There are a lot of things that speakers of a language take for granted. Because some aspects of the languages we speak come to us so naturally, we tend to intuitively assume it’s as easy to everyone else.
Before I started teaching Twi, I’d never had thought for a second that the Twi words “yare”, “yera”, “yere”, and “yiri” would confuse anybody. But they do! So in today’s post, I want us to take a look at the meanings of the aforementioned words and, consequently, how they differ from each other.
The Twi word “yare” is a verb. It means “to be sick”, or “to get sick”. Let’s look at some example sentences using “yare”.
- Meyare – I am sick
- Kwame yare bosome biara – Kwame gets sick every month
- Owusu yare pa ara, nanso ɔbaeɛ – Owusu is very sick, but he came
- Woyare? – Are you sick?
- Afia kunu yare – Afia’s husband is sick
So, I can say “meyare” to express ill-health as in example 1 above. But I can also express same with the rather idiomatic version “me ho mfa me (I’m not feeling well/I don’t feel well)”.
- Adɔma ho mfa no – Adoma isn’t feeling well
- Ɛnnora deɛ na me ho mfa me koraa o – As for yesterday I wasn’t feeling well at all
- Ne ho mfa no nso ɔde kɔɔ adwuma – He/she isn’t feeling well but he went to work.
- Akosua se ne ho mfa no – Akosua says she’s not feeling well
- Sɛ wo ho mfa wo a, kɔpɛ aduro nom – If you’re not feeling well, go and find medicine to take.
For more Twi idioms, please check out our book LEARNAKAN TWI IDIOMS GUIDE.
As a verb, “yare” takes all the appropriate inflections that similar verbs take. So we can have:
- Meyareeɛ – I got sick PAST
- Mayare mfenhyia du – I have been sick for 10 years PERFECT
- Mentaa nyare – I don’t get sick often NEGATIVE
When we switch the vowel places of “yare”, we get “yera”, and while that is also a verb, it means something completely different from the former.
“Yera” means “to get lost”, “to vanish”, “to go missing”, “to disappear”. Interesting, isn’t it?
Let’s look at it in some example sentences:
- Mayera – I’m lost
- Me sika ayera – My money is lost
- Yɛyeraa wɔ Kentampɔ – We got lost in Kintampo
- Kɔmfoɔ no huu mframa guu sika no so, ɛna ɛyeraeɛ – The fetish priest blew onto the money, and it disappeared
- Sɛ wonnim hɔ a, wobɛyera – If you don’t know there (the place), you’ll get lost
- Wɔbɔɔ dawuro wɔ kasafidie no so sɛ akɔkora bi ayera – They announced on the radio that an old man has gone missing.
As you can tell from the examples above, “yera”, as a verb, also takes the inflections that similar verbs would typically take.
Now, “yere” can mean two completely different things, from two distinct parts of speech. “Yere” can be a noun, or a verb.
“Yere” as a Noun
As a noun, “yere” means “a wife”. The full form is actually “ɔyere”. As a kinship term, we form its plural form by suffixing “-nom” to it. I mean, to form the plural out of “yere” and, for that matter, almost all Twi kinship terms, you simply attach “nom” to the end of the respective kinship term and that’s it! So while “yere” is “a wife”, “wives” would be “yerenom”. You’ll find a more in-depth look at Twi plural formation in our proficiency program within our FLUENCY CLUB.
Let’s put “yere (wife)” in some sentence examples.
- Aberanteɛ no ho nyɛ fɛ, nanso ne yere ho yɛ fɛ pa ara – The young man is not handsome, but his wife is very beautiful
- Ɔmaa ne yere suiɛ – He made his wife cry
- Me yere dada, san bɛware me – My ex-wife, come back and marry me
- Papa no mpo amfa me bɔne ankyɛ me, na ne yere – Even the man did not forgive me, how much more his wife
- Anɔkye yere atu kwan – Anokye’s wife has traveled
“Yere” as a Verb
As a verb, “yere” means “to grab/hold firmly”. There are several instances where you’d use this verb, typical among which being when you grab hold of someone, e.g. to demand money that he/she owes you. But it’s not just with human beings, you can also “yere” objects. For instance, let’s say you’re falling off a cliff and you grab hold of a tree branch on your way down, firmly. We can use “yere” to describe that. Let’s see some example sentences.
- Mede no ka, enti ɔyeree me – I owe him/her, so he/she grabbed me firmly.
- Opolisini no yeree korɔmfoɔ no – The police officer grabbed/held the thief firmly
- Yere dua no mu – Hold the tree firmly.
Following from the above meaning, “yere” can also simply mean “to tighten”. We use this to mainly talk about the tightening of knots, spells, etc.
- Yere bɛlɛte no mu – Tighten the belt
- Sɛ ɔde aduro bi na ayɛ me a, ɔnkɔyere mu – If she’s bewitched me, she should go and tighten it up
- Nea ɔkyekyeree Akua tiri nwi no yeree mu dodo – The one who tied Akua’s hair tightened it too much.
To the last one, “yiri”. This is also a verb. We use “yiri” to describe the action of a waterbody rising in levels/flooding. When the levels of a river, stream, lake, etc. rise considerably, or an area floods, it is the verb “yiri” that we use to convey that.
We can say:
- Ɔtadeɛ no ayiri – The lake has risen in levels
- Ɛhɔ ayiri – The area is flooded
- Asuo no yiri kataa twene no so – The waterbody rose in level and covered the bridge
- Ɛpo no ayiri, nanso afarefoɔ no nsuro – The sea has risen in levels, but the fishermen aren’t afraid
- Ayɛwohomumɔ bosome da a ɛtɔ so mmiɛnsa wɔ afe mpennu ne dunum mu no, osubrane bi tɔeɛ maa Nkran nyinaa yiriiɛ – On June 3, 2015, there was a heavy downpour which flooded the whole of Accra.