There are two past tenses in Gaelic, past progressive and simple past. Let's have a look at the differences and how each tense works.
This tense is the "I was ____ing" tense. It is used to talk about things that were happening. m.e. "I was walking down the road. I was singing. The children were playing." It expresses ongoing action in the past.
How it works in Gaelic:
In Gaelic the past progressive is formed much the same as the present tense, using the verb "to be" and the present participle. The difference is that the past progressive uses the past tense of "tha".
A quick review of the past tense of "tha"
positive statement. Bha
negative statement. Cha robh
positive question. An robh ?
negative question. Nach robh ?
So to make a past progressive sentence you start with the past tense form of "tha" that you want, a noun or pronoun and the present participle(verbal noun) of the verb
Bha i ag obair. She was working.
word for word this means: Was she at working.
An robh iad a' bruidhinn ri cheile? Were they speaking to each other?
word for word: Were they at speaking to each other?
The past tense of "tha" can also be used to describe things in the past like this:
Bha an taigh Ã¹r. The house was new.
Cha robh an leabhar uaine. The book wasn't green.
The simple past is for talking about completed action in the past. "I walked" We went to the movies" "She said 'hello'"
In some ways this tense is easier to form, all you need is the verb and a subject (noun or pronoun). However it does require the past tense of the verb.
How to form the past tense of regular verbs:
start with the root of the verb.
Cha do + lenited root
An do + lenited root
Nach do + lenited root
here are some examples
cuir (tp put)
Chuir, Cha do chuir, An do chuir? Nach do chuir?
Ã²l (to drink)
Dh' Ã²l, Cha do dh' Ã²l, An do dh'Ã²l, Nach do dh' Ã²l
notice how verbs that start with a vowel have external lenition (aka extra strength lenition) which looks like dh' vowel... and the dh' will be pronounced in accordance with the type of vowel (slender or broad) that starts the verb.
here are some examples of simple past tense sentences:
Choisich mi. I walked.
Cha do dh' obair e. He didn't work
An do dh'ith thu e? Did you eat it?
Nach do phÃ igh iad e? Didn't they pay it?
Both past tenses are useful for telling stories (true or made up) so have lots of fun using them.
Caroline has been involved with Gaelic for more than 18 years. She has degrees in Celtic Studies and Gaelic Medium Teaching.