Monday, March 19, 2012

Grammar 4: The Ubiqitious Verb "To Be"

If you're reading this, chances are you've already met our enigmatic friend, the verb 'To Be'. If you haven't, go back to Grammar 3, and check him out, then come back here.

This post is about the verb To Be's most common manifestation, the "Ọọ" form. Specifically, Ọọ is a form of the "Ibụ" variant of the verb "To Be".

The "Ọọ" form is a form of the verb To Be that means "It is" or "It was"

It is the simplest way to make a sentence in Igbo and really really easy.

The form is "Ọọ XYZ" where XYZ is any word.

It translates to "It is XYZ." or "It was XYZ."

Okay, let's try it out.

In the last post, we looked at some common Igbo nouns that are encountered in every day speech.

We'll use three of them in our examples below.

Listen   Mili - Water

Listen   Afia - Market

Listen   Nwoke - Man


Listen   Ọọ mili - It is water / It was water

Listen   Ọọ nwoke - It is a man / It was a man | It is men / It was men

Listen   Ọọ afia - It is a market / It was a market

It's that easy!

Just put Ọọ before any word to form a sentence.

Vocabulary 2: The 20 Most Common Nouns in Igbo

Here's a list of the twenty most common nouns in Igbo. These are words that you hear every day, so learn them quickly and you'll be eavesdropping on Igbo conversations in no time.

# Noun Tone Meaning Listen
1. Madụ HIGH-LOW Person / People Madụ
2. Nwa HIGH Baby / Child Nwa
3. Ụzọ HIGH-LOW Way / Path / Road Ụzọ
4. Ifẹ HIGH-HIGH Thing Ifẹ
5. Nwoke HIGH-MID Man Nwoke
6. Nwaanyi MID-LOW Woman Nwaanyi
7. Anya HIGH-HIGH Eye Anya
8. Aka HIGH-HIGH Hand Aka
9. Nni HIGH-HIGH Food Nni
10. Mili HIGH-MID Water Mili
11. Ẹbẹ HIGH-HIGH Place Ẹbẹ
12. Ndụ HIGH-LOW Life Ndụ
13. Arọ HIGH-LOW Year Arọ
14. Ọlụ HIGH-HIGH Work Ọlụ
15. Akwa HIGH-LOW Clothes / Cloth / Fabric Akwa
16. Nsogbu HIGH-LOW-MID Trouble / Problem Nsogbu
17. Afia HIGH-HIGH Market Afia
18. Ụnọ HIGH-LOW Building / House Ụnọ
19. Bẹ HIGH Home  Bẹ
20. Ọnụ HIGH-HIGH Mouth Ọnụ

Practically 70% of all Igbo spoken involves these nouns in some way, shape, or form. You can't go wrong learning these to start with.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vocabulary 1: The 20 Most Common Verbs in Igbo

Ever wondered what the most common words in the Igbo language are? Now's your chance to find out.

Here's a list of the twenty most common verbs in the Igbo language. Knowing the verbs on this list inside out is ABSOLUTELY essential to being able to communicate in Igbo. These are the verbs without knowledge of which your life in a purely Igbo speaking region would be completely miserable so learn them as quickly as possible.

# Infinitive Root Meaning Listen
1. Ibụ Bụ To Be Ibụ
2. Idi Di To Be Idi
3. Iwẹ Wẹ To Have, To Get, To Take Iwẹ
4. Imẹ Mẹ To Do, To Make Imẹ
5. Isi Si To Say Isi
6. Ijẹ Jẹ To Go Ijẹ
7. Ima Ma To Know Ima
8. Ifụ Fụ To See Ifụ
9. Ibia Bia To Come Ibia
10. Ichẹ Chẹ To Think, To Wait For Ichẹ
11. Inẹ Nẹ To Look Inẹ
12. Ichọ Chọ To Want, To Look For, To Find Ichọ
13. Inyẹ Nyẹ To Give Inyẹ
14. Iji Ji To Use, To Hold Iji
15. Igwa Gwa To Tell Igwa
16. Ijụ Jụ To Ask, To Refuse Ijụ
17. Ilu Lu To Work, To Build Ilu
18. Ili Li To Eat Ili
19. Irapụ Rapụ To Leave Rapụ
20. Ikpọ Kpọ To Call Ikpọ

Practically 70% of all Igbo spoken involves these verbs in some way, shape, or form. You can't go wrong learning these to start with.

Grammar 3: The Mysterious Verb "To Be"

In Grammar 2, I talked about the Infinitive. Now you may or may not have noticed, but missing in the list of verbs I gave in the last post was one of the commonest verbs in any language, much less Igbo: The verb "To Be".

I deliberately omitted the verb "To Be" from the list because the verb "To Be"s situation in Igbo is very complicated .... to say the least.

While in English there is only one verb "To Be", the Igbo version of the verb is an international master of disguise.

It has many forms and lurks in many shadowy corners waiting to jump out at you when you didn't even realise it was in the sentence. And when you think you need it to say something? It simply isn't there.

Needless to say, the Igbo verb "To Be" is not to be taken lightly and requires the utmost attention.

Here are the three most common forms "To Be" in Igbo, but by no means, the only ones.

Listen   Ibụ - To be

Listen   Idi - To be

Listen   Inọ - To be

Telling the difference: 

If you're familiar with the Spanish language (a language which like Igbo has more than one form of the verb To Be) understanding the difference between the three above will be pretty obvious to you. For the rest of you, here's how you tell the difference:

As a rule of thumb,

Ibụ  - expresses identity, essential qualities, personality, occupation, and origin.

Listen   Identity  - She is a Nigerian (Ọ bụ onye Naijiriya)
Listen   Essential Qualities - I am a woman (M bụ  nwaanyi)
Listen   Occupation - You (all) are doctors (Unu bụ  dibia )
Listen   Origin - They are from Anambra ( Fa bụ  ndi Anambara)

Idi - expresses condition, characteristics, emotions, and TEMPORARY location

Listen   Condition - It is alive  ( Ọ di ndụ  )
Listen   Characteristics - You are tall ( I di ogonogo )
Listen   Emotions - He is happy (Ọ di anwụli )
Listen   Temporary location - It is there (Ọ di ẹbẹ a)

Inọ - expresses SEMI-PERMANENT and PERMANENT location

Listen   More Permanent Location - She is in Abuja  (Ọ nọ  Abuja)

There are of course other forms of the Verb not shown here. 

Its most common form, the "Ọ" form will be discussed in the next lesson.

Grammar 2: The Infinitive

The Igbo Infinitive is a verb form representing 'to + any action'.

In Igbo, The Infinitive is formed by adding any verb root to the suffix " i " (pronounced ee - high toned).

Igbo Infinitive =  i + Verb Root

For instance, the infinitive of the verb root bia would be Ibia ( i + bia ).

Below is a list of verb roots and their infinitive forms showing how to form the Infinitive.

Verb Root Infinitive Meaning Listen
Bia Ibia To Come Ibia
Wẹ Iwẹ To Have, To Get, To Take
Mẹ Imẹ To Do, To Make
Si Isi To Say
Jẹ Ijẹ To Go
Ma Ima To Know
Nyẹ Inyẹ To Give
Chẹ Ichẹ To Think
Nẹ Inẹ To Look
Fụ Ifụ To See
Jụ Ijụ To Ask, To Refuse

Now you know how to form the Infinitive. It's really really easy. Whenever you want to say "To do something" you just add the infinitive marker "i" to the verb root!

"i" (infinitive marker) + "chẹ" (verb root meaning 'Think')



(To think)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grammar 1: Igbo Sounds :: Mkpọtụ Igbo

Where do you start when you want to learn a language?

At the beginning of course!

You can't learn Igbo if you don't know the sounds that make up the Igbo language so this is probably one of the most important lessons to learn.

Igbo is made up of consonant sounds and vowel sounds.

The consonant sounds are not a big deal, it's the vowels you should keep an eye out for. 

Because Igbo is a tonal language, each of the vowels have different tones (ranging from high to low).

The most common tones are High and Low, but occasionally, you'll come across a tricky mid tone that is always rising.

Vowel Sounds
Listen   A (AH) as in Cat Listen   E (AY) as in Fame Listen    (EH) as in Bed
Listen   I (EE) as in Pin Listen   O (O) as in Show Listen    (O) as in Hot
Listen    (U) as in Put Listen   U (UU)as in Shoot

Consonant Sounds

B (as in Bee) Listen   CH (as in Chair) D (as in Dog) F (as in Food) G (as in Goat)
Listen   GB (as in Gbenga) Listen   GH (as in Ghee) Listen   GW (as in Guido) H (as in House) J (as in Jump)
K (as in Kangaroo) Listen   KP Listen   KW (as in Queen) L M
N Listen   NW Listen   NY P R
S Listen   SH T V W
Y Z (as in Zebra)
These are the basic sounds needed to speak Igbo