Welsh (Cymraeg /kəmˈraig/) is a Brythonic Celtic language predominatly spoken in Wales, where it is an official language alonside English.  It is also spoken in Yr Wladfa, a colony in Argentina founded in the 19th century, and in other parts of Britain. 

The Welsh of Wales has two main dialects: North and South Welsh.  They differ to a considerable degree in the colloquial or spoken language in matters of pronunciation, morphology and syntax.  The Standard Literary language is more conservative that the colloquial language and acts as something of a bridge between various dialects, being used in official and general publications.

Pronunciation and Orthography


The Welsh alphabet has 28 letters, which includes several digraphs.  There are 7 vowels (including the semi-vowels i and w) and 21 consonants:

a b c ch d dd e f ff g ng h i l ll m n o p ph r rh s t th u w y

Note that digraphs such as ch and ff are considered single letters and have their own sections in the dictionary, so that e.g. ffa 'beans' follows fyny 'upwards', not festri 'vestry'. 


  North South
a /a/
e /ɛ/
i /ɪ/
o /ɔ/
u /ɨ/
y /ɨ/
w /ʊ/
  • North Welsh distinguishes quality between i, u and y whilst South Welsh does not.
  • The letter y represents /ə(:)/ when it occurs in non-final syllables and a few proclitics; elsewhere it is the same sound as u.

Vowel Length

Each vowel may be long or short.  Long vowels occur in stressed syllables:

  • ending in a vowel (e.g. ci 'dog' /ki:/)
  • a voiced stop (e.g. mab 'son' /ma:b/)
  • a fricative (e.g. glas 'blue' /gla:s/)
  • -s + another consonant (e.g. cosb 'punishment' /ko:sp/) - North Wales only
  • -ll + another consonant (e.g. gwallt 'hair' /gwa:ɬt/) - North Wales only
  • with word final -ll (e.g. gwell 'better' /gwe:ɬ/) - South Wales only

In North Wales, long vowels are restricted to word final stressed syllables, but in South Wales, any stressed syllable may be long.

Short vowels occur in all unstressed syllables (including proclitics) and in stressed syllables:

  • ending in a voiceless plosive (e.g. het 'hat' /hɛt/)
  • ending in -m or -ng (e.g. llong 'ship' /ɬɔŋ/)
  • ending in a consonant cluster, except those noted above (e.g. cant 'hundred' /kant/)
  • with word final -ll  (e.g. gwell 'better' /gwɛɬ/) - North Wales only
  • with medial -ll- or -s- (e.g. celli 'grove' /kɛɬɪ/)

Vowel length before -l, -n and -r is not predictable from spelling and must be learnt.  When two homographs occur with different vowel lengths, a long vowel is marked with a circumflex accent (e.g. gwyn 'white' /gwɪn/ but gwŷn 'ache' /gwi:n/, cor 'dwarf' /kɔr/ but côr 'choir' /ko:r/). 

The circumflex is also used to mark long vowels when they occur in short environments (e.g. ffrâm 'frame').  Similarly, the grave accent denotes a short vowel where a long one would be expected (e.g. mẁg 'mug').



North South
ae /ɑ:ɨ/ /ai/
ai /ai/
au /aɨ/
aw /au/
ei /əi/ /əi/
eu /əɨ/
ew /ɛu/
ey /əɨ/ /əi/
iw /ɪu/
oe /ɔɨ/ /ɔi/
oi /ɔi/
ou /ɔɨ/
ow /ɔu/
uw /ɨu/ /ɪu/
ŵy, wy /ʊɨ/ /ʊi/
yw /ɨu/
  • when the diphthong au represents the plural termination it is pronounced /a/ in North Wales and /e/ in South Wales (e.g. dagrau 'tears' /dagra/ or /dagre/).


Labial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p /p/ b /b/         t /t/ d /d/   c /k/ g /g/  
Nasal mh /m̥/ m /m/         nh /n̥/ n /n/   ngh /ŋ̊/ ng /ŋ/  
Trill             rh /r̥/ r /r/        
Fricative ff /f/ f /v/ th /θ/ dd /ð/ s /s/   si /ʃ/ ch /x/ h /h/
Approximant   w /w/         ll /ɬ/ l /l/ i /j/      
  • the digraph gw is pronounced /gw/ before a vowel, as in English Gwen.  Before a consonant (chiefly r, n and l) it is /gʷ/ - a rounded g sound (e.g. gwlad 'country' /gʷla:d/).
  • the sounds /z/, /ʤ/ (as in English judge) and /ʧ/ (as in English church) mostly only occur in borrowings (e.g. garej 'garage').

Initial Mutations

Welsh has three initial mutations: soft mutation, spirant mutation and nasal mutation

Radical Soft Nasal Spirant
p b mh ph
t d nh th
c g ngh ch
b f m
d dd n
g - ng
m f
ll l
rh r
  • the soft mutation of ll and rh does not occur in all environments (e.g. the feminine noun mam 'mother' mutates following the article - y fam - but the feminine noun lleian 'nun' does not - y lleian). 

Welsh also has aspiration, which causes an initial h- to be added to vowel-initial words (e.g. ei hafal 'her apple').



Welsh has no indefinite article.

The definite article has three forms:

  • y is used before consonants (e.g. y gath 'the cat', y tŷ 'the house').
  • yr is used before vowels and h- (e.g. yr afal 'the apple'. yr haf 'the summer').
  • 'r is used before consonants and vowels when the preceding word ends in a vowel (e.g. i'r tŷ 'to the house', a'r afal 'and the apple').


Welsh nouns are either masculine or feminine in gender.

Plurals may be formed regularly in one of six ways:

  • by adding an ending, such as -au, -iau, -on, -ion, -i, -edd, -ydd, -oedd, -ed, -aint, -od or -iaid (e.g. afalau 'apples', cathod 'cats', eglwysydd 'churches')
  • by changing an internal vowel (e.g. dafad 'sheep' → defaid, oen 'lamb' → wyn)
  • with an ending and vowel change (e.g. gwraig 'wife' → gwragedd, iaith 'language' → ieithoedd)
  • by dropping the singular endings -yn or -en (e.g. pysgodyn 'fish' → pysgod)
  • by dropping an ending with a vowel change (e.g. asen 'rib' → ais)
  • by swapping a singular for a plural ending (e.g. cwningen 'rabbit' → cwningod)
  • by swapping endings with a vowel change (e.g. miaren 'bramble' → mieri)

The following common nouns have irregular plurals:  blwyddyn 'year' → blynyddoedd/blynedd, ci 'dog' → cŵn, chwaer 'sister' → chwiorydd, llaw 'hand' → dwylo, troed 'foot' → traed, 'house' → tai.  


Adjectives should agree with the noun they modify in gender and number. 

Gender is only marked in adjectives which have w or y as their main vowel.  In the feminine, these become o and e respectively (e.g. crwm 'bent' (m.) → cron (f.), gwyn 'white' (m.) → gwen (f.)).  Some adjectives do not undergo this change (e.g. drwg 'bad', gwyllt 'wild'). 

Plural adjectives (all of which contain a) may be marked by a change of vowel (e.g. marw 'dead' → meirw, caled 'hard' → celyd).  Other adjectives may add the termination -ion in the plural (e.g. hir 'long' → hirion, balch 'proud' → beilchion).  A few take -on instead (e.g. du 'black' → duon, tenau 'thin' → teneuon).  Many adjectives do not change in the plural, including many derived from other parts of speech (e.g. da 'good', pur 'pure', gwlatgar 'patriotic').

The ending -ion is also used to form plural or group nouns from adjectives (e.g. dall 'blind' → deillion 'the blind', enwog 'famous' → enwogion 'the famous').


There are three degrees of comparison beyond the positive: the equative, the comparative and the superlative.  These may be formed with terminations or periphrasis.

The equative is formed with the ending -ed, which causes provection or hardening to the preceding consonant (e.g. tlawd 'poor' → tloted 'as poor', teg 'fair' → teced 'as fair').  This form of the adjective is usually preceded by the conjunction cyn 'as' and followed by â(g) 'as' (e.g. cyn deced â thi 'as fair as you').  Alternatively, the positive adjective can be preceded by mor 'as' to form the equative (e.g. mor drwm â phlwm 'as heavy as lead').

The comparative is formed by adding -ach (provecting) or with mwy 'more' (e.g. tlotach 'poorer', tecach 'fairer', mwy trwm 'heavier').

The superlative takes the ending -af (provecting; colloquially -a) or the adverb mwyaf 'most' (e.g. tlotaf 'poorest', tecaf 'fairest', mwyaf trwm 'heaviest').

The following adjectives are compared irregularly:

Positive Equative Comparative Superlative
agos 'near' nesed nes nesaf
anodd 'difficult' anhawsed anos anhawsaf
bach, bychan 'small' lleied llai lleiaf
da 'good' cystal gwell gorau
drwg 'bad' cynddrwg gwaeth gwaethaf
hawdd 'easy' hawsed haws hawsaf
hen 'old' hyned hyn hynaf
hir 'long' cyhyd hwy hwyaf
ieuanc 'young' ieuanged iau ieuaf
isel 'low' ised is isaf
llydan 'wide' cyfled, lleted lletach lletaf
mawr 'big' cymaint mwy mwyaf
uchel 'high' cyfuwch uwch uchaf


  Cardinal Ordinal     Cardinal Ordinal
1 un cyntaf 21 un ar hugain unfed ar hugain
2 dau, dwy ail 30 deg ar hugain degfed ar hugain
3 tri, tair trydydd, trydedd 31 un ar ddeg ar hugain un ar ddeg ar hugain
4 pedwar, pedair perwerydd, pedwaredd 40 deugain deugeinfed
5 pump pumed 50 hanner cant hanner canfed
6 chwe(ch) chweched 60 trigain trigeinfed
7 saith seithfed 70 deg ar drigain degfed ar drigain
8 wyth wythfed 80 pedwar ugain pedwar ugainfed
9 naw nawfed 90 deg ar bedwar ugain degfed ar bedwar ugain
10 deg degfed 100 cant canfed
11 un ar ddeg unfed ar ddeg 120 chweugain chweugainfed
12 deuddeg deuddegfed 140 saith ugain saith ugainfed
13 tri/tair ar ddeg trydydd/trydedd ar ddeg 150 cant hanner cant cant hanner canfed
14 pedwar/pedair ar ddeg pedwerydd/edd ar ddeg 160 wyth ugain wyth ugainfed
15 pymtheg pymthegfed 180 naw ugain naw ugainfed
16 un ar bymtheg unfed ar bymtheg 200 dau gant dau ganfed
17 dau/dwy ar bymtheg ail ar bymtheg 1000 mil milfed
18 deunaw deunawfed  
19 pedwar/pedair ar bymtheg pedwerydd/edd ar bymtheg  
20 ugain ugeinfed  



  Independent Dependent
Simple Reduplicated Conjunctive Prefixed Infixed Genitive Infixed Accusative
1sg mi myfi minnau fy 'm 'm
2sg ti tydi tithau dy 'th 'th
3sg m ef efe, efô yntau ei 'i, 'w 'i, -s
3sg f hi hyhi hithau ei
1pl ni nyni ninnau ein 'n 'n
2pl chwi chwychwi chwithau eich 'ch 'ch
3pl hwy(nt) hwynt-hwy hwythau eu 'u, 'w 'u, -s

The simple pronouns are used:

  • as the object of a verb (e.g. esgusodwch fi 'excuse me').
  • before the relative/preverbal particle a (e.g. ef

The reduplicated forms are used in the same ways as the simple forms, but are more emphatic.

The conjunctive pronouns are syntactically the same as the simple pronouns, but mean, for example 'you also', 'I, for my part' or 'they, on the other hand'. 

The prefixed pronouns function as:

  • possessive adjectives (e.g. ei dŷ 'his house').
  • the object of a verb-noun (e.g. eu gweld 'seeing them').

Infixed genitive pronouns function in the same ways as prefixed pronouns, but are joined to the preceding word:

  • 'm and 'th can only be used following a 'and', â 'with; as', gyda 'with', tua 'towards', efo 'with', na 'than; nor', i 'to', o 'of' and mo 'not of' (e.g. a'th dad 'and your father').
  • the other pronouns may be used following any word ending in a vowel or diphthong.
  • the 3rd person 'w is only used following the preposition i 'to'

Infixed accusative forms are used before verbs to show its object. 

  • 'm and 'th can only be used following verbal particles and the relative a (e.g. pa le y'th welais 'where did I see you?'
  • other forms may be used following any vowel or diphthong.
  • 3rd person -s is used following ni, na 'not', oni 'if not', pe 'if'.


Regular Verb Endings

  Singular Plural Passive
1 2 3 1 2 3
Present Indicative -af -i - -wn -wch -ant -ir
Imperfect Indicative -wn -it -ai -em -ech -ent -id
Past Indicative -ais -aist -odd -asom -asoch -asant -wyd
Pluperfect Indicative -aswn -asit -asai -asem -asech -asent -asid
Present Subjunctive -wyf -ych -o -om -och -ont -er
Imperfect Subjunctive -wn -it -ai -em -ech -ent -id
Imperative - -ed -wn -wch -ent

Irregular Verbs

bod 'be' Singular Plural Passive
1 2 3 1 2 3
Present Indicative wyf wyt yw ŷm ych ŷnt ys
Future Indicative byddaf byddi bydd byddwn byddwch byddant byddir
Imperfect Indicative oeddwn oeddit oedd oeddem oeddech oeddynt oeddid
Consuetudinal Imperfect byddwn byddit byddai byddem byddech byddent byddid
Past Indicative bûm buost bu buom buoch buant buwyd
Pluperfect Indicative buaswn buasit buasai buasem buasech buasent buasid
Present Subjunctive bwyf bych bo bôm boch bônt bydder
Imperfect Subjunctive bawn bait bai baem baech baent byddid
Imperative bydd boed, bid byddwn byddwch byddent

In addition to the regular tenses, bod has a separate future tense and a consuetudinal or habitual imperfect. 

The present indicative forms are sometimes found with the prefix yd- (e.g. ydwyf, ydwyt etc.).

The 3rd person present indicative has a number of forms:

  • mae (y mae) is used in affirmative sentences when the verb comes at the head of the clause
  • yw is used with a definite subject when the complement comes first, or in negative and interrogative sentences
  • oes is used with indefinite subjects when the complement precedes and in negative and interrogative sentences
  • sydd (ysydd or sy) is the relative form of the verb
  • mai and taw are conjunctive forms meaning 'that it is'


Prepositions are 'conjugated' into three persons, singular and plural, with masculine and feminine forms in the 3rd person singular.  There are three conjugations, plus the preposition i 'to' which is irregular.

  I II III i "to"
ar "on" er "for" gant "with"
1sg arnaf erof gennyf imi
2sg arnat erot gennyt iti
3sg m arno erddo ganddo iddo
3sg f arni erddi ganddi iddi
1pl arnom erom gennym inni
2pl arnoch eroch gennych ichwi
3pl arnynt erddynt ganddynt iddynt

First Conjugation:  ar (stem arn-) 'on', at 'to', dan 'under', am (stem amdan-) 'about' and o 'of' which has the stem ohon- and has ohonof and ohonot in the 1st and 2nd person singular.

Second Conjugation:  er 'for', heb 'without', rhag 'before', rhwng 'between' and yn 'in'. Tros 'over' belongs to this conjugation but has -t- in place of -dd- in the 3rd person.  Trwy 'through' has the stem trw- except in the 3rd person where it is trwy-.

Third Conjugation:  gan 'with' and wrth 'against' (without -dd- in the 3rd person). 



Cartrefi Cymru by O. M. Edwards

Saif y Ty Coch yn agos at aberoedd o ddwfr tryloew, yn ymyl hen ffordd Rufeinig, dan gysgod castell rhy hen i neb fedru adrodd ei hanes, ar fin mynydd sy'n ymestyn mewn mawredd unig o Lanuwchllyn i Draws Fynydd. Y mae'n anodd cael taith ddifyrrach na'r daith o orsaf Llanuwchllyn i Gastell Carn Dochan, os gwneir hi yn yr haf, a chan un hoff o dawelwch ac awel iach oddiar eithin a grug y mynydd.
Ty Coch stands near to river mouths of translucent water, beside an old Roman road, beneath the shadow of too old a castle for anyone to recount its story, upon the edge of a mountain which reaches within the lonely grandeur from Llanuwchllyn to Draws Fynydd.  It is difficult to find a more amusing journey than the journey from Llanuwchllyn station to Castle Carn Dochan, if it is done in the summer and with someone fond of silence and a healthy breeze from the gorse and heather of the mountain.

Edwards, O. M. (1896) Cartrefi Cymru, accessed at February 2012