O'n i / Dw i wedi...Difference of use please?

Learning welsh through english, I notice that we are very early “teached” about “o’n i” and “Dw I wedi”, to translate for example “I forgot” and “I’ve forgotten”.

So : it’s time for me now, aged 66,to understand the difference of use between preterite and present perfect. Because if I don’t use it the right way in english, consequently I won’t translate it in the right way in welsh (or maybe the use is different in welsh ?)

When I speak about a past action (yesterday as well as 50 years ago) most of the time (99,9) I use the preterite. I would say : "I looked" but not " have looked". I was looking, but not "I have (or had, if necessary) been looking"

I’m not looking for an equivalence englsih-french : both languages is too different concerning the past temps.

What I’ld rather expect you could tell me is : “in which situation” do you use the preterite or the present perfect, and will it be the same in welsh ?

For example, would you see a difference in those 4 sentences, concerning their meaning, (and first of all : would they be correct ?!).

I saw her but I forgot to ask her… (this or that)

I’ve seen her , but I’ve forgotten to ask her…

I saw her but I’ve forgotten to ask her…

I’ve seen her but I forgot to ask her…

Diolch yn fawr

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Yes it is, sometimes.

I gave up worrying about the preterite and the present perfect long ago.

My advice to you would be to use what you think is right from what you have learnt in the challenges, from listening exercises, radio and TV, and your own intuition.


Hi @mcbrittany,

@Nicky has created a video which talks about the use of tenses - in English, with a view to their use in Welsh. You can see this by clicking here.

Welsh has a slight difference from English in that there are a groups of verbs - stative verbs - that use the ‘was’ or imperfect tense as their past tense (ie they don’t normally take the preterite).

These verbs are generally ‘states of mind’ eg to think, to want etc. There is a post which discusses this here.

As has been said, these things tend to sort themselves out as you progress…but sometimes it helpful to have an answer on something that is bothering you. :slight_smile:

Rich :slight_smile:


As has been answered very well above, there are certain verbs that use “oedd” and others that don’t, which differ to the English options. As this is covered above I thought I’d translate your examples below:

I saw her but I forgot to ask her… (this or that)

Nes i ei gweld hi ond anghofiais i ofyn iddi

I’ve seen her , but I’ve forgotten to ask her…

Dw i wedi ei gweld hi ond dw i wedi anghofio gofyn iddi

I saw her but I’ve forgotten to ask her…

Nes i ei gweld hi ond dw i wedi anghofio gofyn iddi (this sounds a bit odd to me in English, I don’t think the tenses match up)

I’ve seen her but I forgot to ask her…

Dw i wedi ei gweld hi ond nes i anghofio gofyn iddi hi

These examples are all stative so none need to use “oedd”.


Hi @mcbrittany
I think. you didn’t want a translation of these sentences but to know if they are correct in English;
I can’t answer your question because I’m not a native English speaker, too, but for Welsh it helps me to think about “Dw i wedi gwneud rhywbeth” as " I’m after doing something". So I think it is right to use the “wedi” construction if what happened in the past has an impact on or affects something I want to do now.
But: I use the “wedi” construction very often ( too often ) because I’m used to do so speaking Southern German and everyone in Wales seemed to understand.
So I think Louis’ advice, not to worry about it, is the best advice.


I see @brigitte, thank you for highlighting @mcbrittany ’s true question which I have read a little more closely now!!!

Yes all of these sentences make sense…and have very subtle differences in meaning - although in truth I don’t think people use or distinguish between the tenses that carefully in the real world which means in casual use they could be interchangeable.

Preterite is for things that were actions done in the past and are now complete.

The ‘perfect’ tense addresses something which is also finished but in the more recent past.

Both can state/ confirm an event has occurred in the past (eg I did do it, I have done it) - again with an implication of something more recent with ‘have’.

This is nowhere near my field of expertise (if only I could remember what that was :smile: ) and I’d have to call upon an expert @garethrking to prevent me digging a hole any deeper for myself, if you were to ask me a question!! :grimacing:

Rich :slight_smile:

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Diolch yn fawr for those answers : the general feeling seems to be that… I’d better go on the way I’m used to. :slightly_smiling_face: Well, I’ll follow that advice ! Anyway, some precisions are nice to know, even if the differences won’t create an incomprehension.
I indeed did not want a translation in welsh, I just wanted to know “the situations uses” in english, and by the way, know if welsh worked the same. And you helped. So, thanks again.
When I speak breton, it’s just “oral memory”, I don’t make analysis, but we also have a specia way of conjugating, a sort of"double way" . I don’t know if similar to welsjh : I’ll tell you when I am abble to see that : in some (many !) years !.. :slightly_smiling_face:


Exactly - grammatical rules are not necessarily the best way to develop that :slight_smile:

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@mcbrittany sorry I’ve just read this properly! Thank you @brigitte

I saw her but I forgot to ask (this works)
I’ve seen her but I’ve forgotten to ask her (I probably wouldn’t use this construction, the tenses work together just can’t think of an example of when I’d use it)
I saw her but I’ve forgotten to ask her (as I said above - I don’t think the tenses compliment each other here)
I’ve seen her but I forgot to ask (this one works)

Hope this helps :slight_smile:

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Mapping onto French, I think:

“O’n i” is a similar tense to “J’etais” (sorry - I’ve lost French accents because I’ve set my keyboard to Welsh instead…). “O’n i yn y parc ddoe” is like “J’etais dans le parc hier”.

“Dw i wedi…” is similar to “J’ai…”. So “Dw i wedi darllen y llyfr hwn o’r blaen” is like “J’ai deja lu ce livre”

But the preterite is a problem to French, isn’t it - it’s hard to get a head around it. A completed action in the past would usually be the perfect tense in French, wouldn’t it? Would the passe simple perhaps equate? So “Es i” or “Wnes i fynd” would map to “j’allai”?

But my French is a bit rusty,

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I’m getting the hang of how and when to use the different past tenses, and as has been said, found Nicky’s video (referenced in above comments) very useful. In practice, when I use my spoken Welsh, it never seems to match up to my ideal of how it should be used. I look back on a conversation and realise I’ve been using ‘wedi’ far too often for example. When thinking on your feet, you don’t have time to come out with the perfect construction! I’m hoping that practise will make perfect though (or pluperfect!)


thanks for the interesting and informative thread.
I have seen in a book I am reading something like the following: O’n i wedi… rather than dw i wedi…is this something different? In the context it was used exactly the same as dw i wedi…

O’n i wedi - I had
Dwi wedi - I have


Diolch @siaronjames :smiley:
Mae hynny’n gneud lot o sense - do’n i ddim yn gwybod am hynny hyd yn hyn!
That makes a lot of sense- I didn’t know about that until now! Thank you again.

Actually the good news is that the use of preterite vs. perfect is almost exactly the same in both languages. The difference comes with the imperfect (the o’n i’n… tense), where for stative verbs English uses the preterite (I knew, she thought, etc) while Welsh uses the imperfect (o’n i’n gwybod, oedd hi’n meddwl, etc).


La différence entre le passé simple at le passé composé en anglais (et en principe en catalan et espagnol – et même peut-être en français, quand le passé simple était toujours utilisé à la langue parlée) est que le passé composé (le “present perfect”) ne s’utilise pas pour les événements plus récents, mais pour établir une rélation quelconque entre quelque chose qui est arrivé dans le passé, mais dont les effets sont toujours avec nous dans le present, et ces mêmes effets. C’est une contraste qui ne s’exprime plus de façon simple en français, malheureusement.

Par éxemple:
J’ai fait mes devoirs (je les ai faits hier soir, je les ai avec moi – les voici).
I have done my homework (I did it last night, I’ve got it with me – here it is).

J’ai fait mes devoirs (je les ai faits hier soir, mais le chien les a mangés ce matin, donc je ne les ai plus).
I did my homework (I did it last night, but the dog ate it this morning, so I haven’t got it any more).

Dans les deux cas, je les ai faits hier soir: la différence revient à la question de si je les ai toujours avec moi, ou non. En fait, chaque période de temps que est déjà terminée éxige un passé simple en anglais – même une période aussi récente que “ce matin”. Mais une période quelconque qui comprenne ‘maintenant’, quoi que ça soit une période aussi longue que “pendant ma vie” ou “jamais”, éxige un “present perfect”.

Et c’est plus-ou-moins la même chose en gallois:
Dw i wedi gwneud fy ngwaith cartref (a dyma fo) – I’ve done my homework (and here it is).
Wnes i fy ngwaith cartref (ond wnaeth y ci ei fwyta) – I did my homework (but the dog ate it).

O’n i’n gwneud fy ngwaith cartref = Je faisais, j’étais en train de faire mes devoirs.

J’espère que cela vous aide un peu / Gobeithio bod hynna’n eich helpu!

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En effet ça rejoint ce que j’ai pu lire sur des sites français d’apprentissage de l’anglais : il y a toujours une notion de "quelque chose de terminé (ou pas) qui fera qu’on utilisera plutôt l’un que l’autre, même si ça reste souvent contestable.
Je n’ai pas le souvenir de ça en catalan ou en castillan (heureuse de saluer un ami de ces 2 langues, j’adore en particulier e catalan, qu’hélas je n’ai plus l’occasion de pratiquer !!!)
Mais je ne veux pas faire de hors sujet dans ce fil !
Dioclh, gràcies, merci, trugarezh (o more actual “breton” : mersi, with an S) , gracias… and all that sort of things !!!

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A search came up with this definition:

Així, el passat (simple o perifràstic) assenyala una acció passada en un període de temps que també ha passat: Ramon Llull va morir (morí) l’any 1315 ; el perfet d’indicatiu (abans pretèrit indefinit) assenyala un fet que s’ha realitzat en un període de temps que encara no ha acabat: La collita d’enguany ha estat magra

However, the way that time gets divided up is a bit different: in Catalan I can say, in the morning, “Aquest matí he jogat a futbol”, and in the afternoon I would say the same thing; not until the next day would it change to “vaig jogar”. But in English I would say “I’ve played football this morning” in the morning; in the afternoon it changes to “I played football this morning” because now it is no longer ‘this morning’. In Catalan the important psychological difference is, apparently, whether you have slept since: teenagers partying all night can sometimes accidentally reveal the fact to their parents by saying “I have” instead of “I did” about something that happened the day before!

Everything I have seen says that Welsh patterns very similarly to English, so I think you would say:
Dw i wedi chwarae pêl-droed y bore 'ma (mot-à-mot 'Je suis après jouer…) in the morning, but
Wnes i chwarae pêl-droed y bore 'ma in the afternoon. (Paging @aran for confirmation.)

Quant à ce que @garethrking disait, il éxiste des verbes qui éxpriment en soi plutôt des états physiques ou psychologiques que des actions, ce qu’il appelait des “stative verbs”. La liste en varie selon la langue, mais par éxemple en français je ne crois pas qu’on pourrait dire **Je suis en train de savoir. Les verbes qu’en anglais ne forment pas normalement un présent continu sont, pour la plupart, les mêmes verbes qui en gallois n’utilisent que le passé O’n i… ('J’étais…) et ne pas le passé Wnes i (=passé simple). Pourtant des fois ça reste contestable, étant donné que j’ai vu des auteurs employer p.ex. meddyliais i (‘je pensai’, si vous le permettez) apparément avec le sens de “j’ai subitement pensé que…” au lieu de o’n i’n meddwl (je pensais). (Paging @aran encore une fois…!)

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Raading what you say, I’m realising, concernig catalan, that I indeed use much more often “vaig jugar” than “he jugat”, que’m sembla “bizarre”.
Your whole post is very interesting !