Daltai na Gaeilge
Proverbs

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Ní hé lá na báistí lá na bpáistí.

The day of rain is not the day of children.

Note: The wisdom of this proverb is self-evident to many. This is true of any caregiver, any parent, any babysitter, who has been imprisoned with children due to inclement weather. These people have discovered that the walls of any enclosure are not capable of releasing the vast stores of energy pent-up in every child.

Note also: This proverb is also a word-play on the genitive case. Irish is an inflected language. This means that the role a noun plays in a sentence is determined by a case ending. For example, if a noun is the subject of the sentence, it would require a nominative case ending. If it were the object of the sentence, it would require the accusative case ending. Consider the following sentence. "The car hit the wall." A car is doing the action so it is the subject of the sentence. The sentence is about the car. On the other hand, the wall was the object of the action of the car. Therefore, it is the object of the sentence.

English lost all its case endings, except one for the genitive case. Let us modify our earlier example. "John's car hit the wall." The noun "John" is said to be in the genitive case, where the "'s" acts as a genitive case ending. Nouns in the genitive case imply the preposition "of." We could make this explicit on our example. "The car of John's hit the wall." Both examples mean exactly the same thing.

The genitive case is the most important case in Irish. It is used to group nouns into classes called declensions. The declensions all have the same or similar genitive case endings. In our proverb, we have two uses of the genitive case. The first is genitive singular, "lá na báistí" -- the day of rain. Báistí is the genitive singular of báisteach. The second is genitive plural, " lá na bpáistí" -- day of the children. "Na bpáistí" is the genitive plural of "an páiste." The definite article before a genitive plural noun triggers eclipses. Therefore, in this case, the two genitive phrases are pronounced exactly the same.a

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