Cael, Cael and more blooming Cael


I have just searched the forum for cael to see if there was a thread just for Cael. There doesn’t
seem to be although it crops up time and time again in lots of different threads with the same answers.

Possession – use gyda and permission to do something or receive (get) something then use Cael.

Despite the clearest of answers I still don’t have competence in this - how have people cracked this?. When I started SSIW, I never imagined that this would trip me up so much and I just want to avoid the word altogether – thinking of any possible way I can imagine to avoid going near the word.

When I first heard Iestyn say that cael is the one thing that really confuses learners, I did think to myself that I didn’t understand the problem, it all seemed so straightforward. How wrong I was.

I have since found that this simplest of words in all of its forms just throws me into so many spins.

Doedd dim amser gyda fi i wneud e (Doedd dim amser i wneud e gyda fi)

Ges i ddim amser i wneud e

Nid fi wedi cael amser i wneud e (made this one up – not one I would have thought of instinctively)

Does anyone have useful tips or examples of using cael in sentences – I listen to people who just throw the word around instinctively and I have become very afraid of it to be honest. Thoughts and tips would be interesting.


One way to think of it is like English .“to get” or “to get to have”.

This extends a bit to a way of forming passive. So instead of “it was built” think “got its building”.

Can mean “have” in srnse “have a good time” but not in sense of possession.

This is only a partial answer to which others will doubtless add.

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Does it help if I translate your first sentence (Doedd dim amser…) as ‘I didn’t have time…’ and the second (Ches i ddim amser…) as ‘I didn’t get the time to do it’? There’s a minimal but subtle difference in English, and I think a similar minimal but subtle difference in Welsh.

The one that trips people up is ‘cael’ used in the sense of permission. So ‘ga i banad?’ is ‘can I have (get) a cuppa?’ But that same meaning will also map to more abstract things, such as ‘ga i fynd mas hero?’ - ‘can I (get to) go out tonight?’

ETA: Sorry, in answer to your actual question of how to gain competence in when and where to use it, I’m afraid the answer is just ‘dal ati’ - keep listening, reading, talking … eventually you get used to what ‘sounds right’. The ga i…?/cei (or cewch) pattern is used so much, it does become second nature in the end, I promise!


Thanks Mike,

I sort of get the definitions and explanations, but it doesn’t embed the natural sense of usage in my head somehow. If i receive or get a book, then I also at the same time now have a book - so mae llyfr gyda fi ond hefyd ges i llyfr. I have had a book means that I used to own a book. So fi wedi cael llyfr or ges i lyfr would be wrong unless it was about receiving the book? and ®oedd llyfr gyda fi would be right if I used to own it?.

I don’t want to confuse anyone else, but I’ve hit a barrier with this one in many ways

OK … I don’t know if this is kosher (so willing to be put right), but:

To my mind, 'Mae llyfr ‘da fi’ is a state of being - I have a book. It is in my possession. But ‘Ges i llyfr’ is an action - I got a book (from the library, from a friend).


Thanks Sara,

OK will dal ati as you say. I can see there are times when it’s obvious - ga i seems quite a natural one for asking for something or to do something - perhaps the times I am confused are when it could go either way, becuase the differences are quite subtle, although genuine?

What about I have got permission to go out tonight?

Thanks again,

You seem to have a very good way of explaining things very simply - you should be a teacher/tutor. I’m hoping that the process of thinking this through with explanations like that will help with the embedding and rationalising, but I’m probably wrong and it it is just dwon to listening and using - hopefully this doesn’t lead to confusion for everyone else.

Well, “Dw i’n cael mynd mas heno” would mean “I can go out tonight” (but you could also say “mae caniatad 'da fi fynd mas heno”, which is more explicitly about permission).

It’s quite understandable to want to get these things straight in your head - I find it infuriating when I’m trying to understand something and I ask my partner about it and she says ‘Oh, that’s just how it is’ or ‘It just sounds right’! And I really enjoy learning about grammar etc. so it’s right up my street. But I know plenty of completely fluent Welsh speakers (as in, people assume they are first-language speakers) who wouldn’t know what a noun was, let alone the rules for the soft mutation.

And in the long run, I think with any language there are three things that you need to learn: structure (which includes grammar, I suppose), vocabulary and idiom. But idiom is the hardest to learn and really will only come with prolonged exposure to the language.

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When you hit a barrier, you have two options.

Keep hitting it until you break through it (or die, both of which are painful) or turn your back on it and head off in a different direction.

I recommend the second! You don’t need to master ‘cael’ to be able to have conversations in Welsh. You’ve obviously already internalised some of the most important uses of ‘cael’, because you find ‘ga i’ natural - so that’s a very good sign.

What’s happening here is a classic mis-match between languages - there are fine distinctions between different uses for the word ‘have’ in English, which are very obvious to a Welsh speaker, but very hard to pick out for an English speaker, because you don’t have the words for them!

Trying to understand and master the differences is a hugely difficult task, so it’s no surprise you’re giving yourself a bit of a headache.

Using individual cases as they become natural to you, by contrast, is very easy - so instead of trying to ‘master’ cael, just focus on some other stuff (where are you with the lessons right now?) and let it slide for the time being. If you find you want to say something to someone, and you’re not sure if it’s ‘cael’ or not, give it a shot and see if you’re understood… :sunny:


That makes excellent sense!!
I only entered this thread because I misread it and thought it was all about soup!! Fascinated, I found it was cael not cawl!!
One thing I noticed, “You can go” in English should not mean ‘are allowed to’ (though it often does), ‘May go’ means ‘are allow to’, can means ‘are physically capable’.
I’m not sure how that fits with ‘cael’!!

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I have the same issue. I do understand the advice to ignore it until my understanding improves, but ‘cael’ just niggles somehow, because I keep hearing it. I really want to know what it is. My current thinking is that ‘cael’ is like ‘having the experience of’, so ‘dw i wedi cael amser da’ is like ‘I had a good time’. I’m trying to establish which English ‘have’ ‘cael’ is.

Thanks Aran,

I will move on and the advice is great, although I suspect it will still bug me. I did the three courses of SSIW a couple of years back and I have just decided to have a look at what is now going on at SSIW and have run through the great new Level 1 to see if I hadn’t lost everything. Somewhere in all of this, the Cael thing just won’t go away - I think I overuse the mae bla bla bla gyda fi form, when it is not actually possive and virtually never say cael itself. I have a daughter who says cael all the time and I guess I’m trying to work out when to drop a cael in, because i never do.


Hen Ddraig,

One thing I noticed, “You can go” in English should not mean ‘are allowed to’ (though it often does), ‘May go’ means ‘are allow to’, can means ‘are physically capable’.

I think it fits directly with the discussion on Cael - cewch i fynd, cer i fynd or cere mas come straight to mind if I was thinking cael although why not ewch or ewch allan - to me because the ewch form is really a command isn’t it, don’t they also include the permission element. Is there interchangeability here

Could you use the word cael in here though: Ti’n cael mynd. I wouldn’t because i’m scared of cael and I am just realising, what I probably want to know is really when can I use cael, rather than when shouldn’t I use it.

Ddraig Las - ‘dw i wedi cael amser da’ is a good one, hatd to think of another way to say that one I suppose - dw i wedi joio - I guess in this sense it is I have received a good time

Istr Aran telling us in C1 it meant something like “to get to” eg to get to do something. So "ga i"could be thought of as “do I get to…” which is sort of like asking permission.

This is kind of what I mean by ‘experience’

My strategy is normally to try and go from specific examples of usage and extrapolate when you feel comfortable. If you notice your daughter saying it naturally, that sounds like a great starting point… Make a mental note!

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Ah, bingo! Ask her to write 5 sentences with ‘cael’ in them, and then use each of those sentences (however relevant/irrelevant!) at least 5 times in the next week. Repeat and rinse… :sunny:

I’m afraid this is just going to cause you a lot of angst, because it isn’t a perfect match to any of the English ‘haves’ - it overlaps in fiddly ways with several of them. So the best way forward really is going to be what I’ve suggested to Toffidil… :sunny:


As in have a daughter, send them to a Welsh medium school and record the sentences, could be a 5 year plan! Seriously though,yes, the answer isn’t to look for equivalence, but to look at use and build from there!


Syniad gwych. She is leaning to write sentences now, but there,s no guarantee the sentences will make much sense at her age. She told me Meerkat was anwes bugol the other day and when I asked where she heard that, she said they say it on the TV advert - I might get a lot of made up stuff and be spouting gibberish.

Anyone looks baffled, just tell 'em you’re learning from your daughter, and they’ll cut you as much slack as you need… :sunny:

[You could also double check the sentences she offers by posting them on here…;-)]

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