Bɔ Mmɔden vs. Sɔ Hwɛ

“Bɔ mmɔden” and “sɔ hwɛ” are both phrasal verbs that mean “to try”, but they aren’t the same, and you cannot use them interchangeably.

If you look up the verb “try” in any standard English dictionary, I bet you’ll find several meanings that fit several use cases. While we use a single verb form “try” to describe all the possible use cases of the verb, we have two distinct verb forms in Twi covering two separate use cases. So, we have “bɔ mmɔden”, and then we have “sɔ hwɛ”. In today’s post, I want us to look when and how we use both.

Bɔ Mmɔden

“Bɔ mmɔden”, as aforementioned, means “to try”. However, this “try” is at the “put-in-an-effort” side of things. We use “bɔ mmɔden” to describe the act of making an effort, taking an action, or working towards achieving something.

Let’s put this in some examples:

  1. Bɔ mmɔden didi na woafɔn dodo – Try and eat for you’re too skinny
  2. Bɔ mmɔden ko kɔ w’anim – Try and fight ahead
  3. Kwame yare, nanso ɔɔ mmɔden baa sukuu – Kwame is sick, but he tried and came to school
  4. Sɛ wo wo ho mmɔden a, wobɛyɛ yie – If you try, you’ll make it (financially)
  5. Bɔ mmɔden tie w’awofoɔ afotuo no – Try and listen to your parents’ advice

Just like most Twi phrasal verbs, we can form a noun out of “bɔ mmɔden”. Nouns formed out of Twi phrasal verbs usually come with the act-of-doing/being meanings of the respective verbs. So, from “bɔ mmɔden”, we can form the noun “mmɔdemmɔ”, which means “the act of putting in an effort”, or simply “an effort”.

Let’s see some sentence examples that contain the noun “mmɔdemmɔ”:

  1. Wo mmɔdemmɔ de wo bɛkɔ akyiri – Your effort will take you far
  2. Kwame mmɔdemmɔ wɔ adesua mu wɔ fam – Kwame’s effort at learning is low
  3. Asamoa Gyan mmɔdemmɔ sɔ ani – Asamoah Gyan’s effort is commendable

Sɔ Hwɛ

“Sɔ hwɛ” also means “try”, but at the “to-test” side of things. We use the “sɔ hwɛ” do describe the act of using, testing, doing, or experiencing something to discover its qualities or effects. We also use it to describe the act of testing a place or person to see if it/he/she is the right fit for something, i.e. a position, siting of a business, etc.

Some sentence examples:

  1. Kwame ɔ afidie no hwɛ – Kwame tried the machine
  2. sɔ hwɛ na kɔdi ho adanseɛ – Come and try it and go and tesify
  3. Ama ɔ Akosua hwɛ – Ama tried/tested Akosua
  4. Wosɔ hwɛ a, wobɛtɔ – If you try it, you’ll buy
  5. Wobɛ ahwɛ anaa? – Will you (like to) try it?

Again, as a phrasal verb, we can form the noun “nsɔhwɛ” out of “sɔ hwɛ”. As mentioned before, nouns that are formed out of Twi phrasal verbs are typically gerunds that come with the act-of-doing/being meanings of the respective verbs. So, “nsɔhwɛ” here means “the act of trying/testing” or simply “a test/a try/an exam”

Let’s put that in some examples:

  1. Nsɔhwɛ no yɛ den papa! – The test is very difficult!
  2. Yɛbɛtwerɛ nsɔhwɛ nnɛ – We’ll write an exam today
  3. Asiedu atwa ne nsɔhwɛ no – Asiedu has passed his exams

Tikya Yaw
STEPHEN AWIBA, known here as YAW, is the founding editor of LEARNAKAN.COM and LEARNAKANDICTIONARY.COM. He was born and raised in Kumasi, the Ashanti regional capital of Ghana, where Akan (Asante Twi) is spoken as the first language. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics and Theatre Arts from the University of Ghana and an MPhil in English Linguistics and Language Acquisition from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

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Bɔ Mmɔden vs. Sɔ Hwɛ

“Bɔ mmɔden” and “sɔ hwɛ” are both phrasal verbs that mean “to try”, but they aren’t the same, and you cannot use them interchangeably. If