Medieval Welsh

A Self-Instruction Course created by Heather Rose Jones

Copyright © 2003, 2004 all rights reserved. This page most recently revised on: May 31, 2004

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Unit: 4d

Conjugation of the Regular Verb


In comparison with the verb "to be", which tends in many languages to be the most irregular verb, the endings for the regular verb are fairly straightforward in Medieval Welsh. This lesson will introduce the four tenses that make up the indicative mood (present, imperfect, preterite/perfect, and pluperfect), the two tenses of the subjunctive (present and imperfect), and the imperative.


The indicative mood is the "normal" mood, the one used for ordinary statements and descriptions.

The present (which can also be used for the future) is self-explanatory.

The imperfect is used for continuous or habitual action in the past.

The preterite is ususally used as the narrative or "storytelling" tense. Rarely, it is used in a perfect sense for completed past action.

The pluperfect is used to refer to action prior to some reference point in the past.

It is useful, in some ways, to think of the four in the following pattern:

Reference time: Present
Reference time: Past
Action incomplete (Imperfect)
Action complete (Perfect)

If you look at the verb endings that follow, you will see why this is a convenient pattern to use when remembering them. The personal endings for the imperfect and pluperfect are identical -- the only difference is that the pluperfect, like most of the preterite, has "-ss-" added between the root and the personal ending. This " ss-" can be thought of as marking the perfect tenses. I have separated out the various elements that make up the endings to help you see the overall pattern.

  Present Imperfect
1s -af -wn
2s -y -ud
3s -* -ei
1p -wn -em
2p -wch -ewch
3p -ant -ynt
imp -ir -id


  Preterite Pluperfect
1s -eis -(a)-ss-wn
2s -eist -(a)-ss-ud
3s -awdd* -(a)-ss-ei
1p -(a)-ss-om -(a)-ss-em
2p -(a)-ss-awch -(a)-ss-ewch
3p -(a)-ss-ant -(a)-ss-ynt
imp -wyd -(a)-ss-id

*As I have mentioned previously, the third person singular always tends to be more irregular than anything else. In the present tense, some 3s verbs show the same sorts of vowel affection that we discussed earlier in the context of noun plurals. Others, with the same vowels, do not. In the preterite, -awdd is only one of half a dozen or so possibilities for the third person singular. I give it here because it is the one that eventually spread to most verbs. The others will be discussed in detail at a later date.

In the perfect forms, when I have given "a" in parentheses, this vowel (or sometimes "y" in its place) usually appears. It is not found, however, if the verb root ends in "r", "l", or a diphthong. After "r" or "l" the "s" may be single rather than double.


The subjunctive mood is used for a variety of "contrary to fact" situations: for conditional statements, hypothetical situations, false statements that are being negated. It comes in only two tenses: the present (which can also have a future meaning) and the imperfect (used for any past tense situation).

The present endings are different from the corresponding indicative forms, but the imperfect forms are the same. The subjunctive is also distinguished in that all the endings begin with a hypothetical "h". In medieval written forms the "h" may or may not appear, or it may affect the pronunciation of a consonant at the end of the stem, usually by devoicing it. In the standardized spelling I will follow the most typical forms for each verb, but be aware that there is a certain amount of variation.

Subjunctive Present Imperfect
1s -(h)wyf -(h)wn
2s -(h)ych -(h)ud
3s -(h)o -(h)ei
1p -(h)om -(h)em
2p -(h)och -(h)ewch
3p -(h)ont -(h)ynt
imp -(h)er -(h)id


The imperative is used for commands, whether direct second person commands ("Do this!") or indirect statements of a desired action for other persons except the first person singular ("Let him do this" or "Let us do this"). There are no tense distinctions in the imperative.

The forms show some similarities to the indicative present but with some booby-traps -- in particular, the 2s imperative looks like the 3s indicative.

1s does not occur


3s -ed
1p -wn
2p -wch
3p -ent
imp -er



The last thing you need to know (for now) is that if the last vowel in the verbal root is an "a", it becomes "e" before verbal endings beginning in "y" or "i", and in the present 2p, preterite 1s and 2s, and imperative 2p. (There were clear and logical reasons for this at an earlier stage of the language, but some of the "triggers" have been camoflaged by the medieval period.)

Let's see how this all works with an actual verb.

  Present Imperfect
1s canaf canwn
2s ceny canud
3s can canei
1p canwn canem
2p cenwch canewch
3p canant cenynt
impersonal cenir cenid


  Preterite Pluperfect
1s ceneis canasswn
2s ceneist canassud
3s canawdd# canassei
1p canassom canassem
2p canassawch canassewch
3p canassant canassynt
impersonal canwyd canassid

# CANU also has an irregular 3s preterite cant.


Subjunctive Present Imperfect
1s canhwyf canhwn
2s cenhych canhud
3s canho canhei
1p canhom canhem
2p canhoch canhewch
3p canhont cenhynt
imp canher cenhid


1s does not occur


3s caned
1p canwn
2p cenwch
3p canent
imp caner


Try to work out the full paradigms for the following verbs. I will point out in the key if there are any irregularities.

Word Category Stem Gloss
edrych v edrych- to look
erchi v arch- to ask
gallu v gall- to be able
gweled v gwel- to see
nessäu v nessa- to approach, near

Note: the last one is tricky -- make sure you attch endings to the root as shown.

Key to the Exercise

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