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Little by Little Beag air Bheag

Beginners (A1)- Unit 20 - Remembering your schooldays
Luchd-tòiseachaidh (A1) - Aonad 20 - Remembering your schooldays

Introduction

Bha mi modhail

I was polite

This unit concerns a topic which we all have in common – our education as children, about which we are wont to reminisce. It will require the use of the past tense of various verbs. Most commonly, at least with regular verbs, the past tense is constructed by leniting the root of the verb. This is best explained by some examples:

root of verb meaning past tense example example meaning
cuir put chuir chuir mi uisge anns a’ phoit I put water in a pot
tog lift thog thog mi a’ chlach I lifted the rock
dùin close dhùin dhùin mi an doras I closed the door
tachair happen thachair thachair rud annasach a strange thing happened

When we want to make a negative form of the past tense we put cha do in front of it. The interrogative (question) forms are an do and nach do. Look at the examples below and listen to them:

Cha do chuir mi uisge anns a’ phoit.

I didn’t put water in the pot.

an do chuir thu uisge anns a’ phoit?

Did you put water in the pot?

Nach do chuir thu uisge anns a’ phoit?

Didn’t you put water in the pot?

An do dhùin thu an doras?

Did you close the door?

Cha do dhùin sinn an doras.

We didn’t close the door.

Nach do dhùin iad an doras?

Didn’t they close the door?

Conversation 1

In the conversation that follows you will see the past tense of some regular verbs, and the past tense of the verb 'to be' ie bha, cha robh, an robh and nach robh which are the past equivalents of tha, chan eil, a bheil and nach eil. Note also the useful phrase an do chòrd X riut? (did you enjoy X?), which employs the preposition ri, and to which the answer is chòrd (yes) or cha do chòrd (no).

Conversation 1

Listen to the conversation:

Iain:
An do chòrd e riut anns an sgoil nuair a bha thu òg?
Did you enjoy being at school when you were young?
Seònaid:
Chòrd. An do chòrd e riutsa?
Yes. Did you enjoy it?
Iain:
Chòrd. Bha tidsear math math againn.
Yes. We had a very good teacher.
Seònaid:
Dè an t-ainm a bh’ air?
What was his name?
Iain:
Mgr Mac a’ Mhaoilein. Bha e laghach.
Mr MacMillan. He was nice.
Seònaid:
An do chuir e rionnagan anns an leabhar agad?
Did he put stars in your book?
Iain:
Chuir. Rionnagan òir!
Yes. Gold stars!
Seònaid:
Cha do chuir an tidsear agamsa rionnagan òir anns an leabhar agamsa.
My teacher didn’t put gold stars in my book.
Iain:
Nach do chuir e rionnagan airgid ann?
Did he not put silver stars in it?
Seònaid:
Cha do chuir. Dìreach rionnagan dearga.
No. Only red stars.
Iain:
Nach robh thu toilichte le rionnagan dearga?
Weren’t you pleased with red stars?
Seònaid:
Cha robh, gu dearbh. Bha mi ag iarraidh feadhainn òir.
Certainly not. I wanted (was wanting) gold ones.
Iain:
An do thachair dad annasach anns an sgoil?
Did anything unusual happen in the school?
Seònaid:
Cha do thachair.
No.
Iain:
Uill, thachair rudeigin annasach anns an sgoil agamsa.
Well, something unusual happened in my school.
Seònaid:
Dè bh’ ann?
What was it?
Iain:
Dhùin balach doras nuair a bha Mgr Mac a’ Mhaoilein a’ tighinn troimhe.
A boy closed a door when Mr MacMillan was coming through it.
Seònaid:
Dè thachair?
What happened?
Iain:
Bhuail an doras an tidsear na aodann.
The door hit the teacher in the face.
Seònaid:
An do bhuail? Dè thachair an uair sin?
Did it? What happened then?
Iain:
Thuit an tidsear air a dhruim dìreach.
The teacher fell flat on his back.
Seònaid:
An do thuit? Mo chreach!
Did he. That’s terrible!
Iain:
Mgr Mac a’ Mhaoilein bochd! Chaill e dà fhiacail.
Poor Mr MacMillan! He lost two teeth.

Conditional forms of "chuir"

Bha mi modhail

I was polite

In Conversation 2, we see how the conditional form of verbs can be used as a past habitual, in order to tell of occurrences that happened (would happen) over time, or in a habitual fashion. This time we add –adh or –eadh to the end of the past tense form of the verb:

past conditional example example translation
chuir chuireadh chuireadh e uisge anns a’ phoit he would put water in a pot
thog thogadh thogadh iad na clachan they would lift the rocks
dhùin dhùineadh dhùineadh iad an sgoil they would close the school

Look out for the negative and interrogative forms of verbs in the conditional in the conversation that follows. And look out also for the verb 'to be', which in the conditional is bhiodh or, in its emphatic form, bhitheadh.

past conditional example example translation
bha bhiodh bhiodh iad ann a h-uile là they would be there every day

The verb 'to be' can be used, as in other tenses, to create a conditional with a verbal noun. Compare it with the present tense in the examples below (note that we say tu in the conditional for singular informal 'you', rather than thu):

Tha thu a’ sgrìobhadh.

You write (you are writing).

Bhiodh tu a’ sgrìobhadh.

You would write (you would be writing).

Tha na tidsearan a’ trod rium.

The teachers are scolding me.

Bhiodh na tidsearan a’ trod rium.

The teachers would scold me (the teachers would be scolding me).

Conversation 2

Listen to conversation 2, where Ceitidh and Alasdair use past conditionals when reminiscing about their schooldays.

This is the end of unit 20. Why not test yourself to see how much you've learnt?

Conversation 2

Listen to the conversation:

Ceitidh:
Bhiodh e math dhol air ais a sgoil.
It would be good to back to school.
Alasdair:
Am bitheadh? Carson?
Would it? Why?
Ceitidh:
Oir chòrd e rium.
Because I enjoyed it.
Alasdair:
Uill, cha do chòrd e riumsa idir.
Well, I didn’t enjoy it at all.
Ceitidh:
Dè bha ceàrr air?
What was wrong with [on] it?
Alasdair:
Bhiodh na tidsearan a’ trod rium.
The teachers would scold me.
Ceitidh:
Carson? An robh thu mì-mhodhail?
Why? Were you impolite?
Alasdair:
Cha robh. Bha mi modhail.
No. I was polite.
Ceitidh:
An cuireadh tu a’ chailc aca am falach?
Would you hide their chalk?
Alasdair:
Cha chuireadh!
No!
Ceitidh:
Nach cuireadh? A bheil thu cinnteach?
Wouldn’t you? Are you sure?
Alasdair:
Uill, chuireadh, ach cha robh sin dona.
Well, yes, but that wasn’t bad.
Ceitidh:
An tilgeadh tu rudan anns an t-seòmar?
Would you throw things in the room?
Alasdair:
Uill, thilgeadh. Ach dìreach rudan beaga.
Well, yes. But only small things.
Ceitidh:
Is am biodh tu a’ coimhead a-mach air uinneag?
And would you look [be looking] out a window?
Alasdair:
O bhitheadh! Gu tric.
Oh, yes. Often.
Ceitidh:
Nach dèanadh tu càil a bha math?
Would you not do anything that was good?
Alasdair:
Dhèanadh. Bha mi math air matamataig.
Yes. I was good at mathematics.
Ceitidh:
Bha, is mise.
So was I.
Alasdair:
Ach cha chòrdadh e rium dhol air ais a sgoil.
But I wouldn’t enjoy going back to school.
Ceitidh:
Ach tha e math a bhith a’ coimhead air ais.
But it is good to look back (to reminisce).
Alasdair:
Is dòcha gu bheil.
Perhaps it is.