Question about gramatical gender

I've heard Welsh speakers say it's extremely important for learners to learn the genders and others say that it doesn't matter much. I've also heard people say that there is no logic to the gender of words in Welsh. If there is some logic to them—what is is? If there isn't a system at all then how can anybody know them for every word in the language? Do Welsh speakers just allocate gender randomly for no purpose other than to confuse learners or do they really exist in a meaningful way?

September 22, 2016


Genders exist in Welsh as much as they do in French and German. All male things are masculine and all female things are feminine. Beyond things that have a sex, grammatical gender is arbitrary (though it is set i.e "Llwyr" a path is masculine). They are inportant to know if you want to speak 'correct Welah i.e to know when nouns mutate after "y" and when adjectives mutate after them. A lot of native speakers know the gender of the word intuitively due to the grammar that they use with the word e.g they will automatically use "hwn" with masculine nouns and "hon" with feminine nouns. The only way for a learner to know the gender is to learn it with the word or in the few patterns that exist.

September 22, 2016
  • 1764

There is an excellent Reddit post about Welsh noun genders here

September 22, 2016

[deactivated user]

    I have never been good with grammatical gender in any language I've studied. With Scottish Gaelic, in my online classes my teacher did not stress learning them by rote, but rather in context, by getting familiar with simple phrases we could refer back to--tha a' chlosaid mhòr aig a t-seomar beag (the small room has a big closet--closaid is feminine and seomar is masculine in Gaelic), for example . The only time he stressed grammatical gender was with people's names (understandably).

    Like the Brittonic languages, the Gaelic languages will mutate nouns of one gender in some grammatical contexts while not mutate others. So it speak Welsh, or Gaelic, well and fluently this will be something you will need to get a handle on. Now that I'm at an advanced stage with Gaelic I focus more on it because it's a "finer detail" that improves my fluency, but that's only because I'm not struggling with more basic things with the language at this point. I think my Gaelic teacher was right in telling people who are still learning basic grammar and vocabulary to not get too sidetracked by this one detail and this can readily apply to Welsh too--it's something you will pick up over time from just learning the language. Of course with something like Duo or Memrise, getting the right mutations matters in terms of getting the answer right, but all the same I would just focus on learning the whole phrases--y car bach, y gath fach, etc.--rather than obsessing over gender at this point.

    September 22, 2016

    Good advice here, though I must disagree with the "you will pick it up naturally" part. Whilst this is true, as someone who went through an entrely Welsh medium primary, I can say that unless you are good at analysing sentences on the go (something I've gotten better at) you'll not pick up many grammatical genders i.e My knowledge of grammatical genders is pretty bad after over 10 years in Welsh medium education until I properly sat down and learned how to quickly analyse sentence as I read. Using phrases is a good way of remembering grammatical genders is the best way and the best form of this in Welsh is to say "This X" since this can become "Y gath hon" (This cat) for feminine nouns and "Y ci hwn" for masculine nouns.

    September 22, 2016

    The best thing is to learn them as you go. Feminine nouns are less common (c35%) than masculine ones (c65%), so mark them with a b (for benywaidd) in your vocab list. You could also look up the plurals and add those, as you will have to learn them sooner or later. A little vocab practice every day seems to be the best way of doing it

    After a while you may notice a few patterns emerging with gender and word endings, but there are always exceptions.

    As someone else has said, associating nouns with gender markers such as hwn/hon, mutations following y (the) or mutations of adjectives following feminine nouns can all help.

    At least we only have two genders to cope with, and no case endings. But the 40-ish ways of forming plurals probably make up for it... And the three or four registers of formality... And five main dialects... And the two counting systems...

    September 23, 2016

    I am familiar with grammatical gender, so for me the trickiest part is not gender itself, but words whose gender mismatches the one I'm expecting.

    Luckily, among the Welsh words I've learned so far no more than about 3 out of 10 mismatch. But I must put extra effort in memorizing them, since there is no inflection nor other clues that point to the correct gender. Not knowing the gender of a noun I can still try to guess it, but in one case out of three I might be wrong.

    October 4, 2016
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