"What does the fox say?"
Translation:Cad a deir an sionnach?
To put the things straight - is the "a" particle needed when I am asking about the direct object of the sentence, while the question without the "a" is a question about the subject? Like:
Cad a itheann an madra? - What does the dog eat? Cad itheann an madra? - What eats the dog? (The dog has been eaten by something)
Thanks for answering!
"a" is a preposition used to link the verb with a preceding noun or pronoun (question words are interrogative pronouns). You've probably actually seen it on here before, in atá (a + tá), like "Conas atá" linking "how" and "to be."
It's kind of like "that" used in dependent clauses in English:
The fox says => deireann an sionnach
What (is it) that the fox says => cad a deireann an sionnach
You could also think of it like the "does" in the English construction:
The fox says => What does the fox say
The fox eats => What does the fox eat
Though that doesn't hold true for the other uses of "a." You'll also see it with things like "the man who is..." or "I came to ask..." Anytime you have a verb coming after a noun in the sentence, as far as I can tell...