'Dim byd' or not 'dim byd'? That is the question

I’m baffled. In Lesson 1, the double negative is explained. ‘…ddim…rhywbeth’ is rendered as ‘…ddim…dim byd’ so it appears. After a number of examples, at 27:24 the rule is further endorsed by the statement, “Dw i ddim yn trio dweud dim byd.” “Once ‘ddim’ has established the negative, it continues,” so we are told. OK, I got that. After repeatedly and incorrectly, using ‘rhywbeth’ instead of ‘dim byd’, the penny started to drop, even though it means saying, “I didn’t say nothing.” Within a few seconds, at 27:37, however, we have, “Dw I ddim yn trio dweud rhywbeth.” What I thought I understood I clearly haven’t. My dictionary renders both ‘something’ and ‘anything’ as ‘rhywbeth’. I was already struggling with the translations of, “I am saying nothing,” and “I am not saying anything.” Initially I thought that both would be rendered as, “Dw I ddim yn dweud dim bydd.” Now I am not so sure. Can someone enlighten me, please?

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Before I asnwer, I’ll give you the SSiW mantra - it really doesn’t matter, don’t worry! In this case, Welsh is a lot more relaxed than English about the “rule” of when to use nothing / something / anything. In English, it is especially strict, because there are social class / education biases regarding patterns like “I didn’t say nothing”, which makes the whole subject a minefield.

In Welsh, we would generally keep negatives negative, so whereas in English you would only ever expect “I don;t hear anything”, Welsh would enrally be “Dwi ddim yn clywed dim byd”, but might equally well be “Dwi ddim yn clywed unrhywbeth” - they are fairly much interchangeable.

I would usually use “Dwi ddim yn clywed rhywbeth” to mean something like “I don’t hear something”, where the something is quite specific, so "Dwi ddim yn trio dweud rhywbeth " is “I’m not trying to say something”.

Does that cast some light on your confusion? I can assure you that if you said “unrhywbeth”, “dim byd” or “rhywbeth” in that sentence to a Welsh speaker, they would almost definitely understand it to be whatever was intended, because it would depend on the context of the conversation.

Remember that the more you do of the course, the more ways there will be to say things correctly, or at least close enough to the correct meaning. That means that the more of the course you do, the more times you will find your Welsh being similar but different to what you’re hearing in reply. Don’t worry - that is a sign of progress! Where your Welsh is genuinely “worng”, you will correct yourself through hearing it correctly from us. Where your Welsh is just different, you’ll get those “Oh, why was that different?” moments. It will happen in real conversations as well, and you will gradually internalise the subtleties of the language.


Iestyn, when I first found out about “I didn’t say nothing!” it was so lovely, because there was a really, really good reason why people use the double negative which was so looked down upon as I grew up!!

I just googled around to confirm my suspicion that it was only in standard formal English that double negatives were looked down upon. This seems to confirm it:

To make it more complicated, it’s not just foreign languages that conventionally employ double negatives but some dialects of English do as well! African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Southern American English, and some British regional forms use negative concord constructions. Negative concord is even used several times in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. (For example, a line about the Friar, “Ther nas no man no wher so vertuous,” literally means “there wasn’t no man nowhere as virtuous.”)

So, while double negatives are not correct in standard English, that doesn’t make them any less useful in other dialects. We encourage writers to learn how to negate sentences using the standard grammar — especially for professional settings — but we love the diversity of English (and language in general) and think that use of dialectal grammar is fine in open, less formal environments.

(from https://www.grammarly.com/blog/3-things-you-must-know-about-double-negatives/ )


Some South African friends of ours have Afrikaans as their first language. It’s great to see the mandatory double confirming “nie” (not) at the end of negative sentences.

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