Why you should pay attention to long vowels

O Goireasan Akerbeltz
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In English, the difference between short and long vowel doesn't often play a big role. There are some pairs like ship and sheep, bit and beat where the difference is key but on the whole, it's not a hugely prominent feature. But in Gaelic, you really need to pay attention to which words have short vowels and which have long vowels. Often context or the position in a sentence can help (like you wouldn't find fan at the end of a sentence, since verbs are usually at the beginning of a sentence), but often enough, you can only keep apart words from the length. So make sure you get that right. Here's an (incomplete) list of some "minimal pairs" as linguists call them:

Short Meaning Long Meaning
cas 1 steep 2 foot càs dilemma
cuil fly cùil nook, corner
faire watch, guard fàire horizon
fan wait! fàn gentle slope
feith wait! fèith muscle
maille together màille mail (armour)
min flour mìn soft
rath (good) fortune ràth 1 fortress 2 raft
sabaid fight Sàbaid Sabbath
sin that sìn stretch
sine nipple Sìne Jane
solas light sòlas solace