To Be: Present Tense

Bot to be is perhaps the most important verb in Cumbraek and also one of the most complex. Its conjugation is irregular, formed on several different stems, and it has several tenses not used with other verbs. In addition, the present tense has a number of special forms not present in other verbs and with no direct English equivalent. These will be dealt with here.

The first and second person forms of bot are relatively straightforward and are as follows:

oov  I am
oot  you are (sg)
imm  we are
ich  you are (pl)

The third person forms are more complex. In the singular we have iw, is, ema, ais and essidh, and in the plural int and emant. The use of all these verbs is explained further below.

The Copula

The copula is the form of the verb to be which is used to join a noun or pronoun subject to an adjective or another noun that describes it. For example, in the sentences John is tall and Stephanie was the winner, both is and was are functioning as the copula and tall and the winner are descriptions known as the complement. This is much the same in Cumbraek, but things are complicated a little by the fact that there are different words for is and the order of the sentence can change.

A Note on Word Order

Word order in English is quite rigid as it’s used to give us information about the role of the words in a sentence and the normal word order in copular constructions is Subject + Verb + Complement e.g. John is tall. In Cumbraek the normal word order is  Verb + Subject + Complement (e.g. Edh iw Yowann hir John is tall), but we often like to change this in order to focus or place emphasis on a particular element. It is therefore possible to have the following order of words:

  1. Verb + Subject + Complement (no emphasis, John is tall)
  2. Verb + Complement + Subject (some emphasis on the complement, John is tall)
  3. Subject + Verb + Complement (emphasis  on the subject, JOHN is tall)
  4. Complement + Verb + Subject (emphasis on the complement, John is TALL)

When the subject of a copular sentence is a 1st or 2nd person pronoun the subject is usually not expressed, so the first two of these word orders merge, e.g. Edh oot verth You are beautiful (it would be unnatural to say **Edh oot verth ti). Note that the meaningless particle edh precedes the verb at the start of the sentence and that the complement undergoes lenition when it follows the verb directly. It is also possible to say Ti oot verth You are beautiful and Berth oot.

The 3rd person plural form of the copula is int they are, which is used exactly like the 1st and 2nd person forms, e.g. Edh int vedhigyon They are doctorsYidhewik int They are Jewish.

If the subject of the copular sentence is a definite noun (singular or plural), the actual form of the verb differs according to the order of the words. When the subject directly follows the verb (1 & 4 above), the form is iw but when the complement follows the verb (2 & 3), is is used, e.g:

  1. Edh iw Yowann hir  John is tall
  2. Is hir Yowann John is tall
  3. Yowann is hir  JOHN is tall
  4. Hir iw Yowann  John is TALL

Note that iw requires preceding edh at the start of the sentence but is does not. Neither verb causes lenition to the following subject or complement.

When the subject is a 3rd person singular pronoun (he/she/it), the verb is always iw.

Locative Ema

Beside the copula, which is used to describe what a thing is, Cumbraek has a locative verb which is mainly used to describe where a thing is. The forms for the locative verb are as follows:

edh oov  I am
edh oot  you are (sg.)
ema  he/she/it is or there is
edh imm we are
edh ich  you are (pl.)
emant  they are

Note that in the first and second persons they are identical to the copula, but here they are always preceded by the particle edh. The 3rd person plural emant is only used when the subject is the pronoun ‘they’.

The locative verb is specifically used whenever:

  1. A noun or pronoun subject is described with a prepositional phrase (e.g. Ema ti war er vre There is a house on the hillIn er skol edh oov I am in the school).
  2. In the possessive idiom, translating English have (e.g. Ema cath geniv I have a cat).
  3. In the progressive idiom, translating English is …ing (e.g. Ema’r gur in cerdhet cuhit er stret The man is walking along the street).
  4. In interrogatives with cu(d) where  (e.g. Cud edh oot? Where are you?, Cud ema’r clavdy? Where is the hospital?).
  5. Meaning there is/there are with an indefinite subject (e.g. Ema lios pobul eman There are many people hereEma gur a’th gar There is a man who loves you).

Ema is not permitted to occur with other verbal particles and is replaced by ais in the following circumstances:

ned ais  there is not
od ais  if there is
a ais  is there?

Relative Essidh

Besides the locative verb and the copula, Cumbraek also has a special relative form of the verb to beessidh meaning which is, who is, that is. It replaces both iw and ema when they would normally follow a relative pronoun, e.g. Er gur essidh de dat  The man who is your fatherEr cathot essidh in er ti The cats which are in the house.

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