• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Get control of your email attachments. Connect all your Gmail accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize your file attachments. You can also connect Dokkio to Drive, Dropbox, and Slack. Sign up for free.


The past tense, short form or long form

Page history last edited by Aran 9 years, 4 months ago


The Question

Is it better to use the short form or long form of the past tense?


The Background

Welsh has two ways of saying "I saw".  

The short form is gwelais (or gwelais i, or gweles i, or mi welais i, or mi weles i) which is formed directly from gweld

The long form is  gwnes i weld (or mi wnes i weld, or wnes i weld, or nes i weld) which uses the past tense of gwneud to give the past tense of gweld.


The Short Answer

The two forms are identical in meaning.  Both are widely used and are universally understood. The long form is commoner in the spoken language particularly in the North, while the short form  is more widely spoken in the South and is preferred in more formal contexts. In the North an alternative long form ddaru mi weld is also used. 


The Discussion

(Some selected quotes from the forum)

(Dysgwr dan)

Before, I wrote wnes i gymryd for "I took", and my Welsh teacher said that it doesn't sound right. In English, if I wanted to say "I took Welsh for GCSE" I wouldn't say "I did take Welsh for GCSE". Cymerais i Gymraeg am TGAU not Wnes i gymryd Cymraeg am TGAU.


It sounds as though your Welsh teacher is being a bit picky, to be honest, and thinking more about being formal (which may be what they want at GCSE). But we're all about using the language actually to talk to people, and the 'wnes i' pattern is very, very common indeed for talking about the past.

It isn't actually a real match for the English 'I did take', although that's the literal translation - if you said 'I did take' in English, you would always be emphasising the 'did' (for example, if someone said you hadn't taken it, you might say 'Yes, I DID take it!').

In Welsh, 'wnes i' is a much more usual way of forming the past - it doesn't always mean there is any extra emphasis on the 'DID'.

English does something similar with the negative - you say 'I went', but not 'I went not' - it becomes 'I didn't go', and that's now the normal past tense for English. In Welsh, we can still say the equivalent of 'I went not' - but it's every bit as acceptable to use 'wnes i/wnes i ddim'...


As some of you know, I'm currently doing the Uwch advanced course which is roughly equivalent to AS-level. I use a mixture of short form and "wnes i..." when I'm speaking in lessons and my tutors, one of whom taught welsh for 30 years has never batted an eyelid about it. If you listen to Radio Cymru, especially in the evenings, several of the presenters use the long form past tense.

While it's probably best to use the short form in GCSE lessons as that's what is taught (or was when I did it 13 years ago...   ) use whatever is comfortable outside the classroom. I prefer using the long form as its easier when trying to keep up in speedy conversations rather than mentally congugating verbs.


...the full story is that there are a handful of verbs that usually get used in the short form in the north (welais, clywais, dwedais, ges and one or two others) but the long form gets used very commonly for pretty much everything else, so there's no need whatsoever for you to worry about 'standing out'...


Link to the forum discussion

To see the full debate go to:



Comments (5)

David Tidy said

at 3:30 pm on Feb 19, 2011

I put this together as an experiment to summarise a recent thread on the forum. Comments please on how ell this works as a format etc.

David Tidy said

at 8:55 am on Feb 20, 2011

Iestyn will no doubt want to add the southern variants like Fe welais i too !. I do take your point in your revision about the many variants of the short form. I was trying to keep it as simple as possible and I just wanted choose two examples as a brief background to the topic from the forum. Rather than complicate this issue in this article, I think it would be better in the long run to see an article on the short form and its variants which could have a hyperlink from this article.
This small experiment shows that the language side of the wiki is going to be rather more tricky than book reviews! It has already raised a series of questions in my mind:
1. Should we use spoken or formal Welsh as the default style? My preference in the context of SSiW is to use spoken Welsh, and perhaps have a series of articles on more formal styles which can be linked in
2. Do we need both Northern and Southern versions of the wiki? I doubt it, I think we can cope with the differences in the text, pehaps just adding NW and SW to indicate variants
3. Should the wiki just be a distillation of wisdom from the forum, or should it take on a life of its own? I had started out thinking the former, but when you make a start as here, it becomes apparent that so much more could be done if it can develop beyond the forum topics
4. If we start adding articles on grammar, how do we preserve the unique SSiW flavour and avoid it being simply a digital grammar book? I was trying out the question and answer approach here for that reason. Unfortunately you can't put question marks into page titles so they have to be implied questions. But the digital format does give more possibilities. I mentioned hyperlinking. We could add sound files to illustrate points. Images always liven up a page. And there's no limit to the number of pages we can add so we can branch out in any direction. I'm there are many more ideas to be had too.
It would be good to have some soft of vision to work to.

Aran said

at 10:30 am on Feb 20, 2011

I think to a certain extent we need to try and make pages work on a standalone basis - depending on how Google indexes it, people may well be coming directly to individual pages - it's my feel that if we only offer one form (where there are several) people will presume that means it's the 'correct' form. So I think we're stuck with listing three or four variants where they exist (but not worrying about listing every single possible variant).

No, I agree that a north/south split of the wiki would be thoroughly counter-productive - noting N or S as you say strikes me as the best way forward.

The grammar question is challenging - it isn't part of the SSiW approach - but having said that, we've accepted and answered grammatical questions on the forums for as long as they've existed. What's more, there are a number of SSiWers who are very interested in grammar - if they decide to contribute to the Wiki, they could help make it a very important resource for people who feel they *have* to understand the grammar. So I think that we just have a grammar section on the wiki, maybe with a note on the front page that we recommend not focusing on grammar?

As for vision - I sympathise - but I think it needs to be a very wide-ranging one - and the only thing I can think of that fits with the Wiki model is just:

'Make something useful'.

If everyone who contributes to the wiki keeps that idea front and centre (as already seems to be the case!) I'm sure it will develop into a brilliant resource, reflecting the different interests and personalities of the SSiW world...:-)

David Tidy said

at 1:14 pm on Feb 20, 2011

Great - let's see what happens!

Cer said

at 2:32 pm on Feb 20, 2011

A lot of questions have to do with the differences, too, so adding more than one way of saying something just makes sense. N and S will help where there is a clear divide - if there isn't, will that be designated without anything, or with a V for various, or whatever?

Grammar. Sure, people will ask. I'd ask about word order since Welsh has a different word order than English and, sometimes, it's a little... okay, not confusing, but definitely notable. Most of the learning in SSiW teaches forms so it's a lot easier to give an educated guess when trying something out but, it couldn't hurt for someone to address it at some point. Some of the discussions, like, "What's the difference between saying (sentence) this way (example) or that way (example 2)?" Then people answer that (example) is more literary or, example 2 would be understood but such-and-so is a more natural way or, that this is used more in the north while that is used more in the south but, if you live mid-Wales you might hear both, and so on.

I'd like to see some of the linguistics discussions on here, where the modern forms both N and S came from and so on. Oddly, there isn't a whole lot out there on the 'net about Welsh linguistics.

You don't have permission to comment on this page.