Medieval Welsh

A Self-Instruction Course created by Heather Rose Jones

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Unit: 4i

Some Special Uses of I and Gan; Prepositions of Time


Special Uses of I and Gan

In discussing how prepositions are used in conjunction with verbs, we've seen some general patterns that help us interpret their meanings. But some of these uses are so idiomatic -- and so common -- that they are worth special notice.

Welsh does not have a verb that corresponds closely to English "to have". The closest verb to this meaning would be caffael, which has more of a sense of "to get, to obtain". Ordinarily, the same meaning of English "have" is formed by using "to be" and the preposition gan. In its most basic sense, gan means "near, next to, with" and the way one would express "I have a book" in Welsh is more literally:

This is the construction used with what might be thought of as "alienable" possessions, i.e. ones that you can obtain and get rid of fairly freely. In the case of "inalienable" possessions (the most common examples are things like body parts and relatives) we find i (to) used in exactly the same way.

These uses of gan and i needn't be limited to direct statements of posession as in the preceding examples. In fact, "i" is more commonly found in this sense in expressions like:

Another very common use of i (to) is follows it with a verbal-noun to express purpose, just as English "to" is used in sentences like:

Prepositions of Time

Many of the prepositions used to refer to time in Welsh are the same as those used to refer to space. (English does this as well. Many languages tend to conceive of time as a pathway, and so ideas like "in front of" and "behind" can be applied to time as well as space.) But the two most common prepositions used for "before" (cyn) and "after" (gwedy) in this sense in Welsh have time as their primary field of operation. They can be used with a noun referring to a particular event, or with an entire phrase, similarly referring to an event.

Note that neither of these cause mutation. For various reasons, gwedy will often be found lenited (wedy) even when there seems no obvious reason. (Those familiar with Modern Welsh may recognise this as wedi, used in forming past tenses of verbs.)

Another useful preposition of time is mal or val (as with gwedy, it often appears lenited) meaning "during, while, as". In this case, its primary meaning is not time-related but is rather "like, as, similarly to". It usually appears with a verbal phrase.


Taking everything you have learned about prepositions in this unit, translate the following sentences and phrases into good idiomatic English.

Here is some additional vocabulary you will need.

aethont v see myned 3p preterite of "myned" (to go)
amser n.m -oedd time
arv n.f/m -eu arms, armor
caer n.f -eu castle, fortress
cerdded n.m motion, pace (see the verb)
cerdded v cerdd- to go, walk
chware n.m -on game, trick
cod n.f/m -eu bag, pouch
cylchaw v cylch to circle, make a circuit of
cysgu v cysg- to sleep
cyvranc n.f -eu story, adventure
doeth v see dyvod 3s preterite of "dyvod" (to come)
dywod v see dywedud 3s preterite of dywedud, which is otherwise regular
erchwys n.f pack of dogs
eurwisg n.f -oedd eur + gwisg, a golden garment
galw v galw- to call, name, summon
gwledd n.f -oedd feast
hela v hel- to hunt
hud n.m -yawn magic, enchantment
llannerch n.f llennyrch grove, clearing
llev n.f -eu cry, shout
lliw n.m -yeu color
'm pronoun = fy "my" (pronouns sometimes use alternate forms after vowels -- a later lesson will discuss this)
parabl n.m speech, saying
teulu n.m -oedd household, specifically "household troops, warband"
'th pronoun = dy "your" (pronouns sometimes use alternate forms after vowels -- a later lesson will discuss this)
y ar preposition from on (i.e. "off of"), similarly to y gan, y wrth
ymgael v *irregular to reach, obtain
ymolchi v ymolch- to wash (oneself)
ymwarandaw (ac) v ymwarand- to listen (to s.t.)
yscar (ac) v yscar to separate (from s.o.)
ystlys n.f/m -eu edge, side


  1. Hi a gyrchwyd attaw.
  2. Attaw ef y cyrchyssant.
  3. Gwedy dyvod i'r llys ...
  4. Parth a'r dydd Riannon a cyvodes.
  5. Pwyll a oedd yn dyvod o gylchaw Dyved.
  6. Amser a doeth iddunt i vyned y gyscu.
  7. Mi a roddaf i'th law god vechan.
  8. Mi a roddaf y wledd i'r teulu.
  9. Ydd oedd yn dyvod yn y vryd ac yn y veddwl vyned y hela.
  10. Mi a duunaf a thi.
  11. ... dyvod i wiscaw eurwisg amdanaw.
  12. Ydd oedd yn gwiscaw arveu amdanaw.
  13. Cerdded arav oedd gan y march.
  14. Ac edrych ef ar liw y cwn.
  15. ... dyvod i erchi imi yscar a'm gwreig.
  16. A pharabyl a dywod ef wrthi hi
  17. ... a dywedud i pawb y gyvranc.
  18. Ni dywod ef wrthi hi un geir.
  19. A cyn ydd oedd yn ymavael a'r march ...
  20. Ac val ydd oedd y erchwys ef yn ymgael ac ystlys y llannerch ...
  21. I'r yneuad ydd aethont ac y ymolchi.
  22. Ac val ydd oedd yn ymwarandaw a llev yr erchwys ...
  23. Mi a roddaf Pryderi a Riannon it.
  24. A gwedy myned y baedd a'r cwn i'r gaer...
  25. Ar Pryderi y dieleis i'r chware.
  26. Mi a waredaf yr hud y ar Dyved.
  27. A gwedy ydd ymeveil a'r llaw ...
  28. Caswallawn a wiscawdd llen hut amdanaw.
  29. Y gan Vanawydan y gelwis Nyssyen y mab attaw.
  30. Govynnwch iddi.

Key to the Exercise

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