Yes & No

This is page contains sections from a chapter from my book

In Welsh, there isn’t a single pair of words that corresponds to ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Your answer depends on who you’re referring to, which tense the question is in and how emphatic you want to be. This might sound bonkers, but not having a single pair of words meaning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ isn’t all that rare. Chinese, Japanese and Irish also have multiple versions of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The system is a call-and-response one, meaning that how you answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ depends on the type of question you’re asked. Usually, it’s a case of matching the type of response to the type of question. Initially, it seems like a minefield and something confabulated to vex learners.

Present tense and past tense questions with to be

How to answer the following sorts of questions:

  • Do you live here?
  • Are you happy?
  • Does she like her job?
  • Do they have a turtle?
  • Is there enough bread?
  • Have you seen them?

Questions starting with

Answers

Ydw i?

Am/do I..?

WytNac wyt

Yes (you are/do) – No (you aren’t/don’t)

[informal]

Ydych – Nac ydych

Yes (you are/do) – No (you aren’t/don’t)

[formal]

Ydyn ni?

Are/do we?

YdynNac ydyn

Yes (we are/do) – No (we aren’t/don’t)

Ydych – Nac ydych

Yes (you are/do) – No (you aren’t/don’t)

Wyt ti?

Are/do you..? (informal/singular)

YdwNac ydw

Yes (I am/do) – No (I’m not / I don’t)

Dych chi?

Are/do you..? (formal/plural)

YdwNac ydw

Yes (I am/do) – No (I’m not / I don’t)

YdynNac ydyn

Yes (we are/do) – No (we aren’t/don’t)

Ydy e/hi?

Is he/she/it..?

YdyNac ydy

Yes (he/she is/does) – No (he/she/it isn’t/doesn’t)

Ydyn nhw?

Are/do they..?

YdynNac ydyn

Yes (they are/do) – No (they aren’t/don’t)

Oes?

Is/are there..?

OesNac oes

Yes (there is/are) – No (there isn’t/aren’t)

  • If you’re asked a question using dych, you are being asked do you…? or are you…?
  • Do and are can be translated as the verb to be: dych (chi) or wyt (ti)
  • In the first person, you are replying with a form of yes which literally means I am.
  • In the first person, you are replying with a form of no which literally means I am not.

Dych chi’n iawn? > ydw

Are you alright? > yes (I am)

Dych chi’n byw yn Llundain? > nac ydw

Do you live in London? > no (I do not)

Ydy e’n hoffi gweithio yng Nghaerdydd? > Nac ydy

Does he like working in Cardiff? > no (he doesn’t)

Ydy Mair yn hapus? > Nac ydy

Is Mair happy? > No (she isn’t)


Sometimes you have to answer in the present tense, even if the question is about the past. This is when we have the perfect tense in English.

Wyt ti wedi gweld y ffilm newydd? > Ydw

Have you seen the new film > yes (I have)

Wyt ti wedi gweld y ffilm newydd
Are you PAST to see the film new

The verb gweld (to see) is in the infinitive but we know we’re talking about the past because we have the past tense particle wedi

But because the question word wyt is in the present tense, the form of yes or no we use also has to be in the present tense.

What about oes?

  • Oes means is there? or are there?
  • We use it to ask about possession or whether something exists somewhere
  • You are replying with a form of yes that means there is or there are
  • You are replying with a form of ‘no’ that means there isn’t or there aren’t

You don’t need to worry about the person of the verb here.

When you translate an oes question into English, you end up with ‘do’.

Oes crwban gyda chi? > oes

Do you have a turtle? > yes (I do)


Oes digon o amser gyda hi? > nac oes

Does she have enough time? > no (she doesn’t)

Oes brawd gyda hi o’r enw Siôr?

Does she have a brother called Siôr?

Oes bwyd llysieuol ar y fwydlen? > oes

Is there vegetarian food on the menu? > yes (there is)

Oes teulu gyda nhw yng Nghymru? > nac oes

Do they have family in Wales? > no (they don’t)


Past tense with to be

How to answer the following sort of questions:

  • Were you swimming?
  • Were you happy?
  • Was she there?
  • Was it raining yesterday?

Questions starting with

Answers

O’n i?

Was I…?

O’t  – Nac o’t

Yes (you were)  – No (you weren’t)

[informal]

O’ch – Nac o’ch

Yes (you were)  – No (you weren’t)

[formal]

O’n ni?

Were we…?

O’n – Nac o’n

Yes (we were) – No (we weren’t)

O’ch – Nac o’ch

Yes (you were)  – No (you weren’t)

O’t ti?

Were you? (informal/singular)

O’n – Nac o’n

Yes (I was) – No (I wasn’t)

O’ch chi?

Were you…? (formal/plural)

O’n – Nac o’n

Yes (I was) – No (I wasn’t)

Yes (we were) – No (we weren’t)

O’dd e/hi?

Was he/she/it…?

O’dd – Nac o’dd

Yes (he/she/it was) – No (he/she/it wasn’t)

O’n nhw?

Were they..?

O’n – Nac o’n

Yes (they were) – No (they weren’t)

There is quite a bit of variation in formality and dialect when it comes to this yes/no pair. For example, you might hear nagôt for nac o’t, or na wedd for nac o’dd. No learner, or indeed fluent Welsh speaker, can be expected to know all this regional variation. However, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the formal/written variants. You can see that the spoken variants are just shortened versions of the question words and answers in the table below.

Questions starting with

Answers

Oeddwn i?

Was I…?

Oeddet – Nac oeddet

Yes (you were) – No (you weren’t)

Oeddwch – Nac oeddwch

Yes (you were) – No (you weren’t)

Oedden ni?

Were we…?

Oedden – Nac oedden

Yes (we were) – No (we weren’t)

Oeddwch – Nac oeddwch

Yes (you were) – No (you weren’t)

Oeddet ti?

Were you? (informal/singular)

Oeddwn – Nac oeddwn

Yes (I was) – No (I wasn’t)

Oeddech chi?

Were you…? (formal/plural)

Oeddwn – Nac oeddwn

Yes (I was) – No (I wasn’t)

Oedden – Nac oedden

Yes (we were) – No (we weren’t)

Oedd e/hi?

Was he/she/it…?

Oedd – Nac oedd

Yes (he/she/it was) – No (he/she/it wasn’t)

Oedden nhw?

Were they..?

Oedden – Nac oedden

Yes (they were) – No (they weren’t)

 


O’dd hi’n bwrw glaw ddoe? > o’dd

Was it raining yesterday? > yes (it was)

O’t ti’n gwybod am hyn? > nac o’n

Did you know about this? > no (I didn’t)

O’n nhw’n byw yng Nghaerdydd ar y pryd? > o’n

Were they living in Cardiff at the time? > yes (they were)

O’ch chi’n gweithio? > nac o’n

Were you working? > no (we weren’t)


Past tense without to be

  • If we don’t have a form of the verb to be at the start of a question, then we need a different pair of words for yes/no.
  • Here we are talking about questions that start with short-form verbs (aka preterite verbs).

So far we have been asking questions that start with a form of the verb to be, e.g.

  1. Wyt ti’n hoffi mynd i Sbaen? Do you like going to Spain?
  2. Wyt ti wedi mynd i Sbaen Have you been to Spain?
  3. O’t ti’n byw yn Sbaen? Were you living in Spain?

 

Remember that in question 2 we are asking a past tense question but using a present tense form of the verb to be.

But we can also start a question in Welsh by using a main verb at the start of the sentence:

Est ti i’r ysgol ddoe?

Did you go to school yesterday?

Est ti i’r ysgol ddoe
Went you to-the school yesterday

Gest ti’r arian wrthi hi?

Did you get the money from her?

Gest ti’r arian wrthi hi
Got you-the money from [her] her

When a question begins with a main verb the forms of yes and no are the same for all persons, i.e. you don’t have to change them depending on who you’re referring to.

Do

yes

Naddo

No


Est ti i’r ysgol ddoe? > do

Did you go to school yesterday?> yes (I did)

Aeth y plant i’r ysgol ddoe? > do

Did the children go to school yesterday?> yes (they did)

Gest ti’r arian wrthi hi?> naddo

Did you get the money from her? no (I didn’t)

Gafodd y plant yr arian wrthi hi?> do

Did the children get the money from her? yes (the did)


future tense with to be

How to answer the following sort of questions:

  • Will you be there?
  • Is it going to be sunny tomorrow?
  • Will they pass the exam?

 

Questions starting with

Answers

Fydda i?

Will I (be)…?

Byddi  – Na fyddi

Yes (you will)  – No (you won’t)

[informal]

Byddwch  – Na fyddwch

Yes (you will)  – No (you won’t)

[formal]

Fyddwn ni?

Will we (be)…?

Byddwn – Na fyddwn

Yes (we will) – No (we won’t)

Byddwch  – Na fyddwch

Yes (you will)  – No (you won’t)

Fyddi di?

Will you (be)…? (informal/singular)

Bydda – Na fydda

Yes (I will) – No (I won’t)

Fyddwch chi?

Will you (be)…? (formal/plural)

Byddwn – Na fyddwn

Yes (I will) – No (I won’t)

Byddwn – Na fyddwn

Yes (we will) – No (we won’t)

Fydd e/hi?

Will he/she/it (be)…?

Bydd – Na fydd

Yes (he/she/it will) – No (he/she/it won’t)

Fyddan nhw?

Will they (be)…?

Byddan – Na fyddan

Yes (they will) – No (they won’t)


Fyddi di’n symud tŷ? > bydda

Will you move house? > yes(I will)

Fydd problem? > na fydd

Will there be a problem?> no (there won’t)

Fyddan nhw’n grac? > byddan

Will they be angry?> yes (they will be)


Remember that you need to reply in the correct person. Look at the following examples:

  1. Fyddwch chi’n mynd i’r parti ddydd Sadwrn? > bydda
  2. Fyddwch chi’n mynd i’r parti ddydd Sadwrn?> byddwn

Both sentences we have the same question word fyddwch, but different answers.  Both answers mean yes. This is because the formal/singular form of bydd is also the plural form. So we use fyddwch/byddwch when being respectful to a single person and also when we talk to a group. So we can translate the two questions above as below:

  1. Will you be going to the party on Saturday? > yes (I will)
  2. Will you be going to the party on Saturday?> yes (we will)

There’s a mutation to the question word: byddwch > fyddwch

to be: conditional tense

How to answer the following sort of questions:

  • Would you go there on holiday?
  • Would he know the answer?
  • Would they need this key?

Questions starting with

Answers

Fyddwn i?

Would I (be)…?

Byddet  – Na fyddet

Yes (you  would) – No (you wouldn’t)

[informal]

Byddech  – Na fyddech

Yes (you would)  – No (you wouldn’t)

[formal]

Fydden ni?

Would we (be)…?

Byddech – Na fyddech

Yes (you would) – No (you wouldn’t)

Byddech  – Na fyddech

Yes (you would)  – No (you wouldn’t)

Fyddet ti?
Would you (be)…? (informal/singular)

Byddwn – Na fyddwn

Yes (I would) – No (I wouldn’t)

Fyddech chi?

Would you (be)…? (formal/plural)

Byddwn – Na fyddwn

Yes (I will) – No (I won’t)

Bydden – Na fydden

Yes (we would) – No (we wouldn’t)

Fyddai fe/hi?

Would he/she/it (be)…?

Byddai – Na fyddai

Yes (he/she/it would) – No (he/she/it wouldn’t)

Fydden nhw?

Would they (be)…?

Bydden – Na fydden

Yes (they would) – No (they wouldn’t)

 


Fyddet ti’n symud tŷ? > byddwn

Would you move house? > yes(I would)

Fyddai problem? > na fyddai

Would there be a problem?> no (there wouldn’t)

Fydden nhw’n grac? > bydden

Would they be angry?> yes (they would)


Cael: to have/get

How to answer the following sort of questions:

  • May I have another cake?
  • Can we use this, please?
  • Will he get a job straight away?

Questions starting with

Answers

Ga(f) i?

May I have/get…?

Cei  – Na chei

Yes (you may)  – No (you may not)

[informal]

Cewch  – Na chewch

Yes(you may)  – No (you may not)

[formal]

Gawn ni?

May we have/get…?

Cewch – Na chewch

Yes (you may) – No (you may not)

Gaiff e/hi?

May he/she/it have/get…?

Caiff – Na chaiff

Yes (he/she/it may) – No (he/she/it may)

Gân nhw?

May they have/get…?

Cân – Na chân

Yes (they may) – No (they may not)

 


Ga i fwy o gacen? > cewch

May I have some more cake? > yes(you may)

Gawn ni wybod cyn y parti? > na chewch

Will we get to know before the party?> no (you won’t [get to know])

Gân nhw fynd ar y daith hefyd? > Cân

Can they go on the trip too?> yes (they can)


Gwneud: to do/make

How to answer the following sort of questions:

  • Will you do the homework?
  • Will you make another cake?

Questions starting with

Answers

Wnei di?

Will you do/make..?

Wnewch chi?

Will you do/make…?

Gwnaf – Na wnaf

yes (I will do/make) – No (I won’t do/make)


Wnei di gacen arall i’r parti? > gwnaf

Will you make another cake for the party? > yes (I will)

Wnewch chi ofyn iddi hi? > na wnaf

Will you ask her?> no (I won’t)


 

Often we see gwneud being used where we might expect bydd, i.e. in questions about the future where we translate the question with will at the start. We could also ask the second question above as below:

Fyddwch chi’n gofyn iddi hi?

Will you ask her?

Emphatic questions

  • These questions are ones that don’t start with a verb
  • This is the second exception in Welsh’s question and answer system where there is a single pair of words for yes and no

An emphatic question is one that doesn’t start with a question word. Remember that questions words are really verbs (usually the verb to be). Instead of using a verb at the start of a question we can simply move whatever information we want to emphasise right to the front of the question. You can focus any piece of information by moving it to the start of the question. This makes Welsh have quite a flexible work order, especially as emphatic sentences can be made in any tense.

We answer all emphatic questions in the same way irrespective of which person and tense is being used.

Ie

yes

Nage

No


Tiwtor Cymraeg dych chi? > ie

You’re a Welsh tutor? > yes

Almaenwr yw ei bartner e? > ie

His partner is German? yes

I’r gwaith aeth hi > nage

She went to work? (literally: to work went she?) > no

Ar y bwrdd oedd e’n dawnsio? > ie

He was dancing on the table? (literally: on the table was he dancing?)> yes

Yn Llundain maen nhw’n dysgu Cymraeg? > nage

They’re learning Welsh in London? (literally: in London they are learning Welsh?) > no