "she stood out as an example to others" - b'iontach an eiseamláir do dhaoine eile í in the NEID.

So B'iontach an cara í could be used, but it's an advanced usage the course doesn't cover.


Of course it's not that simple. It's the copula, where nothing is ever simple. Seriously though, thanks. Had no idea this grammatical structure existed.

Just to see if I understand this, could I say "It was a wonderful meal" as Ba maith béile é. Is that right?


b'iontach an béile é.

You're going to need that definite article (consider "the meal was wonderful" vs "a meal was wonderful"). And also bear in mind that ba is both the past tense and the conditional tense of the copula, so context can make a difference in how that statement can be interpreted.


Oh, ok. Are you saying that this particular construction requires the definite article in Irish even though it isn't present in the English sentence? And yes, without context, this sentence can be either past or conditional. But doesn't ba cause lenition in the conditional tense? So, if the English were "It would be a good meal" then would the Irish be Ba mhaith an béile é? Whereas "It was a wonderful meal" would be *Ba maith an béile é"?


I'm saying that you are referring to a specific meal so you use a definite article. If you wanted to treat the adjective as a attributive adjective ("a wonderful meal") you'd have to lenite it if the noun was feminine, which would be awkward. So the adjective is predicative ("the meal was wonderful" which requires a definite article).

I wouldn't use maith to say "wonderful" but if I did, ba lenites - always. You can't differentiate between the past and the conditional of the copula by spelling.


Cara iontach ab ea í ?


What about bhí?


What about it?

You can't say tá cara í in the present tense, so you can't say bhí cara í in the past tense.

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