Medden nhw

Around level 2, challenge 20 we are introduced to medden nhw’, meaning ‘they say’. I’ve also seen similar in children’s story books, e.g. ‘meddai’r llew’ translated as ‘said the lion’. So my two questions are firstly is this past or present tense, and secondly, what is the difference between medden nhw’ and maen nhw’n dweud/ dwedon nhw?

I hope this makes sense.


Meddai’r llew, medden nhw etc are used only when reporting the words that someone/something used rather than simply conveying the meaning of of what they said, i.e. when quoting them, so that implies it should only be used in a past tense.
@garethrking can give a much better explanation than I can on this. :slightly_smiling_face:

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John’s right, meddai used for reported speech. It’s usually used in the past tense but can also be used in the present tense. In writing, when you use meddai, you don’t have to put the quote in quotation marks because meddai implies this for you.

Unlike other verbs, meddai is meddai for all pronouns, however, in the South it’s pronounced medde which, when paired with nhw can sound like medden nhw, (and in the North, it’s pronounced medda and sounds like meddan nhw but it’s actually just always meddai + fi/ti/hi/fe/fo/ni/chi/nhw


Thanks both, that all makes sense, but I’m still confused over ‘medden nhw’ which appears in the vocabulary list for challenge 20 as ‘they say’. Why is this used instead of ‘maen nhw’n dweud’ if medden implies past tense then?

I guess in a sentence like: They say ‘Can’t be done’ when I ask them. the word ‘say’ is present tense but the words being reported were said in the past, even though the actual words themselves were present tense, so that could be one reason maybe?

meddai (and the colloquial medden) can be used in both past and present tense. It’s totally fine to use ‘mae’n nhw’n dweud’, meddai is just another way of doing it. The difference with meddai though, is that it can ONLY be used for “said”/“says” reported speech, whereas dweud can be used in other contexts.

Great, that’s clarified things. I keep defaulting to ‘maen nhw’n dweud’ when doing the challenges and then when the answer is given as ‘medden nhw’ I felt like I must have missed something somewhere but it seems that they are interchangeable. I think my brain keeps trying to link medden/meddai back to meddwl so this pattern isn’t sinking in yet.
Thanks for your help both.

Well, as @siaronjames correctly points out, it can also be used for present - and often is…medden nhw is the standard expression for so they say. Learn as a one-off.

I seem to remember droning on about meddai in both WW and TW.


@garethrking thank you. I’m currently working through the third edition of your excellent ‘Modern Welsh’ so maybe I will come across it again there soon!


Thank you for the compliment and I hope you are enjoying the experience! :slight_smile:

p95 in Working Welsh
p146 in Thinking Welsh
p230 in Modern Welsh


@siaronjames Bendigedig, diolch! :+1::grinning:

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Thank you for your speedy efficiency, Siaron - carry on, Number One!

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Yes Sir, Thank you, Sir!

(got to say the ‘saluting face’ emojii doesn’t really do it for me! :grin:)


I have the feeling (and I’d love to know if this is right!) that quite often the “meddan nhw” is a bit of a distancing phrase - "Well so they say [but I’ll believe it when I see it]). Is that fair? Or is that a tone of voice thing (if it’s delivered more straight, then it’s more neutral)?

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I think your feeling there is right, Sara - I get that feeling as well. Of course, context is a factor as well, as always…but I’ve certainly heard it said as an obviously distancing or doubting response.



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