Forming Plural Nouns in Akan (Twi)

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We have already familiarised ourselves with Akan (Twi) Nouns. We went on to look at the various types of Twi nouns in the subsequent lessons, giving examples in each case. Now, how do we form the plural noun in Twi?   The present lesson seeks to show you a number of ways by which plural nouns are formed in Twi. I will try to present this lesson in a very simple manner. If you discover some interesting patterns between the noun groups below or have extra plural formation mechanisms which are not included in the lesson, please share the knowledge with us, as well as other readers by leaving them in the comments section below the post.

Let’s begin.

  1. Quite often, nouns with the prefixes “ɔ”, “ɛ”, and some without prefixes form their plural forms by substituting the “ɔ” and “ɛ” prefixes, or prefixing the non-prefixed nouns with “a”. Let’s see some examples below:
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
ɔ-sɔfoɔa-sɔfoɔpastor
ɔ-bɔfoɔa-bɔfoɔangel
ɔ-brɛfoɔa-brɛfoɔhard worker
ɛ-kwana-kwanway
ɔ-tomfoɔa-tomfoɔblacksmith
gyataa-gyatalion
  1. Most nouns which have their roots (the word minus affixes) beginning with the letter “b” form their plurals by replacing their existing prefixes with “m”. If the word is originally without a prefix, we still prefix it with “m”. For instance, “abranteɛ (young man)” becomes “mbranteɛ (young men)”. But no! In Twi, when the letter “m” directly precedes a “b”, assimilation takes place. We will talk about that in a future lesson but to give you an idea, it is a phonological process by which one sound becomes more like a nearby sound. So, when “m” is prefixed to our example “m-branteɛ”, the “b” changes to become like the prefix. So we get “mmranteɛ” instead. Let’s see some examples.
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
a-b-usuamm-usuafamily
a-b-oamm-oaanimal
a-b-ɔframm-ɔfrachild
a-b-irekyiemm-irekyiegoat
a-b-anka-b-amm-anka-mm-ahandcuff
ɛ-b-ɛmm-ɛproverb
  1. Similar to the noun group above, most nouns which have their roots beginning with the letter “d” form their plurals by substituting their existing prefixes with the letter “n”. The “n” prefix is mostly introduced even if the word originally wasn’t prefixed. Again, assimilation applies here. So the initial “d” of the root word changes into “n”. Some examples:
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
a-d-ankonn-ankorabbit
d-adeɛnn-adeɛmetal
a-d-akann-akabox
a-d-uronn-uromedicine
o-d-wannn-wansheep
a-d-uanenn-uanefood
  1. There are certain nouns which come with “o” or “ɔ” as their prefixes, and suffixed by “ni”. Examples include osikani, opolisini, ɔkyerɛkyerɛni, etc. Quite often, such nouns form their plural nouns by substituting the “o”, “ɔ” prefixes for “a” or “n”, and changing the “ni” suffix into either “fo” or “foɔ”. Let’s look at some examples.
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
o-bibi-nia-bibi-foɔAfrican
o-sukuu-nia-sukuu-foɔstudent
ɔ-sɛmpaka-nia-sɛmpaka-foɔpreacher
o-sua-nia-sua-foɔdisciple/learner
o-sika-nia-sika-foɔa rich person
o-kurase-nin-kurase-foɔa villager
  1. A certain group of nouns form their plurals simply by introducing either the prefix “n” or “m”. Examples:
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
kramann-kramandog
kanean-kanealight (noun)/bulb, lantern)
prakom-prakopig
paneɛm-paneɛneedle
safoan-safoakey
tɛfrɛn-tɛfrɛcockroach
  1. Generally, we form the plurals of kinship terms by suffixing them with “nom”.
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
agyaagya-nomfather
ɛnaɛna-nommother
nananana-nomgradparent/grandchild
yereyere-nomwife
nuanua-nomsibling
wɔfawɔfa-nomuncle
  1. Some Akan nouns are the same in both the singular and plural forms. Some are:
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English (Singular)
ɔdɔɔdɔlove
nkranenkraneant
nkyenenkyenesalt
anianieye
tɛkyerɛmatɛkyerɛmatongue
sikasikamoney

Tɛkyerɛma apem (a thousand tongues)To show the plurality of nouns such as the above, we usually introduce certain quantifiers of some sort. For instance, we may say:

  • nkrane du (ten ants)
  • sika bɔtɔ ma (a sack-full of money)
  1. For expressions such as the ones below which contain more than one word, we pluralize each word by applying the appropriate plural formation mechanism aforementioned.
Singular (Twi)Plural (Twi)English
ɔ-hene b-aa-hene mm-ason/daughter of a king
ɔ-dehyeɛ b-aa-dehyeɛ mm-ason/daughter of a royal
ɔ-sɔfo panina-sɔfo m-panim-foɔlead pastor
a-pɔnkyerɛne ketewam-pɔnkyerɛne n-ketewasmall frog
o-sika-ni yerea-sika-foɔ yere-nomwife of a rich man
a-d-esoa kɛseɛnn-esoa a-kɛseɛhuge burden

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8 Responses
  1. mamssie

    tnx soo much for dis site. I am fante n im finding it difficult to teach twi, ur site really saved my neck. tnx soooooo much.bring more lessons

  2. Amelie

    Hi
    I just started to learn Twi and I am still strugling with the pluralisation.
    I came across quite a number of verbs that use m or n as prefix and that can be put in plural in German and English.
    Im now asking myself wether there is another rule to put these into the plural or wether they haven no plural in twi or if they are exceptions
    For example:
    flower –> nhweren
    book –> nwoma
    picture –> mfoni

    1. Yaw

      Hi Amelie, that’s a very good question. Thanks.
      Indeed, just like there are exceptions to the English pluralisation rules (e.g. no plural forms for words like “furniture”, “sheep”), so there are in Twi. Some Twi words, including what you list, do no have plural forms. Their plurality are made visible with the introduction of a ‘value/number’ adjective.
      For example:
      nhwiren pii = many flowers
      tɛkyerɛma apem = a thousand tongues
      nsa mmienu = two hands
      nwoma du = ten books
      mfonyin ahodoɔ nsia = six different pictures.

      I hope you get the picture 🙂

  3. John Stewart

    Thank you very much for this site and for the courses. I recently made friends on Facebook with guys living in Tema, and though they can communicate in English when writing, when we do Skype or FaceTime they have a hard time expressing themselves clearly.

    Being able to converse with them in Twi, even with one or two words, has made a big difference in our interactions. They are surprised and happy to see that I am trying to learn their language.

    Thanks again, and I hope you continue. I also hope you can convince Google to had Twi to their translator app. Swahili is not the only African language in which people are interested.

    1. Yaw

      Hi John,

      Thank you too for being here. I’m always excited when I come by non-Akan brothers and sisters like yourself who show keenness in learning to speak the language. So, trust me, I have an idea how your friends in Tema feel about your quest :).

      I agree with your take on getting Akan listed among the Google translate languages. It’s been part of the plan for this whole enterprise to showcase the popularity of the language to Google and get them to include it in their app, or, find a way to develop one ourselves. Thank you very much for the suggestion. If you (or anyone else) has any further suggestion regarding this, I’ll be pleased to hear it.

      All the best.

  4. Akua Amponsah Boamah

    This site is really helpful.
    But please I want the plural of adamfoɔ (friend).

    I’m not quite sure about the spelling of it.

    1. Yaw

      we have “nnamfonom” and “nnamfoɔ”. the former is more specific, used mostly with possessive adjectives to specify one’s friends. the latter is refers more to general “friends”.

      Examples:

      me nnamfonom – my friends
      yɛyɛ nnamfoɔ – we are friends

      So, we do not say say “me nnamfoɔ” nor “yɛyɛ nnamfonom”

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