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  5. "He is the enemy of the publi…

"He is the enemy of the public."

Translation:Is é namhaid an phobail é.

February 1, 2015



Still struggling to know when I need "é" twice.


The second é is the sentence’s subject. The first é is the sentence’s subpredicate, which is needed to separate the copula from a definite predicate, since they’re not allowed to be adjacent.


Do you mean, basically, that it's "Is X é," but it's "Is é an X é?" (Except that in this case, the "an" is dropped, because this is a genitive?)


If X is the sentence’s predicate, then yes, the basic structure Is X é. When X is a definite noun phrase comprising an N, it becomes Is é an N é. When a definite noun phrase includes a genitive noun, e.g. N an G, it becomes Is é N an G é. In the N an G case, both N and G are definite, despite the lack of an an before N. Because it remains definite, the subpredicate (the first é) is still needed.


Another way to look at this is to consider English genitive using the apostrophe-s form. This requires only one definite article. As in: "He is THE public's enemy." However, "He is A public enemy" --- that's no longer genitive, is it?


OK, forget the X and the Y and G and the N nonsense. Please, just show us in plain Irish the translation of: (A) "he is THE enemy of the public" vs. (B) "he is AN enemy of the public." We will understand (A) better after we see (B). Thank you.


Okay, there are really two separate questions here - firstly, how do you say "an enemy of the people" rather than "the enemy of the people"? And secondly, why do you need two 'é's in the latter case? I'm not a native speaker or a linguist but will have a go at answering both questions anyway.

For the first, if you're using the genitive this way - with an (or na) in between the two words - then both articles are always definite. So namhaid an phobail = "the enemy of the public". If you want to say "an enemy of the public" you have to use a different, non-genitive phrasing - in this case I think it would be namhaid don phobal, literally "an enemy to the public", but I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

That might seem weird at first, but if you think about it it's just like how you can't use "the public's enemy" in English to mean one unspecified enemy among many, even though there's no "the" before "enemy". Instead you'd have to rephrase it completely as "an enemy of the public" or "one of the public's enemies". It's just that in Irish the word order is "enemy the public's" instead, so the word "enemy" looks indefinite to an English speaker.

For the second question, an Irish sentence starting with Is is called a copula. A copula has two parts: the subject (e.g. I, he, it, they, John, the lawyer), and the predicate, which you can think of as 'the thing the subject is'. So for example, in the sentence "I am the lawyer", the subject is "I" and the predicate is "the lawyer". In the sentence "The lawyer is a black man", the subject is "The lawyer" and the the predicate is "a black man".

The copula has several grammatical rules in Irish that seem strange to an English speaker. Firstly, the word order is different: whereas in English we would say "[subject] is [thing subject is]", in Irish you would say "Is [thing subject is] [subject]". (There are some exceptions to this but those aren't important right now.) So for example, in English you would say "[he] is [the people's enemy]", but in Irish the order would be:

Is [the people's enemy] [he].

Secondly, when you use the copula in Irish you change any pronouns to the object form - in English the object pronouns are the ones like me/him/her/us/them. In this case, that means that instead of "Is [the people's enemy] [he]", you would say:

Is [the people's enemy] [him].

Finally, there's another rule in Irish that says you're not allowed to have a definite noun (a noun with "the" in front) directly after the word Is. I have absolutely no idea why this is a thing, and if anyone does know I'd be jnterested to hear the explanation. But for whatever reason, the Is and the definite noun have to be separated by another object pronoun - either é (him/it), í (her/it) or iad (them) depending on the gender of the subject and whether it's singular or plural.

In this case we're talking about one man, so the pronoun used to separate Is and "[the people's enemy]" would be é ("him"). So the overall structure is:

Is [him] [the people's enemy] [him].

There's just one more thing to remember: we've already established that the literal word order of a phrase like "the people's enemy" in Irish is "enemy the people's". So putting all that together gives:

Is [him] [enemy the people's] [him]


Is é namhaid an phobail é.

And now "He is an enemy of the public", following the same steps as above. Start by changing the word order - "[He] is [an enemy of the public]" becomes:

Is [an enemy of the public] [he]

Change the pronoun to the object form:

Is [an enemy of the public] [him]

This time there's no "the" directly after Is, so we can skip the extra pronoun and go straight for the literal translation of "an enemy of the public":

Is [enemy to the public] [him]


Is namhaid don phobal é.

So in summary:

"He is the enemy of the public" = Is é namhaid an phobail é

"He is an enemy of the public" = Is namhaid don phobal é


this one was actually helpful for me - are you able to give an example of when 'X' might not be the predicate? I was under the impression that when using the copula, something in position X is only ever allowed to be the predicate. (this was in response to the example with the X and G and N, etc, from scilling)


Pls explain why "the enemy' gets no AN before it


Please explain why is there no "the" before "enemy" in "the people's enemy"?


Ahh, thank you. I made this mistake.


Why is the definite article not needed for "the enemy?"


In a definite noun phrase with a genitive component, only the last article is retained in the phrase — for example, in iníon fhear an tí (“the daughter of the man of the house”), all of the nouns are definite.


Anyone know why it's phobail and not phobal?


Because it is genitive (which is also why it is lenited, i.e. has the "h" after the "p")
namhaid an phobail translates as "the enemy of the people"
If you wanted to use phobal, you could say namhaid don phobal, "(an) enemy of the people"


It's the tuiseal ginideach or genitive case - "of the people".


In Northern Ireland one might hear "He's the enemy of the public, so he is" as that construction is very common there. I imagine, therefore, that the existence of the two é's in an Irish translation would make complete sense.


Yeah, I don't know why I need is here instead of tá. And I also don't understand the two é's, even with scilling's explanation. What exactly is a copula? I've seen this referenced by users here, but I don't recall seeing it in the materials.


Thanks for all your replies and comments


I believe the copula is "Is". I don't know why people can't just say that but as far as the rest of the explanation, it was totally over my head too. I came to see why "an" was not "the" but I am sure it is just another exception that we never got introduced to before.


Copula is a linguistic term that describes the linkage of two nouns. Like in: 'he is a teacher' where 'is' is the copula. Its use is necessary in a lot of indo-european languages.


In addition to meaning "the," an can be the question form of the copula: An dochtúir é?


When do we need "é" twice? I am not "struggling to know" It's the first time I meet it and would like to know...


I think it works that way:

1 Is é an múinteoir é = he is the teacher

2 Is múinteoir é = he is a teacher

So similarly :

1 Is é namhnaid an phobail é = he is the public enemy.

2 Is namhaid é = he is an enemy.

If the first sentence in each example refers to identification , and the second sentence to classification, then it means I have finally understood what these grammar terms mean...Please correct me if I am wrong.


The key point is that a definite noun can't come immediately after the copula is - you have to insert a subpredicate to separate them. The complicating factor here is that in the genitive phrase namhaid an phobail, the definite article in the middle of the phrase also serves to make namhaid definite.

Scilling details this in a previous comment on this thread.

This what Gramadach na Gaeilge says:

Preceding definite predicative nouns(e.g. with an article) one must always additionally include the appropriate pronoun é/í/iad as a so-called subpredicate (fofhaisnéis), because a definite noun is not allowed directly following the copula.
e.g.: í an bhean = the woman, é mo theach = my house



Is namhaid an phobail é. should be deemed correct


No it should not, because it isn't correct, as explained in a number of the previous comments.

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