What type of words have gender

Hi everyone,

I understand that mutation is the way to spot gender of words in Welsh but I don’t really understand which type of words it affects. Is it just nouns? Also, sometimes ‘it’ is ‘fe’ (masc) and sometimes ‘hi’ (fem) but what is the thing that determines which it will be? is it the gender of the ‘subject noun’?



Hi Andrew,
(maybe more expert Welsh speakers are able to answer you right away, but until that happens, I would ask you a little clarification):

When you say:


it refers to mutation?
So basically you’re trying to understand what causes mutation and what words mutate?

Sorry, I will try to be clearer. I’m trying to understand what type of words are masculine/feminine. Is it just nouns e.g. cat/dog/book/tree or verbs e.g to walk/to sit/to watch. I’m listening to chapter 19 level 1 and the lesson is ‘I watched it’ (‘gwylias i hi’). The ‘it’ is now feminine but as there is no noun why is it ‘hi’ and not ‘fe’ ?

Verbs do not have gender, but all nouns do. In your example, ‘it’ is the noun, so has to have a gender. In this case, it is probably ‘hi’ (feminine) because the ‘it’ may refer to a programme (rhaglen) and rhaglen is a feminine noun. The sentence will use the gender of the implied noun even if the actual noun is not there (i.e. the noun has been referred to previously and subsequently become an ‘it’).

Yes, the gender only affects the nouns. Thankfully adjectives don’t change according to gender. Some adjectives do have plural forms, but these days they’re only used when you’re being poetic or in set phrases, such as “rhosys cochion” and “lilis gwynion”.

That’s brilliant, clears that up in my head very well.

Thanks both for your replies.


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Sorry Margaret, but actually some do. For instance, gwyn is white (masculine) but gwen is white (feminine), ‘small’ can be bychan (m) or bechan (f).

Some numbers also change e.g. 2 is dau (m) or dwy (f), 3 is tri (m) or tair (f), 4 is pedwar (m) or pedair (f).


Hi, thanks for the updates

@Siaron, I think that’s why I’m getting confused. The latest sentence I learned was ‘of hi’n braf ymlacio am dipyn’ (It was nice to relax for a while). There is no noun here so why the ‘hi’ unless it is the ‘braf’ that it feminine?

Just for clarity that ‘of’ at the beginning should be ‘oedd’ (pronounced ‘odd’ in the south)(dd is equivalent to a soft th as in bathe, not bath). :+1:

Your example is an abstract ‘it’ so it almost always feminine, such as the weather or time also. :grinning:

yes, abstract ‘it’ is almost always feminine, as Gruntius said, although that’s not to say you won’t occasionally hear someone use a fe or fo - they may not be technically correct, but you might hear them nonetheless. :slight_smile:

Some do. :wink:

Oh, gosh! How could I have forgotten that? We were only talking about it in class on Monday. However, it isn’t a universal thing like it is in, for example, French. The majority of adjectives in Welsh don’t change due to the gender of the noun they are describing.

You’re right, it isn’t a universal thing. Just like the gendered plurals, the gendered adjectives are in the minority, but it’s handy to know about where they exist as they will point you to the gender of the noun - e.g. we know wine is a masculine noun because it’s gwin gwyn, not gwin wen :wink:

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Also another confusing thing is that some nouns can be feminine in one dialect and masculine in another. In GPC, they use eg for masculine, eb for feminine and ebg, where it can be both. Llygad and Clust are ebg. I double checked with cysill ar-lein, and it allows llygad perffaith and llygaid berfaith and the same for clust, but not for single gender nouns like trwyn or ceg. Interestingly you can have bord perffaith and bord berffaith, while bwrdd is always masculine. Since the original word (bord) was borrowed from English, then that may explain a liitle bit of the variations?

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Another example with gender I’m not quite understanding. …

On level 1 chap 23. ‘I have forgotten how to say it’. Is the ‘it’ masculine or feminine as there is no noun or subject noun being talked about?


This is one where you’ll hear both hi and fo (or just ‘o’) - probably, though not necessarily, it’ll usually be hi in the south and fo in the north. I’d sat you can use whichever feels comfortable.

Just as I thought I was getting somewhere :wink:


Well technically, it would depend on what your ‘it’ was referring to. Taking your example sentence, if the ‘it’ you had forgotten how to say was a word, you’d use fe/fo (because the noun for ‘word’ is masculine), whereas if the ‘it’ you had forgotten how to say was a sentence, you’d use hi (because the noun for ‘sentence’ is feminine). So you see without a specific point of reference, sometimes you can get away with either! :wink:

I think I’ve hit the proverbial ‘wall’ but do appreciate your help enormously. Most my questions so far cannot be found easily on the internet unless you know exactly where to look of course. SSi is a great discovery for me. Your reply makes perfect sense though.


In my experience there’s more than one wall! Remember though that there are different ways to confront a wall.

  1. It’s often too tempting to want to know the whys, whens and hows too soon, and of course there are so many that it does feel like coming up against a wall. It’s like looking for a key for a door in the wall only to find you need another key (and another, and another!).
  2. The way the SSiW course is structured means you pick up an awful lot of whens and hows without really noticing. It’s like finding little climbing holds on the wall that will enable you to get over it. Don’t worry too much too early about the whys - some climbing holds are always out of reach until you get stronger!

So although finding a door to walk through might feel like the easiest way forward, actually it’s climbing up and over that brings the most benefits!