Stock phrases for learners

When learning any language, and when trying to converse in that languages, stock phrases and words come in very handy. I certainly found this in Italian. For instance, if I hear an unfamiliar word/phrase in conversation, I can ask the speaker “Cosa vuol dire —-?” – what does —- mean? I don’t want to have to construct that question from scratch, as by the time I’ve done so the opportunity to use it may have passed on. Similarly, phrases like “it’s not important” (non è importante) and “it doesn’t matter” (non importa) are good ways of escaping from a conversation spiralling into misunderstanding. Even in our native language we use stock phrases daily, without thinking, to pad out conversation, buy time, make conversation – think of all the conversations we have about weather on autopilot.

So the table below lists some of what I think are useful stock phrases in Gaelic, to which I’ll add as I come across more. They’re not in any particular order. Apologies for any messy formatting – Blogger doesn’t always render HTML as I’d like.

Phrase/word Meaning
math dha-rìribh excellent, very good
‘s e do bheatha you’re welcome, don’t mention it (similar to de nada, di niente)
chan eil e gu diofar it doesn’t matter
chan eil fios agam I don’t know
chan eil cuimhne agam I don’t remember
can sin a-rithist say that again
cha do thuig mi I didn’t understand
chan eil mi a’ tuigsinn I don’t understand
ciamar a tha thu ag ràdh —- [ann am Beurla]? how do you say —- [in English]?
dè tha sin a’ ciallachadh? what does that mean?
gabh mo leisgeul excuse me
tha mi duilich I’m sorry (more usually just “duilich”, as in English “sorry”)
chan eil mi cinnteach I’m not sure
fuirich mionaid wait a minute
dà mhionaid just a minute, just a sec (lit: two minutes)
tha e deagh/droch shìde, nach eil? It’s good/bad weather, isn’t it?
dè thuirt thu? what did you say?
b’aill leat/leibh? pardon? (thu, sibh)
coma leat never mind

Last updated: 5/2/06


One response to “Stock phrases for learners

  1. “How do you say that in English?” should rather be: “Ciamar a chanas tu sin ‘sa Bheurla?” or: “Ciamar a chanar sin ‘sa Bheurla?”

    The phrase about the weather should be: “‘S e deagh/droch shìde a th’ ann, nach e?” or more simple: “Tha i brèagha (an-diugh), nach eil?” for good weather, and “Tha i fliuch / fuar / fiadhaich / … (an-diugh), nach eil?” for various sorts of bad weather.

    There are some mistakes in the post about the articles as well:

    am bheinn ann an t-eilean -> a’ bheinn ann an eilean (beinn is feminine, so the article lenites the noun, and the t- in front of a masculine noun disappears in the dative / prepositional case)

    an ubhal ann an craobh -> an t-ubhal… (ubhal is masculine)

    am bheinn anns an eilean -> a’ bheinn…

    an ubhal anns a’ chraobh -> an t-ubhal…

    I find it amazing that Cùrsa Inntrigidh does not explain these grammatical patterns well. I got the impression that you are a bit confused with the dative and genitive and vocative case (they are three different things!). Do you know this site: – It has some very good grammar overviews.

    Cùm ort! 🙂
    Mona (an nighean neònach bho

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