Whether you are writing to a friend, a colleague, or an organization, being able to put together an email or letter in Welsh is a useful skill.
It is important to keep in mind whether you are writing to somebody using the formal version of ‘you’ (“chi”) or the informal (“ti”). This depends on a few factors, such as your relationship and status difference, but generally unless you’re writing to a close friend it is safer to stick to the formal.
You may have noticed that written Welsh is quite different from spoken Welsh, the latter being full of abbreviations and shortened forms (for example “Yr ydw i” becomes “dwi”).
When writing, especially in a formal situation, it is more appropriate to stick to ‘literary’ Welsh, although a message to a friend might include direct transcriptions of spoken Welsh.
Whether addressing someone formally or informally, the beginning “Annwyl…” is the most commonly used way to address somebody. Just as in English, this means “dear” and would be used before the person’s name, e.g. “Annwyl Dafydd” or “Annwyl Mr Jones”.
If you don’t know the addressee, you can use the classic “Annwyl Syr” or “Annwyl Fadam”, or “Annwyl Syr/Fadam” if you don’t know who you are addressing it to. Welsh speakers do not usually use an equivalent of “to whom it may concern”.
If you are already in correspondence with somebody, it is acceptable to open with “bore da” (good morning) or “prynhawn da” (good afternoon).
In a less formal situation, you can open with a “helô” (hello), or even less formally, a “haia” (hi).
Some useful phrases you might like to use when starting a formal email in Welsh include:
If writing an informal email or letter, it is more likely that you are connecting with a friend or close acquaintance. Here are some things you might want to start with:
There are many ways to sign off a letter or email in Welsh, depending on the level of warmth and familiarity you are going for. If you want to add a PS, you use “O.N.”, although “N.B.” (“nodyn bach” – a small note) is also sometimes used informally.
The most formal ways to end a letter are to use:
As in English, the general rule is to use sincerely when you know the name of the person you are writing to, and faithfully when you don’t. You can also remove the “yr eiddoch” and just use “yn gywir” or “yn ffyddlon”.
You can also use “Gyda phob dymuniad da” (With all best wishes). It is also acceptable to use “cofion cynnes” (warm wishes) or “cofion gorau” (best wishes) in some situations, generally if it would feel appropriate to use it in English, then you can probably use it in a Welsh letter or email.
If you are writing to a friend using informal Welsh, here are some ways you can sign off:
You can also end with “cofion cynnes” as in a formal letter or email. If you are writing to somebody very close, you might want to sign off with “Cariad (mawr)” – literally “(big) love”, the equivalent of “lots of love!”.
In any situation, you would follow the sign-off with your name, as in English.
Here are some other useful phrases to use. We’ll start with formal:
If you are writing to a friend, you might find some of these phrases helpful:
A note on North vs South Welsh: if you have been learning Welsh, you may have noticed that materials are often offered in “North” or “South” varieties. There are many differences in terms of word choice and grammar that can be confusing – even for native speakers!
You may choose which dialect to use based on your connections to Wales, availability of learning materials, or just because you prefer the sound of one over the other. Most examples in this article lean towards the Northern dialect, as the concentration of Welsh speakers is highest in North West Wales.
The difference between North and South is far more pronounced in spoken Welsh; when writing formally, many of the differences almost disappear or are much harder to notice.
For those of you who like to keep old, romantic traditions alive, sending a postcard while you’re on holiday can be a nice way to connect with friends and family. To start, you might like to say “Dwi’n ysgrifennu ata ti o…”, meaning “I’m writing to you from…”.
When we use “o” (from) in Welsh, the word following it adopts the soft mutation, for example “o Gymru” (from Wales) or “o Loegr” (from England).
Here are other some phrases you might like to use, which are kept informal:
The most useful phrase to know, of course, is “Penblwydd Hapus!” – happy birthday. Some common phrases seen in Welsh birthday cards are:
You can start your card with “i” (“to”) followed by the person’s name rather than using “annwyl”, and it is also common to sign off with “oddiwrth” (from) and your name, although “gan” is a slightly less formal option.
If you are close, or just feeling particularly friendly, you could also sign off with “Cariad mawr” (lots of love) or “Swsus” (kisses).
The most useful phrase you’ll need is « diolch » or « diolch yn fawr ». These are simply “thank you” and “thank you very much”. To specify what you are grateful for, use the word « am » to connect to a noun or verb. For example:
These phrases can be used formally or informally; the only difference is in the use of the word for “your” – « eich » formally and « dy » informally.
For example: « Diolch am eich amser » vs. « Diolch am dy amser » (thank you for your time).
Some useful phrases to use in a Welsh wedding card include:
Here is an example of a formal email in Welsh that you might find helpful as a template, and which includes a few more phrases.
Overall, there are many things to consider when you are writing in Welsh – whether you should use the North or South Wales dialect, “chi” or “ti”, and whether you should adopt the more literary way of writing or a more casual, spoken tone.
Generally, this depends on a number of factors, such as who you are writing to and why. Once this is clear in your mind, you should have little trouble putting together a card, letter, or email in Welsh. The phrases above will hopefully steer you in the right direction.
To learn more about the Welsh language, see this article on the easiest and the hardest Celtic languages, or this other one on Welsh girl names.
“Pob lwc” – best of luck!Editor's note: You can use our free language tool to make your own vocabulary lists, and record your own phrases.