"She was a wonderful friend."
Translation:Ba chara iontach í.
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 bó, 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 yoour 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.
go is only used with those adjectives when they're used with a form of bí. 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?
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.
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.