Would it please be possible for someone to explain to me the different instances in which one would use 'mae' and 'maen', and when one would use 'ydy' and 'ydyn'?

As I understand it - ydy/ydyn is used for matters of identification, whereas 'mae/maen' are used to situations, eg. where you are wanting something, as opposed to being something.

But then I've got so confused because on here we're taught 'ydy e/o/hi eisiau', and 'maen nhw eisiau' which is just so confusing.

Diolch in advance!

February 17, 2016


In a question beginning 'Is he/she/it...' or 'are they...' Ydy/Ydyn is the one to use:

  • Ydy hi'n braf? ('Is it fine?')
  • Ydy'r plant yn hwyr? ('Are the children late?')
  • Ydy hi'n olygydd o hyd? ('Is she still an editor?')
  • Ydyn nhw'n mynd eto? ('Are they going yet?')

Also with emphatic questions:

  • Athrawes yw hi? (Is she a teacher?') which is the form often used when asking about occupations, names, etc.

For simple positive statements use Mae:

  • Mae hi'n braf ('It is fine') or, in answer to a question - Ydy, mae hi'n braf (Yes, it is fine.)
  • Mae'r ceffyl 'na'n araf, on'd yw e? ('That horse is slow, isn't it?')

In statements emphasising a noun by putting it at the front of a sentence, use Ydy/Yw or Ydyn.

  • Ie, athrawes yw hi ('Yes, she is a teacher') (not an editor, say).
  • Dafydd yw e (He is Dafydd).
  • Ffermwyr ydyn nhw ('They are farmers')

And with simple questions:

  • Pwy, Pa, Faint, Beth? (when you are asking about the subject of the verb) are followed by yw/ydy.
  • (Special case - Pwy, Pa, etc meaning 'Who/what/which is it that (is)...?' is followed by sy. Pwy sy'n gyfrifol? ('Who is responsible?'))
  • Sut? meaning 'what kind of?' is followed by yw/ydy. Sut un yw e? ('What is he like?')
  • Sut? meaning 'how?' is followed by mae. Sut mae? ('How are you?')
  • Pryd, Ble, Pam? are followed by mae.

In informal usage people sometimes use yw/ydy after Pryd and Ble...

This is certainly a confusing subject and maybe a first speaker could give some tips.

But one point: 'ydy o eisiau' is a question -- "Does he want?" If you want to make a statement, you would usually say "Mae o eisiau" -- "He wants!"

Similarly "Maen nhw eisiau" is a definitive statement. The question form would be "Ydyn nhw eisiau?"

The part that can get confusing is when 'ydy' is part of a positive statement, like "Gareth ydy fy ngwr" In those kinds of statements you can see that the word order is different.
  • 2254

The change in word order is for emphasis. A simple question is 'ydy Gareth yn hapus?' "Is gareth happy?'

The statement would be 'mae Gareth yn hapus' - Gareth is happy. If we add 'ydy' as yes then we have 'Ydy, mae Gareth yn hapus' - 'Yes, Gareth is happy'. This is the pattern for most questions and statements. If we want an emphatic statement, 'Gareth is an actor' we use 'Actor ydy Gareth'

Hope that helps a bit.

Thanks, that does help.

So, in your emphatic statement, the subject still follows the verb, I notice. "Actor ydy Gareth" not "Gareth ydy Actor" Is that generally the pattern, or do you get a choice?

Pretty sure it'd always be 'Actor ydy Gareth', just like - '[Name] ydw i'
  • 2254

Yes this is the pattern for names and jobs. Otherwise use the normal pattern for everything else.

I think it would be:

  • Actor ydy Gareth. = Gareth is an actor. It's an actor that Gareth is. (Answer to: what does Gareth do? what is Gareth?)
  • Gareth ydy'r actor. = The actor is Gareth. It's Gareth who is the actor. (Answer to: who is that actor?)

In the last few exercises, whether I chose mae or ydy it was wrong. It would be so helpful if an explanation could be given. A 'simple' rule would suffice!

What do you need answering? When to use 'mae' and when to use 'ydy' ?

Yes please. The BBC grammar just gives 'mae' as the 3rd person form of 'bod', but it's obviously more complicated! The verb 'to be' is ad irregular as it can be, but this seems excessive.

It seems, in my googling this same question for an easy explainer, I have asked this question previously (ha!).

See here:

The crux of it boils down to:

'Ydy' (North) or 'Yw' (South) is used:

1.) For questions (known as the 'interrogative') 2.) When you are emphasising the object at the start of the sentence (eg. Athro ydw i = I am an actor, lit. actor I am).

Learn Welsh in just 5 minutes a day. For free.