May i and can i


When it comes to asking for something I’ve got a tendency with the singular to say ‘ga i’ rather than ‘alla i’. I know the former is more permissive which is why I’m a little unsure with things like

Can I speak with him?
Can I suggest something?
Can I help you?

I’m more inclined to be using ‘ga i’ but I’ve heard both being used in real life and on the SSiW course. Or is it just a case of ‘would you like my help?’ Versus 'will you let me help? (E.g said to someone having a bit of a panic but clearly needs some help)

Any help would be much appreciated


As far as I know, Ga i is May I, and Alla i is Can I. But I’m not the expert so I’m sure someone who knows better will reply.

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Thanks Rob. I think ‘ga i’ is more akin to ‘may i have’ which is why there seems to be a little overlap with ‘alla i’ and not quite the same as English.

Can I go now? (Ga i fynd nawr?)
Can I drink the milk? (Ga i yfed y llaeth?)


Alla i helpu chi? (Can I help you?)

And in English a shop keeper might say ‘can i/may i help you?’ interchangablly but I’m not 100% sure that’s true of Welsh.

We will wait to see what the experts say, but I would think you;re right.

Not far out: As you know I’m no expert, but I remember @Iestyn kindly explaining this exact thing to me in person a while ago after I had completed the whole course without it twigging. It really solved it for me. So her goes.

So, even though Ga and Gallu look and sound similar they are different words.

Ga i from “Cael” = may I? Can I get to have something, so asking for permission.

(G)allai from Gallu - Can I as in “able” regardless of permission or not.

So, I think of it as if I was back in school with a strict English teacher:
Ga i dringo’r wal (May I climb the wall?) Yes you may, it’s your turn.
Allai dringo wal (can I /am I able to climb the wall?) Yes, you can. You are an experienced climber. :slight_smile:

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Hi John

In most cases I agree it’s either permission or ability but there are few common phrases like ‘can i help you?’ that still don’t seem to fit the pattern. Most people seem to say ‘alla i helpu chi?’ not ‘ga i help chi?’ yet in reality the message you’d be trying to get across is ‘may i help you?’ in a permissive sense rather than ‘do i have the ability to help you?’ if you get my meaning…

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Ah right I get you.
Could be
“Will you allow me to help you?” May
Is there anything that I can help you with?" Can / able

As you say, common practice might cut across the strict rules.