SSi Forum

Yet another way of forming the past tense


This is a very interesting thread. :slight_smile:

However, with this awareness, I think I’m going to stay away from all literature and formal courses until colloquial Welsh is a bit more clear and settled in my head.

If someone came to me speaking like Petrarca used to write, I’d definitely find it ridiculous. :sunglasses:

And the Cymraeg equivalent would be way more embarrassing for me than getting the mutations wrong when I get the chance to talk to native speakers in Wales!


Ah right, I had to google him. So he wrote mainly in Latin because he liked the language? Yes I suppose that would be a fair comparison to someone talking in Literary Welsh.

So, it wouldn’t be embarrassing, just different and slightly odd. The listener might think: Fair play to that person for trying, they just need to learn some real spoken Welsh, I’ll talk to them and help them :slight_smile:


Yes, @gisella-albertini - you should definitely get the living language established in your head first, and then tackle the literary language by (essentially) seeing how the verb system differs.


Well @Davids, I think the question of the degree of artificiality in literary standards is a complex one - Cicero would not have spoken to his friends and family and his mates down the taverna in the same way as he wrote his speeches, Horace even less so! - but as far as the Welsh literary construct is concerned, I really DO doubt that anyone in the modern period ever said Ni wyddwn y’i gwelasech, and I suspect this formulation of the verb system was designed to mimic (or indeed revive) the norms of a language by then long dead, namely Middle Welsh. I remember pointing out this very example to a native-speaker Welsh tutor called Islwyn Edwards and remarking that nobody ever said that, and he said ‘Oh I know, but isn’t it beautiful?!’ That sums up the question of LW, I think :slight_smile:


…hopefully you mean ‘literature’ quite specifically and that this doesn’t mean “all books”?

There are plenty of books out there - and ones written for beginners in particular (eg Louse Arnold, Colin Jones, many, many more) where the language is written as spoken.

Personally having got to a point where I was comfortable with basic conversation, reading these books was very useful as not only did it ‘normalise’ the things I was comfortable saying but it also made the things I hadn’t quite got round to / thought of saying yet seem ‘normal’ too.

As part of a number of activities (speaking, listening to the radio etc) I would say that reading was extremely beneficial.

So, I am clarifying this point in a “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” sense, . :wink:

Of course people should only read if they are ready and want to - but I wouldn’t want people to think reading is a ‘bad idea’ in general.

Rich :slight_smile:


I’ve just finished reading a pretty colloquial autobiography and I was wondering where the - wyd and - pwyd endings fit. I don’t expect them to be spoken, but they are very common (and quite nice I think) in normal books.

“ar ôl yr ail brawf gofynnwyd” fy marn ynglŷn a"
“Cafwyd noson gofiadwy o gyfeddach”
“Gadawyd Seland Newydd gan droi”

words like aethpwyd etc are very common etc etc etc, in books I wouldn’t associate with literary Welsh.


Well once again, @Toffidil, how very odd that you should ask that - I just yesterday amended the running order of the new book (after considerable reflection) to include the -wyd and -ir endings. And for the reason you correctly identify: that while they are not spoken, they are very commonly used in the media, and are not felt as unusually formal.
And I agree - they are nice, and they are certainly neat.

Not to be used in ordinary speech, I’m afraid - although actually you DO come across the -wyd ending sometimes - I once heard a farmer say Fe gollwd y cwbwl lot The whole lot was lost =- collwd = collwyd. The -ir ending is absent from day-to-day speech, however.


I think those endings - especially the wyd ones, are in every age of the language - maybe spelt uit in early orthography as in liuit or the name Llywyd in the Surrexit memorandum in primitive Welsh and probably Brythonic I guess.


He wrote in Latin, yes, and in poetic Italian. Both normal in the context he lived in. But it’s very different from modern colloquial Italian. It would be ridiculous and also a bit arrogant because many native speakers without a high degree of academic education would not even be able to understand it. But why should they be forced to, after all?

Unfortunately there’s no way to show you, because all the translations in English do not give the idea. You need an advanced knowledge of Italian to notice.
And learning those forms would not only make natives laugh, it would just be a waste of time.

And totally uncool, that’s definitely embarrassing. :sunglasses:

This is also why at the moment when I mean I’m going to stay away from literature, I do mean all @rich. :grin:
Your post totally makes sense, don’t get me wrong. It’s just I find it confusing, now.
And I never really liked books for beginners. I read two in English when I was about 11 or 12 - which was ok, then. But there’s something kinda annoying or boring, don’t know exactly what it is…something artificial, even though in the opposite direction, maybe?

I think I’ll be fine with just speaking and listening for now! :slight_smile:

p.s. @JohnYoung, I really can’t tell if what I explained with Italian can be compared to Welsh. And of course what you say makes sense (I noticed I lost a couple of sentences above!) but my idea is…what’s the point in making everybody’s life more complicated, when I can avoid it in the first place? :smiley:


Absolutely…choose your moment - which may be never. I agree that reading is secondary. :smile:

As long as you are not avoiding reading just to avoid ‘the literary Welsh problem’ - my only point - as the two are not the same. :wink:

( To be honest my expectations were not high - like yours I think :grimacing: - when I started reading with gritted teeth. I was genuinely surprised.

I thought for example that the Louis Arnold stories were great - genuinely interesting regardless that they were written with beginners in mind.

I take my hat off to her and her talent in being able to pull that off. Impressive.

So when the time comes I think you’ll be surprised too. )

Rich :sunny:


Just something to play tricks with the mind. I was looking into the past tenses of Breton today and I came across many examples which seem to start in the past tense, but are actually talking about the present or the future - it seems to have been taken to another level - I don’t know how much this happens in other languages like Welsh or English

I think what happens is that you imagine yourself in the future and whatever happens before that is in the past.

A possible example in English might be:

Q. "will you be OK for the exam? " - talking about the future.

A. “I should have learned enough by the time I do it” - placing the present in the past.


What you explain reminds me of Italian futuro anteriore (oh I’ve always loved this name, l couldn’t wait for a chance to use it!):
something (A) that may have started in the past will happen or will be finished in the future when something else (B) happens.

Or, I didn’t understand what you meant! :grin:


I think I don’t know enough about grammar or Breton and should withdraw my last post, until I know what I’m talking about - the futuro anteriore does sound interesting though.

The examples I found interesting and maybe confused me were ones like:

Gwelet e vo ha brav e vo an amzer
Translated in the source I found as: We shall see whether the weather is nice

Gwelet (Breton) = Gwelodd (Welsh)
Although it says weather, I don’t believe amzer is anything other than amser in Welsh.

The source I have says that:

vo is the future tense of “to be” and “e” is a participle. Ha = “interrogative”


Maybe you can add a note - but I would leave the post, in case someone who knows Breton finds it and answers it someday.

Maybe you enjoy this dictionary I’ve just found, if you haven’t seen it:

That seems to confirm that amzer also means weather. After all French and Italian do not have a different word for, maybe it’s people up there on the Islands who felt the need for an extra one in any language they spoke! :smile:

However it’s not completely clear to me what’s confusing you about tenses.

Maybe because we always use the present in Italian in a similar sentence (vedremo che tempo fa = we’ll see what the weather is).

Or because I’ve been struggling to understand that many Welsh sentences start in the past tense (ex. to express something you thought or I said…) and end up in the present (just as if you were looking at things back from that point in time). So it would be more or less the same for the future?
Not completely sure, about it - I’m still confused about everything at times! :grinning:


I think I might leave that there and move on - I’m confusing myself now. Interesting about having the same words for time and weather and now you mention Italian and romance languages doing the same thing, I wonder why I never noticed that before.


Hi, @garethrking. At the risk of opening this whole can of worms again, I have been listening to some interviews on Radio Cymru - informal chatty stuff, now formal stuff on news programmes. And I keep hearing people (like Rhys Mwyn, who doesn’t seem a likely candidate to be pushing literary Welsh) saying what sounds like ‘meddai’ to mean (I think!) ‘he/she said.’

Is this one of those exceptions to the rule where the literary form makes it through into the spoken language? Or am I mishearing / misinterpreting?


No @Catriona, meddai is perfectly OK in the spoken language as well, and your interpretation is correct! Use with confidence! (The literary equivalent that DOES sound odd and affected in speech is ebe - do NOT use!)

You also get variations, and they’re all used as what we call ‘quotatives’, i.e. they have to be used with actual quoted words. Things lilke meddai fi, meddwn i, medden nhw.

What another strange coincidence - I am just this very afternoon writing the entry for meddai for the new book! :slight_smile:


Thank you!


Love it!


I think a “super-compact” form of language is appealing to Mathematicians (and scientists / engineers / architects and others who appreciate succinctness in technical expression). I don’t know if Ancient Rome and Greece had a preponderance of such figures … but maybe they were in control?

But for most people, it is more important to be able to communicate easily than by using the strictly most compact form, which may be really hard to understand.

There is a certain Poetic Beauty to the self-contained compact forms - so Poetry is a good place for them.

It is, however, necessary for a fluent Welsh reader to understand some LW, because Legal Signs might be in it. “Ni chaniateir cerdded ar y glaswellt” for example …

The above would almost certainly also be in English. But it would be perhaps a bit sad if a Fluent Welsh Speaker in Caernarfon has to read the English below the Literary Welsh to know that it says “It is not permitted to walk on the grass”

Solution 1: Use Spoken Welsh: “Paid cerdded ar y gwair”
Solution 2: Teach the LW form in school as a “Big Words” version used on Important Signs, in Important Books and in Political and Eisteddfod Speeches

Take your pick …