Irish Language Blog

Cé Mhéad Sneachta? Asking “How Much Snow” in Irish Posted by on Feb 11, 2017 in Irish Language

Bean ag breathnú ar shneachta — an bhfuil sí ag amharc trí cheamara nó trí dhéshúiligh? (grafaic:

(le Róislín)

Depending on where you live, this may be the time of year for talking about how much snow (sneachta) has fallen in your area.  Or how much is on the ground.  Or how much will fall, according to the weather forecast (de réir réamhaisnéis na haimsire).

So we’ll try a few sentences and questions related to snowfall.  We’ll do a few with the word “orlach” (inch) in the answer, for the benefit of Irish speakers in the US, and a few with the word “ceintiméadar” (centimeter), for people elsewhere.

There are, of course, two remaining countries that also use inches and feet for measuring, besides the US, but I don’t think there’s much need to talk about snow in those two locations.  An bhfuil a fhios agat cén tíortha iad?  Freagraí thíos.

First we’ll do a few examples and then a few questions with a blank for you to fill in the answer.

  1. Cé mhéad sneachta a thit aréir? How much snow fell last night? Dhá orlach.  Two inches.
  2. Cé mhéad sneachta a thit ar maidin? How much snow fell this morning? Ceithre cheintiméadar.
  3. Cé mhéad sneachta a thiteoidh anocht? How much snow will fall tonight? Ocht n-orlaí.  Eight inches.
  4. Cé mhéad sneachta a thiteoidh amárach? How much snow will fall tomorrow? Deich gceintiméadar.

You may have noticed that an additional change happens to the word “orlach” when we say “ocht n-orlaí.”  First, we have the added “n-,” which we would have for anything we’re counting eight of (ocht n-oráiste, ocht n-úll).  Same thing also applies to 7 (seacht n-úll), 9 (naoi n-úll), and 10 (deich n-úll).

But there’s an additional point to keep in mind.  The word “orlach” is one of the traditional “unit of measurement” words that use a special form for counting.  While most nouns in Irish stay singular after a number (like “trí mhadra, ceithre chat, three dogs, four cats, lit. “three dog,” “four cat”), some of the special units of measurements use a plural form (seacht seachtainí) and some use a genitive singular form (trí bliana, seacht n-uaire).   The form “trí cinn” (for counting units, not just heads) could be interpreted either way, since “cinn” can be either genitive singular, as in “tinneas cinn” (ache of head, i.e. headache) or plural “na cinn sin” (those ones).   For a bit more on the plural, see the note below.  Not all of these “traditional” unit-of-measurement forms are much in active use now.  For example, “scilling” would basically just be used in a historical context, or pre-1971 literature, that is for situations before “deachúlú” (decimalization).  Currently “pingin,” another traditional unit of measurement word, would be needed in Northern Ireland (trí pingine, according to these guidelines, but some people also say, “trí phingin“); in the Republic of Ireland, “euro” and “ceint” are used, not “punt” and “pingin.”

Having said all that, I’d add there seems to be a wide variety of usage in this area, not just for “pingin.”  The system I’ve just described is what I first learned but I’ve heard many speakers count these units of measurement as if they were regular nouns.

Here are some samples to fill in.  The first few answers are prompted, and the exact answer is given below.  For the last few questions, the answers will vary according to your interpretation, but if you want to double-check your answers from a grammar viewpoint, please feel free to write in and ask for confirmation.

  1. Cé mhéad sneachta a thit aréir? ____________ (10 inches).
  2. Cé mhéad sneachta a thiteoidh amárach? _____________ (10 centimeters)
  3. Cé mhéad sneachta atá ar an talamh i do cheantar anois? _______________
  4. Cé mhéad sneachta a thiteann ar bharr Shliabh Kilimanjaro in aghaidh na bliana? _____________ (do bharúil? freagra amháin anseo:
  5. Má tá tú i do chónaí i bhFlorida, freagair é seo: “Cé mhéad sneachta a thiteann in aghaidh na bliana?” _________ (do bharúil)
  6. Agus céard faoi Chathair Aomori , an áit is sneachtúla ar domhan — cé mhéad sneachta a thiteann in aghaidh na bliana ansin? _____ (Do bharúil? Freagra amháin anseo:

Tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as seo agus má tá tú nua don Ghaeilge, gur fhoghlaim tú cúpla rud nua.   SGF — Róislín

Freagraí:  An Libéir (Liberia) agus Maenmar / Burma (Myanmar / Burma); 5) deich n-orlaí, 6) deich gceintiméadar

Nóta: There is another plural form as well, which you may have encountered: ceanna.   Among other places, it shows up in some specific terms like “ceanna dubha” for the plant “knapweed” and “ceanna léas,” which means “gleanings.”

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