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Little by Little Beag air Bheag

Beginners (A1)- Unit 8 - Simple counting and reading the clock
Luchd-tòiseachaidh (A1) - Aonad 8 - Simple counting and reading the clock

Dè ’n uair a tha e?

What is the time?

Numbers 1-10

For anyone used to numerals in other Indo-European languages, remembering Gaelic numbers is quite straightforward. The common origin with other tongues in this family is evident so learning to tell the time is fairly easy.

It’s worth making two points however: firstly, the 24-hour clock has still not caught on to any great degree in the Gaelic world – telling the time is still based on the 12-hour clock, morning and afternoon. Secondly, counting was traditionally based on twenties (like the old English 'score') and this is still the manner in which older fluent speakers deal with numbers in Gaelic. Nowadays children in Gaelic-medium education are taught the decimal system – so learners of the language should ideally be familiar with both systems.

aon one
dhà two
trì three
ceithir four
còig five
sia six
seachd seven
ochd eight
naoi nine
deich ten

Numbers 11-20

The numbers between 11 and 20 are very straightforward in Gaelic in comparison with English which has irregular forms like 'eleven' and 'twelve'. Deug is added to the appropriate numeral. In the case of twelve, it is dhà dheug, with the deug in its lenited form.

aon deug eleven
dhà dheug twelve
trì deug thirteen
ceithir deug fourteen
còig deug fifteen
sia deug sixteen
seachd deug seventeen
ochd deug eighteen
naoi deug nineteen
fichead twenty

Numbers 21-1000

Let’s look at some examples of how the two counting systems deal with numbers above twenty. Iain will give the number in the older vigesimal system, while Eilidh will give numbers in the decimal system.

# Vigesimal Decimal
21 aon air fhichead fichead ’s a h-aon
23 trì air fhichead fichead ’s a trì
30 deich air fhichead trithead
34 ceithir deug air fhichead trithead ’s a ceithir
40 dà fhichead ceathrad
45 dà fhichead ’s a còig ceathrad ’s a còig
50 leth-cheud caogad
60 trì fichead seasgad
70 trì fichead ’s a deich seachdad
80 ceithir fichead ochdad
90 ceithir fichead ’s a deich naochad
100 ceud ceud
120 sia fichead ceud is fichead
140 seachd fichead ceud is ceathrad
1000 mìle mìle

How numbers are employed in relation to objects

How are numbers employed in relation to objects i.e. when we say 'thirteen books'? Well, traditionally, we say trì leabhraichean deug, splitting the trì and the deug with the noun.

It is important to notice that, following (the unlenited form of dhà, 2), fichead (20), ceud (100) and mìle (1000), a qualified noun is always in its singular form. The same is true of nouns used with cia mheud? (how many?).

Conversation 1

Listen to Iain and Eilidh’s conversation which illustrates the above points.

Conversation 2

Before we move on to telling the time later in the unit, listen to this short conversation.

It shows how you might use numbers in relation to a person’s age. Notice the characteristic question (here given in the informal singular thu form) – dè an aois a tha thu? (what age are you?). You will also hear that, when dealing with age, the word for 'year' – bliadhna – remains in its singular form, even when you might expect it to be in the plural form (bliadhnaichean).

Conversation 1

Listen to the conversation:

Cia mheud leabhar a th' agad, Eilidh?
How many books do you have, Helen?
Tha ochd. Tha ochd leabhraichean agam.
Eight. I have eight books.
A bheil iad trom?
Are they heavy?
Tha, gu dearbh. Cia mheud leabhar a th' agadsa?
They certainly are. How many books do you have?
Tha dà leabhar agam.
I have two books.
Tha mòran leabhraichean agam anns a' chàr.
I have many books in the car.
Cia mheud a th' agad?
How many do you have?
Tha seachd leabhraichean deug.
Seventeen books.
Seachd leabhraichean deug? Is cia mheud a th' agad aig an taigh?
Seventeen books? And how many do you have at the house?
Tha mòran. Tha mi a' smaoineachadh gu bheil mìle leabhar ann.
Many. I think there are a thousand books.
Chan eil ach ceud leabhar anns an taigh agamsa.
I only have a hundred books in my house.

Conversation 2

Listen to the conversation:

Dè an aois a tha thu, Anna?
What age are you Anne?
Tha mi trì air fhichead. Dè an aois a tha thu fhèin?
I am twenty-three. What age are you yourself?
Tha mi deich air fhichead.
I am thirty.
Tha thusa nas sine na mise.
You are older than me.
Tha thusa nas òige na mise.
You are younger than me.
Dè an aois a tha do bhràthair?
What age is your brother?
Tha e dìreach seachd bliadhna fichead.
He is only twenty-seven.
Tha e nas òige na thusa, ma-thà.
He's younger than you, then.
Tha. Tha e trì bliadhna nas òige na mise.
Yes. He is three years younger than me.
Tha mo phiuthar dìreach ochd deug.
My sister is only eighteen.
Tha i còig bliadhna nas òige na mise.
She is five years younger than me.

Telling The Time

Dè ’n uair a tha e?

What is the time?

Now it’s time for the time! Or at least how to tell the time in Gaelic. Notice that for one o’ clock we say uair (i.e. 'one hour') rather than using the numeral aon. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward!

Dè ’n uair a tha e?

what is the time?

Tha e uair.

It is one a’ clock.

Tha e dà uair.

It is two o’ clock.

Tha e trì uairean

It is three o’ clock.

Tha e ceithir uairean anns a’ mhadainn.

It is four o’ clock in the morning.

Tha e còig uairean feasgar.

It is five o’ clock in the afternoon.

Tha e leth-uair an dèidh sia.

It is half past six (6.30).

Tha e cairteal an dèidh ochd.

It is quarter past eight (8.15).

Reading the clock

Dè ’n uair a tha e?

What is the time?

Tha e cairteal gu deich.

It is quarter to ten (9.45).

Tha e aon uair deug.

It is eleven o’ clock.

Tha e meadhan-là.

It is twelve midday.

Tha e meadhan-oidhche.

It is twelve midnight.

Tha e trì mionaidean deug an dèidh ceithir.

It is thirteen minutes past four.

Tha e fichead mionaid an dèidh còig.

It is twenty past five.

Tha e fichead mionaid gu h-ochd.

It is twenty minutes to eight.

Tha e còig mionaidean fichead gu naoi.

It is twenty five to nine.

Conversation 3

Listen to Peter and Rachel talking about the time.

Pick up phrases relating to your family situation, in Unit 9, A bheil clann agaibh?

Conversation 3

Listen to the conversation:

Dè 'n uair a tha e, a Raonaid?
What is the time, Rachel?
Tha e leth-uair an dèidh uair.
It's half-past one.
Cuin' a tha thu a' dol dhachaigh?
When are you going home?
Aig trì uairean.
At three o'clock.
Carson a tha thu a' dol dhachaigh aig trì uairean?
Why are you going home at three o'clock?
Uill, bidh mi a' dol a-mach a-rithist aig cairteal an dèidh ceithir.
Well, I'll be going out again at quarter-past four.
Càite am bi thu a' dol?
Where will you be going?
Bidh mi a' dol don taigh-cluiche.
I will be going to the theatre.
Cuin' a bhios tu a' tilleadh dhachaigh a-rithist?
When will you be returning home again?
Aig leth-uair an dèidh ochd.
At half-past eight.
Is cuin' a bhios tu a' dol a chadal?
And when will you be going to sleep?
Aig aon uair deug, 's dòcha.
At eleven o' clock, perhaps.
Is cuin' a bhios tu ag èirigh anns a' mhadainn?
And when will you get up in the morning?
Bidh mi ag èirigh aig naoi uairean.
I will be getting up at nine o'clock.