Irish Question Words: #1 Easy Guide For Beginners

Learning how to seek help or clarify using Gaelic or Irish question words allows you to prevent miscommunication between you and the locals. Unlike other languages, structuring questions in Irish is easy since you simply need to put the question word first and then follow it up with the rest of the sentence. In today’s post, we will walk you through how interrogative expressions work and provide you with examples of using each.

Have you ever walked the streets of Dublin and heard people say lines such as cad as duit (where are you from), cén fáth a bhfuil tú anseo (why are you here) or cé mhéad (how much)? We understand that hearing such can be pretty scary for new travelers and might even force you just to nod or hide away from the crowd. The strange tone and pronunciation may sound confusing and startling, but that doesn’t mean that it should get to you.

Our best advice?

Learn the basics of Irish so that you can prepare how to answer it next time. Continue reading below to learn how.


Basic Irish Question Words

Basic Irish Question Words

Knowing how to structure a question is a key strategy towards developing a good proficiency level in your target language. Not only does it allow you to get around easily, but you also get to show how much respect you have for their local language. Just like in the English language, questions words are created using the basic WH’s. Below are the translations, as well as an example of how to use each.

IrishMeaningExampleTranslation of Example
WhoCé hé tusa?Who are you?
Cad / CéardWhatCad is ainm duit?What is your name?
Cén áit / CáWhereCá bhfuil cónaí ort?Where do you live?
Cathain / Cén uairWhenCathain a bhfuil do bhreithlá?When is your birthday?
Cén fáthWhyCén fáth a bhfuil tú anseo?Why are you here?
Conas / Cad é mar?HowConas tá tú?How are you?


Other Question Words

Basic Irish Question Words

Of course, there is much more to know than just the basic 5Ws and H, right? Below are some of the other Irish question words which you can try when speaking with the locals. Do note that what we are presenting here is ideal to be used regardless of the tenses.

IrishMeaningExampleTranslation of Example
An … éIs it…An bhfuil an áit sábháilté?Is the place safe?
An féidir liom Can I …An féidir liom dul anois?Can I go now?
An maith leatDo you like…An maith leat taisteal?Do you like traveling?
Cá mhéadHow many… / how muchCé mhéad é sin?How many is that?
Cé acuWhich…Cé acu rogha is fearr?Which is the best choice?
CineálWhat type…Cén cineál lógó atá uait?What type of logo do you want?
Cén t-am What time…Cén t-am atá tú ag teacht?What time are you coming?


Answering Question Words

Basic Irish Question Words

Unlike other languages, Gaelic does not have a straightforward “yes” and “no” answer which means that you have to pay close attention to what is being asked in order to answer the question correctly. However, as a rule of thumb, do note that structuring your answers here is easy as you simply need to repeat the question either in a positive or negative form of the verb.

See the two examples below:

Question: An bhfuil tart ort? (Are you thirsty?) 

Answer: Tá tart orm (I am thirsty)

Question: An bhfuil a fhios agat conas a oibríonn sé? (Do you know how it works?)

Answer: Tá a fhios agam conas a oibríonn sé. (I know how it works)

There are times when the Irish language uses a “copula”, which acts as a verb but is not entirely a verb. This may be a bit confusing since most of the yes and no questions are structured using this and are answered in a different way as compared to the examples above. Basically, it occurs whenever the adjective, noun, and pronoun are taking a predicate form.

To answer a question using copula, you simply have to add it as you repeat the question. Check out the example below:

Question hé tusa?? (Who are you?) 

Answer: Is múinteoir mé (I am a teacher)


Wrapping Up

An bhfuil tú réidh le labhairt mar dhúchas? (are you ready to speak like a native?)

As we reach this part of the post, we hope you were able to discover all there is to know about formulating essential Irish question words. We understand that the lesson may be a bit overwhelming at first, but we are positive that learning this is possible with enough practice.

If you enjoyed this post, please find our previous posts and review other Irish-related lessons like basic slang, introducing yourself, and the basic greetings. If you seriously would like to level up your learning in Irish, then read on below to know the must-try app that is worth your time.


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