When you’re visiting another country, it’s nice to be able to say a few polite phrases in that country’s native language.
In Ireland you’ll find that, even though people do speak English, they’ll often pepper their speech with phrases in Irish… and your stock will definitely rise in their eyes if you do the same!
And, of course, if you’re actually studying Irish, knowing how to say such basic pleasantries as “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” etc. is absolutely vital.
Some Basic Phrases
If you’re already a Bitesize Irish member, you can access the fully-featured version of this lesson, with additional phrases and audio, at Lesson: Excuse Me, Please, Thank You. If you’re still thinking about it, here’s a little sampler:
Pardon Me/Excuse me
One good, basic phrase to know in Irish is the equivalent of “pardon me” or “excuse me.” In Irish, we literally say “take my excuse”:
Gabh mo leithscéal (Goh muh LEH-shkayl)
That’s the form used when speaking to one person. When speaking to more than one person, you would say:
Gabhagaí mo leithscéal (GOH-uh-gee muh LEH-shkayl)
(Note: All “g’s” are hard, as in “get,” not soft as in “gee whiz”)
Gabhaigí mo leithscéal…an stadann an bus anseo? (GOH-uh-gee muh LEH-shkayl…un STAD-un un buss un-SHAW?) Pardon me…does the bus stop here?
You can also use this phrase to mean “I’m sorry” when you accidentally hurt, offend, inconvenience, or interrupt someone, for example:
Gabh mo leithscéal…tá mé ró-luath! I’m sorry…I’m too early!
If you’re like me, one of the very first words you learned from your parents was “please”! A very common way to say “please” in Irish literally means “with your will”:
Le do thoil (leh duh hull): Please
If you’re speaking to more than one person, this becomes:
Le bhur dtoil (leh wur dull): Please
Ba mhaith liom pionta Guinness, le do thoil. (buh why lum PIN-tuh GIN-uss, le duh hull) I’d like a pint of Guinness, please. (There’s a sentence that will stand you in good stead in any pub in Ireland!)
“Thank you” is, perhaps, the most important polite phrase of all! In Irish, it’s also a bit of a mouthful:
Go raibh maith agat: Literally “May you have goodness.”
The pronunciation for this, as you might imagine, has refined itself over the years to something much shorter. Depending on where you are in Ireland, you might hear:
GUR-uh MY-uh gut
GUR-uv MA uh-gut
GUR-uh muh HAG-ut
If you’re speaking to multiple people, this becomes:
Go raibh maith agaibh (GUR-uh MY-uh giv or GUR-uv MA ug-GIV)
On-line, you’ll often see these abbreviated to GRMA.
Go raibh maith agat as na mbronntanas (GUR-uh MY-uh gut ass nuh MRUN-tun-uss) Thank you for the gifts.
There are several ways to say “you’re welcome” in Irish, but one of the more common is:
Tá fáilte romhat (taw FAWL-cheh ROH-ut) You’re welcome.
Said to multiple people, this becomes:
Tá fáilte romhaibh (taw FAWL-cheh ROH-iv)
Go raibh maith agat as na mbronntanas! Thank you for the gifts!
Tá fáilte romhat. Ná habair é! (taw FAWL-cheh ROH-ut. Naw HAB-ur ay.)
Now You’re Ready!
Practice these phrases and, before you know it, you’ll be ready to wow folks in Ireland with your cúpla focal…and with your politeness!
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