More than one way to express some thoughts–which to use?

Fáilte (Welcome) Forums General Discussion (Irish and English) More than one way to express some thoughts–which to use?

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    This problem, of course, is also prevalent in English (and in any other language), but so often I find two or more ways to say the same things and would like to know the difference in how they would come across to you in context:
    1. “Tá an fear ag ceannach an tí” and “Tá an teach á cheannach ag an bhfear.” I understand that the first is active and the second passive in nature, but does one focus more on fear and the other more on teach (and if so, which is which)? Which would I hear spoken the more often? Rosetta Stone starts exclusively with the first structure, but uses the second far more often after the first 3-4 lessons. Would you be more likely to put a word at the end if it’s part of a longer phrase: “Tá an fear ag ceannach tí álainn nua sa Ghearmáin,” but “Tá an teach á cheannach ag fear atá ina chonaí sa Ghearmáin?”
    2. “Fuair mé é,” “D’aimsigh mé é,” and “Tháinig mé air.”
    3. “D’éag sé” and “Fuair sé bás.” Is the second more of a euphemism like saying “passed away?”
    4. “Rachaidh mé abhaile” and “Táim chun dul abhaile.” Is this just the same difference as between I’ll go home and I’m going to go home in English?
    5. “Féadaimid snámh ann” and “Táimid in ann snámh ann.” I think the first implies that conditions are favorable there for us to swim (or that we have time to swim), and the second that we have the physical ability to swim there–but thought this would be a good place to check whether I’m right.
    6. “Dúirt sé (rud éigin)” and “Arsa sé (rud éigin).” I usually see the second expressed “arsa seisean.” Is that a coincidence, or is there some rule to use the emphatic form of a pronoun with this verb? (I realize that the verb is defective.)
    7. “Gach,” “uile,” and “gach uile.”
    8. “Carr” and “gluaisteán.” Rosetta Stone always uses gluaisteán, never carr, but carr is what I see most of the time in books and online. In casual conversation on the road wouldn’t you ordinarily say “Cén cineál cairr é sin?” Is the difference pretty much the same as that between saying “car” and “automobile” in English?
    9. “Tá áthas/brón/fearg/tinneas/ocras/srl uirthi” and “Tá sí áthasach/brónach/feargach/tinn/ocrach/srl.” I get the impression you go with the first group more often, except perhaps with tinn. But how would you say “Don’t be so mad at me?” Something like ná bíodh oiread feirge ort liom seems a little awkward to me; would ná bí chomh feargach liom be better?
    I see that I’ve put up quite a lot of questions; don’t feel a need to answer them all, just pick and choose. I’m trying to fine-tune my usage, having completed my Rosetta Stone course, and I’ve already received many good answers in this forum. Go raibh maith agaibh faoin gcabhair!


    What a lot of interesting questions! 🙂 I’m not a native speaker, so please take the following with a pinch of salt…

    1. I think both phrases are more or less equal and can be used quite freely, except that, as you point out yourself, in the first case the focus in on the “man” and in the second case on the “house”. So perhaps, when you say “tá an fear ag ceannach an tí”, the listener would expect more information about the man and how he goes about buying the house (adverbs qualifying the verb). On the other hand, with “tá an teach á cheannach”, it’s the house that takes centre stage (adjective phrases describing the house).
    2. Basically, all of them mean the same thing. But I would say “fuair” sounds more physical, due to its underlying meaning “get”, whereas “aimsigh” has a connotation of “hit” or “locate”, as it also means “take aim”. “Tháinig air” could perhaps be translated as “come across” or “catch up with”.
    3. “Fuair sé bás” is by far the most common way of expressing “dying”. Used on its own, “éag” sounds formal and could be compared to “decease”. It’s more common to see “éag” used in the expression “dul in éag” (“expire”, “die out”).
    4. “Chun” denotes intention.
    5. “Féadfaimid snámh san fharraige” means 1) “we may go swimming in the sea (if we feel like it)”, 2) “we are allowed to go swimming”, 3) “we are fit enough/we have enough time to swim in the sea”. “In ann” primarily covers the third meaning.
    6. “Ar/arsa” is a literary and archaic forms that you would expect from a “seanchaí” in a fairytale or story about olden times. “Ar” is used with “sé”, “sí”, “siad” and “arsa” with “mise” and proper names.
    7. “Gach” and “gach uile” both mean “every”, but the latter causes lenition (like “chuile”). “Uile” takes the definite article when it precedes the noun “an uile ní – all things”, but not when it comes after the noun (an scéal uile – the whole story; here you could also use “an scéal uilig”).
    8. “Gluaisteán” (vehicle) is a formal word that you might find in TV news programmes, legislation etc.
    9. “Ná biodh an oiread sin feirge ort lioms” definitely sounds better in Irish!

    Of course, you can get lots of useful information about all those shades of meaning and usage by looking closely at different examples provided in dictionaries.


    Thanks for all the information. You can see that I had the exact opposite ideas of, for example, “éag” and “faigh bás” in #3.
    5. I see that you use the future tense here. It does make the statement more appropriate because we’re obviously going to swim at a later time! It’s ideas like this that help me to “think the language.”
    6. Kind of what I expected. I was just a little fascinated with the word “ar” but see that I can pretty much forget it and stick to abair, inis, etc.
    7. Thanks in particular for pointing out the difference here. I was wondering why have both the words, but see the differences.
    9. Another example of how I can tweak the words for better expression: I hadn’t thought of “an oiread sin” instead of just “oiread,” but now I remember that you usually also see “an” in front of iomarca.
    Yes, I see several examples in the dictionary, and I have good ones (O’Donnell Gaeilge-Béarla; De Bhaldraithe English-Irish; and a little “Foclóir Póca”) and Nancy Stenson’s Basic/Intermediate Irish grammar books–but these can’t reply to specific questions the way you did. You cleared up a lot of fine points they couldn’t. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to do so. 🙂


    You’re very welcome, Duncan! Of course, some of what I said might be mistaken… wait for other posts. 🙂

    PS. Technically speaking, “féadfaimid” should be future tense, unless I’m wrong. I suppose the present tense would be “féadaimid”.

    Héilics Órbhuí

    As your Irish gets better you will become more and more intimately aware that there are in fact far more ways than each of those to say just about anything. I speak a few languages, and Irish is without a doubt the most figurative and idiomatic of those languages, even more so than English. One of the biggest fundamental challenges in Irish, as an English speaker, is learning to think in Irish rather than in English (this is true of just about any language one is learning, but especially when the new language is somewhat radically different from the “source” language).

    If one looks up a word such as “fool” to get Irish equivalents, you will find literally dozens of them. I’d venture to say there are at least 100 words that basically mean “simpleton, fool, idiot, etc” in Irish, but the precise type of idiot or fool is conveyed in the root of the word. Likewise, for most basic expressions, there are many many ways one could say them, but each one will have a subtly different meaning, or just be an alternate way of thinking about the same concept. Some common concepts have a myriad of idioms. For example, you list a couple of ways of saying someone died that are the most common and transparent in meaning, but then you have things like “ar slí na fírinne”.

    I recommend, as Ovunanja has, to study dictionaries, especially the ones at and Ó Donaill’s dictionary is probably the best single source in existence for Irish learners and speakers, as it contains a huge wealth of expressions and constructions that most people, even many “fluent” speakers of modern Irish would never think of.

    Also of immense use to me is An Foclóir Beag (, which I believe to be a vastly under-appreciated and under-used resource. It’s an Irish-Irish dictionary, so for many learners it will seem hard to use at first and maybe not that useful. However, it functions in some cases as a thesaurus in the way its definitions are written, and you get to contextualize the word in your mind in Irish rather than equating a word to an English word. This is really far more powerful in the long run.

    You’ve got a good approach overall though. I find it’s important to learn multiple ways of saying the same thing and as many synonyms or closely related words as I can, which is obviously difficult because there are a lot of them. Likewise, it’s good to learn as many of the different uses of each word as you can. It’s easy to think you know all the senses of a word and then come up against something that doesn’t make sense. Who knew that “glas” not only means green, grey and lock, but it also means “river”? Reading and listening to as much authentic Irish as you can will help expose you to stuff like this and eventually you’ll just develop your own sense for it. Saying things and repeating them to yourself while thinking about and internalizing the meaning is important to entrain your mind.


    Thanks for those excellent remarks. I agree especially that the biggest challenge is to “think Irish” (or whatever language you’re working with). I’m sure that knowing several languages can be invaluable in learning a new one. I do speak German, and its approach to the genitive (and even the dative) case helped me immensely to pick up on what was “going on” when Rosetta Stone started to spring the genitive case on me! Like you, I also was impressed by how figurative and idiomatic the Gaelic language is–it also explains why the Irish people have such unique, colorful ways of expressing themselves, even when they’re speaking English! My late wife was Irish, and I always loved just listening to her talk.
    Yes, I really like the O’Donnell for seeing several approaches to interpreting words. The De Bhaldraithe English-Irish is great for finding the exact expression you want and locating the Irish version. And the “Foclóir Póca” is good because, if you see too many alternatives in the big dictionaries, you can get a smaller list which will, of course, tend to carry the more ordinary usages. In several instances, however, I saw options but nothing about the prevalent usages, and of course I can’t tell the dictionary what confuses me and get it to explain it to me! That’s how I came up with my questions for this posting.
    I’ll check into An Foclóir Beag; that should make a good addition to my vocabulary.
    I liked your statement about several meanings to a word. One of the first things that had me wondering “what the heck” was to learn, as per your remark, that glas=green, and then (just out of curiosity to learn other colors) look up gray in the dictionary and see glas! Of course liath was there too, but it took a chat with my online mentor to find out that glas is mostly for animals and metals.
    About Rosetta Stone: I would recommend it to anyone for a good online introduction to a language, Irish or otherwise. It does a really good job with speaking experience, as you get to converse with an online mentor periodically; this means that you almost immediately get good instruction in pronunciation (as well as learning that there are several ways to say certain words, even within Caighdeán!). On the other hand, you come out with a limited vocabulary, and they never do actually explain the grammar (although Stenson handles that nicely). For this reason, I’m working on expanding my vocabulary, and I was fortunate in finding this forum in which I can ask the questions that still remain. There are so many helpful people here, and I’ve been able to clear up a lot of questions already. I read about the need for support, so I sent a check last week and hope that it will help keep things running smoothly. I know that I’ll keep coming up with questions; I just hope I don’t end up being a nuisance.
    Finally, a question completely unrelated to any of this: How do you get the spaces between your paragraphs??? I do an extra carriage return at the end of each paragraph, and it looks as if it’s working, but when the message gets posted the white space disappears!


    Regarding spaces between paragraphs, I can never remember the exact number and/or it varies with the temperature, but 4 or 5 carriage returns are required to get one line of space in between paragraphs. I usually just hit the key a bunch of times, post the message and then edit it until I get it where I want it. Appearance is everything, after all. 🙂


    Thanks–I agree that appearance is everything, and I was getting frustrated trying different character symbols for the carriage return, Alt+Enter, and the like. Now I know what to do. So it turns out to be “try, try, again,” which could be the subtitle of my life. 😆


    and “gluaisteán” instead of “carr” can be a generational thing.

    when I was a kid, we had a car for a few years, known as “Gluaisteán Susie”!

    I use gluaisteán” and “guthán”,
    so do my kids, though they learnt “carr” and “telefón” in school,
    and my granddaughter would use “carr” and “telefón”

    Héilics Órbhuí

    I have figured out over time that the easiest way to get the space on this board is to just manually write < br > (without the spaces – had to do it this way or it won’t show up). It’s the html code for a carriage return.


    Again, thank you. Very interesting! I see then that the question of gluaisteán or carr might be more a matter of generation than anything. Of course, the same is true of many words used in English. By the way, Rosetta Stone always uses gluaisteán and guthán, so those are the words I’m more used to.

    Now let’s see if I got a carriage return…

    Héilics Órbhuí

    I tend to prefer the “Gaelic” origin words to their Anglo counterparts, so I always say/write gluaisteán/guthán rather than the alternative. But that’s just me. I admit especially gluasteán sounds almost a little old fashioned.

    Nice carriage return 😉


    Interestingly, i am told that carr was in usage before gluaisteán! Carr possibly referring to a carriage etc before the introduction of motor vehicles!

    I cant be 100% of course, but i have been told that somewhere down the line.
    A bit like rince and damhsa. For a long time i assumed rince was a more authentic gaelic term, but apparently not! Originating from gaels encountering ice rinks for the first ti e due to emmigration!

    I’m sure there will be someone with more knowledge than me ar ndóigh!

    Héilics Órbhuí

    Interesting! I can see that gluaisteán is probably a made-up term, so to speak. Rince always seemed a bit fancy to me to throw around as the default word for “dance” – best to save it for poetic effect. I also must admit that “guthán póca” (what most people have these days) sounds slightly weird compared to “fón póca”. It is funny how words don’t always come from where we might think they do – I recently learned that English “coach” is originally from Hungarian (not even a European language), not French or Spanish as one would probably assume.


    Well, I’ve certainly been able to get a lot of fascinating input from a lot of people. I was interested to run into damhsa/damhsaigh as an alternate noun/verb for “dance.” Is it ever used any more? I could only find it in my English-Irish dictionary by De Bhaldraithe; it wasn’t even in my big Ó Dónaill Irish-English. Of course, until now the only words I’ve ever known were rince/rinc.

    I appreciate everyone who is willing to help me develop my language skills. I admire the efforts the Irish and friends of the Irish are making to preserve their mother tongue; it’s what made me decide to try my hand at learning Irish. My Gaelic ancestry is actually Scottish, but I wanted to go with the Caighdeán standard, and I also knew that Ireland was more interested in promoting its language. Also, my late wife was Irish. She always felt that the unique language spoken in a country defines the people of that country–and then I saw that the motto of Daltaí na Gaeilge is “Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam.” (As an American, I also have great respect for the Native Americans who are working to preserve their several languages.)

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