Back to Blog

How to say 'it took me by surprise' in Irish

useful phrases

Here are three great ways to say that something caught you unawares; or that you weren't expecting something to happen in Irish.


Tháinig sé anair aduaidh orm

This expression can be used whenever you are absolutely and utterly taken by surprise; you had absolutely no expectation at all that something was to happen as it did.

If you know your wind directions you'll already know that 'aniar aduaidh' means from the northwest; and this expression literally means 'it came on me from the northwest.'

Aniar / from the west

Aduaidh / from the north

Notice that in Irish the word order is reversed

from the north (aduaidh) west (aniar)

You can read more about wind directions in this earlier post: Lá Gaofar / A Windy Day

Perhaps the wind from the northwest is less common along the west that why this phrase is in use? 

Whatever the reason, this is a very commonly used expression and a great one to try out whenever you next get the chance!


Ag súil le

'Ag súil le' can be used to mean either 'looking forward to' or 'expecting' something. It's a very handy expression to know and can be used in lots of ways. Here are a few examples:

Ní raibh mé ag súil leis / I wasn't expecting it

You can also use 'ag súil le' to talk about expecting a visitor:

Beidh mé ag súil leat amárach / I'll be expecting (to see you) tomorrow

Ná bí ag súil liom, ní féidir liom teacht amárach / don't be expecting me, I can't come tomorrow

If someone is fishing for compliments that you don't want to give you could say:

Ná bí ag súil le moladh / Don't be fishing for compliments (lit. don't be expecting praise)

And finally, if someone is about to head off and you want to let them know that you want them to keep in touch you could say:

Beidh mé ag súil le scéala uait / I'll be expecting/looking forward to hearing from you

Note that you will also hear 'ag dréim le' in place of 'ag súil le' - and the meaning is the same:

Ní raibh mé ag dréim leis / I wasn't expecting it


Ní raibh aon choinne agam leis

And to the third way to say that you're not expecting something...

'coinne' is also the Irish for 'appointment'!

Ní raibh aon choinne agam leis / I wasn't expecting it (if you want to think literally....'I didn't have an appointment with it!')

If something happened suddenly or unexpectedly you could say:

Tharla sé gan choinne / it happened unexpectedly

Ba chasadh gan choinne sa scéal é sin / That was an unexpected twist in the story


Idioms and language learning

Idioms are phrases which when taken as a whole give a meaning that isn't exactly conveyed by the individual words. 'Tháinig sé aniar aduaidh orm' is a good example of an idiom in Irish. Idioms can be one of the trickiest aspects of language learning....but also the most fun! Irish (as any language) is full of idioms which are used in everyday conversation in Irish. The best way to become familiar with idioms in Irish is to read and listen to as much Irish as possible. My Learn Irish Through Conversation online Irish language coureses are packed full of idiomatic and useful every day expressions in Irish. These courses are for intermediate level Irish learners who want to improve their conversational Irish while at the same time getting to grips with the structure of the Irish language. You can read more about all of the various Irish language courses offered by All About Irish here. If you've any questions at all feel free to contact me. 



Phrases in Irish you won't find in a textbook!

Enter your details to get my FREE guide (with audio) of useful phrases in Irish that you won't find in a textbook.

You will also receive the odd email from me with useful content and resources for learning Irish. My emails are rather sporadic and of course you can unsubscribe whenever you like.