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Enwau Cymraeg - Welsh Nouns FAQ

  • How to establish the gender of a noun in Welsh?


    Noun gender

    Many languages mark noun gender straightforwardly i.e. by the word ending. For example in Italian feminine nouns end in -a and masculine in -o. Furthermore noun gender is often apparent from the definite or indefinite articles e.g. 

    Definite Article

    French - 'le' (masculine)  'la' (feminine)  

    German - 'der' (masculine)  'die' (feminine)  'das' (neutral)

    Indefinite Article

    French - 'un' (masculine)  'une' (feminine)
    German - 'ein' (masculine)  'eine' (feminine)


    Welsh noun gender

    Welsh has two genders:

    gwrywaidd - masculine  

    benywaidd - feminine

    Welsh masculine and feminine nouns behave similarly in the plural.

    The definite article in Welsh does not indicate gender. For a note on the definite article go here:- Y Fannod . Consequently we cannot determine the gender of the noun in the following simple sentence from context alone. 

    Dwi'n nofio yn yr afon -  I am swimming in the river.

    On the plus side we do not need to know the gender of the noun in order to determine the correct form of the definite article. (e.g. 'der', 'die' or 'das' in German) 

    Since Welsh does not employ the indefinite article at all we can expect no help from that quarter although, once again, we do not need to know the correct form. (e.g. 'un' or 'une' in French)  

    If neither the definite or indefinite articles denote gender, why and when is it useful to know the gender of Welsh nouns? Here is a partial list of the circumstances under which it is important.

    • Demonstrative pronouns do show gender e.g.

    hwn - this , hwnnw - that  - masculine 
    hon - this , honno - that - feminine

    • With feminine nouns the definite article causes a soft mutation.

    e.g. cath = cat , y gath = the cat

    •  Some Welsh adjectives have feminine forms.


    Learning Welsh noun gender

    It is important to learn from context. As you accumulate a vocabulary of words and phrases you will become accustomed to nouns behaving according to their genders in context. Over time your mastery of Welsh noun gender will improve but this is time consuming. In order to kickstart the process you might remember the handy tips below. 

    1. If you really do not know the gender of a Welsh verb you can always try guessing. Since approximately 60% of Welsh nouns are masculine your odds are fairly good.

    2. There are some useful noun gender groups based on meaning e.g. .

    • Words associated with time are usually masculine. 
    • Words which denote natural features - trees, forests, rivers etc  are usually feminine.
    • Words ending in -aeth are normally feminine. (although there are exceptions e.g gwasanaeth - service, which is masculine)


    You will find much more information on this topic on the following pages:-