Lesson 43: Functions of Twi Nouns | Twi Grammar

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Do you recall our lesson on Twi Nouns? If you don’t, you’re just a CLICK away from it. In that lesson, lesson 5 of the Akan Grammar course, we looked at the various types of Twi nouns and went on to give examples of each type.

Moving away from individual concepts and gradually towards sentence formation, I believe a lesson on the functions of Twi nouns will prove fundamental. So, join me as we explore some of these functions in lesson 43 of the Twi grammar series.

Before we begin, though, let’s refresh our memory of what a noun is (from lesson 5).

A noun is a word that identifies:

–> a person (abɔfra (child), Kwame, ɔsɔfo (pastor))

–> a thing (mpa (bed), afe (comb), akonnwa (chair))

–> an animal (ɔkraman (dog), agyinammoa (cat), pɔnkɔ (horse))

–> an idea, quality, or state (nokorɛ (truth), awerɛhoɔ (sadness), awoɔ (birth), anigyeɛ (happiness))


In a Twi sentence, a noun may perform any of the following grammatical functions:

–> serve as the subject (Ɔyɛfoɔ)

–> serve as the object (Ayɛdeɛ)

> the direct object

> the indirect object

–> serve a possessive role (Ɔdedeɛ)

–> serve as an adjective (Edin Nkyerɛkyerɛmu)

–> serve as an adverb (Ɔkyerɛfoɔ)


As subject (Ɔyɛfoɔ)

The subject is generally the person, thing, or idea that the sentence is about. It is often the entity that performs the action of the sentence’s verb. The subject usually comes before the verb. Simple Twi sentences have only subjects and verbs. For example:

1. Kofi adidi (Kofi has eaten)

2. Ama sereeɛ (Ama laughed)

3. Ɔkraman no(The dog barks)

4. Ntoma no ate (The cloth is torn)


Other examples:

5. Ampɔnsa dɔ Boadiwaa (Amponsah loves Boadiwaa)

6. Yaw kyerɛ Twi (Yaw teaches Twi)

7. Akosua renom nsuo (Akosua is drinking water)

8. Abena ato pono no mu (Abena has locked the door)

9. Ɔsɛe boo Asumadu (Osei beat Asumadu)


The bold elements in the sentences above (1 – 9) are the subjects. Note: The subject may be a noun (as in the above examples), a pronoun or noun phrase. In this lesson, though, we are focusing on nouns hence the examples above.


As object (Ayɛdeɛ)

The object of a sentence, in simple terms, is the entity that is acted upon by the subject i.e. the entity that receives the action of the verb. Just like the subject, the object may be a pronoun, a noun or noun phrase. Let’s use our second set of examples (5 – 9) to establish exactly what we are referring to when we mention an object of a sentence:

5a. Ampɔnsa dɔ Boadiwaa (Amponsah loves Boadiwaa)

6a. Yaw kyerɛ Twi (Yaw teaches Twi)

7a. Akosua renom nsuo (Akosua is drinking water)

8a. Abena ato pono no mu (Abena has locked the door)

9a. Ɔsɛe boo Asumadu (Osei beat Asumadu)


There are two types of objects: the direct object and the indirect object.


The direct object

The direct object is the entity that is directly affected by the action of the main verb. A direct object typically answers the question of whom? (hwan?) and what? (deɛn?). All the elements we identified as objects in examples 5a – 9a above are actually direct objects. Let’s see why that is below:

5b. Question: Ampɔnsa dɔ hwan? (Amponsah loves whom?)

Answer: Ampɔnsa dɔ Boadiwaa (Amponsah loves Boadiwaa)

6b. Question: Yaw kyerɛ deɛn? (Yaw teaches what?)

Answer: Yaw kyerɛ Twi (Yaw teaches Twi)

7b. Question: Akosua renom deɛn? (Akosua is drinking what?)

Answer: Akosua renom nsuo (Akosua is drinking water)

8b. Question: Abena ato deɛn mu? (Abena has locked what?)

Answer: Abena ato pono no mu (Abena has locked the door)

9b. Question: Ɔsɛe boo hwan? (Osei beat whom?)

Answer: Ɔsɛe boo Asumadu (Osei beat Asumadu)


You may be asking yourself what then is an indirect object.


The indirect object

An indirect object is the entity that receives the direct object. It is the entity for whom or to whom the action of the verb is performed. Let’s look at some examples:

10. Yɛtwaa Kofi ntorɔ (We lied to Kofi – we lied to whom?)

11. Memaa Akosua sika (I gave Akos money – I gave money to whom?)

12. Maame gyaa Konadu nkwan (Mum left Konadu soup – Mum left soup for whom?)

13. Opoku kyɛɛ Boafo kasafidie (Opoku gifted Boafo a radio set – Opoku gifted a radio set to whom?)


Sometimes, the indirect object will occur in a prepositional phrase beginning with maa (to/for). Some examples:

14. Kofi boo no maa Kwame (Kofi beat him/her for Kwame)

15. Asumadu tɔɔ nwoma no maa Asare (Asumadu bought the book for Asare)

16. Maame gyaa nkwan maa Konadu (Mum left soup for Konadu?)


Serving a possessive role

The possessive is the case of a noun that shows possession. In Twi, a noun can be placed in front of another noun to convey a sense of possession or ownership. There is a minor difference between how nouns are made possessive in English and in Twi. Whereas English nouns are usually made possessive by introducing an apostrophe and the letter ‘s’, as in the example Stephen’s cup is full, possessive nouns in Twi are formed without the introduction of any such elements (no apostrophe; no letter ‘s’). The possessor comes, followed by the possessed; no modifications. Let’s look at some examples:

17. Kofi kuruwa ayɛ ma (Kofi’s cup is full)

18. Kwabena mpa no abu (Kwabena’s bed is broken)

19. Abiba koko yɛ dɛ (Abiba’s porridge tastes good)

20. Serwaa kunu atu kwan (Serwaa’s husband has travelled)

21. Asare krataa no abɛduru (Asare’s letter has arrived)


Do note that we are dealing with nouns here; not pronouns. In the case of pronouns (possessive adjectives), a different possessive formation mechanism may apply depending on:

–> the first letter of the possessed element, and

–> whether we are dealing with a singular or plural possessive adjective

If you need to know more about this, please check out Lesson 13: Akan Pronouns (The subsection on Possessive Adjectives)


As an adjective

In Lesson 8: Twi Adjectives (Edin Nkyerɛkyerɛmu), we identified adjectives as words used to describe nouns. Beyond the prototypical examples of adjectives there are, such as tenten (tall), tiatia (short), ketewa (small), kɛseɛ (big), etc. a noun may be used to describe another noun i.e. used as an adjective. For example:

22. Sika dwa no wɔ tumi (the golden stool has power)

23. Dua atere no abu (the wooden spoon is broken)

24. Abusua kuruwa no so yie (the family cup is very big)

25. Mempɛ mako nkwan (I don’t like pepper soup)


As an adverb

We defined an adverb, in Lesson 28: Twi Adverbs (ƆKyerɛfoɔ), as a word or phrase that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. We listed the various types of adverbs in Twi, and went on to give a handful of examples under each type. If you missed that lesson, or would need to go over it one more time, you may CLICK HERE. A Twi noun can also function as an adverb in a sentence. Some examples:

26. Amakye bɛba nnɛ (Amakye will come today – time)

27. Akosua bɛkɔ kyena (Akosua will go tomorrow – time)

28. Boadi kɔ Nkran (Boadi has gone to Accra – place)


This brings us to the end of today’s lesson. I advise that you go over it a few times and familiarise yourself with how the nouns have been used to serve each of the functions. Like I hinted before, your grasp of future (sentence-formation) lessons may depend, to a large extent, on the knowledge you acquire from this lesson. Thank you; don’t forget to subscribe to the website if you haven’t done so already.

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