Past tense and conditional tense of "gallu"

Moved here from the Spanish forum

Does anyone know if there is any difference in meaning or use of “gallais i, or galles i” and “gallwn i”? I know that the former is the Preterite Tense and the latter is the Conditional Tense but when I try to create sentences with them, they seem to mean the same thing. With most verbs the difference is easy to understand but “Gallu” is causing me all sorts of problems. My knowledge of Welsh is very limited and I find this verb very confusing. Thank you in advance for any help anyone can give me. Simon

Sorry I have posted this on the wrong Forum. Please ignore.

gallwn i - I could

Thank you brynle

I rather suspect that it’s the English that’s the problem here, not the Welsh.
gallwn i (conditional) = I would be able to (“I could”)
gallais i (past) = I was able to (also “I could”!)

However, as being able to do something is a state that naturally lasts for some amount of time, I’m struggling to think of when I’d want the simple past as opposed to an imperfect, anyway…

Hello Richard, thank you for your reply. I am sure you are right that it’s the English causing the problem. I received another reply that said the short form past tense, though existing is hardly ever used. What about this example for its use? " I could smell the roses in the garden as I ran past the house, I was happy because my sense of smell had returned after catching Covid". It’s the past tense, the individual event of smelling the roses is not something that continues over time or is repeated over time, thought the new ability to smell again does. Should it be:
Gallais i arogli or Gallwn i arogli or Ro’n i’n gallu arogli? I am probably getting into a muddle over nothing but that seems to be part and parcel of trying to learn another language.
Thanks you for your help.

I couldn’t swear to it, but my understanding is that gallwn is the imperfect in Literary Welsh, but the conditional in colloquial, i.e. the same tense has a different meaning depending on the context (this is certainly the case for most verbs, but it’s possible that gallu is treated differently). I would not therefore use gallwn for “was able to”. You can sometimes use the short preterite even with stative verbs like meddwl, but only where it’s a sudden thing (like “I saw this and thought of you”), and I’m not convinced that being able to smell the flowers would be quite that sudden a thing. So I’d be inclined to go with ro’n i’n gallu.

Thanks for your advice Richard, I will stick with the imperfect tense from now on. Diolch!

I could see the sea, Roeddwn i’n gallu gweld y mor. Gallwn i weld y mor. I can see the sea, Dwi’n gallu gweld y mor, Galla i weld y mor. The long forms here are easier and most or many people i know use them. Gallais ayyb are in the verb books but I dont believe they are ever spoken now, found in old manuscripts by Taliesin & Aneirin and so on.

Help from people on line is so useful. Diolch yn fawr am dy helpu Paul!

Roeddwn i’n gallu gweld y mor and dw i’n gallu gweld y mor … have different references in time.

Dw i’n gallu is present tense… roeddwn i’n gallu gweld - I was able to see (continuous action over time in the past)

Gallais / Galles is still heard in speech very occasionally especially in posher speak in some parts of Wales according to my first language friends but mainly shortened to Galles etc … so maybe stick to more common spoken forms

Re: Gallais (literary spelling almost always)

Hi @brynle - what’s the source of your screenshot? I’m just a bit cautious about the idea that the preterite and the perfect are the same (they definitely aren’t in English!). For example, in English I can say “I did my homework, but the dog ate it,” (preterite) but not “I have done my homework but the dog ate it” (perfect) - once it’s vanished inside the dog, I can no longer say “have” - and my understanding is that Welsh would make the same sort of distinction between wnes i and dw i wedi. I’d have thought that cenais was the super-literary equivalent of wnes i ganu, but not of dw i wedi canu

The second screenshot?

I hopefully haven’t said they are the same btw :slight_smile: . Cenais shown here is merely them highlighting old literary forms. ‘Literary Welsh’ is their term for modern Welsh literary.
Sorry if it was confusing. Maybe I needed to add more context.
This linguistic source was a thorough examination of the history of the Welsh language

I agree what you say about the wnes i versus dwi wedi … is the top screen shot confusing? The source describes at length agreeing with your statement btw. I have only taken one small screen shot of the explanation. Maybe therein lies the confusion? I will remove the attachments if so

Diolch Brynle thanks for your explanation, I think i was referring to the use of ‘gallais’ as the past or imperfect tense of the verb gallu and the use of ‘roeddwn i’n gallu’ in its place. ‘Roeddwn i’n gallu’ - ‘I was able to’ is of course different from ‘gallwn i’, e.g ‘I could see the sea if i was taller’ used in present time.
Gallu can cause problems for new speakers, e.g. ‘gallwn i’ and ‘gallwn ni’ and think I was trying to suggest using using the long forms if and where it’s easier and appropriate. I think that ‘gallu’ can be an awkward verb to conjugate (like ‘hoffi’).
I live in South East Wales and I’m not a first language Welsh speaker (so have experienced the ‘pitfalls’).