Friday, 7th November, 2008



Borsley et al. (2007) describes ddaru as "historically a verb meaning ‘happen, finish’, but … now just a marker of past tense." (p. 42). Ddaru is used similarly to gwneud but without agreeing with the following subject. The following examples (22 & 23 from Borsley et al.) can both be translated as "Elin bought a loaf of bread":

  1. Gwnaeth Elin brynu torth o fara.
    do.PAST.3s Elin buy.INF loaf of bread
  2. Ddaru Elin brynu torth o fara.
    PAST Elin buy.INF loaf of bread

Borsley et al. & King (1993) say ddaru is used in the north, although I’ve never come across it. An informant tells me it’s used further to the east from here (i.e., over towards Wrexham).

I decided to take these questions to CEG (Ellis et al., 2001):

  • Is ddaru only a past tense marker?
  • What is the frequency of ddaru, compared to the gwneud past tense marker?


The verb meaning ‘happen, finish’ from which ddaru is derived is darfod. Darfod and its forms appear about 120 times in CEG. About 3/4 of these ocurrences are as a past tense marker, as indicated above; the other 1/4 (around 30 occurrences) are as a verb (meaning ‘happen, finish’). Darfod can also be found used as a verb on the web (a google for darfod will bring around 10,000 hits). So, although use as a past tense marker may be its main use, the verb usage is not quite ‘historical’.

In the following I look only at the past tense marker uses of darfod (which I’ll call ‘ddaru PAST’). Forms are: daru, ddaru, darfu, ddarfu, haru.


As noted, CEG shows around 85 uses of ddaru PAST. This would rank it at 1487. There are 1014 occurrences of the past tense forms of gwneud. Even if only half of these are as past tense markers, gwneud PAST would be well within the most frequent few hundred words. So, ddaru PAST is qualitatively less frequent than gwneud PAST.


Ddaru PAST occurs in about 60 files. In most of these at one or two per file. A few files stand out:

# n cat fn text
1 5 Rh Dd.N 446 Plentyn y Bwtias by Alun Jones
2 5 Rh Ff.G A 126 Rhithiau Mynydd Hiraethog , Cynhaeaf y Gaeaf, Trychfilod Parasitoid by Norman Closs Parry, Duncan Brown & Hefin Jones
3 7 Rh Dd.S B 291 Vatilan, Lleidr Llestri by Robin Llywelyn
4 15 Rh Dd.D 35 Dyddiadur Nant y Wrach by Hilma Lloyd Edwards.

No. 2 is a press report, the others are excerpts from fictional works (a novel, a short story and a diary respectively). Unfortunately, I don’t know the source for the press report, nor the geographical location of any of the writers. The texts are all from the late 80s or early 90s.

Ddaru PAST is much more likely to be found in fictional than factual prose categories (see the spreadsheet). It appears with an average frequency of 435/million in the fictional styles (not counting Fictitious Diaries, the category of Dyddiadur Nant y Wrach, which gives 1845/million), but only appears at all in half of the factual texts, and then with frequency of only 72/million. All this perhaps reflects the colloquial, geographically based nature of the word.


Borsley, R. D., Tallerman, M. & Willis, D. (2007). The Syntax of Welsh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, N. C., O’Dochartaigh, C., Hicks, W., Morgan, M., & Laporte, N. (2001). Cronfa Electroneg o Gymraeg (CEG): A 1 million word lexical database and frequency count for Welsh. [On-line], Available: http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ar/cb/ceg/ceg_eng.html

King, G. (1993). Modern Welsh: a comprehensive grammar. London: Routledge.

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