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Dear Bitesize: too many word meanings and counting in hundreds

Dear Bitesize: too many word meanings and counting in hundreds

In today’s Dear Bitesize post, Siobhán – our Irish language assistant, is answering two questions that we recently received here at Bitesize Irish Gaelic.

First off, “A.” wants to know how to overcome the confusion associated with all the possible meanings many Irish Gaelic words can have. Another Irish language student asks how to count in hundreds.

Here we go:

One of the difficulties I’m having with learning Irish is that there are so many different meanings to every word.

Is there any way to make this less of a problem?

It’s understandable that the number of potential meanings a word can have in Irish can be a bit daunting at first. The first thing to realise is that Irish isn’t the only language in which this occurs. The English word man” has about thirty definitions, for example.

The way to figure out which meaning the word has is to guess from the context of the sentence. If you’re a fluent English speaker you would easily understand the how vastly different each meaning of man is the following sentences:

I saw a man on the street.

Man hopes for a better world.

Several employees will man the counters.

In native language, you instinctively understand at least some of the intricacies of a word’s different usages. No matter if you’re a beginner or advanced, don’t hesitate to use a dictionary. These two dictionary sites are particularly helpful: www.teanglann.ie and www.focloir.ie.

Most people, native speakers included, would never know every meaning of every word. Some meanings are extremely rare. Just one or two meanings that you come across a few times while listening or reading is all you need to memorise, at first at least. Also, bear in mind that the popularity of a word’s meaning is not consistent with its ranking in the dictionary. Don’t worry, you’ll pick up more meanings for words as you progress.

Let’s go on to our next question.

How do you count more than a hundred things?

When learning how to count in hundreds, it’s very handy to use examples. Let’s count boats.

A hundred (100) boats is céad bád. All you need to do add céad a hundred before the noun, bád in this case. The noun isn’t affected in any way.

A hundred and one (101) boats is céad is bád, literally, a hundred and a boat. Again, the noun doesn’t change in any way.

The method used when counting from 102 to 120 is similar to counting from 2 to 20. If you’re not familiar with counting these numbers minus the hundred, I would recommend you do so. You can learn the basics of counting in Irish Gaelic read Counting in Irish. Nevertheless, let’s see some examples.

A hundred and two (102) boats is céad is dhá bhád. As you can see here, bád changes to bhád as it would if you were counting just two boats.

A hundred and fifteen (115) boats is céad is cúig bhád déag.

Once again, just like counting fifteen boats but adding céad is to the front.

A hundred and twenty (120) boats is céad is fiche bád.

When counting above 120, things are a little different.

A hundred and twenty three (123) boats is céad fiche is trí bhád. Note how it’s quite different from counting just twenty three (23) boats: trí bhád is fiche.

When you reach two hundred (200) and above you follow the method you used when counting from a hundred (100) to a hundred and ninty nine (199), just swap céad (100) for dhá chéad (200) or seacht gcéad (700) etc.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading!

If you’ve ever got any grammar questions, don’t hesitate to email info@bitesize.irish.

Le gach dea-ghuí (Best wishes)


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