Welsh: emphatic "how"


Senior Member
English, USA

One way of translating emphatic "how" (as in, How funny!, How awful!, etc.) in Welsh is to use the equative form of an adjective. For example, gloyw "bright" has the equative gloywed, as seen in cyn loywed a'r haul "as bright as the sun", and the same equative form is seen in the sentence Gloywed y ser! "How bright the stars are" / "The stars are so bright".

Some adjectives have irregular forms of the equative: cystal is the equative of da "good" and cymaint is the equative of mawr "large". Here, the element cyn, which means "as" in an equative phrase (cyn loyw a "as bright as"), has been incorporated as part of the adjective, so you would say cystal a to mean "as good as" and cymaint a to mean "as big as" -- it would be redundant to include the separate word cyn at the beginning of the phrase.

However, since emphatic expressions such as Gloywed y ser use the simple equative form, without any preceding element such as cyn, how would this pattern be generalized to forms such as cystal and cymaint, where cyn is a part of the word itself? In other words, how would you normally say, "How good ...!", "How big ...!" and so on in Welsh?

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  • Auflauf

    Welsh - Wales, English - UK

    I'm afraid I can't really talk in detail about grammar, but I'll try giving you some native-speaker input. Regarding cymaint a, it is also correct to say cyn fawred â (=as big as) or more colloquially: mor fawr â. Cymaint means "as much/so many" and would be more readily understood as such nowadays. (Mae gen i gymaint o broblemau = I have so many problems; Does ganddo fe ddim cymaint o arian â mi = He hasn't got as much money as me)

    All of the examples you've given are pretty old-fashioned, and I've rarely if ever encountered them in the spoken language. The usual construction in modern Welsh would be to say mor X â... (literally "so X as"): mor fawr â, mor loyw â.

    To answer your question: Gloywed y sêr sounds like an imperative to me: "May the stars shine!". I would translate that as Mor loyw yw'r sêr! ="How bright are the stars!" On the same pattern, you can for example say Mor dda yw'r bwyd! (=How good the food is!), Mor fawr yw'r ci! (=How big the dog is!) and so forth. Such stand-alone exclamations still sound quite poetic though, not particularly something you'd use everyday. For something like how funny! how awful! how shocking! where you just have an adjective to deal with, am ddoniol!, am erchyll!, am warthus! would do the trick. You can't use am in a comparative context though.

    Oh wow, I don't think that made much sense. :confused: Hope it helped though!


    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Very informative, thanks. (I'm still curious about the original question, though I understand that it's difficult to answer in the context of modern-day Welsh.)

    I'm always surprised at how quickly Welsh seems to be changing. I used several different grammar books when I studied Welsh, but I don't recall any of them teaching the construction you mention above with am (am erchyll, etc.) -- do you know if this construction is regional, or is it considered standard in modern spoken Welsh?
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    New Member
    Welsh and English, Wales
    I'm afraid I can't help with the original question in the same very literary register as your context, but the am construction is what you would usually hear in spoken Welsh all over Wales. It's more versatile than just how funny etc.; you would also use it to say what a... e.g. am ardd! (what a garden!), am dafliad! (what a throw), am ffordd o ddangos ei gariad! (what a way to show his love!) This last one especially could be also be used sarcastically, to show contempt (very similarly to in English).

    Hope that's some help!