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There are two types of ‘if’ in Welsh - the sort where something is likely to happen and the sort where it’s not.

The first type of ‘if’ is an ‘open’ condition, and it’s pretty simple: If it rains, I have my umbrella. If the cat throws up once more, she’s going to the vet. If the car breaks down, we’ll have to walk. This kind of ‘if’ is translated as ‘os’ for a positive, and ‘os na’ or ‘os nad’ for a negative (if… not…).

Os bydd y bws yn hwyr, bydd rhaid inni cerdded.
Os na fydd ‘na ddigon o arian ‘da ti, bydda i’n talu.

The second type of ‘if’ is the sort where whatever it is isn’t very likely to occur. If I win the lottery, I’ll go on holiday. If the sky falls on my head, I’ll get a headache. If only he hadn’t sold me into slavery.

In this case, ‘pe’ is used along with the conditional of ‘bod’, (‘to be’), and that comes in two main flavours:

pe baswn i pe byddwn i if i were
pe baset ti pe byddet ti if you were
pe basai fe pe byddai fe if he was
pe basai hi pe byddai hi if she was
pe basen ni pe bydden ni if we were
pe basech chi pe byddech chi if you were
pe basen nhw pe bydden nhw if they were

You also have these regional variations to deal with, some of which drop the ‘pe’ and all of which have the ‘unreality endings’ (see also dylwn, gallwn, hoffwn and leiciwn).

pe bawn i pe tawn i tawn i pe taswn i taswn i
pe baet ti pe taet ti taet ti pe taset ti taset ti
pe bai fe pe tai fe tai fe pe tasai fe tasai fe
pe bai hi pe tai hi tai hi pe tasai hi tasai hi
pe baen ni pe taen ni taen ni pe tasen ni tasen ni
pe baech chi pe taech chi taech chi pe tasech chi tasech chi
pe baen nhw pe taen nhw taen nhw pe tasen nhw tasen nhw

Of these, the last column is very common:

Taswn i’n gyfoethog, byddwn i’n mynd i Awstralia.
Bydden nhw’n dod pe byddai rhaid iddyn nhw.

You can also use ‘pe’ with other unreality verbs, such as gallwn, e.g. Byddwn i’n helpu pe gallwn i.

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© suw charman 2002, 2003 unless otherwise stated

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