How to construct negative sentences in Yoruba

How to construct negative sentences in Yoruba

Hi again! Last lesson we spoke about how to make basic sentences in Yoruba by just using the letter ń, and this lesson we will be exploring negative sentences in Yoruba.

Making negative sentences in Yoruba is actually so easy! All you have to do is use the word kò.

To make a negative sentence in Yoruba, put the word kò before the verb in a sentence. To make this explanation a bit clearer I have included some examples below, showing you how to convert from a standard sentence in Yoruba to a negative one.

Olú ń mu = Olu is drinking
Olú kò mu = Olu is not drinking

Wálé ń jẹun = Wale is eating
Wálé kò jẹun = Wale is not eating

Confused about all the accents and dots on the Yoruba words? See our explainer lessons

Please Note! Frequently in Yoruba the word kò is just said as ò, especially if a person is talking very quickly.

For example:

Mi kò fẹ́ lọ would change to Mi ò fẹ́ lọ
(I don’t want to go)

Also, when you change a “standard” Yoruba sentence to a negative one, the pronoun in the sentence can change (this only happens to specific pronouns).

I will explain below, the pronouns that change in negative Yoruba sentences.

How Yoruba pronouns change when they are in a negative sentence.

Mo (I)

As you may have noticed in the example sentences above, Mi was used as the pronoun for I instead of Mo. This is because for a negative sentence in Yoruba, the pronoun Mo changes to Mi or N.

For example

Mo ń fẹ́ (I want) changes to

N kò fẹ́ = N ò fẹ́ = Mi kò fẹ́ = Mi ò fẹ́
(I don’t want)

Ó (He/She/It)

In negative sentences the pronoun Ò is usually omitted all together leaving just kò.

For example you would say

Kò jẹun instead of Ó kò jẹun
(He/She/It isn’t eating)

Wọ́n (They)

In negative sentences the pronoun ‘Wọ́n’ loses the accent over the ‘o’ leaving just ‘Wọn’.

A summary of how the pronouns change or don’t change is given in the table below.

Yoruba subject pronouns in their Negative forms

Pronoun Positive form Negative form
She/He/ItÓPronoun omitted
You all
Yoruba subject pronouns in their Negative forms

NB: kò can be used to make a negative sentence in the continuous present or in the simple past. i.e. Mi kò lọ can mean both I am not going or I did not go, (you will know which one was intended through context when a person is speaking).

Exceptions to the rule

The verbs wà and ni cannot be made negative by just adding kò before it like the other verbs, they have to be made negative in a different way, which I will explain to you below.

Wà (to be (location))
To make wà negative use the phrase ‘kò sí’ instead of wà.

Example negative sentences using Wà

Positive sentenceNegative sentence
Ṣadé wà nílé
(Sade is home)
Ṣadé kò sí nílé
(Sade is not home)
Ṣadé wà ní kíláàsì Olú
(Sade is in Olu’s class)
Ṣadé kò sí ní kíláàsì Olú
(Sade is not in Olu’s class)
Example negative sentences using Wà

Ni (to be)
To make ni negative use the word ‘kọ́’ before ni, instead of kò.

Example negative sentence using ni

Positive sentenceNegative sentence
Olú ni bàbá Wálé
(Olu is Wale’s father)
Olú kọ́ ni bàbá Wálé
(Olu is not Wale’s father)
Èmi ni Màmáa Ṣadé
(I am Sade’s Mother)
Èmi kọ́ ni màmáa Ṣadé
(I am not Sade’s Mother)
Example negative sentences using ni