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Steve Savage Publishers Ltd
CoverGaelic Verbs

Systemised and Simplified

Colin Mark
sample extract...

The Assertive Verb in Use

Although simple in form, having only two tenses (see Ch. 2, p214), the assertive verb is one of the most difficult for the learner to master. Its mastery, however, is essential to a proper understanding and use of the language, as it is employed in a large number of idiomatic constructions, at every level of communication from everyday speech to the language of literature.

Essentially, the assertive verb, as its name suggests, is used instead of tha, bha, etc. when a strong assertion is being made, i.e. when there is not, or cannot be, any doubt in the speaker' mind, or simply to emphasise a particular word or phrase.

It follows from this that certain expressions are of such a definite or assertive character that they must be translated using this verb rather than tha, etc. These will be pointed out as they occur.

A. Emphasising a Following Word or Construction

1. When a personal pronoun subject is being emphasised, the personal pronoun is placed immediately after is or bu, with the rest of the sentence following in a relative clause. Note that in these examples is means 'it is' and bu means 'it was'.

a)Tha e làidir fallain, agus is e a dh'fheumadh, oir tha mòran aige ri dhèanamh.
He is strong and healthy, and he would need to be, for he has much to do.
b)Gu dearbh, is mi a ghabh an fhadachd a' feitheamh ris.
Indeed, I became impatient waiting for it / for him.
c)Fhuair thu a' chiad duais, is tu a fhuair, ach ...
You got the first prize, you certainly did, but ...
d)Na biodh eagal ort nach dèan thu a' chùis orra -- is tu a nì!
Don't be afraid that you won't beat them -- you will!
e)'Nach mi (a) tha gòrach!' arsa Seòras ris fhèin.
'Amn't I foolish!' George said to himself.
f)'Nach tu (a) tha coimhead spaideil!' thuirt i ris.
'Don't you look smart!' she said to him.
g)Is i a b' annsa leam de theaghlach mo sheanar.
She was my favourite of my grandfather's family.
h)'Nach mise a tha taingeil airson sin!' ars esan.
'Amn't I thankful for that!' he said.
i)Nach mi a dh'aithnich gur i a' bhreug a dh'innis i!
I could tell that she had told a lie!
j)Dh'iarr mi orra eubhach, 's nach iad a dh'eubh!
I asked them to shout, and didn't they shout!
k)Nach i (a) tha bruicheil!*
Isn't it sultry!
But note also:
a)Is e a thug air sin a dhèanamh gun robh an cianalas air.
What made him to do that was that he was homesick.
b)Is e a bha a' cur tàmailt orra nach robh aodach spaideil aca.
What was shaming them was that they didn't have smart clothes.


i) The emphatic particles se, ne etc, as in example h), are frequently used in this type of sentence (see Appendix C).

ii) The following type of sentence, where the personal pronoun is linked to an adjective, is most likely to be found in poetry, song or literature:

Is mi a tha duilich.

I am sorry. (lit. it is I who am sorry)

Is ise a bha bòidheach.

She was beautiful.

*In some areas, i is used for the weather, while in others it is e.