Lesson 41: The Use of ‘no’ in Twi

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This morning, I want us to quickly look at ‘no’. If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, or you aren’t a complete beginner at learning Twi, you may be aware that the Twi word ‘no’ basically means ‘the’ – the definite article – in English. You know that, don’t you?

OK, let’s clear ourselves of doubts that ‘no’ actually means ‘the’ in English with the examples below. And if you didn’t know about ‘no’, the examples below should prove helpful.

The Definite Article in Twi – ‘no’

Twi English
akwadaa no ada the child is asleep
toa no abɔ the bottle is broken
ɔde safoa no buee pono no he/she used the key to open the door
aboa no awu the animal is dead
ɔbuu dua no he/she fell the tree
sɛ ɔda mpa no so oo, kɛtɛ no so oo, ɛmfa me ho whether he/she sleeps on the bed or on the mat, I don’t care
nkwadaa no redi agorɔ the children are playing

Take note of the position of ‘no’ in relation to the noun it introduces. In English, the definite article is placed right before a noun to imply that the hearer/reader knows exactly what we are referring to.  The positioning of the definite article in Twi, however, is the complete opposite. ‘no’ comes right after the noun as shown in the examples above.

Moving on, let’s look at where it gets confusing for non-Akan speakers. Consider the following examples:

Twi English
Ama saa nsuo maa no Ama fetched water for him/her
ɔbɔɔ no soboɔ he/she blamed him/her
Akosua too no pono Akosua set him/her a table (to eat)
ɔde sika no maa no he/she gave him/her the money
me ne no bɛkɔ I will go with him/her
ka kyerɛ no tell (it to) him/her
ɔde nwoma no maa no he/she gave him/her the book
ɔkuu aboa no, ɛnna ɔsiee no he/she killed the animal, and buried it

The question now is, why do we have ‘no’ in the examples above not referring to the definite article ‘the’? And the answer is quite simple.

If you recall our lesson on Akan Pronouns, specifically in the subsection on object pronouns, we said when ‘Ɔno’ and ‘Ɛno’ are acting as objects in sentences, both change into ‘no’. You may revisit Lesson 13: Akan Pronouns (Edinnsiananmu) to check out that clause and the examples given.

So, there is a difference between the bold ‘no’ in the first set of examples and the those in the second set. The bold ‘no’ in the second set are, in fact, the roots of the pronouns ‘ɔno’ and ‘ɛno’. ‘no’ is used in place of the 3rd person singular ‘ɔno’ and the 3rd person neutral ‘ɛno’ in the second set of examples due to the object roles they are playing.

And with this, I hope the confusion you may have had regarding the different uses of ‘no’ has been clarified. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the website and share the lessons. Thank you for reading.




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Tikya Yaw
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