Using past tense

Having covered using the present tense, I thought it would be useful to have a look at the past tense before moving on to verbs.

The same structures seem to apply, instead of using “ta”, “va” is used.

va mee I was Va mee gynsaghey I was learning
v’ou You were V’ou gynsaghey You were learning Used when speaking to a single person for politeness
v’eh He was V’eh gynsaghey He was learning
v’ee She was V’ee gynsaghey She was learning
va shin We were Va shin gynsaghey We were learning
va shiu You were Va shiu gynsaghey You were learning Used to address more than one person
va’d They were Va’d gynsaghey They were learning

The negative form introduces “row” (as in “cow”) which means “was”, though I’m not sure if you could use “row” on the affirmative form, for example, “row mee” gynsaghey”.

Also note that the singular of “You were not” has changed its form. This is to avoid confusion between “r’ou” and “row” when speaking as they both sound similar. I guess one should use the “uss” form to avoid any confusion.

cha row mee I was not Cha row mee gynsaghey I was not learning
cha row uss You were not Cha row uss gynsaghey You were not learning Used when speaking to a single person for politeness
cha row eh He was not Cha row eh gynsaghey He was not learning
cha row ee She was not Cha row ee gynsaghey She was not learning
cha row shin We were not Cha row shin gynsaghey We were not learning
cha row shiu You were not Cha row shiu gynsaghey You were not learning Used to address more than one person
cha row ad They were not Cha row ad gynsaghey They were not learning

Updated 25 September …

If you need to use the “do” form, the table below shows some examples. I distinguish the two by another of my silly rules:

  • row = was – “W” is in both “row” and “was”
  • ren = did – Totally no pattern!
cha ren mee I did not Cha ren mee ynsaghey I did not learn
cha ren uss You did not Cha ren uss ynsaghey You did not learn Used when speaking to a single person for politeness
cha ren eh He did not Cha ren eh ynsaghey He did not learn
cha ren ee She did not Cha ren ee ynsaghey She did not learn
cha ren shin We did not learn Cha ren shin ynsaghey We did not learn
cha ren shiu You did not Cha ren shiu ynsaghey You did not learn Used to address more than one person
Cha ren ad They did not Cha ren ad ynsaghey They did not learn

So I guess that it follows that as you can use “Nagh row” for “Wasn’t?”, you could use “Nagh ren” for “Didn’t?”.

nagh ren mee? Didn’t I? Nagh ren mee ynsaghey? Didn’t I learn?
nagh ren uss? Didn’t you? Nagh ren uss ynsaghey Didn’t you learn? Used when speaking to a single person for politeness
nagh ren eh? Didn’t he? Nagh ren eh ynsaghey? Didn’t he learn?
nagh ren ee? Didn’t she? Nagh ren ee ynsaghey? Didn’t she learn?
nagh ren shin? Didn’t we learn? Nagh ren shin ynsaghey? Didn’t we learn?
Nagh ren shiu? Didn’t we? Nagh ren shiu ynsaghey? Didn’t you learn? Used to address more than one person
Nagh ren ad? Didn’t they? Nagh ren ad ynsaghey? Didn’t they learn?

I think that completes the past tense in the simplest form. I’m told that it is possible to man-handle your Manx and use these simpler forms rather than looking for the past tense verb of each stem when starting out. I’m counting on it.

Asking questions using present tense

Previously, I learnt that “Ta” and “Cha nel” precede statements confirming or negating the statement. Asking questions of people is stupidly easy as it uses a single word, “vel” as a predicate. This works for both positive and negative questions.

Positive questions seem to just replace “ta” with “vel”.

mee I Vel mee gynsaghey? Am I learning?
oo thou Vel oo gynsaghey? Are you learning? Used when speaking to a single person for politeness
eh he Vel eh gynsaghey? Is he learning?
ee she Vel ee gynsaghey? Is she learning?
shin we Vel shin gynsaghey? Are we learning?
shiu you Vel shiu gynsaghey? Are you learning? Used to address more than one person.
ad they Vel ad gynsaghey? Are they learning?

Negative questions simple add “nagh”, or sometimes “ny”. I’m sticking to “nagh” for simplicity’s sake. The forms here feel contrived, but are basically “aren’t I?”, “aren’t you?”, etc.

nagh vel mee Am I not? Nagh vel mee gynsaghey? Am I not learning?
nagh vel oo Art thou not? Nagh vel oo gynsaghey? Aren’t you learning? Used when speaking to a single person for politeness
nagh vel eh Is he not? Nagh vel eh gynsaghey? Is he not learning?
nagh vel ee Is she not? Nagh vel ee gynsaghey? Is she not learning?
nagh vel shin Are we not? Nagh vel shin gynsaghey? Aren’t we learning?
nagh vel shiu Are you not? Nagh vel shiu gynsaghey? Aren’t you learning? Used to address more than one person.
nagh vel ad Are they not? Nagh vel ad gynsaghey? Aren’t they learning?

So to use one of those forms in an actual sentence, we could use the famous quote from the 2000 Gladiator film:

Am I not merciful?

might be:

Nagh vel mee myghin er?

Taking the meaning of “merciful” as “myghin” according to the online dictionary developed by J. F. Craine at

A new Twitter metric!

Today is the Isle of Man Social Media Club’s Third Thursday Dinner (if you’re northern), and a topic that often appears is individuals’ visibility on Twitter and Facebook. These are often quantified, calculated and coalesced by sites such as Grader and Klout. A new one has appeared which puts a new slant on it, particularly for the Isle of Man.

Fellow Manx Gaelic learner @NettyIOM pointed me to today, and specifically the Manx Gaelic page which performs a similar trick to Grader, listing the top n users who are tweeting in the Isle of Man, and what percentage of those tweets are in Manx Gaelic. Finally! A metric on which I can beat @OwenC!

Personal Pronouns–Negative form

Continuing the personal pronouns from my last blog, I’m now learning the negative forms. The examples I’ve come up with don’t entirely make a lot of sense (why would you have need to say “You are not learning”?), but I think it gives an extra level of flexibility in phrasing Manx.

cha nel mee I am not Cha nel mee gynsaghey I am not learning
cha nel oo thou art not Cha nel ou gynsaghey You are not learning Used when speaking to a single person for politeness.Note use of “ou” instead of “oo”. Still wondering why this is. Need to check …
cha nel eh he is not Cha nel eh gynsaghey He is not learning
cha nel ee she is not Cha nel ee gynsaghey She is not learning
cha nel shin we are not Cha nel shin gynsaghey We are not learning
cha nel shiu you are not Cha nel shiu gynsaghey You are not learning Used to address more than one person. I’m beginning to differentiate this from “shin”, in that “you” rhymes with “shui” (“shoe”)!
cha nel ad they are not Cha nel ad gynsaghey They are not learning

“Cha” seems to prefix a negative statement, and is sometimes left alone to do its job (“Cha by vie lhiam” – I would not like, literally, “not good with me”) or “nel” is added. Another question for the experts.

It’s also interesting that I’m finding interest in learning the language in many quarters, but alas, antipathy towards the island in the Manx themselves.

Re-immersion into Manx

Back in 2005, I decided to learn Manx as part of introducing myself to the island, and making an effort to show that I am not just a “come over” and want to put something back into the island in a small way. The course was a brief conversation course run by Brian Stowell at the Isle of Man College. Brian is an excellent teacher and although my Manx was distinctly rudimentary, this was in no way a reflection on his teaching, which I enjoyed immensely from the background of Manx idioms to fascinating anecdotes about the island. I’d heartily recommend the course, or a similar “island orientation” course for people moving on to the island.

Unfortunately, family and living commitments were such that it wasn’t possible to take my learning to the next stage, which Brian kindly arranged. In addition, I didn’t feel my grasp on the language was sufficient to warrant inclusion. How wrong I was.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to re-immerse myself thanks to a friend who it turned out was on the same college course as me. Her use of the language in those intervening years is light years ahead of me and one can’t help but feel a little disappointed. However, as a new regular of Manx conversation and game events, I hope to reignite my desire to learn the language.

My knowledge of the language was sufficient to hold very basic conversation, such as greetings, asking how/who/where people are. In the last couple of weeks, immersing myself (and another friend who is joining me in my learning) in conversation events in Manx has helped me a lot. On Wednesday, I was blown away that I was able to follow the gist of an enthusiastic conversation on social policy in Manx by one of the Manx speakers.

So, taking tips suggested to me by the group, I am going to blog about my Manx to try and help it solidify in my mind somewhat, and post Manx on post-it notes and flashcards around my house to constantly push in the words and language usage.

Starting at the beginning, I’m re-covering the basics. “I think therefore I am” (well, at the moment, it’s more “I am”); the Personal Pronoun.

Using present tense, affirmative form “ta”

The subject is placed after the verb.

mee I Ta mee gynsaghey I am learning
oo You T’ou gynsaghey You are learning Used when speaking to a single person for politeness. Note use of “ou” instead of “oo”. I wonder why this is?
eh he T’eh gynsaghey He is learning I always remember this by “eh” is “he” backwards.
ee she T’ee gynsaghey She is learning
shin we Ta shin gynsaghey We are learning
shiu you Ta shiu gynsaghey You are learning Used to address more than one person.
ad they T’ad gynsaghey They are learning

There will doubtless be confusion between “Ta shiu” (you are (plural)) and “Ta shin” (we are), and also “T’ad” (they are)” with “ayd” (“at you”). But from what I can tell, Manx is full of these little gotchas.

There are a bunch of really good resources available for researching or learning Manx whether with semi-interest or a more serious effort. Two great resources are shown below, brilliant for a beginner: – The “official” site managed by Manx National Heritage. The materials on here are really accessible and it is well worth checking out. – The Manx Language Officer, Adrian Cain, publishes videos of Manx conversation. Even if you don’t understand them at first, it’s a great opportunity to capture the lilt and flow of the speech.


So I haven’t blogged in ages and that’s largely due to some personal upheavals I’ve had to deal with. However, I now have more time to publish my ill thought out and poorly conceived ideas so there’s likely more to come …

It’s the Isle of Man General Election in September and candidates have started their campaigning. This year is my 5th on the island and so I have been able to grow accustomed to the Manx lifestyle and appreciate the issues which the island has, which combined with a degree of experience of my time in the UK, has developed ideas in my head about how I’d like to see things done in the future.

The Isle of Man does not have a party system in its parliament, Tynwald. The island is too small for that mechanism. Instead, individuals are elected, each of which campaign with their own policies. In recent times, the Liberal Vannin party has emerged that does have a consistent “party line” and which is exerting pressure on Tynwald in new ways, which is clearly ruffling old feathers.

As far as I can see, although our parliament is one of the oldest in the world, it is fundamentally undemocratic. In the UK, if you want social reform, you vote left, If you want lower taxes and an enterprise economy, you vote right. Although this is very simplistic, these principles have more or less remained for centuries. By electing a party, you are enabling the “party line”. In electing individuals on the Isle of Man, you have only the policies held by the individual candidates to go on. The candidates have good intentions and strong messages but in reality, the results of these are often weakened by the requirement to “get the vote in” for legislation to be enacted. What actually happens is lobbying, meetings and debates occur in preference for a particular policy or “government line”. Individuals drop their policies, weaken their stance or change their line to avoid to be seen as being disruptive to parliamentary process. And being disruptive in the Manx community is distinctly an unattractive position. One individual who has a record for blocking this process is Peter Karran, of Liberal Vannin. He ruffles feathers because he creates friction in what is essentially a Boy’s Club.

So what value is my vote?

While I’m unsure which way to vote at the moment, the emergence of the Liberal Vannin party in 2006 is interesting and represents a real challenge to this status quo. As ever, it comes down to numbers of votes in Tynwald when introducing legislation and with a party line, legislation becomes more democratic. A number of individuals with individual policies, ideas and priorities clearly does not work; a party with a number of individuals (and therefore votes) is going to have more muscle. While at the moment there are just 2 elected Liberal Vannin MHKs, this number could surely rise this year with increased dissatisfaction with government policy. This will create a more effective vote for the electorate as individual priorities and in-dealing is [hopefully] reduced. However, this only works if Liberal Vannin have the “right” policies for all (not likely in a complex society) or a new party emerges. (Or individual candidates could get a backbone and stand by their convictions on which they were elected and are representing their constituents.) Our process seems to be a mixture of weakened stance and blocking.

Another area where democracy is weak is in the selection of the Chief Minister. Both the current Chief Minister Tony Brown and Richard Corkhill before him have had negative reaction and feeling about their performance and/or conduct in and out of office. Notice how I said “selected”, rather than “elected”. There is no public say in which MHK assumes the role of Chief Minister. In a system which eschews party politics, and where the individual is the representative, surely the Chief Minister as an individual should also be elected in some capacity by the electorate, maybe by candidate manifesto or Proportional Representation?

Transparency in public life on the island is not as transparent as the UK, as seen by the recent inability to implement a Freedom of Information Act which would have enabled public scrutiny in an over large, penny-wise-pound-foolish and somewhat ineffectual civil service. Plans have been afoot for a while for making the Legislative Arm of Tynwald to be elected, as similar efforts in the UK. Both these elements of making the process more democratic and less opaque have faltered, and it is ultimately down to personality and protecting one’s lot. Such attitudes need to change on the island, particularly as hard decisions needs to be made with regards cost savings, for which it is important to get the Manx community on-side or at least educated as to how decisions were made.