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Learn Present Continuous Verb Use in Gaelic

By Gillian Hendrie

In this second lesson in our series on learning Scots Gaelic, recycle what you already know. Use the structure "tha + pronoun" with present continuous verbs to talk about what people are doing right now.

Review of First Lesson

In A First Lesson in Scots Gaelic we learned the verb tha (to be) with the personal pronouns and some adjectives, so that we can now say:

  • “A’ bheil thu fuar?” “Chan eil. “

A nice word to introduce at this stage would be idir [eejir] (at all).This word is used a lot in conversation: sometimes three times in a row!

  • “A’ bheil thu fuar?” “Chan eil (mi) idir. “ (Not at all!)

Exercise 1: Revision

Part A: What would you answer to these questions?

1.A’ bheil sibh trang?

2.Ciamar a tha thu?

3.Nach eil iad sgìth?

Part B: What questions may have prompted these responses?

1.Tha. Tha mi blàth.

2.Chan eil. Tha e mòr.

3.Tha gu math, tapadh leat.

(Sample answers are given at the end of this article.)

Pronunciation Symbols

The guide to pronunciation (written in square brackets after each Gaelic word) follows normal English pronunciation, with the following additions:

  • X indicates the sound of "ch" in German "ach" and Scots "loch"
  • G indicates a guttural "g" sound, getting towards the "r" in French "croissant"
  • ö is the sound of "ö" in German "schön" or as in French eau.

A Few Verbs

These present continuous verbs all have a’ in front (or ag, for those beginning with a vowel).

  • a’ tighinn [a chee in] = coming
  • a' dol [a doll] = going
  • a’ bruidhinn[a bree in] = talking
  • a’ smaointean [a smön chin] = thinking
  • a’ deanamh[a jay a noo] = doing/making
  • ag obair[ag oh bir] = working
  • ag ionnsachadh [ag yon su XaG] = studying
  • a’ cluich [a klooX] = playing
  • a' peantadh [a pentaG] = painting
  • ag ithe [ag iXe] = eating
  • ag ol [ag oll] = drinking

Click this link to get this list of verbs as a download.

(Some verbs do not fit into this structure, but we will deal with those in a later lesson.)

Sentence Construction

Simply use the tha + pronoun structure followed by the verb. For example:

  • Tha mi a' tighinn. = I'm coming.
  • Tha e ag ionnsachadh. = He's studying.
  • A' bheil thu ag obair? = Are you working?
  • Tha sinn a' cluich. = We're playing.

Exercise 2

Translate these sentences.

1. Tha mi ag ionnsachadh Gàidhlig.

2. A' bheil sibh a' tighinn?

3. A' bheil iad trang? Tha. Tha iad ag obair.

4. Chan eil e a' cluich. Tha e a' peantadh.

5. Tha e a' bruidhinn, nach eil? Chan eil. Tha e a' smaointean.

(Answers are at the end of the article.)

Sample Answers to Exercise 1

Part A

1. Tha. / Tha mi. / Tha. Tha mi trang. / Chan eil. Chan eil mi trang idir.

2. Tha mi gi math, tapadh leat/leibh.

3. Tha, tha iad (glè) sgìth./ Chan eil. Chan eil iad sgìth (idir).

Part B

1. A' bheil thu/sibh blàth? / Nach eil thu/sibh blàth?

2. A' bheil e beag? / Nach eil e beag?

3. Ciamar a tha thu/sibh?

Answers to Exercise 2

1. I'm learning/studying Gaelic.

2. Are you coming?

3. Are they busy? Yes, they're working.

4. He isn't playing. He's painting.

5. He's speaking, isn't he? No, he's thinking.