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A-muigh vs A-mach

Gaelic has various different words for directional movement like out, in, up, and down. It depends on where you are and whether you are moving. Consequently, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to remember when to use which word. Watch the video below for some helpful tips!

A-muigh vs a-mach

Let’s begin with the words for “out”: a-muigh and a-mach. You would use a-mach when explaining the action of physically going out of somewhere, involving movement, whereas a-muigh describes the state of being outside.

A bheil thu a’ tighinn a-mach a coimhead air mo chairdean a tha a-muigh?

Are you coming out to watch my friends who are outside?

In the above sentence, since mo chairdean (my friends) are already outside, a-muigh is used, and a-mach is used to ask you to physically come outside.

A-steach vs a-staigh

Similarly, there are two words that can be used for “in,” depending on context: a-steach to convey the action of coming inside, and a-staigh for being inside.

Tha Màiri na suidhe a-staigh am broinn a’ chàir fhad ‘s a tha sinn a’ cur nam bagaichean a-steach.

Mary is sitting inside the car while we put the bags in.

Màiri is physically inside the car, thus we use a-staigh, and as tha sinn (we are) moving the bags into the car we use a-steach.

Sìos / a-nuas vs shìos

When describing downward movement, sìos and a-nuas are used, with shìos meaning the state of being down (directionally).

Tha Calum shìos an Lunnainn, tha sinne a’ dol sìos a choimhead air, nach tig thu a-nuas còmhla rinn airson latha no dhà?

Calum is down in London, we are going to see him, won’t you come down with us for a day or two?

Calum is physically down south in London, thus shìos is used, and as we are moving down we use sìos. And finally, as we are asking you to come down with us we use a-nuas.

Suas / a-nìos vs s shuas

Finally, when talking about upward movement, suas and a-nìos are used, with shuas meaning the state of being up (directionally).

Tha an seòmar-cadail shuas an staidhre. Thèid sinn suas dhan leabaidh nuair a ruigeas sinn.

The bedroom is upstairs. We will go to bed when we arrive.

Since the seòmar-cadail (bedroom) is upstairs, we use shuas, and in describing our ascent up the stairs we use suas. The final word for downward movement, a-nìos, has become less commonly used in many dialects of Gaelic, with a-nuas for many being acceptable for both upward and downward movement:

Bhris Calum a chas agus chan urrainn dha tighinn a-nuas còmhla rinn, tha e a’ cadal anns an rùm-shuidhe an-dràsta.

Calum broke his foot and cannot come up with us, he is sleeping in the sitting room just now.