Use of ‘it is’ in welsh

I zoom talk with a Welsh speaker quite regularly - was pulled up on using ‘Mae fe’ for it is in such things as when questioned where I swim - I used Mae fe to say ‘It is’ in Rotherslade. This seems to open a huge can of worms for me - I believe I have just been using ‘It is/It was’ incorrectly and I should be looking at other ways of structuring sentences for this ? When saying it is cold for example - we use hi ( ie give the weather female sex ). Anyone else confused here or can anyone propose a way around this problem ? Action/state verbs seem to have a precedence in Welsh with passive statements like ‘it is’ not used unless you can give the state a sex ?
Best Regards to All,
John Lever

The general rule is that abstract things are feminine. This includes when talking about time, distance and weather, for example:

Mae hi’n boeth - It’s hot
Dw i ar ei hôl hi - I’m late
Mae hi’n bump o’r gloch - It’s five o’ clock

Bear in mind that the nouns for these things won’t necessarily be feminine, for example the hot weather - y tywydd poeth, amser da - a good time. Also, mae hi’n and mae o’n often both get shortened to “mae’n” in north Wales at least.
All nouns in Welsh are either masculine or feminine, so the pronoun should generally agree with the gender or the noun, but concrete but unspecified things are masculine, presumably because peth itself is masculine. This can sometimes get interesting when people refer to specific things as if they were unspecific, often in the same sentence. See here for a good discussion of how to get better at noun genders.
Going back to your specific question, I wonder if the problem the person you were speaking to had was more to do with the word order. I feel like the emphatic word order might work better here i.e. Yn Rotherslade mae fe instead of Mae fe yn Rotherslade assuming that was what you said. Obviously it’s hard to comment without the full context.
I’m not sure if this answers the question, but hope it helps anyway.


As Gareth said, without more context it’s difficult to give much help, but perhaps it wasn’t the construction that was wrong but that the answer didn’t quite fit the question as it had been asked.

For example, if your friend asks, “Where do you swim?” in English, you wouldn’t say, “It’s in Rotherslade.”

If the answer was to a more specific question such as, “Where’s the pool where you go swimming?”, then “It’s in Rotherslade,” would work. But the answer to the more general, “Where do you swim?” needs an answer more like, “Dw i’n mynd i’r pwll nofio yn Rotherslade.” / “I go to the swimming pool in Rotherslade.”

I don’t know whether that helps?


Dear Margaret,

My English is lazy - so in answer to where did you swim - I said ‘It is in Rotherslade’ really meaning it was in Rotherslade ( and continues to be ) - which I think you can do in English - getting a bit deep though. What would you say in this case : Q ‘Where did you swim’ A ‘It was in Rotherslade’ ?
Thanks for replying,

I think I get it now. As native speakers, we’re not really aware of how much the different ways we stress words subtly alters the meaning. Without thinking about it, in English you would have said, “It was in Rotherslade,” meaning in Rotherslade as opposed to any other place. However, as Gareth said above, Welsh does emphasis by changing the word order.

Also there may have been a slip in the verb tense you used. In answer to the question, “Where did you swim?” you need to use the past tense in the answer and, to emphasise the location, it would be, “Yn Rotherslade oedd e.”

But obviously your friend understood what you meant, which is the main thing when it comes to communicating. And if you take note when you’re listening or reading, you’ll get more confident with the ways that a native speaker would answer questions.

Just a comment that in the SSIW exercises there are quite a few places where the present tense is used ( normally as the second part of sentences - where the first part establishes the tense eg past or future and augmentation in later parts of the sentence quite often seem to use the present even though one would expect the same past or future tense as at the beginning ). John

Dear Gareth,
Hugely helpful here is the context as it may explain more . In essence from the responses that both yourself and Margaret have given - I think I now understand that referring to ‘it’ in Welsh is male or female ( not neuter as in English ) - which seems to imply that Mae always takes a gendered third person singular pronoun (hi , e, fe). Here is what prompted the question when I was talking to Ceri my zoom welsh speaker .
Great! Hopefully they come back.

I do think you’ve been using it correctly however, I think because the question I asked was past tense, albeit not fully said “pa traeth? (es ti i)” meant it sounded odd with a reply with present “it is rotherslade”. So the response would be “es i i rotherslade” or you could say “mae my hoff traeth yn rotherslade felly es i yna” but i think it would stil be useful if they could outline the gendered words as well as explaining more about Mae!



I’m glad it was helpful. Thanks for giving the context and Ceri’s explanation. You’re right that mae is the third person present tense form of bod i.e. “to be” for positive statements. It seems that the tense and the verb (mynd rather than bod) were the main issues in this case, and the gender stuff wasn’t really relevant. As Margaret said, these things will become easier the more you practise.

Bydda i yn trio defnyddio ‘Working Welsh’ bob dydd i dysgu yr gramadeg a geirfa newid. Hefyd na i siarad ar Zoom gyda siaradwr Cymreig - yn anaml. Ma rhaid i fi siarad mwy gyda grwpiau.
Diolch John