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Friday, March 9, 2012

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.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! Please tell anyone you know that is struggling with Igbo or would like to learn Igbo

  2. The first person pronoun "m/mu" should become reflective when a speaker is talking about him or herself:

    I am a woman = A bu m nwanyi.

    1. Hi Anonymous, that rule only applies to Owerri-variant dialects of Igbo. The Igbo on this blog is Akwa-variant and specifically Onicha Igbo.

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