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17  Imperfect Tense

17.1  The imperfect is traditionally the tense that is used to express "a state of things, a continuous action, a repeated action" in the past -- as opposed to the preterite, which expresses a "simple" action or occurrence in the past. In practice, the imperfect often seems to be used for what we would think to be a simple action. The explanation may be that in a vivid narrative an action may be thought of as a sudden still image put before the eyes. Certainly in the lively narration of the Mabinogi we have imperfects that do not easily conform to the traditional description.

17.2  As it happens, the examples in all these sentences are in the third person singular. A full paradigm of the model verb caraf is found in Appendix C and at GMW 114f.

  1. Sef cyfeir o'i gyfoeth a fynnei hela, Glynn Cuch.
  2. Ac fal y bydd yn ymwarandaw a llef yr erchwys, ef a glywei llef erchwys arall.
  3. Ac ef a welei lannerch yn y coed a faes gwastad.
  4. Ac fal ydd oedd ei erchwys ef yn ymgael ac ystlys y llannerch, ef a welei carw o flaen yr erchwys arall.
  5. Ac fal y llathrei wynned y cwn, y llathrei coched y clusteu.
  6. "Ac atfydd y mae arnat o anrydedd fal na's dylyei."
  7. Ac yn y llys ef a welei hundyeu ac yneuaddeu ac ystefyll ac arddurn.
  8. Ac eistedd a wnaethant fal hynn -- y frenhines o'r neill parth iddaw ef, a'r iarll, debygei ef, o'r parth arall.
  1. Sef from ys ef -- 'it is', but used as a simple continuative particle, like the English 'now', or sometimes as an explanatory particle, 'namely'.
  2. Dylu -- 'be entitled, deserve'. The old spelling dlyei might still be read here.
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All text copyright © 1996 by Gareth Morgan. Online layout copyright © 2001 by Daniel Morgan.