Bitesize Lesson Highlight: Asking a question in Irish Gaelic

An bhfuil aon duine ansin

Is anybody there?

Curious dog
“An bhfuil aon duine ansin?”
2013, by Audrey Nickel

It’s time for another nibble of Bitesize Irish Gaelic!

From time to time, we’d like to offer you a little taste of what the Bitesize Irish Gaelic on-line learning program has to offer by highlighting one of our lessons.

In this highlight, we’ll look at one of our grammar lessons: How to ask a question.

A conversational basic

Asking and answering questions is a huge factor in holding a conversation.

In English, we typically make a question out of a statement by reversing the order of the verb and the subject of the sentence, then ending the sentence on a rising inflection. For example:

He is at home.: Statement

Is he at home?: Question

You are here.: Statement

Are you here?: Question.

Tara is sick.: Statement

Is Tara sick?: Question

A different approach

In Irish, however, if we want to ask a question, we have to use a special form of the verb called “the interrogative form.”

To be or not to be

The questions above all use the present tense of what’s known in English as the verb “to be.”

In Irish, the equivalent statement form of the verb “to be” is

Am/Are/Is.

Tá sé sa bhaile

He is at home.

The interrogative form

The interrogative form of is

an bhfuil

Is…?/Are…?

An bhfuil sé sa bhaile?

Is he at home?

Did you notice?

Did you notice that the speaker’s voice didn’t rise at the end, as we tend to do when asking questions in English? That’s a feature of Irish. Because the form of the verb tells you a question is being asked, there’s no need for that rising inflection. It’s not wrong, and you’ll hear it sometimes, but not always.

A couple more examples

Here are two more samples of simple questions using an bhfuil:

An bhfuil tú anseo?

Are you here?

An bhfuil Tara tinn?

Is Tara sick?

Answering a question

The recordings for this section are taken from two of our other lessons: How to Answer a Question and How to Answer Negatively. Normally we only feature one lesson per “highlight,” but it seemed wrong to tell you in a blog post how to ask a question without also telling you how to answer it!

One interesting thing about Irish is it has no words for “yes” and “no.” Instead you say “yes” by saying the positive form of the verb that was used to ask the question. To answer “no,” you say the negative form of the verb used to ask the question.

You already know the positive form of the verb used in the questions above. It’s…

Am/Are/Is.

The negative form is:

Níl

Am not/Are/Is not.

So, if someone were to ask you:

An bhfuil Tara tinn?

Is Tara sick?

You’d answer:

Yes (literally “Is”Or..

Níl

No (literally “Isn’t”)

Types of lessons at Bitesize

As of this writing, Bitesize currently offers three types of lessons:

  • Vocabulary: These lessons help you learn new words and terms in the language, and show you how to apply them by putting them into useful, everyday, sentences.
  • Grammar: These lessons give you the basic building blocks of the language in easy, “bitesized”steps, so it doesn’t get overwhelming.
  • Conversation: These lessons give you a chance to use what you’re learning in real-world situations, such as meeting and introducing people, ordering in a restaurant, giving directions, etc.

All of the lessons are audio-rich, so you can learn the correct pronunciation by listening to and emulating the speaker.

These lesson highlights, or “nibbles,” which we’ll offer from time to time, will always include some of the audio from the lesson being featured, so you can get a feel for how the program works.  Bitesize members, of course, can access the complete lesson, with full audio.

Happy learning!

Irish for Beginners free one-month course

Learn to introduce yourself in Ireland's native language. Sent directly to your email inbox.

What you get for signing up:

"We don't sell or spam your details." - Eoin Ó Conchúir, Founder, Bitesize Irish.

Leave a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.