Welsh: meaning of the simple present/future (-af, -i, etc.)


Senior Member
English, USA
Bore da,

There seem to be different views (depending on which speaker / researcher you ask) on the meaning of the simple present/future tense in Welsh. By "simple present/future", I mean forms like the following:

gyrraf i
(first person singular < gyrru "drive")

gwerthi di
(2 pers. sg. < gwerthu "sell")

adeiladan nhw
(third pers. pl. < adeiladu "build")

According to the current Wikipedia page on Welsh grammar, these are future tense forms in modern spoken Welsh: so, gyrraf i would mean "I will drive", gwerthi di = "you will sell", adeiladan nhw = "they will build". In a few isolated cases, these forms have a present/habitual meaning: mi godaf i am naw o'r gloch bob bore "I get out of bed at 9 o'clock every morning".

However, on a recent thread, a native Welsh speaker implied (if I understood correctly) that these forms would have a present-tense meaning, even though they aren't normally used in the spoken language at all: thus, gyrraf i would mean "I drive/am driving", gwerthi di "you sell/are selling", and so on.

When I studied Welsh, I recall being taught that these were future tense forms, though in earlier Welsh they had present-tense semantics.

If you are a native Welsh speaker, how would you translate forms like gyrraf i, gwerthi di and so on? Or, if you've studied Welsh as a second language, how were these forms explained to you when you learned them?

Diolch yn fawr
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  • Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Helo! I would translate "gyrraf" as "I drive" present tense, continuous. The problem with some of your examples is that people would never use them, so "gwerthi di" for example is something I've never heard before, although I realise it exists of course. To my ear, it sounds a bit like "sellest thou" or some equally archaic verb form in English.

    Gyrraf i'r gwaith bob dydd - I drive to work every day. In spoken Welsh, we would say:

    Rwy'n gyrru i'r gwaith bob dydd - south
    Fi'n gyrru i'r gwaith bob dydd - south (technically this one's grammatically incorrect, but accepted in speech)
    Dwi'n gyrru i'r gwaith bob dydd - north

    I would never say "gyrraf yno fory" - I will drive there tomorrow. Verbs are simply not used that way in the spoken language. Although you can use it for the future, you will sound a bit poetic.

    Fory, gyrraf i weled f'annwylyd - equates to the tone of voice "tomorrow, I go (hither) to see my beloved!" :D

    Basically, verb forms are a pain in the ass in Welsh, since there is a formal register (written in academic articles, essays, poetry etc, not spoken) and a spoken register (used in chats, emails to colleagues, friends etc)

    If you are interested in learning spoken informal Welsh because you want to be able to talk to people, I would advise you to have a look at the BBC verb conjugation pages - http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/welshdictionary/conjugate/

    You will notice that "gyrraf" does not appear anywhere on the conjugation of "gyrru".

    If you really want to know about formal higher register verb forms (e.g. because you want to be able to read academic articles/literature), the best thing to do is to buy some good grammar books - Wikipedia isn't the best place to look for help with such complex topics ;)

    I hope that's helped a little, and it hasn't completely confused you!! Hwyl am y tro ;)


    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Thanks for responding. It does seem that regardless of whether these verb forms (gyrraf, gyrri etc.) have present or future semantics, they aren't very widely used to begin with.

    Still, I wonder if there are any regional or generational differences (perhaps even between recent generations) in the use of these forms. What part of Wales is your native dialect from, Tegs, if you don't mind my asking?

    As a side note, I was a little surprised by the verb conjugations on the BBC page. The simple past tense (gyrrais i, gyrraist ti, gyrrodd ef, etc.) seems to be missing from their list of possible forms: instead, they suggest using the past tense of gwneud with the infinitive (fe/mi wnes i yrru "I drove"). When I studied Welsh (about a decade ago), I was taught that gyrrais i or fe/mi yrrais i was a normal way saying "I drove" in the spoken language. In your speech, would it be normal to say, Gyrrais i'r gwaith ddoe "I drove to work yesterday"?


    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    I speak south Wallian Welsh, from Swansea to be precise. But I have lived for a decade in the north so that has had a little bit of an effect on me by now :D

    You're right - those verb forms you're asking about really aren't widely used. Gyrrais/ fe yrrais i etc are still in use in Welsh and they aren't considered literary or old fashioned or anything. However, the use of 'mi wnes i yrru' has become a lot more common, and that's what's taught to beginners, especially in the north, as it means you only need to learn the tenses of 'gwneud', without having to learn the tenses of all other verbs! So it's easier, but also very very common in spoken Welsh.



    Welsh, English - British
    Just thought I'd expand on what Tegs said, and point out that 'mi wnes i yrru', would be heard as 'Nes i yrru in spoken Welsh. People don't say the full 'Mi wnes' unless they're speaking slowly or reading out a speech. You might sound a bit robotic if you do this.

    I would never say 'Gyrrais' in spoken Welsh, and no one I know would either because it's seen as too formal, and something you see in formal articles. My parents and grandparents (all Welsh speakers) would never use 'gyrrais' either for the same reason. I read in a Welsh grammar book that these type of conjugations are artificial, and were created to standardise the language when it needed to be written down for the first time.

    Basically, verb forms are a pain in the ass in Welsh, since there is a formal register (written in academic articles, essays, poetry etc, not spoken) and a spoken register (used in chats, emails to colleagues, friends etc)

    I agree.........and I also see that you've seen the gold dust that is the BBC's Welsh verb variations tool. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. I think it may be a one-of-a-kind.

    I was taught that 'gyrrais i' was grammatically incorrect. There's no need to include 'i' because 'gyrrais' already tells you all you need to know.
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