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Lesson 6. How to Be *Emphatic* and Possessive


Revision 1.13 of this page, last updated on 2003/02/17.
(C)opyright 1994-2003 Mark H. Nodine

6.1. Emphatic Subjects

There are times when you need to be emphatic. Crashing your hand on the table may achieve this effect, but that method is limited in its applicability, since you may not happen to have a table handy (not to mention that it's totally out of the question for written communication). Not to worry! In Welsh, you can emphasize part of a sentence by putting it first. Unfortunately, changing the word order also changes the verb that is needed. In this section, we concentrate on sentences where the subject of the sentence is what is emphasized.

The normal word order has a form of "bod" first, followed by the subject, followed by the complement:

Mae Aled yma.
Rydw i'n darllen.
Aled is here.
I am reading.

To emphasize the subject, place it first in the sentence, and use the special verb "sy" (or "sydd"):

Aled sy yma.
Fi sydd yn darllen.
Aled is here (i.e., not Elwyn).
I am reading (i.e., not you).

As far as I can tell, "sy" and "sydd" may be freely interchanged, and are not related to such things as whether the following word begins with a vowel, with the former probably being more common in spoken Welsh. As we will see in Section 0.0, these sentences can actually be thought of as containing a simple form of a relative clause.

Emphatic subjects are common in "who" and "what" questions and in the answers to those questions (in fact, there is no other way to ask them):

Pwy sy'n dod i fwyta heno?
Aled sy'n dod.
Beth sy'n digwydd yma?
Who's coming to eat tonight?
Aled is coming.
What's happening here?

6.2. Emphatic Complements

No, I'm not talking about statements like "Wow, that's absolutely the most fantastic hair style I've ever seen; how'd you get it to stick like that?". I'm talking about a grammatical complement, not a compliment. The common thread among these sentences is that the subject comes after the verb, which is itself preceded by something that needs emphasis. So, for example, in the following two sentences, the second is emphatic.

Rydw i'n ddysgwr.
Dysgwr ydw i.
I am a learner.
I am a learner. (i.e., not a teacher)

Notice that "dysgwr" is no longer mutated in the emphatic sentence, since it does not follow "yn". Also notice that the form of "bod" used in the emphatic form is the kind we associated with questions (see Section 2.2). That observation holds all the way through, except that in the third person singular, where either the form "ydy" or "yw" may be used [1]:

Problem ydy e.
Problem mawr yw Aled.
Problem mawr iawn ydyn nhw.
He is a problem.
Aled is a big problem.
They are a very big problem.
Note on pronunciation
The "w" in "yw" is a consonant; thus, the "y" has the clear sound.

6.3. Emphatic Questions and Answers

Emphatic questions are easy. Just take your emphatic sentence and pass it through the "sed" program with the following script "s/\./?/". In English, this means to substitute a question mark for the period at the end of the sentence. In spoken Welsh, it means to end the sentence with a rising inflection. Thus,

Bachgen yw e.
Bachgen yw e?
Fi sy'n achosi'r broblem.
Fi sy'n achosi'r broblem?
He is a boy.
Is he a boy?
I'm causing the problem.
Am I causing the problem?

So how does one answer these questions? To say "yes", use "ie". "No" is "nage". So

Bachgen yw e? Nage.
Fi sy'n achosi'r broblem? Ie, wrth gwrs.

6.4. Possessive Nouns

Being possessive isn't always a bad thing. People have things, and things have things. To say that noun A has noun B, just put A after B. Thus, we have

drws y ty+
siop Wil Jones
the door of the house
Will Jones's shop

What could be simpler, right? Well, there is one caveat: in this construction, noun B always winds up being a definite noun, and therefore to use the definite article with it is superfluous (can you say "wrong"?). Thus, you can say

drws ty+
drws y ty+
the door of a house
the door of the house

but not

*y drws y ty+ [2]

as we would be tempted to do in translating from English. Part of the problem is that we have three ways in English to express possessives:

  1. True possessives, which all have a "'s" or "s'" in them: "the house's door", "the students' complaint".

  2. A periphrastic construction using a prepositional phrase beginning with "of": "the door of the house".

  3. Glomming nouns together: a "foreign language communication skills training program" (taken from an actual radio advertisement) is a "program of training of skills of communication of (in) a foreign language". "Glomming" is used in its technical sense of "putting next to each other".
If you think of the Welsh possessives as true possessives, you should have no trouble remembering which definite article doesn't belong. In English, you could say

a house's door (i.e., the door of a house)
the house's door (i.e., the door of the house)

but you would never say

*the house's the door.
This leaving out of the article often exposes a noun to mutations that would otherwise have been "blocked" by the article:
Rydw i wrth y drws.
Rydw i wrth ddrws y cefn.
I am by the door.
I am by the back door.

(Notice that "wrth" causes a soft contact mutation.) All of this naturally raises the question, how do you say "a door of the house"? There's a fire, and you don't care which door you use. The short answer is that you can't without using periphrasis, defined by Webster as the "use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter and plainer form of expression"; even in English we resort to form (2) above to make the definiteness more precise. Thus, for this example, you could say:

un o ddrysau'r ty+ one of the house's doors.

A little more controversially, you may be able to say

drws i'r ty+ a door to the house

which some believe is short for

drws sy'n perthyn i'r ty+ a door that belongs to the house. [3]

On the other hand, I have had some Welsh speakers react, "I've never heard of such a thing," to examples of this sort.

6.5. How to Say "All"

The English word "all" is expressed by putting the phrase i gyd after the plural form of the noun or pronoun:

yr afalau i gyd
ni i gyd
chi i gyd
all the apples
all of us
y'all :-)

6.6. Here and There

"Here" and "there" are relatively straightforward in English; the former is used for things that are close to you and the latter for things that are not. (There's also an interrogative form "where", but that's neither here nor there.) In Welsh, there are four words. As is often the case, it is impossible to give hard and fast rules as to when to use which form, but here are some general guidelines.

Means "here"; something at a close distance.
Means "there"; something at a medium distance that you point to.
Means "over there", "yonder"; also something you point to.
Means "there", but you can't see it (out of sight, man!)
For example, if the friend you are talking to on the phone asks you what time the clock on his/her wall says, you might very well say

Ond dydw i ddim yno. But I'm not there.

However, if your friend is sitting on the other side of the room and asks you to put your arm around him/her, you might say

Ond dydw i ddim yna. But I'm not there.

If your friend asks you to read the sign that's atop that distant mountain, you might say

Ond dydw i ddim acw. But I'm not there.

And if your friend is knocking on the door to rebuke you for saying something insulting at the party, you might say

Ond dydw i ddim yma. But I'm not here.

But I doubt you'd get away with it.

6.7. Two

Welsh has one word for "one", but two words for "two". (Don't worry, that progression doesn't continue; learning twelve words for "dozen" would get to be a real pain, and twenty words for "score" would be even worse.) There are two important things to remember about "two":

  1. The form used with masculine nouns is "dau"; that used with feminine nouns is "dwy".

  2. The number is followed by the singular form of the noun. This fact actually holds for all numbers in Welsh, and it is a common mistake for English speakers to put a plural noun after numbers larger than one.

  3. Both "dau" and "dwy" are followed by the soft mutation.
OK, so I lied; there are three important things about "two". Here are some examples:

dau blentyn
dwy ferch
two children
two girls

In fact there is one more oddity about "two": it undergoes a soft mutation itself after the definite article: [4]

y ddau ddyn
y ddwy ardd
the two men
the two gardens

6.8. Indirect Objects and Personal Forms of "i"

A verb in English can have two types of object: a direct object or an indirect object (actually, if there is an indirect object, there must also be a direct object). So in the sentence

He hit his sister.

the direct object is "his sister". In the sentence

He gave his sister a hit.

the direct object is "a hit" and the indirect object is "his sister". It is always possible to paraphrase an indirect object as a prepositional phrase using the preposition "to" (or "for"), e.g.,

He gave a hit to his sister.

Welsh does not have indirect objects. The periphrasis is always done using the preposition "i" (don't forget any contact mutation as specified in Section 5.5):

Rydw i'n mynd i brynu anrheg i Nerys. I'm going to buy Nerys a present.

One complication is that the preposition "i" has personal forms in the third person. That is to say, when it is followed by a third person pronoun, it takes on forms specific to that pronoun:

Singular Plural
i fi (i mi) i ni
i ti i chi
iddo fe
iddi hi
iddyn nhw [5]
  1. For some reason, "mi" is often used in place of "fi" with the preposition "i".

  2. In written Welsh, you can combine the preposition with the pronoun in the following cases: "imi", "iti", "inni", and "ichi" [6].

  3. Strictly speaking, in the conjugated forms "iddo", "iddi", and "iddyn", the personal pronoun is redundant and should be omitted. In practice, it is often kept in speech (except when referring back to the antecedent of a relative clause).
So, for example:

Beth am Nerys? Rydw i'n mynd i brynu anrheg iddi hi.

Parenthetically, it may be noted that it is possible to get into some trouble with indirect objects. For example, in the sentence

Throw the baby down the stairs a clean diaper (nappy)!

you were probably ready to accuse me of child abuse until we got to the end of the sentence, when you reparsed "the baby" from a direct object to an indirect object. Welsh avoids this problem entirely.

Ymarfer 6

[Some answers can be found in a separate file.]

1. Answer each question negatively and emphasize that the word in parenthesis fits the bill: e.g.,

Ydy'r wyau'n barod nawr? (y cig moch)
Nag ydyn. Y cig moch sy'n barod nawr.

Ydw i'n mynd i'r siop? (fi)
Ydy Elwyn yn ddiog? (Huw)
Ydyn nhw'n achosi problemau? (y bechgyn)
Ydy Nerys yn dawnsio'n hardd? (Ann)
Ydyn ni'n gweithio'n galed? (fi)
Ydy'r llaeth yn y gegin o hyd? (y caws)

2. Change each of the following sentences to switch the emphasis, e.g.,

Tom yw'r dyn gorau.
Y dyn gorau yw Tom.

Fi ydy'r helpwr.
Y ferch fach yw Sian.
Y gegin ydy'r stafell 'ma.
Dysgwr ydw i.
Y problem yw'r ci.

3. Construct questions and answers by choosing one item from each column of the table below.

Y llew
Y ferch
Y plentyn
yw'r problem
? Ie.

4. Answer the following questions by saying that Gwen is not here, but Gwen's whatever is here.

Ex. Ydy Gwen yma? (Mam) Nag ydy, ond mae mam Gwen yma.

Ydy Gwen yma? (Ty+) Nag ydy, ond mae _____ Gwen yma.
Ydy Gwen yma? (Llaeth)
Ydy Gwen yma? (Ci)
Ydy Gwen yma? (Wyau)
Ydy Gwen yma? (Tegell)
Ydy Gwen yma? (Siop)

5. In the following questions, all of the items in question are not here, but there in the indicated location. Answer the questions, using the appropriate form for "there".

Ex. Oes afal yma? (yn y dre) Nag oes, mae'r afalau i gyd yno yn y dre.


Oes wy yma? (yn y cwpwrdd) Nag oes, mae'r ________ i gyd ____ yn
y cwpwrdd.
Oes llew yma? (yn Asia) Nag oes, _____.
Oes cig yma? (yn y gegin)
Oes storm yma? (ar y mynydd)

Sgwrs 6

[A translation of this conversation can be found in a different file.]

Bore da, mam. Sut mae?

Mrs. Hughes
Mae popeth yn iawn, Nerys. Wyt ti eisiau rhywbeth i fwyta.

Ydw. Beth sydd ar gael?

Mrs. Hughes
Mae dau wy ar o+l. Mae caws, hefyd.

Wyau yw'r bwyd brecwast gorau yn y byd.

Mrs. Hughes
Ie. Wyt ti eisiau'r wyau, 'te?

Ydw, rydw i eisiau bwyta'r wyau i gyd. Ble mae'n nhw?

Mrs. Hughes
Maen nhw yna wrth ddrws y gegin. Wyt ti eisiau ychydig o gig moch gyda'r wyau?

Nag ydw. Dydw i ddim eisiau bod yn dew fel Sia+n.

Mrs. Hughes
Nerys! Dydy hynny ddim yn garedig.

Ond mae'n wir! Dydw i ddim yn gwybod pam mae Alun yn hoffi Sia+n. Ble mae Alun nawr?

Mrs. Hughes
Mae e'n mynd i'r dre gyda Elwyn.

Rydw i'n falch dydw i ddim yno. Mae Elwyn yn ddyn diflas, siw+r o fod.

Mrs. Hughes
Nag ydy. Mae e'n ddyn diddorol iawn, rydw i'n meddwl. Pam dwyt ti ddim yn hoffi Elwyn?

Achos dydy e ddim yn hardd fel Eirug, brawd Sia+n. Rydw i mewn cariad ag Eirug.

Mrs. Hughes
Twt! Elwyn sy'n well o'r ddau. Mae e'n gweithio yn galed.

Ond dydy e ddim yn dawnsio. Dydy e ddim yn gryf fel Eirug, chwaith. Mae Elwyn yn rhy wan a diog.

Mrs. Hughes
Dydy Eirug ddim eisiau gweithio o gwbl. Eirug yw'r dyn diog.

Nage. Ydy'r wyau 'na yn barod eto?

Geirfa 6

   a+ (ag) - (prep.) with
     dod a+ - (v.) bring
     mynd a+ - (v.) take
   achosi - (v.) cause
   ar o+l - (prep.) after, left (over)
   bachgen [bechgyn, m.] - boy
   balch - (adj.) glad, proud
   beic [m.] - bike
   beth - what
     beth am - what about
   bod - (v.) be
   brawd [brodyr, m.] - (n.) brother
   brecwast [m.] - breakfast
   bwyd [-ydd, m.] - food
   bwyta - (v.) eat
   byd [-oedd, m.] - world
   cael - (v.) have, receive, get
     ar gael - available
   caled - (adj.) hard
   caredig - (adj.) kind
   cariad [-au, m.] - love, sweetheart
   cefn [-au, m.] - back
   cig [-oedd, m.] - meat
     cig moch - bacon
   cinio [ciniawau, m.] - dinner
   cryf - (adj.) strong
   cwbl [m.] - all
     o gwbl - at all
   cwpwrdd [cwpyrddau, m.] - cupboard
   dau - (adj.) two
   dawnsio - (v.) dance
   diddorol - (adj.) interesting
   diflas - (adj.) insipid, boring
   digwydd - (v.) happen
   dim [m.] - anything, nothing
   diog - (adj.) lazy
   dwy - (adj.) two
   dyn [-ion, m.] - (n.) man, person
   dysgwr [dysgwyr, m.] - learner
   eto - (adv.) yet, again, still
   fel - (conj. and prep.) like
   gorau - (adj.) best
   gweithio - (v.) work
   gwir - (adj.) true
   gwell - (adj.) better
   hardd - (adj.) beautiful, handsome
   hynny - (pron.) that
   i gyd - (adv.) all
   ie - yes
   mewn - (prep.) in
   mynydd [-oedd, m.] - mountain
   nage - no
   nawr - (adv.) now [7]
   parod - (adj.) ready
   perthyn - (v.) belong
   popeth [m.] - everything
   problem [-au, f.] - problem
   pwy - who
   siw+r (o) - (adj.) sure
     siw+r o fod - that's for sure
   'te - (adv.) then
   tew - (adj.) fat
   wrth - (prep.) by, at
     wrth gwrs - of course
   wy [-au, m.] - egg
   yna - (adv.) there
   yno - (adv.) there

Exercises 6

[The answers can be found in a separate file.]

1. Translate the following sentences into Welsh.





Is Eirug dancing on the back of a bike? No, Eirug's sweetheart
is dancing there.
Who is ready to buy her a present? I am.
The best problem is Sian's interesting problem.
Is that learner lazy and boring? No. That's not true.
Who is working there on that mountain? Two policemen.
There are two baskets in the cupboard by the kitchen door. I want
to bring all the apples to them.
What in the world is happening here? Nothing good is happening,
that's for sure.
These two rooms belong to him now. That's the problem.
I see a big boy and a little girl. Who is the better learner?
The little girl is better.
Everything is beautiful on the mountain of Ann's mother. Yes, indeed.

Footnotes 6 (for the terminally curious)

The full literary form is "ydyw", so "ydy" and "yw" really only differ according to whether the first or third syllable is dropped.
The "*" in this example, as in many linguistics books, means that the phrase as presented is ungrammatical.

Here's an example of "sy" being used to introduce a relative clause, something that was mentioned as a possibility in Section 6.1.

This mutation after the definite article is one of those remnants of the dual number from Old Welsh that I told you in a footnote to Section 4.2 you'd never need to worry about.

The literary form of "iddyn nhw" is "iddynt hwy".

The literary form of "ichi" is "ichwi".

The N. Wales version of this word is "rw+an". Contrary to popular opinion, it is not spelled that way because the people from N. Wales just decided to be backwards (the words are exactly the reverse of each other). Both are abbreviations of the somewhat stilted phrase "yn yr awr hon" (in this hour), with different parts left out.

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14 June 2003 at 23:33:30