Learn to ask “Why?” in Irish Gaelic

“Why?” is a great way to get information from someone. Have you heard of the “5 Whys” approach? You ask somebody why they did something, they answer, then you ask “Why?” again. They’ll try to explain some more. Ask “Why?” three more times. On the fifth time, you’ll probably get the real answer!

Anyway, in this lesson you will learn to ask “Why?” in Irish Gaelic. The full language lesson with pronunciations is available to members only here. Regardless of if you are a member of not, please feel free to ask questions by reply to this blog post below.

Let’s start with an example: Cén fáth?

Q: Cén fáth an bhfuil sé sa bhaile? Why is he home?

See the “Cén fáth”? That tells us it’s a “Why?” question.

The structure of the sentence is very similar to an “Is…?” question:

Q: An bhfuil sé sa bhaile? Is he home?

To change “Is he home?” to “Why is he home?”, you add “Cén fáth?” to the beginning of the sentence.

The basic rule to remember is:

Cén fáth = Why

More examples 

Cén fáth an bhfuil tú fós sa bhaile? Why are you still at home?

Cén fáth an bhfuil Tara tinn? Why is Tara sick?

Literal Irish langauge translation

“Cén” translates into “for which”, and “fáth” can be translated as “reason”.

Therefore, “Cén fáth?” translates literally to “For which reason?”.

Alternative way of asking why: Cad chuige?

You may also see a related term being used for asking why:

Cad chuige? Why?

Literally, “Cad chuige” in Irish Gaelic translates to “To what purpose?”. It tends to be used in the Ulster dialect of Irish. From our perspective, there is nothing wrong with using either variation.

If you’re interested in reading more about this, here’s a debate on the use of “Cén fáth” vs “Cad chuige” on the IrishGaelicTranslator.com forum.

Pronunciations for this lesson

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