Please reassure me that Welsh grammar can be like English grammar without being "bad Welsh"

I’m halfway through challenge 2 of level 1 (so, right at the beginning), and I’ve noticed a couple of points of grammar that are so similar to English and simultaneously unlike other languages that I know that a part of me worries that they must be “bad Welsh”.

It’s probably silly given how much praise this course has reaped, but could someone reassure me that yes, these structures also exist in Welsh in the same form as in English and are used not only by learners unconsciously transferring their English grammar to Welsh but also by native speakers? (Whether because they’ve been in the language for centuries or whether they’re only entered it, perhaps as alternatives, in the past decades is less important – just that they’re accepted as natural and correct.)

Specifically, I’ve been worried about these three things:

1: Fedra i ddim sut i ddweud X yn y Gymraeg which sounds like “I don’t know how to say X in Welsh” to me in English.

This combination of sut + preposition i + verb-noun seems just like in English – but in Cornish, for example, I’d probably say fatel leverir X “how one says X; how X is said”; in German, wie man X sagt “how one says X”; and in French comment dire X “how say X” (without preposition).

2: Dw i’n trio cofio beth dw i isio dweud which sounds like “I am trying to remember what I want to say”.

Here I’d have Yth esov vy owth assaya perthi kov an pyth a vynnav y leverel in Cornish, where I was taught a distinction between question word pyth “what?” and relative word an pyth “… what … = the thing which”.

Also, as I understand it there, you can have Y fynnav leverel ger “I want to say a word” with mynnav “want” taking leverel ger “say a word” as a kind of object, but not an pyth a vynnav leverel – if an pyth is in front, then that’s already the object of mynnav and then you can’t add leverel directly afterwards but it would have to become y leverel “say it” or dhe leverel “to say [with preposition to]” (corresponding to something like ei ddweud and i ddweud respectively, I think).

And in French I’d say Je ne peux pas me souvenir de ce que je veux dire, also different from plain que “what?”. (But in German it’s the same as in English, except for word order: was ich sagen möchte.)

3: Dw i’n mynd i ddweud rhywbeth sounds like “I am going to say something”.

Can Welsh really use mynd for future intention like this, without referring to walking or moving at all?

Cornish doesn’t have this (would use gul “to do” or mynnes “to want” for future intentions), nor does German, and French has je vais dire quelque-chose but without the preposition, closer to Dw i’n mynd dweud rhywbeth.

So, those are the questions I’ve had so far.

Thanks in advance for putting my mind to rest on these!

Also, is it just me or are the pauses in challenge 2 of level 1 (north course) a lot shorter than in challenge 1?

I did challenge 1 without using pause much if at all and thought things would be plain sailing to the end of the level - but found it all but impossible to do that for the first half of challenge 2 that I’ve listened to so far!

I’m no expert, but I’m now studying in the Welsh department at Cardiff University and I hear all of those structures from the mouths of academics whose (first-language) Welsh is excellent, so I would say that they are perfectly ‘good’ Welsh.

I know you put ‘bad Welsh’ into quotation marks, so I’m sure you’re aware of what I’m about to write, but just for the benefit of others who might be bringing English baggage to the learning process…

A lot of what people call ‘bad Welsh’ is nothing of the kind - it is just regional differences or differences between the dialect spoken by different groups. There are a few people who hold those sorts of opinions (mainly on Facebook, where they like to berate others), but thankfully not nearly as many who cling onto the concept of ‘standard’ English for dear life. So you will hear structures spoken by Aran or Iestyn that others might tell you are ‘bad’ Welsh - they are not. They might be regional variants, but they are most definitely normal, idiomatic Welsh.

if you want to be writing academic essays or articles for the paper then yes, you will need to learn a further dialect/variant (the formal, academic kind), and I do know people who also speak like that. But only one or two.


Your question makes my head ache!! I got lost half way through! :head_bandage: :grimacing: :grinning:
The whole point of this method of learning is not getting involved in the minutiae of grammar. I do hope, since it clearly is something about which you fret, that @aran, or possibly the ever kind and helpful @garethrking will help you, and that you will carry on learning this way, because it does teach us to speak like ordinary folk more quickly than conventional methods![quote=“sarapeacock, post:2, topic:6535”]
you will need to learn a further dialect/variant (the formal, academic kind),

Oh diolch, Sara! This rang a big bell!
Friend, English, at Uni, doing PhD. Would we read and correct his thesis? Leaving aside my lack of in-depth knowledge of his subject, why? It turned out to be because he was from Liverpool and hadn’t done well in O-Level. His English was actually not at all bad. It didn’t read like a conversation on The Liver Birds, but he did need a few lessons in ‘formal academic English’!

Thank you very much!

Sorry; I didn’t realise that this phrase had an existing usage and baggage behind it – I didn’t want to disparage any particular regional usage, but to refer to something that nobody considers correct – the equivalent not of “He ain’t big” but “Is big not he”.

Or Ich möchte ihn zu wissen in German which is a literal translation from “I want him to know” but makes no sense there (where you would have to say the equivalent of “I want that he knows” instead, to be grammatical).


There are some phrases where the structure, I think (but I’m open to correction if I’ve misinterpreted), does have an English influence, such as ‘edrych ar ôl’ for ‘to look after’, where the Welsh has a word ‘gofalu’ that also means the same thing. I have heard people call that ‘bad Welsh’, but personally I don’t think it is - it’s just how people speak. I wouldn’t use the phrase in a formal document, but I think it’s what I’d most often hear around me.

What you will find is English-speakers using the wrong prepositions (because they’re always tricky in a new language) when the Welsh uses something we don’t expect. So, for example, in English we ‘listen to’ something, but in Welsh it’s ‘gwrando ar’ (listen on). But the good news is that SSiW does a fantastic job of getting these in your head without banging on about them, so in the end you just say them because it sounds wrong if you don’t.

Which is a very longwinded way of saying that IMO it’s OK to trust what the course says … they know what they’re doing :wink:


I think I understand why you are wondering about this kind of thing, because I used to wonder about the same kind of question.

Somewhere or other, I have either heard Aran say, or have read him writing, that generally speaking, one can string words together in Welsh. (A good example of that is where two nouns appear together, and that indicates a possessive construction e.g. “wyneb dyn” “face of a man”).

It could be two verbs “dechrae canu” “begin to sing” - with nothing in between to represent the “to” that English has.

However, some verbs do usually come with an “i” (meaning more or less “to”), and “mynd” is one of those. I think there are other ones, but I can’t call them to mind at the moment :slight_smile: and there are other verbs that take other prepositions (and “mynd” can take other prepositions).

As you know, SSiW doesn’t encourage reading to begin with, and still less reading grammar books. :slight_smile: But there comes a time (probably after the end of course 1 or level 1), when some of us feel the urge to delve deeper into the grammar etc, and Gareth King’s books are a good choice for SSiWers, as he manages to combine a respect for the grammar with a respect for the spoken language (not regarding it as a “lesser form” of the language).

It’s not a perfect analogy, but I sometimes compare it with driving a car. With modern cars especially, one can drive them without knowing hardly anything about how they work or what lies under the bonnet. But there will always be some people who like to know a bit more, and perhaps open up the bonnet and “get their hands dirty”. It’s an optional extra so long as one has a good “garej”. (Perhaps the “garej” in this case is the website and fforwm :slight_smile: ).


And in Cornish it’s “goslowes orth” (listen at)!

Oh dear, yes, prepositions are notoriously different between languages.

Thank you very much for that and the other examples and your other comments!

I shall “go with the flow” (of the course) then :slight_smile: (and also trust that correct usage will get into my head naturally without worrying about things).


@philipnewton - yes, Welsh grammar can be like English grammar without being ‘bad Welsh’.

There…I hope you are reassured somewhat. :slight_smile:


Yes indeed; thank you!


Diolch yn fawr, Gareth!
To @philipnewton I am sorry if I seemed fierce. I didn’t mean to! Croeso to the forum. Most people sre really nice and helpful. I am sure you will learn very quickly, you clearly are a polyglot!


I can’t comment on what’s good or bad grammar-wise, but this does make me think of when I was watching the TV series Parch recently and had to cringe every time one of the characters said “ti’n OK?” or - even worse to my ear: “ti’n alright?” Ugh… I’ve got no right to cringe when hearing that :wink: but what the heck is wrong with “ti’n iawn?” (which rolls so nicely off the tongue, as opposed to those other “more modern” variants).

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Well, chwarae teg, “olréit” is in at least one Welsh online dictionary.

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That’s ocê, then. :wink:

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I do love the word iawn :slight_smile:

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I like ‘ffeindio allan/mas’ for ‘finding out’ where ‘darganfod’ would work. They’re always ‘ffeindio pethau mas’ in Y Gwyll


But those characters also said ‘ti’n iawn’ from time to time, didn’t they? This is how people talk - they use a variety of patterns; they borrow words from other places and adapt them for their own use (English is the language most likely to do this, by the way). A language that changes and develops and is creative is one that is lively and, most importantly, living. Which is what we want :slight_smile:


Replying to myself – I had just found this post:

which addresses this bit, saying that something like “be dych chi’n weld?” is the colloquial form for something like “beth yr ydych chi’n weld?”, which itself is more colloquial than something like “Pa beth yr ydych chwi yn ei weled?”.

It reassures me to see the “ei” in there which matches what I had learned in Cornish :slight_smile: It’s just been “optimised out” in spoken Welsh, apparently, possibly leaving behind a soft mutation.

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If it’s any help, my friend who is fluent in both Cornish and Welsh says that Cornish is very like Middle Welsh - and he uses that when he teaches Cornish through the medium of Welsh.


Ooh, excellent. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it, given that most speakers of Revived Cornish learn a language based on documents from the 15th/16th century or thereabouts.

So it makes a lot of sense that Welsh will be broadly similar to it in some respects (it’s still a Celtic language) but rather different in others (it’s had several centuries’ worth of natural evolution while Cornish has been preserved in artificial stasis).

Thanks for that comparison!

And I wonder what Cornish would have been like if it had survived as a community language until now…

(Even Revived Late Cornish uses a model which is about 200 years old by now, I think, so we’re missing quite a bit of natural evolution.)

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I think missing might be slightly the wrong word. More accurate to say that the natural evolution has been deferred for a couple of hundred years. :wink:

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