Irish Language Blog

Cé Mhéad Duine? How Many People? – Na hUimhreacha Pearsanta i nGaeilge (Numbers for Counting People in Irish) Posted by on Jul 16, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As I alluded to in the earlier post on “maoluimhreacha” (independent numbers), Irish has a separate system for counting people. These are used up to 10 and also for 12. Eleven is skipped over for these purposes. The phrase for counting 11 people uses the same number system as saying you have 11 boxes (not the “personal number” system). Why the number 11 is singled out for this treatment is thar m’eolas (beyond my ken). 

Good news: starting with “three people,” these “personal numbers” are clearly related to the maoluimhir on which they are based, like triúr (trí) and cúigear (cúig). For “one person,” we do use the actual number “one,” but there are two ways to count “one” in Irish, so we’re off to a rollicking start, with two ways to say “one person”

Duine amháin, one person: Tá duine amháin anseo ach tá fiche duine ansin (There’s one person here but there are 20 people there). Using this phrase emphasizes the context of actually counting the number of people, one as opposed to 20.

Aonar, one/solitary person. Tá sé ina chónaí ina aonar. He lives alone, lit. “in his solitary personhood.”  Using this form tends to emphasize the solitariness of the situation.  I know, distinguishing “duine amháin” from “aonar” can be beagán mar a bheith ag minínteacht (the closest Irish equivalent to splitting hairs).  But eventually one gets used to the distinction.   

Beirt: Cé mhéad duine a bhí sa díséad, Simon and Garfunkel?  Beirt fhear.

Triúr: Cé mhéad duine a bhí sa tríréad, Peter, Paul, and Mary? Triúr (beirt fhear agus bean amháin).

Ceathrar: Cé mhéad duine a bhí sa ghrúpa, The Beatles?  Ceathrar, an chuid is mó den am.

Cúigear: Cé mhéad duine a bhí sa Jackson Five? Cúigear, ar ndóigh!

And just le haghaidh an chraic, how do some other languages compare?  Can you match these number terms with the appropriate language:

a) triawd

b) unupersona

c) queigaid

d) kvartett

e) otway eoplepay

1) Sprantais

2) Breatnais

3) Sualainnis

4) Manannais

5) Muc-Laidin 

And how about saying how many people are/were in these groups: a) Clannad         

b) Skara Brae            c) The Young Tradition         d) an Díséad Dinimiciúil

We’ll address 6 to 10 people in another blog, and depending on how long that takes, deal with 11 and 12 either in the same blog or shortly afterwards. 

Freagraí: A: a2, b1, c4, d3, e5. B: a) cúigear +-duine b) ceathrar c) triúr d) beirt

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  1. Rossa Ó Snodaigh:

    just to let you know 11 people i nGaeilge is ‘Duine Déag’.

  2. Róislín:

    A Rossa, a chara,

    Go raibh maith agat as scríobh. Ar ndóigh bhí sé ar intinn agam leanúint leis an gceacht seo, agus ansin bhí orm scríobh faoi Azkatraz 2009 agus McCourt srl. Séard a bhí i gceist agam ná cén fáth a bhfuil difear idir 11 agus na huimhreacha eile. Corruair ach ní minic a fheicim “aonar déag.” Idir “duine déag” agus “aon duine d(h)éag” déarfainn go bhfuil an dá dhóigh coitianta go leor. Le gach dea-ghuí – Róislín

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