Do'n i ddim / wnes i ddim

bit muddled about the difference- I saw that d’on i ddim is for a past but ongoing action and wnes i ddim for completed action - but bit confused as to how “I didn’t want” is different to “I didn’t know?” I know the tale language tutors teach about “I was walking along the street when a piano fell on my head” to demonstrate the different actions but am stumped about d’on i ddim yn moyn- makes me think I may not guess correctly the different negative verbs - is it just a case of wait and learn as you go along?

This distinction just takes a bit of practice. I think of it as being in a state of being something. I was in a state of not knowing, I was in a state of not wanting. As opposed to, say, understanding - I didn’t in that moment understand the thing I was told. It’s a subtle and awkward distinction, not aided by the fact that some verbs can be used both ways. “I watched” versus “I was watching”, for instance.

As I say, it just takes some practice. Besides, people will still understand you if you flub it. I’ve definitely used the wrong one on at least one occasion, but the person I was talking to understood what I was trying to say and responded accordingly.

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cheers Alan!

Not sure if this is helpful or even correct, but “ro’n/o’n/do’n” are often paired with “arfer” - used to - which leads me to think they are for longer, past states, and “Nes i ddim…” would be for a more momentary action.

Eg “Do’n i’n (arfer) gwybod ei enw o” vs “Nes i ddim medru gofio ei enw o”

I use a variation of the falling piano in my classes too :wink:

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diolch - ( my French teacher used the piano sentence back in the 80s but i hear it’s still in use!)

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It’s a classic! Although I use a bolt of lightning instead of a piano :rofl:

Btw I may have got my last post wrong as i’ve just read this, which uses “roedd” for a brief past action:

No, you were right. The ‘roedd’ in that sentence isn’t referring to the brief action (dod), it’s referring to the ongoing state (rhaid - having a need/necessity/obligation). At least, that would be my reading of it.


Yup, spot on with that Alan :smiley:

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I’d also be surprised if there weren’t exceptions. Like in Spanish we have two verbs that mean “to be”: “ser” for permanent states, and “estar” for feelings and temporary states.
Yet we say “estar muerto”, and last time I checked, being dead was a fairly permanent thing!

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Or is it?
(horde of zombies come shambling towards you)


sounds like my local at chucking out time :wink:

I’ve always thought that was a bit weird :joy:

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I have no idea how accurate this is, but when I try to translate it in my head, wnes i ddim is ‘I didn’t’ and do’n i ddim is ‘I hadn’t’. So ‘I didn’t talk to you yesterday’ is finite [edit: as in restricted to yesterday] (wnes i ddim), but ‘I hadn’t known you speak Welsh’ is every point in time up until I found out (do’n i ddim).

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ah diolch!

‘I didnt want’ is not different from ‘I didnt know’.
I didnt want, do’n ddim eisiau.
I didn’t know, do’n ddim yn gwybod.
Gwnes i, gwneud, is to do something or make something. Wnes i ddim would not be used with gwybod.
Gwnes i gacen, I made a cake.

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I’ve read the above explanations a few times and still can’t get it right :frowning: I don’t understand…

This is a previous thread that explains the difference in the positive forms (o’n i & wnes i) : Wnes, wnesti
Do’n i ddim & wnes i ddim are the negatives but the principles are the same.

You can see from this thread that you’re far from the first to find this confusing – and the thread @siaronjames links to is far from the only one trying to help people through similar minefields (if you use the magnifying-glass icon to bring up a search box you can search the forum for others – putting “wnes i o’n i” in the search bar brings up a couple, or the technical term “stative” will bring up more).

But in case that doesn’t help – wnes i ddim is “I didn’t” and do’n i ddim is “I wasn’t”. In Welsh, just as in English, some verbs sound natural with one, and some with the other; and sometimes you can use both, in different contexts, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll ignore that for now.

Suppose, for example, that you went out somewhere in your car, and had a near miss with a cyclist or motorcyclist (for the sake of illustrating a grammatical point without upsetting anyone we’ll assume that you’ve slammed your brakes on at the last minute, and they’re scared and cross but otherwise unhurt). The perennial complaint of cyclists in this position is that the motorist will cheerily excuse themselves with “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you!” (abbreviated to SMIDSY by people who’ve heard it once too often). Or they could say, of course, “Sorry, mate – I wasn’t paying attention!”

What they couldn’t say, in English, is **Sorry mate I wasn’t seeing you – I didn’t pay attention.

Seeing something is instantaneous – quick as winking; paying attention is a state that lasts for some time. In Welsh, just as in English, the verbs that refer to instantaneous things make their past with did/n’t (wnes i/wnes i ddim) and the (jargon word) “stative” ones use was/n’t (o’n i/do’n i ddim). Most verbs will refer to actions (wnes i), but some stative ones are very common indeed. There’s a fairly short list of them, that you could try to learn, but it’s probably better to just try to pick up the patterns: as a rough rule of thumb, most of the ones that need o’n i in the past are the same ones that (usually) form the present tense in English without using “-ing” – I think, I feel, I hope, I love, I want, that sounds…