Can / Cannot

I started off using the course which introduces gallu for can/be able to. So I’d say dw i ddim yn gallu for I can’t.The new levels use alla i ddim for I can’t.

What is the difference and why the change?

Welsh works differently to English - English goes Subject Verb Object (The subject verbs the object), while Welsh goes Verb Subject Object (verbs the subject the object). In some respects, “Dw i’n gallu” is fairly equivalent to saying “I be able”. “Galla i” is probably closer to standard usage.

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It’s a bit like the difference between ‘I am able’ (Dw i’n gallu) and ‘I can’ (Galla i) - a longer and a shorter way of saying the same thing.

The long form is useful when you’re learning because you only have to learn the one verb form (Dw i’n) and then you can stick any verbnoun on the end (gweld, hoffi, yfed…)

But the shorter form is often more idiomatic, so you will sound more like a ‘natural’ speaker if you can use it where appropriate.

But, as with everything in SSiW, don’t worry if you use the ‘wrong’ one, as long as people still understand you :slight_smile:


Thanks for the responses guys.

Just a quick question on pronunciation. Looking at ‘alla i ddim’ I would say it is 4 syllables, but on the podcast it sounds like only 3 syllables - ‘all i ddim’.

I think that probably shows why the course tries to dissuade people from reading in the early stages! Yes, the last ‘a’ and the ‘i’ do get squashed together so that it is pronounced with 3 syllables (the middle one a sort of a/i diphthong).


I know they don’t like you reading but I seemed to hear it pronounced in two different ways which is why I checked. I’ll do it with 3 syllables :slight_smile:

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I think it’s a little bit like the way some people might say ‘going to’ whereas others might say ‘gonna’. Someone saying the four-syllable version of ‘alla i ddim’ might sound more precise and ‘correct’ … but they equally might sound more like a learner and less natural, depending on circumstance.

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I think stress comes into it too. I might say ‘cannot’ as opposed to can’t when talking to a learner of English, to be clearer, or I might say it in a sentence such as, “You cannot be serious!” when very cross with someone!! :wink:
I think of dw i ddim yn gallu as ‘I cannot’ and ‘alla i ddim’ as ‘I can’t’ but it isn’t really quite like that.


It should be “Nid gallaf i ddim” but in colloquial Welsh “nid” is dropped but the soft mutation which follows it is retained, hence “alla i ddim”. The “f” in “gallaf” is dropped because it’s colloquial Welsh.

Re “should”.
Like all these things it depends on the speaker and what is being said. Stressing it as two syllables would sound odd, as it would with any two syllables really - but people can say it naturally and quickly as two syllables and saying it as two syllables is perfectly fine.

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A allaf i?" Gallaf. Although in colloquial Welsh the question would be “Allaf i?”.

I have to say, however, that I am not too good with colloquial Welsh as I unwittingly learnt the literary language.

I did a correspondence course in Cornish several years ago and even got a certificate.

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That’s right. I did the course over 20 years ago before the advent ofthe internet and it really was a correspondence course. However, after doing the first part, passing the examination and getting a certificate with a chough on it I began to have doubts about Modern Cornish and did not continue. I think that the last straw was reading that Modern Cornish was like an old painting that had been restored and touched up so many times that little or nothing of the original remained. However, when I was doing the course I amassed quite a few grammars and dictionaries and also subscribed to “An Kannas”.

The course is still going because I visited the website once as I was considering doing it again.

What is the history of your studies of the Cornish language?