Welsh (Cymraeg /kəmˈraig/) is a Brythonic Celtic language predominatly spoken in Wales, where it is an official language alongside 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 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 Welsh distinguishes quality between i, u and whilst South Welsh does not.
  • The letter 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’).



ŵy, wy/ʊɨ//ʊi/
  • 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/).


Nasalmh /m̥/
nh /n̥/
 ngh /ŋ̊/
ng /ŋ/
Trill   rh /r̥/
Fricativeff /f/
th /θ/
dd /ð/
/s/si /ʃ/ch /x//h/
Approximant /w/  ll /ɬ/
  • 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 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 mutationspirant mutation and nasal mutation

  • 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:

  • 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’ → defaidoen ‘lamb’ → wyn)
  • with an ending and vowel change (e.g. gwraig ‘wife’ → gwrageddiaith ‘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’ → cŵnchwaer ‘sister’ → chwiorydd, llaw ‘hand’ → dwylo, troed ‘foot’ → traed, tŷ ‘house’ → tai


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

Gender is only marked in adjectives which have or as their main vowel.  In the feminine, these become and 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’ → meirwcaled ‘hard’ → celyd).  Other adjectives may add the termination -ion in the plural (e.g. hir ‘long’ → hirionbalch ‘proud’ → beilchion).  A few take -on instead (e.g. du ‘black’ → duontenau ‘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:

agos ‘near’nesednesnesaf
anodd ‘difficult’anhawsedanosanhawsaf
bachbychan ‘small’lleiedllailleiaf
da ‘good’cystalgwellgorau
drwg ‘bad’cynddrwggwaethgwaethaf
hawdd ‘easy’hawsedhawshawsaf
hen ‘old’hynedhynhynaf
hir ‘long’cyhydhwyhwyaf
ieuanc ‘young’ieuangediauieuaf
isel ‘low’isedisisaf
llydan ‘wide’cyfled, lletedlletachlletaf
mawr ‘big’cymaintmwymwyaf
uchel ‘high’cyfuwchuwchuchaf


1uncyntaf21un ar hugainunfed ar hugain
2dau, dwyail30deg ar hugaindegfed ar hugain
3tri, tairtrydydd, trydedd31un ar ddeg ar hugainun ar ddeg ar hugain
4pedwar, pedairperwerydd, pedwaredd40deugaindeugeinfed
5pumppumed50hanner canthanner canfed
7saithseithfed70deg ar drigaindegfed ar drigain
8wythwythfed80pedwar ugainpedwar ugainfed
9nawnawfed90deg ar bedwar ugaindegfed ar bedwar ugain
11un ar ddegunfed ar ddeg120chweugainchweugainfed
12deuddegdeuddegfed140saith ugainsaith ugainfed
13tri/tair ar ddegtrydydd/trydedd ar ddeg150cant hanner cantcant hanner canfed
14pedwar/pedair ar ddegpedwerydd/edd ar ddeg160wyth ugainwyth ugainfed
15pymthegpymthegfed180naw ugainnaw ugainfed
16un ar bymthegunfed ar bymtheg200dau gantdau ganfed
17dau/dwy ar bymthegail ar bymtheg1000milmilfed
19pedwar/pedair ar bymthegpedwerydd/edd ar bymtheg 



SimpleReduplicatedConjunctivePrefixedInfixed GenitiveInfixed Accusative
3sg mefefe, efôyntauei‘i, ‘w‘i, -s
3sg fhihyhihithauei
3plhwy(nt)hwynt-hwyhwythaueu‘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 (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 ‘and’, â ‘with; as’, gyda ‘with’, tua ‘towards’, efo ‘with’, na ‘than; nor’, ‘to’, ‘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 ‘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 (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

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

Irregular Verbs

bod “be”1sg2sg3sg1pl2pl3plImpers.
Present Indicativewyfwytywŷmychŷntys
Future Indicativebyddafbyddibyddbyddwnbyddwchbyddantbyddir
Imperfect Indicativeoeddwnoedditoeddoeddemoeddechoeddyntoeddid
Consuetudinal Imperfectbyddwnbydditbyddaibyddembyddechbyddentbyddid
Past Indicativebûmbuostbubuombuochbuantbuwyd
Pluperfect Indicativebuaswnbuasitbuasaibuasembuasechbuasentbuasid
Present Subjunctivebwyfbychbobômbochbôntbydder
Imperfect Subjunctivebawnbaitbaibaembaechbaentbyddid
Imperativebyddboed, bidbyddwnbyddwchbyddent

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 ‘to’ which is irregular.

I. ar “on”II. er “for”III. gan “with”Irreg. i “to”
3sg marnoerddoganddoiddo
3sg farnierddiganddiiddi

First Conjugation:  ar (stem arn-) ‘on’, at ‘to’, dan ‘under’, am (stem amdan-) ‘about’ and ‘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 http://www.gutenberg.org/ February 2012