These are two of the most misunderstood and confused words in Cebuano for a student of the language.
If you look up the meaning of the words you will usually see it explained thus:
Wala – nothing / absence of
Dili – No
This simplistic translation will get you by most of the time and most Cebuano’s will not correct you if you use the wrong word. If you pick up on the fact that this explanation does not fit the way the words are used then you will become very confused. Try asking your average Cebuano or even many highly educated Cebuano’s why and they will be unable to tell you.
I have yet to find any book or reference that provides an explanation of the correct use of Wala and Dili.
Here it is
Wala – nothing / absence of (used for past / progressive tense)
Dili – no (future tense)
In these examples we will assume a negative answer.
May kwarta ka ba? – Do you have money?
using the simplistic example you would expect to be able to answer with DILI
After all that means NO?
The correct answer is WALA
Mokuha ka ba ug kwarta? – Will you get money?
If you had already learnt that the correct answer for the first question asking if you have money is WALA then be might be tempted to answer WALA.
The correct answer is DILI
The above is a good example of why you really need access to a teacher when learning this language.
The next to lessons about PA and NA will provide more examples.