All words may be classified into groups called parts of speech. There are 8 parts of speech namely: Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.

We shall now discuss these parts of speech one at a time:


A noun is the part of speech that names a person, a place, a thing or an idea. You use nouns every day when you speak or write. Every day you probably use thousands of nouns. Because nouns name the objects and people and places around you, it would be very difficult to talk about anything at all without them.

Many nouns name things you can see:

Persons                     Places                         Things

boy                            lake                             boot

student                      country                       shadow

John Kamau              Nairobi                       chair

stranger                     Jupiter                         sweater

writer                        Kenyatta Market         calendar

Barack Obama          Sierra Leone               short story

Some nouns name things you cannot see such as feelings, ideas and characteristics:

Feelings                    Ideas                           Characteristics

excitement                freedom                      curiosity

fear                            justice                         cowardice

anger                         fantasy                        courage

happiness                  faith                            imagination

surprise                     evil                             self-confidence

Exercise 1

What words in each sentence below are nouns?

Example: John is a dancer – John, dancer

  1. The students planned a party.
  2. Three boys performed songs.
  3. Excitement filled the air.
  4. Joyce Chepkemoi won a prize.
  5. Otieno lives in a house on my street.

Exercise 2

Copy the nouns below and write whether it names a person, a place, a thing, or an idea.

Example: river – place

  1. Candle Guitar
  2. Wrestle China
  3. Joy Hatred
  4. Menengai Crater Masanduku Arap Simiti

Exercise 3

Write down each noun in the following sentences.

Example:  Kenya is a beautiful country – Kenya, country

  1. The musicians played drums and trumpets.
  2. Her family lives in a village.
  3. Petronilla enjoyed the trip.
  4. A festival was held in Kenyatta University.
  5. People in costumes filled the streets.
  6. Boys in Scouts uniforms were leading the parade.
  7. The holiday was a great excitement.
  8. A taxi brought the family to the airport.
  9. Maryanne built a huge castle in the wet sand.
  10. Her mother swam in the warm water.

There are different kinds of nouns:

 Common and proper nouns

All nouns can be described as either common or proper. When you talk or write about a person, a place, a thing, or an idea in general, you use a common noun.

Example: Doctors work hard. They treat many patients.

A proper noun is the name of a particular person, place, thing, or idea. Proper nouns always begin with capital letters.

Example: Ephraim Maree is a doctor. He comes from Kirinyaga.

Note: When a proper noun is made up of more than one word, only the important words in the noun will begin with a capital letter. Do not capitalize words such as the, of, or for.

Example: Gulf of Mexico, Statue of Liberty, the Commander–in–Chief.

Common and Proper Nouns

Common            Proper                   Common            Proper

street                 Kerugoya                city                    Raila Odinga

author               South Africa            ocean               Wanjohi

policeman         Asia                    bed                    Moi Avenue

country              Indian Ocean     wardrobe          Lake Victoria

mountain           England             continent          Dr. Frank Njenga

lake                     Mandela           assistant            Professor Saitoti

Proper nouns are important to good writing. They make your writing more specific, and therefore clearer.

Exercise 4

Which words are proper nouns and should be capitalised? Which words are common nouns?

Example: kenya       Proper:  Kenya

  1. july student                      11. america
  2. book kendu bay                 12. business
  3. face john hopkins             13. day
  4. england life                            14. east africa
  5. crocodiles johannesburg          15. calendar

Exercise 5

List the common nouns and the proper nouns in each of the following sentences.

Example: Nancy welcomed the guests.

Proper: Nancy                   Common: guests

  1. Lucky Dube was a famous singer.
  2. This dancer has performed in London and Paris.
  3. His last flight was over the Mediterranean Sea.
  4. She worked as a nurse during the Second World War.
  5. Her goal was to educate students all over the world.
  6. It was the worst accident in the history of Europe.
  7. Bill Gates is best known for founding Microsoft.
  8. The Pilot was the first woman to cross that ocean alone.
  9. She grabbed a kettle and brought them water.
  10. Professor Wangari Maathai won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Singular and Plural Nouns

A noun may be either singular or plural. A singular noun names one person, place, thing, or idea.

Example: The farmer drove to the market in his truck.

A plural noun names more than one person, place, thing or idea.

Example: The farmers drove to the markets in their trucks.

Rules for forming plurals

The following are guidelines for forming plurals:

  1. To form the plural of most singular nouns, add -s.

Examples: Street–streets, house–houses, painter–painters, shelter–shelters, event-events, hospital–hospitals.

  1. When a singular noun ends in s, sh, ch, x, or z, add -es.

Examples: dress-dresses, brush-brushes, axe-axes, coach-coaches, box–boxes, bench-benches, dish-dishes, waltz–waltzes.

  1. When a singular noun ends in o, add -s to make it plural.

Examples: Piano-pianos, solo-solos, cameo–cameos, concerto–concertos, patio-patios, studio-studios, radio-radios, rodeo–rodeos.

  1. For some nouns ending with a consonant and o, add -es.

Examples: hero-heroes, potato-potatoes, echo-echoes, veto-vetoes, tomato-tomatoes.

  1. When a singular noun ends with a consonant and y, change the y to i and add -es.

Examples: Library – libraries, activity – activities, story – stories, city – cities, berry – berries.

  1. When a singular noun ends with a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) followed by y, just add -s.

Examples: Valley – valleys, essay – essays, alley – alleys, survey – surveys, joy – joys.

  1. To form the plural of many nouns ending in f or fe, change the f to v and add -es or s.

Examples: Wife – wives, thief – thieves, loaf – loaves, half – halves, shelf – shelves, leaf – leaves, scarf – scarves, life – lives, calf – calves, elf – elves.

  1. For some nouns ending in f, add –s to form the plural.

Examples:  proof – proofs, belief – beliefs, motif – motifs, cliff – cliffs.

  1. Some nouns remain the same in the singular and the plural.

Examples: deer – deer, sheep – sheep, series – series, species – species, moose – moose, trout – trout.

  1. The plurals of some nouns are formed in special ways.

Examples: foot – feet, child – children, mouse – mice, man – men, woman – women, ox-oxen, tooth – teeth.

NB: If you don’t figure out the correct spelling of a plural noun, look it up in a dictionary.

Exercise 6

What is the plural form of each of the following nouns? Example: scarfscarves

  1. tooth cuff                  17. moose    25. boss
  2. wife deer                18. child      26. fox
  3. giraffe cliff                19. echo       27. bunch
  4. hero auto                20. baby       28. ferry
  5. radio studio             21. sky         29. flash
  6. potato man                22. beach     30. ship
  7. belief roof                23. eye
  8. thief rodeo              24. Volcano

Exercise 7

Write the plural form of each noun in brackets to complete each sentence correctly.

Example: I bought two ________________ from the shop. (loaf) loaves

  1. I used two different _______________ to cut the rope. (knife)
  2. She peeled the _______________ with a knife. (potato)
  3. They are feeding the noisy _____________. (goose)
  4. The tools are placed on the _____________. (shelf)
  5. Mukami cut a few _______________ for the salad. (tomato)
  6. The ______________ are playing in the field. (child)
  7. Some ______________ are hiding in the ceiling. (mouse)
  8. The ______________ of the buildings must be repaired. (roof)
  9. The music helped them imagine the strange _________. (story)
  10. Koech used creative ______________ to help young people sharpen their imagination. (activity)

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Countable Nouns

These are nouns that take plurals and can be counted.


Egg – eggs                    One egg, three eggs, ten eggs

Potato   – Potatoes     Twenty potatoes

Onion – Onions           Two hundred onions

Such nouns are known as COUNTABLE   or COUNT NOUNS

Uncountable Nouns

These are nouns that do not take plurals and cannot be counted.

Examples: salt, butter, cooking fat, milk, bread, jam

We do not say:

Two butters*

Ten milks*

Three breads*

Such nouns are known as UNCOUNTABLE or MASS NOUNS

Exercise 8

Rewrite the words below in two columns, COUNTABLE and UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

        orange                              coffee

furniture                            tea

water                                 gold

chair                                  team

friend                                 music


Plurals with uncountable Nouns

One way to express plurals of uncountable nouns is by use of expressions of quantity.


a piece of information  –         pieces of information

a loaf of bread                –         four loaves of bread

a tin of soup                    –         three tins of soup

a piece of furniture        –         several pieces of furniture

a litre of milk                   –         twenty litres of milk

a bottle of beer               –         ten bottles of beer

Exercise 9

Supply an appropriate expression of quantity for the following uncountable nouns

  1. …………………………………..of cigarettes.
  2. …………………………….. of cooking oil
  3. …………………………….of jam.
  4. ……………………………….of butter.
  5. …………………………………of soda.
  6. …………………………………. of toothpaste
  7. ……………………………..of rice.
  8. five ……………………………….. of flour.
  9. two ……………………………….. of chocolate.
  10. four…………………….. of news.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are nouns that represent a group of people or things as a single unit.

Some collective nouns can take plural forms


crowd (s)                                    flock (s)

group (s)                                     herd (s)

team (s)                                      committee (s)

pair (s)

Some collective nouns, however, cannot be used in the plural:


furnitures*                                                    beddings*

equipments*                                                 informations*

luggages*                                                     baggages*




Exercise 10

When I arrived at the airport, there were………1……… (crowd) of people blocking the entrance with their ……………..2………………( luggage ). Near the customs sections, several……………3…………….. (group) of officials  were standing, checking the ………………4……………… (equipment) that was being loaded onto a trolley.  Most people were standing, waiting for… ………….5…………….. (information) from the loudspeakers on the departures and arrivals of aircraft.


A compound noun is a noun that is made up of two or more words.  The words that form compound nouns may be joined together, separated or hyphenated.


Joined: bookcase, blackboard, pushcart

Separated: high school, rabbit hutch, radar gun

Hyphenated: go-getter, mother-in-law, sergeant-at-arms

Compound nouns are usually a combination of two or more word classes.  The most common combinations are as follows:

  1. Some are formed by joining a noun with another noun. Most of these compound nouns take their plurals in the last words.


tableroom(s)            grass root(s)                 prize-fighter(s)

cupboard(s)              policeman/men            rubber-stamp(s)

bookcase(s)               farmhouse(s)               sanitary towel(s)

cowshed(s)               fruit machine(s)           shoulder blade(s)

  1. Some are formed by joining a verb and an adverb. Most of these compound nouns also take their plurals in the last words.


breakfast(s)             push-up(s)                       rundown(s)

takeaway(s)             knockout(s)                    slip-up(s)

sit-up(s)                    meltdown(s)

  1. Some compound nouns are formed by joining an adjective and a noun. Most of these also take their plurals in the last words.


hotdog(s)                   polar bear(s)                 safe guard(s)

blackboard(s)            quicksand

highway(s)                remote control(s)

nuclear power           right angle(s)

  1. Some are formed by joining a verb and a noun. Most of these also take their plurals in the last words.



driveway(s)              playground(s)             spend thrift(s)

breakdance(s)         pushchair(s)                      go-getter(s)

mincemeat               screwdriver(s)

password(s)             spare wheel(s)

  1. Some ore formed by joining an adverb and a noun. Most of these also take their plural in the last words.


overdraft(s)              overcoats(s)                    backyards(s)

backbencher(s)        undercoat(s)                    backbone(s)

backlog(s)                 underwear(s)                  oversight(s)

  1. A few compound nouns are formed by joining an adverb and a verb. These ones also take their plurals in the last words.


outbreak(s)                backlash(es)                   output(s)

outburst(s)                outcast(s)                        input(s)

  1. A few others are formed by joining a noun and a verb. They also take their plurals in the last words.


nosedive(s)            nightfall(s)

  1. A number of compound nouns are formed by joining two nouns by use of hyphens and a short preposition in between. These compound nouns always take their plurals in the first words.


commander(s)-in-chief      sergeant(s)-at-arms

mother(s)-in-law                  sister(s)-in-law


Exercise 11

Underline the compound nouns in the following sentences and write down their plural forms where possible.

  1. John wants to be a quantity surveyor when he grows up.
  2. Rainwater had washed away all the top soil.
  3. The footballer was shown a red card by the referee.
  4. Neither candidate won the elections, forcing a runoff.
  5. The goalkeeper saved a penalty in the second half.
  6. He killed the wild pig with a sledge hammer.
  7. Njoroge’s tape-recorder was stolen yesterday.
  8. The theatregoer was disappointed with the show.
  9. Size 8’s latest song has caused an uproar.
  10. He attempted a creative writing workshop.

Possessive Nouns

A possessive noun shows who or what owns something. A possessive noun can either be singular or plural.

Singular possessive nouns

A singular possessive noun shows that one person, place, or thing has or owns something. To make a singular noun show possession, add an apostrophe and s (‘s).


the feathers of the chick – the chick’s feathers

the hat that belongs to the man – the man’s hat

Other examples:

the child’s toy                  the fish’s fins

Mark’s bike                       the horse’s tail

Using possessive nouns is shorter and better than other ways of showing possession.


LONGER: The dog belonging to Papa is barking.

BETTER: Papa’s dog is barking.

Plural Possessive Nouns

A plural possessive noun shows possession or ownership of a plural noun.


The cars that belong to the teachers are parked here.

The teachers’ cars are parked here.

When a plural noun ends in s, add only an apostrophe after the s to make the noun show possession.

Not all plural nouns end in s. When a plural noun does not end in s, add ‘s to form the plural possession.


the shoes of the men – the men’s shoes

the food of the children – the children’s food

The noun following a possessive noun may either be the name of a thing or a quality.


Thing    –     Koki’s raincoat          Brian’s umbrella

Quality –     the judge’s fury        Bob’s courage

Exercise 8

Change the following phrases to show possession in a shorter way.

Example: the claws of the leopard

the leopard’s claws.

  1. the tail of the lion
  2. the dog that Cliff has
  3. the hat of my mother
  4. the book that Evans owns
  5. the pot that the child has
  6. the name of the doll
  7. the mobile phone that Lucy owns
  8. the shoes that Kimani has
  9. the teeth that the fox has
  10. the rabbit that my friend owns

Summary of rules of forming Possessive Nouns

  1. For singular a noun, add an apostrophe and s.

Example: Mr. Mukui’s car is a Toyota Corolla.

  1. For plural noun ending in s, add an apostrophe only.

Example: The victims’ property was stolen

  1. For a plural noun that does not end in s, add an apostrophe and s.

Example: The women’s boots were muddy.

Singular Noun    Singular possessive      Plural Noun       Plural possessive

boy                   boy’s                        boys                   boys’

child                 child’s                     children              children’s

mouse               mouse’s                   mice                   mice’s

deer                   deer’s                       deer                    deer’s

Exercise 9

Write the following phrases to show possession.

Example: teachers – pens    = teachers’ pens

  1. cooks – aprons women – sports
  2. men – boots carpenters – nails
  3. countries – flags sailors – uniforms
  4. guests – coats musicians – instruments
  5. athletes – medal neighbours – pets

Exercise 10

Rewrite the following sentences changing the BOLD words to plural possessive nouns.

Example: The players on the teams practised after school.

The teams’ players practised after school.

  1. Each day the wealth of the couple increased.
  2. There was a team of men and a team of women.
  3. The uniforms that the teams wore were new.
  4. Numbers were printed on the shirts of the athletes
  5. 5. Scores made by the team-mates were put on the scoreboard.
  6. The players enjoyed the cheers of their friends.
  7. The whistles of the coaches stopped the game.
  8. The eyes of the children were full of tears of joy.
  9. The soothing voices of their mothers calmed them.
  10. However, the houses belonging to their neighbours were destroyed.


A pronoun is a part of speech that takes the place of a noun. They include such words as I, we, he, she, they, me and us.

Pronouns enable you to avoid repeating the same names (nouns), when writing or speaking, which would otherwise make you sound very awkward and wordy. By using pronouns effectively, you can make your writing and speaking flow smoothly.

Pronouns can be classified into 6 types. These are personal, indefinite, demonstrative, interrogative, reflexive and intensive pronouns.

Personal pronouns

A personal pronoun is a word that is used in place of a noun or another pronoun. They are used to refer to nouns that name persons or things.


Awkward:   Kamau put on Kamau’s gum boots. Then Kamau went to the shamba.

Improved:   Kamau put on his gum boots. Then he went to the shamba.

In the above example, the personal pronoun his helps the writer avoid repeating the same noun. The pronoun he acts as a bridge to connect the two sentences.

Personal pronouns are further classified in terms of person and gender.


In terms of person, personal pronouns can be divided into three classes.

  • First person – I, my, me, we, our and us.

These ones refer to the person(s) speaking.

Example: I always ride my bike to school.

  • Second person – you, your, yours

These refer to the person(s) spoken to.

Example:  I will call you tomorrow.

(iii) Third person – he, his, him, she, hers, her, it, its, they, their, them.

These ones refer to another person(s) or thing(s) that is being spoken of.

The personal pronoun it usually replaces a noun that stands for a thing or an animal. It is never used in place of a person.




Personal pronouns can also be classified by gender. Gender can either be masculine (referring to male people), feminine (referring to female people) or neuter (referring to animals or things).


Joseph cleaned his car. (his is the third person, masculine gender).

Isabel said the dress was hers (hers is the third person, feminine gender).

The dog wagged its tail. (its is the third person, neuter gender).


In English, personal pronouns have three forms: the subject form, the object form and the possessive form.


She is a painter. (subject form)

He praised her. (Object form)

It is her best painting. (Possessive form)

Subject Pronouns

A subject pronoun takes the place of a noun as the subject of a sentence. These pronouns are:

  • Singular forms – I, you, he, she, it
  • Plural forms – we, you, they


Noun                                                  Subject Pronoun

The housegirl takes care of her.     She takes care of her.

The dog guards the house.                 It guards the house.

Mark and Francis love swimming. They love swimming.

Subject pronouns also appear after forms of the linking verbs be.


The watchman today is he.

The composers were they.

Exercise 1

Underline the subject pronouns in the following sentences.

Example: She ate a water melon

  1. They ate fish and chips.
  2. We like Italian food.
  3. It is delicious.
  4. The biggest eater was he.
  5. You helped in the cooking.
  6. The cooks were Tom and I.


Exercise 2

Replace the underlined words with subject pronouns.

Example: Pio and Gama are friends – They

  1. The glasses were under the table.
  2. Emma fed the chicken.
  3. The pears were juicy.
  4. Uncle Ben and Lillian visited the orphans.
  5. The new waitress is Jane.
  6. The fastest runners were Tecla and Kirui.
  7. Lisa went to the hall.
  8. The chicken was slaughtered.
  9. Lucky Dube and Brenda Fasie were South African Singers.
  10. Samuel Wanjiru has won many athletics medals.

Object pronouns

       Object pronouns can replace nouns used after action verbs. These pronouns are:

  • Singular – me, you, him, her, it
  • Plural – us, you, them


The driver drove him. (Direct object)

The parents thanked us. (Direct object)

The reporters asked him many questions. (Indirect object)

In the above examples, the personal pronouns are the direct or indirect objects of the verbs before them.

Object pronouns can also replace nouns after prepositions such as to, for, with, in, at or by. That is, they can be objects of prepositions.


Gladys waved to them. (Object of a preposition)

The delivery is for me.

Ben went with them to the theatre.

Exercise 3

Choose the correct pronoun in the brackets in the following sentences.

Example: Irungu photographed (us, we). = us

  1. Lisa asked (he, him) for a picture.
  2. Adam sketched Lisa and (I, me).
  3. He gave a photo to (us, we).
  4. Ann and (she, her) saw Dave and Bob.
  5. Adam drew Lisa and (they, them).
  6. Mark helped (I, me) with the packing.
  7. Loise praised (him, he) for his good work.
  8. Everyone spotted (they, them) easily.
  9. That night Mike played the guitar for (us, we).
  10. (We, Us) drove with (they, them) to the mountains.

Possessive pronouns

A possessive pronoun shows ownership.

Example: My pen is black.

There are two kinds of possessive pronouns:

  1. Those used as adjectives to modify nouns. These possessive pronouns are:

Singular: My, your, his, her, its

Plural: Our, your, their


My shirt is yellow.             Your food is on the table.

His bag is green.                 This is her dress.

Its fur is soft.                       These are our parents.

Pay your bills.                     They removed their bats.

The above possessive pronouns always appear before nouns to modify them. Hence, they are called modifiers.

  1. Those that stand alone and replace nouns in sentences. These possessive nouns are:

Singular: mine, yours, his, hers, its

Plural: ours, yours, their


The yellow shirt is mine.     The food on the table is yours.

The green bag is his.            This dress is hers.

Its is the soft fur.                  These crops are ours.

These bills are yours.           Those hats are theirs.

Exercise 4

Complete the following sentences by choosing the correct possessive pronoun from the brackets.

Example: The lazy girl completed (her, hers) home work. = her.

  1. (My, mine) journey to Mombasa was enjoyable.
  2. Florence said (her, hers) was the best.
  3. Are the pictures of Fort Jesus (your, yours)?
  4. (Her, Hers) were taken at Jomo Kenyatta Beach.
  5. Tomorrow we will make frames for (our, ours) pictures.
  6. (My, mine) class is planning a trip to Mt. Kenya.
  7. (Our, ours) trip will be taken on video.
  8. Micere is excited that the idea was (her, hers).
  9. Koki and Toti cannot hide (their, theirs) excitement.
  10. (My, mine) dream is to climb to the highest peak of the mountain.


  1. The pronoun I is used as a subject or after forms of the linking verb be.


Subject: I travel by bus.

After the linking verb be: Yesterday, the prefects on duty were Victor and I.

  1. The pronoun me is used as an object after action verbs or words (prepositions) such as to, for, with, in, or at.


Object: Rose met me at the gate.

After prepositions: Rose waited for me at the gate.

You are coming with me.

  1. When using compound subjects and objects (i.e. subjects and objects comprising of a pronoun and a noun or another pronoun), always name yourself last.


Diana and I visited our grandmother yesterday.

Who appointed Chege and me?

Rose waited for her and me at the gate.


A contraction is a shortened form of two words. One or more letters are omitted and an apostrophe (’) is used in place of the letters left out.

A contraction is formed by combining pronouns and the verbs am, is, are, will, would, have, has, and had.

Pronoun + verb Contraction Pronoun + verb        Contraction

I am                       I’m                       I have              I’ve

He is                      he’s                      he has              he’s

It is                        it’s                        it has               it’s

You are                  you’re                  you have         you’ve

They are                 they’re                  they have        they’ve

I will                      I’ll                        I had                I’d

You will                you’ll                   you had           you’d

We would              we’d                     we had            we’d


1.Some contractions look the same but are formed from different words.


he is, he has = he’s

we had, we would = we’d

2.Some possessive pronouns sound like contractions. Because the words sound alike, they are sometimes confused.


Possessive pronouns                    Contractions

its                                         it’s

your                                      you’re

their                                      they’re

whose                                   who’s

Incorrect: The team celebrated it’s victory.

Correct: The team celebrated its victory.

Incorrect: Your late for the preps.

Correct: You’re late for the preps.

Incorrect: Whose the fastest runner in the world?

Correct: Who’s the fastest runner in the world?

Rules of using possessive pronouns and contractions correctly:

  1. If the word you want to use stands for two words, it is a contraction and needs an apostrophe.
  2. Never use an apostrophe in a possessive pronoun.

Exercise 5

Write the contractions for the following word pairs. Example: It has = it’s

  1. You will 3. He had 5. You have
  2. We would 4. I am                       6. They will

Exercise 6

What pronoun and verb make up each of the following contractions?

Example: It’s = it is, it has

  1. I’ll 3. you’d                     5. they’re
  2. we’re 4. he’s                       6. she’d

Exercise 7

Choose the correct word given in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. The Kenyan government has worked hard to improve (its, it’s) educational system.
  2. (Whose, Who’s) going to decide where the guests will sleep?
  3. (Their, They’re) learning French in their school.
  4. Only students (whose, who’s) scores are excellent will join national schools.
  5. (Its, It’s) been estimated that about 8 million Kenyans are living with HIV AIDS.





An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that does not refer to a specific person or thing.

In English, there are singular indefinite pronouns, plural indefinite and both singular and plural indefinite pronouns.

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

another             anything     everybody    neither        one

anybody            each           everyone      nobody       somebody

anymore            either          everything   no one         someone.

An indefinite pronoun must agree with its verbs and in number with its possessive pronoun. The above indefinite pronouns are used with singular verbs. They are also used with singular possessive pronouns.


Agreement with verbs

Correct: Everyone has heard of Lake Turkana.

Incorrect: Everyone have heard of Lake Turkana.

Correct: Nobody knows what happened to Samuel Wanjiru.

Incorrect: Nobody know what happened to Samuel Wanjiru.

Correct: Everything about the old man remains a mystery.

Incorrect: Everything about the old man remain a mystery.

Agreement in number with possessive pronouns

Correct: Neither believed his/her eyes.

Incorrect: Neither believed their eyes.

Correct: Each strained his/her neck to see.

Incorrect: Each strained their neck to see.

Plural indefinite pronouns

both                 many                few                several

These indefinite pronouns use plural verbs and possessive pronouns.


Plural verbs

Correct: Few know about Lake Olbolosat.

Incorrect: Few knows about Lake Obolosat.

Correct: Both stand by what they believe.

Incorrect: Both stands by what they believe.

Plural possessive pronouns

Correct: Several reported their findings.

Incorrect: Several reported his/her findings.

Both singular and plural indefinite pronouns

all                some                any                    none

These indefinite pronouns may be singular or plural, depending on their meaning in the sentence.


All of my story is true. – singular

All of the guests are here. – plural

None of the lake is foggy. – singular

None of the photos are spoiled. – plural.


Underline the indefinite pronouns in the following sentences and then write the correct form of the verb or possessive pronoun in the brackets.

  1. All the photographs of the killer (is, are) unclear.
  2. (Has, Have) anybody seen my camera?
  3. Many (believes, believe) a monster lives in the lake.
  4. Each of the photographs (make, makes) people want more.
  5. All of the evidence (indicates, indicate) that he was killed by his wife.
  6. Everyone has taken (his, their) payment.
  7. Several eyewitnesses volunteered to give (his, their) accounts.
  8. Anyone can lose (her, their) eyesight.
  9. Another reported (his, their) case to the police.
  10. Somebody left (her, their) handbag in the lecture hall.


A demonstrative pronoun is used to single or point out one or more persons or things referred to in the sentence. These pronouns are this, that, these, and those.

This and these point to persons or things that are near.


This is a gazelle.

These are the students of Kianjege West Secondary School.

That and those point to persons or things that are farther away.


That is the city square.

Those are the lodging rooms.

This and that are used with singular nouns. These and those are used with plural nouns.

Exercise 9

Pick the correct demonstrate pronouns from the choices given in the brackets in the following sentences.

  1. (This, That) is the canteen we are entering now.
  2. (This, That) is the dispensary across the street
  3. (These, Those) are beautiful flowers on the counter over there.
  4. Are (those, these) chocolate bars on the far counter?
  5. I think (these, those) are called Vuvuzelas.


An interrogative pronoun is used to ask a question. These pronouns are who, whose, whom, which and what.


Who is the mayor of this town?

Whose is the red car?

Which is her blouse?

What did she ask you?

Whom should I trust with my secret?


Who, whom, and whose are often used to ask questions. Hence, they are interrogative pronouns.

WHO is the subject form. It is used as the subject of a verb.


Who taught you how to play the guitar? (Who is the subject of the verb taught.)

WHOM is the object form. It is used as the direct object of a verb or as the object of a preposition.


Whom did you meet? (Whom is the object of the verb did meet).

For whom is this trophy? (whom is the object of the preposition for).

WHOSE is the possessive form. It can be used :

  • To modify a noun


Whose umbrella is this? (whose modifies the noun umbrella)

  • Alone as the subject or object of a verb


Whose are those water melons? (whose is the subject of the verb are)

Whose did you admire? (whose is the object of the verb did admire)

Exercise 10

Pick the correct interrogative pronouns from the brackets in the following sentences.

  1. (Who, Whom) owns that shop?
  2. (Who, Whom) can we ask the way?
  3. (Which, What) did they ask you?
  4. (Which, What) are the objects on the table called?
  5. To (who, whom) does the boutique belong?


Exercise 11

Complete the following sentences with who, whom, or whose.

  1. ________________ knows the origin of the Luos?
  2. ________________ did you ask about it?
  3. To _______________ did you give the letter?
  4. _________________ is the most attractive painting?
  5. _________________ is likely to receive the Chaguo la Teeniez award?
  6. For ______________ did you buy this doll?
  7. _________________ skill in dancing is the best?
  8. _________________ is the officer-in-charge here?
  9. _________________ are you looking at?

10._________________ are those healthy Merino sheep?


Reflexive and intensive pronouns end in -self or –selves. These are myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, and themselves. There is, however, one difference between reflexive and Intensive pronouns.

A reflexive pronoun refers to an action performed by the subject of the sentence. The meaning of the sentence is incomplete without the reflexive pronoun.


Monicah bought herself a new dress.

(The meaning of the sentence is incomplete without the reflexive pronoun because we do not know for whom Monicah bought the dress).

An Intensive pronoun is used to emphasise a noun or a pronoun. It does not add information to a sentence, and it can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

I myself pulled the boy out of the river.

(If you remove myself, the meaning of the sentence does not change)

Exercise 12

Identify the Reflexive and Intensive pronouns in the following sentences, labelling them accordingly.

  1. I myself have never tried mountain climbing.
  2. He himself was taking the cows to graze in the forest.
  3. My sister Annastasia mends her clothes herself.
  4. She often challenges herself by doing strenuous activities.
  5. You may ask yourself about the sanity of beer drinking competition.






  1. Double subjects

We all know that every sentence must have a subject. Sometimes we incorrectly use a double subject – a noun and a pronoun – to name the same person, place, or thing.

     Incorrect                             Correct

Jane she is my cousin.             Jane is my cousin.

She is my cousin.

Her scarf it is pretty.               Her scarf is pretty.

It is pretty.

Jane and she should not be used as subjects together.

The subject her scarf should not be used together with it.

Use only a noun or a pronoun to name a subject.

  1. Pronouns and their Antecedents

The antecedent of a pronoun is a noun or another pronoun for which the pronoun stands.

A personal pronoun, you will remember, is used in place or a noun. The noun is the word to which the pronouns refer and it is therefore its antecedent.

The noun usually comes first, either in the same sentence or in the sentence before it.


We met Mureithi. He is the medical doctor.

(He stands for Mureithi. Mureithi is the antecedent).

The students had come to school with their mobile phones.

(Their stands for students. Students is the antecedent).

Pronouns may be the antecedents of other pronouns.


Does everybody have his booklet?

(everybody, which is a singular indefinite pronoun, is the antecedent of his).

All of the students have brought theirs.

(All, which is a plural indefinite pronoun, is the antecedent of theirs).

Now, a pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number. Agree here means that the pronoun must be the same in number as its antecedent. The word number means singular or plural.

If the pronoun is singular, the word that it stands for must be singular, and it must be plural if the word it stands for is plural.


Correct:     The scientists tested their new discovery.

(Scientists is plural; their is plural.)

IncorrectThe scientists tested his new discovery.

Correct:     Mr. Kiama turned on his TV.

(Mr Kiama is singular; his is singular)

Correct:     Nobody left her workstation.

(Nobody is singular, her is singular)

NB: When the antecedent refers to both males and females, it is best to use the phrase his or her.

  1. Use of we and us with nouns.

Phrases such as we students and us girls are often incorrectly used. To tell which pronoun to use, drop the noun and say the sentence without it.

Problem: (We, Us) boys study hard.

Solution: We study hard. = We boys study hard.

Problem: The DC praised. (us, we) students.

Solution: The DC praised us. = The DC praised us students

  1. Using the pronoun Them

The word them is always a pronoun. It is always used as the object of a verb or a preposition, never as a subject.


Correct: The president greeted them. (direct object of the verb greeted)

Correct: She gave them a sandwich. (Indirect object of the verb gave)

Correct: The information was useful to them. (object of the preposition to)

Incorrect: Them they arrived late.

  1. Using Those

Although we previously said that those is used as a demonstrative pronouns, it is sometimes used as an adjective i.e. a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun. If a noun appears immediately after it, those is now an adjective, not a pronoun.


Those are the new desks that were bought. (Those is a pronoun, the subject of the verb are).

Those desks are attractive. (Those is an adjective modifying the noun desks).

Exercise 13

Each of the following sentences has a double subject. Write each correctly.

  1. Papa Shirandula he is a good actor.
  2. Many people they find him funny.
  3. The show it was on television for many years.
  4. Their daughter she is also in that show.
  5. The shoes they are beautiful.
  6. People they like our hotel.
  7. My brother he drives a matatu.
  8. Our hotel it is open seven days a week.
  9. The TV it is very clear today.
  10. My brother and sister they work in Nairobi.

Exercise 14

Pick the correct pronoun in the brackets in the following sentences.

  1. (We, Us) students started a school magazine last month.
  2. Many careers are unpromising. (Them, Those) are the ones to avoid.
  3. One of (them, those) motivational speakers was especially interesting.
  4. A financial analyst told (we, us) students about his work.
  5. Finding jobs was important to (we, us) graduates.


A verb is a word that:

  • expresses an action
  • expresses the state that something exists, or

(iii) links the subject with a word that describes or renames it.

Hence, there are two kinds of verbs. These are action verbs and linking verbs.


       Action verbs express actions. They show what the subject does or did. Most verbs are action verbs.


Cats drink milk.

The ball flew over the goal post.

The farmer tills the land.

Robert ran to the house.

The action may be one that you can see.


They crowned their new King.

The action may be one that you cannot see.


She wanted recognition.

Whether the action can be seen or not, an action verb says that something is happening, has happened, or will happen.


A linking verb links the subject of a sentence with a word or words that :

  • express(es) the subject’s state of being


She is here. (expresses state of being)

She seems ready. (state of being)

  • describe(s) or rename(s) the subject.


Anna is a nurse. (a nurse describes Anna)

Joyce is cheerful. (cheerful describes Joyce)

The road is bumpy.   (bumpy describes the road)

A linking verb does not tell about an action.

Common linking verbs

Am         look        grow          are           feel         remain

is           taste          become     was          smell     sound

were      seem         will             be           appear

NB: Some verbs can be either linking verbs or action verbs.


The crowd looked at the mangled car. – ACTION

The driver of the car looked shocked. – LINKING

The chef smelled the food. – ACTION

The food smelled wonderful. – LINKING


Identify the verb in each of the following sentences. Then label each verb Action or Linking.

  1. Queen Elizabeth of England seems an interesting historical figure.
  2. We watched the Olympic games on television.
  3. The crowd cheered loudly.
  4. She seems calm.
  5. PLO Lumumba is a quick thinker.
  6. The hunter aimed the arrow at the antelope.
  7. The referee blew the whistle to start off the game.
  8. She was very tired after the journey.
  9. She is careful when crossing the road.
  10. The country seems prosperous.


In some sentences, the verb is more than one word. It is in form of a phrase, which is called a verb phrase. A verb phrase consists of a main verb and one or more helping verbs. The main verb shows the action in the sentence.

The helping verb works with the main verb. Helping verbs do not show action.


Mark Francis has passed the examinations.

H.V.  M.V.

He will be admitted to a national school.

H.V.H.V.  M.V.

His parents are happy with him.

H.V. M.V.

Common helping verbs

am         will      can      would    is       shall         could

must      are      have     may    was      has    should

were      had      might

Some verbs, such as do, have and be can either be used as main verbs or as helping verbs.


As main verbs                             As helping verbs

I will do the job.                          I do like the job.

Who has a pen?                           He has lost his pen.

They are my friends.           They are coming today.

Sometimes helping verbs and main verbs are separated by words that are not verbs.


I do not ride a bicycle any more.

Can we ever be friends again?

We should definitely apologise for the mistakes.

Exercise 2

Indicate H.V. under the Helping verb and M.V. under the Main verb in the following sentences.

  1. The school choir is singing a new song.
  2. The football season has finally begun.
  3. This car just can travel very fast.
  4. He had waited for this chance for years.
  5. My parents will be visiting us soon.
  6. Our friends have come for a visit.
  7. You must buy your ticket for the game.
  8. Sarah has chosen Kenyatta University for her degree course.
  9. She is hitting her child with a rubber strap.
  10. I will go for the game next week.


The time of an action or the state of being is expressed by different forms of the verb. These forms are called the tenses of the verb.

There are three main forms of a verb: the present, the past, or the future.

The Present Tense

A verb which is in present tense indicates what the subject of the sentence is doing right now.


The teacher sees the students.

The verb sees tells that the teacher is seeing the students now. To show the present tense, an -s or -es is added to most verbs if the subject is singular.

If the subject is plural, or I or You, the -s, or -es is not added.


The bird hatches in the nest.

The stream flows down the hill.

The boys rush for their breakfast.

We talk a lot.

Rules for forming the Present Tense with Singular Subjects

  1. Most verbs: add –s

get – gets          play – plays          eat – eats

  1. Verbs ending in s, ch, sh, x, and z: add -es

pass – passes                             mix – mixes                                                                        punch-punches                         buzz – buzzes                                                                                push – pushes

  1. Verbs ending with a consonant and y: change the y to i and add -es

try – tries                           empty – empties

Exercise 3

Write the correct present form of each verb in the brackets in the following sentences.

  1. She carefully ________________ the map. (study)
  2. A fish _______________ in the water near me. (splash)
  3. She _______________ her hands. (wash)
  4. He ______________ to the classroom. (hurry)
  5. Bryan and I ____________ the assignment. (discuss)

The Past Tense

A verb which is in past tense shows what has already happened.


Tito liked his grandmother’s story.

The verb liked tells that the action in the sentence happened before now.

Rules for forming the Past Tense

  1. Most verbs: Add -ed play – played

talk – talked

climb – climbed

  1. Verbs ending with e: Add -d praise – praised

hope – hoped

wipe – wiped

  1. Verbs ending with a consonant and -y: Change the y to i and add –ed bury – buried

carry – carried

study – studied

  1. Verbs ending with a single vowel and a consonant: Double the final consonant and add-ed stop – stopped

man – manned

trip – tripped

Exercise 4

Write the past tense forms of each of the verbs in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. John _____________ his house burn into ashes. (watch)
  2. The baby _____________ loudly. (cry)
  3. The teacher ______________ at the naughty student. (yell)
  4. The chef ______________ a delicious cake. (bake)
  5. We ______________ for a present for our grandmother. (shop)

The Future Tense

A verb which is in future tense tells what is going to happen.


Evans will take his car to the garage.

She will probably come with us.

The verbs will take and will come tell us what is going to happen. Hence, they are in future tense.

To form the future tense of a verb, use the helping verb will or shall  with the main verb.

Exercise 5

Write the future tense forms of the verbs in the following sentences.

  1. We write in exercise books.
  2. The train stopped at the station.
  3. He decides what he wants to do.
  4. They practise in the football field.
  5. Rats multiply very fast.

More Tenses

The above three forms of tenses can further be divided into:

  1. The simple tenses – Present simple tense

– Past simple tense

– Future simple tense

  1. The perfect tenses – Present perfect tense

– Present perfect progressive                                                      – Past perfect tense

– Future perfect

– Future perfect progressive

  1. The progressive tenses – Present progressive tense

– Past progressive tense

– Progressive tense

– Future perfect progressive tense.

The simple Tenses

The most common tenses of the verb are the simple tenses. You use them most often in your speaking and writing.

  1. Present simple tense.

Look at the following sentences.

  • I know
  • He goes to school every day.
  • The sun rises from the east.

All the above sentences contain a verb in the present simple tense. This tense is used for different purposes.

  • To state a personal fact

Example: I know Kisumu.

(ii) To point out a regular habit.

Example: He goes to school every day.

(iii) To state a known scientific fact

Example: The sun rises from the east.

Exercise 6

Complete the following sentences putting the verbs in brackets in the present simple tense.

  1. They _________ their new principal. (like)
  2. Every morning, she ______________ her teeth. (brush)
  3. The earth ______________ on its own axis. (rotate)
  4. Twice a year, he _______________ his family. (visit)
  5. Air ____________ when heated. (rise)
  6. Past Simple Tense

The past simple tense is used when an action has been completed.


We cleaned our classrooms yesterday.

He drove the car this morning.

She planned the whole incident.

Exercise 7

Write down the past simple tense of the following words and then use each of them in sentences of your own.

start                              breathe

add                               roam

trap                             obey

annoy                          worry

pity                             fit

  1. Future Simple Tense

The future simple tense places the action or condition in the future. It is formed by using the word shall or will before the present form of the main verb.


We shall need help with her load.

She will eat the bananas alone.

The dancers will entertain them.

Exercise 8

Use the following words in future simple tense in sentences of your own.

see                                       develop

go                                        begin

exist                                     consume

introduce                             hunt

bring                                    become

The Perfect Tenses

The perfect tenses are used to show that an action was completed or that a condition existed before a given time. The perfect tenses are formed using has, have, or had before the past participles, that is, verb forms ending in -ed.


  1. Present Perfect Tense:

Ceasar has just finished his homework.

Kamau and Njoroge have now agreed to meet.

  1. Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Kibet has been working in his shamba for two hours.

We have been swimming in this pool for ten minutes.

  1. Past Perfect Tense

We had completed the work by the time the supervisor came.

Nobody knew that she had already remarried.

  1. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

I had been trying to contact him for two hours before he finally appeared.

Mrs. Masumbuko had been feeling unwell the whole week before she decided to visit a doctor.

  1. Future Perfect Tense

Agege will have sold his goats by two p.m.

By next term, twenty students will have dropped from this school.

  1. Future Perfect Continuous

The players will have been playing for twenty minutes by the time the President arrives.

By the end of this term, she will have been living with her aunt for five years.

Exercise 9

Rewrite the following sentence changing the verb into present perfect, present perfect progressive, past perfect, past perfect progressive, future perfect and future perfect progressive tenses. Make any necessary changes to make the sentences meaningful.

John comes here every year.

The Progressive Verb Forms

The progressive form of the verb shows continuing action.


I am singing

She was dancing.

The progressive form is formed using various forms of the verb be plus the present participle, that is, a verb form that ends in –ing.


  1. Present Progressive Tense

I am reading a book about Red Indians.

Her mother is preparing dinner.

  1. Present Perfect Progressive

He has been cleaning his car since morning.

They have been exercising for a week now.

  1. Past Progressive Tense

She was cooking supper when I arrived.

They were fighting fiercely when the police arrived.

  1. Past Perfect Progressive Tense

Sonko had been wearing an earing for years before he removed it.

Onyancha had been killing children before he was finally discovered.

  1. Future Progressive

He will be tilling the land next week.

Joyce and Joan will be washing clothes all morning.

  1. Future Perfect Progressive

The children will have been sleeping for two hours by the time their parents arrive.

John will have grown a beard by the time he is twelve.

Exercise 10

Rewrite the following sentence changing the verb into present progressive, present perfect progressive, past progressive, past perfect progressive, future progressive and future perfect progressive tenses. Make any necessary changes to make the sentences meaningful.

Jane plays the guitar well.


Present tense

A verb and its subject must agree in number. To agree means that if the subject is singular, the verb must be in singular form. If the subject is plural, the verb form must be plural.


The baby cries every morning. – SINGULAR

The babies cry every morning. – PLURAL

Rules for subject-verb Agreement

  1. Singular subject: Add -s or -es to the verb

The man drives a bus.

She teaches in a primary school.

He studies his map.

  1. Plural subject: Do not add -s or -es to the verb

The men drive buses.

They teach in primary schools.

We study our maps.

  1. For I or You: Do not add -s or -es to the verb

I hate books.

You like dogs.

I admire actors.

When a sentence has a compound subject, that is, two subjects joined by and, the plural form of the verb is used.


John and James work at Naivas Supermarket.

The teachers and the students respect one another a lot.

Subject-verb Agreement with be and have

The verbs be and have change their forms in special ways in order to agree with their subjects.




Various ways in which be and have change in order to agree with their subjects

  Subject            Be                 Have



Singular subjects:



He, she, it

Singular Noun


am, was

are, were

is, was

is, was


have, had

have, had

has, had

has, had

2. Plural subjects:




Plural Noun


are, were

are, were

are, were

are, were




have, had

have, had

have, had

have, had


Exercise 11

Put appropriate Present tense verbs in the blank spaces in the following sentences. Ensure that the subject agrees with the verb and that the sentence makes sense.

  1. The dogs _______________ their owners.
  2. She ______________ at the door.
  3. They ______________ the road at the Zebra-crossing.
  4. Many blind people ___________________ dogs as guides.
  5. We ________________ dogs every day.
  6. Mark always _______________ his house.
  7. I often _______________ with June.
  8. Mwangi __________________ his aunt in Mombasa.
  9. Jane and he ________________ next month.
  10. The directors ______________ the company.


We have learned in the previous chapter how to form the past tense and how to use helping verbs to show that something has already happened. We saw that for most verbs, we form the past tense and participles by adding -d or -ed to the verb. Verbs that follow this rule are called Regular Verbs.


The farmer planted his crops last month. – past tense

The crops have been planted recently. – past participle.

For all regular verbs, the past and the past participles are spelled alike. They are made up by adding -d or -ed to the present form of the verb.



Present Past Past Participles














had helped

had rescued

had rushed

had supported

had played

had talked

had lived

The spelling of many regular verbs changes when –d or -ed is added, that is, the last consonant is doubled before adding -d or -ed. For those ending -y, it is dropped and replaced with –i:


Present Past Past Participles












(had) hopped

(had) drugged

(had) permitted

(had) knitted

(had) cried

(had) carried

Exercise 12

Write the present, past and past participles of the following verbs. Remember to change the spelling appropriately where necessary.

  1. prevent 6. aid
  2. donate 7. relieve
  3. hurry 8. share
  4. worry 9. enrol
  5. train 10. save

Irregular Verbs

Some verbs do not form the past by adding -d or –ed. These verbs are called irregular verbs. There are only about sixty frequently used irregular verbs. For many of these, the past and the past participles are spelled the same but some are different.


He saw great misery all around him. – past

He has seen great misery all round him. – past participle




Common irregular Verbs

Verb Past tense Past participles











































( had) begun

(had) chosen

(had) gone

(had) spoken

(had) ridden

(had) fought

(had) thrown

(had) come

(had) sung

(had) stolen

(had) swum

(had) made

(had) run

(had) grown

(had) written

(had) rung

(had) drunk

(had) lain

(had) done

(had) eaten

(had) known

For a few irregular verbs, like hit and cut, the three principal parts are spelled the same. These ones offer no problems to learners. Most problems come from irregular verbs with three different forms. For example, the irregular verbs throw and ring.

throw                   threw                   had thrown

ring                      rang                      had rung

If you are not sure about a verb form, look it up in the dictionary.

Exercise 13

Write the past tense and past participles of the following irregular verbs and then use each of them in sentences of your own.

  1. arise                         fall
  2. tear                         blow
  3. wear                         freeze
  4. lay                   fly
  5. see                 write



A verb is in active voice when the subject of the sentence performs the action.


Our teacher punished us for making noise in class.

Subject       action

Players arrived for their first match early in the morning.

Subject  action

In the above sentences, the subject is who performed the action. Hence, the verbs of these sentences are in active voice.


The word passive means “acted upon”. When the subject of the sentence receives the action or expresses the result of the action, the verb is in passive voice.


We were punished by the teacher for making noise.

Sub              action

He was helped by a passer-by.

Sub        action

In the above sentences the subjects we and he receive the action.

When we do not know who or what did the action, or when we do not want to say who or what did it, we use the passive voice.

The passive form of a verb consists of some form of be plus the past participle.


       Active                                           Passive

Baabu explored the sea.           The sea was explored by Baabu.

Be + past participle

The captain helped him.     He was helped by the captain.

Be+past participle

Exercise 14

Write the verbs from the following sentences and then label each one Active or Passive.

  1. The guest of honour presented prizes to the best students.
  2. The cattle were taken home by the herders.
  3. The health officer ordered the slaughter house closed.
  4. Peace and order has been restored in the area by the youth wingers.
  5. The workers cleared the farm.
  6. The crop was harvested by the hired workers.
  7. The government stressed the importance of unity among tribes.
  8. The farmers were urged to redouble their efforts in food production.
  9. The K.I.E is developing support materials for the 8-4-4 system of education.
  10. A fishing pond was started by the Wildlife Club in the school.


Some sentences express a complete thought with only a subject and an action verb.


The sun shines.

Subject     Action verb

In other sentences, a direct object must follow the action verb for the sentence to be complete. A direct object is a noun or a pronoun that receives the action of the verb.


The goalkeeper caught the ball.

Subject       action verb direct object

Transitive verbs

A Transitive verb is an action verb that must take a direct object for the sentence to express a complete thought. A direct object answers the question what? or whom?


The captain steered the ship. (Steered what? the ship)

The teacher praised the students. (Praised whom? The students)

Transitive verbs cannot be used alone without direct objects in sentences; they would not have complete meanings.

Exercise 15

What are the action verbs and the direct objects in the following sentences?

  1. He carried his bag with him.
  2. The two friends discussed the examination paper.
  3. We took a trip to Nakuru last month.
  4. The water splashed me.
  5. He gave interesting facts about whales.
  6. We searched the house for rats.
  7. They cheered the team noisily.
  8. My brother bought a camera.
  9. Njoroge admires Papa Shirandula.
  10. We viewed the shouting star at midnight.

Intransitive verbs

An Intransitive verb is an action verb that does not require a direct object for the sentence to have complete meaning.



The ship sailed.

Subject      action verb

The child smiled.

Subject      action verb

They do not answer the questions what? or whom? Sometimes they answer the questions how? or how often?


The ship sailed smoothly. (How did it sail? Smoothly)

The child smiled repeatedly. (How often did the child smile? Repeatedly)

Both transitive and intransitive verbs

Some verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively.


We cheered our team noisily. (Transitive)

We cheered noisily. (Intransitive)

He broke the window pane. (Transitive)

The glass broke. (Intransitive)

NB: Only transitive verbs can be changed from active to passive voice.


Active                                            Passive

He kicked the ball.                     The ball was kicked by him.

She bought a new dress              A new dress was bought by her.

She wailed loudly                                      ??

They danced well                                      ??

Exercise 16

Indicate at the end of each of the following sentences whether the underlined verb is Transitive or Intransitive.

  1. Some whales sing songs.
  2. We gave our books to the gatekeeper.
  3. She cried bitterly.
  4. He made a sketch of the giraffe.
  5. John danced to the music.
  6. The bird flew in the air.
  7. They located the lost ship.
  8. She pleaded with him mercifully.
  9. The children heard the sound from the cave.
  • It rained heavily.




Some pairs of verbs confuse learners of English because their meanings are related but not the same. Others confuse them because they sound similar, but their meanings are different. Others are similar in appearance but different in meanings.

  The pairs Meaning Present tense Past tense Past participle Examples of its usage
1 sit



To be in a seated position

To put or place










Sit on that chair.


Set the cage down.

2. lie



To rest in a flat position


To put or place










The cat lies on the table.

Lay the cloth on the table.

3. rise



To move upward


To move something upward or to lift










The children rise up early in the morning.

The scout raised the flag.

4. let



To allow or permit


To depart or to allow to remain where it is










Let the bird go free.

Leave this house now!

Leave the door closed.

5. learn



To gain knowledge or skill

To help someone learn or to show how or explain










I learned a lot in school.

That teacher taught me in Biology.

6. can


To be able

To be allowed

      I can ride my bike well.

You may go out.





Pick the correct verb from the ones given in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. Studying spiders closely can (learn, teach) us how they get their food.
  2. An insect that (lays, lies) motionless on a leaf can become prey to some other animal.
  3. The lion will (lay, lie) there waiting for its prey.
  4. The monster spider (sits, sets) patiently near its web.
  5. Experience has (taught, learned) me not to take things for granted.
  6. A bird (raises, rises) its body using its wings.
  7. This (raises, rises) another question,
  8. Nature has (learned, taught) spiders new tricks.
  9. The watchman instantly (raises, rises) the alarm when there is danger.
  10. The trappers have (lain, laid) fresh traps for the porcupines.


An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun or a pronoun. To describe or modify means to provide additional information about nouns or pronouns. To modify further means to change something slightly.

Writers and speakers modify an idea or image by choosing certain describing words, which are called adjectives. Hence, these adjectives are also called modifiers. Adjectives are like word cameras. They are words that describe colours, sizes and shapes. Adjectives help you capture how the world around you looks and feels.

Adjectives tell:

  1. What kind?


The powerful gorilla knocked down the hunter.

The old man walked slowly.

  1. How many?


Three zebras were resting.

He has few friends.

  1. Which one(s)?


This painting is attractive.

These farmers are clearing the field.

There are 5 main kinds of adjectives, namely:-

  1. Descriptive adjectives
  2. Definite and indefinite adjectives
  3. Demonstrative adjectives
  4. Interrogative adjectives
  5. Articles and possessive adjectives

Descriptive adjectives

Descriptive adjectives tell us the size, shape, age, colour, weight, height, make, nature and origin of the nouns they are describing.

Examples of descriptive Adjectives:

Size Shape Age Colour Weight Height Make Nature Origin






















































South African




Descriptive adjectives are of two types:

  1. Common descriptive adjectives – these are adjectives that give general features of somebody or something. They are the adjectives of size, shape, age, colour, weight, height, make and nature. Refer to the examples in the diagram above.
  2. Proper adjectives – These ones are formed from proper nouns. They are always capitalized. They always appear last in a string of adjectives modifying the same noun, just before the noun itself.


The Japanese ambassador

A Mexican carpet

An Italian chef

Note that when a proper adjective comprises of two words, both are capitalized.


A South African farmer

A North American cowboy

Exercise 1

Find the adjectives in the following sentences and indicate what types they are.

  1. Alaska is the largest state in the USA.
  2. The Alaskan Senator is Lord John Mc Dougal.
  3. Kenya is the tallest mountain in Kenya.
  4. Alaska has a tiny population of one and a half million people.
  5. Northern Province has small, scattered towns.
  6. A trip to Northern Kenya will take you across vast wilderness.
  7. American tourists are fond of wild animals.
  8. There is a huge lake in the Rift Valley Province.
  9. I sent a letter to my Australian pen pal.
  • I have a beautiful Egyptian robe.

Demonstrative Adjectives

A demonstrative adjective tells which one or which ones. They are used before nouns and other adjectives.

There are 4 demonstrative adjectives in English: This, that, these and those. This and these are used to refer to nouns close to the speaker or writer. That and those refer to nouns farther away. This and that are used before singular nouns while these and those are used before plural nouns.


This picture is very beautiful.

Singular noun

That one is not as beautiful.

Singular noun

These drawings are very old.

Plural noun

Those ones were painted in Uganda.

Plural noun

Exercise 2

Choose the word in brackets that correctly completes each of the following sentences.

  1. My bus left the station before (that, those) matatus.
  2. (Those, These) chairs behind me were occupied.
  3. My seat has a better view than (this, that) one over there.
  4. (Those, That) man should fasten his seat belt.
  5. (This, That) car is old, but that one is new.
  6. (These, Those) clouds are far away.
  7. (This, That) window next to me has a broken pane.
  8. (That, This) chair near me is broken.
  9. My car is moving faster than (these, those) buses over there.
  10. (These, Those) goats grazing over there are my uncle’s.

Definite and indefinite adjectives

These are adjectives which tell how many or how much. They give the number or the quantity, either specific or approximate, of the noun in question.


Three elephants were killed by the game rangers.

He bought several houses in Kileleshwa.

Don’t put much sugar in the tea!

More examples

Numbers Amount Approximate



















Adjectives that are in form of numbers are used with countable nouns:


Two calves were born yesterday.

Five chimpanzees performed funny tricks.

Many children like dinosaurs.

A definite or indefinite adjective may look like a pronoun, but it is used differently in a sentence. It is an adjective used to modify a noun.

Adjectives that are in form of quantity are used with uncountable nouns.


Do you have any water in the house?

How much flour did you buy?

Interrogative Adjectives

The interrogative adjectives are used with nouns to ask questions. Examples are what, which, and whose.


What movie do you want to see?

Which leaves turn colour first?

Whose son is he?

An interrogative adjective may look like an interrogative pronoun but it is used differently. It is an adjective, used to modify a noun.

Exercise 3

Underline the adjectives in the following sentences.

  1. Twenty bulls were slaughtered for the wedding.
  2. Few people know the name of our president.
  3. They stole all the money in the safe.
  4. There isn’t much sugar in the dish.
  5. Numerous disasters have hit China this year.
  6. What game is playing on TV tonight?
  7. Whose car is that one over there?
  8. Which house was broken into?
  9. I don’t know what misfortune has faced him.
  10. Nobody knows which table was taken.

Articles and Possessive Pronouns

Two special kinds of adjectives are the articles and the possessive pronouns.


Articles are the words a, an and the. A and an are special adjectives called indefinite articles. They are used when the nouns they modify do not refer to any particular thing.


A student rang the bells. (No specific student)

An orange is good for your health. (No specific orange)

A is used before a noun that begins with a consonant sound. An is used before a noun that begins with a vowel sound. Note that it is the first sound of a noun, not the spelling, that determines whether to use a or an.


An hour       an heir

A hall

       The is a special adjective known as the definite article. It is used to refer to particular things.


The tourist was robbed. (A particular tourist).

The team began practising at 8 o’clock. (A particular team).

All articles are adjectives. The is used with both singular and plural nouns, but a and an are used with singular nouns


The tourist, the tourists, a tourist

The adjective, the adjectives, an adjective

Exercise 4

Choose the correct article from the choices given in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. (A, An) mountain climber climbed Mt. Elgon.
  2. He went up a cliff and was stranded on (a, an) jagged rock.
  3. No one knew (a, the) route he had taken.
  4. (The, An) climber’s friend called the local police.
  5. The police began the search within (a, an) hour.
  6. A police dog followed (a, the) climber’s scent.
  7. A helicopter began (a, an) air search of the mountain.
  8. The dog followed the climber’s scent to (a, the) jagged edge of the cliff.
  9. A climber from (a, the) police team went down the jagged rock.
  10. (A, An) rope was tied to the climber and he was pulled to safety.

Possessive Pronouns

The words my, her, its, our and their are possessive pronouns, but they can also be used as adjectives. These modifiers tell which one, which ones or whose?


My brother likes Sean Paul, but his sister does not.

Of his songs, Ever Blazing is his favourite.

Our school produces heroes, its fame is widespread.

Exercise 5

Write the adjectives from the following sentences and the nouns they modify.

  1. In her lifetime, Brenda Fasie composed many songs.
  2. Her early songs entertained her fans all over the world.
  3. Our first performance was successful.
  4. Her coughing grew worse with time.
  5. They agreed that it was their best goal in ten years.

Position of adjectives in sentences

  1. Most adjectives appear immediately before the nouns they are modifying e.g.

Descriptive: The beautiful house belongs to my uncle.

Demonstrative: That house belongs to my uncle.

Numerals: Two houses were burned down.

Articles: The house on fire belongs to her sister.

Possessive pronouns: Their house was burned down.

  1. Predicate Adjectives

Some adjectives appear after the nouns that they are modifying. These adjectives are always used after linking verbs that separate them from the words they modify. An adjective that follows a linking verb and that modifies the subject is called a predicate adjective.


Joyce seemed lonely.

Her brother was upset.

He became concerned.

Exercise 6

Identify the predicate adjectives in the following sentences.

  1. Her early songs were often quiet and serious.
  2. One of her songs, Vulindlela, is very popular.
  3. The dark city below the sky seems calm and peaceful.
  4. Her performance in K.C.S.E. was brilliant.
  5. The West African singer Kofi Olominde is extraordinary.


We have seen that adjectives describe nouns. One way in which they describe nouns is by comparing people, places or things.

To compare two people, places or things, we use the comparative form of an adjective. To compare more than two, we use the superlative form of the adjective.


ONE PERSON: Kimenju is tall.

TWO PERSONS: Kimenju is taller than James.

THREE OR MORE: Kimenju is the tallest of all.


The comparative form of the adjective is used to compare one thing, person or place with another one. It is formed in two ways.

  1. For short adjectives, add –er.


great + er = greater                 sweet + er = sweeter

big + er = bigger                     light + er = lighter.

  1. For longer adjectives, the comparative is formed by using the word more before them.


More handsome               more remarkable

More attractive                more hardworking

Most adjectives ending in -ful and -ous also form the comparative using more.


More successful      more curious             more ferocious

More beautiful        more generous           more prosperous




The superlative form of the adjective is used to compare a person, a place or a thing with more than one other of its kind.


Elephants are the largest animals in the jungle.

However, they are the most emotional animals.

The superlative form of an adjective is formed in two ways.

  1. By adding -est to the short adjective


great + est = greatest                sweet + est = sweetest

big + est = biggest                    light + est = light

  1. For longer adjectives, use most before them.


most mysterious                        most awkward

most successful                         most attractive

The ending -er in the comparative becomes -est in the superlative while more becomes most.

Adjective                        comparative            superlative

strong                           stronger                      strongest

quick                          quicker                        quickest

adventurous     more adventurous             most adventurous

co-operative         more co-operative           most co-operative

Summary of rules comparing with adjectives:

  Rule Examples
1. For most short adjectives:

Add -er or -est to the adjective

bright     dark        smart

brighter  darker     smarter

brightest darkest    smartest

2. For adjectives ending with e:

Drop the e and add -er or -est

safe        nice         wide

safer       nicer       wider

safest      nicest      widest


3. For adjectives ending with a consonant and y:

Change the y to i and add -er or -est

Busy              crazy happy

Busier            crazier                    happier

Busiest           craziest                    happiest

4. For single-syllable adjectives ending with a single vowel and a consonant:

Double the last consonant and add   -er or -est

Flat                  slim                 fat

Flatter             slimmer          fatter

Flattest            slimmest        fattest

5. For most adjectives with two or more syllables: Use more or most careful         generous

more careful more generous

most careful most generous

Points to note about Adjectives:

  1. A comparative is used to compare two persons, or things or two groups of persons or things.


A rat is smaller than a mouse.

Buffaloes are larger than domestic cows

  1. A superlative is used to compare a thing or a person to more than one other of its kind.


Lions are the bravest of all animals.

Elephants are the largest of all herbivores.

  1. You must use the word other when comparing something with everything else of its kind.


Leopards are more ferocious than any other cat.

  1. Do not use both -er and more, or -est and most.

Incorrect: Men die more earlier than women.

Correct: Men die earlier than women.

Incorrect: My father is the most oldest of the three brothers.

Correct: My father is the oldest of the three brothers.

Exercise 7

Write the adjectives in brackets in the following sentences correctly.

  1. My next sculpture will be even ___________________ (beautiful).
  2. That was the ________________ cartoon I have ever watched (funny).
  3. English is my ____________ subject of all (enjoyable).
  4. Job is the ______________ person in his family. (energetic)
  5. She is the ______________ of the three nurses. (helpful)
  6. That story sounds ____________ than fiction. (strange)
  7. He is _______________ than a cat. (curious)
  8. Her school grades are ______________ than mine. (high)
  9. You are _______________ than Maria. (creative)
  10. My next test will be _______________ than this one. (simple)



Irregular comparisons

Some adjectives have special forms for making comparisons. That is, they do not form their comparatives by use of -er or more, or their superlatives by use of -est or most. Instead, these adjectives change the words completely to form comparatives and superlatives.


Adjectives                Comparative          Superlative

good                              better                         best

well                               better                         best

bad                                worse                         worst

ill                                  worse                         worst

little                              less or lesser              least

much                             more                          most

many                             more                          most

far                                 farther                        farthest

Example of use in sentences:

The presentation of our play was good.

Our second performance was better.

But our last performance was the best.

Exercise 8

Write the correct forms of the adjectives in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. The comedy was the ________________ show of the three. (good)
  2. Mary had a _________________ cold yesterday. (bad)
  3. It was her ____________ performance this year. (good)
  4. Her illness is getting _____________ every day. (bad)
  5. The old woman received the _____________ amount of money from the MP. (little)
  6. Smoke your cigarette _______________ away from the children. (far)
  7. There was ______________ noise in the classroom than yesterday. (little)
  8. The musician said that that was a very ______________ year for him. (good)
  9. This year’s songs were much ______________ than last year’s. (good)
  10. He has the _____________ pairs of shoes in the school. (many)


  1. Those and Them

 Those is an adjective if it is followed by a noun. It is a pronoun if it is used alone.


Those thieves are daring! (Adjective modifying thieves)

Those are thieves! (Pronoun)

       Them is always a pronoun. It is used only as the object of a verb or as the object of a preposition. It is never used as an adjective.


We followed them. (Object of a verb)

They caught one of them. (Object of a preposition)

We heard them thieves breaking the door. (Incorrect)

  1. The extra Here and There with demonstrative adjectives

It is incorrect to use the demonstrative adjectives this, that, those, and these with here and there before the nouns they modify.


“This here job”

“That there house”

“These here books”

“Those there carpets”

The adjectives this and these include the meaning of here whereas the adjectives that and those include the meaning of there. Saying this here is like repeating oneself.

  1. Kind and sort with demonstrative adjectives

       Kind and sort are singular and hence should be used with singular demonstrative adjectives this and that.


I like this kind of story.

She likes that sort of food.

       Kinds and sorts are plural and should be used with plural demonstrative adjectives these and those.


Those sorts of horror movies scare me.

These kinds of sports are for strong people.

Exercise 9

Choose the correct adjectives from the ones given in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. A robot is one of (those, them) machines that looks and acts human.
  2. (These, This) sorts of machines are very strange.
  3. (This, This here) church was built in 1921.
  4. (Them, Those) mushrooms are very delicious.
  5. (Them, Those) soldiers won the battle.
  6. People call (these, this) kinds of songs Soul.
  7. John needed a name for (them, those) songs.
  8. (This, this here) play is called Aminata.
  9. Human beings have a fascination with (those, that) kind of machine.
  10. (These, This) sort of a car is meant for ministers.


An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs tell how, when, where, or to what extent an action happens.


HOW: The man walked quickly.

WHEN: It will rain soon.

WHERE: We shall meet here at 2 p.m.

TO WHAT EXTENT: He is extremely rude.

Other examples:

HOW              WHEN           WHERE                             TO WHAT EXTENT

happily            sometimes       underground           fully

secretly            later                 here                           extremely

together           tomorrow        there                          quite

carefully          now                 inside                        very

sorrowfully     finally             far                             rarely

painfully          again               upstairs

fast                  often                downstairs

hard                 once                somewhere

slowly             first                 forward

hurriedly         next                 behind

quietly             then                 above

Adverbs used to describe verbs

Adverbs that describe verbs tell how, when, where and to what extent an action happened.


HOW: John waited patiently for his turn.

WHEN: He is now walking into the office.

WHERE: He will eat his lunch there.

TO WHAT EXTENT: He is very pleased with himself.

Adverbs make the meaning of the verb clearer.


He will eat his lunch. (Without adverb)

He will eat his lunch there. (The adverb makes it clear where the action of eating will take place.)

Exercise 1

Write the adverbs in the following sentences and then indicate whether the adverb tells how, when, where, or to what extent.

  1. The tourist travelled far.
  2. They cheerfully greeted their grandmother.
  3. Tina hurried downstairs when she heard the knock.
  4. He worked carefully and skilfully.
  5. She was extremely agitated.
  6. The scientist looked curiously at the creature.
  7. Soon the bell was rung.
  8. The hall was fully occupied.
  9. They hugged their grandmother adorably.
  10. He brought the cake down.

Adverbs used to describe adjectives

Adverbs that tell to what extent can be used to describe adjectives.


The cave was very dark.

adv  adj

The tea was extremely hot.

adv       adj

Other adverbs used with adjectives

Just                   nearly                somewhat               most

These adverbs make the adjectives they are describing more understandable and precise.


The tomb was dark. (Without adverb)

The tomb was fully dark. (The adverb fully describes the extent of the darkness).

Exercise 2

Identify the adverb in each of the following sentences and then indicate the adjective it describes.

  1. He is a highly successful businessman.
  2. The extremely cold weather made me shiver.
  3. They are quite difficult to deal with.
  4. The house is barely visible from here.
  5. He is a very old man by now.
  6. She is mysteriously secretive about her activities.
  7. Jackline is horribly mean with her money.
  8. The book was totally exciting.
  9. The secretary was completely mad when the money was stolen.
  10. The boss is never punctual for meetings.

Adverbs used to describe other adverbs

Some adverbs that tell to what extent are used to describe other adverbs.


The student spoke very softly.

adv  adv

The cold subsided very gradually.

adv    adv

These adverbs make the adverbs they are describing more understandable and clear.


She spoke rudely. (Without adjective modifier)

She spoke extremely rudely. (extremely describes the extent of her rudeness).

Exercise 3

Identify the adverbs modifying other adverbs in the following sentences.

  1. The mourners covered the casket with earth very gradually.
  2. He appeared on her surprisingly quickly.
  3. The sun appeared somewhat closer that day.
  4. He drinks extremely irresponsibly.
  5. The driver sped the car totally carelessly.

Specific categories of Adverbs

  1. Adverbs of time – These answer the question when?


He joined the class yesterday.

Today, I will go to the cinema.

  1. Adverbs of place– These answer the question where?


Mrs. Kilome has gone out.

The bus stop is near the post office.

  1. Adverbs of frequency: These answer the question how often?


She often leaves without permission.

He always works hard.

  1. Adverbs of manner: These answer the question how?


Many ran fast to catch the bus

He painted the house badly.

  1. Adverbs of degree. These answer the question how much?


Luka is extremely intelligent.

She is very ill.


Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective.


Slow + -ly = slowly            quiet + -ly = quietly

Sometimes the addition of -ly to an adjective may require changing the spelling in the adjective.


Easy + -ly = easily (y changes to i)

Full + -ly = fully (ll changes to l)

Other adverbs are complete words on their own. That is, they are not formed from other words.


fast               tomorrow      soon              first              later

next             inside            somewhere        quite


  1. Soon and quite can be used only as adverbs.


The school will soon open.

The holiday was quite well spent.

  1. Some other modifiers, like late or first, can either be used as adverbs or adjectives.


The visitors arrived late. (adverb)

The late arrivals delayed the meeting. (adjective)

The robbers had gotten there first. (adverb)

The first house was already broken into. (adjective)

  1. When you are not sure whether an adjective or an adverb has been used in a sentence, ask yourself these questions.

(i) Which word does the modifier go with?

If it goes with an action verb, an adjective or another adverb, it is an adverb.


The story teller spoke quietly. – used with an action verb.

The story teller was very interesting. – used with an adjective.

The story teller spoke extremely slowly. –used with another adverb.

But if it goes with a noun or a pronoun, it is an adjective.


The quiet story teller spoke. – used with a noun.

He was quiet. – with a pronoun.

(ii) What does the modifier tell about the word it goes with?

If the modifier tells when, where, how, or to what extent, it is an adverb.


He will come tomorrow. – When?

He will come here. – Where?

He will come secretly. – How?

He will be very cautious. – To what extent?

But if it tells which one, what kind, or how many, it is an adjective.

He will steal this cow. – Which one?

He will carry a sharp spear. – What kind?

He will be jailed for ten years. – How many?

(iii) Adverbs and predicate adjectives

You will recall that we said that an adjective appears after a linking verb and modifies the subject.


He became successful. (successful modifies he)

You seem tired. (tired modifies you)

You appear sick. (sick modifies she)

You look great! (great modifies you)

They sound bored. (bored modifies they)

It feels wet. (wet modifies it)

The oranges taste sweet. (sweet modifies oranges)

The baby grows big. (big modifies baby)

She smells nice. (nice modifies she).

Sometimes the verbs in the sentences above are used as action verbs.  In this case, they are followed by adverbs, not adjectives. They modify the verbs and tell how, when, where, or to what extent.


The singer looked up.

v     adv

We tasted the chocolate eagerly.

v                                   adv

The principal appeared suddenly.

V            adv

(iv) Good and well

Good and well have similar meanings, but differ in their use in a sentence.


Incorrect: He narrates the story good.

Correct: He narrates the story well.

       Good is always an adjective and modifies nouns or pronouns. It is never used to modify a verb.


He is a good narrator. (Adjective modifying the noun narrator)

       Well can be used as either an adjective or an adverb.


I feel well. (As an adjective)

He drives well. (As an adverb)

Exercise 4

Choose the correct form of the words in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. Luos tell you (quick, quickly) that they are not Bantus.
  2. Over the months, the snow (gradual, gradually) melted.
  3. Rice tastes especially (good, well) with avocado.
  4. The popularity of video games has grown (rapid, rapidly).
  5. The name of the town may sound (strange, strangely) to some people.
  6. These puppies look a little (odd, oddly).
  7. The idea of breaking the door does not sound (reasonable, reasonably).
  8. Visitors eat Nyama Choma very (rapid, rapidly).
  9. If Nyama Choma has been prepared (good, well), it tastes even better than chicken.
  10. Since fish is high in protein and low in fat, it is bound to keep you (good, well).


We have seen that we can use adjectives to compare people, things or places.

       Adverbs can also be used to compare actions. And like adjectives, we use the comparative form of an adverb to compare two actions and the superlative form of an adverb to compare more than two actions.


ONE ACTION:         Maree swims fast.

TWO ACTIONS:      Maree swims faster than Ciku.

THREE OR MORE: Maree swims fastest of all.

Just like adjectives, adverbs have special forms or spelling for making comparisons.


The comparative form of the adverb is used to compare one action with another. It is formed in two ways:

  1. For short adverbs, add –er.



The bird flew higher than the helicopter.

The president arrived sooner than we expected.

  1. For most adverbs ending in -ly, use more to make the comparative.


She visited him more frequently than Martin.

The tractor towed the lorry more powerfully than the bull-cart.


       The superlative form is used to compare one action with two or more others of the same kind.


Of the three athletes, Kipruto runs the fastest.

The lion roars the loudest of all the big cats.

Adverbs that form the comparative with –er form their superlative with -est. Those that use more to form comparative use most to form superlative.


Adverbs                 Comparative                  Superlative

long                          longer                             longest

fast                           faster                              fastest

softly                       more softly                   most softly

politely                    more polite                   most polite

Points to Remember

  1. Use the comparative to compare two actions and the superlative to compare more than two.


Comparative: He sat nearer to the window than him

Superlative: He sat nearest to the window than all the others.

  1. Do not leave out the word other when comparing one action with every other action of the same kind.


Incorrect: The lion roared louder than any lion.

Correct: The lion roared the loudest of all.

  1. Do not use both -er and more or -est and most.

Incorrect: The dancer moved more faster than before.

Correct: The dancer moved faster than before.

Summary of rules for comparing with Adverbs

1                    1. For most adverbs

Add -er or -est to the adverb

hard              late              deep

harder          later             deeper

hardest          latest                  deepest

2 For most adverbs comprising of two or more syllables: Use more or most with the adverb Skilfully            firmly                     rudely

more skilfully more firmly                     most rudely

most skilfully  most firmly      most rudely

Exercise 5

Write each of the following sentences using the correct form of the adverb.

  1. Does she cry ______________ (often) than the baby does?
  2. She crosses the river _____________ (slowly) than her son does.
  3. James jumps into the swimming pool _____________ (quickly).
  4. Charles swims _____________ (skilfully) than all of us.
  5. Of all the athletes, Tecla Lorupe is ____________ (fast).
  6. The antelope disappeared _____________ (swiftly) than the gazelle.
  7. Chicharito scored the goal _____________ (accurately) of all.
  8. Mange and Marto stayed in the hall ______________ (long) of all.
  9. Sarah walks _____________ (gracefully).
  10. Ng’ang’arito sang ____________ (sweetly) of all participants.


A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between other words in a sentence.


The cat lay under the table.

The preposition under connects the verb lay with table. Under points out the relationship between lay and table.

Hence a preposition is a word that links another word or word group to the rest of the sentence. The noun or pronoun after the preposition is called the object of the preposition. The table is the object of the preposition under in the above sentence. The preposition under relates the verb lay to the noun table.

More examples:

She gave it to me.

(The preposition to relates the pronoun me with the action gave).

I liked the bike with the metal handles.

The preposition with relates the noun handles with the noun bike.


about           before            except          on                  toward

above           behind           for                 onto             under

aboard          below            from              out               underneath

across          beneath          in                   outside         until

after             beside            inside            over             up

against         between         into                past              upon

along           beyond          like                since            with

among          by                  near               through        within

around         down             of                   throughout   without

at                 during           off                 to

From the above list of prepositions, you will note that some of them tell where, others indicate time, others show special relationships like reference or separation.

Changing one preposition with another in a sentence changes the meaning of the sentence.


The cat lay under the table.

The cat lay on the table.

       Lying under the table means below the surface of the table but on means above the surface.

Exercise 1

Write the preposition in each of the following sentences and say what relationship it indicates.

  1. Sometimes they lie on the ground.
  2. They have grown maize for food.
  3. The children played with the dolls.
  4. A man found some treasure in the cave.
  5. They make clothes from cotton.

Exercise 2

Use the most appropriate preposition to complete the sentences below.

  1. Driving had been my dream ________________ years.

2._____________ 1990, I bought a second-hand car.

3.______________ that year, I learned how to drive.

  1. I rolled the car ________________ the road _____________ more than two kilometres.
  2. I was really thrilled ______________ the experience.


A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, its object and any words that modify the object.


The school children waited for the green light.

In this sentence, the preposition is for, its object is light, and the modifier, or adjective, is green. The entire preposition phrase modifies the verb waited.

Sometimes two or more nouns or pronouns are used as objects in a prepositional phrase.


He needs a worker with diligence and a good character.

The preposition with has two objects: diligence and character.

Exercise 3

Identify the prepositional phrase in each of the following sentences. Underline the preposition once and its objects twice.

  1. Donkeys help people in many ways.
  2. They bring happiness to the people around them.
  3. In large cities, they help to carry water.
  4. On farms, they carry heavy loads.
  5. How could you travel across a river?
  6. You might swim to the other side.
  7. You might cross at a shallow place.
  8. You can cross by boat.
  9. Bridges are a better solution to the problem.
  10. Most bridges are built over water.

Types of prepositional phrases

Prepositional phrases can either be:

(i) Adjective prepositional phrases – these prepositional phrases, just like adjectives, modify nouns and pronouns.


A scout leader wears a uniform with many badges.

In this sentence, with many badges is an adjective prepositional phrase modifying the noun uniform.

(ii) Adverb prepositional phrases – these ones, just like adverbs, modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.


Scouts rain for many hours.

(The adverb prepositional phrase for many hours modifies the verb train.)

They are active in all public functions.

(The adverb prepositional phrase in all public functions modifies the adjective active.)

The scout leader commands forcefully with a loud voice.

(The adverb prepositional phrase with a loud voice modifies the adverb forcefully.)

We have seen that the object of a preposition is the noun or pronoun that follows the preposition. When the object of the preposition is a pronoun, we use an object pronoun like me, you, him, her, it, us, and them. (And not a subject pronoun like I, he, she, we, and they).


Correct: I gave a present to her.

Incorrect: I gave a present to she.

Correct: I gave a present to Jane and her.

Incorrect: I gave a present to Jane and she.

Exercise 4

Choose the pronoun in brackets that correctly completes each of the following sentences.

  1. The dog chased after Travis and (her, she).
  2. Cleaning the house was a tasking job for Evans and (I, me).
  3. We planned a family picture of our parents and (us, we).
  4. The victory belonged to (he, him).
  5. Michael and Bernard stood behind Mom and (she, her).
  6. The crowd around (we, us) started cheering.
  7. My little sister ran behind Sammy and (I, me).
  8. The toys belong to Karen and (him, he).
  9. Johnny sat between James and (me, I).
  10. I went to the cat race with Jim and (she, her).

Sometimes one prepositional phrase immediately follows another.


The thief entered the house through the door on the right.

(through the door modifies the verb entered and tells where. on the left modifies the noun door and tells which one.)

A prepositional phrase can be at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.


BEGINNING: At dusk we closed the shop.

MIDDLE: The chief of the area was helpful.

END: The path went through the village.

Preposition or Adverb?

Sometimes the same word can be used as either a preposition or an adverb. How can you tell the difference between the two?


PREPOSITION:    He has a box inside the house.

ADVERB:             They ran inside.

You can tell the difference by remembering the following:

(i) A preposition never stands alone. It is always followed by its object, a noun or a pronoun.


The helicopter flew past the airport. (Preposition)

The aircraft was parked inside the hangar. (Preposition)

(ii) An adverb is never followed by a noun or a pronoun, may be by an adverb.


The helicopter flew past. (Adverb)

The aircraft was parked inside. (Adverb)

The helicopter flew past noisily. (Adverb)

Therefore, if a word begins a prepositional phrase, it is a preposition. If it stands alone or is followed by an adverb, it is an adverb.

Some words that can be used either as prepositions or adverbs.

above                                 down                          over

along                                  in                                out

around                                Inside                         outside

below                                 near                            under

by                                       off                              up

Exercise 5

Indicate after each of the following sentences if it has a preposition or an adverb.

  1. Jack stood outside the shop.
  2. He was curious and went inside.
  3. He saw strange things in every corner.
  4. An old coat and several sweaters lay over a chair.
  5. Blue and green umbrellas stood above the fire place.
  6. He looked up suddenly.
  7. He sat down heavily.
  8. Then he lifted the curtain and peeped outside.
  9. A jogger ran by
  10. Jack ran out.


       Negatives are words that mean “no” or “not”. These words are adverbs and not prepositions!


She has no more work.

There are none left.

Other common negatives

not                  nowhere       nobody        aren’t          haven’t

never               nothing        no one          doesn’t      wouldn’t

The combination of a verb and not also form a contraction which is also a negative. The letters n’t stand for not.


They won’t be able to attend the funeral.

He couldn’t make a speech.

Double negatives:

A sentence should have only one negative. Using double negatives in a sentence is usually incorrect. A double negative is the use of two negative words together when only one is needed.


Incorrect                                               Correct

We don’t need no money.       We don’t need any money.

She hasn’t bought nothing.        She hasn’t bought anything.

Mark hasn’t no homework.        Mark hasn’t any homework. Or

Mark has no homework.

When you use contractions like don’t and hasn’t, do not use negative words after them. Instead, use words like any, anything, and ever.


We don’t have any work.

He hasn’t any work.

I won’t ever respond to the summons.

Other negatives include hardly, barely, and scarcely. They are never used after contractions like haven’t and didn’t.


Incorrect: We couldn’t hardly continue with the work.           Correct:     We could hardly continue with the work.

Incorrect:  The child can’t barely walk.

Correct:      The child can barely walk.

Exercise 6

Write the following sentences choosing the correct negatives from the ones given in brackets.

  1. They (have, haven’t) nothing to eat.
  2. Isn’t (anyone, no one) at home?
  3. Didn’t you (ever, never) swim in that river?
  4. There isn’t (anybody, nobody) weeding the farm.
  5. Ann and Martin haven’t (anywhere, nowhere) to sleep.
  6. Our friends (had, hadn’t) none of the fun.
  7. Isn’t (anybody, nobody) watching Tahidi High?
  8. Hasn’t (anyone, no one) thought of washing the utensils?
  9. Tabby (hasn’t, has) had no luck.
  10. We haven’t (ever, never) tried.


A conjunction is a word that connects words or groups of words. Like prepositions, conjunctions show a relationship between the words they connect. But, unlike prepositions, conjunctions do not have objects.

There are 3 main categories of conjunctions;

  • Coordinating conjunctions
  • Subordinating conjunctions
  • Correlative conjunctions


       Coordinating conjunctions connect related words, groups of words, or sentences. There are three coordinating conjunctions: and, but and or. And is used to join words, groups of words, or sentences together. But shows contrast while or shows choice.


The bull and the cart are inseparable. (Connects two subjects).

The cart carries the farmer and his tools. (Connects two direct objects).

The food was hard and tasteless. (Connects two predicate adjectives).

Each night, the dancers danced in a circle or in several other patterns. (Connects two prepositional phrases).

Some people died in the fracas, but most managed to escape, alive. (Connects two sentences).

Exercise 1

Complete each of the following sentences using the most appropriate coordinating conjunction

  1. Bats and insects fly, ____________ only birds have feathers.
  2. Eagles build nests on cliffs ______________ in tall trees.
  3. Parrots live in wild places _______________ in zoos.
  4. Swallows ______________ sparrows often build nests in buildings.
  5. Hummingbirds are tiny __________ very brave.
  6. Many birds fly south in winter, ______________ others do not.
  7. Their feathers keep them warm ____________ dry.
  8. A bird can fly forward _____________ backward.
  9. Many birds shed old feathers ______________ grow new ones.
  10. Their legs are weak ____________ their wings are strong.



       Subordinating conjunctions connect two or more clauses to form complex sentences. (Refer to Part Two of this handbook). Subordinating conjunctions introduce subordinate clauses. They include because, since, if, as, whether, and for.


If I go home, my dog will follow me.

(The subordinating conjunction if connects the subordinate clause I go home with the main clause my dog will follow me.)

The stayed inside the church because it was raining.

He was always rude since he was a child.

The rain fell as they entered the building.

The pastor asked the congregation whether they were happy.

The man rejoiced for he had won a prize.

Exercise 2

Join the following pairs of sentences using the most appropriate subordinating conjunctions.

  1. They arrived late. It was raining heavily.
  2. John worked hard. He wanted to buy a house.
  3. I won’t carry the umbrella. You need it.
  4. I drove the car madly. I was late for the meeting.
  5. He will come. The meeting ends.


       Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that are used in pairs to connect sentence parts. These include either ….. or, neither ….. nor, not only……. but also, whether ……. or and both …… and.


Both boys and girls attended the conference.

People brought not only food but also clothes for the victims of the floods.

The students ride either on bicycles or motorbikes.

The sailor had to decide whether to sail on or head back when the weather changed.

Neither John nor James was moved by the shocking news.

Exercise 3

Join the following pairs of sentences using the correlative conjunctions in brackets.

  1. The vehicles stopped for repairs. The vehicles stopped for fuel. (either…..or)
  2. The drivers knew they had to travel more than fifty kilometres. If they did not travel more than fifty kilometres, they would have to endure harsh storms. (either….or).
  3. Many people build their own homes. Many people grow their own food. (not only…but also)
  4. Men wanted to buy the pictures. Women also wanted to buy the pictures.(both…. and)
  5. Maize is an important part of a Kenyans’ diet. Meat is important too. (both… and)


       An interjection is either a single word or a short group of words that is used to express a feeling or emotion. Interjections can express such feelings as urgency, surprise, relief, joy, or pain. An interjection that expresses strong emotion is often followed by an exclamation mark. An interjection that expresses mild emotion is usually followed by a comma.


Let’s go! We can’t sleep before we find the missing boy. (urgency)

Phew! I was afraid we would never find him. (relief)

Oh, you have grown so big. (surprise)

Well, I have never been so happy. (joy)

Exercise 1

Identify the interjection in the following sentences and indicate what feeling or emotion it expresses.

  1. Say, have you heard about Nameless and Jua Kali, the famous Kenyan musicians?
  2. Wow! Seeing the calf being born was exciting.
  3. “All right!” I yelled to him. “This is not the right thing to do.”
  4. Boy! Some people felt wonderful being in the air balloon, but I felt nervous.
  5. Oh, did that boat rock back and forth for a while.














Some words in the English language have unique origins and formations.

  1. Sound words (onomatopoeias)

Some of the words imitate the sounds they represent. These words are called sound or onomatopoeic words. For example, the words bang and crash describe a loud, sudden noise. The word murmur describes a low, soft noise that keeps going.

Many English words imitate noises made by animals. For example, the word chirp imitates the short, high sound made by a small bird or a cricket.

Other examples of sound (onomatopoeic) words

beep                gobble                neigh                  squeal

blast                growl                  purr                    tick

buzz                hiss                     quack                  zip

clang               honk                   rip

clatter              hum                    roar

crack               meow                 smash

crunch             moo                    splash

Exercise 1

Write a sound word for each of the following descriptions.

  1. The sound of something breaking
  2. The loud, deep sound of a lion.
  3. The sound of a clock.
  4. The sound of an angry dog.
  5. The sound of a loud bell.
  6. The sound made by a duck.
  7. The sound of a bottle opening.
  8. The sound of a cat drinking milk.
  9. The sound of a bomb exploding.
  10. The sound of a snake.
  11. Words that come from names of people and places (Eponyms)

Some of the words in the English language come from the names of people and places.


Word Meaning Named after
Sandwich Two or more slices of bread with meat between them. John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who liked eating meat between slices of bread.
Maverick A person who breaks from conventional actions Samuel Maverick, a Texas cattle owner who refused to brand the calves of one of his herds as per the requirements.
Saxophone A musical wind instrument Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the musical instrument.
Madras A cotton cloth with a design or pattern on plain background Madras, a city in India, where it was invented.
Rugby A game Rugby school, England, where rugby was invented.
Tarantula A large, hairy spider Taranto, a town in Italy where Tarantulas are found.
Shylock A greedy money-lender The relentless and vengeful money- lender in Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice.
Sousaphone A musical instrument John Phillip Sousa, an American composer who invented the Sousaphone.

There are many more words in the English language which originated from names of people or places.

Exercise 2

Find out from your dictionary the origins and meanings of the following English words.

  1. lima bean 6. guppy    11. guillotine
  2. cardigan 7. cheddar    12. macadam
  3. bloomer 8. quisling    13. pasteurisation
  4. canary birds 9. silhouette    14. watt
  5. Ferris wheel 10. Marxism    15. ohm
  6. Words formed from blending two or more words (portmanteau words)

Some words in the English language are a blend of two or more words or morphemes.


Word Combination of Meaning
Smog Smoke + fog A combination of smoke and fog in the air.
Fantabulous Fantastic + fabulous Incredible, astonishing, unbelievable, wonderful
Brunch Breakfast + lunch A late breakfast taken some hours before lunch
Wikipedia Wiki + encyclopaedia A website
Comcast Communication + broadcast A television system that more than the usual number of lines per frame so its pictures show more detail.
Spork Spoon + fork An eating utensil that is a combination of a spoon and a fork.
Skort Skirt + shorts An item of clothing that is part skirt and short.
Simulcast Simultaneous + broadcast To broadcast a programme on television and radio at the same time
Cyborg Cybernetic + organism A fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are superhuman
Motel Motor + hotel A roadside hotel

Exercise 3

Identify the words that are blended to form the following words. Find out their meanings from your dictionary.

  1. slithy 6. breathalyser
  2. chortle 7. cable gram
  3. galumph 8. camcorder
  4. bash 9. edutainment
  5. blog 10. email
  6. Words formed by use of prefixes and suffixes

Some words are formed by addition of prefixes and suffixes to other words.


       A prefix is a word part that is added to the beginning of a word to form another word or to change its meaning. The word to which the prefix is added is called the base word.


Prefix                       Base word           New word

un                           friendly                unfriendly

pre                          pay                       prepay

A prefix changes the meaning of the base word. For example, the prefix un-above means “not”. Hence, unfriendly means “not friendly”. Each prefix has its own meaning.

More examples of common English prefixes

Prefix Meaning Examples























wrong, incorrectly


before, in advance

before, preceding

opposing, against,  the opposite


opposition, opposite direction

put into or on

outside, beyond

between, among

inside, within

absence, negation

excessively, completely

after in time, or order

before in time, place order or importance

favouring, in support of


half, partly

across, beyond



beneath, below

misspell – to spell incorrectly

revisit – visit again

preschool – before school

antecedent, ante-room

anti-aircraft, antibiotic, aticlimax

contraceptive, contraband

counter-attack, counteract

engulf, enmesh

extraordinary, extracurricular

interact, interchange

intramural, intravenous

non-smoker, non-alcoholic

overconfident, overjoyed

postpone, post-mortem

precondition, preadolescent



repaint, reawaken

semicircle, semi-conscious

transnational, transatlantic

unacceptable, unreal, unhappy, unmarried

underarm, undercarriage

Exercise 4

Give the meaning of the following prefixes and write two examples each of words in which they are used. Use your dictionary.

  1. ultra- infra-
  2. syn- hypo-
  3. sub- hemi
  4. peri- ex-
  5. out-                        dia-


A suffix is a word part that is added to the end of a base word to form a new word or to change its meaning.


Enjoy + able = enjoyable

Each suffix has its own meaning. The suffix “able” means “capable of”. Hence enjoyable means “capable of being enjoyed”.

Common English suffixes

Suffix Meaning Examples
Noun Suffixes



-ance, -ence


-er, -or



-ity, -ty




-sion, -tion

Verbs suffixes



-ify, -fy

-ize, ise


Adjective suffixes

-able, -ible




-ic, -ical

-ious, ous


– ive




state or quality

act or process of

quality of

place or state of being

one who

doctrine, belief

one who

quality of

condition of

state of being

position held

state of being




make or become




capable of being

pertaining to

reminiscent of

notable for

pertaining to

characterized by

having the quality of

having the nature of


characterized by


privacy, advocacy

refusal, dismissal

Maintenance, eminence

freedom, kingdom

trainer, protector

Communism, Marxism

chemist, pharmacist

veracity, curiosity

argument, armament

heaviness, fearlessness

fellowship, headship

concession, transition


eradicate, fumigate

enlighten, freshen

terrify, specify

civilize, apologize



edible, presentable

regional, sectional


fanciful, colourful

musical, mythic

nutritious, portentous

fiendish, greenish

creative, abusive

endless, pointless

sleazy, cheeky




Exercise 5

Add an appropriate suffix to each of the following words and then give the meaning of the new word.

  1. hope 6. green
  2. read 7. wear
  3. child 8. fear
  4. grey 9. kind
  5. play 10. wash


Words in English language have various meanings depending on their usage in sentences.


       Homographs are words which are spelled the same but have different meanings. They usually appear as separate entries in a dictionary.


The man dug a well in his compound.

They worked well together.

In the first sentence, the noun well means “a spring of water”. In the second sentence, the adverb well means “in a good manner”.

Examples of common homographs in the English Language

Homograph Meaning Examples


(V)    to support or carry

(N)    an animal

I will bear the burden.

The bear killed the hunter.



(V)    to plant seed

(N)    female pig

The farmer sowed the seeds.

The sow is very fat.




(V)    to guide


(N)    a metal

The mother duck can lead her ducklings around.

Gold is heavier than lead.










(V)    lock


(V)   turning something around

(N)   moving air


The tiger was now so close that I could smell it.

“Will you please close that door?”

Wind your watch.

The wind howled through the woodlands.






(V)   to determine the age

(N)   to “go out”

(N)   a kind of fruit

(N)  a calendar time


Can you date this sculpture?

I have a date with Mary.

Dates are grown in South Africa.

What is the date today?





(Adj) quick

(V)  to choose not to eat food


He is a fast runner.

The Christians fast just before Easter.





(N)  animal skin

(V)  to conceal


He is tanning the hide.

They hide their money under their pillows.





(N)  woven trap made of rope or cord

(Adj) amount remaining after deductions.

They caught fish using a net.


His net pay is thirty thousand shillings per month.

pick (N)  a kind of tool

(V)  to choose

He used a pick to dig the hole.

Pick the dress that you want.

Some homographs are spelled the same but pronounced differently.


The wind is strong today.

This path winds through the hills.

Exercise 6

Write two meanings of the following homographs and use each of them in sentences of your own.

  1. pen   6. act
  2. tire 7. arms
  3. dove 8. block
  4. wound 9. box
  5. mean 10. bank

       Homophones are words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.


She will buy music composed by my favourite artist.

Homophones are often confused when writing by many students because of similarity in pronunciation.

Examples of common homophones in English

Homophones Meaning Examples


(V)      the walkway

(N)      island

I quickly walked down the aisle.

He grew up on the isle of Elba.




(V)     permitted

(Adv) not silently

His mother allowed him to stay up late.

She read the story aloud.




(V)     past tense of “eat”

(N)     number

She ate a quick lunch.


I bought eight tickets.




(N)    a round object used in games

(V)     to cry


He took the ball to the beach.


Please don’t bawl! It’s not that bad.




(V)     to stand something

(Adj) naked

He can’t bear exams.


He stood outside in the rain completely bare.





(N)   the bottom

support of something

(N)   the lowest pitches in music

We need a new base for that lamp.


I sang bass in the church choir.

More examples of homophones

lead, led

least, leased

loan, lone

male, mail

meet, meat

mind, mined

morning, mourning

naval, navel

new, knew

no, know

one, won

pear, pair

pie, pi

piece, peace

pier, peer

poor, pour

rain, reign

raw, roar

read, reed

road, rode

sale, sail

saw, sore

see, sea

sun, son

tail, tale

tea, tee

there, they’re

they’re, there

tide, tied

too, to

two, too

wail, whale

warn, worn

weal, wheel

wear, where

weather, whether

week, weak

weight, wait

while, wile

wood, would

write, right

yew, you

your, you’re

acetic, ascetic

axle, axial

formerly, formally

ion, iron

loch, lock

holy, wholly

heal, heel

ad, add

ail, ale

all, awl

alms, arms

altar, alter

arc, ark

aren’t, aunt

anger, augur

aural, oral

away, aweigh

awe, oar, or, ore

bale, bail

band, banned

bean, been

blew, blue

brake, break

cell, sell

cent, scent, sent



cereal, serial

check, cheque

chord, cord

cite, site, sight

coo, coup

cue, queue

dam, damn

dew, due

die, dye

doh, doe, dough

earn, urn

ewe, yew, you

faint, feint

fair, fare

feat, feet

few, phew

find, fined

fir, fur

flaw, floor

flea, flee

flew, flue

flour, flower

for, fore, four

foreword, forward

fort, fought

gait, gate

genes, jeans

gnaw, nor,

gorilla, guerrilla

grate, great

groan, grown

guessed, guest

hale, hail

hair, hare



Exercise 7

Give the homophones and the meanings of the following words.

  1. in 6. knight
  2. heard 7. knows
  3. horse 8. tick
  4. hey 9. rung
  5. need 10. sees

       Synonyms are words that have almost the same meaning but different spelling and pronunciation.


Slender–thin               finish–end                        sick–ill

Some words have several synonyms. For example, happy has such synonyms words like light-hearted, pleased, and cheerful.

Synonyms help vary the writing, just like pronouns do. For example, the word happy and its synonyms help vary the writing.

Daniel felt happy –                       Daniel felt light-hearted.

She was happy with her grade – She was pleased with her grade.

They sang a happy song –           They sang a cheerful song.


Examples of common synonyms in English

about, approximately

accomplish, achieve

administer, manage

admit, confess

almost, nearly

annoy, irritate

answer, reply

arise, occur

arrive, reach

begin, start

belly, stomach

bizarre, weird

brave, courageous

chop, cut

clerk, receptionist

close, shut

contrary, opposite

correct, right

daybreak, dawn

demonstrate, protest

denims, jeans

desert, abandon

devil, Satan

disappear, vanish

eager, keen

emphasize, stress

enormous, huge, immense

enquire, investigate

evaluate, assess

fanatic, enthusiast

fool, idiot

sincere, honest

skull, cranium

soiled, dirty

suggest, propose

sunrise, dawn

temper, mood

trustworthy, reliable


formerly, previously

fragrance, perfume

function, operate

garbage, rubbish

gay, homosexual

grab, seize

gut, intestine

hard, tough

hashish, cannabis

hawk, peddle

hint, trace, tip

homicide, murder

hunger, starvation

hurry, rush

idler, loafer

if, whether

illustrate, demonstrate

imitate, mimic

immediate, instant

immobile, motionless

impartial, neutral

impasse, deadlock

impolite, rude

inconsiderate, thoughtless

infamous, notorious

informal, casual

inheritor, heir

instructions, directions

jealous, envious

joy, delight

lacking, missing

lethal, deadly

ultimate, final

uncommon, unusual

uncooked, raw

unforeseen, unexpected

unfortunate, unlucky

unmarried, single

untimely, premature

lousy, awful

madness, insanity

magnify, exaggerate

manmade, artificial

material, fabric

merciless, cruel

midway, halfway

mind, intellect

mirror, reflect

mistrust, distrust

modern, contemporary

movie, film

murderer, assassin

naked, bare

nameless, anonymous

nightfall, dusk

noon, midday

numerous, many

object, thing

outside, external

overlook, miss

peaceable, peaceful

poisonous, toxic

post-mortem, autopsy

praise, compliment

reasonable, fair

refrain, chorus

religious, devout

respond, reply

scarcity, shortage

signal, sign

silly, foolish

vain, useless

vary, differ

vast, huge

winery, vineyard

withstand, resist

zenith, peak

Exercise 8

Give the synonyms of the following words:

1.start                                                  6. collect

2.come                                                 7. assist

3.lengthy                                             8. build

4.shattered                                                    9. reply

5.Fix                                                  10. purchase


       Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. Antonyms also add variety to your writing.


Cold-hot            heavier – lighter                     fearful – brave.

Some words have more than one antonym. Some of these antonyms can be formed by adding a prefix to a base word.


Kind – cruel, unkind           like – hate, dislike

Examples of common antonyms in English

absent – present

absurd – sensible

abundant – scarce

accidental – intentional

accuse – defend

accurate – incorrect

admit – deny

advance – retreat

after – before

alien – native

alone – together

always – never

amuse – bore

anger – kindness

applaud – boo

asleep – awake

beautiful – ugly

beg – offer

below – above

bitter – sweet

buy – sell

careful – careless

cease – begin

civilian – military

closed – open

condemn – praise

crooked – straight

dangerous – safe

dead – alive

deep – shallow

destroy – create

drunk – sober

east – west


enemy – friend

evil – good

exhale – inhale

expensive – cheap

fail – succeed

fat – skinny

fertile – barren

floor – ceiling

former – latter

funny – serious

generous – stingy

genuine – fake

guilty – innocent

humble – arrogant

husband – wife

illegal – lawful

import – export

indoor – outdoor

inferior – superior

intelligent – stupid

joy – grief

kind – mean

king – commoner

lazy – industrious

lock – unlock

majority – minority

man – woman

merciful – cruel

moist – dry

nervous – calm

obey – disobey

original – copy

patient – impatient

permit – forbid

polite – rude

positive – negative

private – public

push – pull

question – answer

quick – slow

reckless – cautious

rival – friend

sane – insane

servant – master

sick – well

simple – complex

slavery – freedom

smart – dumb

solid – gas

spend – save

stranger – friend

strong – weak

sudden – gradual

suffix – prefix

tame – wild

temporary – permanent

thaw – freeze

tough – tender

unique – common

vacant – occupied

victory – defeat

villain – hero

war – peace

young – old



Exercise 9

Give the antonyms of the following words:

  1. easy 6. sweat
  2. whisper 7. stationary
  3. triumph 8. strengthen
  4. dull 9. precious
  5. dangerous 10. naked

       An idiom is a phrase that has a special meaning as a whole. The meaning of an idiom is different from the meanings of its separate words.


It was raining cats and dogs.

(The idiom raining cats and dogs does not mean that cats and dogs were falling out of the sky! It means “raining heavily”.)

I put my foot in my mouth today.

(The idiom put my foot in my mouth means “to say the wrong thing”. Sometimes the context in which an idiom is used can give a hint of its meaning.)


Jeff is talking through his hat when he says that he can spell every word in the English language.

(This idiom clearly means that Jeff cannot possibly spell every word in the English language. Hence, the idiom talking through his hat means talking nonsense.)

More examples of idioms in the English language

                Idiom                  Meaning


It was a blessing in disguise.


Something good that is not recognised at first.




He is a doubting Thomas.


A sceptic who needs physical or personal evidence in order to believe something.



That scandal was a drop in the bucket.


A very small part of something big or whole.




The punishment was a slap in the wrist.


A very mild punishment.




The thief received a taste of his own medicine. He was mistreated the same way he mistreats others.




Don’t add fuel to the fire!



When something is done to make a bad situation even worse than it is.





The principal is just all bark but no bite.



When someone is threatening and/or aggressive but not willing to engage in a fight.




The theory is all Greek to me.


Meaningless and incomprehensible.




We are all in the same boat.


When everyone is facing the same challenges.



The house cost him an arm and a leg.


Very expensive. A large amount of money.




The teacher has an axe to grind with the bursar. To have a dispute with someone.






Joyce is the apple of my eye.



Someone who is cherished above all others.





The boy did the work at the drop of a hat.


Willing to do something immediately





The politician is a back seat driver.


People who criticize from the sidelines





They were back to square one in their search for the treasure. Having to start all over again.





The government has to go back to the drawing board on the issue of the New Constitution.



When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over again.


  17 The exam was a piece of cake.


A task that can be accomplished very easily.




The investigator realised he was barking the wrong tree. A mistake made in something you are trying to achieve.


Stop beating around the bush.


Avoiding the main topic, not speaking directly about an issue.


I will bend over backwards to see you through school.


Do whatever it takes to help.

Willing to do anything.


22 She was caught between a rock and a hard place.


Stuck between two very bad options.





You are biting off more than you can chew. To take on a task that is way too big.





John decided to bite his tongue.



To avoid talking.






Tom has a cast iron stomach.



Someone who has no problems, complications, or ill effects with eating or drinking anything.




That is a cock and bull story.



An unbelievable tale.




I will have to win, come hell or high water. Any difficult situation or obstacle.





Don’t cry over spilt milk.



When you complain about a loss from the past.




He likes crying wolf.


Intentionally raise a false alarm.




Tim is a dark horse.


One who was previously unknown and now is prominent.



Kinyua is a devil’s advocate.



Someone who takes a position for the sake of argument without believing in that particular side of the argument.


My father drinks like a fish. To drink very heavily.


This problem is driving me up the wall. To irritate or annoy very much.


The students had a field day with the visiting guests. An enjoyable day or circumstance.




The food was finger licking good. Very tasty food or meal.


He changed from rags to riches. To go from being very poor to being very wealthy.


I need to get over it.


Move beyond something that is bothering you.



She got up on the wrong side of the bed


To someone who is having a horrible day.

39 Joan is a good Samaritan.


Someone who helps others when they are in need without expecting a reward.
40 I have a gut feeling she will die.


A personal intuition you get, especially when you feel something may not be right.
41 The player lost his head when he missed the goal. Angry and overcome by emotions.
42 He was head over heels in love with her. Very excited and joyful, especially when in love.
43 He gave her a high five when he won the contest. Slapping palms above each other’s heads as a celebration gesture.
44 Let us hit the books!


To study, especially for a test or exam.


45 I will hit the hay now.


Go to bed or go to sleep.


46 The preacher hit the nail on the head.


Do or say something exactly right.


47 She hit the sack after a hard day’s work.


Go to bed or sleep.


48 Hold your horses, the speaker is coming. Be patient.


49 The certificate was an icing on the cake after the monetary reward. When you already have it good and get something on top of what you already have.
50 The girl became careless in the heat of the moment. Overwhelmed by what is happening at the moment.
51 The policeman kept an eye on him. Carefully watch somebody.
52 He kept his chin up during the burial.


To remain joyful in a tough situation.
53 The old man kicked the bucket.




54 Lend me your ear.


To politely ask for someone’s full attention.


55 You let the cat out of the bag.


To share a secret that wasn’t supposed to be shared.


56 The by-election was not a level playing field. A fair competition where no side has an advantage.





He ran all over like a chicken with its head cut off.


To act in a frenzied manner.



58 Mr. Gumo is a loose cannon.


Someone who is unpredictable and can cause damage if not kept in check.


59 I am not interested in his mumbo jumbo.



Nonsense or meaningless speech.
60 She is the new kid on the block.


Someone new to the group or area.


61 He started off on the wrong foot.


Getting a bad start on a relationship or task.


62 The accused man is now off the hook.


No longer have to deal with a tough situation.


63 I said that off the record!



Something said in confidence that the speaker doesn’t want attributed to him or her.


64 I was on pins and needles.


Anxious or nervous especially in anticipation of something.
65 The prefects sit on the fence when there is a strike. Undecided.


66 The dog appeared out of the blue.


Something that suddenly and unexpectedly occurs or appears.
67 You will get the job over my dead body.


When you absolutely will not allow something to happen.
68 Mark is fond of passing the buck to his brother. Avoid responsibility by giving it to someone else.


69 Dennis is a peeping Tom.



Someone who observes people in the nude or sexually active people, mainly for his own gratification.
70 Pipe down! We have heard you!


To shut up or be quiet.


71 You are pulling my leg.


Tricking someone as a joke.


72 Rise and shine! It’s time to go to school.


Time to get out of bed and get ready for work or school.
73 The businessman has run out of steam nowadays.


To be completely out of energy.



74 The convict was saved by a bell.


Saved at the last possible moment.


75 He was a scapegoat for the amorous politician.


Someone else who takes the blame.



76 The naughty boy got away scot-free.


To escape and not have to pay.


77 She was sick as a dog.


To be very sick (with flu or a cold).


78 He has a sixth sense.


A paranormal sense that allows you to communicate.

Common idiomatic expressions and sayings

  1. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. – Having something that is certain is much better than taking a risk for more, because chances are you might lose everything.
  2. A fool and his money are easily parted. – It’s easy for a foolish person to lose his/her money.
  3. A house divided against itself cannot stand. – Everyone involved must unify and function together or it will not work out.
  4. A leopard can’t change his spots. – You cannot change who you are.
  5. A penny saved is a penny earned. – By not spending money you are saving money (little by little).
  6. A picture paints a thousand words. – A visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.
  7. Actions speak louder than words. – It’s better to actually do something than just talk about it.
  8. Curiosity killed the cat. – Being inquisitive can lead you into a dangerous situation.
  9. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. – Don’t rely on it until you are sure of it.
  10. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. – When someone gives you a gift, don’t be ungrateful.
  11. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. – Do not put all your resources in one possibility.
  12. Drastic times call for drastic measures. – When you are extremely desperate you need to take extremely desperate actions.
  13. Elvis has left the building. – The show has come to an end. It’s all over.
  14. Every cloud has a silver lining. – Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.
  15. Great minds think alike. – Intelligent people think like each other.
  16. Haste makes waste. – Doing things quickly may result in a poor ending.
  17. Idle hands are the devils’ tools. – You are more likely to get it trouble if you have nothing to do.
  18. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. – When one thing goes wrong, then another, and another ….
  19. It takes two to tango. – A conflict involves two people and both must cooperate to have it resolved.
  20. It’s a small world. – You cannot hide from your evil deeds in this world.
  21. Let bygones be bygones. – To forget about a disagreement or argument.
  22. Let sleeping dogs lie. – To avoid restarting a conflict.
  23. Never bite the hand that feeds you. – Don’t hurt anyone that helps you.
  24. Practice makes perfect. – By constantly practising, you will become better.
  25. Rome was not built in one day. – If you want something to be completed properly, then it’s going to take time.
  26. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. – The bigger and stronger opponent may be more difficult to beat, but when he does, he suffers a much bigger loss.
  27. Variety is the spice of life. – The more experiences you try the more exciting life can be.
  28. When it rains, it pours. – Since it rarely rains, when it does it will be a huge storm.
  29. You are what you eat. – In order to stay healthy, you must eat healthy foods.
  30. You can’t judge a book by its cover. – Decisions shouldn’t be made primarily on appearance.

Exercise 10

Give the meaning of the italicized idioms in the following sentences.

  1. I was completely at sea when the Prime Minister visited my house.
  2. Jane has her hands full. She can’t take on more work.
  3. Do you have a bone to pick with me?
  4. I can’t make heads or tails of this story.
  5. The test was as easy as pie.
  6. I am sick and tired of doing nothing at work.
  7. I am broke! I have to borrow some money.
  8. She dropped me a line yesterday.
  9. He filled in for her when she fell sick.
  10. My business is in the red.




A phrase is a group of words without a subject or a predicate or both and does not express a complete thought. Therefore, a phrase can never stand on its own as a complete sentence. Using different kinds of phrases enables a writer or a speaker to create informative and descriptive sentences that vary in structure. Phrases combine words into a larger unit that can function as a sentence element.

The most common kinds of phrases in English are: Noun phrases, verb phrases, prepositional phrases, gerund phrases and participial phrases.


A noun phrase consists of a noun and all its modifiers. It can function as a subject, object, or complement in the sentence. The modifiers may include articles, prepositions and adjectives.


(a) Noun phrases as subjects

The lazy old man sleeps all day long.

Some school boards reward teachers who produce good results.

(b) Noun phrases as objects

Teachers rejected the proposed performance contracts.

Critics opposed the controversial marriage bill.

(c) Noun phrases as complements

Teaching is a valuable profession.

Sheila is a hardworking no-nonsense lady.

Exercise 1

Identify the noun phrases in each of the following sentences and indicate whether it functions as a subject, object or complement.

  1. I saw a TV show yesterday.
  2. Playful animals really fascinate me.
  3. Yesterday, I had a thrilling adventure.
  4. Swimming is an exciting activity.
  5. Twenty university students were expelled last month.
  6. She is a certified public health officer.
  7. Many of the soldiers were killed in the battle.
  8. The old woman carried a heavy load of firewood on her back.
  9. Peter seems a very complicated man to understand
  10. A devastating earthquake hit China yesterday.

A verb phrase consists of a main verb and its helping verbs. It can function as the predicate of a sentence. The predicate tells what the subject does or is. (It tells something about the subject).


John was born in Malindi.

This problem may have contributed to the collapse of the economy.

Without highly-trained workers, many Kenyan companies would be forced to close down.

Sometimes the parts of a verb phrase are separated from each other by words that are not verbs.


He is finally buying a new house.

Salesmen must occasionally travel long distances.

Some words are joined with other words to make contractions.


He hasn’t turned up for the meeting. (has + not)

We couldn’t tell what had killed the cow. (could + not)

I’ve ordered them to leave the house. (I + have).

NB: The word not and the contraction n’t are adverbs. They are never part of a verb or verb phrase.

Exercise 2

Write the verb phrase in each of the following sentences.

  1. We should have taken pictures of the wild animals.
  2. You must have seen the posters of the event.
  3. They should have been told to come with flowers to plant in the school compound.
  4. Mr. Muchira would have told some interesting stories.
  5. Scientists must’ve visited the Menengai Crater.
  6. He must have seen some wonderful places.
  7. Many advocates do fear the new Chief Justice.
  8. The scouts have often made camp here.
  9. The bull fighters would sometimes stampede noisily.
  10. I could have read the book if he had allowed me.

A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition, the object of the preposition, and all the words between them. It often functions as an adjective or adverb, but it can function as a noun as well.


We carried the fruits in our school bags. (Adverb telling where)

The plane flew through the cloud. (Adverb telling where)

Almost half of Africa’s population suffers from water – related diseases. (Adverb modifying suffers).

The water supply in the United States is expected to decline dramatically. (Adjective modifying water supply).

The best time to practise water conservation is before a water shortage. (Noun functioning as a complement).

In sentence 1 above, the preposition is in, the object of the preposition is bags, and the modifiers or adjectives are our and school.

Sometimes two or more nouns or pronouns are used as objects in a prepositional phrase.


He needs a wife with diligence and a good character.

Diligence and character are objects of the preposition with.

When prepositional phrases function as adjectives and adverbs in sentences, they are called adjectival and adverbial phrases respectively.

(a) An adjectival prepositional phrase modifies nouns or pronouns.


The woman wears shoes with sharp heels. (An adjectival phrase modifying the noun shoes)

The man with a funny-looking dog crossed the road. (An adjectival phrase modifying the noun man)

(b) An adverbial prepositional phrase modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.


Soldiers train for many months. (An adverbial phrase modifying the verb train)

People are lazy in the afternoons. (An adverbial phrase modifying the adjective lazy.)

She arrived late in the night. (An adverbial phrase modifying the adverb late).

Sometimes one prepositional phrase immediately follows another.


The man led him through the door on the left.

Note that the prepositional phrase through the door is an adverbial phrase modifying the verb led and tells where? The second prepositional phrase on the left is an adjectival phrase modifying the noun door and tells which one?

A prepositional phrase can be at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.


At dusk, we began to walk home.

The map of the area was very helpful.

The path went by a forest and a large lake.

Exercise 3

Underline the prepositional phrases in the following sentences and indicate what type each of them is.

  1. The oldest building is found in Mombasa.
  2. Five companies around the country have bought new fire engines.
  3. The barking of the dog scared the strangers.
  4. Bulls are bred for hard work.
  5. Most bridges are built over water.
  6. Travellers were spared many miles of travel.
  7. I went by bus to the market.
  8. At the market, I saw beautiful and unusual people.
  9. I also saw a display of colourful clothes.
  10. She took him through the lesson with professional expertise.

A gerund is a verb form used as a noun. It is formed by adding –ing to the present tense of a verb. Gerunds can be used as subjects, direct objects, objects of prepositions, and complements.


Subject: Fishing is a popular activity in Nyanza Province.

(Fishing is a gerund, the subject of the verb is)

Direct object: The sport involves riding. (riding is a gerund, the direct object of the verb involves)

Object of preposition: The sport is similar to fencing. (fencing is a gerund, the object of the preposition to).

A gerund phrase includes a gerund, its modifiers, objects or complements. It always functions as a noun.


Becoming a Tusker Project fame finalist was Msechu’s lifetime dream. (The gerund phrase is the subject of the sentence.)

Msechu dreamt all his life about winning the top award. (The gerund phrase is an object of the preposition about).

One of Msechu’s biggest disappointments was losing to Alpha. (The gerund phrase is a complement).

The game involves jumping over hurdles. (The gerund phrase is an object of the verb involves).

Exercise 4

Underline the gerund or gerund phrases in the following sentences and label each one subject, direct, object, object of preposition, or complement accordingly

  1. In early days, golfing was a game for the rich.
  2. The rich were mostly interested in protecting their status.
  3. Playing golf with a commoner would mean lowered status.
  4. Much of the rich people’s time was spent playing the game.
  5. Training thoroughly improved a golfer’s accuracy in the game.
  6. There he learned about playing the game.
  7. Later, he started contesting with other junior golfers.
  8. At fifteen or sixteen, he began playing with the professionals.
  9. Participating in international tournaments was the golfer’s dream.
  10. But the greatest dream was winning an in international title.

A participle is a verb form that always acts as an adjective. There are two types of participles:

(a) The past participle – it is usually formed by adding –d, or -ed to the present tense.


Fooled, the shopkeeper bought fake products. (Fooled is a past participle modifying the noun shopkeeper)

Shaken, he dashed to the police station.

(Shaken is a past participle modifying the pronoun he)

The participles of irregular verbs, however, do not follow the above rule: run-run, throw-thrown.

(b) The present participle – it is usually formed by adding -ing to the present tense of any verb.


Smiling, the conman stepped out of the shop. (Smiling is a present participle modifying the noun conman).

Using participles is a simple way of adding information to sentences and to vary sentences beginnings.

A participial phrase consists of a present or past participle and its modifiers, objects, or complements. It always functions as an adjective.


Rounding the corner, the conman met two policemen.

(Rounding the corner is a present participial phrase modifying the noun conman).

Surprised by the appearance of the conman, the policemen started blowing their whistles.

(Surprised by the appearance of the conman is a past participial phrase modifying the noun policemen).

A participle or participial phrase is not always at the beginning of a sentence. Sometimes it may appear in the middle but it should be near the noun or pronoun it modifies.


The skilled policemen, seeing a chance of a lifetime, arrested the conman.

The conman, losing control, fought the policemen fiercely.

Points to note

Both the gerund and the present participle are created by a adding –ing to the present tense of a verb. BUT how can you tell whether a word is a gerund or a participle? It all depends on how the word is used in a sentence.

(i) A participle is used as a modifier in a sentence.


Gaining courage, the conman attempted to escape. (Gaining courage is a participial phrase modifying conman).

(ii) A gerund is used as a noun in a sentence.


Gaining courage made the conman look aggressive. (Gaining courage is a gerund phrase, the subject of the verb made).

Exercise 5

Underline the participial phrases in the following sentences, indicating whether it is a past or present participial phrase and the noun or pronoun it modifies.

  1. Defying all odds, Kisoi Munyao attempted to climb to the highest peak of Mt. Kenya for seven times.
  2. Failing each time, he refused to give up.
  3. Seeing his passion to scale the peak, the government offered him financial assistance.
  4. The climber ascended slowly, making steady progress.
  5. Pleased with his progress, he camped at eleven thousand feet.
  6. The climber, determined to hoist the Kenyan flag, progressed on the following morning.
  7. Slipping on the snow, Munyao fell on a dry tree trunk.
  8. A rope worn from too many climbs then broke.
  9. One of his hot water bottles, slipping to the bottom of the cliff, broke into pieces.
  10. Munyao, overcome with joy, finally hoisted the flag at Point Batian.

An infinitive is a verb form that usually appears with the word to before it. To is called the sign of the infinitive.


to lift                   to eat        to launch                  to register

       To is a preposition if it is followed by a noun or noun phrase, but it is a sign of the infinitive if it is followed by a verb or verb phrase.


Joseph longed for a flight to the moon. (Prepositional phrase)

Not until 1985 was he able to succeed. (Infinitive)

An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive and its modifiers, objects or complements. It can function as a noun, adjective, or adverb.


To write clearly and concisely can be difficult sometimes. (Infinitive phrase functioning as a noun and the subject of the sentence).

Proofreading your writing is a good way to ensure the absence of typing mistakes. (Infinitive phrase functioning as an adjective modifying the noun way).

To greatly increase the amount of stress in your life, leave your writing task until the night before it is due. (Infinitive phrase functioning as an adverb modifying the verb leave).

Exercise 6

Underline the infinitive phrases in each of the following sentences and state whether it is functioning as a noun, adjective or adverb.

  1. To climb Mt. Kenya was the dream of Kisoi Munyao.
  2. The freedom hero decided to climb the mountain on the eve of the country’s independence.
  3. He was one of the first Kenyans to try this risky climb.
  4. His determination helped him to make rapid progress to reach Point Batian.
  5. Munyao was able to reach the peak with very limited climbing gear.
  6. To reach Point Batian was Munyao’s ultimate goal.
  7. At first few other climbers bothered to listen to Munyao.
  8. He was even forced to finance much of his expedition himself.
  9. Munyao worked hard to achieve his dream of hoisting the Kenyan flag.
  10. His success made it easier for other climbers to scale the tallest mountain in Kenya.



What is a sentence?

A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. A complete thought is clear. A sentence always begins with a capital letter. It ends with a full stop (.), a question mark (?) or an exclamation mark (!).


Ted sent me a letter.

Jane slept soundly.

Sentence fragments

A sentence fragment does not express a complete thought. The reader or listener cannot be sure what is missing in or the meaning of a sentence fragment.

He or she will be left wondering: What is this about? What happened?


Fragment: The huge boat. (What happened?)

Sentence: The huge boat sails down the river.

You can correct a sentence fragment by supplying the missing information.

Subjects and predicates

The two fundamental parts of every English sentence are the subject and the predicate.

A subject can be described as the component that performs the action described by the predicate. It tells who or what does or did the action. It may also name the topic.

The predicate tells about the subject. It tells what the subject does or is.


Subject                                            Predicate

(Who or what)                (What is said about the subject)

The antelope                       jumped over the high fence.

Pigs                                   eat anything is sight when hungry.

In a sentence, a few key words are more important than the rest. These key words make the basic framework of the sentence. The verb and its subject are the key words that form the basic framework of every sentence. The rest of the sentence is built around them.


Sentence                                                 Key words

The young kids jumped playfully.          kids, jumped

Their faces shone brightly.                      faces, shone

To find out the subject, ask who or what before the verb.


Who jumped playfully? – kids

What shone brightly? – faces

To find out the verb, ask what after the subject.


The young kids did what? – jumped

Their faces did what? – shone

The key word in the subject of a sentence is called the simple subject. For example, kids, faces. The complete subject is the simple subject plus any words that modify or describe it. For example, The young kids, Their faces.

The key word in the predicate is called the simple predicate. For example, jumped, shone. The complete predicate is the verb plus any words that modify or complete the verb’s meaning. For example, jumped playfully, shone brightly.

The simple subjects and predicates may sometimes be more than one word. For simple subjects, it may be the name of a person or a place.


Barack Obama won the US presidential race.

South Africa is the home of many bats.

The simple predicate may also be more than one word. There may be a main verb and a helping verb.

Tanya has acted in many TV shows.

She will be performing again tonight.


An object in a sentence is a word or words that complete the meaning of a sentence. It is involved in the action but does not carry it out. The object is the person or thing affected by the action described in the verb. It is always a noun or a pronoun and it always comes after the verb.


The man climbed a tree.

Some verbs complete the meaning of sentences without the help of other words. The action that they describe is complete.


It rained.

The temperature rose.

Some other verbs do not express a complete meaning by themselves. They need to combine with other words to complete the meaning of a sentence.


Christine saw the snake.

Rose wears goggles.

He opened the door.

In the above examples, the snake, goggles and the door are the objects as they are the things being affected by the verbs in the sentences.

(Refer to the topic on Transitive and Intransitive Verbs under the main topic VERBS in Chapter One).

Exercise 1                             

Which groups of words are sentences and which ones are sentence fragments?

  1. A huge storm was coming.
  2. Behind the wattle tree.
  3. After the earthquake.
  4. The wind broke several houses.
  5. Surprised by a loud noise.
  6. Winds of high speed.
  7. Rescue workers arrived.
  8. From different parts of the world.
  9. Many people were injured.
  10. In the weeks after the earthquake.

Direct and indirect objects

Objects come in two types, direct and indirect:

Direct objects

The direct object is the word that receives the action of a verb.


Christine saw a snake. ( a snake receives the action of saw)

Rose wears goggles. (goggles receives the action of wears)

Sometimes the direct object tells the result of an action.


Tecla won the race.

She received a trophy.

To find the direct object first find the verb. Then ask whom or what after the verb.


Christine saw a snake.            Rose wears goggles

Verb: saw                               verb: wears

Saw what? a snake                 wears what? goggles

Tecla won the race                 She received a trophy

Verb: won                              verb: received

Won what? the race               received what? a trophy

Remember, we said earlier that a verb that has a direct object is called a transitive verb and a verb that does not have an object is called an intransitive verb. We also said that a verb may be intransitive in one sentence and transitive in another. Other verbs are strictly intransitive, e.g. disagree.

Indirect objects

The indirect object refers to a person or thing who receives the direct object. They tell us for whom or to whom something is done. Others tell to what or for what something is done.


I gave him the book.

He is the indirect object as he is the beneficiary of the book.

Direct object or adverb?

Direct objects are sometimes confused with adverbs. The direct object tells what or whom as we have seen earlier. Adverbs on the other hand tell how, where, when or to what extent. They modify the verbs.


Brian Swam slowly. (slowly is an adverb telling how)

Brian Swam a tough race. (race is a direct object telling what).

Verbs can also be followed by a phrase that tells how, when, or where. This kind of a phrase is never a direct object but an adverbial phrase.


Brian swam across the pool. (across the pool tells where Brian Swam).

Therefore, to decide whether a word or a phrase is a direct object or adverb, decide first what it tells about the verb. If it tells how, where, when or to what extent, it is an adverb. If it tells what or whom, it is a direct object.

Exercise 2

Identify the objects or the adverbs/adverbial phrases in the following sentences. If the sentence has two objects, indicate the direct object and the indirect object.

  1. Nanu sings pop music.
  2. Nanu sings sweetly.
  3. He spoke very quietly.
  4. I have read that book three times.
  5. She has gone to the bank.
  6. David gave her a present.
  7. David disagreed bitterly.
  8. The player sat on his heels.
  9. She made a list of the items to buy.
  10. They offered him help.





Some sentences do not take objects or adverbs (or adverbial phrases) after the verbs. Instead, they take complements. A complement is the part of the sentence that

gives more information about the subject (subject complement) or about the object (object complement) of the sentence.

Subject complements

       Subject complements normally follow certain verbs like be, seem, look, etc.


He is British. (British gives more information about he)

She became a nurse. (a nurse gives more information about she)

Object complements

       Object complements follow the direct objects of the verb and give more information about those direct objects.


They painted the house red. (red is a complement giving more information about the direct object house)

She called him an idiot. (an idiot is a complement giving more information about the direct object he).

The complement often consists of an adjective (e.g. red) or a noun phrase (e.g. an idiot) but can also be a participle phrase.


I saw her standing there. (standing there is a complement telling more about her).

Exercise 3

 Pick out the complements in the following sentences and indicate whether subject, object or participial complements.

  1. The tourist is a German citizen.
  2. She seems a very arrogant lady.
  3. You look tired.
  4. They painted the car green.
  5. James nicknamed Lucy the queen.
  6. I saw him stealing the mango.
  7. They beat the thief senseless.
  8. The priest looks a kind person.
  9. We left her crying.
  10. Job left her trembling.





Sentences can be categorised in terms of structure or in terms of purpose.


      Sentences can be categorised into 3 main types:

  • Simple sentences

(ii) Compound sentences

(iii) Complex sentences.


A simple sentence contains a single subject and predicate. It describes only one thing, idea or question, and has only one verb. It contains only an independent (main) clause. Any independent clause can stand alone as a sentence. It has a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought.


Bill reads.

Jack plays football.

Even the addition of adverbs, adjectives and prepositional phrases to a simple sentence does not change its structure.


The white dog with the black collar always barks loudly.

Even if you join several nouns with a conjunction, or several verbs with a conjunction, it remains a simple sentence.


The dog barked and growled loudly.


A compound sentence consists of two or more simple sentences joined together using a co-ordinating conjunction such as and, or or but.


The sun was setting in the west and the moon was just rising.

Each clause can stand alone as a sentence.


The sun was setting in the west. The moon was just rising.

Every clause is like a sentence with a subject and a verb. A coordinating conjunction goes in the middle of the sentence; it is the word that joins the two clauses together.

Other examples:

I walked to the shops, but my wife drove there.

I might watch the film, or I might visit my aunt.

My friend enjoyed the film, but she didn’t like the actor.


Two simple sentences should be combined to form one compound sentence only if the ideas they express are closely related. If the ideas are not closely related, the resulting sentence may not make sense.


Incorrect: The car is old, and Dan likes sociology.

Correct: The car is old, but it functions superbly.

Punctuating compound sentences

When writing some compound sentences, a comma is used before the conjunction. The comma tells the reader where to pause. Without a comma, some compound sentences can be quite confusing.


Confusing: Jane studied the specimen and her sister took notes.

(The sentence might cause the reader to think that Jane studied both the specimen and her sister).

Better: Jane studied the specimen, and her sister took notes.

(The comma makes the sentence to be clear).

Sometimes the parts of a compound sentence can be joined with a semicolon (;) rather than a comma and a conjunction.


Jane studied the specimen; her sister took notes.

Never join simple sentences with a comma alone. A comma is not powerful enough to hold the sentences together. Instead use a semicolon.


Incorrect: My father enjoyed the meal, he didn’t like the soup.

Correct: My father enjoyed the meal; he didn’t like the soup.

Correct: My father enjoyed the meal, but he didn’t like the soup.


A complex sentence contains one independent (main) clause and one or more subordinate (dependent) clauses. They describe more than one thing or idea and have more than one verb in them. They are made up of more than one clause, an independent clause (that can stand by itself) and a dependent clause (which cannot stand by itself).


The picture looks flat because it is colourless.

(The picture looks flat is the independent (main) clause whereas because it is colourless is the subordinate (dependent) clause)

What is a clause?

A clause is a group of words that contains a verb and its subject. There are two types of clauses – main clauses and subordinate clauses.


A main clause is a clause that can stand as sentence by itself. A compound sentence contains two or more main clauses, because it is made up of two or more simple sentences. Each of these simple sentences is a main clause.


Robots operate machines, and they solve many labour problems.

Robots operate machines and they solve many labour problems are both main clauses. They are also simple sentences. Main clauses are sometimes called independent clauses.


       Subordinate clauses are clauses that do not express a complete thought. So they cannot stand by themselves.


If technology will improve        When robots can do the work

While electronics will work       After the system is complete

None of the above clauses express a complete thought. They are sentence fragments that leave the reader wondering then what?

Subordinate clauses are introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as if, when, while, and after.

Other examples of subordinating conjunctions:

Although                    because                  so that           until

as                                 before                   than               whatever

as if                              in order that          though           wherever

as long as                   provided                 till                 whenever

as though                   since                       unless            where

Now we can understand a complex sentence better. We have said that it contains one main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

Main clause                                   subordinate clause

The bell started ringing                  before we were out of bed.

The battery needs recharging         so that it can work tonight.

The subordinate clause can sometimes appear before the main clauses.


When the power failed, the computer stopped.

Before you know it, your flat screen television will be stolen.

The subordinate clause can also sometimes appear in between the sentence.


The medicine man, who knew many tricks, cheated the man that he had been bewitched.



Subordinate clauses may be used in sentences as adjectives, adverbs and nouns in complex sentences. Such clauses are called adjectival, adverbial and noun clauses respectively. They add variety to one’s writing. They can also make one’s writing more interesting by adding details.


Without subordinate clause: The bushman told us about the hidden cave.

With subordinate clause: The bushman, who knew the forest well, told us about the hidden cave.

  • Adjectival clauses

An adjectival clause acts as an adjective in a sentence, that is, it modifies a noun or a pronoun.


The bushman, who knew the forest well, told us about the hidden cave.

(who knew the forest well is an adjectival clause that modifies the noun bushman).

The bushman told us a legend that involved the cave.

(that involved the cave is an adjectival clause that modifies the noun legend).

An adjective clause usually comes immediately after the noun it modifies.

More examples:

People still search for the treasure that the pirate hid.

As can be seen from the above examples, adjectival clauses, like adjectives, modify nouns or pronouns answering questions like which? or what kind of?

Adjective                       Adjective clause

The red coat             the coat which I bought yesterday

Like the adjective red, the adjectival clause which I bought yesterday modifies the noun coat. Note than an adjectival clause usually comes after what it modifies while an adjective comes before.

Relative pronouns

Besides use of subordinating conjunctions, adjectival clauses can be introduced by relative pronouns. Relative pronouns are the words who, whom, whose, that and which. These words relate the subordinate clauses to the word it modifies in the main clause.


The books that people read were mainly religious.

Some fire-fighters never meet the people whom they save.

The meat which they ate was rotten.

In the last sentence, the relative clause (called so because it is introduced by the relative pronoun which) which they ate modifies the noun meat and answers the question which meat?

More examples:

They are searching for the one who borrowed the book.

The relative clause who borrowed the book modifies the pronoun one and answers the question which one?

Besides relating the adjectival clause to a noun or pronoun in the main clause, a relative pronoun may also act as the subject, object, predicate pronoun, or object of a preposition in the clause.


Subject: This is the forest that has a secret cave.

(that is the subject of has)

Object: The map, which you saw, guides the way.

(which is the object of saw)

Object of a preposition: The map leads to the cave of which the bushman spoke.

(which is the object of the preposition of)

In informal writing or speech, you may leave out the relative pronoun when it is not the subject of the adjectival clause, but you should usually include the relative pronoun in formal academic writing.


Formal: The books that people read were mainly religious.

Informal: The books people read were mainly religious.

Formal: The map which you saw guides the way.

Informal: The map you saw guides the way.

But never omit the relative pronoun if it is in the clause.


Correct: This is the forest that has a secret cave.

Incorrect: This is the forest has a secret cave.

       Commas are put around adjectival clauses only if they merely add additional information to a sentence.


The map, which you saw, shows the way.

This adjective clause can be left out without affecting the grammatical structure of the sentence. It is merely adding information to the sentence by telling us which map?

The map shows the way.



(ii) Adverbial clauses

An adverbial clause is a subordinate clause which takes the place of an adverb in a sentence. Just like adverbs and adverbial phrases, adverbial clauses answer the questions where, when, how, to what extent, with what goal/result and under what conditions. In addition, an adverbial clause may tell why.

Note how an adverb clause can replace an adverb and an adverbial phrase in the following example:

Adverb: The Prime Minister gave a speech here.

Adverbial phrase: The Prime Minister gave a speech in the afternoon.

Adverbial clause: The Prime Minister gave a speech where the workers were striking.

Usually, an adverbial clause is introduced by a subordinating conjunction like because, when, whenever, where, wherever, since, after and so that.

Note that a subordinate adverb clause can never stand alone as a complete sentence.


after they left dining hall

The above adverbial clause will leave the reader asking what happened after they left the dining hall?

Adverbial clauses express relationships of cause, effect, place, time and condition.


Adverb clauses of cause answer the question why?


Njoroge wanted to kill his uncle because he had murdered his father.


Adverbial clauses of effect answer the question with what goal/result?


Njoroge wanted to kill his uncle so that his father’s murder would be avenged.


Adverbial clauses of time answer the question when?


After Njoroge’s uncle married his mother, he wanted to kill him


Adverbial clauses of condition answer the question under what conditions?


If the uncle cooperates, Njoroge may decide to pardon him.


Adverbial clauses of place answer the question where?


Njoroge organised a demonstration where his father’s murder occurred.

Note that an adverbial clause can appear either before or after the main clause of the sentence.

(iii) Noun clauses

A noun clause is a clause which takes the place of a noun or a noun phrase. It can be used in any way that a noun is used. That is, it can act as the subject, object, object of a preposition, or predicate noun in a sentence. Just like a noun, a noun clause answers the questions who, when, or what?


As subjects

Noun: Kamau is unknown

Noun phrase: Their destination is unknown

Noun clause: Where they are going is unknown.

The noun clause where they are going is the subject of the verb is.

As objects

Noun: I know French.

Noun phrase: I know the three ladies.

Noun clause: I know that Latin is no longer spoken as a native language.

In the first sentence, the noun French acts as the direct object of the verb know. In the third sentence, the entire clause that Latin is no longer spoken as a native language is the direct object of the verb know.

As objects of the preposition            

Noun: He talked about him.

Noun phrase: He talked about the funny items.

Noun phrase: He talked about what you bought at the supermarket.

In the first sentence the pronoun him is the object of the preposition about. In the third sentence, what you bought at the supermarket is the object of the preposition about and answers the question about what?

As predicate nouns

Her first day in school was what shaped her life.

The adverbial clause what shaped her life gives more information about the subject of the sentence Her first day in school.

Words often used to introduce noun clauses

that                            when                      whose

what whatever           whoever

how                           who                       whoever

where                        whom



You cannot tell the kind of a clause from the word that introduces it. You can tell the kind of clause only by the way it is used in a sentence. If the clause is used as a noun, it is a noun clause. If the clause is used as a modifier, it is an adjectival clause or an adverbial clause.


Whoever built the house was not an expert. (Noun clause as a subject)

No one knew where he came from. (Noun clause as a direct object)

He left the construction site whenever he wished. (As an adverbial clause)

This is the layout which he left behind. (As an adjectival clause).

Exercise 4

Identify the following sentences as simple, compound or complex. If it is a complex sentence, indicate whether it has an adjective, an adverb or a noun subordinate clause.

  1. The hotel is not very old.
  2. The hotel is not very old; it was constructed in 1987.
  3. It has a strange name, but it attracts many tourists.
  4. Whoever broke the mirror will have to pay for it.
  5. The Gor Mahia fans hope that the team will win again.
  6. Did I tell you about the author whom I met?
  7. They are searching for the man who stole the cow.
  8. People began riding horses at least five thousand years ago.
  9. Some people watch the moon as though it affects their lives.
  10. Some superstitions were developed when people felt helpless about the world around them.
  11. The parachute was really a sail that was designed for skiing.
  12. The moon orbits the earth every 291/2 days.
  13. My dog loves bread crusts.
  14. I always buy bread because my dog loves the crusts.
  15. Whenever lazy students whine, Mrs. Ndegwa throws pieces of chalk at them.
  16. The lazy students whom Mrs. Ndegwa hit in the head with pieces of chalk complained bitterly.
  17. My dog Shimba, who loves bread crusts, eats them under the kitchen table.
  18. A dog that drinks too much milk will always be alert.
  19. You really do not want to know what Aunt Lucy adds to her stew.
  20. We do not know why, but the principal has been away from school for two months.




We have seen how sentences are categorised into simple, compound and complex depending on their internal structures. Now, we shall see how they can be categorised in terms of purpose.

There are five kinds of sentences classified according to their end marks and the different jobs they do:

  • Declarative sentences
  • Interrogative sentences
  • Exclamatory sentences
  • Imperative sentences
  • Conditional sentences
  • Declarative sentences

A declarative sentence simply states a fact or argument without requiring either an answer or action from the reader or listener. It is punctuated with a simple period. (fullstop)


Nairobi is the capital of Kenya.

He asked which path leads back to the park.

Deserts are dry.

The declarative sentence is the most important type of sentences. You can write an entire essay or report using only declarative sentences, and you should always use them more often than any other type. Some declarative sentences contain indirect questions but this does not make them into interrogative sentences.


He asked which path leads back to the park.

  • Interrogative sentences

An interrogative sentence asks a direct question and always ends in a question mark.


How many roads lead into Mombasa city?

Does money grow on trees?

Do you like deserts?

       Note that an indirect question does not make a sentence interrogative.



When was Professor Saitoti the Vice President of Kenya?


I wonder when Professor Saitoti was the Vice President of Kenya.

A direct question requires an answer from the reader or listener, while an indirect question does not. A special type of direct questions is the rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one that you do not expect the reader or listener to answer.


Why did the Mau Mau war take place? Some people argue that it was simply a way of Kenyan Africans saying “enough is enough”.

Rhetorical questions can be very effective way to introduce new topics or problems in one’s writing or speech. But if you use them too often, you sound patronising or even monotonous or mediocre!

  • Exclamatory sentences

An exclamatory sentence expresses strong feeling, emphasis or emotion. It is actually a more forceful version of a declarative sentence that is marked at the end with an exclamation mark.


It was so cold!

How beautiful this picture is!

You look so lovely tonight!

Exclamatory sentences are very common in speech and sometimes in writing (but rarely).

       Note that an exclamation mark can appear at the end of an imperative sentence, but this does not make it into an exclamatory sentence.

  • Imperative sentences

An imperative sentence gives a direct command to someone. This sentence can end either with a period or with an exclamation mark, depending on how forceful the command is.



Read this book tomorrow.

Always carry water.

Wash the windows!


You should not usually use an exclamation mark with the word “please”.


Close that door, please!

Please close that door.

In an imperative sentence, you is always the subject. It is usually not stated in the sentence. We say that you is the “understood” or “implied” subject.



(You) Please bring my camera.

(You) Take your medicine before going to bed.

  • Conditional sentences

A conditional sentence expresses what one would do if a condition were or were not met.

The condition in the conditional if-clause will determine the fulfilment of the action in the main clause.


If I had a million dollars, I would buy a Hummer.

John would be very successful if he had more brains.

In sentence 1, the condition of having a million dollars will determine whether the speaker will buy a hummer or not. In sentence, the condition of John not having more brains determines that he is not very successful.

Exercise 5

Label each of the following sentences declarative, imperative, exclamatory, interrogative or conditional

  1. There is a terrible storm tonight.
  2. Try to cover yourself with a blanket.
  3. How strong the winds are!
  4. If the storm continues, we shall have to go down into the bunker.
  5. Do you think it will rip off the roof?
  6. Look at that that flash of lightning!
  7. What an amazing sight that is!
  8. The night looks dark and scary.
  9. Please tell the children to stop screaming.
  10. Susan will sit beside me if the storm continues.
  11. We are hopeful all will be well.
  12. Dive under the table if it breaks the roof.
  13. How will I find my way?
  14. Can I take a glass of water?
  15. John wants to know what will happen if our house collapses.
  16. There goes the thunder!
  17. We shall have to move to another city if we get out of this alive.
  18. Tell me a good city where we can move to.
  19. The storm is subsiding.
  20. Hooray! Safety at last!





        Direct speech is used to give a speaker’s exact words.  It is also referred to as direct quotation. Direct speech is always enclosed within quotation marks.


Hemedi announced, “My aunt works in a biscuit factory.”

“Creating jobs will be my first priority,” the governor said.

A comma always separates the quoted words from the speaker’s name, whether the name comes before or after the quotation


Jim asked, “Who are you voting for?”

“I don’t know yet,” answered Carol.

A direct quotation always begins with a capital letter


Senator Karaba said, “You must believe in the new constitution.”

When a direct quotation is divided by speech tags, the second part of the quotation must begin with a small letter.


“Register to vote,” said the senator, ‘before the end of the day”.

If the second part of the quotation is a complete sentence, the first word of this sentence is capitalized.


“I did register,” said Carol. “It took only a few minutes”

Commas and full stops are placed inside quotation marks


“Last night,” said Joyce,” I listened to a debate.”

Quotation marks and exclamation marks are placed inside a quotation mark if they belong to the quotation.  If they do not, they are placed outside the quotation.


Joyce asked, “Whom are you voting for?”

Did Carol say, “I don’t know yet’’?

I can’t believe that she said, “I don’t know yet’!

Speech tags may appear before, in the middle or at the end of the direct speech.


He said, “You know quite well that you have to vote.”

“You know quite well,” he said, “that you have to vote.”

“You know quite well that you have to vote,” he said.


Exercise 6

Rewrite the following sentences correctly in direct speech.  Ensure you punctuate them accordingly.

  1. John said there was a terrible accident in Nairobi.
  2. Petro added it happened in Umoja Estate.
  3. It involved a train and a bus added John.
  4. Sarah asked did anyone die.
  5. No one died, but the railway line was destroyed answered Peter.
  6. Over the months said John the railway line has been rebuilt.
  7. How lucky that no one died exclaimed Sarah.
  8. I think they should put a railway-crossing sign board Petro said it would help bus drivers a lot.
  9. Or they should put bumps on both sides of the railway line to slow down the buses John suggested
  10. Who knows what might happen next wondered Sarah


       Indirect speech is used to refer to a person’s words without quoting him or her exactly.  It is also referred to as indirect quotation or reported speech. The original spoken words are not repeated.  The exact meaning is given without repeating the speaker’s words.


Direct speech:  The governor said, “Creating new jobs will be my first priority.”

Indirect speech: The governor said that creating new jobs would be his first priority.

Several changes do occur when changing a sentence from direct to indirect speech

  1. Quotation marks

Quotation marks are left out when writing a sentence in direct speech.


Direct:  Hemedi announced, “My aunt works in a biscuit factory”

Indirect: Hemedi announced that his aunt worked in a biscuit factory.

  1. Tense – The tense of a verb in the direct sentence will change in indirect speech


  1. Simple present changes to past simple

Direct: John said, “She goes to school early.”

Indirect: John said that she went to school early.

  1. Simple past changes to past perfect

Direct:  John said, “She went to school early.”

Indirect: John said that she had gone to school early.

  1. Present progressive changes to past progressive

Direct:  “The baby is eating a banana,” the nurse said.

Indirect:  The nurse said that the baby was eating a banana.

  1. Present perfect changes to past perfect

Direct:  “South Sudan has become a republic,” the new president declared.

Indirect:  The new president declared that South Sudan had become a republic.

  1. Past progressive changes to past perfect progressive

Direct: “I was dreaming when the fire started,” the boy said.

Indirect:  The boy said the he had been dreaming when the fire started.

  1. Future simple changes to modal

Direct:  “I will visit you tomorrow,” my desk mate said.

Indirect: My desk mate said the he would visit me the following day.

  1. May changes to might

Direct: I may also visit you too,” I replied.

Indirect:  I replied that I might also visit him too.

Sometimes the verb in indirect speech does not change tense.  This occurs in sentences that are universal truths

Direct: Our Geography teacher said “The earth rotates round the sun.”

Indirect:  Our Geography teacher said that the earth rotates round the sun.

  1. Words referring to place also change


Direct:  “I live here,” retorted the old man.

Indirect: The old man retorted that he lived there.

Direct:  “This place stinks,” noted the boy.

Indirect:  The boy noted that that place stunk.

  1. Words referring to time also change


Direct: “I will visit you tomorrow,” he shouted.

Indirect:  He shouted that he would visit me the following/next day.

Direct:  “He died last year,” the policeman reported.

Indirect:  The policeman reported that he had died the previous year/ the year before.

  1. Demonstrative pronouns also change:


Direct:  “This book is mine,” Jane claimed.

Indirect:  Jane claimed that that book was hers.

Direct:  “These are hard times,” observed the president.

Indirect:  The president observed that those were hard times.

  1. Pronouns also change


Direct:My car is better than yours,” the teacher bragged.

Indirect:  The teacher bragged that his/her car was better that his/hers/theirs.

Exercise 7

Change the following sentences from Direct to Indirect speech.

  1. “Did you see the fire at the West gate Mall?” asked Joel.
  2. Njagi said, “Ten fire-engines arrived in fifteen minutes.”
  3. Patty exclaimed, “It destroyed an entire block of building!”
  4. “One fire fighter was slightly injured,” said Joel.
  5. Njagi said, “Several people working in the building escaped unhurt.”
  6. “Tell me what will happen to them,” said Patty.
  7. “Other people are giving them food and clothes,” replied Joel.
  8. Njagi added, “They are resting in the school for now.”
  9. “These terrorists will finish us!” exclaimed Patty.
  10. “Don’t worry,” Joel said “They will be apprehended tomorrow.”


A question tag or a tag question is a phrase that is added at the end of a statement to turn into a question.  When a speaker uses a question tag at the end of a statement, he/she is seeking for approval, confirmation or correction.


APPROVAL:  I look smart today, don’t I?  Yes you do.

CORFIRMATION: These are the new students, aren’t they?  Yes they are.

CORRECTION:  I paid your money yesterday, didn’t I? No you didn’t.

Many learners face a problem of supplying the correct question tags to sentences.  This is because they fail to observe the following rules of question tags:

  1. A comma must be put to separate the statement with the question tag. A question mark must be placed at the end of the question tag.


Rufftone has released a new album, hasn’t he?

He is pushing for a decision by tomorrow, isn’t he?

  1. The auxiliary verb in the statement must be repeated in the question tag


Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years, wasn’t he?

The people of South Africa have lost a great hero, haven’t they?

  1. When there is no auxiliary verb in the statement, the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb Do must be used in the question tag


Mark Francis wakes up very early, doesn’t he?

Peter Bryan bought an I-pad phone, didn’t he?

  1. The subject in the statement must be repeated in the question tag. If it is a noun in the statement, it changes to the appropriate pronoun.   If it is a pronoun in the statement, it remains a pronoun in the question tag.


Fatou Bensouda is a prosecutor in ICC, isn’t she?

She does her work meticulously, doesn’t she?

  1. When the statement is positive (i.e. It does not have the word not in it), the question tag must be negative (i.e. must use the negative word not) and vice versa.


David Rudisha has broken another record, hasn’t he?

Catherine Ndereba hasn’t been very active, has she?

Douglas Wakiihuri does not run any more, does he?

Ezekiel Kemboi entertains the audience after winning, doesn’t he?

You will note from the above examples that the auxiliary verb is usually contracted (joined) with the negative indicator not when using question tags. However, this does not apply when using primary auxiliary verb am and the modal auxiliary verbs will and shall. Am does not allow contraction with not, will and shall usually change their forms to allow contraction.


WRONG: I am the next speaker, amn’t I?

CORRECT:  I am the next speaker, am I not?

WRONG: They will be late for church, willn’t they?

CORRECT:  They will be late for church, won’t they?

WRONG:  We shall attend the Memorial service, willn’t we?

CORRECT:  We shall attend the memorial service, shan’t we?

  1. Whereas there is no inversion in the statement, inversion must occur in the question tag i.e. the auxiliary verb comes before the subject


President Uhuru Kenyatta has won the case, hasn’t he?

Subject                     verb                         verb subject

He          can now relax and attend to his duties, can’t he?

Subject verb                                                            verb subject


  1. For sentences that are in form of requests and commands, the question tags will commonly take the auxiliary verb will or shall followed by the appropriate pronoun.


Please help me with your pen, will you?

Let us go for a swim, shall we?

Bring me that chair, will you?

Stop that noise, will you?

Kneel down right away, will you?

Those are the rules that govern question tags and if followed well, the learners will not have any problems with question tags.

Exercise 8

Supply the appropriate question tags in the following sentences.

1.The marriage caused a rupture in her relationship with her mother, _____________?

2.She didn’t think anyone would be interested in a woman like her, _______________?

3.The troops are on standby in case chaos erupt, _________?

4.The Prime Minister must take a firm stand against extremists in his party, _________?

5.I am the best so far, ____________________?

6.The amendments will strengthen the bill, __________?

7.The new tax is tantamount to stealing from the poor, ____?

8.Please send all your remarks to Prof Kibwana as soon as possible, _______________?

9.She raised the gun and pulled the trigger,______________?

10.We need to learn to prioritize, __________________?

11.Get out of this room now, ___________________?

12.We’ve made a reservation for next week, ____________?

13.They couldn’t conceal the secret any more, ___________?

14.We shall not accept anything less, __________________?

15.I am not a conman, __________________?

16.Jonny wanted to pursue a career in theatre, __________?

17.Sharon’s parents claim that the house is legally theirs, ____________?

18.I haven’t told you my name, _________________?

19.Come and visit us tomorrow, __________________?

20.Time will tell whether he made the right choice, _______?






       Capitalization is the writing of a word with its first letter as an upper case and the remaining letters in lower case. The following are the cases when capitalization is used:

  1. Abbreviations

Abbreviations begin with a capital letter.

  1. Titles of persons


Prof. George Saitoti                    Mr. Stephen Kiama

Dr. Ephantus Maree                    Mrs. Teresa Ndegwa

Lt. James Conary                        Ms. Jacinta Atieno

Note that all the above abbreviations end with a period. Miss is not an abbreviation, so it doesn’t end with a period.

  1. Words used as addresses


St. (street)                                    Blvd. (Boulevard)

Ave. (Avenue                              Rte. (Route)

Rd. (Road)                                   Apt. (Apartment)

  1. Words used in businesses


Co. (Company)                            Inc. (Incorporation)

Corp. (Corporation)                    Ltd. (Limited)

  1. Some abbreviations are written in all capital letters, with a letter standing for each important word.


P.O. (Post Office)               USA (United States of America)

P.D. (Police Department)  E.A. (East Africa)

  1. Initials of names of persons


E.W. Gichimu                    D.M. Weyama

W.W. Muriithi                   Everlyne A. Kira

  1. Titles of books, newspapers, magazines, TV shows and movies.


The Minister’s Daughter (book)   Tahidi High (TV show)

The Daily Nation (newspaper)     Harry Potter (movie)

Drum Magazine (magazine)        The Day of the Jackal (book)

Capitalize the first and last words only. Do not capitalize little words such as a, an, the, but, as, if, and, or, nor etc.

  1. Titles of shorts stories, songs, articles, book chapters and most poems.


Half a Day (short story)

Kigeugeu (song)

Three Days on Mt. Kenya (short story)

The Noun Clauses (chapter in a book)

Grass Will Grow (a poem)

  1. Religious names and terms


God           Allah          Jesus           the Bible             the Koran

Do not capitalize the words god and goddess when they refer to mythological deities.

  1. Major words in geographical names


ContinentsAfrica, Asia, Europe, Australia

Water bodies – the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the           Nile River, RiverTana,  Lake Victoria.

Landforms – the Rocky Mountains, the Aberdares Mountains, the Rift Valley, the Sahara Desert.

Political Units – the Kirinyaga County, the Central Province, Inoi Sub-location.

Public AreasNairobi National Park, Wajee Nature Park.

Roads and HighwaysJogoo Road, Kenyatta Avenue, Uganda Road.

  1. Names of organisations and institutions


Kianjege West Secondary School, United Nations, University of Nairobi, Nairobi Women’s Hospital

       Note that here you capitalize only the important words. Do not capitalize such words such as a, in, and of. Do not capitalize such words as school, college, church and hospital when they are not used as parts of names.


There will be a beauty contest at school.

  1. Months, days and holidays


June                                             Labour Day

Tuesday                                       December

Kenyatta Day                              Mashujaa Day

Do not capitalize names of seasons: autumn, summer, winter, spring

  1. Languages, races, nationalities and religions


Chinese             Kikuyu              Christianity           Caucasian

Bantu                 Nigerian           Muslim                  Oriental

  1. The first word of every sentence


What an exciting day it was!

  1. The pronoun I


What should I do next?

  1. Proper Nouns


Lang’ata Cemetery                      Ann Pauline Nyaguthii

Kangaita Women’s Group          Muhigia Teachers Sacco

  1. Proper Adjectives


We ate at an Italian restaurant.

She is a German.

  1. The first word in greetings and the closing of a letter


Dear Mark,                                      Yours sincerely,

Dear Bryan,                                     Yours faithfully,

My dear Mum,                                Very truly yours,

  1. Quotations


Jamlick exclaimed, “This book would make a great movie!”

Where,” asked the stranger, “is the post office?”

It’s late,” Billy said. “Let’s go home!”

  1. First word of each main topic and subtopic in an outline


  1. Parts of speech
  2. Nouns

(i) Proper nouns

Exercise 1

Correct all errors of capitalization in the following sentences.

  1. this play is a revision of shakespeare’s earlier play, the merchant of venice.
  2. john kiriamiti wrote my life in crime
  3. i admire women who vie for parliamentary seats
  4. benard mathenge and his wife have travelled to america.
  5. my grandmother grew up in witemere.
  6. the nile river is one of the largest rivers in africa.
  7. each year tourists visit maasai mara national park.
  8. the tv show papa shirandula has attracted many viewers.
  9. uganda and kenya have signed an agreement over the ownership of migingo islands.
  10. our country got its independence in december 1963.
  11. on christmas day, all my relatives gathered at my home.
  12. waiyaki is a fictional character in ngugi wa thiongo’s novel, the river between.
  13. the city of mombasa gets its water from river tana.
  14. i would like to become a famous writer like sydney sheldon.
  15. they captured the stark beauty of hell’s gate national park in their movie.


Punctuation is the system of symbols that we use to separate sentences and parts of sentences, and to make their meaning clear. Each symbol is called a punctuation mark. For example (. , ! – : etc)

Punctuation marks can be grouped into:

  1. End marks
  2. The comma
  3. The semicolon and the colon
  4. The hyphen
  5. The apostrophe
  6. Quotation mark
  7. End Marks

There are three kinds of end marks: the full stop (.), the question mark (?), and the exclamation mark (!). End marks show where sentences end.

  1. The full stop (.)

A full stop is used to end a complete sentence. We use a full stop to end:

(i) A declarative sentence- a sentence that makes a state


The highest skyscraper in Nairobi is Times Tower.

(ii) An imperative sentence – a sentence that makes a request or tells someone to do something.


Please climb the stairs carefully.

Note: An imperative sentence is followed by an exclamation mark when it expresses a strong emotion.


Be careful!

(iii) At the end of an indirect question – one that tells what someone asked, without using the person’s exact words.


The naughty boy wanted to know why there was no mid-term break.

Other uses of the full stop

Full stops are also used:

(iv) After initials and after most abbreviations


L.L. Coo J.        Mr. Sammy Njagi               11:00 A.M.

Sept.                  Wed.                                    2hr. 12min

Note that some abbreviations do not require full stops:


M (metres)      FM (frequency modulation)    Km kilometres)

(v) After each number or letter that shows a division of an outline or precedes an item in a list.


Outline                                                        List

  1. Parts of speech 1. Water – borne diseases
  2. Nouns 2. Air-borne disease
  3. Types of nouns 3. Sexually – transmitted diseases
  4. Uses of nouns 4. Skin diseases
  5. Verbs 5. Hereditary diseases
  6. Types of verbs 6. Lifestyle diseases
  7. Uses of verbs 7. Infectious diseases

(vi) Between numerals representing dollars, cents, before a decimal and in percentages


$ 25.65                  165.42                           25.3%

  1. The question mark (?)

The question mark is used at the end of an interrogative sentence (a sentence that asks a question).


When was the Times Tower built?

Who built it?

  1. The Exclamation mark (!)

The exclamation mark is used at the end of the exclamatory sentence and after an interjection. (An exclamatory sentence expresses strong feeling, emotion or emphasis. An interjection is a word or group of words that expresses strong feelings).


Exclamatory sentence: Oh, what a tall building it is!

Interjections: Superb! Fantastic! Impressive!

An exclamation mark can also be used at the end of an imperative sentence that expresses strong feeling.


Sit! And stay in that chair if you know what’s good for you!

  1. The comma (,)

There are a number of uses of the comma in English. A comma generally tells the reader where to pause. They are used:

(i) To separate words in a series except the last

The three or four items in a series can be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, phrases, independent clauses, or other parts of sentences.


Nouns: John, Jim, Jack walk to school every day.

Verbs: He located, patched, and sealed the leak in the tyre.

Adverbs: She walked quickly, steadily, and calmly.

Prepositional phrases: He walked through the park, over the bridge, and onto the streets.

Independent clauses: The match was over, the crowd cheered, and Barcelona received the first- place trophy.

Adjectives: The fresh, ripe fruit was placed in a bowl.

       Note in the above examples that a comma must be used just before the conjunction.

(ii) Before the conjunction in a compound sentence


Some students were taking their lunch, but others were studying.

Marto photographed the accident scene, and he sold the pictures to the newspaper.

Would she be a lawyer, or would she be a doctor?

       Note: A comma is not required in very short compound sentence in which the parts are joined by and. However, always use a comma before the conjunctions but and or.


Marto photographed the accident scene and Toni reported it.

Marto photographed the accident scene, but Toni reported it.

       Note also:  A comma is not required before the conjunction that joins the parts of a compound verb unless there are more than two parts.


Mary entered and won the beauty contest.

That camera focuses, flashes, and rewinds automatically.

(iii) After introductory words phrases or clauses

Special elements add specific information to a sentence, but they are not essential. A comma is used to separate a special element from the rest of the sentence.


Word: Cautiously, he entered the building.

Phrase: After his failure, he disappeared from the public scene.

Clause: Because he had practised daily, he presented his new song perfectly.

      Note: If the pause after a short introductory element is very brief, you may omit the comma.


At first he was unsure of his singing ability.

Finally it was his turn.

Commas are also used after introductory words such as yes, no, oh and well when they begin a sentence.


Well, it’s just too cold out there.

No, it isn’t seven yet.

Oh, you have spilled the milk.

(iv) With interrupters

       Interrupters are words that break, or interrupt the flow of thought in a sentence. The commas are used before and after the interrupter to indicate pauses.


I didn’t expect, however, to lose the job.

So many people assumed, unfortunately, that he sings as well as he does.

He was chosen, nevertheless, as the new band leader.

(v) To set off nouns of direct address


Yes, Kamau, you can borrow my book.

Serah, do you know where I kept my phone?

How is your leg, grandpa?

(vi) To set off the spoken words in a direct sentence or quotation from the speech tag


Jackson said, “After my injury I had to learn to walk again.”

“The therapists urged me to keep trying,” he continued.

If the speech tag interrupts the spoken words, commas are used after the last word of the first part of the spoken words and after the last word in the speech tag.


“After a while,” he added, “I was walking without a cane”.

       Note: When a sentence is indirect or reported, no commas are used.


He added that after a while he was walking without a cane.

(vii) When writing dates

Place a comma after the day of the month.


July 3, 1965                           December 12, 2010

(viii) When referring to geographical location

Place a comma between the name of the town or city and the name of the state, district, or country.


Kibingoti, Kirinyaga County                Mombasa, Kenya

(ix) After the salutation and closing of a friendly or business letter


Dear Rose,                                           Yours sincerely,

  1. The semicolon (;) and the colon (:)

The semicolon (;)

The semicolon is used:

(i) To separate the parts of a compound sentence when no conjunction is used


 Mountain climbing is exciting; it can also be dangerous.

       Note that the semicolon replaces the comma and the coordinating conjunction. Conjunctions that are commonly replaced by semicolons are and, but, or, for, and nor                                                             (ii) Before a conjunctive adverb that joins the clauses of a compound sentence

(Conjunctive adverbs are words like therefore, however, hence, so, then, moreover, nevertheless, yet, consequently, and besides).


The competition takes place in July; however, I prefer August.

(iii) To separate the parts of a series when commas occur within the parts


Last year I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa; Cairo, Egypt; and Kingston, Jamaica.

The colon (:)

The colon is used:

(i) To introduce a list of items


My school bag contains the following items: exercise books, text books, pencils, pens, a geometrical set, and a packet of crayons.

(ii) After the greeting of a business letter


Dear Mr. Mututho:

(iii) Between numerals that represent hours and minutes and between chapter and verse in a biblical reference


9:00 A.M.                        6:00 P.M.                      Exodus 2:1-3

  1. The Hyphen (-)

The hyphen is used:

(i) To divide a word at the end of a line of writing


When walking along the streets of Naivasha, he met Waina-


    Note that only words with two or more syllables may be divided at the end of a line and words should be divided only between syllables. Never divide a word of one syllable and do not divide words to leave a single letter at the end or beginning of a line.

Incorrect: attraction

Correct: attraction.

  • In compound adjectives that come before the nouns they modify and in certain compound nouns


Samuel Wanjiru was a worldfamous athlete.

She is my sisterinlaw.

(iii) In compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine and in fractions


seventythree relatives                        onequarter full

  1. The Apostrophe (’)

The apostrophe is used:

(i) To form the possessive of a singular noun

Add an apostrophe and an s.


the babys cot             Jamess car                  Josephs radio

(ii) To form the possessive of a plural noun that does not end in s

Add an apostrophe and an s.


childrens                        mens               womens

(iii) To form the possessive of a plural noun that ends in s

Add only the apostrophe.


tricksters                                    tenants

(iv) To form the possessive of an indefinite pronoun

Use an apostrophe and an s.


everybodys                     somebodys                nobodys

Note: Never use an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun like our, yours, hers, theirs.

(v) In names of organisations and business

Show possession in the last word only.


the United Nations brochure

(vi) In hyphenated terms

Show possession in the last word only.


My mother-in-laws photograph album

(vii) In cases of joint ownership

Show possession in the last word only.


Peter and Patricks Limousine

(viii) In forming contractions

In contractions, apostrophes replace omitted letters.


shes = she is               arent = are not       I’m = I am

its = It is                      isnt = is not             we’ll = we will

cant = cannot            wont = will not           they’ve = they have

(ix) To show that part of a date has been omitted


The tribal clashes of 08 (the tribal clashes of 2008)

The 82 coup attempt (the 1982 coup attempt)

  1. Quotation Marks (“ ”)

The quotation marks are used:

  • To enclose the spoken words in a direct sentence. Indirect sentences need no quotation marks



Direct speech: The presidential candidate promised, Creating new jobs for the youths will be my first priority.

Indirect speech: The presidential candidate promised that creating new jobs would be his first priority.


  1. Always begin a direct quotation with a capital letter.


The minister said, “You must conserve our environment.

  1. When the spoken words are divided by the speech tag, begin the second part of the quotation with a small letter.


Bring me the money, said the moneylender, “before the end of the day.

  1. If the second part of the quotation is a complete sentence, the first word of this sentence is capitalized.


I am scared, said the borrower. “That moneylender is a brute.

  1. Place commas and fullstops inside quotation marks

Place semicolons and colons outside quotation marks.


Last month,” the borrower explained, I borrowed some money from the moneylender.”

Carol said to the borrower, And you refused to repay back on time”; however, the borrower did not agree.

These candidates were suggested in the article Our Country’s Future”: Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, and Martha Karua.

  1. Place question marks and exclamation marks inside quotation marks if they belong to the quotation. Place them outside if they do not belong to the quotation.


Carol asked, “How much money did you borrow?

Did the borrower say, “I can’t remember”?

“You are a fool!” exclaimed Carol.

  1. Use single quotation marks to enclose a title or quotation within a quotation.


Carol heard the borrower say, I can’t rememberbefore she lost her temper.

  1. If the title or quotation within the quotation ends the sentence, use both the single and the double quotation marks after the last word of a sentence.


Carol heard the borrower say, I can’t remember.’”

  1. In a quotation of more than one paragraph, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and the end of the final paragraph.

Exercise 1

Punctuate each of the following sentences appropriately.

  1. He earned about three million dollars that year
  2. You know who Jomo Kenyatta was, don’t you
  3. What a wonderful and inspired leader he was
  4. He was also a person who helped many people
  5. Some people write stories but others write poems.
  6. Try to write a concise informative and interesting letter.
  7. Also make sure your letter has a heading an inside address a salutation a body a closing and your signature.
  8. One of the most exciting modern developments I believe is the computer.
  9. Today is July 2 2011. I will never forget this date.
  10. I have lived in Sagana Kirinyaga County since 2008.
  11. Try submitting your work to these Publishers Longhorn Publishers Jomo Kenyatta Foundation or Oxford University Press.
  12. Remember a writing career requires the following traits confidence perseverance and a thick skin!
  13. Long ago people used hand sharpened straws or reeds as pens.
  14. Fountain pens were invented in our great grandparents time
  15. Soft tip pens and rolling ball pens were invented twenty five years ago
  16. What would you do if you couldn’t build a house for yourself
  17. Youd find someone who could built it for you wouldn’t you.
  18. These archives are important to modern historians research.
  19. In his play shreds of tenderness, John Ruganda said people who have never lived through a coup d’etat have romantic ideas about it.
  20. Mr. Mureithi said a short letter to a friend is an insult.















Exercise 1

  1. students, party

2.boys, songs

  1. Excitement, air
  2. Joyce Chepkemoi, prize
  3. Otieno, house, street

Exercise 2

  1. candle – thing 5. guitar – thing
  2. wrestler – person 6. China – place
  3. joy – idea 7. hatred – idea
  4. Menengai Crater – place 8. Masanduku arap Simiti – person

Exercise 3

  1. musicians, drums, trumpets
  2. family, village
  3. Petronilla, trip
  4. festival, Kenyatta University
  5. people, costumes, streets
  6. holiday, excitement
  7. Taxi, family, airport
  8. Maryanne, castle, sand
  9. mother, water

Exercise 4

Proper nouns                     Common nouns

July                                     book

England                               face

Kendu Bay                          crocodiles

John Hopkins                      student

Johannesburg                      life

America                              business

East Africa                          day


Exercise 5

  1. Proper – Lucky Dube Common –   singer
  2. Proper – London, Paris Common –   dancer
  3. Proper – Mediterranean sea Common –    flight
  4. Proper – Second World War Common –    nurse
  5. Common – goal, students, world
  6. Proper – Europe Common –    accident
  7. Proper – Bill Gates, Microsoft
  8. Common – pilot, woman, ocean
  9. Common – kettle, water
  10. Proper – Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize

Exercise 6

  1. tooth – teeth 9. cliffs 17. moose           25. bosses
  2. wives 10. deer 18. children               26. foxes
  3. giraffes 11. cliff       19. echoes            27. bunches
  4. heroes 12. autos 20. babies                    28. ferries
  5. radios 13. studios     21. Skies               29. flashes
  6. potatoes 14. men 22. beaches                  30. ships
  7. beliefs 15. roofs 23. Eyes
  8. thieves 16. rodeos 24. volcanoes/volcanos

Exercise 7

  1. knives 2. potatoes         3. geese          4. Shelves
  2. tomatoes 6. children          7. mice             8. roofs
  3. stories 10. activities

Exercise 8

  1. the lion’s tail
  2. Cliff’s dog
  3. my mother’s hat
  4. Evan’s book
  5. the child’s pet
  6. the doll’s name
  7. Lucy’s mobile phone
  8. Kimani’s shoes
  9. the fox’s teeth
  10. my friend’s rabbit

Exercise 9

  1. cook’s aprons                     women’s sports
  2. men’s boots                    carpenter’s nails
  3. countries’ flags                    sailors’ uniforms
  4. guests’ coats                     musicians’ instruments
  5. athlete’s medals neighbours’ pets

Exercise 10

  1. The couple’s wealth
  2. a men’s team, a women’s team
  3. The teams’ uniforms
  4. the athletes’ shirts
  5. The team-mates’ scores
  6. their friends’ cheers
  7. The coaches’ whistles
  8. The children’s eyes
  9. Their mothers’ soothing voices
  10. their neighbours’ house


Exercise 1

  1. They ate fish and chips.
  2. We like Italian food.
  3. It is delicious
  4. The biggest eater was he.
  5. You helped in the cooking.
  6. The cooks were Tom and I.

Exercise 2

  1. They were under the table.
  2. She fed the chicken.
  3. They were juicy.
  4. They visited the orphans.
  5. The new waitress is she.
  6. The fastest runners were Tecla and she.
  7. She went to the hall.
  8. It was slaughtered.
  9. Lucky Dube and she were South African singers.
  10. He has won many athletics medals.

Exercise 3

  1. Lisa asked him for a picture.
  2. Adam sketched Lisa and me.
  3. He gave a photo to us.
  4. Ann and she saw Dave and Bob.
  5. Adam drew Lisa and them.
  6. Mark helped me with the packing.
  7. Loise praised him for his good work.
  8. Everyone spotted them
  9. That night Mike played the guitar for
  10. We drove with them to the mountains.

Exercise 4

  1. My journey to Mombasa was enjoyable.
  2. Florence said hers was the best.
  3. Are the pictures of Fort Jesus yours?
  4. Hers are about Jomo Kenyatta Beach.
  5. Tomorrow we will make frames for our
  6. My class is planning a trip to Mt. Kenya.
  7. Our trip will be taken on video.
  8. Micere is excited that the idea was
  9. Koki and Toti cannot hide their
  10. My dream is to climb to the highest peak of the mountain.

Exercise 5

  1. You will = You’ll
  2. we would = we’d
  3. he had = he’d
  4. I am = I’m
  5. you have = you’ve
  6. they will = they’ll

Exercise 6

  1. I’ll = I will
  2. we’re = we are
  3. you’d = you would, you had
  4. he’s = he is, he has
  5. they’re = they are
  6. she’d = she would, she had

Exercise 7

  1. its                                  They’re                           5 it’s
  2. who’s                        whose

Exercise 8

  1. All – are                           Everyone – his
  2. Anybody – has                Several – their
  3. Many – believe                Anyone – her
  4. Each – makes                Another – his
  5. All – indicates              Somebody – her


Exercise 9

  1. This Those                       5. these
  2. That those

Exercise 10

  1. Who What                             5. whom
  2. Whom What

Exercise 11

  1. Who whom
  2. Whom Whose
  3. whom Who
  4. Whose Who
  5. Who Whose

Exercise 12

  1. myself – intensive
  2. himself – intensive
  3. herself – reflexive
  4. herself – reflexive
  5. yourself – reflexive

Exercise 13

  1. Papa Shirandula is a good actor.
  2. Many people find him funny.
  3. The show was on television for many years.
  4. Their daughter is also in that show.
  5. The shoes are beautiful.
  6. People like our hotel.
  7. My brother drives a matatu.
  8. Our hotel is open seven days a week.
  9. The TV is very clear today.
  10. My brother and sister work in Nairobi.

Exercise 14

  1. We those                      5. us
  2. Those us


Exercise 1

  1. seems – Linking verb
  2. watched – Action verb
  3. cheered – Action verb
  4. seems – Linking verb
  5. is – Linking verb
  6. aimed – Action verb
  7. blew – Action verb
  8. was – Linking verb
  9. is – Linking verb
  10. seems – Linking verb

Exercise 2

  Helping verb                      Main verb

  1. is                                     singing
  2. has                                   begun
  3. can                                     travel
  4. had                                   waited
  5. will be                               visiting
  6. have                                    come
  7. must                                  buy
  8. has                                   chosen
  9. is                                     hitting

10    will                                 go

Exercise 3                                                           

  1. studies
  2. splashes
  3. washes
  4. hurries
  5. discuss

Exercise 4

  1. watched
  2. cried
  3. yelled
  4. baked
  5. shopped


Exercise 5

  1. will write
  2. will stop
  3. will decide
  4. shall practice
  5. will multiply

Exercise 7

  1. started                                    breathed
  2. added                               roamed
  3. trapped                                    obeyed
  4. annoyed                                    worried
  5. pitied                                   fitted

Exercise 8

  1. will/shall see                           will/shall develop
  2. will/shall go                            will/shall begin
  3. will/shall exist                           will/shall/consume
  4. will/shall introduce                 will/shall hunt
  5. will/shall bring will/shall become

Exercise 9

  1. John has come here every year. – present perfect
  2. John has been coming here every year. – present perfect progressive
  3. John had come here every year. – past perfect
  4. John had been coming here every year. – past perfect progressive
  5. John will have come here every year. – future perfect
  6. John will have been coming here every year. – future perfect progressive.

Exercise 10

  1. Jane is playing the guitar. – present progressive
  2. Jane has been playing the guitar. – present perfect progressive
  3. Jane was playing the guitar. – past progressive
  4. Jane had been playing the guitar. – past perfect progressive
  5. Jane will play the guitar. – future progressive
  6. Jane will have been playing the guitar. – future perfect progressive

Exercise 11

  1. guard                       cleans
  2. stands                        study
  3. cross                                 visits
  4. use              wed
  5. feed                      run

Exercise 12

          Present                           Past                                  Past participle

  1. prevent prevented                             prevented
  2. donate donated                                 donated
  3. hurry hurried                                    hurried
  4. worry worried                                   worried
  5. train                 trained                                     trained
  6. aid aided                                        aided
  7. relieve relieved                                   relieved
  8. share           shared                                            shared
  9. enrol enrolled                                  enrolled
  10. save saved                                       saved

Exercise 13

          Present                      Past                          Past participle

  1. arise arose                                arisen
  2. tear tore                                             torn
  3. wear wore                                   worn
  4. lay      laid                                     lain
  5. see saw                                                    seen
  6. fall fell                                     fallen
  7. blow blew                                 blown
  8. freeze froze                                 frozen
  9. fly flew                                   flown
  10. write wrote                                written

Exercise 14

  1. presented – active           was harvested – passive
  2. were taken – positive stressed – active
  3. ordered – active were urged – passive
  4. restored – passive is developing – active
  5. cleared – active was started – passive

Exercise 15

        Action verbs                                  direct object

  1. carried                                            his bag
  2. discussed                                            the examination paper
  3. took                             a trip
  4. splashed                                             me
  5. gave                              interesting facts
  6. searched                                             the house
  7. cheered                                             the team
  8. bought                                            a camera
  9. admires                                            Papa Shirandula
  10. viewed                                            the shooting star

Exercise 16

  1. Transitive                Intransitive
  2. Transitive            Transitive
  3. Intransitive                         Intransitive
  4. Transitive            Transitive
  5. Intransitive Intransitive

Exercise 17

  1. teach                      raises
  2. lies raises
  3. lie taught
  4. sits raises
  5. taught                 laid


Exercise 1

  1. largest vast
  2. Alaskan American, wild
  3. tallest huge
  4. tiny Australian
  5. small, scattered beautiful, Egyptian

Exercise 2

  1. those Those
  2. Those This
  3. that This
  4. That those
  5. This Those

Exercise 3

  1. Twenty What
  2. Few, our Whose
  3. all Which
  4. much what
  5. Numerous, this which

Exercise 4

  1. A the
  2. a an
  3. the the
  4. The the
  5. an A

Exercise 5

  1. many – songs
  2. Her, early – songs, her – fans
  3. Our, first – performance
  4. Her – coughing
  5. their, best – goal, ten – years

Exercise 6

  1. quiet, serious
  2. popular
  3. calm, peaceful
  4. brilliant
  5. extraordinary

Exercise 7

  1. more beautiful 6. stranger
  2. funniest 7. more curious
  3. most enjoyable 8. higher
  4. most energetic 9. more creative
  5. most helpful        10. simpler

Exercise 8

  1. Best Farther
  2. Bad Less or lesser
  3. Best Good
  4. Worse Better
  5. Least Most

Exercise 9

  1. those these
  2. These those
  3. This This
  4. Those that
  5. Those


Exercise 1

         Adverb                     What it indicates

  1. far         where
  2. cheerful  how
  3. downstairs           where
  4. carefully, skilfully how
  5. extremely how
  6. curiously how
  7. soon when
  8. fully to what extent
  9. adorably how
  10. down where

Exercise 2

            Adverb                                   Adjective

  1. highly                                                successful
  2. extremely                                          cold
  3. quite                                                   difficult
  4. barely                                                  visible
  5. very                                                      old
  6. mysteriously                                      secretive
  7. horribly            mean
  8. totally                                            exciting
  9. completely mad
  10. never punctual

Exercise 3

        Adverb                                              Adverb

  1. very gradually
  2. surprisingly quickly
  3. somewhat closer
  4. extremely             irresponsibly
  5. totally carelessly

Exercise 4

  1. quickly odd
  2. gradually reasonable
  3. good                                        rapidly
  4. rapidly well
  5. strange well

Exercise 5

  1. more often more swiftly
  2. more slowly most accurately
  3. quickly                                the longest
  4. more skilfully                                 gracefully
  5. the fastest the most sweetly


Exercise 1

  1. on – where
  2. for – purpose
  3. with – use
  4. in – place
  5. from – place

Exercise 2

  1. for
  2. In
  3. In
  4. down, for
  5. by

Exercise 3

    Preposition                                              Object/objects

  1. in            ways
  2. to people
  3. In cities
  4. On farms
  5. across                                river
  6. to side
  7. at place
  8. by boat
  9. to                                                        problem
  10. over water

Exercise 4

  1. her           us
  2. me               me
  3. us           him
  4. her           me
  5. us         her

Exercise 5

  1. outside – preposition          up – adverb
  2. inside – adverb          down – adverb
  3. in – preposition          outside – adverb
  4. over – preposition          by – adverb
  5. above – preposition        out – adverb

Exercise 6

  1. have                Anybody            7. anybody          10. ever
  2. anyone anywhere            8. anyone
  3. ever had                   9. Has


Exercise 1

  1. but but
  2. or and
  3. or or
  4. and and
  5. but but

Exercise 2

  1. They arrived late because it was raining heavily.
  2. John worked hard as he wanted to buy a house.
  3. I won’t carry the umbrella for you need it.
  4. I drove the car madly since I was late for the meeting.
  5. He will come before the meeting ends.

Exercise 3

  1. The vehicles either stopped for repairs or for fuel.
  2. The drivers knew they had either to travel more than fifty kilometres or endure harsh storms.
  3. Many people not only build their own homes but also grow their own food.
  4. Both men and women wanted to buy the pictures.
  5. Both maize and meat are important parts of a Kenyan’s diet.


Exercise 1

  1. Say – wonderment
  2. Wow! – joy
  3. All right! – urgency
  4. Boy! – fear
  5. Oh – surprise


Exercise 1

  1. crack quack
  2. roar pop
  3. tick lap
  4. growl boom
  5. chime         hiss

Exercise 2 

  1. Lima bean – a broad, flat, pale-green or white bean used as a vegetable – named after Lima, the capital of Peru where it was grown first.
  2. Cardigan – a kind of a pullover or sweater that buttons down the front – named after J.T. Brudwell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan.
  3. Bloomer – a woman’s baggy and long garment for the lower body – named after Amelia Bloomer, an American women rights and temperance advocate.
  4. Canary birds – yellow songbirds – named after Canary Islands, Spain, where they are found in large numbers.
  5. Ferris wheel – a special wheel for an amusement park – named after the inventor G.W. Ferris.
  6. Guppy – the most popular freshwater tropical fish – named after R.J.L. Guppy, the man who introduced it in England.
  7. Cheddar – A firm Cheese – named after the English village of Cheddar, where it was first made.
  8. Quisling – a person who treacherously helps to prepare for enemy occupation of his own county, a traitor – named after Vidkum Quisling, a Norwegian politician.
  9. Silhouette – an outline portrait or profile – named after a French minister of finance, Etienne de Silhouette.
  • Marxism – the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – named after Karl Marx.
  1. Guillotine – a device used for carrying out executions – named after Dr. Joseph Guillotine, the designer.
  2. Macadam – small, broken stones that are used for making roads – named after John L. McAdam, a Scottish engineer who invented this kind of a road.
  3. Pasteurisation – the process of heating milk, wine, beer, or other liquids hot enough to kill harmful bacteria and to prevent or stop fermentation – named after Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, who invented the process.
  4. Watt – Unit of measuring electric power – named after James Watt, a Scottish engineer, who pioneered in the development of the steam engine.
  5. Ohm – a measure of electrical resistance – named after George S. Ohm, a German physicist.

Exercise 3

  1. slithy – lithe + slimy breathalyser – breath + analyser
  2. chortle – chuckle + short    cablegram – cable + telegram
  3. galumph – gallop + triumph    camcorder – camera + recorder
  4. bash – bang + smash 9. edutainment – education + entertainment
  5. blog – web + log   email – electronic + mail

Exercise 4

  1. utra –           beyond                        – ultraviolet, ultrasonic
  2. syn – in union                                 – synchronize, symmetry
  3. sub – at a lower position         – submarine, subsoil
  4. peri – round, about                 – perimeter
  5. out – surpassing, exceeding – outperform
  6. infra – below                            – infrared, infrastructure
  7. hypo – under                             – hypodermic, hypothermia
  8. hemi – half                                – hemisphere
  9. ex – previous                        – ex-wife, ex-policeman
  10. dia – across, through             – diagonal

Exercise 5

  1. hopeful – full of hope                             greenish – having green colour
  2. reader – a person who reads                    weary – tired
  3. childish – having manners of a child fearless – lacking fear
  4. greyish – having grey colour kindness – the quality of being kind
  5. playful – fond of playing                  washable – can be washed

Exercise 6

  1. Pen – a device for writing

– an enclosure for sheep

  1. Tire – to make weary

– the rubber material on the wheel of an automobile or bicycle.

  1. Dove – past tense of dive

– a bird

  1. Wound – past tense of wind

– an injury.

  1. Mean – stingy

– average

  1. Act – a dramatic performance

– doing something

  1. Arms – upper limbs

– weapons

  1. Block – a building

– obstruct

  1. Box – a carton

– fight with gloves

  1. Bank – edge of a river
    • a money depository

Exercise 7

  1. in –inn knight – night
  2. heard – herd knows – nose
  3. horse – hoarse tick – tic
  4. key – quay rung – wrung
  5. need – knead           sees – seize

Exercise 8

  1. start – begin collect – gather
  2. come – arrive assist – help
  3. lengthy – long build – construct
  4. shattered – broken reply – answer
  5. fix – repair          purchase – buy

Exercise 9

  1. easy – hard sweet – sour
  2. whisper – yell stationary – mobile
  3. triumph – fail strength – weaken
  4. dull – interesting precious – worthless
  5. dangerous – safe          naked – clothed

Exercise 10

  1. at sea – confused
  2. has his hands full – is busy
  3. have a bone to pick with me – have a quarrel
  4. make heads or tails – make sense
  5. as easy as pie – very easy
  6. sick and tired – can’t stand, hate
  7. broke – to have no money
  8. dropped me a line yesterday – sent me a letter or email
  9. filled in for her – did her work while she was away
  10. in the red – losing money, not profitable


Exercise 1

  1. a TV show – object
  2. Playful animals – subject
  3. a thrilling adventure – object
  4. an exciting activity – complement
  5. Twenty university students – subject
  6. a certified public health officer – complement
  7. Many of the soldiers – subject
  8. The old woman – subject, a heavy load – object
  9. a very complicated man – complement
  10. A devastating earthquake – subject

Exercise 2

  1. should have taken must have seen
  2. must have seen do fear
  3. should have been told                       have made
  4. would have told would stampede
  5. must’ve visited could have read

Exercise 3

  1. in Mombasa – adverbial modifying the verb found.
  2. around the country – adjectival modifying the noun companies.
  3. of the dog – adjectival modifying the noun barking.
  4. for hard work – adverbial modifying the verb bred.
  5. over water – adverbial modifying the verb built.
  6. of travel – adjectival modifying the noun miles.
  7. by bus – adverbial modifying the verb went.

to the market – adverbial modifying the verb went.

  1. At the market – adjectival modifying the noun.
  2. of colours clothes – adjectival modifying the noun display.
  3. with professional expertise – adverbial modifying the phrasal verb took through.

Exercise 4

  1. golfing – complement
  2. protecting their status – object of the preposition in.
  3. Playing golf with a commoner – subject
  4. playing the game – direct object
  5. Training thoroughly – subject
  6. playing the game- object of preposition
  7. contesting with junior golfers – subject
  8. playing with the professionals – direct object
  9. Participating in international tournaments – subject
  10. Winning an international title – complement

Exercise 5

  1. Defying all odds – present participial phrase – Kisoi Munyao
  2. Failing each time – present participial phrase – he
  3. Seeing his passion to scale the peak – present participial phrase – government
  4. making steady progress – present participial phrase – climber
  5. Pleased with his progress – past participial phrase – he
  6. determined to hast the Kenya flag – past participial phrase – climber
  7. Slipping on the snow – present participial phrase – Munyao
  8. worn from too many climbs – past participial phrase – rope
  9. slipping to the bottom of the cliff- present participial – bottles
  10. overcome with joy – past participial phrase – Munyao

Exercise 6

  1. To climb Mt. Kenya –noun
  2. to climb the mountain – noun
  3. to try this risky climb – adjective modifying the noun Kenyans
  4. to make rapid progress – adverb modifying the verb helped
  5. with very limited climbing gear – adverb modifying the verb reach
  6. To reach Point Batian – noun
  7. to listen to Munyao – noun
  8. to finance much of his expedition – adverb modifying the verb forced
  9. to achieve his dream of hasting the flag – adverb modifying the verb worked
  10. to scale the tallest mountain in Kenya – adverb modifying the verb made.



Exercise 1

  1. A huge storm was coming. – sentence
  2. Behind the wattle tree- sentence fragment
  3. After the earthquake – sentence fragment
  4. The wind broke several houses. – sentence
  5. Surprised by a loud noise – sentence fragment
  6. Winds of high speed – sentence fragment
  7. Rescue workers arrived. – sentence
  8. From different parts of the world – sentence fragment
  9. Many people were injured. – sentence
  10. In the weeks after the earthquake – sentence fragment

Exercise 2

  1. pop music – object
  2. sweetly – adverb
  3. very quietly – adverbial phrase
  4. that book – object, three times – adverbial phrase
  5. to the bank- adverbial phrase
  6. her – indirect object, a present – direct object
  7. bitterly – adverb
  8. on his heels – adverbial phrase
  9. a list of the items to buy – object
  10. help – object

Exercise 3

  1. a German citizen – subject complement
  2. a very arrogant lady – subject complement
  3. tired – subject complement
  4. green – object complement
  5. the queen – object complement
  6. stealing the mango – participial complement
  7. senseless – object complement
  8. a kind person – subject complement
  9. crying – participial complement
  10. trembling – participial complement

Exercise 4

  1. Simple sentence
  2. Compound sentence
  3. Compound sentence
  4. Complex – whoever broke the mirror – noun clause
  5. Simple sentence
  6. Complex sentence – whom I met – adjectival clause
  7. Complex sentence – who stole the cow – adjectival clause
  8. Simple sentence
  9. Complex sentence – as though it affects their lives – adverbial clause
  10. Complex sentence – when people felt helpless about the world around them – adverbial clause.
  11. Complex sentence – that was designed for skiing – adjectival clause
  12. Simple sentence
  13. Simple sentence
  14. Complex sentence – because my dog loves crusts – adverbial clause
  15. Complex sentence – whenever lazy students whine – adverbial clause
  16. Complex sentence – whom Mrs. Ndegwa hit in the head with pieces of chalk – adjectival clause
  17. Complex sentence – who loves bread crusts – adjectival clause
  18. Complex sentence – that drinks too much milk – adjectival clause
  19. Complex sentence – what Aunt Lucy adds to her stew – noun clause
  20. Compound sentence

Exercise 5

  1. Declarative Declarative
  2. Imperative Imperative/conditional
  3. Exclamatory Interrogative
  4. Conditional Interrogative
  5. Interrogative Declarative
  6. Exclamatory Exclamatory
  7. Exclamatory Conditional
  8. Declarative Imperative
  9. Imperative Declarative
  10. Conditional Exclamatory

Exercise 6

  1. John said, “There was a terrible accident in Nairobi.”
  2. Petro added, “It happened in Umoja Estate.”
  3. “It involved a train and a bus,” added John.
  4. Sarah asked, “Did anyone die?”
  5. “No one died, but the railway line was destroyed,” answered Peter.
  6. “Over the months,” said John, “the railway line has been rebuilt.”
  7. “How lucky that no one died!” exclaimed Sarah.
  8. “I think they should put a railway-crossing sign board,” Petro said. “It would help bus drivers a lot.”
  9. “Or they should put bumps on both sides of the railway line to slow down the buses,” John suggested.
  10. “Who knows what might happen next?” wondered Sarah.

Exercise 7

  1. Joel asked him if he saw the fire at the West Gate Mall.
  2. Njagi said that ten fire-engines had arrived in fifteen minutes.
  3. Patty exclaimed that it had destroyed an entire building.
  4. Joel said that one fire fighter had been slightly injured.
  5. Njagi said that several people working in the building had escaped unhurt.
  6. Patty wanted to know what would happen to them.
  7. Joel replied that other people were giving them food and clothes.
  8. Njagi added that they were resting in the school at that time.
  9. Patty exclaimed that those terrorists would finish them.
  10. Joel told them not to worry; they would be apprehended the following day.

Exercise 8

Supply the appropriate question tags in the following sentences.

  1. The marriage caused a rupture in her relationship with her mother, didn’t it?
  2. She didn’t think anyone would be interested in a woman like her, did she?
  3. The troops are on standby in case chaos erupts, aren’t they?
  4. The Prime Minister must take a firm stand against extremists in his party, mustn’t he?
  5. I am the best so far, am I not?
  6. The amendments will strengthen the bill, won’t they?
  7. The new tax is tantamount to stealing from the poor, isn’t it?
  8. Please send all your remarks to Prof Kibwana as soon as possible, will you?
  9. She raised the gun and pulled the trigger, didn’t she?
  • We need to learn to prioritize, don’t we?
  • Get out of this room now, will you?
  • We’ve made a reservation for next week, haven’t we?
  • They couldn’t conceal the secret any more, could they?
  • We shall not accept anything less, shall we?
  • I am not a conman, am I?
  • Jonny wanted to pursue a career in theatre, didn’t he?
  • Sharon’s parents claim that the house is legally theirs, don’t they?
  • I haven’t told you my name, have I?
  • Come and visit us tomorrow, will you?
  • Time will tell whether he made the right choice, won’t it?




Exercise 1

  1. This play is a revision of Shakespeare’s earlier play, The Merchant of Venice.
  2. John Kiriamiti wrote My life in Crime.
  3. I admire women who vie for parliamentary seats.
  4. Bernard Mathenge and his wife travelled to America.
  5. My grandmother grew up in Witemere.
  6. The Nile River is one of the largest rivers in Africa.
  7. Each year tourists visit Maasai Mara National Park.
  8. The TV show Papa Shirandula has attracted many viewers.
  9. Uganda and Kenya have signed an agreement over the ownership of Migingo Islands.
  10. Our country got independence in December, 1963.
  11. On Christmas Day, all my relatives gathered at my home.
  12. Waiyaki is a fictional character in Ngugi wa Thiongo’s novel, The River Between.
  13. The city of Mombasa gets its water from River Tana.
  14. I would like to become a famous writer like Sidney Sheldon.
  15. They captured the stark beauty of Hell’s Gate National Park in their movie.

Exercise 2

  1. He earned about three million dollars that year.
  2. You know who Jomo Kenyatta was, don’t you?
  3. What a wonderful and inspired leader he was!
  4. He was also a person who helped many people.
  5. Some people write stories, but other write poems.
  6. Try to write a concise, informative, and interesting letter.
  7. Also make sure that your letter has a heading, an inside address, a salutation, a body, a closing, and your signature.
  8. One of the most exciting modern developments, I believe, is the computer.
  9. Today is July 2, 2011. I will never forget this date.
  10. I have lived in Sagana, Kirinyaga County, since 2008
  11. Try submitting your work to the following publishers: Longhorn Publishers, Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, or Oxford University Press.
  12. Remember, a writing career requires the following traits: confidence, perseverance, and a thick skin!
  13. Long ago, people used hand–sharpened straws and reeds as pens.
  14. Fountain pens were invented in our great–grandparents’ time.
  15. Soft-tip pens and rolling-ball pens were invented twenty-five years ago.
  16. What would you do if you couldn’t build a house for yourself?
  17. You’d find someone who could build it for you, wouldn’t you?
  18. These archives are important to modern historians’ research.
  19. In his play Shreds of Tenderness, John Ruganda said, “People who have never lived through a coup d’etat have romantic ideas about it.”
  20. Mureithi said, “A short letter to a friend is an insult.”





































In English, we have various vowel sounds. We shall study them one after the other.

Sound //

Consider the letter ‘a’ in the words below. Each says this sound.


  • Pan
  • Fan
  • Ban
  • Brash
  • Cat
  • Pat
  • Dad
  • Ham
  • Mat
  • Rash
  • Track
  • Cram
  • Fanned
  • Flash
  • Pack
  • Rag
  • Sand
  • Slam
  • Tag
  • Man


Sound /ᶾ˸/

  • This sound is more like the sound you make when you are disgusted.
  • The letters in boldface say this sound. Study them carefully.


  • Bird
  • Shirt
  • Flirt
  • Turn
  • Learn
  • First
  • Berth
  • Her
  • Heard
  • Hurt
  • Purse
  • Birth
  • Cur
  • Fur
  • Firm
  • Herd
  • Burn
  • Curt
  • Pert
  • Stir
  • Blur
  • Shirk
  • Surge


Sound /a:/

  • It is pronounced by having a much wider open mouth position.
  • Inside your mouth is shown in the process of saying this sound.
  • Examples of words bearing this sound include:


  • Far
  • Farm
  • Guard
  • Heart
  • Hard
  • Bar
  • Bard
  • Cart
  • Car
  • Dart
  • Card
  • Par


Sound /ə/

  • This sound (referred to as schwa) is a short vowel sound.
  • It mostly found in words containing letter ‘o’, for example,


  • Confuse
  • Contemptuous
  • Continue
  • Condolence


  • Also in words such as:


Sound /Ʌ/

Examples of words containing this sound include:


  • Sun
  • Son
  • Some
  • Pun
  • Fun
  • Cum
  • Cup
  • But
  • Much
  • Begun
  • Fun
  • Sung
  • Swum
  • Bug
  • Bunk
  • Brush
  • Hum
  • Rung
  • Truck
  • Stunned
  • Drum
  • Dumb
  • Fund


Sound /ɔ˸/

  • It is a long sound.
  • The mouth doesn’t move while saying this sound, and it can be pronounced as long as you have breath.
  • It is said in words such as:


  • Or
  • More
  • Chores
  • Dorm
  • Pork
  • Door
  • Four
  • Fore
  • Nor
  • Law
  • Cord
  • Form
  • Horn
  • Lord
  • Saw
  • Shore
  • Chalk
  • Jaw
  • Scorn


Sound //

  • It is a short sound.
  • The mouth doesn’t move.
  • Each of the words below bear this sound:


  • Got
  • On
  • Cost
  • Lost
  • Odd
  • Boss
  • Stock
  • Plot
  • Block
  • Cock
  • Cop
  • Mop
  • Rod
  • Sock
  • Shot
  • Pot
  • Blot
  • Crock
  • Frog
  • Swat
  • Swatch


Sound //


Sound /u:/

Sound /I:/

  • Long sound
  • Said in words such as the ones below:
  • Sheep
  • Feet
  • Meat
  • Tweet etc.

Sound /ᶦ/

It is a short sound.

In words such as:

  • Fit
  • Bit
  • Quit
  • Blip etc.


The table below has columns with different sounds. Pronounce each of the words in the list and classify, according to the highlighted letter(s), under the column that bears that sound.



















/i:/ /ᶦ/ /e/


The sound /ᵗᶴ/

  • Made by releasing the stopped air through your teeth by the `tip of your tongue.
  • It is voiceless because vocal cords do not vibrate when you say it.
  • Most words with letters ‘CH’ say this sound, for example,









  • There are those with letters ‘TCH’ for example,









  • Some are with letters ‘TU’, for example,



The Sound /ᵈᶾ/

  • Pronounced the same way as /ᵗᶴ/. It is just that it is voiced.
  • Letters representing this sound include:
  • Letters ‘DG’


  • Fudge
  • Budge
  • Bridge
  • Judge


  • Letter ‘J’


  • Judge
  • Jump
  • Joy
  • Joke
  • Eject
  • July
  • Jake
  • Project


  • Letters ‘DU’


  • Procedure
  • Graduate
  • Individual


  • When letter ‘G represents the sound

It does that when it is in front of an ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y

  • Letters ‘GE’, for example,


  • Agent
  • Germ
  • Gem
  • Budget
  • Gel
  • Angel
  • Danger
  • Emergency
  • Gentle
  • Bilge
  • Urgent
  • Knowledge
  • Large
  • Singe
  • Enlarge
  • Challenge
  • Ridge
  • Emerge


  • Letters ‘GI’, for example,


  • Agile
  • Allergic
  • Apologize
  • Contagious
  • Gist
  • Digitize
  • Eligible
  • Giraffe
  • Engineer
  • Fragile
  • Fugitive
  • Legion
  • Original
  • Vigilant


  • Letters ‘GY’, for example,


  • Allergy
  • Clergy
  • Egypt
  • Analogy
  • Zoology
  • Stingy
  • Gym
  • Liturgy
  • Panegyric


The Sound /f/

  • The sound is unvoiced or voiceless.
  • Air is stopped by pushing the bottom lip and top teeth together. The air is then pushed through to produce this sound.
  • The /f/ sound has the following letters saying it:
  • Letter ‘F’


  • Four
  • Wife
  • Knife
  • Life
  • Family
  • Staff
  • Puff
  • Five


  • Letters ‘PH’


  • Phone
  • Graph
  • Paragraph
  • Phrase


  • Letters ‘GH’


  • Cough
  • Rough
  • Laugh
  • Enough
  • Tough
  • Draught


The Sound /v/

  • The same mouth shape as /f/ is formed when pronouncing the sound /v/.
  • It is voiced.
  • Your top teeth is put on your bottom lip.
  • Words bearing this sound include:


  • Van
  • Vehicle
  • Vice
  • Unvoiced
  • Voice
  • Obvious
  • Previous
  • Drive
  • Save
  • Jovial
  • Virtue
  • Care
  • Wolves
  • Knives


The Sound /d/

  • /d/ is voiced. The vocal cords vibrate.
  • The low of air is stopped at the front of the mouth by tongue.
  • Practice speaking the words below:


  • Dad
  • Do
  • Did
  • Dog
  • Mad
  • Sad
  • Bad
  • Done
  • Loud
  • And


Sound /t/

  • To make this sound, your tongue stops the flow of air at the front of your mouth.
  • It is a voiceless/unvoiced sound.
  • It said in words like:


  • To
  • Top
  • Get
  • Hot
  • Pot
  • Butter
  • Later
  • What
  • Today
  • Tuesday


The sound /k/

There are various letters that say the sound /k/.  let’s study these letters.

  • Letter ‘K’ always say this sound. Examples of words include:
  • Kill
  • Key
  • Kick
  • Sake
  • Letter ‘C’, for example,
  • Call
  • Corn
  • Cane
  • Campaign
  • Camp
  • Confusion
  • Cucumber
  • Colic etc.
  • Letters ‘CK’ for example
  • Kick
  • Mock
  • Truck
  • Back etc.
  • Letter ‘Q’ for example,
  • Quack
  • Quail
  • Quartz
  • Quarter
  • Quick
  • Letters ‘CH’, for example,
  • Chaotic
  • Character
  • Ache

The Sound /g/

Found in words such as:


  • Galaxy
  • Game
  • Gate
  • Gibbon
  • Give
  • Goat
  • Gazelle
  • Gecko
  • Gold
  • Gown
  • Girl
  • Ghost
  • Geyser
  • Garbage


The Sound /ᶴ/

  • This sound is unvoiced – only air passes through the mouth when said.
  • The teeth are put together and the corners of the lips are brought together towards the middle.
  • Most words with letters ‘sh’ this sound. For example,






  • There are words with letters ‘CH’ that say this sound, for example,


























  • Some words with ‘SU’ also say it, for example,








  • There are yet those with letters ‘TIO’, for example,








  • Then there are those with letters ‘SIO’, for example,






Sound /ᶿ/

  • Pronounced with your tongue between your teeth.
  • It is unvoiced.
  • The words bearing this sound include:


  • Mouth
  • Thing
  • Faith
  • Fourth
  • Thick
  • Think
  • Three
  • Thought
  • Tenth
  • Math
  • Myth
  • Thumb
  • Youth
  • Thrive
  • Growth
  • North
  • Truth
  • Pith
  • Thank
  • Thorn
  • Thimble
  • Three
  • Theme
  • Therapist
  • Thigh
  • Thickness


Sound //

  • Unlike /ᶿ/, it is voiced.
  • It also pronounced with tongue touching or between your teeth.
  • It is found in such words as:


  • With
  • There
  • Clothing
  • These
  • Thence
  • Then
  • Their
  • they


Sound /s/

  • This is a hissing sound like a snake.
  • It is voiceless.
  • The few rules for some of the common spellings that say the sound /s/ are:
  • Letter ‘S’, for example,















  • Letter ‘SC’, for example,







  • Letter ‘X’, for example,







  • Letter ‘C’, for example,









Sound /z/

  • The /z/ is like the sound of buzzing bees.
  • It is voiced.
  • Most words with the letter ‘Z’ say /z/, for example,


  • Zoo
  • Zip
  • Zebra
  • Quiz
  • Buzz
  • Freeze
  • Doze
  • prize


  • There are those words with letter ‘S’ saying this sound, for example,


  • Is
  • Was
  • His
  • Hers
  • Nose
  • Noise
  • Noises
  • Rose
  • Roses
  • Frogs
  • Girls
  • Friends
  • Lies
  • Busy
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Sounds
  • Pose
  • Reason
  • Rise
  • Eyes
  • These
  • Days
  • Says
  • Ties
  • Has
  • Flows
  • Because
  • Shoes
  • Visit
  • Those
  • Bananas
  • cows


  • The other group of words are those with letter ‘X’, for example,



Sound //

  • Words bearing this sound are borrowed from French.
  • Pronounced in the same way as /ᶴ/ only that is voiced.
  • The examples of words with this sound are:


































Practice in sentences

  • Measure the beige door on the garage.
  • It was my decision to fly to Asia to seek treisure.

Sound /l/

Sound /r/

  • Raise the back of your tongue to slightly touch the back teeth on both sides of your mouth. The centre part of the tongue remains lower to allow air to move over it.
  • It is voiced.
  • It is found in words with letter ‘R’ e.g.
  • Red
  • Friday
  • Worry
  • Sorry
  • Marry
  • It is also said in words with letters ‘WR’ e.g.
  • Write
  • Wrong
  • Wrath
  • Wry
  • Wring

Sound /w/

  • Your lips form a small, tight circle when making the sound /w/.
  • Letters representing the /w/ sound are:
  • Letter ‘W’











  • Letters WH












  • Letters ‘QU’











  • Others



Sound /m/

  • Made by pressing the lips lightly.
  • The words that follow contain the sound:


  • Mum
  • Mine
  • Me
  • Morning
  • Farmer
  • Shame
  • Meat
  • Myself


Exercise 1

Read the sentence below pronouncing each word correctly and then group the words in their appropriate columns. Consider the highlighted letters.

The seven students took the first test for their driver’s licenceson Thursday.

/s/ /z/

Exercise 2

Considering the pronunciation of highlighted letters, pick the odd word out.

  • Judge, gesture, garage
  • Jump, gift, geological
  • Fungi, just, go
  • Digit, game, gamble
  • Hygiene, prodigy, entangle
  • Gecko, gem, zoology

Exercise 3

Pronounce each word correctly and then group it under the column containing the sound that the highlighted letter(s)  bear.
























                 //                 //

Exercise 4

Circle the letter(s) that say /f/ and underline those saying /v/ in the sentences below.

  • Please forgive me for forgetting the leftover food.
  • Save the four wolves that live in the cave.


  • A diphthong is a combination of two vowel sounds.
  • Some of the diphthongs include:
  • /ᵊᶹ/
  • /ᵃᶸ/
  • /ᵉᶦ/
  • /ᵊᶹ/

In words like;


  • Role
  • Bone
  • Phone
  • Stone
  • Close
  • Note
  • Notice
  • Lonely
  • Home
  • Hope
  • Open
  • Ocean
  • Remote
  • Solar
  • Polar
  • Modal
  • Total
  • Motor
  • Moment
  • Bonus
  • Focus
  • Vogue
  • Social
  • Soldier
  • Coworker
  • Most
  • Post
  • Host
  • Ghost
  • Both
  • Low
  • Know
  • Mow
  • Sow
  • Show
  • Tow
  • Owe
  • Own
  • Bowl
  • Blow
  • Grown
  • Throw
  • Go
  • Ago
  • No
  • So
  • Toe
  • Hero
  • Zero
  • Veto
  • Ego
  • Echo
  • Radio
  • Studio
  • Mexico
  • Potato
  • Tomato
  • Logo
  • Motto
  • Cold
  • Gold
  • Bold
  • Sold
  • Told
  • Roll
  • Poll
  • Control
  • Bolt
  • Colt
  • Folk
  • Comb
  • Won’t
  • Don’t
  • Soul
  • Shoulder
  • Road
  • Load
  • Boat
  • Coast
  • Coat
  • Oak
  • Soak
  • Approach
  • Boast
  • Ok
  • Obey
  • Omit
  • Hotel
  • Motel



Said in words such as:


  • How
  • Cow
  • Now
  • Allow
  • Owl
  • Brown
  • Down
  • Town
  • Clown
  • Drown
  • Crown
  • Crowd
  • Powder
  • Browse
  • Loud
  • Proud
  • Cloud
  • Out
  • Shout
  • About
  • Doubt
  • Foul
  • Noun
  • House
  • Mouse
  • Mouth
  • South
  • Couch
  • Found
  • Ground
  • Around
  • Pound
  • Sound
  • Count
  • Amount
  • Mountain
  • Announce
  • Bounce
  • Allowing
  • Towel
  • Bowel
  • Power
  • Tower
  • Flower
  • Shower
  • Hour
  • Our
  • Sour
  • Flour
  • coward



The words containing this diphthong are:


  • wait
  • late
  • bait
  • date
  • tale
  • bail
  • bale
  • sale
  • gate
  • waste
  • wade
  • baby
  • bacon
  • paper
  • April
  • Danger
  • Angel
  • Stranger
  • Basis
  • Lazy
  • Crazy
  • Fail
  • Mail
  • Sail
  • Rail
  • Raise
  • Raid
  • Afraid
  • Wait
  • Straight
  • Faint
  • Paint
  • Fate
  • Rate
  • Kate
  • Race
  • Base
  • Place
  • Lake
  • Take
  • Name
  • Ache
  • Rage
  • Patient
  • Racial
  • Nation
  • Nature
  • Fatal
  • Patriot
  • Radio
  • Vacant
  • Weight
  • Eight
  • Vein
  • Neighbour
  • Break
  • Steak
  • Age
  • Wage
  • Save
  • Cave
  • Wave
  • Ray
  • Gray
  • Play
  • Lay
  • Day
  • May
  • Pray
  • Convey
  • Survey
  • Stain
  • Change etc.



Write another word pronounced the same way as:


  1. Gait
  2. Made
  3. Mail
  4. Pale
  5. Pain
  6. Plain
  7. Sale
  8. Tale
  9. Vain
  10. Waist
  11. Wait
  12. Eight
  • Sew
  1. No
  2. Toe
  3. Grown



Study the pairs of words below carefully.

Fit – feet

Let – late

Van – fan

Pun – pan

  • What do you notice? You realize that only one sound makes the pronunciation of one word distinct from the other. Each pair is called a minimal pair.
  • A minimal pair is therefore a pair of words that vary by only one sound especially those that usually confuse learners, such as /l/ and /r/, /b/ and /p/, and many others.

Minimal Pairs of Vowel Sounds

Sound /i/ and /i:/


  1. Bid – bead
  2. Bit – beat
  3. Bitch – beach
  4. Bin – bean/ been
  5. Chip – cheap
  6. Fit – feat/ feet
  7. Fist – feast
  8. Fizz – fees
  9. Gin – gene
  10. Sin – seen/ scene
  11. Still – steal/ steel
  12. Sick – seek
  13. Is – ease
  14. Itch – each
  15. Risen – reason
  16. Piss – piece/ peace
  17. Pick – peak/ peek
  18. Mill – meal



Write another word in which either sound /i/ and /i:/ will make it vary from the one given.


  • Hit
  • Sheet
  • Tin
  • Peach
  • Lip
  • Neat
  • Kip
  • Eel
  • Greed
  • Pill
  • Skied
  • Skim


Sounds /i/ and /e/


  1. Did – dead
  2. Disk – desk
  3. Built – belt
  4. Bit – bet
  5. Lipped – leapt
  6. Middle – meddle
  7. Fill – fell
  8. Bid – bed
  9. Bill – bell
  10. Lit – let
  11. List – lest
  12. Clinch – clench



Complete the table below with a word in which either the sound /e/ or /i/ brings the difference in pronunciation.

  /e/ /i/
1 Head  
2   Miss
3   Hymn
4 Led  
5 Fen  
6   Lid
7 Den  
8 Peg  

Sounds /e/ and /ei/

The following words vary by one having the vowel sound /e/ and the other a diphthong /ei/


  1. Wet – wait
  2. Bread – braid
  3. Fen – feign
  4. Bed – bade
  5. Get – gate/ gait
  6. Let – late
  7. Met – mate
  8. Lest – laced
  9. Tech – take
  10. West – waste/ waist
  11. When – wane
  12. Edge – age
  13. Gel – jail
  14. Lens – lanes
  15. Breast – braced
  16. Sent – saint
  17. Test – taste
  18. Best – based
  19. Wren – rain/ reign
  20. Led – laid
  21. Bled – blade
  22. Fed – fade



Each word below has another word in which either the sound /e/ or /ei/ will bring the distinction in pronunciation. Write that word.


  • Fell
  • Pain
  • Hail
  • Sell
  • Well
  • Mate
  • Raid
  • Date
  • Men
  • Stayed
  • Bet
  • Jail


Sounds /ᵆ/ and /ᶺ/


  1. Batter – butter
  2. Cap – cup
  3. Cat – cut
  4. Back – buck
  5. Brash – brush
  6. Dabble – double
  7. Rang – rung
  8. Track – truck
  9. Bad – bud
  10. Began – begun
  11. Bag – bug
  12. Pan – pun
  13. Drank – drunk
  14. Fan – fun
  15. Hat – hut
  16. Badge – budge
  17. Hang – hung
  18. Massed – must
  19. Rash – rush
  20. Sank – sunk
  21. Ran – run
  22. Swam – swum
  23. Ban – bun
  24. Ham – hum



Complete the table below with the minimal pair of the word. Consider the sound indicated in each column.

         // //
(a)   But
(b) Match  
(c) Mad  
(d)   Flush
(e) Cam  
(f)   Dumb
(g) Sang  
(h)   Uncle
(i) Crash  
(j) Sack  
(k)   Dump
(l)   Tug

Sounds        // and /e/

look at the list below.


  1. Bad – bed
  2. And – end
  3. Had – head
  4. Jam – gem
  5. Pat – pet
  6. Sat – set
  7. Shall – shell
  8. Man –men
  9. Bag – beg
  10. Ham – hem
  11. Pan – pen
  12. Sad – said
  13. Manned – mend
  14. Land – lend



Complete the table with appropriate word that vary with the sound indicated in the column.

  // //
(a) Marry  
(b)   Blend
(c) Cattle  
(d) Vat  
(e) Sacks  
(f)   Trek
(g) Trad  
(h)   met

Minimal Pairs of /ɑ˸/ and /ᵌ˸/


  1. fast – first
  2. bath – berth/birth
  3. heart – hurt
  4. bard – bird
  5. car – cur
  6. card – curd
  7. guard – gird
  8. pa – per
  9. bar – bur
  10. barn – burn
  11. carve – curve
  12. dart – dirt
  13. par – purr
  14. park – perk
  15. star – stir
  16. arc – irk


Exercise 6

Considering the sounds /ɑ˸/ and /ᵌ˸/, write the minimal pair of:


  • far
  • heard/herd
  • pass
  • farm
  • shark
  • curt


Minimal Pairs of /b/ and /v/


  1. bat – vat
  2. beer – veer
  3. bowl – vole
  4. bow – vow
  5. gibbon – given
  6. bale – veil
  7. bane – vein
  8. curb – curve
  9. bolt – volt
  10. bowl – vole
  11. broom – vroom
  12. dribble – drivel
  13. dub – dove
  14. jibe – jive
  15. rebel – revel

Exercise 7

There is another word that will vary with the one written below with just one sound. Depending on the sounds /b/ and /v/, write that word.


  • van
  • boat
  • Vest
  • Vowels
  • Vent
  • Bury
  • Loaves
  • Verve


Minimal  pairs of /f/ and /v/


  • Fan – van
  • Off – of
  • Fat – vat
  • Fee – v
  • Foul – vowel
  • Fender – vendor
  • Serf/Surf – serve
  • Duff – dove
  • Fie – vie
  • Foal – vole
  • Guff – guv
  • Waif – waive
  • Gif – give
  • Life – live
  • Safe – save
  • Belief – believe
  • Feel – veal
  • Staff – starve
  • Feign – vain/ vein
  • Foist – voiced
  • Fox – vox
  • Reef – reeve



Exercise  8

Write the minimal pair of the word below with consideration  being either the sound /f/ or /v/.


  • Ferry
  • Leaf
  • Vast
  • Fine
  • Half
  • Proof
  • Veil
  • Grief
  • Calf
  • Fault
  • Vile
  • Strive


Minimal Pairs of Sounds/s/ and  /ᶿ/


  • Mouse – mouth
  • Sing – thing
  • Face – faith
  • Force – fourth
  • Sick – thick
  • Sink – think
  • Sort – thought
  • Tense – tenth
  • Mass – math
  • Miss – myth
  • Pass – path
  • Saw – thaw
  • Seem – theme
  • Some – thumb
  • Song – thong
  • Worse – worth
  • Gross – growth
  • Sigh – thigh
  • Sin – thin
  • Sum – thumb
  • Piss – pith
  • Sawn – thorn
  • Symbol – thimble
  • Sore – thaw
  • Truce – truth
  • Suds – thuds
  • Sought – thought
  • Moss – moth
  • Sank – thank
  • Sump – thump


Sounds /t/ and /d/


  • Town – down
  • Touch – Dutch
  • Tear – dare
  • Ten – den
  • Tongue – dung
  • Tart – dart
  • Tech – deck
  • Tin – din
  • Toe – doe
  • Tough – duff
  • Tuck – duck
  • Tab – dab
  • Tank – dank
  • Tick – dick
  • Tine – dine
  • Hat – had
  • Spent – spend
  • Too/ to/two – do
  • Train – drain
  • Tide – dyed/died
  • Torn – dawn
  • Teal – deal
  • Teen – dean
  • Tyre/tire – dire
  • Toes – doze
  • Tout – doubt
  • Tug – dug
  • Tale/ tail – dale
  • Teed – deed
  • Tier – deer
  • Tint – dint
  • Sheet – she’d
  • Wait – weighed
  • Tie – die
  • Try – dry
  • Tear – dear
  • Tip – dip
  • Tame – dame
  • Team – deem
  • Tent – dent
  • Toast – dosed
  • Tomb – doom
  • Tower – dour
  • Tux – ducks
  • Tamp – damp
  • Tell – dell
  • Till – dill
  • Tusk – dusk
  • Sight – side
  • Beat – bead


Exercise 9

Each word below has another word in which all the sounds are the same except either the sound /t/ or /d/ is different. Write that word.


  • Bat
  • God
  • Write
  • And
  • At
  • Bed
  • Bored
  • Eight
  • Bet
  • Feet
  • Hit
  • Hurt
  • Mat
  • Mend
  • Neat
  • Nod
  • Set
  • Played
  • Sat
  • Dead


Minimal Pairs of /k/ and /g/



  • Came – game
  • Card – guard
  • Cold – gold
  • Clean – glean
  • Crate – great
  • Cap – gap
  • Coast – ghost
  • Kale – gale
  • Can – gone
  • Course – gorse
  • Cram – gram
  • Crepe – grape
  • Crew – grew
  • Croup – group
  • Crow – grow
  • Key – ghee
  • K – gay
  • Clamour – glamour
  • Clad – glad
  • Crane – grain
  • Creed – greed
  • Krill – grill
  • Cunning – gunning
  • Cab – gab
  • Cape – gape
  • Clam – glam
  • Cord – gored
  • Coup – goo
  • Crate – grate
  • Cuff – guff




  • Clock – clog
  • Dock – dog
  • Frock – frog
  • Muck – mug
  • Brick – brig
  • Broke – brogue
  • Crack – crag
  • Prick – prig
  • Puck – pug
  • Shack – shag
  • Slack – slag
  • Snuck – snug
  • Stack – stag
  • Whack – wag
  • Wick – wig
  • Jock – jog
  • Lack – lag
  • Luck – lug
  • Beck – beg
  • Cock – cog
  • Hack – hag
  • Pick – pig


Exercise 10

Complete the table with appropriate word that only differs with one sound with the one given. Consider the sounds in the columns.

  /k/ /g/
(a) Tack  
(b)   Flog
(c) Tuck  
(d)   Gum
(e)   Gash
(f) Jack  
(g) Cave  
(h)   Sag
(i) Leak  
(j) Crab  
(k) Class  
(l)   Good
(m)   Goat
(n)   Blog
(o) Kill  
(p)   Dug
(q)   Gut
(r)   Log
(s) Rack  
(t) Cot  


Words pronounced the same way but have different spellings and meanings are the homophones. The list below is English homophones.


  1. Accessary accessory
  2. Ad, add
  3. Ail, ale
  4. Air, heir
  5. Aisle, I’ll, isle
  6. All, awl
  7. Allowed, aloud
  8. Alms, arms
  9. Altar, alter
  10. Ante, anti
  11. Arc, ark
  12. Aural, oral
  13. Away, aweigh
  14. Awe, oar, or, ore
  15. Axel, axle
  16. Aye, eye, I
  17. Bail, bale
  18. Bait, bate
  19. Baize, bays
  20. Bald, bawled
  21. Ball, bawl
  22. Band, banned
  23. Bard, barred
  24. Bare, bear
  25. Bark, barque
  26. Baron, barren
  27. Base, bass
  28. Bay, bey
  29. Bazaar, bizarre
  30. Be, bee
  31. Beach, beech
  32. Bean, been
  33. Beat, beet
  34. Beau, bow
  35. Beer, bier
  36. Bell, belle
  37. Berry, bury
  38. Berth, birth
  39. Bight, bite, byte
  40. Billed, build
  41. Bitten, bittern
  42. Blew, blue
  43. Bloc, block
  44. Boar, bore
  45. Board, bored
  46. Boarder, border
  47. Bold, bawled
  48. Boos, booze
  49. Born, borne
  50. Bough, bow
  51. Boy, buoy
  52. Brae, bray
  53. Braid, brayed
  54. Braise, brays, braze
  55. Brake, break
  56. Bread, bred
  57. Brews, bruise
  58. Bridal, bridle
  59. Broach, brooch
  60. Bur, burr
  61. But, butt
  62. Buy, by, bye
  63. Buyer, byre
  64. Call, caul
  65. Canvas, canvass
  66. Cast, caste
  67. Caster, castor
  68. Caught, court
  69. Caw, core, corps
  70. Cede, seed
  71. Ceiling, sealing
  72. Censer, censor, sensor
  73. Cent, scent, sent
  74. Cereal, serial
  75. Cheap, cheep
  76. Check, cheque
  77. Choir, quire
  78. Chord, cord
  79. Cite, sight, site
  80. Clack, claque
  81. Clew, clue
  82. Climb, clime
  83. Close, cloze
  84. Coarse, course
  85. Coign, coin
  86. Colonel, kernel
  87. Complacent, complaisant
  88. Complement, compliment
  89. Coo, coup
  90. Cops, copse
  91. Council, counsel
  92. Cousin, cozen
  93. Creak, creek
  94. Crews, cruise
  95. Cue, queue
  96. Curb, kerb
  97. Currant, current
  98. Cymbol, symbol
  99. Dam, damn
  100. Days, daze
  101. Dear, deer
  102. Descent, dissent
  103. Desert, dessert
  104. Deviser, divisor
  105. Dew, due
  106. Die, dye
  107. Discreet, discrete
  108. Doe, dough
  109. Done, dun
  110. Douse, dowse
  111. Draft, draught
  112. Dual, duel
  113. Earn, urn
  114. Ewe, yew, you
  115. Faint, feint
  116. Fair, fare
  117. Farther, father
  118. Fate, fete
  119. Faun, fawn
  120. Fay, fey
  121. Faze, phase
  122. Feat, feet
  123. Ferrule, ferule
  124. Few, phew
  125. File, phial
  126. Find, fined
  127. Fir, fur
  128. Flair, flare
  129. Flaw, floor
  130. Flea, flee
  131. Flex, flecks
  132. Flew, flu, flue
  133. Floe, flow
  134. Flour, flower
  135. Foaled, fold
  136. For, fore, four
  137. Foreword, forward
  138. Fort, fought
  139. Forth, fourth
  140. Foul, fowl
  141. Franc, frank
  142. Freeze, frieze
  143. Friar, fryer
  144. Furs, furze
  145. Gait, gate
  146. Gamble, gambol
  147. Gays, gaze
  148. Genes, jeans
  149. Gild, guild
  150. Gilt, guilt
  151. Gnaw, nor
  152. Gneiss, nice
  153. Gorilla, guerrilla
  154. Grate, great
  155. Greave, grieve
  156. Greys, graze
  157. Groan, grown
  158. Guessed, guest
  159. Hail, hale
  160. Hair, hare
  161. Hall, haul
  162. Hangar, hanger
  163. Hart, heart
  164. Haw, hoar, whore
  165. Hay, hey
  166. Heal, heel, he’ll
  167. Hear, here
  168. Heard, herd
  169. He’d, heed
  170. Heroin, heroine
  171. Hew, hue
  172. Hi, high
  173. Higher, hire
  174. Him, hymn
  175. Ho, hoe
  176. Hoard, horde
  177. Hoarse, horse
  178. Holey, holy, wholly
  179. Hour, our
  180. Idle, idol
  181. In, inn
  182. Indict, indite
  183. It’s, its
  184. Jewel, joule
  185. Key, quay
  186. Knave, nave
  187. Knead, need
  188. Knew, new
  189. Knight, night
  190. Knit, nit
  191. Knob, nob
  192. Knock, nock
  193. Knot, not
  194. Know, no
  195. Knows, nose
  196. Laager, lager
  197. Lac, lack
  198. Lade, laid
  199. Lain, lane
  200. Lam, lamb
  201. Laps, lapse
  202. Larva, lava
  203. Lase, laze
  204. Law, lore
  205. Lay, ley
  206. Lea, lee
  207. Leach, leech
  208. Lead, led
  209. Leak, leek
  210. Lean, lien
  211. Lessen, lesson
  212. Levee, levy
  213. Liar, lyre
  214. Licker, liquor
  215. Lie, lye
  216. Lieu, loo
  217. Links, lynx
  218. Lo, low
  219. Load, lode
  220. Loan, lone
  221. Locks, lox
  222. Loop, loupe
  223. Loot, lute
  224. Made, maid
  225. Mail, male
  226. Main, mane
  227. Maize, maze
  228. Mall, maul
  229. Manna, manner
  230. Mantel, mantle
  231. Mare, mayor
  232. Mark, marque
  233. Marshal, martial
  234. Mask, masque
  235. Maw, more
  236. Me, mi
  237. Mean, mien
  238. Meat, meet, mete
  239. Medal, meddle
  240. Metal, mettle
  241. Meter, metre
  242. Might, mite
  243. Miner, minor
  244. Mind, mined
  245. Missed, mist
  246. Moat, mote
  247. Mode, mowed
  248. Moor, more
  249. Moose, mousse
  250. Morning, mourning
  251. Muscle, mussel
  252. Naval, navel
  253. Nay, neigh
  254. None, nun
  255. Od, odd
  256. Ode, owed
  257. Oh, owe
  258. One, won
  259. Packed, pact
  260. Pail, pale
  261. Pain, pane
  262. Pair, pare, pear
  263. Palate, palette, pallet
  264. Paten, pattern,
  265. Pause, paws, pores, pours
  266. Pawn, porn
  267. Pea, pee
  268. Peace, piece
  269. Peak, peek
  270. Peal, peel
  271. Pearl, purl
  272. Pedal, peddle
  273. Peer, pier
  274. Pi, pie
  275. Place, plaice
  276. Plain, plane
  277. Pleas, please
  278. Plum, plumb
  279. Pole, poll
  280. Practice, practise
  281. Praise, prays, preys
  282. Principal, principle
  283. Profit, prophet
  284. Quarts, quartz
  285. Quean, queen
  286. Rain, reign, rein
  287. Raise, rays, raze
  288. Rap, wrap
  289. Raw, roar
  290. Read, reed
  291. Read, red
  292. Real, reel
  293. Reek, wreak
  294. Rest, wrest
  295. Retch, wretch
  296. Review, revue
  297. Rheum, room
  298. Right, rite, write
  299. Ring, wring
  300. Road, rode
  301. Roe, row
  302. Role, roll
  303. Roux, rue
  304. Rood, rude
  305. Root, route
  306. Rose, rows
  307. Rota, rotor
  308. Rote, wrote
  309. Rough, ruff
  310. Rouse, rows
  311. Rung, wrung
  312. Rye, wry
  313. Saver, savour
  314. Spade, spayed
  315. Sale, sail
  316. Sane, seine
  317. Satire, satyr
  318. Sauce, source
  319. Saw, soar, sore
  320. Scene, seen
  321. Scull, skull
  322. Sea, see
  323. Seam, seem
  324. Sear, seer, sere
  325. Seas, sees, seize
  326. Sew, so, sow
  327. Shake, sheikh
  328. Shear, sheer
  329. Shoe, shoo
  330. Sic, sick
  331. Side, sighed
  332. Sign, sine
  333. Sink, synch
  334. Slay, sleigh
  335. Sloe, slow
  336. Sole, soul
  337. Some, sum
  338. Son, sun
  339. Sort, sought
  340. Spa,spar
  341. Staid,stayed
  342. Stair,stare
  343. Stake,stoak
  344. Stalk,stork
  345. Stationary,stationery
  346. Steal,steel
  347. Stile,style
  348. Storey,story
  349. Straight,strait
  350. Sweat,sweet
  351. Swat,swot
  352. Tacks,tax
  353. Tale,tail
  354. Talk,torque
  355. Tare, tear
  356. Taught,taut,tort
  357. Tea,tee
  358. Team,teem
  359. Teas, tease
  360. Tare, tear
  361. Tern,t urn
  362. There,their, they’re
  363. Throw,through
  364. Throes,throws
  365. Throne, thrown
  366. Thyme,time
  367. Tic,tick
  368. Tide,tied
  369. Tire,tyre
  370. To,too,two
  371. Toad,toed,towed
  372. Told,tolled
  373. Tole,toll
  374. Ton,tun
  375. Tor,tore
  376. Tough,tuff
  377. Troop,troupe
  378. Tuba,tuber
  379. Vain,vane,vein
  380. Vale,veil
  381. Vial,vile
  382. Wail,wale,whale
  383. Wain, wane
  384. Waist, waste
  385. Waive, wave
  386. Wall, waul
  387. War, wore
  388. Warn, worn
  389. Wart, wort
  390. Watt, what
  391. Wax, whacks
  392. Way, weigh
  393. We, wee
  394. Weak, week
  395. We’d, weed
  396. Weal, we’ll, wheel
  397. Weather, whether
  398. Weir, we’re
  399. Were, whirr
  400. Wet, whet
  401. Weald, wheeled
  402. Which, witch
  403. Whig, wig
  404. While, wile
  405. Whine, wine
  406. Whirl, whorl
  407. Whirled, world
  408. Whit, wit
  409. White, wight
  410. Who’s, whose
  411. Wood, would
  412. Yaw, yore, your, you’re
  413. Yoke, yolk
  414. You’ll, yule






Write two words pronounced the same way as each of the following words.


  • B
  • C
  • I
  • P
  • T
  • U



In English there are letters that are usually not pronounced in certain words. Let us have a look at these letters and words in which they are silent.

Letter ‘A’


  • Logically
  • Musically
  • Romantically
  • Stoically
  • Artistically


Letter ‘B’


  • Aplomb
  • Bomb
  • Climb
  • Comb
  • Crumb
  • Debt
  • Jamb
  • Lamb
  • Limb
  • Numb
  • Plumb
  • Subtle
  • Succumb
  • Thumb
  • Tomb
  • Womb


Letter ‘C’


  • Ascend
  • Abscess
  • Ascent
  • Conscience
  • Conscious
  • Crescent
  • Descend
  • Descent
  • Discipline
  • Fascinate
  • Fluorescent
  • Isosceles
  • Luminescent
  • Muscle
  • Obscene
  • Resuscitate
  • Scenario
  • Scene
  • Scent
  • Scissors


Letter ‘D’


  • Wednesday
  • Hedge
  • Dodge
  • Pledge
  • Grudge
  • Sandwich
  • Handkerchief



Letter ‘E’


  • Hate
  • Name
  • Like
  • Hope
  • Lessen
  • Surprised



Letter ‘G’


  • Align
  • Assign
  • Benign
  • Campaign
  • Champagne
  • Cologne
  • Consign
  • Gnarl
  • Gnash
  • Gnaw
  • Gnome
  • Gnu
  • Reign
  • Sign


Letter ‘H’


  • Honest
  • Hour
  • Heir
  • Honour
  • Ache
  • Anchor
  • Archeology
  • Architect
  • Archives
  • Chaos
  • Character
  • Cholera
  • Charisma
  • Chemical
  • Chemist
  • Chorus
  • Choir
  • Echo
  • Loch
  • Shepherd
  • Monarch
  • Scheme
  • psych


Letter ‘I’

  • Business
  • Parliament

Letter ‘K’


  • Knock
  • Knapsack
  • Knave
  • Knead
  • Knee
  • Kneel
  • Knell
  • Knew
  • Knickers
  • Knife
  • Knight
  • Knit
  • Knob
  • Knock
  • Knot
  • Know
  • Knowledge
  • Knuckle


Letter ‘L’


  • Calm
  • Half
  • Talk
  • Walk
  • Would
  • Should
  • Calf
  • Salmon
  • Yolk
  • Folk
  • Balk


Letter ‘N’


  • Autumn
  • Column
  • Condemn
  • Damn
  • Hymn
  • Solemn



Letter ‘O’

  • Lesson


Letter ‘P’


  • Psychology
  • Pneumonia
  • Pseudo
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychotic
  • Receipt
  • Corps
  • Coup


Letter ‘S’


  • Island
  • Aisle
  • Apropos
  • Bourgeois


Letter ‘T’


  • Apostle
  • Bristle
  • Bustle
  • Castle
  • fasten
  • glisten
  • hustle
  • jostle
  • listen
  • moisten
  • mortgage
  • nestle
  • rustle
  • thistle
  • trestle
  • whistle
  • wrestle


Letter ‘U’


  • baguette
  • biscuit
  • build
  • built
  • circuit
  • disguise
  • guess
  • guide
  • guild
  • guile
  • guillotine
  • guilt
  • guilty
  • guilty
  • guise
  • guitar
  • rogue
  • silhouette
  • colleague
  • tongue


Letter ‘W’


  • awry
  • playwright
  • sword
  • wrangle
  • wrap
  • wrapper
  • wrath
  • wreak
  • wreath
  • wreck
  • wreckage
  • wren
  • wrench
  • wretched
  • wriggle
  • wring
  • wrinkle
  • wrist
  • writ
  • write
  • wrote
  • wrong
  • writhe
  • wrong
  • wrought
  • wrung
  • wry



Identify the silent letter(s) in:


  1. debtor
  2. isle
  • mock
  1. depot
  2. acquit
  3. womb
  • patios
  • thyme
  1. handsome
  2. sandwich
  3. government
  • listen
  • Christmas
  • Whether
  1. Rapport
  • Ballet
  • Chalet
  • Aplomb
  • Ricochet
  1. Clothes
  • Cupboard
  • Faux
  • Mnemonic
  • Numb
  • Rendezvous
  • Catalogue
  • Vegetable
  • Asthma
  • months
  • debris



Not all syllables in a word are given equal emphasis. By the same token, not all words in a sentence are said with equal length.

The relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or certain words in a sentence is what we refer to as stress.

You say a syllable or a word is stressed when it is said louder or longer than the rest.

Stress is studied in two levels:

  • Word level; and
  • Sentence level.

Stress at the Word Level

A part of a certain word when said louder or longer then it is stressed.

Rules of Word Stress

  1. For two-syllable nouns and adjectives, stress the first, for example

Cloudy  carton    table

  1. For verbs with two syllables and prepositions, emphasize the second syllable, for example
  2. Words with three syllables.
  • Those ending in –er, -ly, emphasis put on the first syllable, for example,
  • Stress the first, for those ending in consonants and in –y, for example,
  • Stress the last syllable if the word ends in –ee, -ese, -eer, -ique, -ette, for example,
  • Look at the ones with the suffixes below, where stress is placed on the second,

-ary: library

Cial: judicial, commercial

-cian: musician, clinician

-tal : capital, recital

Stress is important in studying the heteronyms. A pair, or group of words is referred to as heteronym when those words are spelled the same way but have different pronunciation and meaning. We have two main categories of heteronyms:

  • Noun- verb pairs; and
  • Verb -and-adjective pairs.

We stress the first syllable if noun and the second if verb.

Examples of noun-and-verb pairs are included in the table below:

Noun Verb Noun Verb
Abuse   Graduate  
Record   Cement  
Convert   Wind  
Abuse   Sin  
Contest   Produce  
Duplicate   Excuse  
Polish   Insult  
Rebel   Permit  

In sentences;

  • Many factories produce the produce we import.
  • Allan became a convert after deciding to convert to christianity.

Sentence Stress

Sentence stress is accent on certain words within a sentence.

Most sentences have two basic word types:

  • Content words which are the key words carrying the sense or meaning- message.
  • Structure words which just make the sentence grammatically correct. They give the sentence its structure.

Look at the sentence below:

Buy milk feeling tired.

Though the sentence is incomplete, you will probably understand the message in it. The four words are the content words. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, are content words.

You can add words to the sentence to have something like:

Will you buy me milk since I am feeling tired?

The words: will, you, me, since, I, are just meant to make the sentence correct grammatically. They can also be stressed to bring the intended meaning.

Now let’s study the sentence below:

Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt.

Each word in the sentence can be stressed to bring the meaning as illustrated in the table.

Sentence Meaning
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. She doesn’t think that, but someone else does.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. It is not true that Joan thinks that.
Joan doesn’t thinkAkinyi stole my green skirt. Joan doesn’t think that, she knows that.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Not Akinyi, but someone else. Probably Njuguna or Adhiambo.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyistole my green skirt. Joan thinks Akinyi did something to the green skirt, may be washed it.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Joan thinks Akinyi stole someone else’s green skirt, but not mine.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. She thinks Akinyi stole my red skirt which is also missing.
Joan doesn’t think Akinyi stole my green skirt. Joan thinks Akinyi stole my green shirt. She mispronounced the word.

Exercise 1

  1. The words that follow can be nouns or verbs dependingon the stressed syllable. Use each as both the verb and noun in a single sentence.


  • Cement


  • Permit
  • Content


  1. Underline the part of the word in boldface you will stress in each of the following sentences.
  • The boy has been asked to sert the de.sert.
  • My handsome cortwilles.cort me to the dance.
  • After updating my sume, I will re.sume my job search.
  • They have to testin the annual Math con.test.
  • If you vict me, I will remain a con.vict for 5 years.

Exercise 2

Each word in the sentences below can be stressed to bring the meaning. What will be the meaning when each word is stressed?

  • I love your sister’s handwriting.
  • You came late today.


  • It is the rise and fall of voice in speaking.
  • Intonation is crucial for communication.
  • In English there are basically two kinds of intonation: rising and
  • We can use arrows to show the intanotion – whether rising or falling. ↘ represents falling intonation while ↗ represents the rising one.

Falling Intonation

  • Falling intonation is when we lower our voice at the end of a sentence.
  • This usually happens in:
  • Statements, for example,
  • I like↘
  • It is nice working with ↘
  • She travelled to↘
  • W/H Questions
  • What is your ↘name?
  • Where do you ↘live?
  • How old are↘ you?
  • Who is this young↘ man?
  • Commands
  • Get out ↘
  • Give me the ↘
  • Close your ↘
  • Exclamatory sentences e.g.
  • What a wonderful ↘present!
  • How ↘nice of you

Rising intonation

  • When we lower our voice.
  • Used in:
  • General Questionsg.

Do you visit them↗ often?

Have you seen ↗her?

Are you ready to ↗start?

Could you give me a↗ pen, please?

  • Alternative questionsg.

Do you want ↗coffee or ↘tea?

Does he speak↗ Kiswahili or ↘English?

  • Before tag questionsg.

This is a beautiful ↘place, ↗isn’t it?

She knows↘ him,↗ doesn’t she?

  • Enumeratingg.

↗One, ↗two,↗ three, ↗four,↘ five.

She bought ↗bread, ↗cheese, ↗oranges, and ↘apples.


Using an arrow, determine whether rising or falling intonation is used in the sentences.

  • This music sounds good.
  • I love watching horror movies.
  • My sister’s name is Amina.
  • Blue is my favourite colour.
  • Is that tv good?
  • Do you like that movie?
  • Are you hungry?
  • Get me my shoes.
  • Study your lessons now.
  • Are you insane?
  • How many more hours before you are done with your work?
  • Which novel is the best for you?
  • He is a little bit nervous, isn’t he?
  • You should listen to your parents’ advice.
  • Did you finish your homework?
  • Water is good for the body.
  • This is good!
  • What a crazy show.



A pun is a form of word play that suggests several meanings, by either exploiting the multiple meanings of a word, or substituting a word for another similar sounding word, the result of which is humorous.

A pun is also known as paronomasia.

There are two main types of puns:

  • Homophonic puns

This is where a word is substituted for another similar sounding word or word pronounced almost in the same way . For example,

Fishermen are reel men.

Explanation: There is a twist on the word ‘reel’ which is originally supposed to be spelt ‘real’.

Can you now explain the pun in the following homophonic puns?

  1. What do sea monsters eat for lunch? Fish and ships.
  2. I am on a seafood diet. Every time I see food, I eat it.
  3. Did you about the Italian chef with terminal illness? He past away.
  4. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
  5. What tea do hockey players drink? Penalttea
  6. What do ghosts serve for dessert? I scream.
  7. What did the tree sya to the autumn? Leaf me alone.
  8. What did the boy cat say to the girl cat on valentine’s day? You’re purr-fect for me.
  9. What day does an Easter egg hate the most? Fry-days.
  10. Why did the scientist install a knocker on his door? He wanted to win the No-bell prize!
  • Homographic puns

Homographic pun is formed by using a word that has multiple meanings. You might not tell what exactly what the speaker means.

For example;

Rose is the flower of my life.

Explanation: The word ‘Rose’ is a female name. it could be the person the speaker loves.

It  is also a type of flower.

The other examples are;

  1. My math teacher called me average. How mean!
  2. What do prisoners use to call each other? Cell phones.
  3. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll remain stationery.
  4. Have you ever tried to eat a clock? It’s very time consuming.
  5. A waist is a terrible thing to mind.
  6. I am reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.
  7. What part of football ground is never the same? The changing room.
  8. I want to tell you a chemistry joke but I know I will not get a reaction.
  9. Why did the bee get married? Because he found his honey.
  10. Did you hear about the guy who got hit in the head with a can of soda? He was lucky it was a soft drink.

Features of Puns

Puns are characterized by;

  1. They are short.
  2. They are humorous.

Functions of Puns

They serve functions such as:

  • Teaching pronunciation. For example, homophones.
  • Enhancing creativity. One has to think in order to form their puns.
  • When said one wonders what the speaker intends, the audience will laugh.


Explain the pun in:

  • I used to be a banker but I lost interest.
  • A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.
  • I don’t trust these stairs because they are always up to something.
  • Santa’s helpers are known as subordinate clauses.
  • The man who drank battery acid got charged.



  • A phrase or a sentence which is hard to speak fast because of alliteration or a sequence of nearly similar sounds is the tongue twister.
  • It is worth noting that there is usually the use of mnemonic feature (sound devices or sound patterns) in the tongue twisters.
  • Let us read the following tongue twisters fast.
  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
  • Any noise annoys an oyster but noisy noise annoys an oyster more.
  • Kindly kittens knitting mittens keep kazooing in the king’s kitchen.

Sound Patterns in Tongue Twisters

  1. Read the tongue twister below fast.

She saw a fish on the seashore and I am sure the fish she saw on the sea shore was a saw-fish.

In the words: she, shore and sure, there is the repetition of the consonant sound /ᶴ/ at the beginning of the words. This is alliteration.

Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sound in the nearby words.

Can you identify any other instance of alliteration in the above tongue twister?

  1. Read this other tongue twister and take note of the highlighted letters.

A skunk sat on a stump and thank the stump stunk, but the stump thank the skunk stunk.

The sound pattern here is consonance.

Consonance is the repetition of the inner consonant sound in the nearby words. An inner sound is that which comes after the first.

There is another instance of consonance. Can you illustrate it?

  1. Repetition
  • In most tongue twisters, there is repetition of words or phrases. In (1) above, the words ‘saw’, ‘fish’, etc. have been repeated.
  • Now pick out the words and phrases repeated in these tongue twisters.
  • If you tell Tom to tell a tongue twister, his tongue will be twisted as tongue twister twists tongues.
  • The sixth sick Sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.
  1. Assonance

Let’s look at:

How much wood could a wood chopper chop, if a wood chopper could chop wood?

There is repetition of the /u:/ in the words; wood,could. This is assonance.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the nearby words.

Features of Tongue Twisters

A tongue twister will have the following features:

  • it is short and brief.
  • It is alliterative.

Functions of Tongue Twisters

  1. They entertain. When one confuses the pronunciation of sounds, the audience will laugh.
  2. They teach pronunciation. We can, for example, learn the pronunciation of the sounds /f/ and /v/, /s/ and /ᶴ/ etc.
  3. Enhance creativity.

Exercise 1

With illustrations, identify the sound patterns in:

  • It’s not the cough that carries you off, it’s the coffin they carry you off in!
  • If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?
  • If a black bug bleeds black blood, what colour of blood does a blue bug bleed?
  • I wish to wash my Irish watch.

Exercise 2

Read the item below and then answer questions after it:

We surely shall see the sun shine soon.

  • Identify the genre.
  • Which two sounds has the item been used to teach?


  • A riddle is a statement or a question with veiled meaning posed as a puzzle to be solved.
  • The riddles play functions such as:
  • They boost the creativity of kids.
  • They entertain.
  • Some examples of riddles include:
  • What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries? A towel.
  • What can you catch but not throw? A cold.
  • What goes around the world but stays in a corner? A stamp.
  • Give me food, and I will live; give me water, and I will die. What am I ? Fire.

Riddling Process

  • There are two parties involved: the audience (respondents) and the challenger(or the riddler).
  • There are basically four stages of a riddling process, but at times six.
  • The parts of the riddling process are:
  • The riddlerchallenges the audience. The challenge differs from community to community. Some phrases used here include: riddle riddle!, I have a riddle! Etc.
  • The respondents accept the challenge. The invitations include: riddle come! Throw it! Etc.
  • The riddler then poses the riddle.
  • The guess or guesses. The audience tries to come up with the solution. If they are unable, then the next part follows.
  • The challenger asks for a prize. The prize can be a town or city, or any other thing. The challenger accepts the prize.
  • Then the solution is given by the challenger.


Read the riddling convention below and then identify its six parts.

Challenger: I have a riddle!

Respondent: Throw it.

Challenger: What comes down but never goes up?

Respondent: Wind

Challenger: no, try again.

Respondent: Bird

Challenger: What will you give me if I offer the solution?

Respondent: You will have the entire fire to yourself.

Challenger: The answer is rain.






Assonance and alliteration are sound patterns used in the poem. While assonance makes use of vowel sounds, alliteration makes use of consonant sounds. These sounds are repeated in the words close to one another.

Now read the poem below aloud by Steven Henderson.

Path Choices

Best, Boy, Believe

That, There, Two

Placed, Possible, Paths

Willing, Wanting, Waiting

Appraising, Asking, Applying

Lessons, Learned, Leads

Compass, Chosen, Course

Fools, Find, Fate

Sin, Street, Set

Driven, Determine, Destiny

Searching, Seeking, Seeing

Offering, Openly, Often

In the poem you realize there is repetition of the beginning consonant sounds. Look at the illustrations:

  • Best, Boy, Believes – sound /b/ has been repeated.
  • Placed, Possible, Paths – sound /p/ is repeated

This repetition of initial consonant sounds is alliteration.  Illustrate other instances of alliteration in the poem.

There is also repetition of vowel sounds in the words close to each other. Examples we have seen are:

  • Seeking, seeing – the sound /i:/ has been repeated.
  • Openly, Often – the sound /e/ has been repeated.

This repetition on vowel sounds in the nearby words is assonance .

Further Practice

Pick out all the instances of assonance and alliteration in the poem that follows.


My Puppy Punched Me in the Eye

My puppy punched me in the eye

My rabbit whacked my ear

My ferret gave a frightful cry

And roundhouse kicked my rear

My lizard flipped me upside down

My kitten kicked my head

My hamster slammed me to the ground

And left me nearly dead


So my advice? Avoid regrets;

No matter what you do

Don’t ever let your family pets

Take lessons in kung Fu


Just like alliteration, consonance makes use of consonant sounds, only that these sounds are in in the inner parts of the words (middle or end, but not beggining).

There are illustrations for this in the two poems we have read. In the poem ‘My Puppy Punched me in the Eye’ there are the illustrations as follow.

  • rabbit, wacked – the sound /t/ has been repeated.
  • hamster slammed – there is repetition of the sound /m/

Note: Alliteration, assonance, and consonance don’t have to have the same letters – it is the sound that must be repeated.

Role Played by Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance

  1. Provide musical rhythm.
  2. Make poem interesting.
  3. Make the poem easier to memorize.


Read the poem below and then identify, with illustrations, instances of alliteration, assonance and consonance.


            By John Chizuba

Black breweries braveness

In ink incorporative individualism

Those tinny tracers ticking Time

Be-little black braveness baselessly

Mirror my motion moves momentously

Directed diagonal deeply

 Hurt humans heart heavy

Because better black believes

Dedication, determined destinies

Of our oddity, obviously occupied

We welcome world words with warrant

Blacks built braveness buxom butterflies

Enlightment enchanting ego enlarged

Decade braveness debut delightfully.


  • Rhyming words are the words that sound the same at the ends. Examples of rhyming words are:
  • When a poem has rhyming words at the end of its lines, these are called ‘end rhymes’. Look at these two lines:

That keep me locked up tight

All of the things that make me feel not right

The words ‘tight’ and ‘right’ rhyme.

  • By contrast, internal rhyme/ middle rhyme, is a rhyme that occurs either when:
  • Two or more rhyming words occur within the same line;
  • Two or more rhyming words appear in the middle of two separate lines, or sometimes more;
  • A word at the end of a line rhymes with one or more in the middle of the following line.
  • Read the poem below and then try to identify the instances of rhyme in it.

Mystic Travel

Mystic travel time

Too endless islands in your mind


Tiny lights majestic and free

Open the skies soar me


Travel your minds unseen road

To mysterious lands secrets untold


The mountains valley lay quiet

As a shower carries away


The warmth of an evening breeze

Built from within a day


Heat dances shadows on the lakes fiery bay

Constructing temples where gods could play


Today is the finest piece

For tranquil emptiness


Suggestions of fluent sensations

Congregated illusions of masturbations


Sympathize the richness of the truth

Energize the expected thoughts of youth

Reading the poem aloud, we can point out several rhyming couplets. They include among others:

  • Free and me
  • Away and day
  • Sensations and masturbations
  • Truth and youth

Internal Rhyme in Separate Lines

Here is are two examples of pairs of lines with middle rhymes in separate lines.

I see a red boat that has a red flag

Just like my red coat and my little red pail

The words ‘boat’ and ‘coat’ rhyme.

I’d like to jump into the ocean

But don’t dump me instead.

The rhyming words are ‘jump’ and ‘dump’.

Now read the stanza below from the poem ‘The Raven’ and identify all the pairs of rhyming words.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while i

Pondered, weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of

Forgotten  lore.

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly

There came a tapping

As if someone gently rapping, rapping at

My chamber door

’’Tis some visitor,’’ I muttered, ’’tapping at

My chamber door;

Only this, and nothing more.’’

Rhyme Scheme

  • This is a way of describing the pattern of the end rhymes in a poem.
  • The points below will help you in reading and notating the rhyme scheme.
  • Each new sound at the end of a line is given a letter.
  • The letters start with ‘a’ , then ‘b’, and so on.
  • If an end sound repeats the end sound of an earlier line, it gets the same letter as that earlier line.
  • Here are four different stanzas, each with a different rhyme scheme, that can help you understand rhyme scheme.
  1. From Voices in My Head, by Ivor Davies

Suddenly a voice appears

I hear it in my mind

Within my head not in my ears

Not of the normal kind

The rhyme scheme is: abab

It is regular rhyme scheme as it is easy to predict when the sound will next appear.

  1. From Falling Raindrops’ Prayer for the Broken

I pray for the crying

For the hurt and the dying

For those burned and screaming

For each helper crying

The rhyme scheme is aaaaa

This too is regular.

  1. From the poem by Robert Broadbent.

Early or late,

Patient …can’t wait

Lost or your found

The world goes around

The rhyme scheme here is aabb. This is a Regular scheme

  1. From Happy Holidays by John Lumber

Christmas Eve

Oh how supreme!

When Santa comes

Every night!

Then, next day,

I just can’t wait,

When the tree is all alight.

The rhyme scheme is abcdedd. This is irregular.

The irregular rhyme scheme occurs when you can’t predict when the end sound will be repeated.

Why Rhyme?

  • Rhyme creates rhythm in the poem.
  • It also makes reading or reciting the poem interesting.
  • The poem is also made easy to memorize.

Exercise 1

Describe the rhyme scheme of the poem below by Robert Broadbent.

One Day at a Time

Happy or sad

Good days or bad

Cherry or down

The world goes around


Give up or try

Out going or shy

A smile or a frown,

The world goes around


Early or late,

Patient …can’t wait,

Lost or your found,

The world goes around


Angry, serene

Out spoken, unsent

Tense or unwound,

The world goes around

All future days,

Are hidden in haze,

Don’t worry, just learn,

To let the world turn.

Exercise 2

The incomplete poem below has the rhyme scheme: aabccbddebfe. Complete it with appropriate words.

Death did not take Paris silently

Rumbled the grave screaming _______________________

No child slept easy that _______________________

Twenty minutes of terror waking

Wee ones from sleep in cold sweats __________________________

Stealing their peaceful birthright.


Indelible imprints of ______________________

Ingrained in young psyches forever;

Post traumatic stress syndrome.

They may age, but they will not ____________________

The bloody death that evil begets

Shadows lurk in dreaming’s gloam.

(By Catie Lindsey)








  • A formal contest of argumentation between two sides is what debate is.
  • Debate embodies the ideals of reasoned argument, and tolerance for divergent points of view.
  • There are two sides in the debate: the proposition and the
  • These two teams are presented with a resolution, such as, ‘Girls and Boys Should play in a mixed football team.
  • The teams are given enough preparation time.
  • The team affirming the resolution speaks first.
  • The opposing team then must refute the arguments offered by the affirming team and offer arguments rejecting the resolution.
  • Both sides are given the opportunity to present their positions and to directly question the other team.
  • Neutral judge (s) then evaluate the persuasiveness of the arguments and offer constructive feedback.

Preparation Time

This is the time you have from when the motion is announced to the beginning of the debate. During this time:

  1. Research on the motion to get facts. The facts can be got from the teachers, other students, etc.
  2. Write notes on the facts. You can once in a while look at them during your presentation.
  3. Practice how to speak. Do it in front of friends and relatives, as well as in front of a mirror.
  4. If anxious, do some physical exercise. You can also take a deep breath just before your presentation.
  5. Dress decently.

Points Delivery

Here are the points that will help you be successful during your points delivery:

  1. Deliver your points in a confident and persuasive way.
  2. Vary your tone to make you sound interesting. Listening to one tone is boring.
  3. Speak quite loudly to be comfortably heard by everyone in the room. Shouting does not win debates.
  4. Make eye contact with your audience, but keep shifting your gaze. Don’t stare at one person.
  5. Concisely and clearly express your points to be understood by your audience members.
  6. Provide a proof for each point you put across. If you don’t you will not earn a point.
  7. Speak slowly and enunciate your words. When you slow down your speech, you give your audience and the judge more time to process your strong points.
  8. Use gestures to elaborate on your points.
  9. Pause to divide your major points.


  • Only supportive and argumentative heckling is permitted.
  • Heckling is a brief phrase (about two words) or other non- verbal actions that are directed to the judge of the debate.
  • They are reminder to the judge to pay close attention to the message immediately expressed by the speaker.
  • There are two types of heckles:
  • Those that are non-verbal, such as,
  • Rapping the knuckles on the desktop.
  • Rapping the palm on the desk.
  • Stamping the feet

They are meant to encourage the judge to heed a particularly strong point being made by the speaker.

  • Those that are verbal, such as,
  • Objective
  • Evidence
  • Point of information

They are said after standing up by one member of the opposing side.  These are meant to alert the judge to a problem in the opposing side’s argument.


After you deliver your points during the debate, everyone claps for you. How could you have delivered your points to earn their heckling?



Have you ever attended the formal meetings where you are asked questions and are expected to respond to them? More than once you will be invited to attend interviews. You can also invite someone to interview. For this reason, you should some interview tips.

The two participants in an interview are the interviewer (at times a panel of interviewers), and the interviewee.

Tips for the Interviewees

Job Interview Preparations

If you really want to be considered for a particular job following an interview, you have to adequately prepare to succeed. The following are the preparations the interviewee would put in place before the interview:

  • Contact your referees to alert them that you will be interviewed and they are likely to receive a call.
  • Prepare your documents. Make sure they are neat and well arranged.
  • Know the location where you are having the interview. It will help you know how long it will take you to reach there.
  • Do some research about the organization.
  • Prepare what to wear and how to groom.
  • Anticipate potential questions and prepare answers correctly.
  • Arrive early enough for the interview.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer at the end. It will show how much you are interested in working there.

During the Interview;

  • Greet the interviewer.
  • Knock on the door and wait for response before you enter. Shut the door behind you quietly.
  • Wait until you are offered the seat before sitting.
  • Sit or stand upright and look alert throughout.
  • Make good eye contact with the interviewer to show you are honest.
  • Explain your answers whenever possible and avoid answering questions with yes/no as answers.
  • Answer questions honestly. Don’t ever lie!


Common Blunders you MUST Avoid

Avoid falling foul of the following:

  1. Turning up late for the interview.
  2. Dressing and grooming inappropriately.
  3. Giving simple yes/no as answers.
  4. Speaking negatively about your previous employer.
  5. Sitting before invited.
  6. Discussing time-off or money.

As an Interviewer

Before the Interview:

  1. Write down questions to ask.
  2. Call the prospective employee’s referees.
  3. Prepare the place for the interview.
  4. Alert the interviewee about the interview. Mention the time and place.
  5. Arrive early for the interview.

During the Interview:

  1. Allow them enough time to respond to questions.
  2. Encourage them to speak by, for example, nodding your head when they answer questions.
  3. Speak and ask questions politely. Be friendly but formal as much as you can.
  4. Make eye contact with the interviewee to show you are listening to them.

Exercise 1

you are the secretary of journalism Club at Maembe Dodo Mixed School. On Friday you would like to interview your school Deputy Principal on the issue of Students’ Discipline.

  • Write down any three questions you would ask him/her.
  • Other than writing down questions to ask, how else would you prepare prepare for this day?
  • State four things you would do as you interview him.

Exercise 2

Read the conversation below and then answer questions after it.

Ms Naomi: Welcome to our Doctor’s office.

Mr. Josh: Nice to be here.

Ms Naomi: I see from your resume that you are a cardiologist with 10 years of practice.

Mr. Josh: That’s right.

Ms Naomi: This interview is just to get to know you a little and then there are follow up interviews. So what do you do in your free time?

Mr. Josh: I like golfing and swimming. I also like to read newspapers.

Ms Naomi:Why did you want to be a doctor?

Mr. Josh:Actually I love helping people get well. I think cardiology has made great strides recently and I would like to share my findings with others.

Ms Naomi:Have you written in any scientific journals so far?

Mr. Josh:Not yet. But hopefully soon.

Ms Naomi:OK, we’d like to learn more about you. Let’s go for lunch wwith our colleagues, if that’s OK.

Mr. Josh:That’s fine, I am free.

  • What two things qualify Ms Naomi as a good interviewer?
  • Identify two evidences of interview tips displayed by Mr. Josh.


Have you ever stood in front of a big group of people to present your talk? Well here we shall learn how to prepare your speech and deliver it effectively.

Preparation for Speech Delivery

There are steps any speaker should follow in preparation for presentation of speech. They include:

  1. Doing some research on the topic to present. Get the facts about the topic. If you do enough research, your confidence level will be boosted.
  2. Practice in front of a group of friends or relatives. This can also be done in front of a mirror, or videotaping your rehearsals. You will be able to correct your gestures, postures etc.
  3. Write down the points about the topic on a note pad. You can refer to them when giving the speech.
  4. Plan on how to groom and dress decently. You should appear presentable to feel confident.




Grabbing and Keeping Audience Attention

Your opening determines how long your audience will listen to your presentation. Of they are bored from the beginning; the chance that your message will effectively get across is very little.

The most commonly used methods are:

  1. Asking a question. The question should make them think about the topic. For example, ‘How many of you would like to be millionaires?’
  2. Stating an impressive fact connected to the topic of your presentation. For example: ‘About 30% of Kenyans are millionaires.
  3. Telling a story closely connected to the topic. It should neither be too long nor intended to try to glorify the speaker. For example: “Dear audience, before I begin I would like to tell you a short story about Maina Wa Kamau became a millionaire. Don’t worry, it’s not too long. …..”

Other methods of beginning a speech are:

  • Using humour
  • Starting with a quote that ties with your topic.
  • Using sound effect.

Presentation of Speech

There are various techniques of delivering speech. They are what will ensure understanding of your message. Some of these techniques include:

  1. Use gestures effectively to reinforce the words and ideas you are trying to communicate to your audience. For example, when talking about love, you can use your hands to form a cup shape to indicate how tiny something is.
  2. Make eye contact with your audience members to study their reactions to you. If you sense boredom, you need to improve and if you sense enthusiasm, it will help pump you up.
  3. Use movements to establish contact with your audience. Getting closer to them physically increases their attention and interest, as well as encouraging response if you are asking questions.
  4. Your posture should be upright. The way you conduct yourself on the platform will indicate you are relaxed and in control. Do not lean or slouch.
  5. Wear appropriate facial expressions to show feelings and emotions. Smile to show happiness, for example.
  6. Speak loud enough to be heard by all your audience members.
  7. Pronounce the words correctly and speak clearly for your message to be understood.
  8. Pause at key points to let the message sink.

Stage Fright

Almost all speakers are nervous. Even the most experienced do. Fear of addressing a group is not wrong, but how we deal with it is what is possibly not good enough. Those speakers who seem relaxed and confident have learnt how to handle anxiety.

Symptoms of Nervous Speakers

An anxious speaker can be identified in case of:


  • Shaking hands
  • Sweating palms
  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Squeaky voice
  • Knocking knees
  • Facial flushes
  • Watery eyes
  • Mental confusions
  • jitters


Causes of Fear

  1. Past failures during presentation. Plan to succeed instead.
  2. Poor or insufficient preparation. Nothing gives you more confidence than being ready.
  3. Discomfort with your own body and movement.

Dealing with Anxiety

A speaker can try the suggestions below to deal with anxiety before and on the day of speech.

Before the day;

  1. Know your topic by doing adequate and thorough research. You will be sure of presenting accurate information and be able to answer questions asked by audience members.
  2. Practice delivering your speech several times. This helps you be sure of your organization of the main points.

On that day;

  1. Do some physical exercises like press ups, push walls, etc. to reduce anxiety.
  2. Use simple relaxation techniques like taking deep breath, tightening and relaxing your muscles, etc.
  3. Wear clothes that you feel confident in. when you feel good about of you feel, your confidence level is boosted. You don’t need to adjust your clothes or hair during your speech.
  4. Spot friendly faces in the crowd. These are people who give you positive feedback (e.g. nodding, smiling). Such faces give you encouragement to speak.
  5. Come up with ways to hide your anxiety. For example,
  • When mouth goes dry, drink some water
  • Incase of excessive sweating, wear clothes that will not allow your audience detect
  • If your hands shake, use gestures to mask the shaking.

Exercise 1

In the next three days, you are presenting a speech on the topic: Effects of HIV/AIDS.

  • Write down any three ways you would prepare for the speech delivery.
  • State the techniques you would employ to ensure your audience listens to you throughout and that they understand the message during the presentation.

Exercise 2

Makufuli is presenting his speech. Your friend, Makwere claims that Makufuli is not confident.

  • What could have warranted this claim?
  • State four reasons that could be behind Makufuli’s state?


  • Discussion is a process where exchange of ideas and opinions are debated upon in a group.
  • A group which comprises a small number of people is given a topic to discuss.

Preparation for Group Discussion

Do the following before you start the discussion:

  1. Select/choose group leaders. Choose the secretary to write the points down and the chair to lead the discussions.
  2. Research round the topic to make sure you have the points. You can get the points from the sources including:
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Friends, relatives and teachers
  • Text books
  • Internet
  • Television
  1. Arrive early for discussions. It is advisable you do so so that you start early and finish early.
  2. Gather writing materials – pen and note book.
  3. Prepare with questions to ask.

Participating in a Group Discussion

Remember the tips below for success during the discussion:

  1. Learn to listen to each other and respond to what other people have to say.
  2. Speak with moderation. What you say is usually more important than how much you say. Quality is needed rather than the quantity.
  3. Back up each point you put across. You can explain your points in a number of ways including:
  • Providing facts or statistics to support it;
  • Quoting expert opinion;
  • Explain why said what you said; and
  • Referring to your own experience.
  1. Stay calm and polite. Use polite words like ‘May I ….?, please …, etc.’
  2. Take notes of important words and ideas.
  3. Speak clearly.
  4. Speak loud enough to be heard by all the group members.

The Common Discussion Mistakes

Having learnt what you should do during the discussion, let us now learn what under no circumstances y do. You should never:

  • Dominate the discussion;
  • Interrupt abruptly;
  • Be inaudible;
  • Carry out mini-meetings; or
  • Talk over each other.





You and your group members have been assigned the topic: ‘Responsibilities of a Good Citizen’ by your teacher of History and Government. You are supposed to discuss this before you give the presentation in two days.

  • State three ways in which you would prepare before you start discussing the topic.
  • How would you ensure your group members and yourself benefit from this discussion?


  • From the heading, an oral report is spoken, not written.
  • Being oral, it doesn’t mean writing is not involved. As part of preparation, you have to write notes on the topic or at least an outline of points.
  • When asked to present an oral report you get the opportunity to practice your speaking skills.
  • A spoken report has various elements including an introduction, body and conclusion.

Preparation for Oral Reports

You can prepare by:

  1. Researching on the topic. Get all the facts about what is known and unknown by your audience.
  2. Take notes on the facts about the topic. Choose your words appropriately in the process.
  3. Practice the report before presenting it. You may
  • Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Practice in front of friends or relatives.
  • Videotape your rehearsals.

More practice is required if it has to be memorized.

  1. Plan on how to dress and groom.
  2. Prepare the visual aids if you plan to use the them. Select the appropriate chart, picture, etc. that will make abstract ideas concrete.


  1. Stand up straight. Your upper body should be held straight, but not stiff. Do not fidget.
  2. Make eye contact in order to look surer of yourself and to ensure your audience listens better.
  3. Vary your tone appropriately and speak clearly.
  4. Use gestures to make your points well understood and to keep the audience interested.
  5. Pause at key points to let the point sick.
  6. Speak loud enough for everyone to hear you.
  7. If you have visual aids use them appropriately.


You have seen thieves robbing your neighbor’s house. During this time you have your phone that you have used to capture one of the two robbers. The next day you are called at the police station to report on what occurred.

  • State any three ways you would prepare to deliver this oral report.
  • What three details would you include in your report?
  • How would you deliver the report to ensure the information is understood?


Etiquette is the rules that indicate the proper and polite manner to behave.


  • When one uses courteous language, he/she uses a language that is very polite and polished to show respect.
  • At no time should you allow yourself be rude, ill-mannered, impolite, inconsiderate, or even thoughtless.
  • Being and remaining polite will go a long way in building relationships.
  • To show politeness and respect:
  • Use the word please in request;
  • Say thank you to those who help or compliment you.
  • Start your requests or interrogatives beginning with words such as can, could, may, will, or would.
  • Say excuse me when you interrupt other people or intrude into their time or privacy.
  • Use question tags.
  • In this section, we shall learn the words and phrases that show respect.


  • Please
  • We use it when you want someone to do something for you. For example: Can you pass that cup, please?
  • also used when you want something from someone. For example: Lend me ten shillings, please.
  • Thank you
  • Use it whenever someone does something for you.
  • Use it when someone commends you.
  • Sorry
  • Say it any time you inconvenience someone.
  • Say it when step on someone’s toes, etc.
  • Also when someone asks you something you cannot do.
  • Excuse me

To introduce a request to someone, or to get past someone, use this phrase. For example

Excuse me, can you show me where Amina lives?

  • Pardon me

Almost as ‘excuse me’

Exercise 1

Jennifer has gone to the shop to buy a bar of soap. The shopkeeper tells her to be polite the next time she comes to buy from him. Showing where, which polite phrases could Jennifer have failed to use?

Exercise 2

Read the dialogue below and then explain how Jacinta expresses politeness.

John:   I would like to send this letter to japan by airmail, how much is the charge?

Jacinta: It’s one pound, do you need extra stamps?

John: I do, I have been also expecting a package from New-York. Here is my identity card and receipt.

Jacinta: Would you mind signing this form? Here is the package.

John:Finally, I would like to send this registered letter to London.

Jacinta:Please fill in the complete address in capital letters.


Telephone etiquette are the rules that demonstrate the proper and polite way to use your phone/telephone.

It starts from how you prepare for phone calls to when you end the call.


Preparation for Phone Call

The following should be done before placing a call:

  • Ensure you have enough time. It will not auger well to suddenly end the conversation because of insufficient airtime.
  • Go to a place where there is silence. Too much noise will distract your attention.
  • Think through exactly what you want to say. Write it down if possible so you don’t forget what to say or ask and look as though you didn’t have anything to say.

Tips to Display When Making a Call

Whether at work, at home, or on your mobile phone, remember to display the tips below at all times:

  1. Identify yourself at the beginning of the call.
  2. Speak clearly and slowly especially when leaving the message.
  3. Speak with a low tone of voice. Be sure to know how loud you may be.
  4. Always end with a pleasantry, for example,’ Have a nice day.’
  5. Let the caller hang up first.
  6. Stay away from others while talking on the phone. They don’t need to hear your private conversation.

What to Avoid

  1. Avoid being distracted by other activities while speaking. Some of these activities include:
  • Rustling papers
  • Chewing
  • Driving
  • Speaking with someone
  • Shopping
  • Working on the computer
  1. Avoid allowing interruptions to occur during the conversation.
  2. Do not engage in an argument with the caller.
  3. Talking too loudly.



Not at these Places

The following are places you should not make a call. You should even have your cell phone in a silent mode or switch it off altogether.

  • Bathrooms
  • Hospitals
  • Waiting rooms
  • Meetings
  • Museums
  • Places of worship
  • Lectures
  • Live performances
  • Funerals
  • Weddings

Telephone Conversations

Here we shall focus on majorly business telephone conversations. It should be noted that there are patterns that are followed; but not all will follow this rigid pattern. The six patterns include:

  1. The phone is answered by someone who asks if he/she can help.
  2. The caller makes a request either to be connected to someone or for information.
  3. The caller is connected, given information or told that that person is not present at the moment.
  4. The caller is asked to leave a message if the person who is requested for is not in.
  5. The caller leaves a message or asks other questions.
  6. The phone call finishes.

Exercise 1

Read the telephone conversation below and then answer questions that follow.

Pauline: (a form two student, Wajanja School) ring ring… ring ring …

Secretary: Hello, Wajanja School, this is Ms Esther speaking. How may I be of help to you?

Pauline: Yes, this is Pauline Karanja a form two student calling. May I speak to the principal, please?

Secretary: I am afraid MsKaluma is not in the office at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?

Pauline: I would really want, thanks. When she comes back, tell her I wanted to ask for one day permission. My brother is sick and I would like to request her that I report one day after the opening day. It is I who will be left with my siblings as the brother goes to the hospital. That is all.

Secretary: Sorry for that, I wish him quick recovery. I would give her the message as soon.

Pauline:I would be grateful madam. Thanks again.

Pauline:Welcome Pauline. Just ensure you report as stated here.

Secretary: Ok have a nice day madam.

Pauline:You too have a perfect day. Goodbye

  • With examples, outline the patterns of telephone conversation in above.
  • Identify evidences of telephone etiquette tips displayed by Pauline in the conversation above.

Exercise 2

Your sibling is very sick. You are planning to make a doctor a phone call to come to your home to provide medication.

  • State any three preparations you would put in place before making this important call.
  • Give four bad habits you would avoid when making this call.

Exercise 3

Joan has just called the parent to ask them to pay the school fee. Unfortunately, the parent is not happy with the way she has made the call. Identify any four telephone etiquette tips shecould have failed to display.


  • Register denotes the choice of language, whether that be formal or informal.
  • It is the choosing of appropriate language for the context.
  • There are factors that determine the language we use.
  • It is important to select the right language for the right situation.
  • The choice of register is affected by:
  • The setting of the speech;
  • The topic of the speech;
  • The relationship that exists between the speakers; and
  • The age.

The Setting

There are words we use depending on the field. There are those we use in the field of medicine, in the field of law etc. they are also those that we use at home when talking to family members. A chemist, for example, will ask for ‘sodium chloride’ while at the laboratory, while at home she will request for ‘salt’. At work place, people tend to use formal language while informal language at home.


  • If, for example, you want to ask for something valuable from a brother you would say: ‘I was wondering if you could lend me….’. This is a formal language even though it is your family member you are talking to.
  • When offering your boss tea or coffee, you will still use formal language for example: ‘Would you mind being served tea or coffee? ’ and to a friend you will say: ‘Tea or coffee?


There are words you use when speaking to different people in different situations. More often than not, an intimate couple will use words like ‘darling’, ‘honey’, etc. These words cannot be used to address your colleague at work place; or even your pastor.


There are ways to speak to a child and those of speaking to adults. To a baby, we use words like ‘popopoo’ while to an adult ‘long call’, etc.

The Words used in Different Fields

Field of Medicine

Some words used in the hospitals, clinics and other health stations include: X-ray, syringe, paracetamol, doctor, nurse, mortuary, patient, etc.

Police Station

Lockup, cell, bond, etc.


Aircraft, flight, air hostess, etc.

Information Technology

Computer, laptop, CPU, Monitor, software, hardcopy, hard disk, etc.


The words used by the teachers, students and others at school are: chalk, ruler, blackboard, senior teacher, deputy principal, dean of studies, etc.



Technical terms used by lawyers and in the courts of law include: adult probation, affidavit, alimony, Amicus Curiae brief, annulment, appeal, appellant, appellee, arrest, plaintiff, defendant, dismissal, oath, revocation hearing, learned friend, etc.


Read the conversation below and then answer question that follow.

Caller:Is this the Credex?

Receptionist:Yes, how may I be of help to you?

Caller:It’s Dorothy calling.

Receptionist:Oh, Dorothy! How is the going?

Caller: Lunch today?

Receptionist: Of course..

Caller: what time then?

Receptionist: After I have seen the deputy principal. There are packets of chalk I am supposed to deliver.

  • Giving the reasons, where is the Credex?
  • What is the relationship between the caller and the receptionist?
  • Explain the formality of the language the receptionist and the caller use.
  • Give illustrations for (c) above.


Being a cyclical process, turn taking starts with one person speaking, and continues as the speaker gives control to the next individual. This is then offered to another person and then back to the original speaker. Orderly conversation has to take place.

A turn is a crucial element within turn taking. Each person takes turn within the conversation – either in person or on phone.

Achieving Smooth Turn Taking

It is achieved with:

  1. Using specific polite phrases, for example, those for,
  • Interrupting
  • Accepting the turn when offered it
  • Keeping your turn
  • Getting other people speaking, etc.
  1. Using gestures to indicate you have completed what you are saying or that you want to say something. You drop your arm when you have completed and raise it when you want to say something.
  2. Varying the intonation to show you have or have not finished speaking.
  3. Use noises like ‘uming’ and ‘ahing’ while thinking so as not to lose your turn.

Turn Taking Cues

There are various ways of signaling a finished turn. They might be indicated when the current speaker:

  1. Asks a question, for example, ‘ Did you want to add anything?’
  2. Trails off (his/her voice becomes weaker to the extent you may not hear his words)
  3. Indicates they are done speaking with a closing statement, for example, ‘That’s all I wanted to say.’or ’I think I have made my point.
  4. Uses marker words (those that allow the other a chance to speak), for example, ‘well…’ or ‘so…’
  5. Drops the pitch or volume of their voice at the end of their utterance. This is the use of falling intonation.
  6. Uses gestures to signal that another can contribute.

Violations in Turn-Taking

There are five well known turn-taking violations in a conversation. They are: interruptions, overlaps, grabbing the floor, hogging the floor, and silence. Do you know what they really are? If you don’t, read the explanations for the violations in that order.

  1. Inhibiting the speaker from finishing their sentences during their turn.
  2. Talking at the same time as the current speaker. This is interruptive overlap. However, cooperative overlap is encouraged as it shows you are interested in the message.
  3. Interrupting and then taking over the turn before being offered it.
  4. Taking over the floor and ignoring other people’s attempt to take the floor.
  5. Remaining without saying anything for quite some time.

The List of Turn-Taking Phrase

To interrupt;

  • Before I forget, …
  • I don’t like to interrupt, but ….
  • I wouldn’t usually interrupt, but …
  • I’m afraid I have to stop you there.
  • I will let you finish in a minute/second/moment ….
  • May I interrupt?

To accept the turn when offered it;

  • I won’t take long.
  • What I wanted to say was …

To stop other people from interrupting you during your turn use;

  • I have just one more point to make
  • I have nearly finished
  • Before you have your say …
  • I haven’t quite finished my point yet
  • I know you’re dying to jump in, but….

To offer the turn to another use;

  • …., right?
  • But that’s enough from me.
  • Can you give me your thoughts on …?
  • Does anyone want to say anything before I move on?
  • How about you?

To take the turn back after being interrupted;

  • As I was saying (before I was interrupted)
  • To get back on topic…
  • Carrying on from where we left on…

Note: The list is endless, and you can come up with other appropriate phrases.


  • English is a polite language. For this reason, it is advisable to indirectly contradict a person. It is rude to do it directly.
  • Although conversation is a two way street, interrupting a speaker is usually regarded as rude. However, at times you need to interrupt. When then can one interrupt?
  • You can only interrupt to:
  • Ask a question;
  • Make a correction;
  • Offer an opinion; and
  • Ask for clarification.

In this section, we shall learn how to interrupt and disagree politely.

Steps to Interrupting

It is important to take note of the following steps when interrupting a speaker during a conversation or during a discussion:

  1. Signal to the speaker that you have something to contribute by implementing the body language such as:
  • Making eye contact;
  • Slightly raising your hand;
  • Sitting forward on your seat;
  • Quietly clearing your throat; or
  • Coughing quietly.
  1. Wait patiently until the speaker pauses or incase of a lull in the conversation.
  2. Speak clearly using polite phrases. These phrases will be learnt later.
  3. Wait for the speaker to acknowledge your request to speak before you do so.
  4. After you have spoken, thank the speaker and allow them continue.
  5. Take a deep breath and calm yourself before interrupting when you feel angry or annoyed.
  6. Take care to use low tone of voice.


  1. Unnecessary interruptions.
  2. Finishing speaker’s sentences.
  3. Interrupting to correct the speaker unnecessarily.
  4. Speaking harshly or using disparaging comments.

Phrases used in Interruption

Below is the list of phrases which you can use to politely interrupt someone:

  • May I say something here?
  • I am sorry to interrupt, but …
  • Excuse me, may I add to that…?
  • Do you mind if I jump in here?
  • Before we move on to the next point, may I add …?
  • Sorry, I didn’t catch that, is it possible to repeat the last point?
  • I don’t mean to intrude ….
  • Sorry to butt in, but …
  • Would this be a good time to ….?
  • Excuse the interruption, but …
  • I hate to interrupt, but …
  • I know it is rude to interrupt, but …

How to Disagree Politely

The tips that follow will help you handle disagreements without annoying the other person in a discussion or discussion:

  1. Actively listen to the other person’s point of view. This helps in showing respect and understanding of the other person’s perspective.
  2. Stay calm even if you feel angry.
  3. Acknowledge the other person’s point of view before the buts.
  4. Disagree only with the person’s idea but not he person.
  5. Use polite phrases to respectfully disagree.
  6. Speak in a low tone.
  7. Give some credence to the other person’s point of view before challenging it. For example, say: It’s partly true that I bought this phone at a cheap price, but …

Disagreeing Politely Expressions

  • I agree up to a point, but …
  • I see your point, but …
  • That’s partly true, but …
  • I’m not so sure about that.
  • That’s not entirely true
  • I am sorry to disagree with you, but …
  • I’m afraid I have to disagree
  • I must take issue with you on that
  • It’s unjustifiable to say that..


  • This is the process of discussion between towo or more disputants, aimed at finding the solution to a common problem.
  • It is a method by which people settle their differences.
  • It is also the process by which a compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding arguiment.
  • There could be a difference between people with different aims or intentions, especially in business or politics. When this happens, they have to reach an agreement.
  • Negotiation skills will be helpful when:
  • Haggling over the price of something;
  • Negotiating with your employer e.g. for higher salary;
  • Negotiating for peace/ solving conflict;
  • Negotiating for better services; etc.

Stages Of Negotiation

  1. Preparation comes first. During this time, ensure all the pertinent facts of the situation is known in order to clarify your own position. It will help in avoiding wasting time unnecessarily.
  2. Discussion then follows. This is the time to ask questions, listen and make things easier to understand. At times, it is helpful to take notes to record all points put forward.
  3. Negotiate towards a win-win outcome. Each party has to be satisfied at the end of the process.
  4. Agreement comes after understanding both sides’ viewpoints and considering them.
  5. Implement the course of action. If for example, paying the amount, it has to be paid.

Points Every Negotiator Should Consider

  1. Ask questions, confirm and summarise. These three activities ensure that there is no confusion on what each party wants.
  2. Acknowledge each other’s point of view. Show that you have listened to and understood their perspective. Show appreciation of the other person’s point of view.
  3. Listen attentively to the other person.
  4. Respond to negative comments and complaints. Avoid confrontational language.
  5. Behave in a confident way, but don’t be rude. Make polite but firm requests.
  6. Give options/alternatives. You can both win if you recognise that you share a common ground.





You are planning to buy a new model car.

  • Write down three relevant facts you would want to know before going to buy the car.
  • State any three hints for the negotiators you would consider when haggling over the price of that car.


Listening is different from hearing. When you listen, you understand both the verbal and non verbal information.

Why should you listen? You listen:

  • To obtain information
  • To understand the message
  • For enjoyment
  • To learn

In this section, we shall learn the techniques of active listening.

Techniques of Paying Attention

In order to benefit from a talk as the listener, you should take note of the following key tips:

  1. keep an open mind. Listen without judging the speaker or mentally criticizing their message they pass. You just have to hold your criticism and withhold judgment.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the topic under discussion. Audience tend to listen more if they have idea of the topic being discussed. How then can one familiarize himself/ herself with the subject? They can do this by:
  • Reading from the books.
  • Reading from the internet.
  • Asking for ideas from those who know.
  1. Use the speaker responses to encourage the speaker to continue speaking. You will also get the information you need if you do so. Some of the speaker responses we use include:
  • Slightly nodding the head, but occasionally.
  • Smile occasionally.
  • Using small verbal comments like yes, uh huh, mmmh, I see, etc.
  • Reflecting back e.g. you said …
  1. Take notes on the important points. This can in itself be a distractor. You should therefore know when to and when not to take notes.
  2. Listen for the main ideas. These are the most important points the speaker wants to get across and are repeated several times.
  3. Wait for the speaker to pause before asking a clarifying question. Just hold back.
  4. Avoid distractions. Don’t let your mind wander or be distracted by other people’s activities. If the room is too cold or too hot get the solution to that situation if possible.
  5. Sit properly. Sit upright
  6. Make eye contact with the speaker. when you do this you will be able to understand the non verbal messages too.

Signs of Inactive Audience

You can easily tell whether  your audience listens or not. The inattentive listeners tend to posses the following characteristics:

  • Fidgeting
  • Doodling
  • Playing with their hair
  • Looking at a clock or watch
  • Picking their fingernails
  • Passing small pieces of paper to one another
  • Shifting from seat to seat
  • Yawning

Barriers to Effective Listening

There are many things that get in the way of listening and you should avoid these bad habits so as to become a more effective listener. These factors that inhibit active listening include;

  1. Lack of interest in the topic being discussed.
  2. Unfamiliarity with the topic under discussion.
  3. One might fear being asked a question and in the process fail to look at the speaker.
  4. In case of noise the listeners might not get what the speaker is saying.

Exercise 1

MwangiMwaniki, the author of one of the set text you study, is coming to your school to give a talk on the themes in his novel.

  • How would you prepare for this big day?
  • State what you would do to ensure you benefit from the talk during the presentation.



Oral narratives have many features. The main ones include:

  • Use of opening formula. This is used to indicate the beginning of a story. It also remove the audience from the world of reality and take them to the world of fantasy. A world of fantasy is where bones speak, a king is the lion, etc. some commonly used opening formula phrases are ‘ a long time ago…’, ‘once upon a time’, ‘there once was ….’, and ‘long, long ago…
  • Use of Closing formula. It makes the end of a story. It also removes the audience from the world of fantasy and take them back to the world of reality. Here are examples of closing formulae:
  • And that is why …
  • And there ends my story.
  • From then onwards …
  • To come to the end of my story …
  • Use of idiophones. There is the use of words that imitate the movement or sounds made by characters in the story. For example,
  • The bees flew buzz buzzbuzz.
  • The woman laughed hahahahaha.
  • The branch was cut kacha.
  • A word, phrase, a song, or even a sentence can occur more than once in a story. The repetition is meant to bring out the meaning.
  • Use of songs. Many narratives have songs. The songs perform the following functions:
  • Brings out the character traits.
  • Brings out the theme.
  • To entertain.
  • Use of suspense. Here the audience is left wondering what will happen next.
  • There is also the use of dialogue. A character speaks directly to the other. Dialogue is used to bring out the theme, character traits as well as to develop the plot of the story.


  • There are several story telling devices a narrator can decide to use when delivering an oral narrative.
  • The techniques a narrator can use include:
  • Use of gestures. Gestures are meant to reinforce the idea. For example when talking about a character going, you can stretch your arm to show that.
  • Altering your facial expressions according to the emotion and feelings in the story. Do not frown when the emotion happy.
  • Varying the tone of your voice depending on what you are saying and who is saying it. The tone should be low when for example a small animal talks, and high when a big one speaks.
  • Changing the pace of narration. There are those unimportant details that can be said faster.
  • Involving the audience in the narration. Asking them to join you when singing will be okay.
  • Use of mimicry. Here a narrator imitates the walking style of a character, etc.



A personal space is an imaginary area between a person and their surrounding area. This space makes the person feel comfortable and should therefore not be encroached.

The distance can exist at work, at home and in our social circles.

The personal space varies depending on factors such as:

  • Gender
  • Trust
  • Relationship
  • Familiarity with the person.

Why Respect People’s personal Space?

  1. To make them feel comfortable.
  2. To maintain good relationships.
  3. To enhance listening. Especially during a talk.

General Personal Space Rules

The personal space guidelines below will help enhance listening and speaking:

  1. Respectfully keep your distance if you walk into a room and see two people in private conversation.
  2. Pay attention to your volume when you speak, whether on the phone or in person, to ensure you don’t distract attention of others.
  3. Maintain physical space at table and chair rows so the people around you have enough room to write, raise their hands, etc.
  4. Be mindful of amount of perfume or cologne you wear as if it is in excess it might distract others.
  5. Never lean on the other person’s shoulder unless invited to.
  6. Don’t eavesdrop on another person’s phone conversation. In case you overhear details of the conversation, keep it confidential.

Dealing with Space Intrusion

Depending on the nature of the intrusion, you would deal with space encroachment in different ways. Here are the steps of dealing with a person who leans on your shoulder:

  1. Lean away or take a step back away from the person hoping they would take a hint.
  2. Come right out and say you feel discomfort being too close.
  3. Explain why you need more space. You can for example tell them you need more space to write.


You have attended a one day seminar. The person sitting next to you is said to be intruding your personal space. What four personal space guidelines could this person have failed to follow?


  • The face you wear is a great component of emotion and feeling.
  • The various facial expressions represent various feelings. A smile for example, represents joy, while a scowl, anger.
  • When speaking or listening, flex your facial muscles as appropriate. You can’t smile when the speaker is talking about incidence of tragedy. Doleful face will do.
  • Remember your face is like a switch and will keep changing depending on the feelings and emotions.

Some words for Describing Facial Expressions

Emotion/ Feeling Facial Expression
Approval/ agreement Appealing
Happy and peaceful Beatific
Angry or unhappy Black, grave
Worried Bug-eyed
Sad Doleful
Confused Quizzical
Surprised Wide-eyed, quizzical
Extremely happy Radiant
Embarrassed Withering



  • A speaker will always move part of their body especially a hand, arm or the head when speaking.
  • This is done to express the idea or meaning.
  • As a speaker you can use illustrators of what you are saying using your hands. They will add mental image to what is being conveyed. For example,
  • Headshake to mean ‘no’.
  • Use hands to form the shape of heart to express love.
  • Use the hands to form the bow shape to show the big belly. Etc.


  • Did you know you can use your eyes to listen? We use the eyes to listen to another person’s body language – gesture included.
  • An eye is a powerful tool of effective communication.
  • Let us learn some situations that demand different uses of the eyes. For example:
  • When arguing, hold your gaze.
  • When deferring, lower your eyes.
  • When loving someone, stare in the pool of their eyes.
  • Making eye contact is very vital as you can get the feedback from your listeners, on your message. When you notice they are bored you know you have to make adjustments and when they show enthusiasm then this will help in pumping you up.
  • Too much eye contact by the listener indicate they have interest in either you or the information you are putting across.
  • Speakers tend to look up:
  • At the end of their utterances.
  • To indicate to the others to have their turn.
  • Speakers tend to look away when:
  • Talking non-fluently.
  • Thinking
  • Not sure of the topic.


  • A curtsy is a polite gesture of respect or reverence made chiefly by women and girls.
  • It is the female equivalent of males’ bowing.

When to Bow or Make Curtsy

  • To end a performance.
  • To show respect.

How to Curtsy

  • Lower your head.
  • Hold your skirt at the edges with both hands.
  • Place your right foot behind the left.
  • Bend your knees outward


How you look when speaking in front of an audience or when going for an interview is very crucial. It both boosts your confidence level and build respect.

Your appearance involves the clothes you wear as well as how you groom.

Grooming on the hand involves what you do to your body other than the clothing. Your personal hygiene is the simplest term that can replace the term grooming.


The kind of clothe you wear will depend on such factors as:

  • Your occupation;
  • Weather;
  • Location; and
  • Your preference.

Guidelines for Clothing

  1. Your cloth should fit comfortably.
  2. The cloth should also be neat and clean.
  3. Wear the right cloth for appropriate occasion.


Read the grooming checklist below.

  1. Your hair should be lean, trimmed and neatly arranged.
  2. If you are a man, ensure your facial hair is freshly shaved.
  3. Fingernails should be neat, clean and trimmed.
  4. Teeth should brushed and with fresh breath.
  5. Body should be freshly showered.
  6. If a woman, use make up sparingly and be natural looking.
  7. Use perfumes/aftershave/colognes sparingly or even use non at all.


Ayub has been invited to an interview. State four grooming mistakes he should be careful to avoid.




Giving clear instructions is one of those things that seems easy to do but actually are more complex.

The tips that follow will help you in giving clear instructions:

  1. Get the attention of the other person. Be sure you have the attention of the person, or people, you are giving instruction. This is one way in which you will tell whether they are listening. Do you know ways to get the attention of a child or even a group of people in some noisy place? Here are some suggestions;
  • Ring the bell
  • Bang the table/door
  • Switch off the lights
  • Clear your throat
  • Blow the whistle, and many others.
  1. Use simple language that can be understood. Avoid using too much vocabulary.
  2. Break instructions down and deliver them in steps. Give one instruction at any given time to avoid any confusion.
  3. Repeat instructions to them.
  4. Be loud enough.
  5. Give instruction beginning with a verb i.e. use the imperative forms. For example: Take three cups…
  6. Ask them repeat instructions to you in their own words.
  7. Make eye contact.


You are a mother. On a certain day, very early in the morning, you want to go to pay your friend a visit. Before you leave, you have decided to leave your 6-year old son instructions on how to prepare his lunch.

  • Make a list of methods you would use to get his attention before giving instructions.
  • Other than getting his attention, how else would you ensure you leave him clear and understandable instructions?


Once in a while people will ask you to lead them to their destination. If it is not possible to do this then the best thing to do will be to give them directions to those places. The most important thing to do is to be brief and clear.

Let us learn the steps to giving the clear directions.

Steps to Giving Clear Directions

  1. Give the direction with few turns. Remember shortcuts may be faster, but at times are complicated especially in the case of many turns.
  2. Indicate the turns—whether left or right. Tell them to turn a left or a right. For those who know cardinal points, you can use north, south, west, or east.
  3. Mention the landmarks, for example, a large clock, a school, a river, e.t.c. Tell them: `you will see a blue church…
  4. Specify distance. Offer the Ballpark Figures (rough estimates of the time and length of travel). The three ways of specifying the distance are:
  • Telling them how many streets or buildings to pass;
  • Giving them distance in kilometres, metres , or miles;and
  • Telling them how much time in minutes or hours it will take them to reach their destination.
  1. Warn them about any confusing parts of the route. For example, let them know of a narrow road that people normally miss.
  2. Say which side of the street or road their destination is on. There could be two houses that look alike on either sides of road. Tell them: My house is on the right.
  3. Repeat directions to them and allow them repeat back directions to you.
  4. Draw a simplified map if paper and pencil or pen are available.
  5. Give them a drop-dead point. This is the place when if you reach you know you are lost and have to make a U-turn. For example, tell them: if you see a big black billboard you have gone too far.


Your church is in the same estate you live. Your mother goes to a different church. On this particular Sunday she has decided to join you later in your church. For that reason, she asks you to give her the direction to the church.

  • Mention three ways you would specify her the distance from your home to the church.
  • Apart from specifying the distance, how else would you ensure she reaches the church when giving her the direction?




  • Hill
  • Sit
  • Still
  • Blip
  • Fill
  • Blink
  • Thrill



  • Jeep
  • Creek
  • Greased
  • Teal
  • cheat


  • jet
  • bed
  • wet


Exercise 1

Sound /s/: seven, students, first, test, licences

Sound /z/ : driver’s, licences, Thursday

Exercise 2


  • Garage
  • Gift
  • Go
  • Digit
  • Entangle
  • Gecko


Exercise 3

Sound /ᶴ/ :tissue, passion, ocean, cautious, solution, pressure, Persian, chef, sure, precious

Sound /ᶾ/ :Caucasian, division, leisure, vision, casual, conclusion, television, decision, collision, exposure

Exercise 4

Sound /f/ : forgive, for, forgetting, leftover, food

Sound /v/ :forgive, leftover



  • Gate
  • Made
  • Male
  • Pail
  • Pane
  • Plane
  • Sail
  • Tail
  • Vane/vein
  • Waste
  • Weight
  • Ate
  • Sow
  • Know
  • Tow
  • Groan





Exercise 1


  • Heat
  • Shit
  • Teen
  • Pitch
  • Leap
  • Knit
  • Keep
  • Ill
  • Grid
  • Peel
  • Skid
  • Scheme


Exercise 2


  • Hid
  • Mess
  • Hem
  • Led
  • Fin
  • Led
  • Din
  • Pig


Exercise 3


  • Fail
  • Pen
  • Hell
  • Sail/sale
  • Whale
  • Met
  • Read/red
  • Debt
  • Main
  • Stead


Exercise 4


  • Bat
  • Much
  • Mud
  • Flash
  • Come
  • Dam
  • Sung
  • Ankle
  • Crush
  • Suck
  • Damp
  • Tag


Exercise 5


  • Merry
  • Bland
  • Kettle
  • Vet
  • Sex
  • Track
  • Tread
  • Mat


Exercise 6


  • Fir/fur
  • Hard
  • Purse
  • Firm
  • Shirk
  • Cart


Exercise 7


  • Ban
  • Vote
  • Best
  • Bowels
  • Bent
  • Very
  • Lobes
  • Verb


Exercise 8


  • Very
  • Leave
  • Fast
  • Vine
  • Halve
  • Prove
  • Fail
  • Grieve
  • Carve
  • Vault
  • File
  • Strife


Exercise 9


  • Bad
  • Got
  • Ride
  • Ant
  • add
  • Bet
  • Bought
  • Aid
  • Bed
  • feed
  • Hid
  • Heard
  • Mad
  • Meant
  • need
  • Not
  • Said
  • Plate
  • Sad
  • Debt


Exercise 10


  • Tag
  • Flock
  • Tuck
  • Come
  • Cash
  • Jag
  • Gave
  • Sack
  • League
  • Grab
  • Glass
  • Could
  • Coat
  • Block
  • Gill
  • Duck
  • Cut
  • Lock
  • Rag
  • got




  • bee, be
  • see, sea
  • aye, eye
  • pee, pea
  • tea, tee
  • ewe, you




  1. b
  2. s
  • c
  1. t
  2. c
  3. b
  • s
  • h
  1. d
  2. d
  3. n
  • t
  • t
  • h
  1. t
  • t
  • t
  • b
  • t
  1. e
  • p
  • x
  • m
  • b
  • z
  • ue
  • e
  • th
  • th
  • s




Exercise 1

  • Bamburi cement was used to cement the bridge.
  • After leaving us his address, he will address those students over there.
  • He had to permit us to do business since we had a business permit.
  • The content of the letter will content the man.


  • Sert, de
  • es, cort
  • re, sume
  • test, con
  • vict, con


Exercise 2

  • I – no one else loves your sister’s handwriting.
  • Love – I don’t hate your sister’s handwriting
  • Your – Not any other person’s sister
  • Sister’s – not your brother’s or your uncle’s
  • Handwriting – It I only your sister’s handwriting I love, not her walking style or her cooking.
  • You – all the others came early
  • Came – you did not leave late
  • Late – Not early
  • Yesterday – the rest of the days you came early


  • Falling
  • Falling
  • Falling
  • Falling
  • Rising
  • Rising
  • Rising
  • Falling
  • Falling
  • Rising
  • Falling
  • Falling
  • Rising
  • Falling
  • Rising
  • Falling
  • Falling
  • Falling




  • Interest has multiple meanings. Interest is the state of wanting to do something. It is also amount paid at a particular rate for money borrowed from the bank.
  • There is a twist on the word ‘tired’ which is originally supposed to be spelt ‘tyred.’
  • Up to something means doing something wrong. It also means the stairs could be leading him to another floor.
  • The word ‘Santa’s’ has been twisted. It is supposed to be spelt ‘sentence’.
  • Charged means passing electric current. It also means being formally accused in the court.


Exercise 1

  • Alliteration: cough, carries, coffin, carry
  • Consonance: cough, off, coffin, off
  • Repetition: off
  • Alliteration: witches, were, watching, watches, which, witch, would, watch, which, watch
  • Consonance: witches, watching, watches, which, witch, watch, which, watch
  • Repetition: watch, which, two
  • Alliteration: black, bug, bleeds, black, blood, blue, bug, bleed
  • Consonance: bleeds, blood, bleed
  • Repetition: black, blood, bug repeated
  • Sibilance: wish, wash, Irish …. Or consonance
  • Alliteration: wish, wash, watch

Exercise 2

  • It is a tongue twister.
  • The sound /s/ and /ᶴ/



  • Challenge – I have a riddle!
  • Acceptance – Throw it.
  • Pose/ Riddle – What comes down but never goes up?
  • Guesses – wind, bird
  • Prize – Fire
  • Solution – rain


Exercise 1

  • Violently
  • Day
  • shaking
  • terror
  • Forget

Exercise 2




  • Black Breweries braveness /b/
  • Tracers ticking Time /t/
  • Black braveness baselessly /b/
  • Mirror, my emotion moves momentarily /m/
  • And others


  • In ink incorporative individualism
  • Directed diagonal


  • Little, black, baselessly /l/
  • Black believes /l/
  • Determined, destinies /t/



I could have:

  • Spoken confidently
  • Varied my tone appropriately
  • Spoken loud enough to be heard by everyone
  • Made my contact with my audience
  • Provided proofs for my points in persuasive way.
  • Spoken slowly and enunciated words correctly
  • Used gestures that reinforced my ideas
  • Paused at key points


Exercise 1

  • Questions
  • How would you handle cases of indiscipline among the students?
  • Will you appoint prefects in charge of discipline?
  • What punishment will you mete out on those who are indiscipline? Etc.
  • I would;
  • Inform him about the interview.
  • Arrive early for the interview.
  • Prepare the place to interview him..
  • I would;
  • Allow him enough time to respond to the questions.
  • encourage him to speak by slightly nodding my head.
  • Make eye contact with him.

Exercise 2

  • Ms Naomi is a good interviewer because;
  • She warmly welcomes Mr. Josh, hence making him feel free to speak.
  • She also offers to take Mr. Josh along with her for lunch.
  • Josh:
  • Explains her answers well.
  • Is honest. When asked whether he has written in any scientific journal he says not yet.



Exercise 1

  • I would;
  • Do some research on the topic.
  • Practice adequately.
  • Write down my points.
  • Dress and groom well.
  • I would;
  • Effectively use gestures to reinforce my ideas.
  • Make eye contact with my audience.
  • Wear appropriate facial expressions.
  • Speak loud enough to be heard by all.
  • Pronounce my words correctly.
  • Pause at key points to let the information sink.
  • Speak slowly to allow my points be processed.

Exercise 2

  • Makufuli could have:
  • Had shaking hands
  • Sweating palms
  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Squeaky voice
  • Knocking knees, etc
  • Makufuli probably:
  • Could have dressed uncomfortably.
  • Could have failed to research on the topic.
  • Could have failed the first time and could have feared to fail again.
  • Could not have rehearsed his speech.


  • Choose group leaders.
  • Do research on the topic to get facts.
  • Write the points.
  • Arrive early for the discussion.
  • Gather writing materials to use.
  • Ensure each point given is backed up.
  • Ensure members speak with moderation.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Take notes on what is discussed.
  • Ensure members listen to each other.


  • Prepare the photo to show the police.
  • Ask the neighbours questions to get more facts.
  • Practice how to report.
  • I would:
  • Vary my tone appropriately.
  • Make eye contact with the officer.
  • Use gestures effectively.
  • Pause at key points.
  • Speak loud enough enough.
  • Speak slowly.


Exercise 1

  • Failed to use ‘thank you’ after being given the bar of soap.
  • Failed to use ‘please’ when asking to be given the bar of soap.
  • Failed to use ‘excuse me’ to get the shopkeeper’s attention.

Exercise 2

  • She has used ‘please’ when asking John to fill the address.
  • She has used ‘would’ in asking questions.


Exercise 1

  • The patterns include;
  • Answering of the phone – Hello, …
  • Request — May I speak to the principal, please?
  • The caller is told the principal is not in the office at the moment.
  • Pauline is asked to leave a message.
  • Pauline leaves the message for the principal.
  • The call finishes with pleasantry – have a nice day.
  • Evidences:
  • She introduces herself to the secretary.
  • She ends the call with pleasantry.
  • She speaks politely to the secretary.

Exercise 2

  • I would:
  • Ensure I have adequate airtime.
  • Go to a quiet place.
  • Jot down what to tell the doctor.
  • Ensure the place to make the call has network.
  • I would avoid:
  • Talking too loudly
  • Engaging in an argument with the doctor.
  • Interrupting the doctor.
  • Being distracted by other activities.

Exercise 3

Joan could have failed to:

  • Identify herself at the beginning of the call.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Speak with a low tone of voice.
  • End the call with a pleasantry.


  • Credex is a school. There is the use of words such as ‘pieces of chalk’, and the ‘deputy principal’.
  • The two are friends .
  • At first it is formal. But when the receptionist realizes it is Dorothy calling it becomes informal.


Is this the credex?


How is the going?

Lunch today?



  • Know the prices elsewhere
  • Whether I can get discount
  • Whether the purchase of the car comes with any offer
  • Whether the car is in high demand
  • Whether the car is readily available. Etc.
  • I would:
  • Make polite but firm requests.
  • Ask questions and summarise to avoid confusions.
  • Respond to negative comments from the seller.
  • Give alternatives.
  • Show appreciation of the seller’s viewpoint.
  • Listen attentively to the seller.
  • Ensure we arrive at a clear agreement acceptable to both of us.


  • I would:
  • Read the set book to remind myself of the themes.
  • Ensure I sit where I would be comfortable.
  • Prepare questions to ask him.
  • I would:
  • Take down the main points.
  • Make eye contact with the author.
  • Hold back until the speaker pauses before I interrupt.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue speaking by using some responses.
  • Avoid interruptions.


He could have failed to:

  • Speak in a low voice during the talk.
  • Maintain the physical distance between the two of us at the table.
  • Resist leaning on my shoulder or chest.
  • Resist eavesdropping on my phone conversation.


I would avoid:

  • Dirty unarranged hair
  • Dirty fingernails
  • Foul breath teeth
  • Unbathed body
  • Excess make up
  • Excess perfumes or colognes


  • Switch off the lights in his room
  • Call his name
  • Bang the table beside him
  • Clap my hands
  • Use simple language
  • Give one instruction at a time
  • Be loud enough
  • Repeat the instruction.
  • Ask him if he has any question
  • Ask him repeat instructions back to me.
  • Make eye contact.


  • Giving the distance in metres.
  • Telling her time in minutes.
  • Telling her the number of streets to pass.
  • I would give her the route with minimal turns.
  • I would indicate the turns.
  • Mention the landmarks.
  • Warn her about any confusing part of the route.
  • Have her repeat directions back to me.
  • Draw a simplified map.




































Francis David Imbuga (1947- November 2013) was a literary giant. For three  decades,  he  taught  at  Kenyatta  University  where  he  was  the  Directo

r  of  Quality Assurance, Chairman of the Department of Literature and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Francis Imbuga studied at Alliance High School in the 1960’s where he wrote and acted a play, which won the National Beat Actor’s Award.

Professor Imbuga published several plays including Betrayal in the City 1976, The Successor 1979,  Man  of  Kafira  1984,  Aminata  1988,  and  The  Return  of  Mgofu  2011.  He has also authored two novels, Shrine of Tears, 1993 and Miracle of Remera 2005.

In  his  works,  he  addresses  the  problems  of  independent  and  post  colonial  African  states, family relations, tradition, religion, change among other issues affecting our society today.

Imbuga passed on in the year 2013.


The title, Betrayal in the City, fits the events of the play as this is what the people of Kafira have to live with daily.

Betrayal  in  the  City  reflects the  political, cultural  and  personal  betrayal  witnessed  in  the fictitious state of  Kafira.  Boss,  the  head  of  state,  works  alongside  other  strong  cronies  and sycophants  like  Mulili, Tumbo, Kabito, and  Nicodemo to  let  down  their  citizens  through: abuse of power, negligence of duty, senseless killings, and inefficiency, to create a nation of hopelessness, corruption  and  disregard  to  the  local  citizens  hence  betrayal  in  the  nation  of


The  government  is  run  by  scandalous  and  corrupt  leaders  and  under  whose  leadership  the hopes of independence for the people of Kafira are dashed.

Betrayal in the City is characterized by all sorts of ills in society, namely: murder, misrule, tribalism, Nepotism, corruption, highhanded-ness, inefficiency, incompetence and a general atmosphere of rebellion and defiance.

As  the  title  suggests,  betrayal  breeds  suspicion  and  intolerance  and  this  creates  a  highly unstable environment for decent and safe living. One cannot safely determine who to trust with information hence the general feeling of betrayal among the people.



Betrayal in the City was first published in 1976 at a time when African states had attained their independence and were undergoing serious problems in adjusting to self-rule.

The play is set in the fictional country of Kafira, ruled by Boss, who surrounds himself with kinsmen   like  Mulili  and  the  sharing-the-pie  government  officials,  Tumbo,  Kabito  and Nicodemo.

Betrayal  in  the  city  is  a  perfect  example  of  many  failed  states  in  the  third  world,  and especially in Africa.


Betrayal in the City is a political play. The writer examines the problems of independence and freedom in post-colonial states in Africa. The play talks about military regimes that were common in the African continent after independence.  Many of such regimes were later overthrown by coup de tats. Francis Imbuga’s major concern is betrayal at two levels: at a personal and government level.  Betrayal  in  the  City  shows  a  decay  in  morals and greed  for power. Doga and Nina lament as they mourn their dead son, Adika and wish to perform a ritual for their dead son. This effort is hampered by express directi-ons from the government brought by Mulili and Jere claiming that the ritual should not go on in the interest of peace; but Doga and Nina are adamant. Their only remaining son, Jusper, is imprisoned. This shows

us  what  is  happening  in  Kafira  –  the  corruption,  injustice  and  oppression  of  the  people.

Critics of the government are not tolerated. Jere and Mosese are henceforth put into prison over false charges.  They both  suffer  the  pain  of  the  government’s  betrayal.

Government  officials  make  use  of  any  opportunity  to  make  money  through  unfair  means.

Tumbo for instance declares Jusper the winner of the play writing competition and awards him the winner’s prize money. One third of the six hundred pounds to finance the play-writing  competition  is  given  to  Jusper  and  his  girlfriend,  Regina;  and  the  remaining  two thirds to put records straight emphasizing that everything is being done in strict  confidence.

Despite  all  this,  Jusper  vows  to  revenge  someday  even  if  it  means  going  it  alone  since  he knows that a University student is not a very welcome person in Kafira and is looked at as a nuisance.

Government  officials  first  think  of  what  they  are  going  to  benefit  before  deliberating  on  matters  of  state.  What  first  preoccupies  their  mind  is  how  much  they  are  going  to  gain.

Being  a  relative  to  Boss  gives  Mulili  a  chance  to  despise  his  colleagues  in  service.  Mulili falsely accuses Kabito knowing that Boss will believe what he says since he has been made to be his eyes and ears on the ground as he puts it. He is also favoured by Boss in many ways.

The semi-literate Mulili sometimes completely misunderstands  and distorts    what is said to him  and  yet  threatens  to  act  basing  on  the  strength  of  that  misunderstanding.

Boss’ trust of those who advise him especially Mulili makes him give unbearable directives to  silence  those  presumably  against  his  government  including  the  simple  old  couple  who were innocent. Boss also tries to take advantage of Regina forcefully. Such scandals speak unfavorably of the Head of State. Nicodemo and Tumbo discuss the state of affairs and how people are being killed: “We have no choice. Like caged animals, we move, but only inside the cage. It has become infectious-the desire to eliminate others…” This  clearly  implies that there  are  serious  consequences  of  criticizing  the  government’s  plans.

The play within the play, Betrayal in the City, brings about the desired change that everybody has been waiting for.  The  rehearsal  for  the  play  intended  to  entertain  the  visiting  Head  of state becomes a real confrontation arrived at effortlessly by Jusper, Mosese, and Jere; taking everyone by surprise.




The scene is at Adika’s grave, which is surrounded by dry thorny branches.

It is early morning. Doga and Nina are next to the grave of their late son, Adika who was murdered.  Doga suspects that their son’s murderer still lives among them.  His suspicion arises from the smell of petrol at the site and the fact that the grave has a crack, an indication

that  the  murderer’s  intention  was  to  burn  Adika’s  body  to  rid  himself  of  Adika’s  ghost haunting him in future. Their only living son, Jusper, was to guard the grave but this morning he cannot be traced. Nina is fearful for her son, who, according to them is not of sound mind.

Her fears are heightened when she is made to notice that there seems to have been a struggle at the grave. Doga wants to cover up the crack on the grave so that the shaving ceremony planned to take place later in the day goes on but Nina will hear none of this. After much persuasion from the husband, she gives in and goes for soil to cover up the crack.

From  Doga’s  speech,  we  hear  that  Adika  was  shot  four  times  during  a  demonstration  by Kafira University students who were protesting that most of the Kafira university lectures are expatriates. During Adika’s burial, his brother, Jusper, was taken away by govern-ment agents for being a ‘threat’ to peace-loving people and after retu-rning three months later, he is never the same.

Jusper enters, dressed in a red gown. He is obviously disturbed by his brother’s death. He is seen addressing his dead brother. Nina comes back with soil and finds Jusper at the grave.

Doga  is  hiding  behind  the  bush.  She  tells  Jusper  to  go  and  remove  the  red  gown  as  the shaving ceremony was about to start. Jusper tells his mother that he cannot put on a clean shirt after the murder and proceeds to show his parents the crack (river) where he threw  the person  he  murdered  but  all  this  time,  they  think  he  is  mad.  Nina even, innocently and ignorantly, tells him to go and confess the act! Jusper has killed Chagaga, the person who is suspected to have killed Adika, and thrown his body in the river but Doga and Nina think he is mad.

The  couple’s  prayerful  mood  is  interrupted  by  Jere  and  Mulili  who  inform  them  that  the ceremony has been cancelled to their utter disappointment. They also inform the couple that Jusper  has  killed Chagaga  and  confessed  the  crime.  The two order  the  couple  to  leave  the grave as it no longer belongs to them. Jere tries to persuade Mulili to allow Doga and Nina to conduct the ceremony but Mulili will hear none of this despite the fact that Jere had helped hide Mulili’s secret when he  allowed Mustafa an inmate to escape. Mulili is boss’s (head of

state) cousin and since he has been promised a reward for being loyal to Boss, he does not wish to disappoint boss. Mulili even threatens Jere that should he allow the ceremony to take place,  he  (Mulili)  will  not  keep  quiet.  Before  they  leave  the  stage,  they  are  involved  in  a violent confrontation where Jere shoots at Mulili who dives off stage.





  1. Where is this scene set?
  2. What are the two characters Doga and Nina doing at the grave and whose grave is it.
  3. What is so strange about the grave’s condition that morning?
  4. Where was Jusper when the grave was being meddled with?
  5. What are we told about Jusper’s condition and why is it so?
  6. Who killed Adika and what is his relationship with the sub chief?
  7. What led to the death of Adika and how was he killed?
  8. According to  Jusper  what  is  the  difference  between  the  sun  Jupiter  and  Jusper  and what does it represent
  9. Jusper tells Nina that he is going to address the rally, which rally is he talking about and what does he want to tell them.
  10. Why does Mulili and Jere come to the grave side and what is their mission?
  11. Mulili speaks poor / non-standard English , what does this tell us about him.
  12. What does Mulili and Jere reveal to Doga and Nina about Jusper
  13. Why does Jere support the old couple’s continuing with the ceremony?
  14. Mulili had allowed Mustafa to escape, what does this tell us about justice in Kafira.
  15. Identify at least two character traits of Mulili, Doga, Nina, Jere and Jusper f rom this scene.
  16. Identify the  aspects  of  style  used  in  this  scene:  identify  the  proverbs,  instances  of irony, use of cross purpose, monologue, and puns among others.
  17. What are some of the themes brought out in this scene?
  18. Identify the instances of Betrayal brought out in this scene



Jere is pushed by an askari into a cell where he finds Mosese. Askari is fed up with Jere’s inquisitive  nature.  He  tells  him  that  he  is  mad  and  that  his  inquisitive  nature  will  not  be

entertained  in  prison  and  that  it  would  make  his  life  unbearable  in  prison.  Jere  is  later informed that all inmates have to go through rehabilitation in order to be re-integrated in the society.  He  does  not  have  any  mental  illness  that  would  make  him  need  any  rehabilitation therefore  he  sarcastically  tells  askari  that  he  is  truly  grateful  and  that  he  didn’t  know  they took such pains. It is apparent that Mosese has decided to remain silent because silence can as well be a weapon but should he be so, the prisons authorities will demand an explanation as to what is he keeping quiet about. It is not surprising that the prison authorities do not entertain prisoners asking questions.

Askari informs Mosese that Jusper has been released from jail but has nothing to  go back to since  his  parents  were  found  dead  in  their  hut.  When Jere and Mosese are left  alone,  Jere informs Mosese of the events of the previous night where he and his cellmate decided to play Pilate and Jesus. According to Jere, Pilate had humiliated Jesus by stripping him and caning him  on  the  buttocks. Jere’s  co-actor  cried  out  after  receiving  the  canes,  alerting  the  prison authorities who moved Jere to the cell where Mosese was after stripping him and caning him.

The two cellmates (Jere and Mosese) take time to know each other.

Mosese tells Jere how he ended up in prison. He had attended Adika’s funeral where he saw firsthand  the  oppression  by  the  political  elite.  He  couldn’t  keep  quiet,  so  after  telling  the politicians  his  mind,  he  was  arrested  and  charged  with  trumped  up  charges  of  possessing drugs. He changes his name because the person who implicated him with the drugs shared a name  with  him.  We  learn  of  the  regime’s  way  of  silencing  dissenting  voices,  through  the experiences of inmates.

Mosese has been informed by askari to cooperate in the performance of a play organized for a visiting head of state and in return he might be among the six hundred prisoners who are to be released. He doesn’t want to do this as acting in the play means kneeling in front of boss and pleading for mercy yet he is not guilty. Prisoners are also denied foodand only the ones who show signs of cooperating with prison authorities are allowed privileges. This is evident when askari brings a mug of tea.

The citizens of Kafira had been waiting for the ‘kingdom’ for years and at last they were told it had come. According to Mosese, it was an illusion. He wonders how many people had seen the kingdom and what colour it is. Mosese is disillusioned. He says they have killed their past and were busy killing the future. He laments about the oppressive nature of boss’ regime. For instance, soldiers had beaten up Regina and had forced her to give false evidence against her brother,  Mosese.  Mosese  violently  wriggles  and  as  if  in  a  trance  rises  and  addresses  the imaginary audience. His words portray his confused state of mind. On one hand he is faced with the choice of participating in the play, a sacrificial act that will lead to the release of 600 prisoners or on the other hand hold on to his principles and reject the request to participate in the play.



  1. Where do the events of this scene take place?
  2. Why do you think Jere has been brought into the cell?
  3. How would you describe the treatment by the askari on Jere?
  4. Jere says that “the outside of this cell may well be the inside of another” what does this tell about the situation in Kafira
  5. Link Pilate’s situation to Jere like he puts it on page 23
  6. Why does Mosese keep staring at the wall even when Jere and the askari are talking?
  7. Give the reasons why Mosese is in prison
  8. Mosese says  words  have  lost  meaning  to  him  and  asks  for  the  meaning  of Africanisation what does this tell about the people’s situation in the country
  9. To what level has the askari learnt and why is he doing such a job
  10. Why is Jusper being released and hat has just happened to his parents?
  11. Why did Jere carry a bible to the cells and how does it bring him trouble
  12. Apart from being a police officer, which are the other two professions that Jere was in before?
  13. Which is item number three in the development plan and what is ironical about it?
  14. Mosese says he saw betrayal in Regina’s eyes, why is this so?
  15. Why is the foreign dignitary visiting and why are the prisoners supposed to perform a play for him?
  16. The askari talks of selective breeding and says you need a tall relative to get anything in the country what does this tell about Kafira
  17. Mosese says” it was better while we waited. Now we have nothing to look forward to…” what were they waiting for that they don’t have and why has he lost hope?
  18. Mosese sleeps and talks and in his dream. What does this tell about him  and  what message do we get from his conversation with an imaginary person.
  19. Jere says, “when the madness of an  entire nation enters a solitary mind then  it’s not enough to say that person is mad” what does Jere mean by this.
  20. Identify the character traits of; Jere, Askari and Mosese in this scene.
  21. Identify the themes brought out in this scene.
  22. Identify and illustrate the stylistic devices used in this scene.
  23. Identify the elements of betrayal in this scene.


Jusper  stealthily  enters  Regina’s  room  without  her  notice  and  scares  her.  He is in his red academic gown and this heightens Regina’s anger at him. She requests him to rest but he says he can’t rest because the death of his whole family is in his mind. Apart from Adika, Nina and  Doga  were  murdered  in  exchange  for  Jusper’s  release.  He says that he will  get  his revenge someday. Jusper was among the university students who protested on the streets and

as they did this, people shouted abusive words at them in addition to telling that they were wasting time with the protests, it is also apparent that the government will not allow Adika’s photograph to be printed in the newspapers.

Regina would be happy if Jusper was to keep off from trouble with the authorities. She tells him that she has only him and Mosese left in the world and if anything went wrong, they would all be wiped out. Jusper insists that they have to talk of the masses that have no voices.

Regina tells Jusper of the scheduled visits to Kafira by a certain head of state. If this is to happen,  then,  there  will  be  three  days  holiday  for  all  in  addition  to  the  prisoners  being released to mark the occasion. She has a letter from Tumbo, who is boss’ right-hand man. In it, boss has promised to facilitate the release of  Mosese. This does not  go down well with Jusper who can read mischief in the act but who nevertheless promises to beat him at his own game.

Tumbo, a fat, overconfident man, enters the house. He notices through Jusper’s dressing that he  is  among  the  university  students  who  were  being  known  for  rioting.  Tumbo  is  already familiar with Jusper’s name which was signed against a student’s prayer that was all about asking God to help them drop their  Christian names. Tumbo warns him that if the prayer by any chances suggested changing names,  Jusper  would  be  behind  bars.  Jusper sarcastically wonders why this would be the case yet since change of names was item number three in the new development plan.  Furthermore, boss himself has  substituted  his  Christian  name  to something that no one could pronounce. Tumbo defends boss by saying that a leader requires

a mysterious name that the common tongues will bleed trying to pronounce. This is pointer to Tumbo’s sycophantic nature.

Tumbo  revisits  the  issue  of  the  visit  by  a  certain  head  of  state  to  Kafira.  He learns from Regina that Jusper writes plays and since they require a one-act play for the entertainment, he concludes that Jusper can write one for the occasion. Tumbo says that he would have written one himself, but being a socialist, he thought of extending the opportunity to others to show them light, to ‘eat and let eat’: from their talk, we learn that boss is a fearful and insecure man who has let advisers rule Kafira while pretending to be tough, he is hated by his own guards who will not talk about it.  The  worst  of  his  advisers  is  his  cousin  Mulili  who  has  been rewarded with a large farm for his “services to the nation” Boss is said to be of short temper

and has a weakness for women.

When Jusper is back from buying drinks, the three talked about the idea of writing a play for the  entertainment  of  the  visiting  head  of  state,  Tumbo  would  be  glad  if  Jusper  wrote  the intended play that would highlight the achievements the country has made. Money has been set aside for a play-writing competition, now that he knows what play ought to be organized.

He  declares  Jusper  the  winner  of  that  competition  and  informs  him  that  he  and  his  sister would  be  given  a  third  of  the  money  that  was  to  finance  the  competition  and  that  Jusper would be given his prize money once the results of the competition are made public. Jusper is to  write  the  play  and  ensure  that  the  words  ‘progress  and  ‘achievements’  appear  on  every other page.

After  Tumbo  and  Regina  leave,  Jusper  reminds  the  audience  what  he  holds,  ‘the  fruits  of independence. We get them second hand.’



  1. Where is this scene set?
  2. Why does Jusper imitate the ricocheting of guns as he enters?
  3. Why is Regina uneasy about Jusper’s dressing in the red gown?
  4. What does the red gown symbolise?
  5. For what does Jusper criticize Regina and even the beggars in the streets?
  6. For what does Jusper criticize the media?
  7. According to Jusper why was Adika killed and why is Mosese and Jere in prison.
  8. Why is Regina critical about people voicing their concerns against the government?
  9. What do we deduce/learn from Jusper and Regina’s conversation about the intended visit by the foreign head of state?
  10. Why does Jusper pretend to be Regina’s cousin when Tumbo calls in?
  11. Jusper asks Regina “are you sure this is not a trick-some sort of a trap?” why is Jusper critical about Tumbo’s helping her and what do you think the trap is?
  12. What’s wrong with Christian names and why does Jusper criticize them?
  13. Why does Tumbo call the university students red guards?
  14. Jusper is said to have written an interesting prayer, what was it about?
  15. Tumbo says  a  leader  should  have  a  mysterious  name  that  the  common  people  will bleed trying to pronounce. What does this tell about the kind of leaders in Kafira.
  16. When asked about his university days Tumbo mumbles, rumbles and stutters almost confusing himself, what do we deduce from this behaviour.
  17. Tumbo says that education doesn’t matter and that there are opportunities only that they do not come on a silver platter. What does this reveal about Kafira?
  18. Regina reveals to Tumbo that Jusper can write plays; why is Tumbo happy about this? He says that there is a good potato in it. What does this mean?
  19. How much money has been allocated for the play and how much will Jusper remain with. What happens to the remaining amount?
  20. What aspects does Tumbo insist that should be covered in the play?
  21. Why does Tumbo want Regina to visit Boss and what is the visit about?
  22. Why have many publishers rejected Jusper’s works? What does this say about them?
  23. How does Tumbo plan to cover up not having conducted a play writing competition?
  24. Identify the main themes brought out in this scene.
  25. Identify the aspects of style in this scene?
  26. What do we learn about the character traits of Jusper, Regina and Tumbo from this scene.
  27. Identify the elements of betrayal in this scene.



The scene begins with two members of a committee formed to plan for the entertainment of a visiting  head  of  state   are  conversing.  In  their  conversation,  one  of  them,  Kabito  is  bitter because he has lost a tender despite having spent a whole night ‘being nice’ to people in order to get it. They feel that Mulili does not qualify to be in the committee but they can’t raise the issue  with  Boss,  as  Mulili  is  his  cousin.  Nicodemo  is  also  uncomfortable  sitting  with  the prisoners on the dais during the visit by the head of state. He is particularly uncomfortable with Mosese’s release since he is the one that had planted an illegal drug on him that led to his arrest and incarceration! Tumbo joins the pair and reminds them of the need to please the visitor as it is through that that the voice of their negotiator will continue to be heard. They are not comfortable starting any formalities until they are told the size of the potato they will get. On being told that the potato will be determined by the number of days they work, they suggest ways to ensure that they have a maximum number of days; meeting every day until the visitor arrives and meeting after the visit for the purpose of review.

Mulili comes to the meeting later and apologizes for being late. He says that he has gone to make a follow-up on his tender which had been cancelled and after boss made threats to the university which had given the tender, Mulili gets the tender back. The committee members make recommendations on what should be included in the program, one of them being that school children as well as all adults’ line up the road to welcome the visitor. This is despite the fact that it is third term and most of the children are sitting for their exams. They even recommend  that  the  day  be  made  a  holiday  to  ensure  their  recommendations  are implemented. Tumbo disagrees with the suggestion that the head of stat e visits upcountry to see the projects he supported. Kabito and Mulili disagree on the issue of forcing the drama department of the university to act in the play. Mulili accuses Kabito of calling him primary kid  and  when  Kabito  refuses  to  apologize,  Tumbo  recommends  a  one  hour  break  for  the members to let off steam. Nicodemo had suggested a three hours break! As the scene ends, Mulili swears at Kabito and issues a chilling threat to him.



  1. Kabito is the first to arrive and sleeps in one of the chairs , what does this symbolize?
  2. Where does this scene take place?
  3. Why is kabito asleep and why is he in foul mood?
  4. Why was Mulili given the tender?
  5. Why is Nicodemo against the use of prisoners to entertain the guests?
  6. Why is mulili part of this committee?
  7. According to Tumbo what is the role of the committee?
  8. From the set up of the committee explain the theme of cronyism.
  9. From the discussion on their payment, what do we learn about the members of this committee?
  10. Mulili says he used Boss to get the tender at the university, what does this tell about leadership in Kafira?
  11. Why are  the  university  students  not  willing  to  participate  in  the  entertainment program?
  12. What brings about the conflict between Mulili and Kabito?
  13. Why does the committee go for a break and for how long is the break?
  14. Identify the aspects of style evident in this scene.
  15. Identify the themes in this scene.
  16. Identify and  illustrate  the  character  traits  of  Tumbo,  Nico-demo,  Mulili  and  Kabito from this scene.
  17. Identify the elements of betrayal from this scene.


During the one hour break, Mulili rushes to Boss to inform him about Kabito’s ‘ill deeds.’ He finds boss pulling grey strands of hair from his head. He maligns Kabito to boss by telling him that Kabito is a green snake in  the grass, has coloured boss’ name in blood in front of the committee, came to the meeting drunk, was shouting to everybody that Boss has denied him the milk tender, says that Boss has ruined Kafira’s economy by hiding millions in a foreign country and that Boss had tried to get Regina by force. This irks Boss who accuses Kabito of sowing  seeds  of  discord  among  the  people.  He  orders  Mulili  to  do  what  must  be  done;  to silence Kabito. Mulili is only too glad to do it. In fact, he tells him it is a small matte r having silenced the old couple (Nina and Doga)



  1. Where is this scene set?
  2. Why does Boss boast about his grey hair?
  3. Why has Mulili come to see Boss?
  4. What five allegations does Mulili present against Kabito?
  5. From Mulili’s allegation, what ills on leadership do we learn about Boss?
  6. Who is Mercedes and what makes her rude to Boss?
  7. What does Boss decide shoud be done against Kabito?
  8. Mulili says “that be small. You remember that old couple…?” what did Mulili do to the old couple, on whose instructions and for what reason?
  9. Identify the themes evident in this scene.
  10. Identify the aspects of style evident in this scene.
  11. What are the character traits of Mulili and Kabito from this scene?
  12. Identify the elements of betrayal in this scene.


News about boss’ attempt to rape Regina has reached Jusper who now feels he can’t go on with the play as he had earlier on promised Tumbo. The latter warns Jusper that this would be deemed  as  sabotage,  hence  would  be  too  dangerous.  He  is  warned  that  if  he  makes  any mistake, he could end his university studies even after he has already lost one year. Jusper leaves  but  he  doesn’t  promise  boss  that  he  is  going  to  hide  the  truth.  When  Tumbo  and Nicodemo  meet  to  continue  with  the  meeting  after  the  ‘break’  they  are  aware  of  Kabito’s murder but they dare not say anything. Tumbo says they are aware of Kabito’s murder but they  dare  not  say  anything.  Tumbo  says  they  are  like  caged  animals  who  move  but  only inside the cage. They pretend not to know anything about the death when Mulili enters. He pretends to be shocked and saddened by Kabito’s death which he says was as result of Kabito being under the influence of alcohol.

Nicodemo wonders how one can get drunk in the space of one hour and Mulili foolishly says that people said that his breath smelled of spirits. When presses further  by Nicodemo who wonders about the mention of breath yet Kabito was dead, Mulili retorts that he didn’t say breath but his body smelled whiskies. He goes ahead to say that boss wept when he heard of the death and has already declared one road to be called Kabito road. Nicodemo suggests that they should call off the meeting and wonders whether the day would be counted. Despite the

solemnness  of  the  occasion,  the  members  of  the  committee  seem  to  be  more  pre-occupied with  concerns  of  seeking  avenues  of  making  money.  This  is  a  pointer  to  their  greed  and materialistic nature.



  1. Where is this scene set?
  2. What had  happened  to  Regina,  why  was  it  necessary  for  Regina  to  meet  Boss  and what transpired after that?
  3. Why is Boss’s wife locked up after the incident?
  4. Why does Jusper want to pull out of the programme?
  5. What does Jusper stand to lose if he withdraws from the directing of the play?
  6. Why does Tumbo caution Jusper against standing for truth and justice?
  7. What has happened to Kabito during the break?
  8. What is the cause of Kabito’s death according to Mulili?
  9. What do you  gather  from Mulili’s incoherent and apparent  confused  explanation of Kabito’s death?
  10. Explain Tumbo’s assertion  that  “like  caged  animals  ,  we  move,but  only  inside  the cage”
  11. Why is the meeting called off?
  12. How do the other committee members express their respet for the dead Kabito?
  13. Nicodemo asks whether they will be paid for that day, what does that tellus about his character?
  14. Identify the themes evident in this scene.
  15. Identify the aspects of style used in this scene.
  16. Identify the character traits of Jusper, Tumbo, Mulili and Nicodemo from this scene.
  17. Identify the elements of betrayal from this scene.



The stage is set for the final rehearsal of the play meant to entertain the visiting head of state.

Tumbo wants everything to go on well as he fears to disappoint boss who is already in a foul mood. Boss, has, as a result of his bad temper, locked up his wife in the palace cell. Jusper informs Tumbo that all will go on well and that Mosese was cooperative during the previous night’s rehearsal. Jusper says that he is in the play because he realized that the problems of kafira  cannot  be  solved  by  isolation.  According to him, if the  play  succeeds,  he  will  have demonstrated that determination is greater in worth than numbers. Tumbo would prefer that boss  doesn’t  know  that  the  play  is  written  by  Jusper  who  hopes  that  the  release  of  a  few prisoners, after the success of the play, will change Kafira. Jusper is able to see the hypocrisy of the ruling elite. The release of a few prisoners is meant to improve the image of Kafira to the eyes of the world. This according to him is only the truth.

Boss joins them in the preparation of the rehearsal and Jusper tells him the play is about an army cadet who is promoted to the rank of captain within six months of enrolment. During the  pass-out  parade  he  shoots  his  colleague  accidentally  because  he  doesn’t  know  how  to handle a gun. It is later realised that he is not a relative of the army commander as it had been thought.

As the rehearsal starts, Boss volunteers to read the part of the chief of staff since the prisoner who  had  been  allocated  the  role  could  not  be  present  as  he  had  stomach  troubles.  He  also orders askari to untie the hands of Jere and Mosese so that they can join the rehearsal, Mosese (the junior soldier) argues with Jere (the captain) over which gun is shorter than the other; a. 32 or a 28.  They go to their chief of staff (boss) to help unravel the mystery. He tells them to each take a gun and show it to him. The guns are now in the hands of Jere and Mosese! Their plan has succeeded. On realizing that he has been tricked, boss shouts to the guards but Jere tells him he has no guards. Jusper thinks that boss is dead and is about to go and design a coffin but is stopped by Mosese who tell boss to see what he had done to Jusper. Because of fear, Mulili betrays boss. He says that boss ought to be killed because he has taken everything in  his  hands,  has  spoiled  Kafira’s  economy,  and  has  ruled  for  too  long  and  killed  Kabito.

Boss cannot stand the betrayal so he tells Jere to shoot him.

Jere tells boss that their interest is not to see human blood but to provide a mirror for Kafira to reflect the real faces of Kafira’s front men. He says that they must also learn to sacrifice themselves for a better future. Mosese says that their achievement is largely because of the inefficiency of Tumbo. Jere gives boss the gun that he can shoot him (Jere) but boss declines.

Jusper then takes the gun and shoots Mulili dead. He says that he did it for Kafira. Before the play  ends,  the  ghosts  of  Doga  and  Nina  enter  the  stage.  Mulili’s  death  seems  to  have appeased Doga and Nina.



  1. Where is this scene set?
  2. Why is Boss’s wife locked up?
  3. What is the level of preparedness for the presentation of the play?
  4. Tumbo doesn’t know what the play is even about, what does this tell us about him?
  5. Why was Jusper thown out of his position as student leader why does Tumbo suggest that they keep the fact that Jusper is the writer of the play a secret?
  6. Jusper says that he doesn’t want the prisoners to come from the prison into another prison, what does this tell us about the society of Kafira?
  7. What warning does Boss give to Jusper for the university students?
  8. Why is Boss scornful of the university students?
  9. What did Boss do as a reaction to the students protest on employment of expatriates?
  10. According to Jusper’s explanation to Boss what is the play the prisoners are going to present about?
  11. Jusper’s play within a play exposes the character traits of several characters. Identify and explain them.
  12. Why does Boss offer himself for the position of chief of staff and what happened to the one supposed to take that role?
  13. Why are  the  prisoners  given  real  guns  and  what  does  this  tell  us  about  the  state officials?
  14. Give a synopsis of the play the prisoners enact.
  15. How do the prisoners manage to take over the government?
  16. Why does Mulili try to escape?
  17. How does Mulili betray Boss and what allegations does he present against Boss?
  18. Why is Boss spared and Mulili killed?
  19. After killing Mulili, Jusper says “I did it for Kafira, I did it for all of you people.” What is the meaning of this statement?
  20. What is the significance of the reappearance of Doga and Nina and their freezing as they point at Mulili’s body at the end of the play?
  21. Identify the stylistic devices used in this scene.
  22. Identify the elements of betrayal in this scene.




Betrayal  is  the  act  of  being  disloyal  or  being  deceitful  towards  someone.  It’s about going against the trust that someone has on another.

The head of state in Kafira (Boss) has betrayed the people’s trust in him. He is supposed to protect the country’s sovereignty by creating job opportunities for his subjects, but instead he has facilitated the influx of expatriate personnel into the country. When the university students protest he deliberately sends in an order for three hundred more expatriate personnel.

Under his rule, sycophancy, cronyism, corruption, nepotism, and persecution of perceived opponents have become the order of the day.  He orders the killing of Kabito.  He  is  also responsible  for  the  death  of  Doga  and  Nina  as  well  as  the  arrest  of  Mosese,  Askari  says ‘…..we calculated that two mature strokes would ease the tension. It worked perfectly. This is where the research stations come in,’ (pg 19)

Appointments are not based on merit. According to Tumbo, member-ship of the entertainment committee  is  based  on  the  appointees  unflinching  loyalty  to  Boss  who  buys  loyalty  by handsomely rewarding individuals. For instance, Mulili is rewarded with acres of land and grade cattle.

Another  incident  of  betrayal  is  when  Kabito,  a  fellow  member  of  the  entertainment committee is betrayed to Boss by Mulili. Mulili comes up with fictitious reasons for getting rid of  Kabito.  The allegations are outrageous to say the least.  He says that  Kabito  has complained that Boss has robbed him of the milk tender, he has ruined the economy, he hides millions in foreign countries, and that he tried to get Regina by force. In fact, Mulili should be the “green snake on the grass’ that he refers to. By having Kabito killed, he betrays both men.

Mulili betrays his colleague, Jere who gets arrested because he opposed the farmer’s brutality towards Doga and Nina, A part from his name-calling and callous nature; he gets Jere into trouble when all he wanted to do was to assist the old couple.

Boss betrays the trust Regina has for him. Regina honours her meeting with Boss since she believes he is the only one who can secure the release of her brother Mosese. Unfortunately, Boss forcefully tries to get her and she is forced to escape by jumping out of a ten foot high window.

Mosese thinks that it would be an act of betrayal for Regina to plead for his release. Pleading to Boss for mercy would mean that he is guilty yet he is not. According to Mosese acting is tantamount to betraying their cause. He further argues that they are out to cause change in Kafira and even silence to him is a weapon.


Many characters are seen to be involved in various actions against each other in an attempt to avenge wrongs done against them. Jusper avenges the death of his brother Adika by killing Chagaga, the sub chief’s brother, the man who had apparently killed Adika by shooting him four times. Jere tells Jusper’s parents that “people had seen him drag the body to the river…” pg 12

Jere  pleads  with  Mulili  to  allow  the  old  couple  continue  with  the  ceremony.  Mulili vehemently  refuses  and  even  imitates  a  priest’s  burial  liturgy  an  action  that  infuriates  Jere who chases him away and even threatens to shot him. Mulili threatens him that he shall pay for his actions and true to his words Jere s put behind bars.

After  killing  Chagaga  and  being  put  behind  bars,  Jusper’s  parents  are  found  dead  an indication that someone had further avenged the killing of Chagaga. Jusper further says, “I will revenge someday…” pg 33 to which we see him killing Mulli at the end of the play who must have been involved in the killings.

During  the  meeting  by  the  committee  organizing  for  the  entertainment  for  the  visiting dignitary, there is a quarrel and bitter exchange over an apparent misunderstanding between Kabito and Mulili. Muili reports Kabito to Boss with many false allegations and this leads to the killing of Kabito.

At the end of the play Jusper is seen shooting Mulili dead. His is because Mulili is a symbol of the ills that have affected the state of Kafira. In fact Jusper says on p74 that “I did it for Kafira”


The  elites  in  any  society  should  be  actively  involved  in  emanci-pating  their  societies  from downfall especially occasioned by poor leadership. The same happens in the state of Kafira through various characters.

The university students led by Adika are seen demonstrating against the influx of expatriates in the country.  This  is  because  this  has  been  the  leading  cause  of  unemployment.  This however leads to the death of Adika but it’s important to notice that they had expressed their misgivings against the government.

Through Mosese we also find that the elites are almost giving up on the government and even turning their backs to the going ons in the state. This is seen in Mosese’s words when asked why  he  is  showing  his  back  to  Jere  and  the  askari  to  which  he  answers  I  have  no  front.

However, we see him speaking out his mind against the oppression in the state which leads to his imprisonment on trumped up charges.

Mosese, in his trance/dream, agrees to participate in the play together with Jere, another elite. It is evident that it is through their role in the play that they manage to bring order to the state of Kafira by ousting and killing the evil element in government in Mulili.

Jusper, an elite, is actively involved in ousting the oppressive regime it is he who writes the controversial play through which they overthrow the government. It is him still who shoots Mulili the evil element and hence hope for Kafira as he says at the end of the play that, “I did it for Kafira. I did it for all of you people.” Pg 74


The government officials are corrupt through and through.  The head of state  (Boss)  puts Mulili, a cousin of his, in a senior government position so that he can inform him on every intricate  detail  in  the  government.  The  man  is  illiterate  and  a  non-performer  who  is

determined  to  amass  wealth  for  himself.  He  is  inconsiderate  and  will  do  anything  to  earn acres of farmland and cattle.

Boss is corrupt. He practices nepotism and gives high government positions to unqualified relatives who work as his spies. He also employs many expatriates in public universities at the expense of the local citizens. Boss has amassed so much wealth from the state through corrupt deals and kept millions in foreign bank accounts.

Tumbo also fails to conduct a play writing competition and instead chooses Jusper and pays him  only  a  third  of  the  money.  He  pockets  the  rest  claiming  that  it  is  for  settling  records straight. He does not read through the written play and out of his inefficiency, it turns out to be an avenue for the prisoners to eliminate Mulili and expose Boss. He also intends to extend the entertainment committee’s session in order to earn more sitting allowance.

Jusper  is  a  frustrated  student  who,  like  all  the  rest,  has  no  hope  of  finding  a  job  in  Kafira since most of them go to expatriates. He tells Tumbo that during the holiday he would sit in the  house  and  vegetate  since  the  state  regards  the  youth  as  neither  children  nor  adults  but fence sitters. Boss’ intention is to use the expatriate as an opportunity to gain more foreign


There is tribalism and nepotism within the government. While offering Mosese tea in the cell Askari  says,  ‘Here,  tea  with  milk  yet  you  don’t  even  belong  to  my  tribe.  You  need  a  tall relative  to  get  anything  these  days’  (pg  27)  only  those  with  relatives  working  in  the government can survive in this state.

While  the  entertainment  committee  meets  Nicodemo  tries  to  find  out  about  what  they  will make out of it. He asks, “What size of potato per hour?” He is also interested in finding out how  many  days  they  would  use.  “How  many  working  days…..”  Kabito  suggest  that  they should  meet  every  day  until  the  visiting  head  of  state  arrives  and  even  after  the  visit.

Government officials are corrupt. Each is thinking of how to amass wealth.

Mulili  is  granted  the  milk  tender  because  he  is  boss’  cousin.  It  is  not  given  to  those  that qualified.  Kabito  is  corrupt.  He  spends  the  whole  night  trying  to  bribe  the  tendering committee  yet he lost the tender. He says ‘…..I spent the whole of last night being nice to people.”

To get money in this state in this state one doesn’t have to be educated, One must have brains to this of unscrupulous ways of getting money. Tumbo tells Jusper on pg 50 ‘……….you need a different kind of this.”


There is an inherent fear of speaking the truth a-in the entire play thus leading to miscarriage of Justice. Those who have spoken the truth have not lived to see their tomorrow but have been brutally exterminated like vermin.

A case in point is Adika, a student leader who is shot dead to silence the students who are protesting about the influx of expatriate personnel into the country. A Young man’s life is so

brutally  brought  to  an  abrupt  end  because  he  chooses  to  purse  the  truth  in  order  to  attain justice for the greater good of Kafira state.

The student’s lecturer decides to speak the truth during the burial by telling the politicians off when they decide to place restrictions on the mourners. But because speaking one’s mind is not a crime, they plant a drug, one kilogram of opium in his car and get him imprisoned, This is a serious case of intolerance and miscarriage of justice.

Doga  and  Nina  are  murdered  in  their  own  hut  because  they  dared  challenge  one  of  Boss; closest advisers, Mulili, who is also his relative. They intended to carry out a simple shaving ceremony  by  the  graveside  of  their  murdered  son  but  Mulili  declared  it  a  govern-ment property.  When  they  seem  not  to  notice  his  authority,  he  has  them  murdered  just  to  prove who holds sway in this country.

When Adika’s murderer, Chagaga he visits the grave to burn the body with petrol, he least expects Jusper to be guarding it.  In the struggle that ensues, he gets killed and his body is dumped in the river by Jusper, A court of law should have ordered for a medical examination

to  determine  the  mental  health  of  the  young  man  prior  to  the  killing.  However,  because Chagaga happens to be the sub-chief’s brother, Jusper is locked up in prison.

Mulili cannot tolerate an argument, even a logical one from Kabito with whom he holds a grudge. He misreports him to Boss who orders his death. There is no way a truthful person like Kabito would survive in these circumstances.

Boss’ own wife, Mercedes, is locked up in a cell for protesting against her husband’s moral standing. He even blames Kabito for inciting the woman to defy him.


The ruling elite in Kafira is perpetuating cronyism, nepotism, corruption and intimidation of opponents in order to cling to power. Mulili yields a lot of influence due to the fact that he is Boss’ cousin. Kabito refers to him as an army-drop out and a second rate farmer.

Ordinary people cannot carry out their normal ceremonies without government interference.

Doga and Nina, two innocent and bereaved citizens cannot carry out a simple ceremony for their dead son. The government sends two soldiers, Jere and Mulili to bar them from doing so. They are even murdered as a result.

Individuals are forced to take law into their hands since justice favours those connected to those  in  power.  Jusper  kills  Chagaga  in  order  to  avenge  the  killing  if  his  brother  Adika.

Chagaga happens to be the sub-chief’s brother. Mulili says “All small murders get arrested.”

Like Jusper faces the full brunt of the law while big murderers like Mulili get away scot free due to political patronage.

The fact that Boss relies on the likes of Mulili, Tumbo, Kabito and Nicodemo to render good and sustainable opinion and advice to the government tells the extent of the rot in this system.

Mulili is barely coherent and there are lots of inconsistencies in his utterances. He is a liar and  a  cheat,  a  fraud  who  any  right  thinking  leader  should  distance  himself  from.  Tumbo,

Kabito and Nicodemo only think about their daily allowances and are determined to meet as long as it takes in order to reap as much.

Tumbo’s  remark  at  the  end  of  the  play  puts  what  ails  the  state  in  plain terms,  “I  am  truly sorry, but I am not entirely to blame, I was  trained, but given the wrong job….” (pg 74) This remark points an accusing finger at the appointing authority. The likes of Mulili should not be in government.

Mulili  uses  his  relationship  with  Boss  to  secure  tenders  and  amass  wealth.  He  manages  to reverse  the termination of his tender by soliciting assistance from boss. Nicodemo says that Mulili  bullied  his  way  into  securing  the  university  tender  (pg  51)  Appointments  to government  positions  are  based  on  one’s  closeness  to  Boss.  Tumbo  tells  members  of  the entertainment committee, “I trust gentlemen that you know why  you sit on this committee.

You were nominated for one reason: Your unflinching support for our government “(pg 52-53) It is evident that Mulili, Tumbo, Kabito and Nicodemo are Boss’ sycophants.

Mulili’s unflinching support for Boss is rewarded with farm land and grade cattle.

Tumbo  is  mandated  to  organize  a  play  writing  competition  but  instead  declares  Jusper  the winner of proposed play writing compete-tion one third would go to Jusper and Regina and the other two thirds will be used to put the records straight.


Fear is the unpleasant feeling caused by the possibility of danger or evil. Actions or inaction by several characters on the play are motivated by fear. The people of Kafira live in great fear.  They  lack  freedom  of  expression.  They  cannot  understand  why  the  likes  of  Jusper, Adika, and Moses talk too much and put themselves in unnecessary trouble.

Beggars feel that the protestors are wasting time.

Regina warns Jusper against talking too much. She does not want him to end up dead like Adika or in prison like Mosese. Jusper’s red academic gown is a source of constant fear for Regina. Tumbo too gets scared of the students’ red gowns and he calls them the red guards.

Askari warns Jere and Mosese that silence is all they need to stay out of trouble. Suspicion is created when prisoners either remain silent or talk too much.

No  publisher  is  willing  to  publish  Jusper’s  play  since  his  plays  has  exposed  the  truth  too much. They can only be published if he can hide or cover the truth. Jusper says that nobody wants things put in black and white. You need a little grey and blue here and there. (pg 47)

Tumbo confesses that Jusper has a point when he says that you can’t clothe truth in lies, but adds that they know better than to shout about it. They know the truth but can’t dare shout about it.

Tumbo is fearful of boss. He does not wish to disappoint. He says that Boss is in a foul mood.

He wants the play to go on as scheduled. He also wouldn’t want Boss to know that the writer of the play to be acted is Jusper.

Boss’ advisers hate him but they do not want to talk beyond whispers. Tumbo says that until people like Mulili are out, it is dangerous to do things differently from what is expected in Kafira.

Regina fears going to see Boss to plead for Mosese’s release because she is afraid of him. She fears that something will go wrong if he see her.

Regina fears for Juspers safety. She pleads with him to stop clashing with the authorities. She tells him, “Jusper, no good will come out of this struggle.  Like  you  I only have two close friends left in this world. You and my brother, but my brother is inside. If anything should go wrong, we’ll be wiped out.” (pg 34)

Mulili is threatened by Jusper and Mosese at the end of the play to a point of denying having any close relationship with Boss. He is fearful that he might he killed but sure enough he is shot dead. Earlier he had intended to sneak out  purportedly to go  for a  call of nature.  The head of state is shocked by the turn of events and fears that all evils will be exposed by the prisoners.  He  begs  to  be  killed.  He  would  rather  face  death  than  the  consequences  of  his deeds.

When  Nicodemo  suggests  that  Kabito  should  report  the  issue  of  losing  his  tender,  Kabito remarks that reporting Mulili to Boss is tantamount to digging one’s own grave.

When Kabito questions Mulili’s presence on the committee, Tumbo says that Kabito should know better than that and in any case, the question was not in the agenda.

Tumbo and Nicodemo know that Mulili is responsible for Kabito’s death but they cannot dare say anything. “Like caged animals, we move, but only inside the cage.” (pg 62)


Hypocrisy refers to pretence that one has qualities, beliefs or feelings that they do not really have.  Prisoners  are  taking  part  in  the  play  to  entertain  the  visiting  head  of  state  to  show national unity. The government is trying to show the impression that prisoners are actively involved in  nation  building.  This  may  have  not  been  the  case  earlier  since  Nicodemo  says they are now being treated as if they do not belong to this world. The main reason for Boss’ decision to have the prisoners take part in the play is to potray the country in positive light to ensure  foreign  investment.  A  successful  visit  will  make  it  possible  for  the  role  of  the negotiators to be heard.

Mulili  pretends  to  be  shocked  by  the  news  that  Kabito  is  dead.  He  informs  Tumbo  and Nicodemo that Kabito has been involved in a fatal accident during the one hour break. He pretends to be saddened by the news. He claims that the accident was caused by the victim driving  under  the  influence  of  alcohol.  He  further  claims  that  Boss  was  in  tears  when  he heard of Kabito’s death and that he had declared that a road be named after Kabito. (pg 63)

By criticizing the excesses of Boss, Tumbo is being hypocritical since he is a beneficiary of Boss and his government. Tumbo seems to be making an attempt to distance himself from Boss when he says, ’Things will change; Boss is not at all bad at heart. His main problem is

that he gets scared off too easily.” (pg 44) As a result of his loyalty he is made the chairman of the committee mandated to organize for the entertainment of a visiting head of state. He also owns apartments courtesy of Boss.

Tumbo pretends to be doing Regina a favour by introducing her to  Boss  yet he knows his (Boss) ridiculous weakness for women. When she gets into trouble and jumps out of a tenfeet  high  window,  he  belatedly  says  he  will  apologize  to  her.  He  pretends  to  be  sorry  for

Regina while all along he had known what Boss was up to.

Tumbo  claims  to  be  a  socialist  at  heart  and  says  he  could  have  written  the  play  for  the entertainment of the visiting Head of State himself but decides to extend this opportunity to someone  else.  “Tumbo,  you  have  not  done  badly,  why  don’t  you  lead  the  pack  of them…..show them light, eat and let eat.” (pg 44)

Boss claims to understand truth and justice, while in fact, he least does. He alleges that the rioting students and the dissenting lecturers have no idea what truth and justice are all about.

This  hypocrisy  is  self-serving  in  the  sense  that  he  intends  to  suppress  their  freedom  of expression to create an opportunity to gain from foreign governments.

Mulili  misreports  Kabito  to  Boss  for  allegedly  maligning  Boss’  reputation  yet  his  real intention is to have Kabito punished for opposing him during the meeting. When Boss gives him the go –ahead to eliminate Kabito which he does, he later acts shocked and saddened by his death.

Askari pretends to be doing Jere a favour by putting him on rehabilitation after only two days and tells him that the government was giving his future some consideration even though he was contributing to the national headache.


To be disillusioned is to be disappointed when you realize that something is not as good as you had expected to a point of completing losing hope and giving up.

The masses in Kafira are disillusioned by the state of affairs in their country. Mosese says that they  had waited for the kingdom for years, then it was said it had come but it was all an illusion. He wonders how many people had set eyes on that kingdom and what colour it is.

According to Mosese it was better while they waited for the Kingdom because then they had hope, now they have nothing to look forward to. He feels that they have killed the past and are busy killing the future. He says in the past, they had celebrations once a year and they had a reason to celebrate, but now there is nothing to celebrate about. People are busy shedding blood everywhere. (pg 27-28)

The masses have resigned to their fate after realizing the futility of fighting the government.

As  the  students  protest  in  the  streets,  people  shout  at  them  and  beggars  tell  them  they  are wasting their time. (pg 33) Regina feels that Jusper and those others protesting against the

government  are  easting  time  and  that  no  good  will  come  out  of  their  struggle  with  the government. She feels that they are fighting stones. (pg 34)

Doga and Nina have lost hope in life after their son; Adika is shot dead during the university riots. Their son Jusper seems to have lost his mind after his brother’s death and is currently considered as good as ‘dead.’ Nina concludes that the authorities have robbed them all they had and blinded them.

After  Kabito’s  murder,  Tumbo  and  Nicodemo  realize  that  their  tenures  as  government officials hang in the balance. Tumbo says, “We have no choice, like caged animals, we move but only inside the cage.” (pg 62) He says the elimination of citizens has become so rampant that one is not sure of seeing the next day.

Jere argues with Askari over the issue of freedom. He tells him that the outside of his cell may be well the inside of another, which implies there is no freedom in Kafira and even those who think they are free are not.

Jusper bemoans the fact that Regina too has been affected by the street disease, that is giving up.  It  is  even  pointed  out  that  the  beggars  in  the  streets  laugh  at  the  university  students because they believe that they could achieve nothing for Kafira.


The leadership of Kafira is dictatorial. It is oppressive. The government in a bid to perpetuate its continued stay in power has resulted in silencing its critics. The educated elite in particular pay the heaviest price for being at the fore front of criticizing the excess of Boss’ regime.

Assassinations, arrests, imprisonments and torture of prisoners are the order of the day.

Boss  must  always  have  his  way  and  will  eliminate  anyone  who  appears  to  be  a  stumbling block to his schemes. He does not entertain any freedom of expression of whatever kind. For example, the academic staff members should not weep in public for whatever reason, and if they do, they end up in prison like Mosese.

Freedom of expression is curtailed. Jere says “the outside of this cell may be the inside of another’ (pg 21) Prisoners are not allowed to ask questions.  It only makes one’s life more unbearable.

When one asks questions he is subjected to beating as in the case of Jere. Prisoners are denied food only those who co-operate with authorities enjoy certain privileges. Jere is denied tea then Mosese is presented with a cup of tea.

During Adika’s funeral Mosese says of the orders room the govern-ment. ‘The funeral would not take more than ten minutes, the coffin could not be carried by students and weeping in public was illegal for  the  academic  staff.”  When  Mosese  protested  against  this  high handedness, he is arrested and imprisoned on trumped up charges of possessing illegal drugs.

Prisoners are denied food and only those who co-operate with prison authorities.

In  a  bid  to  secure  conviction  for  Mosese,  his  sister  (Regina)  is  subjected  to  beating  by soldiers as people watch, forcing her to give evidence against him. As a result the beating she loses hearing in one ear.

Doga and Niana lose their lives after protesting the government’s decision to prevent them from conducting the shaving ceremony for their late son Adika.

Tumbo and Nicodemo know that Mulili killed Kabito but they cannot say anything about it.

“Like caged animals we move, but inside the cage’ (pg 62)

Boss’ regime has established research stations meant to rehabilitate perceived opponents of the state before they are re-integrated into the society. Askari tells Jere, “You see we have research stations dotted all over the countryside.” (pg 17)

Boss tells Jusper that when he goes back to the University he should tell the leaders that it is his  (Boss’)  duty  to  decide  on  the  magnitude  of  Kafira’s  Africanization  programme  and  that they  have  no  right  to  chant  about  it.  When  the  students  demonstrate  against  the  influx  of expatriate  personnel,  Boss  warns  that  the  result  will  always  be  the  same,  deaths  and imprisonment.

Jere protests the mistreatment of Nina and Doga by the government. He successfully tries to convince  Mulili  to  allow  them  to  conduct  the  shaving  ceremony  for  their  son  Adika.  An altercation ensues between him and Mulili when he insists that the ceremony will go on as planned resulting in his arrest and imprisonment.

Jusper’s  unstable  state  of  mind  can  be  attributed  to  the  physical  as  well  as  psychological suffering he has undergone. He has been arrested twice, first during the burial of his brother Adika and seconds the murder of Chagaga who killed his brother. Doga says “then they came and took him away…..when they brought him back after three months he was no longer the son we knew (pg 4-5) The death of his brother took a heavy toll on him and he could not come to terms with it.

Prisoners must perform a play that must entertain the visiting head of state in order to earn amnesty.



He is an ex-soldier and  now a prisoner. He was a colleague of Mulili. He taught religious knowledge for three years before he was drafted into the army. He can be described as:


Jere is reasonable as he listens to Doga and Nina and understands their predicament. He even tells them that Mulili does not belong with them and does not know their ways when Nina threatens to curse them by stripping naked and Mulili makes fun of her.

He pleads with Doga to understand that he and Mulili are simply obeying orders when they say that the ceremony cannot go on. He says, ‘old man, if I had the power, I would let you go on. I would even take part in the ceremony. I knew Adika well.


He aspires for a prosperous Kafira and advocates for unity among all citizens. He tells Boss, “No, your excellency, we shall not shoot you. Kafira needs each one of us, you included.” (pg 73)


He hits it off with the other prisoner with whom he enacts the  episode of Pilate and Jesus from the Bible.

He easily makes friends with Mosese in prison. They quickly find that they have a lot to talk about because they are like minded as far as the administration of Kafira is concerned.

He  empathizes  with  the  old  couple  and  wishes  to  allow  them  to  carry  out  their  shaving ceremony.


He does not let out the secret that Mulili allowed Mustafa to escape across the border.

When  Mosese  tells  him  about  the  circumstances  that  brought  him  to  prison,  the  events  of Adika’s funeral, Jere does not let Mosese know that he knows Jusper.



He is unperturbed by the threats directed to him by Askari. When Askari tells  him, “……I have killed a man once in this very cell, he replies, congratulations! How did you manage?” (pg 30)


He  and  Mosese  clearly  carry  out  a  palace  coup  to  expose  the  villains  like  Mulili  in  the government.

He says they have no intentions of getting rid of Boss because they want the act to be’ a mirror that will reflect the real faces of Kafira’s front men.’

He  compares  the  prison  department  with  Meteorological  Depart-ment  which  confuses  the public by giving contradictory information.


After observing Mosese’s reverie, Jere aptly summarizes the state of the society thus, “When the madness o an entire  nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say the man is mad.’

Mosese’s  behavior  is  a  result  of  what  the  authority  has  put  its  citizen  through-that  is, oppression to the point of madness.


  1. i) He plays a significant role in the development of the plot of the story.
  2. ii) He enhances the character of other characters in the play. For instance, through him, the Askari is portrayed as brutal and intimidating.

iii)  Several  themes  have  been  brought  out  using  him,  for  instance  the  themes  of  self-sacrifice and oppression.

  1. iv) He is used by the writer to highlight several stylistic devices such as play  within  a play, suspense and biblical allusion.


He is  a  philosophy  student  at  the  university.  He  is  the  son  of  Doga  and  Nina.  His  brother Adika  was  shot  dead  during  a  demonstration  held  by  the  university  students.  He  can  be descri-bed as:


Jusper  talks  arrogantly  to  people  who  do  not  make  sense  to  him.  He  talks  back  at  Tumbo regardless of his powerful office. He openly shows his disrespect by talking negatively about the evils of the government. At some point, Tumbo thinks he is drunk.




He kills Chagaga, the sub-chief\s brother who also killed Adika, his brother. He shoots Mulili for having caused all the pain and suffering in the society. He is over -excited that they have successfully carried out the coup.

He vows to avenge the  killing of his brother Adika. He tells Regina, “I will get my revenge someday, even if it means doing it alone.” (pg 33)


When  asked  by  Tumbo  what  achievement  he  is  going  to  highlight  in  the  play  meant  for entertaining the visiting head of state,  he says, “the number of expatriate professionals had steadily increased over the year, signifying the full extent of our potential progress….” (pg 48)

On  the  issue  of  name  changing,  he  says,  “but  there  is  nothing  wrong  with  that.  Changing names is item number three in the new development plan, isn’t it? In fact, Boss himself gave us  a  fine  example  when  he  substituted  his  Christian  name  with  something  none  of  us  can pronounce.’ (pg 40)

After  being  told  by  Tumbo  that  he  has  won  the  nonexistent  play  writing  competition,  he remarks  that  out  of  ten  plays  submitted,  his  came  first  and  that  the  other  entries  have  of course been returned to their authors. (pg 49)


Jusper  speaks  his  mind  when  he  finds  his  parents  at  the  graveside;  he  openly  confesses having  killed  someone.  Nina  thinks  he  is  drunk  and  only  to  find  out  later  that  he  actually killed Chagaga.

When asked by Tumbo how much beer he drinks he retorts that it is as much as he (Tumbo) drank off the pocket money he got during his university days.

He talks to the president candidly as he gives him a summary of his play. He is not afraid to reveal to him that he has written the play.


Jusper is a university student. He is also a playwright who depicts the society so clearly that publishers dread publishing his work. He is able to trick the president to provide real guns so that he can find a chance to avenge the deaths of his parents and brother. He also succeeds in

tricking  Tumbo  and  taking  advantage  of  inefficiency.  He  writes  an  ingenious  play  that deceives Tumbo completely.


Jusper refuses to remove his red gown despite his girlfriend’s nagging. She says it makes him appear dangerous. Students are always treated suspiciously whenever they put them on but he is ready to face the consequences. He is unapologetic to Tumbo for wearing it.


  1. i) Major events in the play revolve around him
  2. ii) His experiences expose the Boss’ regime.

iii)  His  brother  Adika  is  brutally  murdered  during  a  student’s  demonstration.  He  is arrested when  he revenges his brother’s killing and is released in exchange for his parent’s murder.

  1. iv) His unstable state of mind points to an individual who has undergone both physical and emotional trauma.
  2. v) He highlights the themes of suffering, disillusionment, betrayal and self-sacrifice. The writer has  used  Jusper  to  highlight  aspects  of  style  such  as  play  within  a  play, allusion and satire.


Mulili  is  an  ex-soldier  and  now  a  farmer.  He  is  cousin  to  Boss  and  is  a  member  of  the visitor’s entertainment committee.


He makes fun of Doga and Nina’s sorrow due to the loss of their son and forbids them to carry out the shaving ceremony at the graveside. Even when Nina threatens to strip naked in protest , a traditional curse, Mulili asks, “….How many naked body I have seen and I am still Mulili with my two eyes, natural?” (pg 9)

He  is  insensitive  to  Doga’s  feelings  that  Doga  finally  tells  him,  “…..may  you  die  the  way Adika did.” (pg 10)

He has Doga, Nina and Kabito killed in cold-blood.

He declares that there is no reason why Boss should not be killed.


He shows disrespect for the elder couple (Doga and Nina) when he dares Nina to go ahead and strip after she had threatened to do so. He says he has seen many naked bodies and he is still Mulili with two eyes, natural. (pg 9)


He bears a grudge against Kabito because he feels belittled by Kabito whom he alleges has called  him  a  primary  school  kid.  As  if that  is  not  enough,  he  goes  ahead  to  tell lies  about Kabito to Boss leading to his elimination.

He threatens Jere for failing to enforce the instructions they had to prevent Doga and Nina from carrying out their late son’s shaving ceremony. This act lands Jere in prison


Being Boss’ cousin he is promised many acres of land and grade cattle. He will therefore do anything to ensure he gets this.

When  the  tender  for  the  supply  of  milk  to  the  university  is  awarded  to  somebody  else (Kabito), Mulili reports to Boss who revokes it and gives it to him. Mulili goes  on to have

Kabito killed after lying to Boss that Kabito had maligned his name.

He allows a fugitive, Mustafa, to escape across the border.


His  ungrammatical  English  makes  him  a  funny  character  provoking  laughter  in  the  reader every time he speaks. For example, in reference to Doga’s statement that an innocent man is in prison because of Adika, Mulili says, That no matter, he go against law and order, tell us new thing or make clear out of here. You are trespasser.’ (pg 10)

When Nina says that  they do not want to be shown letter because their hope has been killed, Mulili tells them, “Your people full of primitive; instead going to find how the other is, they come and get stick with dead one.” (pg 10)

He  mixes  up  simple  sayings.  For  example,  when  he  comes  late  for  the  meeting  of  the entertainment  committee  that  is  preparing  for  the  head  of  state,  he  tells  the  other, “Gentlemen,  I  am  very  sorrowful,  but  I  always  say,  better  never  than  late’  (pg  54)  When telling Boss about Kabito, he says, ‘The one, he be a green grass in the snake.’ (pg 59)

He quickly changes things he had said to suit himself. For instance, he reports that Kabito died in an accident because he was driving while under the influence of alcohol. Nicodemo asks,  “His  breath  did  you  say?”  He  retreats,  “who  said  breath  I  said  his  body  smelled

whiskies?” (pg 63)

Short tempered/temperamental

Mulili  falls  out  with  people  on  many  occasions  because  of  his  short  temper.  For  example, when  Doga  pleads  with  him  to  let  him  carry  on  with  the  shaving  ceremony,  he  loses  his temper.

Nina gets angry with him and threatens to strip naked, but he is not moved.

Doga curses him to die like Adika but he responds, “…..you tell him me  I am a man with action not words, come on tell……” (pg 10)

Mulili abuses Kabito a goat when the latter refuses to apologise to him (pg 57)




He does all he can to please the authority (Boss). For example, he does not agree with Jere to let Doga and Nina perform the shaving ceremo-ny for their late son even when Jere feels they can allow the couple to do it under supervision.

He is very proud of having undeservingly won the milk tender. This is because he is Boss’ cousin.  He  is  impressed  by  the  way  he  got  the  tender.  “What  happen  to  Mr.  Mulili  tender supply for milk? You knows who is speaking! I it’s me, Boss himself and no bloody vice-deputy.” (pg 54)

He does everything to impress Boss and make him think he is loyal. He even suggests that people should go on holiday during the visit by the foreign head of state, so that everyone can line up along the road to receive him. This is against logic because, according to Kabito, this

is the final term and most school children will be sitting their exams and cannot afford to line up along the road.

He was a soldier and now a farmer but still insist on being part of the authority. For example, he has the audacity to criticize university lecturers for allegedly going against policy. He also says that university students should co-operate with the government because, “We pays for their fees, we pays for their luxury, we give them all necessary, who are they?” (pg 56)

When he goes for the rehearsal, he tells Boss, “Yes, your excellent. I say myself: go and be with cousin as he sees the final one.” (pg 69)


 Mulili symbolizes the excesses of Boss

  He is portrayed  as cruel, greedy, vengeful and dictatorial. Tumbo says of him, ‘the most of the advisers is that of his, Mulili.” (pg 44)

 Through him the character of Jere is brought out a principled when the latter amidst Mulili’s objections insists that Adika’s shaving ceremony will proceed as scheduled.

  He  enhances  the  themes  of  misuse  of  power,  corruption  and  self-preservation.  The writer has effectively employed use of humour through Mulili.


Tumbo is a government official and a confidant of Boss, the Head of state. He is Regina’s landlord  and  chairman  of  the  committee  charged  with  the  responsibility  of  organizing entertainment for the visiting of head of state. Despite his limited education, he has managed to acquire wealth and enjoys immense influence owing to his close association to the Boss.



He is a beneficiary of Boss’ government yet given an opportunity he criticizes his regime and those  working  for  it.  About  Mulili  he  says,  “That  is  why  he  retired  from  the  army.  Until people like him are out, it is dangerous to seem to do things differently in Kafira.’ (pg 44-45)


He says that he would not have acquired the blocks of buildings he has if he had ‘depended on empty talk’ like the university students who he feels talk too much. He says, ‘you were born alone  and  when  you  die,  you  will  die  alone….”  This  implies  that  he  has  used  fraudulent means to acquire property.

He pretends to be a socialist when he offers Jusper the chance to write the play to entertain the  visiting  head  of  state.  He  says,  ‘You  see,  the  whole  program  has  cost  the  government some  quarter  of  a  million  shillings.  In  fact,  I  had  a  mind  of  writing  the  play  myself,  but  I thought better of it……eat and let eat.’ (pg 44)

He says a sum of money  has been allocated for a play-writing completion but he does not organise  the  competition.  Instead  he  gives  the  opportunity  to  Jusper,  of  the  six  hundred pounds meant to finance the competition, he gives one third to Jusper and Regina and says the rest ‘will be used to put records straight’ (pg 49)


He has secured his place in the entertainment committee by virtue of his unflinching support for  the  government.  He  tells  the  other  committee  members,  “  I  trust,  gentlemen,  that  you know why you are in this committee. You were nominated for one reason, your unflinching support of our government (pg 52-53)


He does not live up to what he believes in. He strongly believes that until people like Mulili are out of the government, ‘It is dangerous to seem to do things differently in Kafira.” (Pg 44-45)

He  convinces  Regina  to  go  and  see  Boss  even  though  he  knows  well  Boss’  weakness  for women. When Regina is hesitant, he tells her, ‘We can’t afford to make him angry at this stage.’ (pg 46)

When Kabito is eliminated and Jusper insists on standing for truth and justice even if it will cost him another year at the university, Tumbo tells him. ‘if you knew what has happened to one of us at the committee, I am sure you would postpone your eagerness to stand by truth and justice.’ (pg 62)


He does not know who Soyinka is. He thinks he is a prime minister of a certain country he purports to have forgotten. He even insists he is a politician.

He does not realize that the achievement Jusper says will he highlight-ed in the play is meant to portray the government that Tumbo serves in bad light.

Mosese says that it is out of his inefficiency that they are able to carry out the palace coup.


He played along to Mosese, Jere and Jusper’s plot to bring down Boss. Mosese says that it was largely through his inefficiency that they achieved their objective. (pg 74)

Jusper is able to convince him that he is Regina’s cousin.


When Jusper tells him that he drinks as much as he (Tumbo) drank off the pocket money he got during his university days, a visibly embarrassed Tumbo attempts to justify his limited

education  by  claiming  that  though  he  qualified  for  university  admission,  he  sold  the scholarship since his family was poor (pg 41)


Tumbo contributes significantly to the development of the plot of the play:

  1. i) Being Boss’ confidant he comes out as a major beneficiary of Boss’ regime.
  2. ii) Towards the end of the play, he confesses that he was trained but given the wrong job. This aspect portrays him as sycophantic.

iii)  It is through his inefficiency that the plot by Mosese, Jusper and Jere to topple Boss succeeds.

  1. iv) Through him, we get to know Jusper’s character as daring and outspoken and Regina as trusting.
  2. v) He also highlights the themes of fear, self-preservation and misuse of power.
  3. vi) Through him several aspects of style have been effectively used by the writer. They include foreshadow, satire, play within a play and suspense.


He is the president of Kafira and cousin to Mulili. He plays the role of the chief of staff in the rehearsal. His wife is called Mercedes.


Boss leads the country with an iron fist. He wants everything to go his way and cannot stand anyone who appears to block his orders and decisions and he cannot brook dissent. He has signed the death warrants of very many innocent people including Kabito, Adika, Doga and Nina.

He  warns  Jusper  against  students’  protests  during  the  rehearsal.  He even  brags  of  having given three hundred jobs to expatriates just to prove a point to the protesters.


According  to  Mulili,  Boss  has  acquired  a  lot  of  wealth  and  banked  the  money  in  foreign accounts. When Mulili tells him that Kabito was spreading such allegations he shouts, “who gave him that information, just how much does Kabito know about me?” (pg 59). This seems to confirm his corrupt nature.

He  orders  that  the  tender  awarded  to  Kabito  be  revoked  and  goven  to  Mulili.  Boss  is  also notorious for nepotism. He assigns powerful positions to his uneducated and inexperienced kinsmen in order to secure his interests. He also gives jobs to expatriates in return for foreign donations and funding.

He demands that prisoners stage  a play for the  guest president in order  to portray national unity  and  the  involvement  of  prisoners  in  national  matters.  He does  this  to  make  an impression that would attract funding.

Through  Mulili  we  get  to  learn  that  he  has  stashed  huge  amounts  of  money  in  foreign accounts which has brought down the economy of Kafira.


Regina says that boss is reported to have a short temper. Tumbo says that Boss is known to make  hasty  decisions  and  stand  by  them.  When  instructing  Mulili  to  get  rid  of  Kabito,  he impatiently orders Mulili out of the  palace. Tumbo says that when Boss is angry he does not differentiate between a human being and a rat. He also refers to him as an animal.


He says that students do not understand what truth and justice is. He says that their protest against  foreign  expatriates  led  to  the  death  of  a  student  leader  and  the  imprisonment  of  a lecturer.

To put them in their place, he brings in three hundred more expatriate personnel just to prove his point. He says that five of them are his own personal appointments.


He  has  a  ridiculous  weakness  for  women  according  to  Tumbo.  He also  attempts  to  rape Regina who is forced to escape by jumping a ten foot high window.


Incompetent/ inefficient

He relies on hearsay and propaganda to run the affairs of  the state. He admits that Kabito has been one of his loyal servants.

He  allows  prisoners  to  handle  fire  arms  during  the  rehearsal  which  they  use  to  stage  the palace coup.


He is averse to criticism. He orders the killing of Kabito since  it is alleged that he (Kabito) raised serious allegations about his integrity. He tells Jusper that since the university students questioned his appointment of expatriate personnel, just to put them in their place, he orders three hundred more expatriate personnel.


He falls for Mosese, Jere, and Jusper’s trick and orders the guards to surrender their guns to be used as props.


He  has  deliberately  put  Mulili  on  the  entertainment  committee  to  report  directly  to  him  if something  should  seem  to  be  going  wrong.  He  suspects  Tumbo  of  being  behind  Kabito’s action to discredit him. ‘Tumbo must have a hand in this’ (pg 59)


  1. Boss is the architect of the misrule in Kafira.
  2. He has allowed his advisers such as Mulili to unleash terror to innocent civilians.

iii.  He is a central character since the events in the story centre around his misrule.

  1. He brings out the character of Mulili as vindictive when Mulili convinces him on the need to  eliminate  Kabito.  He  also  helps  brings  out  the  character  of  Tumbo  as sycophantic.
  2. Though him  several  themes  are  highlighted  such  as  misuse  of  power,  betrayal,  and social injustice.
  3. He enhances several stylistic devices such as play within a play, suspense, satire and symbolism.


He is a prison warder and is mandated to keep watch over Jere and Mosese.


Even though Jere was once a soldier like him, he threatens to teach him a lesson or two if Jere calls him his friend again.

He also warns Jere that he has once killed a man in that very cell


He tells Jere that they are giving consideration to his future ‘despite his contribution to the national headache.’  He  pretends to be doing Jere a favour and says he should be filling in forms for his rehabilitation.

He  says  that  experts  have  to  be  called  in  to  give  meaning  to  data  collected  in  the  various research  centres  that  the  government  has  put  up  and  which  show  that  rehabilitation  of prisoners is invaluable. He goes ahead to say that this is not the type of work ‘any of these local pretenders would handle.’ (pg 17)


He is a former university lecturer who is later imprisoned for criticizi-ng the ruling elite.


He easily makes friends with Jere in prison. He also shares his views with Jere . For example, when Jere tells him that he was a soldier before he came to face to face with reality, Mosese tells him that fire has always been there. (pg 22)

He explains to Jere the reason he had changed his name –an illegal drug was planted on him by a man bearing the same name as him (Nicodemus) leading to his imprisonment.


He was a university lecturer. He is also able to see through the scheme that the authorities have.  They  intend  to  use  prisoners  to  act  a  play  to  entertain  a  visiting  Head  of  state  to symbolize  national  unity  and  therefore  build  confidence  in  the  visitor  to  encourage  him  to invest more in Kafira.

Together with Jere and Jusper, he intelligently carries out a palace coup.


Initially, he refuses to participate in a play to be performed for the visiting head of state. “I will not bend so low.” (pg 26). ‘I cannot do it. Among my friends, that would be equivalent to kneeling in front of Boss and pleading for mercy.’ (pg 27)

His change of name was influenced by Boss decision to change his. He changed his name since  the  man  who  planted  a  drug  on  him  to  implicate  him  shared  a  name  with  him (Nicodemus) (pg 25)


Even though he is not related to Adika who is just one among his many students, he protests his killing and fights injustice but the reward for his effort was imprisonment.



Together with Jusper and Jere he agrees to take part in a potentially dangerous plot to bring down Boss through a play meant for entertaining the visiting head of state. The plan may not work hence they may be labelled traitors.


After  being  sent  to  prison  on  trumped  up  charges,  he  loses  faith  in  the  freedom  of  Kafira.

When told that the release of six hundred prisoners will depend on his participation in the play to entertain the visiting head of state, it only makes him feel like he is betraying what he believes in. He feels it would be like kneeling down ‘in front of Boss and pleading for mercy’ for something he has not done. (pg 28)

He does not believe in the Bible teachings that Jere seems to believe in. For example, he says, ‘That is why I don’t believe in such crap as the last shall be first, and blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven!…..” (pg 28)

When Jere tells him that things will change, he says, ‘……that is why I prefer to wait and see. I will stay here and remain loyal to my principles. (pg 28)


  1. Mosese helps highlight the plight of the educated elite in Kafira.
  2. Boss’ regime  seems  to  deliberately  persecute  university  lectu-res  like  Mosese  and university student’s whom he perceives as his most potent critics. Mosese is arrested and  imprisoned  for  protesting  the  mistreatment  of  the  family  of  his  late  student (Adika) during the funeral, weeping in public is made illegal for the academic staff.

iii.  Through him, the character of Askari is brought out as brutal and inhuman.

  1. He helps  develop  among  other  themes  the  themes  of  selflessness  and  misuse  of power.
  2. He also  highlights  play  within  a  play,  satire  and  suspense  among  other  stylistic devices.


She  is  sister  of  Mosese  and  Jusper  Wendo’s  girlfriend.  Her concern for  her  brother  and boyfriend  is  responsible  for  her  confrontational  nature.  She  pleads  with  Jusper  as  well  as Mosese to co-operate with the authorities.


She is so afraid of the laid down rules that she demands that Jusper removes the red gown as it makes him appear dangerous. She fears that he might be killed for being a ‘red guard’

She pleads with Jusper not to talk of revenge for the death of his parents and brother. She says, ‘Jusper, you promised. You promised to be a good boy. Do you now talk of revenge?” (pg 33)

Jusper tells her that she seems to have lost her fighting spirit like everyone else in the street.


She refuses to succumb to Boss’ compromising demands and escapes by jumping from a ten foot high window.


She believes that Tumbo will speak to Boss on her behalf. She is convinced that boss will replace the political prisoners to mark the visit of foreign head of state.

When Jusper asks her, ‘do you think he means it?” she responds, ‘he does. He says he will be in charge of the whole thing himself. And don’t forget he is Boss’ right hand man.’ (pg 37)


  1. Regina highlights major problems affecting Kafira, which is a disillusioned citizenry.
  2. She berates her boyfriend Jusper for being critical of Boss, According to her, nothing good will come out of Jusper’s continued antagonism towards the government. She is willing to allow the status quo to remain out of fear for the well-being of her loved ones.

iii.  She pleads with Jusper to stop his agitation, pointing out that Jusper and her brother Mosese  are  the  only  people  she  has  in  this  world,  but  Mosese  was  in  and  that  left Jusper to either build or destroy her. (pg 32)

  1. She brings  the  character  of  as  traitorous.  Out  pd  good  will  she  agrees  to  meet  him only for Boss to try to rape her.
  2. She also brings put the portrayal of Jusper as principled and selfless. Through her, the author successfully brings out the themes of betrayal, sexual immorality and misuse of power. The author’s effective use of stylistic devices such as satire and humour can also be attributed to her.


He is Nina’s husband and father to Jusper and the later Adika.


Doga believes that the individual responsible for the death of  their son  Adika lives among them. His suspicion is raised by evidence on Adika’s grave. (pg 1)



He tells his wife to calm down when she acts nervous about the viola-tion of their late son’s grave and says, “What sort of a mother are you?”

He also disagrees with his wife about informing the sub-chief about the crack on the grave.

He can’t imagine informing the sub-chief because it is his brother who killed his son.

He would rather cheat the ancestors than follow protocol of a wicked government.

He  also  curse  Mulili  when  he  proves  adamant  about  allowing  them  to  carry  on  with  the shaving ceremony. He tells him, ‘May you die the way Adika did.’ (pg 10)


He believes that Jusper is Okay where he is. ‘Jusper is alright where he is. ‘(pg 2)


He is able to identify Jere as Kaleka’s son despite the later wearing a cap. (pg 9)


He is determined to cover up any evil on his son’s grave by filling the crack on the grave with soil so that the shaving ceremony can go on.


He is determined to have his late son’s shaving ceremony go on despite the pleas from his wife that people might boycott the ceremony if they knew about the crack in the grave.


He  is  grateful  to  Jere  for  informing  them  about  the  whereabouts  of  Jusper.  As  a  form  of gratitude he offers him a pocket bible. ‘Kaleka’s son, I have nothing to give you, (handing him a pocket bible) take this.’ (pg 12)


He tells his wife that they need not to cry since tears are for the young and their own wells are dry.


His devotion id depicted by the song he sings with his wife and the prayer he says with her. Later on, he gives Jere a bible.


She is Doga’s wife and mother to Jusper and the late Adika.




She mourns the death of her son and wonders why people would kill him. She is heart broken by the people who come to interfere with his grave and she cannot stand it.

The death of her son sends her into mourning. She begs Mulili to allow them to allow them to carry on with the shaving ceremony.

She is concerned about the whereabouts of Jusper when she finds that he is not guarding the grave.


She weeps besides her son’s grave


When Mulili refuses to allow her to carry out the shaving ceremony, she threatens to strip naked and cause him blindness.


She feels that the evil done to her son’s grave should not be hidden. According to her, one cannot outwit their ancestors. She suggests to her husband that they report the evil to the sub chief. ‘It would be wrong for us to sit on this evil.’ (pg 3)


She tells her husband that they need to commit the day on God’s hands. They sing and later she invokes a prayer.


She is concerned about her son Jusper’s safety when they fail to find him at Adika’s grave.

‘But where is he now? Doga, my heart fails me. (pg 2)



Satire is a form of writing where an individual or society is ridiculed or where the foolishness of an idea, practice or custom is shown.  It’s a form of criticism of vices through or by use of humour.

The writer portrays the evils of the society in a rather humorous way. From the beginning of the play, he depicts the government as insensi-tive to the needs of its own people. Adika is shot dead by the sub-chief’s brother for leading a demonstration against the employment of many expatriates. Chagaga is jailed and later released because he shot Adika in ‘self-defence’ other  than  listen  to  the  protest  of  the  people  and  consider  their  demands;  the  government executes those who oppose its ideas.

Government officials such as Askari and Mulili are satirised for their cruelty. They have little regard for human life. Askari mistreats pri-soners under his watch such as Jere. He repeatedly threatens Jere and even informs him that he has killed a man in the very cell Jere is in. Mulili has no qualms taking away human life.

Mulili and Boss have been satirized for being traitorous. Boss betrays the trust bestowed on him by his subjects.  Instead of being a servant leader, he has become a tyrant.  A peaceful demonstration by university students is violently dispersed leading to the death of a student; Adika. Instead of securing jobs for the citizens of his country he has resorted to importation of expatriates.  His leadership is also characterized by intimidation, assassination and corruption.  Mulili  is  a  beneficiary  of  Boss’  misrule.  Ironically, when tables are  turned  on Boss by Jere, Jusper and Mosese, he betrays Boss and blames him for the ills in  Kafira as well as for killing Kabito. He urges Jere to Kill Boss.

Tumbo,  a  government  official’s inefficiency,  is  satirized.  He uses  his  position  to  benefit himself. He claims that the reason he never got proper education is that his parents were poor and  so  he  sold  his  scholarship.  He  fails  in  his  duty  to  set  up  a  writing  competition,  feigns ignorance that it took place and gives the opportunity to Jusper who grabs it to turn against the president and his cronies. When he visits Regina, Tumbo sends Jusper for beer claiming that it is tough being a government official. When we do not quite see what is tough in his line of duty.

Tumbo  is  happy  when  Jusper  highlights  in  the  play  the  influx  of  expatriate  is  a  sign  of potential progress.

Mulili is satirised for being insensitive to the rights of children. He suggests that during the head of state’s visit, all children and adults should line up on the road to welcome the visitor despite the fact that it’s the final term and most of the children will be sitting for exams.



After the death of Adika, Jusper went wild singing songs of vengeance and as a result he is taken away by agents of the government to be cooled down. He was said to be dangerous to peace loving people. It is ironical that when  he was brought back after three months, he has instead worsened and people said he was mad. (pg 4-5)

In prison, one is not allowed to talk too much. It doesn’t pay to talk a lot. It is ironical that askari takes great exception to Mosese’s silence and tries to force him to talk. Due to the fact that the prison authorities know Mosese as being talkative they will not allow him to keep quiet and demand that he explains what he is keeping quiet about.

It is ironical that though while in prison one is expected to show consistency of character and a market improvement, one cannot afford to stick to one’s principles otherwise he will never leave jail.

According  to  Jere,  the  character  in  the  Pilate  story  (his  fellow  inmate)  did  not  want  to  be Pilate and instead insisted on being Jesus. The said character did not know that being Jesus meant  receive-ng  canes  and  when  Jere  caned  him,  he  wailed  and  Jere  was  subsequently punished (it was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) (pg 23)

It is ironical that it will take  a state visitor to have political prisoners released in Kafira. Jere tells askari that innocence can be an offence. This statement is given credence by the fact that Jere  and  Mosese  are  in  prison,  not  because  of  committing  an  offence  but  standing  for  the truth.

Tumbo says that a sum of money has been allocated for a play-writing competition and adds that the democratic part of it is that anyone has to participate yet in actual sense, there is no competition.  He  goes  ahead  to  pronounce  Jusper  as  the  winner  of  the  non-existence competition. News of Jusper’s win will be in the papers the following week.

It’s ironical that Tumbo will not accept the suggestion that the visiting head of state visits the upcountry  to  see  the  progress  in  agriculture  despite  the  fact  that  the  head  of  state  offered technicians for the said progress.

Kabito’s attack on the government that Mulili and his likes choke Kafira is ironical since he is  a  major  beneficiary  of  the  system.  His  appointment  to  the  entertainment  committee  is reward  for his loyalty to Boss. It is also ironical that by pointing out the truth, he is accused of sowing seeds of discord among the other people.

According to Boss, grey hair symbolizes wisdom. It is therefore ironic that he is determined to remove all strands of grey hair, claiming that a leader should have grey hair. (pg 58)


As  Jusper  enters,  Doga  hides  behind  the  bush.  The  audience  as  well  as  Nina  is  awake  of Doga’s whereabouts but Jusper is not.

Jusper asks Tumbo if he had come to see his (Jusper’s) cousin, The readers as well as Jusper know that Regina is the girlfriend to Jusper and not his cousin but Tumbo doesn’t.

Mulili is not aware that Tumbo and Nicodemo are already aware of Kabito’s death. Tumbo tells Nicodemo, “Here he comes. Remember we know nothing.’ (enter Mulili) (pg 62)

Boss, Tumbo and Mulili are not aware of the plot by Mosese, Jere, and Jusper to topple Boss who  is  duped  into  ordering  the  guards  to  surrender  their  guns  to  be  used  during  the  final rehearsal of the play. The readers on the other hand are awake of the plot by the three.


The writer has employed the use of figurative language in the play. Metaphors and similes have been used as follows:

  1. Similes

“He  was  slaughtered  like  a  goat.”  This shows  how  Adika  was  killed  mercilessly.  While referring to this co-actor in the Pilate story, Jere says of him, ‘he wailed like a woman in a death home’ (pg 23) This is a pointer of the cowardice of the individual.

While referring to the terror inflicted on the citizens by Boss and his henchmen, Jusper tells Regina, they come quietly when you are least expecting and before you realize it, they have pounced on you like hungry leopards.’ (pg 32)

Jusper  goes  on  to  say,  “I  defended  his  remains  like  a  man.’  (pg34)  This  shows  his determination and bravery in ensuring that his brother’s grave was not desecrated.

  1. Metaphor

Mulili tells Jere, “Big coward Jere, you a woman’ (pg 10) The implication here is that Jere is a coward for sympathising with Nina and Doga.

Jusper tells Regina, “Adika died for the truth……he was killed for asking whether or not we were on the right train’ (pg 34). Jusper here is adverting that Adika died for questioning how the country was being governed.

Tumbo tells Jusper that there is a good potato in the work they are about to do in reference to money.

Mulili refers to Jere as chicken hearted (pg 44)


Allusion refers to reference to something or someone else without the context of a given text.

The writer makes several allusions in reference to the Bible. When Jere canes his cell mate as they act out the part of Jesus Christ and Pilate, he finds himself in trouble when the cell mate cries out. He is stripped naked and caned. He tells them it was a case of an eye for an eye and

a tooth for a tooth. This is a verse in the Bible.

The above story is an allusion to the Biblical crucification of Jesus. Many citizens of Kafira have  been  crucified  innocently  just  like  Jesus  and  many  others  are  the  pilates  that  beat  up

Christ.  Doga,  Nina  and  Kabito  are  among  those  who  die  needless  deaths.  The  pilates  are exemplified by the likes of Boss and Mulili.

Mosese alludes to the biblical inheritance of the Kingdom of heaven in reference to their high expectations after independence. When they are told that their kingdom (independence) has come, it turns out to be an allusion.

Mosese also alluded to the bible when he says ‘……the last shall be first and blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.’ (pg 27) Mosese questions the validity of this  bible  verse  by  pointing  out  the  disappointment  of  the  masses.  He  is  disillusion-ned  that people had placed their hope in Boss’ regime, only to be disappointed by the turn of events.

Boss tells Jusper that when he was acting, he used to be given bad roles. He would  die for mistakes that were not his. Jusper tells him, “I would say it’s sacrifice” A kind of death for a future. The sort of role Christ played’ (pg 66)

While referring to this mother, Mosese tells Jere, “once every year she slaughtered a cock to mark the birth of Christ” (pg 28) Christmas is alluded here.


After Adika’s burial following his killing Nina says that his death has made them blind and left them in blindness. This words ‘blind’ and blindness symbolize the state of hopelessness or disillusionment of Doga and Nina.

Reference  is  made  to  the  word  ‘potato’.  Nicodemo  asks  Kabito  “did  you  get  the  potato?”

Potato refers to the university tender.

Kabito insists on knowing their terms of service and Nicodemo proceeds to ask the size of potato per  hour they are entitled to (pg 53) This is in reference to allowanced due to them.

“Potato” symbolizes corruption that is rampant in Kafira.

Boss orders an Askari to untie the hands of Mosese and Jere (pg 70) The act of untying the two symbolizes their freedom and by extension salvation or the citizens of Kafira.

Askari  is  a  symbol  of  oppression.  Political  prisoners  like  Jere  and  Mosese  are  mistreated while in prison. The brutality of the regime is evident when askari says of Mosese ‘……when they brought  him in last night , he was all questions. We calculated that two mature strokes would ease the tension (pg 19) He informs Jere that he has once killed a man in that very cell.

(pg 30)

The gun is a symbol of power. The moment the askaris surrender their guns to Jere, Mosese and Jusper, power shifts from Boss to the three. Mulili, Boss and Tumbo are at the mercy of the three.

The  reappearance  od  Doga  and  Nina  at  the  end  of  theplay  after  the  killing  of  Mulili  is  a symbol  of   change  in  Kafira,  their  reappearance  at  the  graveside  which  now  is  for  Mulili shows that the social order of injustice and misrule exemplified by poor advisors like Mulili has  been  done  away  with  and  now  they  expect  a  new  Kafira  with  better  leadership  and justice.


The  writer  has  employed  humour  in  his  play.  He  portrays  Mulili  humorously.  His  broken English  and  barely  comprehensible  talks  ease  the  tense  moments  that  keep  building  in  the play. Some of the funny statements he makes include:

“The green grass in the snake” instead of “the green snake in the grass” to refer to hypocrites.

“Sometimes I wonder why you possession that thing between your legs”

“You must apology to me this, now (pg 57)You play with fire you goat!”

Mulili’s attempt to communicate in English is laughable. “Who you call child eeh? Jere you tell him. Tell him what I does with stubborn old mens” (pg 8)

“Big coward. Why you doesn’t let her get on with it. How many I have seen and I am still Mulili with my two eyes, natural? Look, no goggles” (pg 9)

Mulili’s disjointed English is a pointer to his limited education. This is an indication of Boss’ leadership which regards individuals not on the basis of their qualifications but on the basis of blood relationship and perceived loyalty.

Mosese  says  he  has  no  front  when  asked  by  Askari,  “What  do  you  think  you  are  doing showing us your back?’ (pg 18)

While  responding  to  Tumbo’s  question  whether  Jusper  drinks,  Regina  replies,  ‘there  is  no brand of beer he hasn’t tasted.’ (pg 41)

In a bid to cover up the heinous crime he has committed Mulili says, “I also ask that, people say his breath smelled full of spirits. That hard stuff” (pg 63) When cornered by Nicodemo he says, “Who said breath, I said his body smelled whiskies.” Humour here is used to portray the

wicked and cruel nature of Mulili and clearly points out his direct involvement in the killing of Kabito.

On  realizing  that  tables  have  been  turned  in  his  cousin  Boss  and  the  guns  are  now  in  the hands of Jere and Mosese, Mulili says, “I go for short call” (pg 72)

Jusper refers to Regina as girlfriend number one (pg 6). Here humour is used to relieve the tension building up following the desecration of Adika’s grave.

It is ridiculously funny how Tumbo confuses Wole Soyinka a renown-ed writer, for a Prime minister and a politician.


Proverbs are pithy statements that are mainly employed to give advice or to caution. Several instances of proverbs are evident in the text.

The  writer  has  used  proverbs  to  illustrate  the  wisdom  of  Doga  and  his  realistic  nature.  He says, “a mouse does  not share a bowl with a cat.’ (pg 3) which implies that they cannot share mutual relationship with the sub-chief whose brother, Chagaga, is responsible for the death of Adika

When Nina suggests that they should report to the sub-chief what has just happened to the grave, Doga uses a proverb to explain her failure to see the futility of her actions. Thus he says,  ‘….when  dry  thunder  tears  the  sky  before  our  eyes,  do  we  forget  the  storm  of yesterday?” (pg3)

Doga insists that the shaving ceremony must go on regardless of the obstacles that they face.

He uses a proverb. “A cloudy sky does not always cry rain’ (pg 3)

Kabito tells Nicodemo, “the tree climber begins from the bottom, not top’ (pg 53). Through this proverb, Kabito wishes to be informed the terms  of service of the committee before their meeting. The potrayal of Kabito is that of a materialistic, greedy and self-centred individual.


A foreshadow is a premonition that something is going to happen. Authors use words, signs or events to prepare readers for something that is just to occur.

Doga foreshadows Mulili’s death when he says ‘Empty words will be  your downfall. May you die the way Adika did’ (pg 10) His words come to pass when Jusper shoots Mulili.

After  his  parents  are  murdered  in  exchange  for  his  release,  Jusper  says,  “I  will  get  my revenge  someday,  even  if  it  means  going  alone”  (pg  33)  His  words  are  fulfilled  when  he shoots Mulili dead.

While  reacting  to  Tumbo’s  insistence  that  she  must  personally  see  Boss  to  secure  her brother’s release , Regina says, “I have this funny feeling that something will go wrong’ (pg 45) Her fears are justified when later on Boss forcefully tries to get her and she is only able to escape by jumping out of a ten foot high window.

Mulili  foreshadows  the  arrest  and  imprisonment  of  Jere  when  he  threatens  him;  “Hey you…..you shall pay for it” (pg 15)

Boss foreshadows his near death when he says, just before the rehearsal; ‘In four out of five cases I had to die for little, mistakes that were not my own…..”(pg 66)

The  reappearance  od  Doga  and  Nina  at  the  end  of  theplay  after  the  killing  of  Mulili foreshadows the change in Kafira, their reappearance at the graveside which now is for Mulili shows that the social order of injustice and misrule exemplified by poor  advisors like Mulili has  been  done  away  with  and  now  they  expect  a  new  Kafira  with  better  leadership  and justice.


The play written by Jusper is entitled Betrayal in the City and captures the event of the palace coup  so  aptly,  In  this  play  prisoners  stage  a  palace  coup  and  exposes  the  villains  in  the government who are finally gotten rid of.

Tumbo, the inefficient government official is ordered out of the centre of power and Mulili, the embodiment of evil is killed.

Boss’ life is spared even when he offers himself to be shot- as a sign that there is hope for change in Kafira.


The writer has used a song on pg 8;

When we walk with the Lord

In the light of his way…

……But trust and obey.

This song and the subsequent prayer  indicate that the couple can only turn to God for solace after  all  else  has  failed.  Generally,  it  is  their  hope  in  life  because  under  the  Kafira government, they can only trust and obey.

It  portrays  them  as  religious  despite  the  challenges  they  are  facing.  They are  seeking  for answers through divine intervention.

The song and the prayer summarize their total sense of loss and their deep religious devotion


This style is used in reference to individuals talking about different things in the course of their conversation without realizing it.

The first incident of cross purpose is when Doga, Nina and Jusper appear not to communicate and their statements overlap. When Jusper is at cross purpose with Doga and Nina. Jusper

appears  not  to  communicate  with  his  parents  and  their  statements  overlap.  When Jusper  is referring to a murder he committed at night, his mother thinks that he imagines killing his father. Doga tells Nina not to detain Jusper and instead allow him to go for he is a nuisance.

Jusper  responds,  “he  can’t  go  he  is  dead’  (pg  6)  Jusper  is  referring  to  Adika;s  murderer (Chagaga) while his mother means that Doga is dead.

Jusper and Nina also speak in cross purpose on (pg 7) when Jusper asks “…shall I go and confess idid it?” to which Nina answers, “Yes my son, go and put on a clean shirt and then you can confess” Nina thinks Jusper is talking about the ceremony whereas Jusper is talking about confessing that he had killed Chagaga.

Mosese and Jere talk at cross purpose. (pg 30-31) While Mosese in his reverie, seems to be talking  to  imaginary  persons.  Jere’s  questions  punctuate  his  reverie.  In  his  attempt  to understand Mosese’s talk, he finally concludes,

When the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say the man is mad. (pg 33)


  1. The Elites  play  a  major  role  in  salvaging  countries  marred  by  poor  governance.

Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to Francis Imbuga’s  Betrayal in the City.

  1. The government of Kafira is a dictatorial regime that doesn’t mind the suffering of the masses. Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to Francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City.
  2. Revenge is  a  vicious  cycle  that  needs  to  be  stopped  since  it  hinders  development.

Explain  the  veracity  of  the  above  assertion  with  reference  to  Francis  Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City.

  1. Kafira is an epitome of corruption in the developing countries. Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to Francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City.
  2. Deceit reigns in situations of poor governance and with them comes conflict. Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City.
  3. A state can be brought down if its leadership thrives on cronyism and poor advisors.

Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to Francis Imbuga’s  Betrayal in the City.

  1. Kafira’s woes can be attributed to the inefficiency of its leadership. Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to Francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City.
  2. Betrayal in the city is a perfect satire of the ills in third world countries. . Explain the truth of the above assertion with reference to Francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City.
  3. Bad governance creates room for economic opportunism. Write an essay in support of this  statement  drawing  illustrations  from  the  play  Betrayal  in  the  City  by  Francis Imbuga.
  4. Mulili is an embodiment of evil attributes. Write an essay in support of this statement drawing illustrations from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  5. Many people in Kafira are traitorous. Write an essay in support of  this  statement drawing illustrations from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  6. Strikes come with many adverse effects. Write an essay in support of this statement drawing illustrations from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  7. Write an essay explaining the relevance of the title BETRAYAL IN THE CITY from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  8. “THE OUTSIDE OF  THIS  CELL  MIGHT  AS  WELL  BE  THE  INSIDE  OF ANOTHER”  from  instances  in  the  play  write  as  essay  justifying  Jere’s  assertion drawing illustrations from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  9. Oppression breeds misery and  conflict.  Write an  essay  in  support  of  this  statement drawing illustrations from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  10. The situation in Kafira has bred despondency amongst its citizens. Write an essay in support of this statement drawing illustrations from the play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.
  11. Many eventsand actions in Betrayal in the City are triggered by the need for revenge.

Write  an  essay  in  support  of  this  statement  drawing  illustrations  from  the  play Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga.




























Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright and theatrical reformer. He was born in 1898 and became one of the most prominent figures in the 20th -century theater. Bertolt Brecht was concerned  with  encouraging  audiences  to  think  rather  than  becoming  too  involved  in  the story line and to identify with the characters. Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, the son of Beltold Brecht, the director of a paper company, and Sophie Brezing, the daughter of a civil servant.  His  father  was  a  Catholic,  and  his  mother  a  Protestant.  Both  parents  hailed  from Achern in the Black Forest. Brecht began to write poetry as a boy, and had his first poems published  in  1914.  Between  1919  and  1921  he  wrote  theatre  criticisms  for  the  left-wing Socialist paper Die Augsburger. After military service as a medical orderly, he returned to his studies,  but  abandoned  them  in  1921.  During  the  Bavarian  revolutionary  turmoil  of  1918, Brech wrote his first play,  Baal. From this period also dates his poem,  ‘Legend of the Dead Soldier’. It was cited by the Nazis as one of their strong reasons to deprive him of German citizeship in 1935. Like several other poems, it was set to music by the author, and sung to the accompaniment of his guitar in a Berlin cabaret. Brecht’s works have be en translated into 42 languages and sold over 70 volumes.  The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written in 1944 in

Hollywood. Drawing on the Greek tradition, he wanted his theater to represent a forum for debate hall rather than a place of illusions. He aimed to  take emotion out of the production, persuade  the  audience  to  distance  from  the  make  believe  characters  and  urge  actors  to dissociate from their roles. Then the political truth would be more easy to comprehend. Once he  said:  “Nothing  is  more  important  than  learning  to  think  crudely.Crude  thinking  is  the thinking  of  great  men.”   Brecht formulated  his  literary  theories  much  in  reaction  to  Georg Lukács  (1885-1971),  a  Hungarian  philosopher  and  Marxist  literary  theoretician.  He disapproved Lukács attempt to distinguish between good realism and bad naturalism. He died in 1956.


The Caucasus is a region that bridges Europe and Asia.  The Caucasus is divided by the Caucasian mountain ranges into two regions:

The  northern  slopes  of  the  mountains  reach  into  Chechnya  and  other  border  states  of  the  former Soviet Union. On  the  southern  side  of  the  mountains  are  the  modern-day  countries  Georgia,  Armenia  and Azerbaijan. Grusinia, where The Caucasian Chalk Circle takes place, is a fictionalized version of the modern day countries; Georgia and Azerbaijan towards the end of the WWII in 1944.

The play was translated to English by Eric Bentley.

The play is a comedy, with a happy ending.

The play is based on communism i.e. whoever can make the best use of resources in order to provide for others deserves to get the best of the resources.

Brecht shows communism through three stories:

  1. i) The ownership of a piece of land between goat herders and fruit farmers. In the end througharbitrators, the fruit farmers get the valley because they will use the land better.
  2. ii) The story about Grusha the kitchen maid, through the use of Solomonic law: Solomon and the baby (from the bible). Grusha gets the baby because she deserves him.

iii)  The  story  about  Judge  Azdak.  His  fair  judging  in  favour  of  the  peasants  made  him  very popular especially among the poor.


The  Caucasian  Chalk  Circle  is  derived  from  a  circle  Judge  Azdak  orders  Shauwa  to  draw, “………….get a piece of chalk and draw  a circle on the floor.” (pg 97). Its purpose is to determine Michael’s real mother. Both Natella Abashwili and Grusha Vashnadze desire custodian of the child.

Shauwa is directed to place the child in the circle and the mother to hold him by the hands and  pull him out. Whoever pulls him out of the circle would retain him.

It is ironical that Natella, Michael’s biological mother, is denied custody of the child when she pulls him  out.  Grusha  declines  to  tear  the  child  and  consequently  ends  with  the  child.  The  title symbolically  signifies  the  possibility  of  surrendering  what  might  be  rightfully  yours  for  better utilization.

The play infers from both a Chinese play (Circle of chalk written in 1300 AD) and a biblical story (The judgment of Solomon- 1 Kings 3: 16-28)

In the Chinese story, a young girl, HAi-tang, bears a child as the second wife of a wealthy man. His first wife claims the child is her own. However, the second wife is judged the true mother when she refuses to pull the child apart in the test of the Chalk Circle.

In the biblical story, two women live in the same house and both bear a child. One baby dies in the night and its mother swaps him for the living baby. Both claim the living child is their own. Solomon orders that the child be cut in two and each half be given to each mother. The real mother of the child gives up the child rather than see him harmed and is judged to be the true mother.

The agriculturist and herders are seated in circles as they negotiate and in the end the herders agree to surrender their claim on the valley of Rosa Luxemburg since they would put it to better use.


The  Caucasian  Chalk  Circle  begins  with  a  prologue  which  captures  a  dispute  between  two communities;  the  fruit  growing  and  the  goat  farming  one.  The  clash  is  over  who  should  own  and manage the valley. The Goat Farm Commune Group is the original owner who had relocated due to the advancing Hitler’s army. The fruit growing Commune has demonstrated interest in the piece of land.  A  delegate  from  Tiflis-the  capital  of  the  Soviet  State  of  Georgia-has  been  sent  to  settle  the dispute.

The Fruit Growing Collective Farm has made elaborate arrangements of irrigating the valley so as to make it more productive. The delegate awards the land to the fruit growers because they have plans to use the resources better despite the land originally belonging to the goat farming group.

Act one begins when the city of Grusinia has been taken over by the iron shirts and the governor, Georgi Abashwili, is beheaded in a coup that has been planned by his brother, the Fat Prince and his head fastened on a wall. The governor’s wife Natella flees and in the process abandons her child, Michael.

Fortunately,  the  kitchen  maid  Grusha  salvages  the  child  from  the  soldiers  and  the  Fat  Prince  and escapes with him to her brother’s place in the Northern Mountains, pursued by soldiers. She endures

great  suffering  in  the  way,  including  hostile  and  uncooperative  people.  She  finally  gets  to  her brother’s place but he (the brother) insists that she must be married to an almost ‘dying’ man by the name Jussup. Jussup has faked illness to avoid taking part in the war. When it is announced that the war is over, Jussup miraculously recovers. Grusha is stuck with a husband she did not want. When Simon (Grusha’s  lover) returns from the war, he discovers that Grusha is married and suspects that Michael  is  her  child.  Later,  the  child  is  taken  away  from  her  by  some  soldiers  who  claim  that he belongs to Natella and he is taken back to the Caucasian village.

Through  a  flashback,  the  writer  explains  how  the  Grand  Duke  is  sheltered  by  Azdak,  later  to  be judge,  soon  after  he  escapes  the  bloody  coup.  However,  Azdak  is  not  aware  that  he  is  hiding  a dangerous fugitive and fearing he might be branded a traitor he presents himself to the soldiers to be tried and soon wins their favour and is installed as judge.

Azdak  judges  four  very  weird  cases,  ruling  in  each  case  in  favour  of  the  poor.  He  soon  gains reputation for supporting the poor. He serves for two years as a judge, befo re the return of the Grand Duke. He is arrested for being a ‘traitor’ and as the soldiers are about to kill him, he is saved by the Grand Duke who recalls that he saved his life. He reappoints him to be the judge.

The  major  case  that  Azdak  handles  is  that  of  Grusha  and  the  child.  The  governor’s  wife  wants Michael back because without him, she cannot take over the former Governor’s wealth. However,

Grusha wants to keep the child because she has raised him for the past two years. Interestingly, even Simon offers to support her in the trial. When Azdak listens to the case, he orders a Chalk Circle to

be drawn, after he learns what Grusha has done to the child. The child is placed in the middle and orders the two women to pull saying that whoever can pull him out of the circle will get him.

The  governor’s  wife  pulls  whereas  Grusha  lets  go.  This  is  repeated  and  finally,  AZDAK  gives Michael to Grusha. The governor’s wife is ordered to leave. Michael’s wealth is taken and made into public gardens.

The message the author is passing across is that resources should belong to those who make better use of them-  the child to Grusha, just the same way the valley goes to those who will take care of it.

In the end, Azdak divorces Grusha from Jussup, paving way for her to get   married to Simon. Azdak disappears never to be seen again.


Summer of 1945

The play begins with a prologue (an introduction to a play) that captures a conflict between members of two collective farms both who claim a stake in a disputed valley. The two rivals are: Goat Farm Rosa Luxemburg and Fruit Farm Galinsk. The two are neighbours.

The goat herding commune claims to be the original owners of the disputed land until Hitler’s armies forced them to relocate. The fruit growing commune has laid down  an elaborate plan to irrigate the valley for agricultural purposes. They intend to use a dam across the mountain lake and water seven hundred acres of infertile land and plan to plant vineyards and orchards there

A delegate from the State Reconstruction Commission from Tiflis-the capital city-has been sent to arbitrate on the dispute. He intimates that Goat Farm Rosa Luxemburg occupied the valley before moving East on orders from the government.

The Goat herding commune is now dissatisfied with their new grazing land which they claim is not palatable  to  their  animals.  They  claim  that  the  valley  belongs  to  them  from  eternity  and  the  law attests to that. However, members from the Fruit Farm Galinsk explain the reason why they deserve to own the valley.

An amicable solution is finally reached when the land is awarded to the Fruit growing commune and the two groups settle down to eat and drink. Entertainment soon follows when a legendary singer Arkadi-  is invited to perform an old Chinese song entitled, The Chalk Circle. This song is about two stories which have a bearing on their resolved dispute.

The prologue serves several functions; first, it gives the play a unique structure, secondly, enables the playwright to pass on his/her key message and the moral of  the play to the reader or audience before

he  or  she  watches  or  reads  it.  Bertolt  roots  for  communism,  that  whoever  can  make  good  use  of something should keep it.


This part opens with Arkadi-  the singer narrating a story about Georgi Abashwili, the governor in Grusinia and a rich man who owns numerous horses and soldiers. He is married to Natella and they have a son, Michael.

On the morning of the Easter Sunday, the governor’s family goes to church. At the gateway, he is confronted  by  many  beggars  and  petitioners.  Mothers  hold  emaciated  children  as  people  with clutches  and  petitions  beg  for  money.  They  complain  of  high  taxes,  starvation  and  bribery.  The governor ignores them and soldiers whip them with thick leather whips to keep them away.

Michael-the governor’s son and heir-  is brought along and the crowd sees him for the first time. He is carried in a decorated carriage and is attended to by two doctors. Even the mighty Prince Kazbeki bows before him at the church door.

Natella informs the prince about the Governor’s plan of bringing down the slums to pave way for his garden. The governor has lost interest in the affairs of Grusinian people in spite of the raging war that  is  taking  place.  The  governor  even  dismisses  a  messenger  from  the  cit y  bringing  some confidential papers for him saying he can only attend to him after the service. Later the adjutant (an officer  who  acts  as  military  assistant)  informs  the  messenger  that  the  governor  does  not  wish  to receive military news before dinner.

Grusha Vashnadze- governor’s kitchen maid- does not attend the service as she has to get a goose for the  family’s  banquet.  She  is  seen  talking  to  Simon  Shashava,  a  soldier,  who  reveals  that  he  often hides behind a bush to watch her dip her legs in the river as she washes her line.

Before the awaited dinner and a talk with the architects can take place, the palace is surrounded and the Governor arrested. George Abashwili is executed and the city is in bloodshed. Natella’s life is in danger. Servants rush out of the house trying to frantically salvage what they can. A scuffle erupts between the two family doctors over who should attend to the governor’s wife who has fainted.

Simon comes looking for Grusha. He aims at wooing her. The two have to part ways when Simon is ordered by the adjutant to guard Natella on her way to safety. He gives Grusha a silver chain that his mother had given him. She promises him that she would wait for him and remain faithful till their reunion.The adjutant is seen trying to save Natella from danger but she is reluctant to go without her most valued  essentials.  The  adjutant  forces  her  on  a  horse  back  amidst  complaints  that  she  has  left  her wine-coloured dress. She leaves her child Michael behind who falls into the custody of Grusha the kitchen maid. As everyone flees, Grusha decides to hide the child under a blanket and keeps the baby company throughout the night. The following day she flees with the child from the Ironshirts who together with the Fat Prince are looking for the baby,  “It’s a pity they took the brat along, though, I need him urgently.” (pg 28)


The Singer accounts Grusha escape from the city to the Northern Mountains to save Michael from the Fat Prince and his soldiers. She is carrying Michael in a sack. She journeys along the Grusinian highway on the Northern Mountains after singing “The song of the Four Generals.” As lunchtime approaches,  she  has  to  look  for  a  meal  to  feed  the  child.  She  buys  milk  from  a  peasant  at  two piasters, an equivalent to a week’s pay.

Having spent most of her money Grusha keeps on moving towards the north as the Iron shirts who want to kill Michael pursue her. The singer tells us that she then arrives at the River Sirra and with the burden of the child weighing on her; she decides to keep him at the doorstep of a farmyard after realising that the peasant woman has some milk. She anticipates the peasant will feed him and goes to hide behind a tree in order to watch what would happen.

When the peasant woman finds Michael at her door, she takes him into the house. She suggests to her  husband  that  they  keep  the  child  but  her  husband  tells  her  to  give  him  to  the  local  priest.  As

Grusha hurries off in the opposite direction she bumps on Ironshirts who demand to know where she is  coming  from.  She  lies  that  she  is  going  to  meet  Simon  Shashava.  The  ironshirts  demand  the whereabouts of Michael. Grusha gets scared and rushes back to the cottage where she had left the child and pleads with the peasant woman to hide it.

Initially  the  woman  agrees  to  hide  Michael  but  is  immediately  frightened  by  the  presence  of  the soldiers. She reveals to the corporal that Grusha left the child on her doorstep. In desperation, Grusha seizes a log and hits the corporal on the head until he loses consciousness. She then grabs Michael and runs away.

In her flight from the Ironshirts, she finally reaches the foot of Janga-Tau Glacier after journeying for twenty-two days. She adopts Michael. She removes his silken shirt, throws it away and wraps him in rags. Finally, she arrives at the bridge on the glacier still pursed by the Ironshirts. One of the bridge’s rope  is  broken  and  half  of  the  bridge  is  hanging  down  the  abyss.Despite  the  danger,  Grusha  is determined  to  cross  the  bridge.  Luckily  they  get  to  the  other  side  of  the  bridge  despite  fears  and warning by the merchants on the impending danger. She laughs triumphantly to her freedom as the

Ironshirts pursuing her cannot cross the bridge. Finally, she sings “The Song of the Child” (pg 41)


After journeying across the glacier for another seven days, Grusha finally arrives at Lavrenti’s (her brother) house. She expects to be welcomed warmly but this is not the case. Her bother has to cook up a story to convince his religious wife that his sister is on her way to her husband’s place at the mountains.

To  have  Grusha  leave  the  house,  Lavrenti  comes  up  with  an  idea  of  getting  her  a  husband.  He (Lavrenti)  organizes  to  get  her  married  to  a  “dying”  man –  Jussup  at  a  fee  of  400  piasters.  The mother-in-law realizing there is a child demands for an additional 200 piasters for the wedding to proceed. The mother-in-law has hired a cheap monk to unite the two.

After the wedding, neighbours who came to witness the marriage ceremony are served with cakes as they gossip. From the gossiping visitors, news indicates that the Grand Duke has assembled an army to fight the princes that rebelled against him the previous year. When Grusha hears that the soldiers are coming back now that the war is over, she is in shock and drops a cake pan. Her worry being that Simon will come back and find she is married to another man. Once Jussup hears the war is over, he miraculously recovers.

Jussup  gets  out  of  bed  and  the  visitors  are  shocked  to  see  him.  He  orders  them  out  of  the  house before kicking them out. Grusha finds herself in a tight position as she discovers she has a husband yet the man she loves is on the way. Furthermore, Jussup demands that she becomes more intimate with him and accuses her of not performing  her wifely duties. With time Simon face grows dimmer and his voice becomes fainter.

In a play within a play, we see as Grusha washes linen by the stream accompanied by Michael, she advises  him  to  go  play  with  the  other  children.  As  they  play  they  enact  the  beheading  of  the

governor-  Michael’s  father.  However,  instead  of  playing  the  part  of  the  governor  like  the  other children want him to do; he insists that he be allowed to behead the fat boy, who represents the fat prince. This foreshadows the beheading of the fat prince later.

As the children play, Grusha turns and sees Simon Shashava on the other side of the stream. After some  talk,  he  sadly  learns  that  all  is  not  well  with  their  relationship.  Simon  notices  the  child, Michael, Simon asks, ‘Is there a little one already?’ (pg 61) Grusha admits there is a child but not hers.  The  singer  who  speaks  for  each  of  the  the  two  character’s  thought,  reveals  much  of  the information to us. Simon demands that she gives him the silver cross back, but she declines.

Grusha hears the other children calling. She finds the ironshirts taking Michael away. When asked whether the child is hers she responds by saying that she is indeed the mother, something that makes

Simon leave a dejected man. The iron shirts take away Michael back to the city.

Grusha follows them to the city but dreads to lay claim on the child. The Singer ends the act with questions about Grusha’s future: “Who will decide the case? To whom will the child be assigned?

Who will be the judge?…” (pg 62). The matter will now be handed over by Azdak, the city judge, to determine the rightful owner of the child.


Rewind to the day of the coup, the day Grusha took the child. The village clerk(scrivener), Azdak, has been poaching in the woods and comes across someone he believes to be a refugee. He shelters him for the night only discovering after the man has gone that it was the Grand Duke himself, who escaped the clutches of the rebellious princes.

Rather than risk being found out Azdak hands  himself in, expecting to be punished. When he gets to the  courtroom  he  sees  the  hanging  bodies  of  authority  figures  and  mistakenly  interprets  the revolution as a people’s revolt. His shouts of joy are interrupted by a soldier who tells him he’s got it all  wrong:  it’s  not  a  people’s  revolution  but  a  military  coup.  An  uprising  by  the  rebellious  carpet weavers  resulted  in  all  the  hangings  and  the  soldiers  were  brought  in  to  suppress  them.  Azdak  is nearly hanged by soldiers.

The Fat Prince brings his nephew(Bizergan Kazbeki) to be installed as the new judge (the old judge had  been  killed  by  the  carpet  weavers).  Azdak  suggest  that  the  candidate’s  knowledge  in  law  be tested. In a play within a play, Azdak plays the role of the defendant. The soldiers, after test ing the nephew in a mock trial  in which Azdak accuses the Fat Prince of profiting from the Persian  war, makes Azdak judge instead.

Over  two  years  Azdak,  with  his  trusty  assistant  Shauva,  travels  the  country  turning  justice  on  its head, accusing a rape victim of being a rapist herself, sympathising with an old woman clearly guilty of theft, doling out law as he sees fit. Finally the Grand Duke comes back, the Fat Prince is beheaded and Natella Abashvilli returns from exile. Frightened that his behaviour over the last couple of years will land him in trouble now that order is restored, Azdak promises to help Natella get her son back.


The  Singer  introduces  us  to  the  Act  by  saying  it  is  “the  story  of  the  trial.”  The  trial  is  about determining who is the true mother to Michael and in this regard, Grusha has come back to the city to face the law for having taken the Governor’s son.

As they  wait for the judge to come, Simon appears and swears he will say  he is the father to the child. Then Grusha spots the Ironshirt whom she clobbered and this makes her regret why she came to Nuka. The corporal leaves cursing as he fears exposing Grusha because he would be admitting that he ran after the child to kill it.

The governor’s wife, Natella, arrives, in her characteristic style, she cannot hide her contempt for the low class and the underprivileged: “At least there are no common people here, thank God.  I can’t stand their smell. It always gives me migraine.” (pg 88)

Azdak having been declared an enemy of the new regime( for having worked with the Fat Prince) is stripped of his judge’s robes. The Ironshirts and the farmers tear his gown and beat him. He is about to be hanged when a messenger arrives announcing the Grand Duke would like Azdak to remain asjudge, as a thank you for saving his life that Easter Sunday.

Azdak presides over a trial in which he must judge who gets Michael  –  Grusha, who has cared for him  and  put  herself  through  hell  for  him;  or  his  natural  mother,  Natella,  who  abandoned  him.  A heated debate ensues on who is the rightful owner of the child. The prosecutors explain that Grusha has stolen Natella’s child and refuses to hand it over. They advance their case by saying that Grusha does not have any blood relations with the child. On the  other hand, Grusha lays claim on the child by saying that she brought him up and always found him something to eat.

Hearing both arguments, Azdak is unable to decide. He adjourns the court to hear the case of an old couple who want a divorce. He tells them he’ll think about it. Returning to Michael’s case, Azdak invokes  the  ancient  wisdom  of  the  Chalk  Circle:  Michael  is  placed  in  the  centre  of  a  circle  and whoever is strong enough to pull him out must be the right mother. Grusha won’t pull, she cannot hurt him. Azdak orders the women to repeat the trial. Grusha again cannot pull.

Azdak judges that she must be the right mother. Natella faints. Simon and Grusha thank Azdak, who signs the divorce papers  –  not the divorce of the old couple but Grusha’s divorce  from the man she married in the mountains. Everyone dances. Azdak disappears. The Singer explains that the child has been given to the mother who will be best for it  –  and, reminding us of the prologue, that the land should go to whoever is right for it.



Corruption mainly refers to lack of integrity or honesty and is mainly manifested by accepting bribes.

Corrupt individuals use their privileged positions they have been entrusted with to make illegitimate gains, thus undermining their moral integrity. They are usually driven by greed. Forms of corruption

vary  and  can  include  bribery,  extortion,  nepotism,  and  general  embezzlement  of  mainly  of  public funds.

George Abashwili is materialistic. As he makes procession to  enter the church fort Easter service, many beggars and petitioners try in vain to reach out to him. We learn through his wife Natella that the governor plans to tear down the slums to create room for the garden of the East Wing of palace.

“All those wretched slums are to be torn down to make room for the garden.” (pg 15)

After the coup and the beheading of the governor, we see Natella in a hurry to collect her dresses and shoes. She abandons her son Michael as she runs for her safety. Later we learn that the main reason she is claiming her son Michael from Grusha is to get inheritance of the vast governor’s estates.

The Ironshirts are corrupt. They use their privileged positions to execute others and in the process make illegitimate gains. One Ironshirt says, “…This morning they strung up the city judge. As for us we beat them to pulp. We are paid one hundred piasters per man, you understand?” The iron shirts follow Grusha and Michael since a good price is offered.

Azdak, the judge, is overly corrupt and his greed unstoppable. He openly takes bribes in the court before listening to a case. He begins by saying, “I accept,” meaning that he is willing to be bribed.

As  Azdak  executes  his  duties,  his  deeds  do  not  measure  up  to  the  expected  standards.  He  makes controversial  judgements  that  put  his  integrity  into  questions.  He  sits  on  the  statue  book  when delivering justice.  A  pointer  to  his  contempt  for  what  is  just.  He  also  takes  wine  in  public  as  he executes his duties.


The governor, George Abashwili, is said to be as rich as Croesus. He has so many horses in his stable and yet there are so many beggars on hisdoor step. This shows that he amasses so much wealth for himself at the expense of his subjects. They pile along the gate carrying thin children and holding petitions. They cry for mercy and reduction of the high taxes. (pg 14).

The governor has hired two doctors to look after his son Michael-the apple of his eyes. (pg 15). This is in contrast to the starving and suffering common men who  push and shove to see the governor’s heir.

The  governor  plans  to  tear  down  the  slums  to  start  building  the  East  Wing  garden  for  his  son

Michael. It does not matter to him that those slums are people’s homes. The  soldiers  also  abuse  power.  “…soldiers  push  the  crowd  back  lashing  at  them  with  thick whips.”  (pg  14)  When  the  crowd  pushes  to  have  a  peep  at  their  heir-baby  Michael-  the  crowd  is pushed back by the iron shirts using thick whips.

The Fat prince abuses power when he conspires and overthrows  the governor from power. He (The Fat prince) then orders the governor to be beheaded and his head hanged at the entrance of the palace for all to see. He then orders the iron shirts to follow Grusha and get Michael back; he intends to kill him  too.  The  fat  prince  also  abuses  power  by  practising  nepotism,  where  he  intends  to  have  his nephew, Bizergan Kazbeki, to be bestowed as the new judge. “………….so I’ve bought along my dear nephew  Bizergan  Kazbeki,  He’ll  be  the  new  judge,  hm?”  (pg  71)

The judge, Azdak abuses power openly by accepting bribes. Before considering any case he utters a short statement-  I accept- to mean he is ready to take a bribe. All the cases he judges are in favour of the suffering poor. He fines the wealthy like the farmers heavily, in this way he abuses power to help the poor.


The playwright explores the theme of love and friendship through various characters in the play. This is mainly portrayed through the parental love between the governor and his son Michael, Grusha, the kitchen maid and Michael, Grusha’s romantic love with Simon Shashava and finally between Grusha and her brother Lavrenti Vashnadze.

Michael  does  not  experience  the  motherly  love  from  his  biological  mother  Natella  Abashwili.

Fortunately,  his  father,  the  governor  of  the  Caucasian  City  bestows  on  Michael  fatherly  love.

Michael is attended to by two doctors who never mover from his side to keep him in good health.

The Fat prince also notices the child on their way to church and comments that, “And little Michael is a governor from head to foot!” (pg15). Natella, Michael’s biological mother, is jealous of the attention Michael is given by his father. She says it is impossible for them to live in the slum but her husband  would  build  the  East  Wing  for  Michael  since  he  is  the  apple  of  the  governor’s  eye.

“…will only build  for  little  Michael…Michael  is  all…(pg   18-19).  Finally, she abandons him.

Grusha  loves  Michael.  She  has  to  overcome  a  strong  tide  of  opposition  from  the  other  servants before she rescues Michael. The groom tells her, “Better put him down, I tell you. I’d rather not think

what’d  happen  to  anybody  who  was  found  with  the  baby.”  (pg 27)  The  older  woman  tells  her, Grusha, you’re a good soul, but you are not very  bright, and you know it. I tell you, if he has plague he  couldn’t  be  more  dangerous.”  (pg   27).  Grusha  watches  over  Michael  the  whole  night  and  by morning  as  the  writer  puts  it,  the  seduction  between  Grusha  and  Michael  is  complete,  “…till morning  the  seduction  was  complete…she  crept  away,”(pg  29).  She  also  saves  the  child  from being  killed  by  several  iron  shirts.  Just  like  a  mother  who  loves  her  child,  she  makes  several sacrifices. She is forced to buy him milk at an exorbitant price using  her meagre weekly pay. She risks  her  life  to  save  Michael  by  hitting  a  corporal  with  a  wooden  log  and  crosses  over  to  the Northern Mountains using a broken bridge. She has to marry a “dying man”-  Jussup-  for Michael’s sake and thus risks her engagement with Simon Shashava.

The climax of Grusha’s love for Michael is shown at the trial scene. Grusha defends for her love towards Michael by saying that she brought him up and that she married because of Michael. When Azdak, the judge, asks for Michael so that he can choose his true mother, Michael’s love for Grusha is seen when he smiles at her. After drawing the Chalk Circle, Azdak orders the two women to pull the  child  out  of  the  circle.  Meanwhile,  Grusha  refuses  to  pull  portraying  her  motherly  love  and finally she says, ‘I brought him up! Shall I also tear him to bits? I can’t.” (pg 98)

As Grusha flees to the north, she comes across a bridge on the glacier. She is determined to cross but the merchants caution her against risking her life and that of Michael, The merchant woman tells her,

‘But you can’t take the child on that bridge. It’s sure to break. And look! (pg 41) The next man warns her to think of the baby, “I think of the baby. Risk your life not a child’s (pg 41). This shows their

love and compassion for Michael.

The  love  relationship  between  Grusha  and  Simon  is  romantic.  It  is  already  sealed  through  an engagement.  They  exchange  intimate  words  and  inquire  about  each  other’s  background.  Simon

removes a chain from his neck and tells Grusha, “…my mother gave me this cross…please wear it.” (pg 22). Grusha promises Simon that she would wait for him. She says, “Simon Shashava…it is

just  as  it  was.”  (pg  23).  Grusha  is  introduced  to  the  idea  of  getting  married  to  Jussup  due  to  the illegitimacy  of  the  child.  However,  deep  within  her,  she  loves  Simon  and  wishes  that  the  union would not last long so that she may re-unite with her fiancé whom she thinks would willingly take care of Michael. This turns out to be true.

True love unfolds when Simon testifies at the court that he is Michael’s father. “I am the father, your honour.” (pg 93). The climax of the sincere love for each other is portrayed when Grusha informs Simon that, “Now I can tell you: I took him because on that Easter Sunday I got engaged  to you. So he’s a child of love. Michael, let’s dance.” (pg 99). This she does after the judgement where she wins the child.

When Grusha runs to the North and arrives at her brother’s house, her brother sympathises with her and gives her a roof and even makes arrangements for her to get married to the “dying” man, Jussup.

After  the  marriage,  Jussup  takes  in  both  her  and  the  child  without  asking  questions,  It  is  her compassion for Michael that makes her to agree to be married yet she is engaged to Simon.


Negligence refers to failure to give somebody or something enough care or attention. It also refers to failure to perform one’s duty which impacts negatively on others.

Georgi  Abashwili  is  the  Governor  and  therefore  responsible  for  the  welfare  of  those  under  him.

Although he is rich, he has so many beggars from the gateway, holding up thin children, crutches and petitions. Although they have come for help, he does not attend to any. It is Easter and therefore one

would  expect  he  would  be  compassionate  enough  to  listen  to  their  grievances.  They  complain  of taxes being high. One petitioner laments: “The child is starving in my arms (pg 14). Although there

is  a  servant  collecting  their  grievances  and  another  distributing  coin s  from  a  purse,  none  of  their petitions is attended to and eventually they are driven back with whips.

Despite being in a high position and being responsible for the welfare of the people, we are surprised to learn that, he knows  nothing about the approaching war  and therefore no safety measures have been put in place. When asked about the war, he indicates lack of interest.

The Governor has ignored the plight of his subjects. There  are so many of them in the slums. To make matters worse he has decided to tear down the slums to make room for a garden for the East Wing he is about to construct. People are complaining of hunger, yet his child has two doctors, The two doctors are also irresponsible in that none wants to take responsibility over the discomfort o f the child. They blame each other over lukewarm bath water used to bath the child.

The governor is informed by his Adjutant that an injured young rider has come as a messenger from the  capital,  bringing  him  confidential  papers.  He  neglects  his  responsibility  to  see  him  and  after waiting in vain the messenger mutters a curse and leaves. We are not surprised when we learn that the plotting against the Governor by The Fat Prince happened in the capital therefore we can guess that the messenger comes to warn him. Eventually, the governor loses his life.

It is strange that the Governor refuses to talk to the wounded Rider when he appears again but prefers to  confer  with  the  architects.  The  Adjutant  says  of  him,  “The  governor  does  not  wish  to  receive

military news before dinner-  especially if it’s depressing (pg 19). Because of his irresponsibility in choosing his priorities, he is caught unawares and is beheaded. That is why the singer laments over

the blindness of the great who, “………..go their ways like  gods….sure of hired fists. Trusting in their power. But long is not forever.” (pg 20)

It is the height of irresponsibility when Natella Abashwili takes her time choosing the dresses and shoes to carry. She finally leaves and forgets her child whom she had directed to be laid on the floor.

She is busy rummaging through clothing when the Adjutant is busy pleading that they should run for their lives. She does not care about the many people she is exposing to danger by her delay, Maro, a

servant,  realizes  that,  only  beasts  can  leave  children  behind.  She says, “They  left  it  behind,  the beasts” (pg 26)

Lavrenti,  Grusha’s  brother,  is  irresponsible  and  neglects  her  when  he  fails  to  look  after  her.  He marries her off to a total stranger and “a dying man” it becomes a double tragedy when Jussup does not die and Grusha does not know what to do with a total stranger who is unaware of her plight and yet  she  cannot  marry  her  lover  Simon.  As  an  older  brother  of  Grusha,  Lavrenti  fails  in  his responsibility to support her.

The monk hired to officiate the wedding is irresponsible. He agrees to join a girl to “a dying man.”

We are surprised that, the monk, a man who should be a role model is upholding  morals in a society is called from a tavern. He is drunk.


Religion refers to having or showing belief in and reverence for a deity on the other hand hypocrisy is  deception  by  pretending  to  entertain  on  set  of  intentions  while  acting  under  the  influence  of another. In “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” cases of religious hypocrisy are common.

Act  one  of  the  play  begins  with  Governor  Georgi  Abashwili  going  for  Easter  mass.  He  is accompanied  by  his  wife  Natella,  and  Michael,  their  child.  Although  he  would  like  to  pass  as  a devoted Christian, his regime has oppressed the people it serves. As they enter the church, beggars and petitioners cry over all sorts of problems that bespeaks of a people who have been living in an oppressive regime. They lament, “Mercy! Mercy, your Grace! The taxes are too high.  –I lost my leg in the Persian war….The child is starving in my arms….the water inspector takes bribes…… (pg 14)

As for the Fat Prince, hypocrisy reigns supreme. He attends church, wishes the Governor a happy Easter  Sunday  and  bows  before  Michael.  He  tickles  the  child  after  commenting,  “I  love  a  gay sky…..little Michael is a Governor from head to foot!” (pg 15). He also tells the governor there is good news after so much bad. This is total deception that he is loyal to the Governor’s family. Plans to behead the Governor and end Michael’s life are already in place.

While he directs the soldier to fasten the Governor’s head in the middle, he displays his hypocrisy when he says, “This morning at the church…Abashwili…I love a gay sky…prefer the lightning that comes out of a gay sky.” (pg 28)

The Monk who is supposed to be religiously inclined is portrayed as hypocritical. He presides over the  wedding  between  Jussup  and  Grusha  while  drunk.  He  is  found  in  the  tavern  (perhaps  taking alcohol) by  Grusha;s  mother-in-law who threatens to expose him. He is also paid to do the same.

Even when Jussup fails to take the vows and instead his mother does it on his behalf, he goes hiding and he has to be looked for by the mother-in-law. Being a religious person, his  character should be beyond reproach.

It smacks of religious hypocrisy for Jussup to go through the rigorous of a wedding, a much valued religious ceremony, yet he knows he is pretending to be a dying man. Grusha is hypocritical because she is not committed to the marriage as she does it for own expediency.

The mourners are also hypocritical. They gobble down the cake without being seriously mournful.

They  seem  to  expectantly  look  forward  to  the  death  of  Jussup. They  are  sincerely  not  sad,  only greedily wolfing down the funeral cakes. Aniko pretends to have religious principles that she does not possess. In fact, her hypocritical nature is  displayed  in  her  meanness.  Lavrenti  says  she  is  very  sensitive,  “People  need  only  mention  our farm and she is worried.”    (pg 48). Her servants seem to suffer under her as she shouts orders all over.  The  maid  may  not  be  well  paid.  She  once  goes  to  church  with  a  hole  in  her  stocking.  Ever since,  Aniko  has  worn  two  pairs  of  stockings  in  church.  She  is  truly  hypocritical,  feigning  to  be concerned  about  Grusha  yet  she  is  not.  She  has  false  appearance  as  a  devout  woman.  Lavrenti  is afraid of her. He tells Grusha, “You can’t stay here long with the child. She id religious, you see.” (pg 46). Aniko id painted as really heartless.  She is the exaggerated embodiment of certain aspects of religious opinions.

Lavrenti is also hypocritical. He also makes Grusha who is honest to be dehumanized by leading her to engage in a fake wedding. He cannot stand up for his sister but sings to the w hims of Aniko, “You need a place to go……because of the child…..have a husband, so people won’t talk…..can find you a husband.” (pg 48)

The mother-in-law is hypocritical. She deceives the mourners that Grusha is a bride to Jussup. She pretends that  Grusha came from the city to find Jussup alive. The first woman confidentially seems

to  know  Jussup  is  faking  illess  and  near  death  to  avoid  conscription  to  the  war.  Another  feels  it would be a blessing if he does not suffer too long; so she wishes he dies  especially now he is of no use as a farmer as the corn is ripe and there is no one to harvest.




Bertolt Bretcht has profoundly raised the issue of political intolerance that has consequently resulted to social instability. The ruling class has no regard for the woes of the have- nots. Poor leadership has led to violence and suffering of both the nobles and the masses.

First, we are presented with a desperate and deplorable Caucasian village due to war. It is described as war ravaged and is in ruins, “That’s where we stopped three Nazi tanks but the apple orchard was already destroyed……Our beautiful daily farm: a ruin.” (pg 97) The number of villages have declined and people have relocated to other areas. We are told by  a wounded soldier, “Comrade, we haven’t as many villages as we used to have. We haven’t as many hands.” (pg 8) The village has been ruined with almost everything being rationed. “All pleasures have to be rationed. Tobacco is rationed and wine.” (pg 8)

People’s  normal  lifestyle  is  affected  as  evident  when  the  Goat  Herding  commune  is  forced  to relocate on orders from the government. They fight to reclaim the land for they are not satisfied with their  new  grazing  land.  An  old  man  comments,  “You  can’t  live  there.  It  doesn’t  even  smell  of morning in the morning.” (pg 8)

Political  intolerance  has  brought  fear  and  insecurity.  The  girl  Tractorist  notes  that  plans  to rehabilitate the disputed valley had been conceived during days and nights when they have to take cover  in  the  mountains.  She  says,  “Often  we  hadn’t  even  enough  ammunition  for  our  half-dozen rifles. We could hardly lay our hands on a pencil. (pg 10)

The effects of political and social turbulences are not restricted to the Caucasian village only. From Arkadi’s performance, we learnt that the war in Persia has spilled to the Grusinian people. Under the leadership of the Grand Duke and Governor Georgi Abashwili majority of the poor people have been rendered beggars. The Governor is confronted by many petitioners who are not comfortable in the state  of  affairs,  The  children  are  emaciated.  Some  people  are  in  clutches  while  others  have  been crippled due to the war. They complain about the high taxes and bribery from senior people like the water inspector. The same people cannot win the governor’s eye and soldiers cause further suffering when they lash at them  with thick whips. The state of the poor is deplorable as evident when the Governor contemplates bringing down their slums in order to create room for his gardens.

The political class especially the nobles have no regard to the masses. Michael-The Governor’s heir and  son-  is  served  by  two  doctors,  He  is  the  apple  of  the  Governor’s  eye.  The  governor  is  not perturbed by the suffering of the people. He is contemptuous even to the people who have to provide him  with  security  briefs  from  the  capital.  A rider  with  confidential  papers  has  to  wait  until  the

Governor attends the Easter Sunday service and the latter ‘attends’ his visitors-architects-  at dinner.

It is this indifference that leads the princes to stage a coup and subsequently orders for his execution.

The coup comes with numerous harrowing effects. The singer comments: “when the house of a great one  collapses  many  little  ones  are  slain.”  (pg 20).  The  servants  panic  and  fear  for  their  lives  as illustrated when they ask, “what about us? We’ll be slaughtered like chickens. As always.’……There is bloodshed in the city, they say? (pg21)

Coup  results  to  people  being  internally  displaced  as  seen  when  the  Grand  Duke  flees  and  seeks refuge  at  Azdak’s  place.  The  Governor’s  wife  is  also  relocated  to  safer  grounds  while  Grusha disappears to the Northern Mountains to protect Michael whom the soldiers desperately want to kill.

Political instability has bred inhuman and  sadistic characters. The soldiers who behead the governor also fasten his head on the wall with nails. Moral conscience is lost among people like the old man who cannot  sympathize  with  Michael.  Grusha  has  to  plead  to  get  milk  for  the  baby.  He  tells  her, “milk? We have no milk. The soldiers from the city have our goats. Go to the soldiers if you want milk. (pg 31)

Grusha is forced to pay two piasters for a drop. The peasant woman whom Grusha thinks will hide the baby from the Iron shirts betrays her by denouncing Michael. She tells the soldiers, “Soldier, I didn’t know a thing about it. Please don’t burn the roof over our heads…..I had nothing to do with it.

She  left  it  on  my  doorstep.  (pg  38)  The  fabric  that  holds  the  society  together  has  therefore  been dismantled by political instability.


A  conflict  is  a  disagreement  that  arises  when  two  or  more  parties  dispute  or  fail  to  agree.  The Caucasian Chalk Circle addresses a number of these disputes.

In  the  prologue  there  is  a  conflict  between  two  land  owners  over  the  valley-The  Goat  Herders Collective Farm and the Fruit Growing Commune. They are arguing over the ownership and usage of the valley. The Goat Herders claim they are the original owners of the valley but have been forced  to flee by the government because of war. They have come back because the land they have relocated to is not favourable for their goats. Unfortunately the Fruit Growers have laid elaborate plans for the valley which they will irrigate. They purpose to establish fruit and vine orchards. The delegate from Tiflis helps settle the difference between the two communes.

There is a conflict between the princes and the Grand Duke. The princess wants to take over power and leadership from the Duke and his Governors. The conflict leads to staging of a coup where the Grand Duke is exiled and the Governor of Nuka-George Abashwili-  is beheaded. The judge of the Supreme Court is hanged and Azdak made the judge.

There is conflict between Grusha-Governor’s kitchen maid-  and Natella Abashwili. They both claim motherhood rights to Michael. Natella claims that she is the biological mother while Grusha claims right over the child since she picked him and nurtured him for two years. The mother claims him out of greed for property.  The conflict id resolved by judge Azdak who draws a circle round the child and asks the two to pull the child from the circle. Grusha hesitates twice and the judge rules in her favour.

Another conflict develops between Grusha and Jussup. When Grusha gets to her brother’s home in the  Northern  Mountains,  Lavrenti-  her  brother  schemes  to  have  her  married  to  a  “dying  man” ironically it turns out that Jussup has all along feigned illness to evade war and when news breaks out that  the  war  is  over  he  ‘recovers’  and  Grusha  is  horrified.  She  had  engaged  herself  to  Simon Shashava  and  cannot  imagine  cheating  on  him.  Jussup  complains  that  she  is  not  fulfilling  her matrimonial duties. He argues, “Can’t the peasant do it herself? Get the brush…..you are my wife and you’re not my wife……God has given you sex.. (pg 56-57). The dispute is settled when Azdak gives Grusha a divorce and then she is free to marry Simon.

There is conflict between Grusha and Simon when the latter returns from war and finds her at the river washing lines. When he sees Michael, he thinks that she has been unfaithful to him. He gets emotional and walks away. He later on realizes that the baby belonged to Natella. He comes to help her acquire the child during the famous chalk circle. He even lies that he is the father to Michael.

Other examples of conflict are between:

  1. I) Azdak and Shauwa
  2. II) Azdak and landowners

III)  The monk and Jussup’s mother

  1. IV) Grusha and the corporal


This is the act of giving up what one has or wants so that other people can have what they need. It is acting with less concern for yourself than for the welfare or success of others. One cares more about the needs and happiness of other people than their own.

Grusha  is  the  best  example.  When  the  governor’s  wife  and  her  personal  servant  forget  Michael, Grusha takes care of him. Other servants advise her to abandon the child for her own good. One old woman tells her, “Grusha you’re a good soul, but you are not very bright and you know it. (pg 27)

Grusha tries to leave Michael but realizes she  cannot. The singer tells us that after looking at the baby, Grusha hears as if it is telling her, “woman” it said,’ Help me” (pg 28)

Despite the danger in town, Grusha watches over the baby the whole night and the next day takeshim with her. On the way she has to buy the baby milk. When the old man sells to her the milk so expensively, she decides not to buy, but on realizing the baby needs it so badly and the journey is long she goes back and buys the milk.

The baby’s weight weighs on her back but she moves on. She decides to save the baby from starving by leaving it outside the door of a Fat peasant woman. She tells Michael, “The peasant woman is kind, and can’t you just smell milk” (pg 34) She hides behind the tree and observes the woman carry the baby into the house.

She risks her life when she hits the corporal to save the baby. “Again looking round in despair, she sees a log of wood, seizes it, and hits the corporal over the head from behind” (pg 39). It is during her escape that she decides to adopt the baby.

Grusha  risks  both  their  lives  on  order  to  get  away  from  the  Iron  shirt.  This  is  when  she  reaches Janga-Tau Glacier. No amount of warning can stop her and she crosses the dangerous bridge after

turning  the  offer  by  the  merchant  woman  to  hide  the  baby  for  her.  “I  won’t,  we  belong together…..live together, die together.” (pg41)

Grusha has to bear the discomfort of her brother’s home. She makes another sacrifice as she has to live with a hard to please sister-in­­-law. To survive she has to be crafty. She tells Michael they have to be “As small as cockroaches… the sister-in-law will forget we are in the house.” (pg47)

Grusha,  who  is  alredy  engaged  to  Simon  and  has  promised  to  await  his  return  ends  up  getting married to a ‘dying man’ –Jussup-to make Michael have a legitimate father. This is another sacrifice that she makes.She endangers her life by following the Ironshirts who have taken Michael. She is a wanted person for  having  attacked  and  injured  a  corporal.  What  matters  to  her  is  Michael.  She  goes  through  the court procedure for Michael. It is out of her self-sacrifice that eventually Grusha wins the case.

Other characters that make sacrifices for the welfare of other people are:

 Lavrenti who tries as much as he could to ensure that Grusha is comfortable in his house.

 Simon  commitment  to  Grusha  calls  for  sacrifice.  He  has  been  away  for  two  years  and remained loyal to her.

  Simon’s big sacrifice to accompany the Governor’s wife as her guard to Tiflis.

  Shalva  the  adjutant  makes  sacrifices  when  her  helps  Natella  escape  during  the  coup.  He remains loyal to the governor’s family despite the risks as the public has turned against the authority.


There is existence of social classes in the society described in the Caucasian Chalk Circle. There is unfair difference between groups of people in this society. Some are wealthier than others and enjoy a high status or opportunities as opposed to others. The diverse lifestyle enjoyed by the governor and his family is in contrast to the object poverty the lowly citizen has to endure. Georgi Abashwili is “rich as Croesus” (pg 13) “had a healthy baby …so many horses in his stable (pg 13 -14) In sharp contrast “so many beggars in his door step so many petitioners his courtyard…..He enjoyed his life” (pg 14)

The governor and his beautiful wife go to church guarded by extremely many soldiers who are at his service.  Beggars  and  petitioners  pour  from  the  church  gateway  with  complains.  They  display  thin children to the  governor, others hold up crutches and petitions. They are a pitiful sight. The social difference  is  due  to  the  poor  governance.  The  governor’s  family  is  expensively  dressed.  Natella

derides the poor, For instance on page 18 she says “It’s impossible to live in such a slum….” When she enters the court, she is relieved that there are no common people: “I can’t stand their smell. It always gives me a migraine.” (pg 88)

From the onset, she dislikes Azdak and on pg 89 she says, “I disliked that man from the  moment I saw  him”  Natella’s  behaviour  is  characterized  by  false  pride  and  an  exaggerated  sense  of  self importance. She does not have time for the poor beggars and her servants and only identifies herself.

Her contempt for the poor is seen in the court when he sees Michael and laments that he is in ‘rags.’

The class of people conscripted to fight the Persian war have been maimed, yet they have not been compensated.  The  down  trodden  have  suffered  injustice  while  they  are  innocent,  “My  brother  is innocent, your Grace “misunderstanding”-worse still they suffer from hunger.


To betray is to hurt people who trust you especially by not being loyal or faithful to them.

When the governor is being arrested, the iron shirts of the place guard who are supposed to guard the governor refuse to obey. They stare coldly and indifferently at the Adjutant and refuse to obey him when  he  commands  them.  The  doctors  betray  the  Abashwili  family  immediately  they  realize  the governor has been arrested. (pg 21) “on that little brat’s account”

The Fat Prince is with the Governor at the church and even wishes him a happy Easter, yet he is the one who leads the iron shirts in arresting the Governor.

Grusha is betrayed by the peasant woman whom she had trusted not to reveal presence  of the child.

She is also betrayed by  her brother. She has been asked by Simon where she would hide and she confidently says she would run to her brother in the Northern Mountains. When she arrives there, her brother  cannot  host  her  with  the  child  because  he  says  his  wife  is  religious  and  cannot  host  her.

Instead of being given a warm welcome, Grusha stays like a fugitive in her brother’s house. In order to get her out of his house he gets her ‘a dying’ husband and when he ‘resurrects’ she finds herself with a husband she does not love.

Jussup  betrays  his  fellow  young  men,  the  government  and  his  mother  when  he  pretends  to  be seriously sick so that he doesn’t get drafted to war.

Simon feels betrayed by Grusha as she has promised to wait until he returns after giving company to Natella and guarding her on the way to the loyal guards. When he comes, she is apparently married and has a child. He does not know the circumstances that lead her to get married or the nature of the marriage. He feels so betrayed that he cannot even get his cross back but directs Grusha to throw it into the stream.

Natella betrays her own child and her husband when she escapes leaving Michael in the courtyard.

She  orders  a  servant  to  put  down  the  child  in  order  for  the  servant  to  run  for  her  little  saffron coloured boots to match with a green dress. The baby is left behind.


In  Caucasian  Chalk  Circle  the  writer  explores  on  the  beauty  of  fair  and  reasonable  treatment  of people.  Through  the  legal  system  used  to  punish  people  is  not  perfect  the  people  who  have committed crimes are somehow brought to justice. Justice is a fundamental thematic concern in the prologue. The meeting between the Goat Herders and the Fruit Growers is meant to determine which people deserve to own the valley. The Goat Herders who formerly owned the land had vacated at the approach of Hitler’s armies. Their intended resettlement encounters opposition from Collective Fruit Farmers. With their delegates they sit in a circle signalling their dete-rmination to negotiate between themselves in order to reach a fair and reasonable decision without perverting the cause of justice. A delegate from Tiflis presides over the case. Both sides present their arguments as to the reason why they are deserving owners of the valley. They arrive at a consensus through the voice of reason rather that by the rule of law.

The  petitioners  and  beggars  bitterly  cry  for  justice.  The  governor  demurs  to  heed  to  their  pitiable calls for fair treatment. However, reason does not prevail; the soldiers are guilty of abstracting justice by lashing at the pitiful petitioners. They are heavily taxed and expect the water inspector who takes bribes to be brought to justice.

Due to the injustice the people suffer, they are somehow rewarded when the Fat Princes and soldiers plan a coup d’état. The grand Duke and hid governors are overthrown. Although the legal system use to punish people like the Governor and the Fat prince is crude, the people engage in administering justice  are  convicted  that  they  are  justified  to  put  the  criminals  to  the  gallows  for  their  heinous crimes.

The singer voices the importance of  acceptable and appropriate handling of  fellow human beings.

Although Azdak is a criminal, he argues that he should not be arrested for stealing only  a rabbit. He expresses  the  opinion  that  Shauwa  is  a  worse  criminal  for  catching  people  and  will  be  judged  by God. Later Azdak denounced himself for committing an unpardonable crime of ignorantly letting the Grand Duke escape. He persuades Shauwa to chain him and take him to be judged in Nuka. He begs to be shred to pieces because he is conscience-stricken. This way justice will prevail.

Azdak dispenses justice although not in a fastidious or meticulous manner. It is justice in his own fashion. He harbours a  soft heart for the vulnerable and down trodden. He encounters no restrictions of the statute book which he seats on instead of making reference to it. The period of his judging is described as “a brief golden age, almost an age of justice.” (pg 99). However, he does not acquaint himself with the legal system of the statute book. He carries not, the professional demeanour of a judge.

He  presides  over  a  number  of  cases  some  are  handled  simultaneously;  Most  of  the  accused  are acquitted though proved guilty. The plaintiffs are condemned and fined. Azdak rules in favour of the doctor who is guilty of professional negligence. Azdak turns justice upside down to the relief of the vulnerable.  His  ruling  is  controversial.

He declares to  the  Doctor;  you  have  perpetrated  an unpardonable error in the practice of your profession; you are acquitted. (pg 77) Ludovica is accused

of  committing  an  intentional  assault  yet  she  is  the  victim  of  rape  by  the  stable  man  who  is  not sentenced.

He acquits the old woman guilty of theft and drinks with the thief, bandit –Irakli whom he addresses as pious man. He offers to sit on the floor and offers the judge’s chair to the old woman. Shauwa’s official  designation  is  prosecutor,  however  he  doubles  up  as  a  sweeper.  This  displays  lack  of seriousness  in  court.  Sometimes  the  judge’s  chair  is  carried  to  the  tavern  where  Azdak  carries judgement while drinking wine. The singer comments “Azdak broke rules to save them” (pg 82). He renders verdict to save the poor “The poor and the lowly.” He dispenses justice in his fashion.

When the landowners take law into their hands to get revenge for not getting justice from Azdak, it is his  previous  human  treatment  of  the  Duke  that  saves  him  from  the  gallows.  Justices  prevails  to favour  Azdak  who  is  reappointed  judge  by  the  order  and  authority  of  the  Grand  Duke  who  has returned. This dramatic turn of events offers more room for Azdak to preside over other cases such as the famous Chalk Circle.The  writer  uses  Grusha  as  a  vehicle  of  justice.  She fearlessly  condemns  Azdak  for  being  corrupt.

Azdak  asks  her,  “You  want  justice,  but  do  not  want  to  pay  for  it.”  (pg  94).   Grusha  comments sarcastically, “A fine kind of justice” (pg 94) I’d tell you what I think of your justice, you drunken onion!” (pg 95). Grusha is rewarded for her human nature.


A character is a person who takes part in the actions of a work of art.


She is a kitchen maid in the governor’s palace. She is a fiancé to Simon Shashava and a sister to Lavrenti Vashnadze.

She is the heroine in the play. She rescues Michael who is abandoned by her fleeing mother, Natella after the coup. To survive she makes several sacrifices and choices she stays with him for two years.

She is described as;

  1. a) Loving/Caring/Concerned

She is concerned about Simon’s fate when he is delegated to be Natella’s Abashwili’s guard after the coup. She says,  “Isn’t it dangerous to  go with her. You are a man Simon Shashava what has that woman got to do with you’ (pg 22)

She is concerned about the plight of the Governor she asks “What have they done with the governor” (pg  26)  When  Michael  is  left  behind  by  his  mother  Natella.  She  picks  him  up  to  spare  him  from being killed by the soldiers who are looking for him. She does this despite the fact that other servants at the palace dissuade her to do so) pg 27). She has lain down all her life for the welfare of Michael.

  1. b) Courageous/Bold/Daring/Brave

Her  courage  has  been  motivated  by  her  will  to  defend  Michael.  She  is  not  afraid  even  at  the  law courts.  When  told  by  judge  Azdak  that  she  would  be  fined  ten  piasters  for  contempt  of  court  she responds, “Even if it was thirty, I’d tell you what I think of your justice, you drunken onion” (pg 95)

She hits the corporal until he collapses and gets a chance to flee with the child. In a daring move, she crossses the broken bridge despite the impending danger and risks. In the court room, she confronts the Governor’s wife and says, “You want to hand the child over to her, she wouldn’t even know how to keep it dry. She is so refined. (pg 94) Grusha knows how to fight for her rights.

  1. c) Motherly

She is more motherly to Michael than his biological mother. When people run to save their lives and forget the baby she sits with the child all through the night until dawn. Then she takes him away. She suckled Michael just like a mother, and realizing that he is not suckling anymore, she goes to the peasant and tells him, “The baby must be fed”(pg 32)

At the trial scene, Grusha cannot bring herself to pull Michael from the chalk circle. When asked why she is not participating she says, “I brought him up! Shall I also tear him up to bits? I can’t (pg 98)  This  test  makes  judge  Azdak  choose  the  mother  who  is  motherly.  Grusha  adopts  Michael bringing out her deeper feelings as a mother would do. She says “Since no one else will take you son….we’ll see it through together.” (pg 39) She does several selfless actions for the sake of Michael.

First,  she  gives  up  her  money  for  the  child,  paying  two  piasters  for  milk  then  goes  back  to  save Michael after leaving him with the peasant woman. She even gets married breaking her promise to Simon.

  1. D) Defensive/Abusive

When the governor’s wife remarks that Michael is in ‘rags’ and “He must have been in a pigsty” (pg 97)  Grusha  retorts,  “I’m  not  a  pig  but  there  are  some  who  are!’’  In  the  court  room  when  Azdak initially fines her ten piasters for contempt of court, she refers to him as a “drunken onion” (pg 55)

  1. E) Determined/Resolute

She is determined to keep Michael that when the corporal goes to take a look at Michael, she seizes a log and hits him in the head with it, knocking him down. Her determination is also exemplified when she succeeds in getting across the broken bridge thus risking her life and Michaels. At the court when she is asked by judge  Azdak if she would want Michael to go back to her mother so that he can be rich and powerful she says, “I won’t give him up. I have raised him and he knows me.” (pg 17)

  1. F) Possessive

When asked by a cook why she must hold on to the baby at any price when  the baby isn’t hers she says, “He’s mine. I brought him up (pg 87)

  1. G) Appreciative

When Simon offers to help her by swearing that the child is his, she says to Simon, “Thank You” (pg 87)’

  1. H) Obedient

She  has  to  miss  the  Easter  Sunday  Service  to  attend  to  the  master.  “I  was  dressed  to  go  but  they needed another gooses for the banquet.


Initially he is a village recorder/clerk but after he is accidentally chosen to be the judge by the iron shirts. He represents the voice of reason and social justice as  he takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He is in charge of determining who the mother will be in the chalk circle.

During his initial appearance in stage he is in rags an indication that, he lives in abject poverty. Since he is the village recorder  economic hardships triggered by an oppressive and unstable government must have contributed to his degradation.

He is a dynamic character who despite his many faults one cannot fail to admire him. Azdak can be described as:

  1. i) Intelligent/wise/skilful/ knowledgeable

He has firsthand knowledge about political affairs in Persia. He narrates to the iron shirts about the political  turbulence  in  the  country,  when  consulted  by  the  iron  shirts  about  installation  of  a  new judge; he portrays himself as intelligently  reasonable and sensible. He proposes that the judge to be appointed should be vetted. “tested to the marrow’ (pg 71)

He skilfully sings the song of injustice in Persia in which he is used as a vehicle to highlight evils such as inhumanity, injustice, corruption, economic devastation and poverty.

In  the  play  within  a  play,  he  intelligently  imitates  the  Grand  Duke’s  accent.  His  defence  is  quite impressive. He displays knowledge about how the princes were corrupt and did not lose war because that corruptly made money out of it. “war lost but not for the princes. Princes won their war. Got 3,863,000 piasters for horses not delivered, 8,240, 000 piasters for food supplies not produced” (pg 74) The skilful and intelligent way in which he puts up his defence makes  him he installed as the judge.

As a judge he disguises his intentions well. He asks for payment from the prosecutors and Grusha.

As the prosecutors are able to pay him well, they smile with relief thinking that he would be on their side,  He  seems  to  be  hard  on  Grusha  especially  when  he  says  he  wants  to  be  told  the  truth  and especially when he tells her, we’ll make it short and not listen to any more lies (to Grusha) especially not yours (pg 93) We are surprised when he later rules the case in her favour.

He is able to exchange a dialogue using proverbs with Simon to further his argument. When Simon implies that, since he has been given work by the ruling class he thinks he is of the same class, he answers “Better a treasure in manure than a stone in a mountain stream (pg 94). He means although the  nobility  are  corrupt,  they  are  providing  him  with  a  means  of  livelihood,  rather  than  when  he would be starving with the morally upright people.

The  idea  of  the  chalk  circle  is  a  sign  of  intelligence  on  Azdak  part  as  it  finally  proves  that motherhood is not just the biological process but also the emotional attachment one has towards the child.

  1. ii) Hospitable/Accommodative/welcoming

He accommodates an old man in his hut, who turns out to be the Grand Duke. Although he is in rags his generosity is seen when he offers a stranger cheese and a place to sleep.

iii)  Considerate/Judicious/Sensible

He listens to both sides giving them chances to explain their side of the story. After the first lawyer has presented his case, Azdak asks  Grusha: “What is your answer to all this and anything else the lawyer might have to say” (pg 91) When she just answers that the child is hers, he asks, “Is that all? I hope you can prove it. Why should I assign the child to you in any case?” (pg 91)

He is sensible when he refuses to divorce a couple who have been married for the last forty years but wants to get divorce simply because they don’t like each other.

Justice is done when the circle is drawn and the mothers are asked to pull the child out of it.

  1. IV) Cautious/suspicious/ discerning

He  is  wary  of  the  way  the  old  beggar  behaves  and  he  discerns  that  the  beggar  may  actually  be

disguised”  do  not  lick  your  chops  like  a  Grand  Duke…….watching  you  gives  me  the  most  awful ideas…..flogger.” (pg 64)

When the old man offers to give some hundred thousand piasters, he cannot trust him when he says he does not have the money with him. He handles his guest and the people he interacts with a lot of caution. He does trust the old man, “…In short I don’t trust you.” (pg 66)

  1. v) Remorseful/contrite

He suffers from guilt conscience and reproachfully denounces himself when he realizes that he had harboured and let the Grand Duke  escape. “In the name of justice, I  ask to be severely judged  in public trial. I’m contemptible, I am a traitor! A branded criminal.” (pg 66)

His conscience also pricks him for having treated people injudiciously. “I’ll have to pay for it. I let the…and …outs get away with murder. I’ll have to pay for it….” (pg 84).




  1. vi) Humorous

He makes a joke  in court when it is explained that Grusha is engaged to Simon yet is married to a peasant in the mountain village. He asks whether she did so because Simon was not good in bed.

vii)  Abusive/disrespectful/insolent

He insults the old beggar when he discovers that he is not a beggar ‘…walking swindler! Peasant flogger and a leech.” He tells the old beggar “I couldn’t hand over a bedbug to that animal” (pg 65) referring to Shauwa. He insults the iron shirts who have been beating him. He addresses then as dogs living in the dog world. (pg 89)

Viii) Corrupt/unscrupulous/undisciplined

He is overly corrupt. Before he presides over any case he solicits for a bribe when he says, “I accept” on pg 77 the singer tells us that he is crooked.

The way he handles the court cases leaves a lot to be desired. He sits in the judge’s chair peeling an apple.

He seems overwhelmed by the number of cases he has to handle and so he decides to handle two cases simultaneously.

He sometimes presides over serious cases out of the court where the judge’s chair has to be carried.

He enters from the caravansary…carried (pg 77)

He presides over another case in the tavern while drinking wine.

Instead of referring to the statute book, he sits on it

He sits on the floor  and does some personal  grooming in the courtroom. “Azdak sits on the floor shaving……” (pg 83)

There isn’t a standard way of charging clients and it seems all are charged differently. Grusha is first fined ten, then twenty, then thirty and finally forty.

viii)  Immoral

On  page  93  while  addressing  Grusha  he  says,  “Is  he  no  good  in  bed?  Tell  the  truth”  this  is  in reference to Simon.

In the court, he admonishes Grusha for not, “making eye…..and wiggling her backside a little to keep him…..in good temper.” (pg 95)


He is the governor of the Grusinian people, Natella’s husband and Michael’s father. He is beheaded on Easter Sunday after his brother the Fat Prince successfully stages a coup.

He is described as:

  1. I) Irresponsible/inhuman/insensitive

He lacks commitment to  the people he is serving. He uses his position to mistreat the poor and the less fortunate in the city of Nuka. The deplorable nature of the beggars and petitioners shows that they have been neglected and are living in abject poverty.

He is not interested  in the state of war. He ignores a messenger (rider) from the capital who comes with confidential papers. He will not attend to this matter until after the service. This annoys the rider who, “…..turns sharply round and, muttering a curse goes off (pg 66)

  1. II) Hypocritical/selfish/self-centred

He appears to be more interested in the Easter Sunday service than the people he serves. Christian values dictates that the weak and poor should be considered  yet he ignores the many beggars and petitioners who flock the gateway.

He is more concerned about his personal interests. He intends to bring down the slums to pave way for his garden. He engages two doctors to take care of his son yet the beggar’s children are thin, with scarcely anything to eat.

He has accumulated  so much wealth around him that the singer compares his richness to Croesus (a king of Lydia who was known for his riches)

His contempt for the poor masses is telling, when he ignores them as he enters the church.

III)  Loving

He refers to his son as the apple of his eye. Two doctors are responsible for him. He is ready to build a whole wing which makes his wife Natella jealous of their son.


She is the wife to Governor Abashwili and biological mother to Michael. When the coup takes place, she  leaves  behind  her  child  and  later,  she  tries  to  reclaim  him  back  from  Grusha,  the  lady  who salvaged him.

She is portrayed as:

  1. I) Materialistic/greedy

She is so much concerned with earthly things and wealth that she even forgets her child when she is fleeing. She cannot imagine leaving behind her personal possessions such as dresses. This is done oblivious of the danger she is exposing herself and the servants to. “I’ve got to take this silver dress, it  cost  a  thousand  piasters…the  wine  coloured  one?”  (pg25)  She  desperately  rummages  into  the trunks looking for her most valuable essentials. She cannot even dream of escaping on a horse back despite prevailing danger. “Such nonsense! I wouldn’t dream of going on horseback!” (pg 25)

  1. II) Contemptuous/Vain/proud/self-centred

Her behaviour is characterised by false pride and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. She does not have time for beggars and her servants.

She only identifies herself with people of class. She insults a young woman who already assured her that no harm has come to her dress. “Nothing in your head, but making eyes at Shalva….I’ll kill you, you bitch.” She beats up the young woman. (pg 24)

She is offensive by nature. She lacks respect for human beings. She refers to Azdak as a creature.

“What sort of a creature is that Shalva” (pg 85) she comments that Michael must have been in pigsty because he is dressed in rags.

When she enters the courtroom, she sighs with relief that there is no common man around. She says she  cannot  stand  their  smell  as  it  always  gives  her  migraine.  She  looks  at  Grusha  and  asks conte-mptuously, “Is that the creature” (pg 88)

III)  Careless/irresponsible

She orders the woman holding Michael, Natella’s own son to put him down so that she can get her little saffron coloured boots from the bedroom. She is not interested in the child. No wonder the child is left behind as she flees.

  1. IV) Pretentious/Hypocritical

The first lawyer cautions her against speaking disrespectfully about people until they have another judge, she retorts, “But I didn’t say anything…..I love the people with their simple straight forward minds. It’s only that their smell brings on my migraine” (pg 92)

At the courtroom, she pretends that she is very affected by the loss of her child. She describes her loss as, “A most cruel fate, sir, forces me to describe to you the fortunes of a bereaved mother’s soul, the anxiety, the sleepless nights the…….”(pg 92)

  1. V) Wicked

When  Azdak  is  lifted  up  and  dragged  under  the  noose.  The governor’s  wife  claps  her  hands hysterically and comments, “I disliked that man from the moment I first saw him.” (pg 89)





He  is  a  policeman  and  a  guard  that  accompanies  Azdak  to  Nuka  on  request  to  a  court  trial.  He doubles up as a prosecutor and a sweeper in court during Azdak’s term as judge.

He can be described as:

  1. I) Compromising/tolerant/patient

He does not arrest Azdak for his criminal activity of stealing rabbits. Instead he tries to reason with him, “….When prince’s rabbits are stolen……I’m a policeman ….should I do with the offending party (pg65). Although Azdak remains stubborn and unwilling to change his behaviour Shauwa is tolerant and  patient  with  this.  He  tells  him,  “You  caught  another  rabbit….you’d  promised  me  it  wouldn’t happen  again.”  Azdak  claims  the  rabbit  should  be  exterminated.  He  is  oblivious  of  the  tricky circumstance he places Shauwa in. The latter is tolerant and persuasive instead, Azdak don’t be hard on  me.  I’ll  lose  my  job  if  I  don’t  arrest  you.  I  know  you’re  a  good  heart”  (pg65).  Shauwa  is  a policeman  with  power  to  arrest  Azdak  but  instead  Azdak  incriminates  him  and  orders  him  to  go home and repent which Shauwa does.

  1. II) Obedient/Submissive/Accommodating

He cooperates with Azdak who request him to take him to Nuka. He is forced to walk half the night with  Azdak  to  clear  the  whole  thing  all  by  threat.  All  Shauwa  says  is,  “That  wasn’t  nice  of  you Azdak “ (pg 66)

He takes orders from Azdak even in the circumstances when he has the right to rebel. Azdak shouts at him, “shut your mouth Shauwa,” shauwa does not respond to this angry outburst. (pg 67)

He obediently agrees to tell the iron shirts how Azdak had shouted at shoemaker street when ordered to by Azdak. “They confronted him in butcher street…Shoemaker Street. That’s all” (pg 67) He is ordered by Azdak to sing with him as he holds the rope around him. He sings.

III)  Agreeable/Responsible

He appears to be a pleasant person, quite easy to get along with. During the reign of Azdak as judge, he takes responsibility of the difficult duties as being prosecutor and at the same time sweeping and serving Azdak like a servant.

He reports to Azdak and does what he is ordered to do. “Public prosecutor drop your knife” (pg 78) Shauwa obeys.

Shauwa  reports  all  the  cases  to  Azdak  without  influencing  him  and  showing  any  bias.  He  serves Azdak wine in the tavern. “Shauwa bring him wine” (pg 79) sometimes he reports the cases while sweeping” (busy sweeping) “Blackmail” (pg 76)

  1. IV) Caring/Concerned

When the Grand Duke returns and Azdak is scared that he will face the consequences of his actions, Shauwa warns him when he presumes there is danger “someone’s coming” (pg 84)


He is a soldier of the palace guard who remains at the door when the Governor and his family enter the Church. He is ordered to accompany the governor’s wife, Natella Abashwili as her guard. He is Grusha’s betrothed

He is portrayed as:

  1. I) Loyal/obedient

He accepts to accompany the Governor’s wife as her guard to Tiflis. He takes up the responsibility despite the risks involved in being identified with the Governor’s family. Grusha warns him, isn’t it dangerous to go with her” (pg 21)

When ordered by the Adjutant to move, he stands attention and goes off.

  1. II) Inquisitive/Curious

In  his  encounter  with  Grusha,  he  asks  ceaseless  questions.  “May  I  ask  if  the  young  lady  still  has parents”-My second question is this,” – is the young lady as healthy as a fish in water.”

When he comes back from the war and finds Grusha by the river, he wants to know whether she is sill faithful to him and whether the child is hers.

III)  Faithful

For the two years he is away for war, he remains faithful to Grusha. This explains why he is eager to know the relationship between Michael and Grusha. To show his commitment to Grusha he offers to assist her in the case and even says that Michael is his.

  1. IV) Humorous

His conversation with Grusha on Pg 17-18 is full of humour. “A goose (He feigns suspicion) I’d like to see that goose. I only went for a fish.

  1. V) Loving/concerned/responsible

When he returns from war, he goes to look for Grusha at the Northern Mountains. He asks her “How are things here? Was the winter bearable?”

When the Governor is toppled and killed he comes to look for Grusha: “Grusha! There you are at last! What are you going to do? (pg 21)

When  he  is  delegated  to  accompany  Natella  by  the  Adjutant  and  Grusha  complains.  He  answers “That woman has nothing to do with me. I have my orders and I go” (pg 22)

He cares about the welfare of Grusha when he acquires about the parents, whether she is healthy and if she is impatient.

He gives Grusha a silver chain to cement their relationship. He is always there for her.

  1. VI) Impatient/Hot tempered

He does not take time to listen to Grusha’s explanation that she has been faithful to him. To him she is married and has a son. He tells her, “Give me back the cross I gave you. Better  still throw it in the stream.” (pg 61)

VII)  Wise/Prudent

He makes use of several proverbs in answer to Azdak

“A fine day, let’s go fishing said the angler to the warm”( pg 94)

“A well can’t be filled with dew, they say” (pg 90)

VIII)  Appreciative

When he realizes that Azdak has granted Grusha divorce, he is so grateful that he tells the judge that forty piasters are cheap when one considers what he has gained. “Cheap at your price, your honour. And many thanks.”


He  is  Grusha’s  brother  and  husband  to  Aniko.  When  Grusha  flees  to  the  mountains,  he accommodates her and makes arrangement for her to get married to the “dying man”-Jussup.

He is potrayed as:

  1. a) Fearful/cowardly/timid

The manner in which he quietly and quickly inquires from Grusha whether there is a father to the child indicates that he is fearful. He is intimidated by his wife. Due to this Lavrenti anxiously says that they must think something up.

He  fears  that  the  priest had  questioned  Grusha  about  the  child  and  only  gets  relieved  to  hear  that Grusha did not tell him anything.

He is fearful of the people who are already gossiping about the illegitimate child.

Due to the fear of his wife and people he organizes for a fake marriage for Grusha so that people won’t talk. “So people won’t talk” (pg 49) The singer comments, “The cowardly brother…….giver of shelter” (pg47)



  1. b) Hospital/ welcoming

When Grusha flees to the mountains and finally lands at his home, he welcomes her cordially despite the initial fears he has on how his wife will react.

  1. c) Deceitful/dishonest/untrustworthy/untruthful

He lies to Aniko that Grusha is on her way to her husband and Grusha says she got married to a man on the other side of the mountain.

He plans to steal Aniko’s milk money to use it for Grusha’s wedding.

To cover up his wife’s weaknesses, he purports she is sensitive and religious.

  1. d) Crafty/cunning/scheming

In  order  to  get  rid  of  Grusha,  he  plans  for  her  marriage  with  a  dying  man.  He  does  this  secretly without informing his wife.

He wants to ensure that they do not suffer shame so he makes people believe that Grusha actually had  a  husband  on  the  other  side  of  the  mountain.  “People  mustn’t  know  anything”  (pg  47).  He organizes  the  marriage  without  consulting  Grusha  initially,  only  to  inform  her  later  about  the arrangement.

He hides the baby from the monk and only brings out the baby when the ceremony is over for he knows very well that the vows cannot be reversed.


She is Lavrenti’s wife and a sister-in-law to Grusha.

She is portrayed as:

  1. a) Hypocritical/pretentious

She is portrayed as being religious but lacks religious qualities. Grusha arrives at their home worn out and tires, all she is concerned is about Grusha’s single status. “If your husband’s not in the city, where  is  he….has  your  husband  got  a  farm…but  when  will  he  come  back  if  the  war’s  broken  out again as people say?” (pg 46)

Lavrenti  explains  to  Grusha  that  she  cannot  stay  for  long  with  them  because  Aniko  is  religious.

“…but you can’t stay here long with child. She’s religious; you see (pg46)

  1. b) Arrogant/proud

When Grusha faints she says, “Heavens she’s ill what are we going to do….as long….as its not scarlet fever…….if it’s consumption we’ll get it” (pg 45-46)

She keeps on shouting to the servants Sosso! Where on earth are you? Sosso! (pg 46)



  1. c) Cold/Unwelcoming

When she is introduced to Grusha instead of welcoming her, she asks “I thought you were in service in Nuka….wasn’t it a good job? We are told it was.

Lavrenti has to defend her to Grusha “She has a good heart. But wait till after supper (pg 46)

Grusha  even  has  to  tell  Michael,  “Michael  we  must  be  clever,  if  we  make  ourselves  as  small  as cockroaches.  The  sister-in-law  will  forget  we’re  in  the  house  and  then  we  can  stay  till  the  snow melts” (pg 47)


She is the mother to Jussup.  She makes arrangement with Lavrenti to have his sister married to her son Jussup on his ‘deathbed’

She is portrayed as:

  1. a) Materialistic/greedy

She is to be paid by Lavrenti 400 piasters for having Grusha marry Jussup. When she discovers that there is a child, Lavrenti has to offer 200 piasters more and she readily agrees to have the marriage

take  place  “My  Jussup  doesn’t  have  to  marry  a  girl  with  a  child…all  right  make  it  another  200 piasters. (pg 50). She hires a cheap monk to perform the wedding in order to save. “She saved on the priest the wretch. Hired a cheap monk (pg 50)

  1. b) Opportunistic

Takes advantage of her son’s illness to make money by marrying him off on his deathbed. “The son of this peasant woman is going to die…. How much does the peasant want? Four hundred piasters”

(pg 49) she also  gets a  chance to add more money  when she discovers  that the bride has a child Lavrenti has to add two hundred piasters more.

  1. c) Hypocritical/dishonest

When she sees Grusha with the child, she weeps, saying that her people are honest and she does not want to live with the shame.

She makes the monk accept that Jussup has accepted the marriage: “Of course he is! Didn’t you hear him say yes?” (pg 51)

  1. d) Pretentious

When  she  arrives  with  the  monk,  she  tells  the  guests  “I  hope  you  won’t  mind  waiting  a  few moments?  My  son’s  bride  has  just  arrived  from  the  city.  An  emergency  wedding  is  about  to  be

celebrated (pg 51). Grusha has not arrived from the city nor is she her sons beloved. When the monk and she enter the bedroom, she tells him, “I might have known you couldn’t keep your trap shut” (pg 51). This means she is not amused by the arrival of the guests. When the monk inquires about the child, she tells him, “Is there a child? I don’t see a child…you understand? (pg 52)


He is referred to as the Fat Prince. He is a brother to the Governor. He plots and stages a coup, with the help of ironshirts that leads to the killing of his brother-The Governor. When the Grand Duke returns after two years he is deposed and beheaded.

He is portrayed as:

  1. a) Hypocritical/insincere

He pretends to be so much pleased with the governor’s family that he bows and remarks sarcastically that Michael is a governor from head to foot.”

He  hypocritically  terms  George’s  intention  of  bringing  down  slums  to  pave  room  for  the  garden, good news. “Good news after so much bad” (pg 5) He has instigated war against the Grand Duke and the Governor; He intends to overthrow the  government. He then claims that the universally loved judge has been hanged. “My  friends, we need peace, peace in Grusinia! And justice! So I’ve brought along my dear nephew Bizergan Kazbeki (pg 71)

He pretends that he wants the ironshirts to confer and democratically decide who should be judge yet at the same time informs his nephew, “Don’t worry my little fox. The job’s yours (pg 71). More so he intends to ignore the Ironshirts once the Grand Duke is arrested. He tells his nephew “and when we catch the Grand Duke, we won’t have to please this rabble any longer.” (pg 71)

  1. b) Sadistic/callous/inhuman

He schemes for the murder of the Governor and once he is executed, he orders the drunken soldiers to fasten his head on the wall using nails. He desperately looks for Michael so that he can kill him.

He comments, “It’s a pity they took the brat along though, I need him, urgently” (pg 28)

  1. c) Crafty/scheming/cunning

He schemes to install his nephew as judge by influencing the Iron shirts but they stage a rehearsal with the nephew acting as judge. He tells the nephew. “It isn’t customary….who got there first.” (pg 72)


  1. d) Corrupt

He fights for his nephew to be installed as judge. The iron shirts outwit him in his own game and the position goes to Azdak.

  1. e) Greedy

His plan to overthrow the system run by the Grand Duke is motivated by greed for power. He evenkills the Governor, his brother, and act that shows the extent hunger for control and power can push one to. Since evil begets evil, he is executed the same way he killed his brother.


Style in literature can be described as how the author uses literary elements such as words, sentence structure and figurative language to describe events, ideas and objects in their work.

Stylistic devices refer to a variety of techniques used by writers.


Play within a play involves having another play within the main play. It is important as it helps in plot development, bringing out various themes and character traits. The play “The Caucasian Chalk

Circle” is three stories presented in one; The story of the Goat Herders and Fruit farmers,The story of Grusha and Michael and The story of Azdak as the judge.these are thus presented as plays within the main play.

The  story  of  “The  Caucasian  Chalk  Circle”,  borrowed  from  a  Chinese  tale  is  presented  as  a  play within a play. There is a meeting of the delegates who are trying to resolve the puzzle of who owns the piece of land between the fruit farmers and the goat keepers. When an agreement is reached, the peasant woman on the left invites Arkadi Tscheidse, the singer, to entertain them.

There  is  also  a  play  within  a  play  when  Michael  and  other  children  enact  the  beheading  of  the Governor. It is used to show the extent of evil in society as the children who are so innocent clearly portray it. Michael refusing to be the one to be beheaded shows he is the chip off the old block-the Governor’s son. It is also a satire of criticism of the senseless and cruel behaviour in the society. The play within a play is used to bring out the self sacrificing nature of Grusha. As seen when she takes care of Michael as he own son, through it various stylistic techniques such as use of song, Irony and flash back are evident. Various themes such as hypocrisy, negligence of duty among others are also brought out.

The story of Azdak the judge is also a play within a play. It begins when Azdak helps the old beggar who late turns out to be the Grand Duke. It ends with Azdak judging Grusha’s and Natella’s case using  “The  Caucassian  Chalk  Circle.”  This  play  within  a  play  exemplifies  the  themes  of  justice, abuse of power and greed.

Another play within a play is when the Fat Prince wishes to appoint his nephew Bizergan Kazbeki, as  the  judge.  He  requests  the  drunken  Iron  shirts  to  vet  him.  They  perform  a  mock  trial  which involves Azdak who poses as the Grand Duke and the nephew poses as the judge. The Iron shirts takes up the roles of the people who have come to listen to the proceedings of the case. Azdak is blames of running the war badly but he instead blames the princes rather than himself. He is able to make several  successful  attacks  on  the  prince’s  corruption.  Here,  we  learn  how  the  princes mismanaged the war and blamed it on the Grand Duke. The nephew fails to make a judgement since

he  is  out-witted  by  Azdak  and  the  ironshirts  unanimously  settle  on  Azdak  as  the  judge.  The  first ironshirt tells him, “Go to the judge’s seat! Now sit in It! (pg 74)


This is a stylistic feature used by writers to put people or things side by side in order to show the contrast or their differences. This style has been used to enhance dramatic effect.

The  act  of  Governor  George  Abashwili  entering  the  church  is  juxtaposed  with  the  image  of  the soldiers  pushing  the  common  people  out  of  the  way.  This  contrast  undermines  the  religious significance  of  going  to  church.  This  is  exemplified  when  the  soldier  says,  “Get  back!  Clear  the church door.” (pg 14)

Grusha  buys  milk  for  Michael  and  pays  two  piasters.  This  is  her  week’s  salary.  This  amount  of money used is a sacrifice for Michael. This contrasts the 100,000 piasters offered to  Azdak by the Duke  for  one  night  lodging  ‘….persuasion!  Pay  hundred  thousand  piasters  one  night,  I  tell you…where are they?” (pg 64). This contrast is meant to bring to fore the glaring gap between the rich and the poor. This satirises the society that  puts more value on money to show the difference in the levels of wealth in social classes. Consequently, Azdak uses his position to take from the rich and give the poor. Thus, he fines the rich invalid, The Blackmailer, the innkeeper, and the farmers all  of whom are wealthy.

During the wedding of Jussup and Grusha, the monk says, “Dear wedding and funeral guests!” (pg 53). This depicts two contrasting life eventualities, one representing continuity and the other- end.

There is also an instance of juxtaposition where the goat and fruit farmers are placed side by side to establish the deserving owners of the valley.

Natella and Grusha are juxtaposed to establish the difference in level of love: true motherly love for a child and love for material wealth out of the peril of the child.

Other  characters  that  have  been  contrasted  are  Lavrenti  with  his  wife  Aniko,  Simon  and  Grusha, Grusha and other peasants working for the Governor, among others.


Despite the occurrence of serious issues explored within the play, there are humorous incidents. We are presented with doctors; Mika Loladze and Mishiko Oboladze. They are in charge of Michael and quarrel over trivial issues.

“May I remind you…that I was against the lukewarm bath ….more likely a sight draft during the night. Your Grace…no cause for concern, your Grace.” (pg 15-16)

It is humorous that these two doctors described as dignified would quarrel over Michael’s coughing.

In another comic episode, the two argue over whom will take charge of Natellla now that she has fainted after chaos and death erupt in the palace.

“Niko Mikadze, it is your duty as a doctor to attend Natella Abashwili….you neglect your duty……..” (pg 21)

It  is  humorous  to  find the  two  going  to  an  extent  of  fighting  in  the  middle  of  a  catastrophe.  This humour serves to lessen the tension that is created when George is assassinated. It also brings out the character of the two doctors as incompetent and irresponsible characters.

When Simon encounters Grusha, there is humour when he says he watches over her as she washes linen by the willows, “There’s more. Your toes and more….your foot and a little more….(pg 18)

There is humour when a drunken peasant sings, “There was a young woman who said: I thought I’d be happier, wed but my husband is old and remarkably cold so I sleep with a candle instead” (pg 54)

When Shauwa knocks at the door, Azdak says that he is not in. Azdak explains himself to Shauwa possibly to escape the arrest. “….Shauwa don’t talk about things you don’t understand. The rabbit is dangerous and  destructive  beast.  It  feeds  on  plants  especially  on  the  species  of  plants  known  as weeds. It must therefore be exterminated, “he adds, “I…man is made in God’s image. Not so a rabbit…I’m a rabbit-eater, but you’re a man eater…go home and repent.” (pg 65)


Satire refers to the way a writer ridicules an individual or the society in a humorous way, with an aim of bringing desirable change.

The playwright exposes weakness of leaders who have been entrusted with power and fail to do what is expected of them. People are oppressed and live in misery. The beggars and petitioners are crying that they do not have enough to eat and they feel neglected.

The  policing  administration  is  criticized  for  the  inhuman  treatment  of  the  suffering  lot.  They  lash them with whips to keep them away from the Governor and his family instead of sympathizing with their plight.

The governor and his wife pretend to be religious yet they display their contempt for the lowly class.

The governor  is a political leader but surprisingly, lacks interest in political matters. He ignores the rider  who  has  confidential  papers  from  the  capital  in  preference  to  personal  matters.  Instead,  he meets the architects to discuss building plans. The governor is ignorant of serious issues such as a meeting held by princes in the capital in which a coup was planned, ironically, one of the architects is  fully  aware  of  the  plan  to  overthrow  the  Grand  Duke  and  his  Governors.  (pg  15).  His  political nature  is  being  ridiculed  because  being  in  political  position  means  he  ought  to  accord  political matters serious consideration.

The  police  administration’s  brutality   is  criticized  for  the  inhuman  treatment  of  the  suffering  lot.

They  lash  them  with  whips  to  keep  them  away  from  the  Governor  and  his  family  instead  of sympathizing with their plight.

The Fat prince pretends  to be so much pleased with the governor’s family that he even bows and remarks sarcastically that Michael is a ‘governor from head to foot’ and yet he had plan ned to kill the Governor that very day. When he tells the Governor he loves a gay sky, he is not sincere.

Aniko, wife to Lavrenti and sister-in-law to Grusha claims to be religious, However, she is presented as  mean,  egocentric,  selfish  and  inhospitable.  She  bullies  around  her  husband  and  tries  to  throw

Grusha out of the house as she fears what the neighbours will say for hosting an unmarried woman with a child.

The monk’s religious hypocrisy is also satirized. He is expected to be religiously inclined but he has many  weaknesses.  He  oversees  Grusha’s  marriage  to  Jussup  while  drank.  He  is  actually  paid  to perform the ceremony but as a monk, he is expected to devote his life and time to religious matters, which he does not.

The Governor’s wife is satirized through her vain behaviour. She does not have time for the poor beggars and her servants and only identifies herself with people of class. After the coup her main concern is the clothes she is going to carry, “only essential!…….the green one! And of course, the one with  far  trimming…..”(pg  24)  On  the  same  page  she  adds,  “……..get  my  little  saffron-coloured boots….. I need them for green dress.” In haste to save her dresses, she leaves her son Michael as she flees.When Michael coughs Natella’s attention is drawn to him and she wants to know what is up.

She even asks her husband whether he had heard the baby cough. She then givens a stern warning and advises the two doctors in charge of the child to be more careful. When he sees Michael after he is brought in by the ironshirts, she remarks that “He’s in rags” (pg 97)

Natella has very low regard for the underprivileged. (pg 18), she says, ‘It’s impossible to live in such a slum,,,,” When she enters the court, she is relieved that there are no common people: “I can’t stand their smell. It always gives me migraine. (pg 88) From the onset, she dislikes Azdak and (pg 89) she says, “I disliked that man from the moment I first saw him.” This foreshadows the fact that she may not get a fair judgement from him.


Irony refers to an incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs or is. It is also the use of words that convey a meaning that is opposite of its literal meaning. There are different types  of  irony  for  example  verbal  irony  where  the  speaker  says  direct  opposite  of  what  is  meant.

Dramatic  irony  occurs  when  the  audience  knows  facts  in  a  text  which  a  character  in  the  text  is ignorant of. Other types of irony are situational, comic and tragic irony.

The playwright has used this style  in several areas in ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle.’ The irony  of situation is that George Abashwili, the Governor plans to remodel and enlarge his palace. “…in the afternoon his Excellency will confer with prominent architects.” (pg 19) He even proposes  to pull down the peasant shacks on the estate. Natella says,“All those wretched slums are to be torn down to make room for a garden.’ (pg 15). This is ironical in that this will be a garden for the privileged at the expense of the poor majority. Irony is  further seen when this same estate is confiscated for the state at the court when Azdak declares it would be given to the people and made into a play ground for children. He says, “….your estates fall to the city…Azdak’s gardens.” (pg 98)

Also  the  Governor’s  plans  do  not  pull  through  because  he  is  executed  that  afternoon.  The  Playwright uses the noble child Michael, to bring out irony. Being the only son to the Governor, he has two doctors for his medical care. It is ironical when the coup takes place, the doctors Niko Mikadze and Nika Loladze abandon the child. Mika says, “…Do you really think …little brat’s account?” (pg  21).  The  situational  irony  is  that  the  child  has  two  doctors  while  the  common  people  are suffering. The Governor’s wife, who thinks that the Governor pays more attention to Michael than to her, is more concerned with her elegant dresses and forgets her baby.  Ironically, Grusha a servant girl saves the child from being killed by the Fat Prince. She is more willing to be a guardian to the infant than her wealthy mistress. The biological mother of the child.

The incident when Grusha plans to abandon Michael at the doorstep of a peasant woman’s house has been developed through use of irony. Grusha’s plans are well intentioned since she thinks the peasant will be kind enough to give Michael milk and she assumes that are far enough from the city. This is exemplified when she says, “now you have wet yourself again…you can’t ask that can you?’ (pg 34).

Irony  is  brought  to  the  fore  when  her  thoughts  are  displayed  in  the  chorus,  “because  I  am single….someone who’s newly poor.” (pg 35). When she meets the ironshirts she runs back to save Michael. Ironically, her plan with the peasant woman betrays Grusha, who hits the corporal over the head with a log of wood just to save Michael.

When  Grusha  manages  to  cross  the  rotten  bridge,  she  laughs  her  way  to  freedom  and  shows  the Ironshirts  the  child.  Ironically,  this  freedom  does  not  last  for  long  as  she  suffers  in  her  brother’s house  because  of  Michael.  She  is  too  weak  to  walk  and  her  sister-in-law  who  is  portrayed  to  be religious ironically does not apply the religious  principles but uses ‘religion’ as an excuse to kick

Grusha out of her home. Lavrenti only allows Grusha to live in his house over winter. Due to the same  reasons  he  has  given  to  his  ‘religious  wife’  over  Grusha’s  marital  status,  Lavrenti  forces Grusha to marry a ‘dying man’ from the other side of the mountains. This is especially because of the presence of the illegitimate child. The irony of the situation is that the brotherly love that Grusha had  expected  from  Lavrenti  is  not  forthcoming;  he  ends  up  complicating  Grusha’s  live  when  he organizes for the fake wedding.

Jussup, Grusha’s dying husband, illness is developed in an ironic manner. The peasants comment on Jussup’s health status. They initially thought Jussup was faking illness in order to avoid being drafted in  to  war.  They  regret  having  felt  that  way  because  Jussup  really appears  about  to  die.  When  the guests continue to  talk and eat, one of them remarks that the army can no longer draft anyone as the war is over. Jussup suddenly sits up in bed; the most ironic possible scenario of his death is no more.

He is alive and kicking.

Azdak’s judgement at the court is presented in an ironic manner. Brecht has used this style to point out that Azdak is a disappointed man and would not cause disappointment to others. The judgment pronounced on the cases in ironical. The doctor who operates a patient on the wrong leg is acquitted for  perpetrating  an  unpardonable  error  on  his  practice. The  farmer  who  accuses  the  old  man  for receiving his stolen animal is fined five hundred piasters and ironically the suspect is made to sit the same table with the judge “….you granny and you….and Azdak!” (pg 82)

Natella,  the  Governor’s  wife,  is  using  the  child  Michael  as  a  means  of  acquiring  inheritance.  Her claim that she is the mother of Michael is not due to her motherly love. The Chalk Circle brings out an ironic twist when Grusha does not pull Michael. Ironically, Natella the real mother rushes to pull the child but Grusha says, ‘I brought him up! Shall I also tear him into bits? I can’t! (pg 98) This determined the deserving mother as the one who is motherly.


Imagery refers to the use of figurative language to represent ideas, objects or actions. It can also be defined as the use of descriptive language that appeals to our senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. This is mainly done through metaphors and similes.

  1. a) Metaphors

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an expression (word or phrase) which ordinarily refers to one thing is used to denote another in order to suggest a similarity. It suggests the likeness between the two.

The  girls  Tractorist  says,  ‘I  started  the  fire  myself,”  This  means  she  started  the  onslaught  herself against the Nazis. (pg 97)

There is also reference to ‘a bloody time’ (pg 13). This denotes time of war characterized by violence and death.

In  the  chorus  (pg  32),  the  ironshirts  pursuing  Grusha  are  likened  to  ‘bloodhounds’,  dogs  that  are known for their powerful sense of smell.

On page 65, Azdak likens the old man (grand prince) to a bedbug to suggest he is a ‘pest’Azdak thinks it is Ludovika who assaults the stable man with a ‘dangerous weapon’  which means she is provocative.

The  Fat  prince  refers  to  his  nephew  ‘my  little  fox’  (pg  71)  to  hint  at  his  traits  and  to  show  how confident he is that he will be made the judge.

  1. b) Similes

This is a figure of speech that directly compares two things that are related using connective words such as –“like”, “as” or “resembles”

The Governor Georgi Abashwili is described thus: ‘He was rich as Croesus,” (pg 7) this compares him to the king of Lydia who was defeated by Persians and was known for his immense wealth,  his name is synonymous with wealth.

The singer castigates the insensitive leaders thus: “O blindness of the great! They go their way like gods…..’ (pg 20) After the coup, the servants say among themselves, ‘we’ll be slaughtered like chickens, as always’ (pg 21) . This suggests they are not safe.

Simon asks Grusha, ‘Is the lady as healthy as a fish in water? (pg 22). Grusha is compared to a thief; probably for the reader to pass judgement on whether she is justifies to take Michael, we are told:

‘As if she was a thief she crept away!” (pg 29)

When Grusha is sheltered at her brother’s house, she tells Michael that they should make themselves ‘as small as cockroaches’ (pg 47) to escape the wrath of her sister-in-law. Indeed, Lavrenti remarks, “why are you sitting there muffled up like coachmen….” (pg 48)

To suggest that she cannot run away  from Michael, Grusha tells him, “I came by  you as the peat trees comes by sparrows’ (pg 49)

Azdak  says  law  is  a  sensitive  organ,  ‘…..like  the  spleen,  in  delivering  justice,  we  are  told  by  the singer he, “Broke law like bread he gave them.’ (pg 82)


Many songs have been sung by Arkadi and other characters in the play. Some are at the beginning of the scene, others within the scene and at the end of the scene.

The governor is introduced through a song. Before we meet him, we are told about what king of a person he is as follows:-‘He was rich as Croesus

He had a beautiful wife

He had a healthy baby’ (pg 13)

We learn that he has many beggars and petitioners whom he ignores. This song juxtaposes the rich governor with the majority poor folks who wait for hand outs in form of coins which are distributed by a servant.

Simon Shashava, the soldier, and Grusha, a kitchen maid are also introduced to us before we meet them. We learn of their relationship. The song on (pg 18) is summative. It summarizes the action.

The Governor’s palace foreshadows restlessness. The palace is said to be a fortress but is surrounded by soldiers. We anticipate the death of the Governor. “…..Noon was the hour to die.” These words are followed by the appearance of the Fat Prince.

The stage is set for the execution of the Governor by the  Fat Prince. The tension surrounding the Governor’s execution is  found in the song on (pg 20), in the song, stage directions are  given e.g. “….look about you once more blind man!’

Grusha’s  action  of  taking  the  abandoned  Michael  is  brought  out  through  a  song.  She  is  drawn  to Michael and decides to  save him though this is risky.  In the song, she does what the singer says.

Grusha’s flight into the mountains with Michael is captures in a song. She sang a song and bought milk on the way, The song pre-empts the action of bargaining for milk with the old man.

The risky flight with iron shirts following Grusha is underscored (pg 32). They hunt for the fleeing due,  never  tire  and  sleep  a  little.  Iron  shirts  feelings  are  captured  in  their  song.  They  go  into  war

leaving behind their lovers (pg 33). The song on pg 35 reveals Grusha mixed feelings of happiness and sadness after she abandons Michael at the peasant’s doorstep.

Azdak  sings  the  song  of  injustice  in  Persia  which  was  sang  to  him  by  his  grandfather.  It  shows instances of injustice and the effects of the war: ‘why don’t our sons breed anymore?….Our men are

carried  to  the  ends  of  the  earth,  so  that  the  great  ones  can  eat  at  home…..The  battle  was  lost,  the helmets were paid for.” (pg 68)

The song of the chaos in Egypt pg 83 finally brings out the emancipation of the masses from the oppression and misrule of the ruling class. For instance it says, “…who had no bread at all have full granaries…” pg 84




Many  proverbs  have  been  used  by  the  playwright.  The  capability  to  use  proverbs  in  one’s conversation is interpreted as a sign of wisdom. It also shows masterly of one’s own language since

proverbs  and  wise  sayings  require  comprehension  of  metaphors,  similes  and  symbols  in  one’s community.

When Grusha points out to Simon that it must be dangerous for him to accompany Natella Abashwili

as  her  guard  on  her  flight,  he  replies  with  a  wise  saying-‘in  Tiflis,  they  say:  Isn’t  the  stabbing dangerous for the knife?” (pg 21) means as the knife stabs what it is supposed to, it is also in danger of breaking or bending but it still stabs anyway. Likewise, a soldier protects others despite the danger he exposes himself.

When they meet in the courtyard and Grusha is rushing to collect her personal effects, She accepts Simon’s proposal long before he even proposes. Simon feels embarrassed and responds, “haste, they

say  is  the  wind  that  blows  down  the  scaffold  (a  temporary  building)  built  for  workers  round  a building that is being constructed, If they are blown away then the builders will not be able to build

the permanent structure as they will have no where to stay just like Grusha and Simon will not have a marriage if she is not patient enough to listen to the information that will cement that relationship.

When Michael  and other boys are playing the  game of cutting off the  Governor’s head, the other children want Michael to play the Governor’s role of just bending and his head is cut off but Michael adamantly  refuses  and  says  he  wants  to  be  the  person  to  cut  off.  The  other  children  disagree  but Michael is adamant so when they shout to Grusha that Michael won’t play his part, Grusha laughs

and  says,  ‘Even  the  little  duck  is  a  swimmer,  they  say.’(pg 58)  Meaning  even  though  Michael  is young,  you  cannot  command  him  since  he  is  the  son  of  a  Governor  and  so  others  do  what  he demands and not vice versa.

When Azdak discovers that the fleeing duke is not a peasant but a land owner he orders him out but the Duke make him a proposition. Azdak finds this to be the height of insolence and responds, ‘The bitten man scratches his fingers bloody, and the leech that’s  biting him makes him a proposition!’  (pg 64). This implies that the landowners have been exploiting the peasants and the low class and when a chance comes up for the exploited to free themselves; the exploiters make a proposition so that they can go on exploiting the masses and maintain their status quo.

When waiting for trial, the cook asks Grusha why she is holding on to the child at any price yet the child is not hers. She explains how she first just expected to give the child away but later thought that

Natella, the mother, wouldn’t come back and the cook responds, ‘An even borrowed coat keeps a man warm hm?’ (pg 87). This implies that, even if Grusha knows the child was not hers, the feeling that the child belonged to her is fulfilling.

After Azdak is reinstated as a judge and openly demands for a bribe, the prosecutors who have been worried smile with relief. The cook is worried but Simon comments ‘A well can’t be filled with dew, they say’ (pg 90).  In his argument to prove that  Natella abashwili deservers to be  given the child instead of Grusha who claims to have brought him up, he quotes ,’Blood, as a popular saying goes is thicker than water.’ (pg 60)

There is a heated exchange of proverbs between Azdak and Simon when Grusha thinks Azdak enacts

to give Natella the child simply because she is too poor to pay legal fees. Azdak argues that the poor are able to give the butcher his dues but not the judge, Simon quotes- “When the horse was shod, the horsefly held out its leg.’ (pg 94). This means Azdak who  is poor as they are or in the same class, is now counting himself among the ruling class.

Azdak replies, Better a treasure in manure that a stone in a mountain stream’ (pg 94). Although a mountain stream has very clean water an ordinary stone in it is worthless but a treasure in a manure can be retrieved and utilized. When one is poor, no matter how morally upright one is, one is worse off  than  a  rich,  corrupt  person.  Simon  replies  by  saying,  ‘Let’s  go  fishing  said  the  angler  to  the worm,  (pg  94)  meaning  that  just  like  the  angler  would  benefit,  Azdak  would  just  be  used  by  the rulers to oppress the poor and Azdak might as well end up being devoured just like the worm.

By Azdak replying that, ‘I’m my own master, said the servant; and cut off his foot, means one does not  have  to  do  outrageous  activities  to  prove  that  one  is  independent  minded.  Simon  replies  by showing that, people are able to see through their tormentors’ hypocrisy when the latter professes to love the farmer and therefore still give them their  due. This is proved when he says, ‘I love you as a father said the Czar to the peasants, and had the Czarevitch’s head chopped off.

Azdak knows that despite the appearance, he is still on the poor people’s side yet Simon does not realize this, so that is  why he concludes the discussion by saying, ‘A fool’s worst enemy is himself.’ (pg 94)

From  all  the  above,  it  is  important  to  note  that, the  cook,  Grusha,  Azdak  and  Simon  are  the  only people who portray positive traits in the society. They portray a sense  of wisom as seen when they are highlighted as the only characters that employ proverbs and wise sayings.


Allusion  refers  to  a  passing  reference  or  indirect  mention  of  something  or  someone  the  reader  is expected to know.

The playwright alludes to the king of Lydia (560 BC-547BC) who was defeated by Persians and was known for his immense wealth on pg 7. We are told that the Governor Georgi Abashwili was,’rich as Croesus.’

The girls tractorist also quotes the poet (Vladimir) Mayakovsy, pg 10, a Georgian born in 1883. He wrote  the  poems,  ‘The  Cloud’  and  ‘I’  which  are  among  the  most  popular  during  his  time.  Singer alludes to Jesus when he remarks, “And now you don’t need an architect, a carpenter will do, “ (pg 20). The Governor needs Jesus to save him from his predicament.

The play infers from both a Chinese play (Circle of chalk written in 1300 AD) and a biblical story (The judgement of Solomon- 1 Kings 3: 16-28)

In the Chinese story, a young girl, Hai-tang, bears a child as the second wife of a wealthy man. His first wife claims the child is her own. However, the second wife is judged the true mother when she refuses to pull the child apart in the test of the Chalk Circle.

In the biblical story, two women live in the same house and both bear a chil d. One baby dies in the night and its mother swaps him for the living baby. Both claim the living child is their own. Solomon orders that the child be cut in two and each half be given to each mother. The real mother of the child gives up the child rather than see him harmed and is judged to be the true mother.


This is the use of humorous language to ridicule or to convey scorn, especially saying one thing but implying the opposite.

The Fat Prince is sarcastic when he says, ‘and little Michael is a governor from head to foot! Tititi!” (pg 15). Simon is sarcastic when he tells Grusha: ‘Why shouldn’t I wash the linen by the willows!’ That’s  good,  really  good!’  (pg  17).  On  pg  18,  the  singer  says,  ‘And  the  goose  was  plucked  and roasted/But the goose was  not eaten this time.’ This refers to the killing of the Governor and draws an analogy to the goose Grusha kills for the Governor’s family.

When  the  singer  says,’And  now  you  don’t  need  an  architect,  a  carpenter  will  do,’  (pg  20),  the playwright is sarcastic towards religion as this alludes to the fact that the Governor needs Jesus, who was a carpenter to intervene on this Easter Sunday. This will of course not happen.

The ‘dying’ man refers to Grusha as, ‘A nice thing you’ve saddled me with! A simpleton for  a wife! (pg 57)

When Grusha is fined ten pisters for using ‘indecent language’ in court, she sarcastically lambasts Azdak  and  his  corrupt  ways  by  saying,’A  fine  kind  of  Justice!  You  play  fat  and  loose  with  us because we don’t talk as refined as that crowd with their lawyers’ (pg 94)


Symbolism refers to the use of symbols to represent ideas. The silver chain Simon gives Grusha is symbolic (pg 28). It is a symbol of the bondage between the two. When Grusha hears that the war is over and the soldiers are back, she kneels down in prayer and kisses the chain. Later, Simon suspects that Grusha is married to another man and he asks for the chain.

On pg 81, Azdak, enacts the old woman as granny Grusinia. She is a symbol of a nation that has fallen prey of  the greedy citizens (the three farmers) who deprives it all that it owns (her sons). She

symbolises a nation that seeks justice.

The  Chalk  Circle  drawn  to  help  Azdak,  the  judge,  comes  up  with  as  a  rational  decision  on  who should have the child is a symbol  of truth. Ironically, his methods of justice are not by the Book of Statutes  he  sits  on.  Therefore,  he  lets  justice  reveal  itself.  Similarly,  the  play  opens  with  another circle of justice, when  members of the two communes sit together to decide who should  have the valley.  The  Delegate,  like  Azdak,  announces  the  outcome  without  pushing.  Within  this  friendly circle where the communes have equal social status, they can impartially decide the best use of the valley, and it is peacefully and mutually decided for the fruit growers.

The playwright has also used the Christian symbolism. The Christian church has been used as a tool to support the upper class and keep the lower classes in their places. The historical church subverts the original teaching of Christ who treated all humans with respect.

The garden that Governor Abashwili want to establish for his son by knocking down slums for the

poor  symbolises  oppression  and  insensitivity  of  the  rich  towards  the  poor.  Ironically,  Azdak  later rules that the Governor’s estate should revert to the poor.


Foreshadowing is a situation where a writer gives a sign of something that will come later on a work of art, that which is important or appalling.

When the Fat Prince greets his brother Governor Georgi Abashwili, this is quite unusual until the Governor remarks, ‘…..But did you hear Brother Kazbeki wish me a happy Easter? Which is all very well, but I don’t believe it did rain last night.’ (pg 16). The relationship between the brothers’ is thus foreshadowed by  the Governor’s comment, in which he expresses surprise at being greeted by his brother. The brother later executes him.

Natella, the governor’s wife, seems to have an unstable mind and poses, ‘I hardly know if my head’s still on. Where is Michael? ………. (pg 24). Later she forgets to carry his as she flees.

Another important moment is when Natella, the governor’s wife, tells, her adjutant how jealous of Michael she really is, She is desperate for attention from her husband. ‘But Georgi, of course, will only build for his little Michael, Never for me! Michael is all! All for Michael!’ This jealousy of her child is important since she abandons him later in the act.

Shortly before Azdak makes the ruling on who should take Michael between Natella and Grusha, the boy smiles at the latter. This foreshadows the ruling made by the judge as Grusha is finally given child.

Azdak tells the old man (Grand Duke) to ‘encircle the cheese on the plate like it might be snatched from him (pg 65) This foreshadows the chalk circle that is drawn to choose a mother for the child, Michael. (pg 97)


Question 1

Justice is an important institution in any well governed community. Explain the truth of the  above  assertion  with  reference  to  Bertolt  Brecht’s  The  Caucasian  Chalk  Circle (20mks)

(i)  – In the prologue there is the dispute over the ownership of the valley, presided over by the delegate from the capital, Tiflis.

–  Emphasis  is  laid  on  fairness  in  order  to  avoid  the  reoccurrence  of  future disputes.

–  The  fruit  farmers  and  the  goat  herders  amicably  discuss  a  resolution  to  the dispute.

–  It is decided that the land goes to the fruit and vine growers amicably as they would make better use of the land.

–  The agreement is followed by a party to seal the deal

(ii) – Justice is also portrayed by the test of the chalk circle

–  In the old story, the real mother is revealed by the test.

–  Her  feelings  for  the  child  are  too  deep  to  allow  her  to  gain  it  by  force  that injures the child

–  The child is taken from the natural mother, Natella Abashwili who is only after the  inheritance   and  given  to  the  false  mother  Grusha  Vashnadze  who  has  the greatest feelings of love for the boy (Michael Abashwili)

(iii)–  Justice is also shown in the way Azdak’s good turn in protecting and giving shelter to the Grand Duke.

–  Eventually he is rewarded when the Grand Duke appoints Judge just in time to save him from the hangman’s noose

–  Azdak  then  proceeds  to  dispense  justice  to  the  poor  and  down  trodden  in  a manner never witnessed before in the land.

(iv)  –   Adzak’s two year reign as Judge is treated as an era of rough justice especially for the poor and vulnerable in society.

–   The singer says – he broke the rules to save them

–    At long last the poor and the lowly had someone who was not too holy to be bribed by empty hands.


Human  weaknesses  affect  characters  negatively.  Explain  the  truth  of  the  above assertion with reference to Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (20mks)

Points of interpretation

The following must come out clearly;

–  Weakness of a character

–  Details of that weakness

–  How it affects that character negatively

W1. Natela Abashwili’s weakness on adoring things.

–  She forgets her child at the time of war and takes clothes and boots instead, (pg 25)

–  The maid escapes with the child to save his life but Natela later goes for the child because she wants to inherit the governor’s estate.

–  She loses both the child and the estate.

WII – The fat prince greed and hunger for power

–  Eliminates his brother to get his power,

WIII – The governor’s lack of concern for his subjects.

–  He oppresses his subjects forcing people to go to war, charging high taxation.

–  He loses his life and power.

WIV- Lavrenti and his wife undermines family values.

–  Fails to give Grusha a warm welcome though she comes from town where war has broken out tired and sick

WV The self righteous nature of Aniko shown through her hypocritical actions

WVI- Natela’s hatred for the poor. She undermines Grusha during the court case feeling that

Grusha is too poor to keep the child.

–  She finally loses the child to the poor Grusha due to her arrogance.

Question 3

Discuss the consequences of Fighting and war in any society with evidence from Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle.


Fighting and war in any society has far reaching consequences. During war people’s normal lifestyle/ way of living is disrupted and there is a lot of destruction of property and lives. Bertolt Bretch has shown how war affects people in his play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle.


–  During war, the innocent and the vulnerable suffer the most from the effects of war and fighting. The servants say this about their employer, the Governor’s family: “They even have to have their weeping done for them  (p 26). Michael is being hunted down to be killed yet he is not aware of the war, being only an infant.

–  There  is  disruption  of  people’s  normal  lifestyles  as  farms  and  homes  are  abandoned.

Resettlement has to be negotiated afresh after the war. See p7(prologue). As a result of war,  there  are  ruins  of  a  war  ravaged  Caucasian  village,  the  people  orchard  is  already destroyed and the once beautiful dairy farm is a ruin.

–  People’s  livelihoods  are  destroyed  as  the  goat  herders  complain  of  the  low  quality  of cheese they now produce from their new settlement. The old man whom Grusha requests to sell her some milk retorts: “Go to the soldiers if you want milk.” The soldiers of the Grand Duke burn the houses of innocent people and kill them making it difficult for them to live peacefully.

–  War  creates  internal  refugees.  The  farmers  and  the  goat  herders  have  been  displaced from their homes having been uprooted by the Germans. Grusha and her fellow workers flee into the Northern Mountains as a result of fighting in the city.

–  Fighting  and  war  breeds  civil  wars  and  counter  coups  as  warring  groups  fight  for supremacy. The grand Duke is overthrown by the princes who murder his governor but they are in turn rounded up and killed when the Grand Duke takes back powers.

–  There is rampant landlessness during the war and fighting as seen in the cases presented before Azkak. He has been a thief as Shauwa says. The soldiers and policemen also break the law they are meant to uphold. The two farming groups  –  goat herders and the fruit growers are landless.

–  War results in exploitation and oppression. For instance, in “The song of injustice in Persia.  It  is  stated  that  the  kings  are  driven  by  greed  in  their  quest  to  acquire  new territories  by  impoverishing  peasants.  Their  sense  of  imperialism  drives  them  into unrealistic  adventures  that  Azdak  refers  to  as  “the  roof  of  the  world”  ironically,  as  the soldiers kill each other, the marshals assault each other.

–  There  is  fear  and  apprehensions  which  are  direct  effects  of  this  war.  Jussup  feigns illness  and  lies  in  bed  for  a  long  time  for  fear  of  being  drafted  into  the  war.  He  only “recovers when he hears that the war has ended. “The song of the centre” clearly portrays the fear among the soldiers at the front line. It says that if one wants to survive the war and come back home one has to remain at the center “p47. The peasant woman at whose door  Grusha  leaves  Michael  shows  extreme  fear  and  apprehension  at  the  sight  of  the soldiers.  She  disowns  Grusha’s  agreement  with  her  to  claims  that the  child  is  hers  and instead  falls  down  on  her  knees  begging  for  mercy.  Grusha  has  to  flee  again  with Michael.

Accept any other relevant point. Expect 4 well developed / illustrated points.

Question 4

The society depicted in The Caucasian Chalk Circle is one that ignores important issues and gives priority to less serious ones leading often with disastrous consequences.

Discuss the validity of the statement with illustrations from the play.

Introduction: May be General or Specific

Many people ignore the important things that matter in their lives and instead pay attention to useless things that don’t add value to their lives often leading to dire consequences. This is true of characters in the play like Natella Abashwili, the governor and others as discussed below.

The governor

–  Immensely rich yet has many beggars, petitioners etc at his door.

–  Refuses to hear the message from the wounded rider before the mass and ever after leading to his tragic death. Page 16 -19

Natella Abashwili

–  Concerned about the dresses to pack leading to her abandoning her baby.

–  In the court she is interested in getting Michael back only because of the estates left by her husband.

–  She ends up losing the baby to GrushaAniko and Lavrenti

–  Can’t stand Grusha with her ‘baby’. Aniko is so religious to accept Grusha

–  Lavrenti forces Grusha to marry a ‘dying’ man whom she does not love. He pays the mother of the man a huge sum and later the marriage is dissolved by Azdak.

Jussup’s mother

–  Interested in marrying her son before he ‘dies’ and no attempts to treat him

–  She has to feed the guests at the wedding, hiring a monk and later her son is divorced.

Black Mailer.

–  Interested in knowing whether a certain land owner raped his niece or not and not the plight of the niece.

–  Heavily fined.


–  Gets a stroke when he hears the doctor he paid fees to train is treating free

–  Heavily fined.

Prince Kazbeki

–  One of the princes who ran down the war

–  Wants his unqualified nephew appointed the judge

–  Embarrassed by Azdak in the mock trial and later killed on the return of the duke

Question 5

Bertolt Bretch; The Caucasian Chalk Circle

“ What there is shall go to those who are good for it”. With illustrations from the play the caucasian chalk circle, write an essay in support of this statement.

  1. i) In the prologue, the valley is given to the fruit governors

 They have plans to build their fruits culture to ten times its original size

 They have prepared a plan for an irrigation project

 The farm will not only grow more fruits but could also support vineyards

 They even present calculations for the project

  1. ii) Michael is given to Gruisha because of her motherly nature

 She rescuers him on the Easter Sunday when his mother leaves him behind

 Gruisha takes to a risky journey to the Northern Mountains amid pursuit by the


 She marries a man on his death bed in order to give legitimacy to Michael

 In the chalk circle test ,she does not pull Michael from the circle

iii.Azdak is made judge by the iron shirts and later on the Grand Duke

 In the mock could scene be displays better knowledge of the law in comparison to prince Kazbeki’s nephew

 His reign as judge is described as a brief golden age, almost an age of justice .In making his rulings the look from the rich and gave to the poor

 He is late reappointed as judge by the Grand Duke as a show of gratitude for saving his life

iv.Azdak divorces Gruisha and Jessup instead of the old couple

 The divorce paves way for Gruisha’s marriage to Simon

 Simon had stood by Gruisha in court claiming to be Michael’s father

 The union between Gruisha and Jessup wars for convenience

  Simon truly

  Deserved Gruisha for he came back to lack for her after the war

Question 6

Drawing illustrations from what Grusha goes through in order to save and adopt Michael, write an essay on the challenges of being a good person in a rotten society


Even in a rotten society, if possible to come across a good person. In the Caucasian Chalk circle, such a person is Grusha. Grusha goes through many challenges in order to save and adopt Michael. Some of these challenges are discusses below

Accept any other relevant introduction


(i)She sacrifices the little she has in order to sustain Michael. She buys milk exorbitantly

(ii)She is forced to come up with ingenuinenes way of eluding the red shirts who are after him. She knocks one of them down with a piece of wood, enduring her life in the process.

(iii) She crosses of dangerous bridge, endangering her life and Michael’s

(iv) She has to contend with a society that frowns upon single motherhood. She is forced to accept marriage to an invalid called Jussup in order to normalize her status

(vi) Her relationship with her fiancée, Simon , is endangered.

(vi) She is force to go through a court processes in order to gain custody of Michael

Question 7

“ True mother hood is not necessarily biological” Write an essay illustrating this statement using Bertolt Brecht’s , The Caucasian chalk Circle”.

– NatellaAbashiwili, the biological mother of Michael abandons the child as she feels the city .She is more interested in her fine linen and shoes as well as horse carriages

–  It takes the motherly instinct of the kitchen maid Grusha to retrieve the baby and fend for it offering protection and nourishment

–  Grusha adopts the body and risks being captured by the soldiers and crosses the dangerous and rotten bridge to save the life of Michael from the iron shirts

–  The mockery of Grusha’s sister-in-law concerning the illegitimate child, Michael does not affect her affection for the young boy

–  Vashnadze endures an arranged and difficult marriage on paper to a “dying man, Jussup: for the sake of the child

–  A mere kitchen help (Grusha) fights for the custody of Michael in court and does not pull him to her side in the test of the chalk circle so as not to tear him up. She fears to destroy the boy she has nurtured and brought up expensively as a real mother.


Generally mothers are suppose to be motherly for one to be accredited a real mother of a child .This world mean not all the biological /mothers are a sincere parents as to claim the ownership, however the soul that would nurture brings up responsibly deserves the ownership as portrays in Grusha vashnadze.











Doctor Margaret Atieno Ogola was born on 12thJune, 1958 and passed on on 21st September, 2011.she was a doctor by profession, a trained pediatrician and a great literary icon.

Margaret  Ogola  has  advocated  for  women  empowerment  and  she  comes  out  empowered herself. This is seen as she was the best student in Thompson Falls High School; she then went to Alliance high school and later earned a degree in medicine from the University of Nairobi in 1984 and later a master’s degree in pediatrics in the year 1990.

In addition to her writing career she worked at the Kenyatta National Hospital until 19994 before  she  ventured  into  private  sector.  As  a  woman  of  high  position  she  held  various prestigious positions. This is seen as she was the medical director of Cottolengo Hospice for orphans with AIDS. She also held the position of the Executive director of the Family Life Counseling Association of Kenya. She was also the director of the institute of HEALTH Care Management at Strathmore Business School.

Apart  from  The  River  and  the  Source  she  has  authored;  I  swear  by  Apollo,  A  Place  of Destiny,  Mandate  of  the  People,  she  also  co-authored  Educating  in  Human  Love  with  her husband Dr. George Ogolla

Of  her  first  novel  Ogolla  says  “The  inspiration  for  this  book  came  from  my  mother  who handed down  to me the wisdom and lives of her own mother and grandmother. This strength and support that is found in the African family is the most important part of our culture and should be preserved and nurtured at all costs.


The River and the Source follows four generations of Kenyan women in a rapidly changing society.

It belongs to a growing body of literary works that follows the feminist literary criticism of literature. They address themselves to issues pertaining to the welfare of women in African societies that are seemingly so patriarchal (male dominated). It captures the Kenyan soul of the future and the need to bring freedom, equality and gender consciousness across ethnic, religious and racial lines.

The River and the Source is a presentation of women seeking liberation from the oppressive male  dominated  society.   Just  like  a  river  which  originates  from  a  spring;  a  source  of  an underground  water,  the  birth  of  Akoko  daughter  to  chief  Gogni  of  Yimbo  signifies  the beginning of the river. The river is threatened to drying up by hardships after hardship but the river flows on.

The novel won the Kenyatta prize for fiction in 1995 and also the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book in Africa in 1995.


The title The River and the  Source suggests the flow of a river from some point to the sea.

The novel traces the symbolic journey of women from patriarchal invisibility (where women are ignored and in the background) to autonomous existence (where women chart their own destiny).  The  river  starts  as  a  spring  which  is  Obanda  Akoko-the  girl  child.  Akoko  is  the source of this river.

The  river  refers  to  the  efforts  that  Akoko  establishes  of  trying  to  liberate  women  from  a patriarchal society that looks down upon them.

Akoko faces challenges as a woman in a male dominated society. She overcomes them and the river continues to flow through Nyabera.

Akoko is the source of the liberating  force that  flows from this oppressive and demeaning social system.

In  literature,  the  river  symbolically  refers  to  continuity  hence  life  is  a  continuum  and  the struggle for liberation is therefore a continuous process.

Therefore,  from  Akoko  the  river  gains  momentum  at  every  stage  through  capable  and competent women like Nyabera, Awiti, and finally Wandia.

The  river  and  the  source  therefore  refers  to  the  journey  of  women  empowerment  that  was begun  or  whose  source  is  Akoko  and  the  continued  efforts  of  other  women  like  Nyabera, Awiti  and  Wandia  in  ensuring  that  women  remain  empowered  hence  the  river’s  continued flow.

The novel is thus a message of empowerment and hope for women who must rise up and take up their rightful equal position in society.

This is summarized by Chief Odero Gogni’s statement, “A home without daughters is like a spring without a source.”





Setting refers to the historical moment in time or the geographical location in which the story takes place i.e. the location and time in which a narrative takes place.

The story begins 30 years before the Kenya-Uganda railway reached Kisumu. The story ends in the 1990s at the advent of multiparty politics in Kenya.

The plot covers a number of generations that oscillates betweenYimbo and Sakwa Akoko’s birthplace and marital home respectively in today’s Nyanza Province in Kenya.

It  later  spread  to  Gem,  Kisumu,Nakuru  and  Nairobi  in  succeeding  generations  of  Akoko’s family tree.



This  part  of  the  novel  introduces  us  to  a  vibrant  Akoko  who  is  vibrant,  beautiful  and hardworking. This part focuses on the Luo cultural practices.  The naming traditions, the duties expected to be performed by the different genders, and the preference of the boy child to the girl child.  Her  father’s  expectation  that  a  boy  will  be  born  and  the  view  that  girls  will  be married to go and cook in another man’s house are evidence of this. The writer uses this part

to  highlight  the  importance  of  the  girl  child  as  we  not  that  Akoko  manages  to  gain  her father’s love and attention, something that was not usual among the luo.

Tradition is further highlighted in the Nak ceremony, that is performed before Akoko’s suitor are welcomed to present their suits. Her father’s love for her is shown when Akoko’s father turns down 12 suitors. He purposely did so because, in the men who flocked his compound, none reached the standards he had set. He wants the best for his daughter thus wants her to get  married  to  a  chief  as  a  mikai.  It  is  for  this  reason  he  readily  accept  Owuor  Kembo’s proposal.

The  Girl  Child  surprises  us  with  the  immense  strength  of  a  woman.  Akoko  Obanda  is  an epitome of wealth. She works hard to set a pedestal that was previously unimagined. , Akoko provided  for  herself  and  built  her  own  family  wealth.  She encouraged  and  trained  her children  to  be  hardworking  and  disciplined.  She promoted  self  reliance  and  mutual relationships with her subjects.


The chapter begins with the birth of Akoko Adoyo Akelo Obanda. Her father, Chief Odero Goggin expected a son because of the value placed by society in boys over girls. The naming of Akoko is  done according to tradition and she ends up having four names. Adoyo –  born during  the  weeding  season.  Obanda-  according  to  dreams  by  the  father  and  grandmother.

Akelo after a step grandmother who had died. Akoko is given to her as she is noisy. The traditional values of the community like polygamy and preference for the male children are also brought out in the fathers desire to have a son. There is insight in to the naming rituals of the community as Akoko is given several names. The belief in superstition is also reflected on in the way Akoko’s illness is dealt with and results in Akoko’s final name, Akello. Akoko proves to be uniquely determined as she is able to compete with her numerous brothers. This earns her the admiration of both her father and elder brother, Oloo. By the end of the chapter Akoko is grown and of marriageable age and known for her diligence and hard work.


This  chapter  focuses  on  the  betrothal  and  marriage  of  Akoko. We  are  introduced  to  the young  chief  Owuor  Kembo,  a  man  of  Nyadhi  or  style,  who  arrives  at  Yimbo  with  his delegation  from  Sakwa.  They  are  warmly  received  and  all  the  ways  of  chik  are  observed.

Chief  odero  is  quite  pleased  as  the  daughter  is  going  to  be  the  first  wife  to  chief  owuor.

According to chik one cannot be chief unless he is married hence necessitating the arrival of the delegation from Sakwa to ask for Akoko’s hand in marriage. Negotiations for the bride price are carried out through their spokes people. Chief odero asks for a high  bride price out of jealousy for the number of daughter to sons his daughter’s suitors had compared to him.

Chief  owuor  Kembo  described  as  a  man  of  style  agrees  to  pay  the  bride  price  without bargaining, much to the protest of his brother and delegation. The negotiations are concluded by the presentation of Akoko to her future husband.


A group of young warriors drive the cattle that had being agreed on as the bride price during the negotiations. They are warmly welcome and well fed according to chik. On the morning of the next day the warriors take off with Akoko after having engaged in mock battles with her brothers before they ran off with Akoko. Akoko herself is also meant to resist so that it may not be said that she went willingly. They rest for a short while before Akoko is delivered to Sakwa. The people of Sakwa admire her and agree that she was worth the thirty head of cattle.  Akoko  settles  in  to  marriage  life  and  is  well  accepted  by  the  community.  She  soon becomes pregnant with her first child. The community is highly superstitious and do not say anything  about  it.  Though  the  pregnancy  is  uneventful  but  the  delivery  is  harrowing.  The child is named Obura. However Akoko is under pressure to bear more children as the society expects her to bear as many children as her bride price. Her mother in law even urges Owuor to  marry  another  wife.  Later  Akoko  gets  pregnant  with  Nyabera  and  then  has  difficulty during the birth.


As  a  result  of  Owuor”s  refusal  to  marry  another  with  and  Akoko’s  low  birth  rate,  conflict arises  between  Akoko  and  her  mother  in  law.  Her  mother-in-law  is  also  offended  by  the monogamous state of her son and his refusal to take a second wife. They compare him to his younger brother who already had two wives and many more children. One day as she is in the fields,  she  hears  that  her  mother  in  law  Nyar  Asembo  accused  her  of  bewitching  owuor Kembo  so  that  he  would  not  marry  another  wife.  Akoko  who  is  deeply  offended  by  the accusations stays the night and on the morning of the next day calls for the people’s attention to state her case. She defends herself by emphasizing that she has always been hard -working and a good wife. After this she leaves for Yimbo. Owuor returns and is angered by the events that took place when he was away. He throttles his brother and almost hits his mother. He then starts a reconciliatory mission.


The  delegation  from  Sakwa  arrives  in  Yimbo  and  is  coolly  received.  Being  accused  of witchcraft  was  no  light  matter  and  the  people  of   Yimbo  were  not  pleased.  The elders  are gathered and Akoko is asked to give her version of events. She presents the accusations made against her that include witchcraft, standing in  the way of her husband’s marriage to other women,  and  having  given  birth  at  a  slow  rate.  After  the  presentation  of  her  case,  Owuor

defends himself stating that he had not been around when theunfortunate event happened and had  dealt  with  those  responsible.  The  Jodongo  agree  to  resolve  the  issue  and  warn  Akoko against  making  rush  decisions  in  future.  An  appeasement  of  a  goat  was  to  be  given  to  the maro.



After Akoko’s return to Sakwa she is soon pregnant again with a son, the delivery of the child is difficult. The child is named Owang Sino. Owang Sino is drawn to his father and they are quite  fond  of  each  other.  There  is  a  contrast  between  owuor  and  Otieno.  Owuor  who  is monogamous has a happy wife who he treats like a queen. Otieno on the other hand has four wives  who  he  treated  like  sluts  and  they  obliged  him.  There  are  rumours  of  white  men (jorochere)  and  the  establishment  of  a  colonial  government.  Obura  gets  intrigued  and suggests  that  his  mother  allow  him  to  tour  the  world.  She reprimands  for  the  thought  and advises him to seek a wife. She also reminds him of his role as the first born son Both his father  and  mother  are  alarmed  at  this  new  development.  Chief  Owuor  forbids  Obura  from seeing Nyaroche and Ambere and has the later sent away.


Obura disappears from  his hut, and Akoko is disturbed by the disappearance. Chief owuor sends out scouts to try and track them. They return and inform the chief that he had left in the company of Nyaroche and Ambere. Akoko prays earnestly that no harm should come to her son. The chief organises for search parties to follow them. Unfortunately they return two days later and report that the three were picked up by white men and could not be traced farther.

Akoko  who  was  devastated  by  her  son’s  disappearance  has  a  sense  of  foreboding  and believes Obura might as well be dead.


It has  been  a  while  since  Obura  disappeared.  News  of  the  white  man  and  the  colonial government continue. One day two strangely dressed men come to deliver news about Obura.

They  draw the attention of the entire community  as they make their way  to chief Owuor’s compound. They inform the chief of the war between jo-ingreza and jojerman. They inform the chief of the death of Obura  and Ambere as they inform him that Nyaroche is crippled.

The chief is furious and throws away the bracelet that he was given. Nyabera picks it up as the community begins to mourn. A mock funeral is performed and a banana trunk is buried in place of Obura’s body.


Akoko then goes about helping Nyabera overcome her grief and continue with her life. She takes to wearing the bracelet she had picked when the white men came. Akoko works hard and instils the same value in Nyabera. Thus her herd grows so large that she has to get her own watering hole. Nyabera is now a girl of marriageable age. Suitors come in large numbers and Akoko helps her husband pick an appropriate suitor for their daughter. Okumu Angolo is picked as he comes from a neighbouring village. Their first three children live for a short time and then die. Owang Sino also comes of age and jowangyo are dispatched to look for a suitable wife for him. A suitable girl was found from Uyoma. However, Chief owuor who had been ailing for a long time dies and the marriage negotiations are postpone for the burial.

Akoko takes her husband’s spear and shield and mourns him in great song and style. Owang Sino  who  had  done  his  best  to  make  his  mother  happy  dies  son  after  the  birth  of  his  son, owuor Sino. Alando does not stay to defend her son but chooses to get inherited soon after.

The  chief  stool  is  passed  to  Otieno  Kembo  as  the  young  owuor  Sino  is  still  a  toddler  and cannot rule until he is married. Akoko is devastated and Nyabera comes to her side to aid her.


Otieno  takes  over  the  chief  stool  with  greed  and  arrogance.  He squanders  the  wealth  left behind by owuor and even attempts to usurp Akoko’s personal wealth. Akoko feels greatly disadvantaged, as she has no male sons or relatives who are of age and would come to her aid.

Otieno  is  unwilling  to  relinquish  the  seat.  He  dispenses  with  the  council  of  Jodongo  and snatches Akoko’s wealth. Akoko perceives the challenge and decides to seek help from the

jorochere. She takes her grandchild, owuor, to her brother, Oloo. She then visits her daughter, Nyabera who had lost a number of children before she goes on her journey to Kisumu. She reveals her plans to her daughter.


Her nephews Opiyo and Odongo accompany her. Akoko had earlier tried to send them away but to no avail. They start the journey early in the morning and Akoko takes the opportunity to educate them on the history of the community through stories. They  finally arrive in the

town  of  kisuma  and  are  struck  by  the  difference  in  structures  and  dressing  of  the  people.

There, they meet Otuoma, who helps them in by hosting them for the night as it was a Sunday and the court was closed. He also informs them that  citizens were no longer allowed to carry weapons. They finally present their case to the .DO. and the tribunal.


Akoko present her case to the D.O. and the tribunal. The D.O. Ask s that the case be postpone for three months so that the claims may be investigated. The twins embellish the story that they  tell  to  the  future  generations.  Akoko  returns  to  Sakwa  to  find  Otieno’s  greed  having grown a great deal and her wealth significantly reduced.  Investigators come to Sakwa, and the disgruntled people are only too willing to help. Akoko is summoned soon after and the case is reopened before the D.C. The D.C. Rules that Otieno Kembo be forcefully removed from the chief stool and he council of Jodongo rule. Otieno  was also made to pay all that he had  grabbed.  Akoko  then  returned  to  Sakwa  and  took  the  reminder  of  her  wealth.  She returned to Yimbo to live as a migogo in her brother Oloo’s house.


The Art of Giving is Self sacrifice. It is  putting away all you believed in and embracing the others needs. Akoko in this chapter gives more than she receives. The part I ends when she has lost all that she could have held to in her matrimonial home. She forsakes her happy life as a married woman and goes home to lead a desolate life as a migogo. A migogo meant that, she  will  be  looked  down  upon  by  her  brothers’  wife.  She  would  be  ridiculed  and  if  we remember well; Akoko did not take lightly ridicule or sneer. There was a time she shouted down her mother-in-law (maro) for accusing her of being a witch (juok).

Akoko knew very well what she was getting into when she settled down in her brother Oloo’s house. She was ready to live with them as long as her grandson Owuor Sino found comfort other than being molested in Otieno’s household. She left the wealth she had built in years in Sakwa to live among her paternal household.

Giving involves denial of one’s comfort for the sake of others. Nyabera tries in earnest to get and  raise  children  for  her  and  her  husband  Okumu.  When  Okumu  dies,  she  tries  it  with Ogoma Kwach but all fails. In despair and with only one child, she joins Christianity. She leaves  her  mother,  daughter  and  nephew  in  Aluor  to  satisfy  her  quest  but  returns  having failed.  She  learns  the  hard  way  that,  it’s  better  to  be  content  than  trying  to  find  happiness where there is none. The biggest sacrifice ever in part II however is when Akoko blesses her grandson Petro Owuor Sino (Peter Owuor Kembo) to take on his vocation.

In  accepting  to  this  outrageous  decision,  Akoko  loses  her  right  to  reclaim  her  matrimonial home  and  the  continuity  of  her  and  her  husband’s  lineage-  given  that  most  African communities were patrilineal. In letting Peter become a vicar, she made him and those of her keen lose the chief stool to the younger family in Sakwa.

Therefore  Giving  is  an  art  since  few  people  are  ready  to  go  to  such  extremes  as  Akoko, Nyabera and those around her, to let those they love enjoy their life to the fullest.


Nyabera suffers the deaths of her children. She gets pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. A ritual  is  performed  to  aid  in  the  survival  of  the  child.  She  is  left  by  the  entrance  to  the homestead and an old lady passing by picked her up and brought her to them. She is therefore named Awiti. Okumu falls ill and dies when Awiti is three years old. Nyabera is inherited by a close relative, Ogoma Kwach. He is drawn to Nyabera’s wealth and hard work and foregoes his duty to his first wife. As a result he is reported to e council of Jodongo and reprimanded.

Nyabera is hurt by their decision and seeks an alternate source of comfort. She has heard a lot about Christianity and seeks out Pillipo to give her more information. Nyabera gives out her wealth  then  travels  to  Yimbo  to inform  her  mother  of  her  decision.  She  leaves  Awiti  with Akoko then departs for Gem to start her new life.


Nyabera  travels  from  Yimbo  to  gem  and  arrives  very  late.  She  spends  the  night  in  the catechist’s house. She explains herself to the catechist on the morning of the next day. He takes her to the chapel and she is inducted in to Christianity. She learns the ways of the new religion quickly and thirstily. She is then baptised Maria.


Nyabera returns from Gem and goes to her mother in Yimbo. Though Akoko can tell that she is pleased with the new  religion  and her new name, she is able to tell that her daughter is uneasy.  Nyabera  opens  up  and  admits  that  she  felt  that  something  was  lacking  as  she  was alone in Aluor. She asks her mother to accompany her to gem. Akoko agrees and together with her grandchildren travel to Gem.


On arrival in Aluor the children are enrolled in catechism classes and reading classes where they show determination and zeal in their study. They are baptised into Christianity and they receive new names. Owuor is renamed Peter, Awiti is named Elizabeth and Akoko is named veronica. Soon after, news reaches Maria that Ogoma Kwach’s wife had died. The desire to have  children  drives  her  to  return  to  her  matrimonial  home  without  an  explanation  to  her mother.  Meanwhile  peter  develops  an  interest  in  priesthood  and  confides  in  Awiti.  He  is afraid  to  tell  Akoko  as  he  does  not  want  to  disappoint  her.  The two decide  to  wait  for Nyabera to return so that they seek her assistance.


After a few years, Nyabera returns to Aluor, dejected and beaten by life. She confesses to her mother  Akoko,  before  proceeding  to  spend  the  night  in  church.  Owuor  proves  to  be  quite helpful to her and she loves him like a son. owuor takes to reading bible verses to Nyabera which  she  finds  quite  comforting.  He  then  informs  her  about  his  desire  to  take  up  the vocation. They then proceed to talk to Akoko. Akoko agrees on the condition that he changes his name to peter owuor Kembo. Owuor is able to pursue priesthood.


Owuor joins the seminary and his cousin is enrolled into primary school. There are very few girls  as  the  society  does  not  value  the  education  of  the  girl  child.  Also  a  lot  of  girls  get married at a young age. Elizabeth proves to be diligent and tops the class all through. By the time she sits for the final exam she is the only girl in the class.

She excels and is invited to a teachers’ training college. Nyabera fears that she might lose her and is unwilling to accept the news. Akoko reprimands Nyabera for her behaviour and urges her to allow her daughter to pursue her dreams.  Akoko misses her husband and wishes he were present to helm with the decision.


Awiti work hard in college and unlike the other students, she does not engage in relationships like the other students. She turns down overtures from several men and is therefore feared.

This is made worse when it is learnt that herb brother is in the seminary and both her mother and  grandmother  live  at  the  mission.  She  finally  meets  Mark  Antony  Oloo  Sigu  during  an exeat. Mark inquires about her and informs her about himself. He mentions that he was in the army and has been called to work in Nakuru. They part when she agrees to reply to his letters when he writes.


Awiti and mark interact through the letters they send each other. They talk about their lives, families and each other. After a  few months of the engagements, mark states that he would like  to  meet  her  parents.  Awiti  goes  to  Aluor  to  deliver  the  exciting  piece  of  news.  Her mother, Maria is  a bit opposed but Akoko wins  her over  and preparations are made. Male relatives are sent for  from Yimbo and Sakwa. Peter owuor Kembo is also sent for from the seminary.  They  make  preparations  for  the  day  and  kongó  is  brewed  and  several  delicacies made. The day arrives and mark Antony arrives with his delegation. He is dressed in military fatigues a monkey head dress and bears a shield. They are warmly welcome and introductions done. To the surprise of mark and his delegation, the bride price is set at a token bull, two cows and six goats. There is much celebration after the negotiations are completed. Akoko is hard laughing with her grandson in law. She dies peacefully in her sleep later in the night


Akoko is buried in Aluor in where she had spent most of life. Peter owuor Kembo is among the deacons who conduct the  mass. Her death is hard to accept as she seemed to be full of life.  Awiti  is  so  devasta-ted  that  she  almost  calls  of  the  wedding.  Nyabera  comforts  her  by telling the life story of Akoko. She finally calms down and apologises to Mark, who had been with peter owuor.


After the mourning period, peter goes to Rome to complete his studies. He is later ordained a priest and his first duty was to preside over the wedding between Elizabeth and mark. The newly  wedded  couple  moves  from  Aluor  to  live  in  Nakuru.  Shortly  afterwards,  Elizabeth becomes pregnant. Unfortunately she and mark misdiagnose the symptoms for malaria thus leading  to  the  loss  of  the  twins.  It  takes  a  long  time  before  she  can  conceive  again.  Her mother  in  law  start  to  complain  about  the  lack  of  grandchildren  but  mark  stops  her  from prying.  Elizabeth  gets  pregnant  again  and  this  time  the  couple  are  happy  and  cautious  to ensure nothing goes wrong.


Love and Life yanks us from the painful oppression of death into a new realm of love and understanding. Mark Sigu, we can now imagine what they talked about with Akoko, steers his family away from tradition into the new sphere of the evolving world.

He is blessed with 7 children 4 boys and three girls. Each child has different personality. We see  Mark  and  Elizabeth  as  capable  parents  who  administer  discipline  and  love  to  their children. The two parents provide education food and shelter to their new life and work best to establish family unity.

Despite her love for her children, Elizabeth keeps a straight head and clear vision not to spoil her  kids.  She  stands  behind  when  Aoro  is  punished  by  his  father,  though  she  knew  the punishment was punitive and way above discipline, she took a back step until it was time  for her intervention. She also steps back when Mark pours his love over their last born Mary but does her best to reign him in so that Mary does not end up too spoilt.

On  the  other  hand,  we  silently  follow  the  children  as  they  grow  into  adulthood.  From  the brave and confident Vera to her timid and self possessed twin sister. The relationship of the two girls sours as they take on different personalities in life. Aoro and Antony also come out

strongly  shaping  their  destinies  different  ways  though  the  show  unrivalled  level  of competence.  Aoro  takes  medicine  while  Anthoy  joins  the  seminary.  The  twins  Opiyo  and Odongo also manifest differently.


Elizabeth delivers  twins,  veronica  and  Rebecca.  The  two  girls  have  varying  personalities. Vera  is  independent,  intelligent  and  protective  of  her  sister.  Rebecca  on  the  other  hand,  is quite  attractive  and  self  -centred.  When  they  are  two  years  old,  Elizabeth  gave  birth  to another child, a boy Aoro. Due to the state of emergency, mark opts to move his family back to Aluor. His mother is quite unhappy about this but he does not change his stand. Mark gets lonely while Elizabeth is away and engages in extramarital affairs. A certain girl stays with him for some time and later claims that she is pregnant. This brings mark back to his sense and he sends her away. He then goes to Aluor to get his family. Elizabeth hears rumours of the infidelity but says nothing about it.


Kenya  gains  independence  and  the  citizens  celebrate.  The  country  is  faced  with  numerous challenges but equally numerous opportunities. Mark gets promoted and moves to a bigger house as his family has grown. He now has seven children that include Vera, Becky, Aoro, Antony, Opiyo Odongo and Mary. Vera is an excellent student in school. Becky on the other hand  does  not  give  her  studies  much  effort.  Vera  excels  in  her  primary  level  exam  and  is called to a national school which she declines as she wanted that to go to her sister’s school.

Her parents are concerned but later agree to let her go to a school of her choice.


Aoro is compared to Obura who was swift bright confident and curious. The company of his younger  brothers  makes  him  more  adventurous  than  usual.  One  day  they  go  fishing  at  a nearby  river.   As  he  and  tony  are  busy  one  of  the  twins,  Odongo,  almost  drowns.  Opiyo screams  alerting  the  older  brothers  who  come  to  his  rescue.  They go  back  home  wet,  and shaken.  The  younger  boys  blame  the  older  ones  for  the  event  and  Aoro  and  tony  are punished.  The  older  boys  decide  to  never  take  their  smaller  brothers  anywhere  after  the incident. Tony later develops acute appendicitis and is rushed to hospital in the night. Aoro is worried and informs his older sisters. The later receive  news that their brother will be well after the operation.


Aoro is fascinated by Tony’s stitches and gains an interest in medicine. He operates on a frog successfully. Uncle peter comes to visit them and though every child warms  u to hi, tony is particularly curious about priesthood and has a lot of questions. Mark is a bit apprehensive as he notices that tony is eyeing priesthood. Most parents are not comfortable with their children joining  priesthood.  Peter  is  getting  a  promotion  to  bishop.  He  stays  a  while  then  visits  his aunt Maria in Aluor. It is later on decided that Opiyo and Odongo should go to Aluor to keep their grandmother company  and attend the school their mother went to. Aoro excels in his studies and is called to the best school in the country. This inspires tony to work hard so that he can join him. Aoro has difficulty in school and is suspended for indiscipline. Mark deals with him by telling to seek his own food and shelter. Aoro is remorseful and fears his father.

He returns to school and does his best.


The  chapter  takes  us  back  to  the  birth  the  pregnancy  was  difficult  for  Elizabeth.  She developed high blood pressure and threatened miscarriage on several occasion. The doctors feared for both mother and child and they have to be admitted. Mary’s birth had to be induced and she is named after her grandmother. Mark loves Mary deeply and gives her all the best.

He  sends  her  to  private  school  and  makes  an  effort  to  personally  pick  and  drop  her.  This draws envy Becky who was used to being the centre of attention. Becky tries to complain and gets a scathing response from her sister Vera. This results is an argument that leads the sisters to drift apart.


Examination results  are announced and Vera has done exceptionally well. Becky attains a second  division  which  she  is  well  pleased  with.  Antony  gets  36  points  in  his  primary certificate  examinations  and  is  delighted  as  he  had  earned  a  spot  in  Aoro’s  school.  Becky suggests  that  she  would  like  to  get  a  job  but  Mark  insists  that  she  must  continue  with  her education. A telegram is sent from Aluor informing them that Maria is unwell. Elizabeth is picked  from  the  school  by  Mark  as  she  is  beside  herself.  Mark  does  his  best  to  leave everything in order before they leave for Aluor. Elizabeth is beside Maria when he dies in hospital later on that day.


Opiyo and Odongo return to Nakuru after the burial of Maria. Education is of importance to the Sigu family as examinations approach and everyone is tense as there are 5 candidates in the house. Aoro was sitting for his O-level, Vera and Becky are sitting for their A-level and Opiyo and Odongo for the certificate of primary education. Vera and Becky are now are in their prime and boys begin to pay a lot of attention to them. Vera meets Tommy Muhambe who is particularly persistent. She brings up the question on whether she can go to a movie with Tommy to her father during dinner. When the results are announced, Aoro excels with 6 distinctions, Vera got two A’s and a B, Becky flunked. After the result Becky runs away from home  and  leaves  a  note  stating  that  she  had  gone  to  try  to  be  an  air  hostess.  Vera tries  to explain to her parents that they should let her be.


Vera goes to campus and is struck by the new found freedom. Most campus girls are dating rich affluent men or other campus students. Vera maintains her relationship with Tommy but

when  he  proposes  to  her  she  declines  ending  their  3  year  relationship.  Vera  leaves  with  a heavy heart and decide to try and find her sister Becky. She accidentally bumps into her at the airport and leave for Becky apartments.


Becky takes Vera to an affluent block of apartments. She introduces Vera to her fiancé, John Courtney, a Canadian national who was a pilot. She tells Vera about her plans to get married, but Vera insists that he must first meet their parents. Vera tries to convince Becky to go back home. On john’s persistence she finally agrees to visit her parents.


Vera  goes  back  to  her  room  on  campus  and  tells  the  day’s  events  to  her  roommate  MaryAnne  Ngugi.  Vera  mentions  the  heartbreak  with  Tommy  and  about  her  twin  sister.  The conversation extends to the larger family. Mary Anne then invites her to attend a recollection at Parkview college, which she readily agrees. After mass on Sunday Vera begins to question her  religious  beliefs.  She  watches  a  lay,  and  goes  on  with  her  studies  as  exams  are approaching. When the day comes, Mary  -Anne and Vera board a matatu and head for the recollection. Vera is introduced to the members of Opus Dei who had different views about the church, and work challenges. She got out of the church puzzled and Mary-Anne offered to give her books which will help her understand better.


Variable winds suggest the changing course of the lives that the family experiences. There are the ups and downs that characterize their lives. Their lives diverge on different paths that bring  with  them  sweet  victories  like  Aoro’s  marriage,  Wandia’s  doctorate,  happy  families among  other  events.  There  are  also  the  difficulties  like  Daniel’s  down  syndrome,  Becky’s death among other challenges that they encounter. There I also the frosting in the relationship between Becky and the rest of her family. The change in the way her children relate to her and the marked improvement they make under the care of Aoro and Wandia.


Aoro starts medicine at the university. The study of Anatomy Biochemistry and Psychology among other subjects. Anatomy happens to be the most of the competitive subjects.  In the laboratory, the students are told to the group themselves into groups of six. Group s ix had Aoro, Wandia, Makau Kithinji, Jeremy Kizingo, Paul Omondi Rakula, and Simon Onyancha.

The competition is narrowed to two members of group six. After exams, Wandia beat Aoro with a single point. Aoro takes it in good grace and invites her to have a drink. This signifies the start of a long relationship.


The internship is hard for Aoro. He has to work around the clock while at the mercy of the residents and doctors. His rounds include the theatre, round in the wards and filling patient information as well as taking laboratory sample. He rarely gets enough sleep. Wandia is also an intern at Machakos general hospital. They are unable to meet for long periods of time as the rarely have time to meet. Aoro is taking a break to rest when Wandia visits him. They talk about marriage and Wandia proposes to Aoro. Wandia informs Aoro thatshe was on her way to visit her mother who was sick.


Wandia had been raised by a single mother after her father had died while she was young.

Her mother had raised money to educate them by working on her coffee farm. Her siblings were all grown up and engaged in different professions. Her sister Esther is a teacher who is married  to  the  headmaster,  Michael.  Her  brother  Michael  was  a  business  man  in  Nairobi, Wandia  is  a  doctor  and  timothy  is  described  as  being  a  good  time  boy.  Wandia’s  mother suffers from diabetes and has an ulcer on her leg. Wandia’s mother is still worried about her farm even though Wandia tells her that she  does not need to work so hard. She spends time with her mother and even talks about Aoro. She then goes to spend the night with her sister Esther. She enjoys the company of her nieces and nephews. Later that evening they get time to talk and the topic of Aoro is brought up again. the rest of her family is concern about the different tribes but Wandia is not bothered.


Aoro takes Wandia to his parent’s farm in Njoro. After the visit to Wandia’s family, Aoro wrote  his  parent  a  letter  informing  them  that  he  would  be  bringing  his  bride  to  be  home.

Elizabeth is eager to meet them and is the one who receives them when they arrive. After the introductions,  Elizabeth  asks  Wandia  to  help  herb  in  the  kitchen,  giving  mark  and  Aoro sometime to talk. Mark is concern that Aoro might have made a wrong decision by choosing to  marry  a  kikuyu.  Elizabeth  and  Wandia  get  along  well  and  beco-me  good  friends.  They return with tea after they feel that the men had enough time to sort out their differences.


Aoro and Wandia’s wedding pulls the family together as that try to make it a success. Becky provides  a  car  and  Vera  helps  them  get  one  of  the  company  houses  in  Malindi.  for  the honeymoon. Vera and Wandia grow very close to each other. Becky is separated from john Courtney  after  he  discovered  that  she  was  cheating  on  him.  She had  custody  of  their  two children, Johnny, and Alicia. Becky lived a promiscuous life and insults Vera when she was confronted about it. Wandia is pregnant with twins and had been asked to stay home due to a cough. Vera visits Wandia and voices her concerns about her sister. They  discuss  Becky’s health which seemed to be on the decline and her children’s welfare. Wandia goes into labour.


Wandia gets twins,  Lisa and Daniel. Daniel has Down syndrome and grows at a slow rate.

Lisa grows rapidly and makes the contrast between her and her twin brother so much more glaring. Wandia is devastated by his condition while Aoro feel  like he had failed. Daniel is a loving child despite his condition and draws love from all around him. Becky dies of AIDS

and Wandia and Aoro take in Alicia and Johnny since Vera, who had been appointed their guardian,  cannot  as  her  calling  does  not  allow  her  to  have  a  home.  Becky  lives  behind  a sizeable  estate  to  ensure  that  they  are  well  provided  for.  Daniel  develops  leukaemia  as children  with  Down’s  syndrome  are  prone  to  it.  Wandia  is  shocked  by  the  turn  of  events.

Daniel  is  taken  to  hospital  and  the  doctor  set  about  treating  him  as  it  is  not  one  of  the aggressive forms. Wandia visits church and asks God to save her son and promises to visit church more frequently.


Wandia  pursues  her  passion  in  haematology  after  the  recovery  of  her  son  Daniel.  She receives a scholarship to study in John Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, USA. She is however worried  of  living  Aoro  with  the  task  of  looking  after  their  now  large  family.  Alicia  and

Johnny loved them like their biological parents. At the end of the term all the children wanted to show how well they were doing in school, even Daniel who had Down’s Syndrome was doing  pretty  well.  The  Aoro’s  take  measure  to  ensure  that  the  family  is  well  tended  while Wandia is away. The plan was to call Mary,  Aoro’s sister, to stay with the children besides hiring another house help. The family goes to Njoro to visit mark and Elizabeth. Odongo is the farm manager while his twin brother Opiyo is a manager at marks former farm. Opiyo visits with his family too, Edna his wife and their two children.  Father  tony also drops in.

Wandia  tells  Elizabeth  about  the  scholarship  and  she  readily agrees,  meanwhile  Aoro  and tony reminisce about their childhood.


Both  Mugo’s  and  Sigu’s  families  gather  to  celebrate  Wandia’s  achievement  as  the  first Kenyan woman to get a doctorate degree in medicine. There is a large gathering at the Aoro’s home  as  relatives  and  friends  join  them  in  the  celebration.  Alicia,  a  student  of  design  and music at Kenyatta  university shadows her aunt Vera. Johnny and Daniel hover around Aoro and Wandia. Johnny faces an identity crisis and wishes to change his name to Aoro’s name.

He keeps African friends, speaks, Swahili and eats African dishes. Wandia tries to talk to him and  afterwards  ask  Vera  to  write  to  John  Courtney.  Elizabeth  wakes  up  to  check  on  the children who are still up; she looks in on her grandchildren. She gets an attack of dizziness as she tries to adjust them. The following day Aoro receives a call from Opiyo informing him that their mother had died. She is buried next to her daughter as a large crowd comes to bid her farewell.




Themes  refer  to  the  general  ideas,  messages  or  lessons  the  writer  has  portrayed  in  his/her literary  piece  of  work.  Therefore,  under  the  study  of  themes,  we  particularly  narrow  our perspective to the main ideas in which the story if founded and on whose axis it revolves, and offers an avenue of continuity.

It  is  important  to  note  that  while  discussing  themes,  it  is  impera-tive  for  identification  and illustration of the theme to be done, to pro-mote understanding.

A theme can simply be said to be the concern of the writer. It is simply what the writer says.


The  novel  addresses  various  issues  revolving  around  family  mem-bers,  their  closeness  and their interactions. This is seen through various instances as follows:

Chief  Odero  Gogni  loves  his  daughter  Akoko  so  much  as  seen  through  his  over protectiveness.  He  wants  the  best  for  his  daugh-ter  hence  turns  down  13  suitors  he  even mentions that a home without daughters is like a spring without a source.

Akoko’s  brother  Oloo  too  is  seen  to  be  so  close  to  Akoko  and  loves  her  so  much.  When travelling to Kisuma he sends his sons Opiyo and Oloo to accompany her for protection. Oloo further  does  the  unthinkable  when  he  welcomes  Akoko  back  when  she  is  a  widow  and suffering.

Owuor  kembo  and  Akoko’s  marriage  is  a  closely  knit  union.  On marrying  Akoko  Owuor never  marries  any  other  wife  despite  pressure  from  his  mother.  On  Owuor’s  death  Akoko mourns him with so much dignity and with songs of praise recounting their life together and his greatness.

Nyabera on settling at the new mission picks her mum her daughter and nephew Owuor to stay with them since they were so close to each other. They stay together so happily.

Mark Sigu is a hardworking man who loves and fully provides for his family. They are all well  educated  and  trained  on  responsibility.  Mark  is  concerned  when  Vera  asks  for permission to go out with a man and fears for her. When Becky runs away to the city he is so concerned and almost follows her to the city.

Aoro’s and wandia’s family are seen to co-exist and thrive in love and friendship. They even adopt Becky’s children –Alicia and Johny and even consider them their own. “The Courtney children  had  become  so  much  part  of  the  family  that  Wandia  never  dreamed  of  excluding them from her calculations” (pg 291)


The society in The River and the Source is seen to be patriarchal. We are told that:”If it was hard for a boy to get an education –  it was well nigh impossible for a girl. The purpose of female existence was marriage and child bearing.”(P 129) this shows a disregard for women in society and points out to their expectation in society which is pointer to their lowly stature in society.

Akoko is born in a family that is dominated by men and encounters many challenges. In fact the expression the girl child points to her oppressed and exploited and threatened Akoko who is  growing  up  as  a  girl  child.  Her  struggles  are  seen  even  in  her  assertive  and  aggressive stance in her first words dwaro mara ‘want mine!’(pg 15)

Women  are  expected  to be  submissive  in this  society  and  it  is  unheard  of  for  a  woman  to challenge a man. This is however seen in Akoko’s resistance against Otieno her brother inlaw who even gets to fear her. When Otieno threatens to assault her she looks him in the eyes and says, ‘just you die!’(pg 37)

Further when Otieno takes over the chieftaincy and rules with an iron fist, Akoko seeks the intervention  of  the  new  administration  to  protect  her  wealth.  She  wins  in  this  and  in  fact opens new vistas and opportunities for the oppressed especially the women.

Gender inequality is seen further in the sense that out of a class of thirty four, there were only two girls one of whom was Awiti and even so she later got married off at the age of sixteen.

It’s only through Akoko’s determination that Awiti is saved from such fate. Awiti is further seen  to  be  exceptional  as  she  maintains  first  position  hence  bringing  out  the  success  of women despite all odds. She thus wins the envy, admiration and even disapproval by some.

As a teacher Awiti manages the children back at Aluor during the emergency without Mark bringing her out as a strong woman.

Furthermore, from Awiti’s experience we learn of the important role of women in upbringing in  that  Awiti  is  saved  from  the  traditional  practices  of  marriage  at  seventeen  through  “the pioneering and daring spirit of her grandmother and mother.” (pg 129) they regarded her as their future and hoped to enhance the continuity of the family through her and this comes to fruition. Akoko and Nyabera thus overcome the obstacles that tend to degrade and suppress women.

Wandia’s  mother  is  further  brought  out  as  a  strong  woman.  Though  single  she  does  not become destitute and vulnerable. This is further seen through Wandia who is an epitome of great upbringing through her courage and determination and profession as a doctor. She even undertakes further studies to even acquire the role of professor.

The  continuity  of  the  river  of  women  empowerment  is  thus  seen  through  the  generations through Akoko, Nyabera, Awiti and Wandia. This is despite the challenges they faced and disregard by society where even for Awiti’s case it is said “A girl! To be so clever…no man would marry her…” (pg 130) despite all these she keeps excelling.


There are several instances of conflict in marriage pointed out in the novel. They are brought either from misunderstanding between the couple or sometimes from external influence.

There is a conflict in the marriage between Owuor Kembo and Akoko. This is brought out by the allegations by Nyar Asembo that Akoko has bewitched her son and cast a spell on him so that he doesn’t take another wife. Further she complains of her inability to conceive regula-rly despite  the  huge  bride  price.  Akoko  decides  to  severe  their  relationship  and  goes  back  to Yimbo but not before summoning a crowd and clearing her name against the allegations. It takes the intervention of the Jodongo to bring her back.

Conflict is also seen in the marriage between Elizabeth Awiti and Mark Sigu. This is over her inability  to  conceive  after  the  miscarriage.  She even  accuses  mark  of  having  given  her chloroquin to deliberately  make her sterile. The issue is compounded by Mark’s mother who demands an explanation for Elizabeth’s lack of children. This creates so much tension and mark has to take Elizabeth’s side to salvage the situation.

Becky’s promiscuity leads to the break-up of their marriage with John Courtney.  It is said that she exchanged men at will prompting John to divorce her. It is even the reason she gets infected with HIV.

There was also conflict  in the marriage between Aoro and Wandia over their son Daniel’s disease  Leukemia. Wandia accuses Aoro of spending too much time outside working when they have children to bring up and take care of. Hi explanations are not heard and she even retorts angrily, “Don’t honey me. Go to hell.” (pg288)


There are aspects of both traditional religion and Christianity in the novel.

In the traditional religion, we are told that the people believed in  Were the god of the eye of the rising sun and ancestral spirits. They made sacrifices and poured libations. Akoko even mentions  that  it  is  Were  who  forms  children  in  ones  womb.  They  even  believed  that  the spirits of the departed influenced the living so much. They could cause dreams to pregnant mothers or relatives to guide in the naming of the young ones.

With the coming of missionaries, Christianity is introduced Nyabera is attracted to this new religion and is further fascinated by various characters in the bible, the suffering of Jesus and baptism through which she is named Maria.

Akoko  later  joins  Maria  in  the  new  religion  with  the  children  too  where  Awiti  becomes Sacristan assisting nuns and Owuor becoming an altar boy. Owuor later becomes a priest and ascends to bishop. This even influences Tony Sigu who becomes a priest.

Awiti raises her family in religious grounds. This even sees her daughter Vera becoming a non-marrying member of the Opus Dei.

Religion  impacts  on  the  traditional  aspects  of  life  for  the  people  and  we  see  so  much changing. Traditionally Akoko was supposed to be buried in her husband’s ancestral home at the left of  the entrance but due to her change to Christianity she is buried as a Christian in a church cemetery. Furthermore, marriage rites change and with the advent of Christianity has introduced  church  weddings  as  seen  in  the  Christian  church  wedding  between  Mark  and Elizabeth presided by father Peter. Vera further becomes an unmarried member of Opus Dei which would not have been accepted traditionally.


Throughout the plot of the book, the writer has eliminated many characters through death some of who never even get a chance to live one day.

Akoko’s son Obura Kembo, died at war in Tanganyika. He as well as Ambere K’ongoro died in  the  First  World  War  between  the  Jo-Ingereza  and  Jo-jerman.  The  village  went  into mourning for the chief’s son. The mourning was worsened by the fact that there was no body to  morn  over  and  to  bury.  Pg  55  “The  names  of  the  three  are  Oura  Kembo, Ambere K’ongoso,  and  Nyaroche  Silwal.  They  went  to  fight  the  Jo-Jerman  in  a  place  called Tanganyika…..of the three, only Nyaroche Silwal survived and he is……”

Tragedy befalls Akoko again. First, she had to contend with the death of her son Obura. Later her husband, Chief Owuor Kembo passes on after ailing for a long time since his son’s death.

Pg 62 ‘…but before the brideprice could  be paid the ailing chief Owour Kembo died…..”

Akoko’s other son Owang Sino, dies after chocking on a fish bone after having a meal of fish and Ugali.

Akoko’s daughter, Nyabera faces several misfortunes as well. Her entire life seems one big disaster. Her other tow sons die during an outbreak of measles. She gets pregnant again when Awiti is three  years old but she miscarriges. The ral disaster is when her husband, Okumu dies after complaining of severe headache, pain and stiffness in the neck and he cannot also retain any food.

After being inherited by a second cousin to her husband, Ogoma Kwachm Nyabera gets toe children  who  again,  die  of  sickle  cell  disease.  After  returning  to  the  smae  man,  hoping  a friendship would grow, she gets a baby boy who like all the others before him die. The man’s wife is also said to have died.

Akoko dies of old age peacefully in her sleep late at night, that dark hour just before dawn.

Pg 140 “That night she died quietly on her pallet in the corner…”As a result of state of emergency, the country is becoming more and more dangerous even for ordinary people. As a result of the war between the Mau Mau freedom fighters and the white johnies, Death  could  arrive  without  warning.  Things  worsened  day  by  day  and  lorries carrying dead purpotely the mau mau were a common sight.

Maria Nyabera, also dies after she had a stroke and was in a coma before her death early one morning.  Pg  190,  “At  seven  O’clock,  just  before  the  doctore  came  for  his  rounds,  Maria Nyabeta daughter of Chief Owour Kembo and Akoko Obanda and wife to Okumu Angolo, breathed her last with her only daughter at her bed side.” Her granddaughter, Becky dies of AIDS.  Nyabera’s  daughter,  Elizabeth  Awiti,  similary  dies  after  she  ha  problems  with breathing aged seventy.


The writer has dealt with different levels of love. For example:

  1. i) Love between man and woman.
  2. ii) The love between families and within families.

iii)  The love for material, tangible things

  1. iv) The love for oneself, the one that almost borders on self-centredness.

During Akoko’s marriage negotiations, the spokesman for the Jodongo of Sakwa, Aloo K’Olima refers to their hosts (elders of Yimbo) as ‘brothers’. This is a pointer to the good dak (neighbourliness)  that  existed  between  the  two  groups  as  well  as  the  great  ‘wat’ (brotherhood) they shared.

Akoko was committed to the well being of her family. When the survival of the two year old Owuor through whom her family could find continuity id threatened by Otieno, Akoko made an epic journey to Kisumu to petition the colonial government (sirikal) to intercede on her behalf.

Akoko also loved her husband Owuor Kembo. When he dies, she mourned carrying it well into the village. Pg 62-63. ‘She donned his monkey skin head dress that he had and his shield in  the  other.  She sang  dirges  in  his  honour  with  her  powerful  voice.  She  sang  his  famous courtship  of  her,  the  great  honour  he  had  accorded  her  throughout  their  life  together,  the friendship that existed between them.”

Akoko instilled in her children and grandchildren a strong sense of loyalty to the family. This value of love and loyalty in the family is seen in Sigu’s family. They (Mark and Elizabeth) work in unison to bring up their seven children.

There also exists a relationship of love and care between Mark and Elizabeth.  This is evident from the courtship the two has at the beginning of a period of six months. “pg 132…..Their courtship went on in this gentle offhand manner, but at the end of six months, they knew each other pretty well, at least she knew she liked him and he who impetuous knew that he was he was in love and wanted to get married.’

It is also indicated in the book that Sigu family was a family full of love. Pg 162 “All in all, the Sigu family was a happy one. There was money, but not too much and plenty o f lovesimple and unpretentious.’

There is also love between Wandia and her brothers and sisters. “She and her brother and sisters  had  always  been  very  close,  a  closeness  born  of  not  just  blood  ties,  but  of  many hardships faced together.’

Wandia also enjoys a warm relationship with her two nephews and niece. “The other children arrived from school and Wandia was lost in hug and demands for sweets and chocolates. (pg 263)

In a show of family unity, Wandia and Aoro adopt two children who were Becky’s. These  are Alicia and Jonny following Becky’s death.


In  the  novel,  “The  River  and  the  Source’  nothing  remains  the  same.  The  continous  cyclic pattern  of  human  life  and  nature  bedecked  by  numerous  changes  of  both  conscious  and uncons-cious orientation. Through these changes, life continous or events continue at different levels affected by changes. Consider these illu-strations:-Akoko  is  way  ahead  of  her  time  and  is  appreciative  of  the  need  to  embrace  change  early enough. The author says that the clarity of vision and strength of character of Akoko could have been ‘a discomfiture to all men of all ages and she was therefore never really have fitted in that, this or any other century (pg142)

The coming of the Jorochere (whitemen) marked the first real threat to the formely tranquil and  cohesive  traditional  African  society.  A footloose wanderer  called  Ambere  K’Ongoso brought  stories  of  the  white  skinned  people  (pg  48).  Similarly  Nyaroche  came  back  with stories about pesa (money) pg 49.

The  effect  of  the  coming  of  the  white  man  in  relation  to  administration  of  justice, enforcement of law and order, mode of dressing and language is now evident especially in Kisumu. The clerk at the D.O.’s office could speak the language of the White man as well as his own. He wore a dazzling white shirt, a thin black tie and white shoes.

Opiyo and Odongo while accompanying their aunt Akoko to kisuma were dressed in skins covering only their loins and Akoko was dressed in the tradition skin called “chieno.” This mode of dressing is contrasted with that of a passer-by they met on their arrival in Kisumu who wore a pair of long shorts and a singlet. The said passer-by had also attended mission school for one year.

While in Kisuma, Akoko, Opiyo and Odongo are informed that Kisuma had been  renamed Kisumu by the whiteman.

The house belonging to Akoko’s host is an indicator of changes taking place in the society.

His house was a variation of the traditional hut since it had square windows made of wood and a neat wooden door, all painted bright green. Also the buildings in Kisumu looked large and most had white walls and red roofs. Others had tin wall.

Akoko’s  host  in  Kisumu  asvises  Opiyo  and  Odongo  to  leave  their  weapons  at  home  since people  were  now  prohibited  from  carrying  weapons  since  the  ‘Sirikal’  had  ‘askaris’  who offered protection to everyone and kept the peace.

The white DC in Kisuma listens to Akoko’s position and rules in her favour. A contingent of ‘Askaris’ is dispatched to the village to forci-bly remove Otieno from his position as chief. He is  also  made  to  return  all  property  he  had  grabbed  form  his  sister-in-law  and  his  grand nephew.  This  episode  shows  that  the  influence  of  the  ‘Jodongo’  in  the  administration  of justice is gradually waning and in its place is the white man’s admin istrative structures. In fact the author acknowledges this reality when she says “In spite of the DC’s decision, it was only a matter of time before the hereditary chiefdoms were done away with totally. It was a changing world. (pg 93)

Christianity  is  gradually  taking  root.  After  being  baptized,  Nyabera  acquires  a  new  name, Maria. (pg 110)

By agreeing to accompany Nyabera to Gem (mission of Aluor, AKoko has made the decision to move from one life to another. her pioneering and daring spirit enabled her daughter Awiti to acquire education.

By  acquiring  formal  education,   Awiti  is  able  to  disentangle  herself  from  the  yoke  of traditions and customs of her people pertaining to the role of women. This conservative mind set  of  Awiti’s  people  is  evident  in  the  statement,  “The  purpose  of  female  existence  was marriage and child bearing.” According to the community, it was superfluous to educate girls.

Awiti’s  desire  to  acquire  education  was  made  possible  through  the  pioneering  and  daring spirit her grandmother and mother had (pg 129)

The impact of formal education is evident in Mark Sigu’s ability to speak fluently in perfect English. During his encounter with Elizabeth he tells her that he went to school in St. Mary’s Yala and was conscripted into the army while job hunting in Nairobi. The advent of formal employment is a result of formal education. (pg 137)

While  conversing  with  Elizabeth,  Mark  Sigu  switches  to  a  comb-ination  of  English  and vernacular-a common manner of speech is an emerging bilingual and tri-lingual Africa.

Money  was  replacing  barter  trade  as  a  tool  of  exchange  of  goods  and  services.  Awiti successfully  sat  her  examination  at  the  teacher  training  college  and  received  her  teacher’s certificate. She is then posted back to her old school. She earns a salary of fifty shillings a month. Maria initially opposes the idea of her daughter accepting the invitation to join the teacher training college but Akoko prevails upon her.

When Awiti informs her mother that she does not know the names of  Mark’s parents,  an appaled Maria laments,  “What do  you mean  you don’t know! How can  you  even  consider having  friendship  with  a  man  whose  roots  and  antecedents  you  don’t  know?”  Contrary  to dictates of ‘Chik’, Elizabeth’s re;atives did not send a ‘Jawangyo’ (spy) to check out  Mark Sigu’s background. Akoko reasons with Maria by telling her, “Accept it Maria, the world is changing.” (pg 143)

Akoko  has  changed  the  concept  of  bride  price.  Contray  to  the  expectations  of  Elizabeth’s suitors from Seme that a heavy bride price was going to ne demanded for Elizabeth, no price is asked except for a token bull, two cows and six goats. (Pg 148)

In a break from traditions, Akoko was not buried in her husband’s ancestral home to the left of the entrance to her house but on the burial ground which the church had prepared.

Mixed  (inter-tribal)  marriages  have  started  to  take  root.  Elizabeth’s flexibility and accommodating  nature  is  evident  when  she  convinces  her  husband  to  allow  their  daughter Vera  to  accompany  Tommy  Muhambe,  a  twenty  one  year  old  young  Luhya  man  studying veterinary  medicine  to  the  movies.  Becky’s  husband  (John  Courtney)  is  a  white  man.

Wandia’s  sister  (Esther)  points  out  some  of  the  challenges  of  inter  tribal  marriages  that Wandia  and  Aoro  may  experience.  “For  example  few  in-laws  are  endearing,  but  I  can’t imagine  anything  more  annoying  than  their  talking  to  their  son,  and  your  children  in  a language  you  cannot  understand.”Aoro  (a  Luo)  marries  Wandia  (a  Kikuyu). Prior  to  their marriage each introduces his/her would be spouse to his/her parents.

Change  is  also  experienced  in  the  arena  of  politics.  Mention  is  made  of  the  recently concluded multi-party elections (1992) which marked the end of the single party rule. People hope that the new political dispensation would usher in a new era. Instead it is characterized by confusion and cries of foul by the opposition and declarations of total transparency by the winners. (pg 304)

Vera also changes form unbelieving Christian to a member of Opus Dei during her encounter with Maryanne.

The two epic journeys Akoko makes are quite significant as far as change is concerned. The first one is her journey to Kisuma accompanied by Opiyo and Odongo. This story elevated

Akoko  too  heroine  and  legendary  status.  It  was  to  be  passed  down  from  generation  togeneration. The second one is Akoko and Nyabera’s journey to Aluor. “The children were the future and the future had to be protected.” The writer seems to suggest the merging of the past and the present, “Akoko told them stories of the heroes of old and  the history of Baby Jesus.” Father Tony, AKoko’s grandson says of Akoko, “To her life was like a river, flowing from eternity to eternity.





‘Chik’ (traditions) governed every aspect of the life of the people. It was the glue which heldthe people together thus preventing disintegration of the fabric of the society and chaos.

The naming system in the community is quite elaborate. The children are given more than one name. For instance, Chief Odero Gogni’s newly born child is first called Adoyo since she was  born  during  the  weeding  and  hoeing  season.  The  ancestral  spirits  usually  send  vivid dreams to the new born baby’s parents and in Adoyo’s case the child’s great uncle, recently dead, a medicine man of great renown sent dreams to both the father and grandmother of the child, resulting in the baby being named Obanda. Since the baby had an extremely powerful set of lungs she was given the third name, Akoko. (pg 14)

Akoko’s son is first named Obura (the wise one). On the second night after birth the child’s father dreamt that Kembo K’ Agina the late chief was handing him a baby boy from his right hand side; therefore the child was named Obura Kembo.

When Adoyo was two weeks old, she suffered a prolonged bout of colic and screaming that went on all night. A reason and solution is sought to the baby’s crying. Grandmother-  Nyar Alego implores were to spare the child’s life. She pleads with her departed mother (Achieng) to intercede. She also seems to imply that the child’s condition may be attri buted to Akelo, her departed sister who died childless. (pg 12 and 13)

It  was  a  common  practice  for  potential  suitors  to  send  spies  (jowang’yo)  to  check  out  the background of a would be bride. In the case of AKoko, they reported that she had impeccable antecedents.

Chik (tradition) dictates that a chief must be married. This is what prompted Owuor Kembo having inherited the chieftainship to get married at a relatively young age of twenty years. (pg 19)

Marriage  negotiations  are  conducted  by  elders,  Chief  Gogni  chooses  Aloo  K’Olima  (an accomplished negotiator) as their spokesman. They set a high bride price at thirty head which to everyone’s surprise Owuor Kembo promptly accepts without bargaining. (pg 20)

The first wife’s house (Mikai’s house) holds the centre stage directly facing the gate.

Chief  Odero  Gogni  welcomes  the  visitors  (prospective  suitors)  and  offers  them  brew (Kong’o) to be sipped through a long reed like straw after libations are first offered to  Were.

(pg  19)  Kong’o  is  once  again  drank  after  libations  are  poured  to  Were  to  signify  the culmination  of  successful  marriage  negotia-tions.  Feasting  then  goes  on  into  the  late afternoon. (pg 25)

Traditions  dictate  that  a  woman  should  present  a  picture  of  demure  shyness  when  she encountered her future husband for the first time, but Akoko defied this practice by walking in measured steps, heald held high, hands at her side. (pg 24)

Chik  (traditions)  did  not  allow  suitors  to  spend  the  night  at  their  in-laws  homestead  as witnessed in Akoko’s case. The suitors had to leave when evening came. (pg 25)

A mock wrestling duel ensures between the young men from Sakwa and those who resit the efforts  to  spirit  her  away.  Eventually  the  men  form  Sakwa  succed  in  grabbing  Akoko  and taking her to her matrimonial home. (pg 27)

Chik  also  dictated  that  men  sent  on  a  mission  to  deliver  bride  price  must  be  granted hospitality without question. As a result when the young men from Sakwa stopped for rest and food at the nearest homestead they were warmly received. (pg 27)

According to ‘Chik’, if a man dies, his body lies in his mikai’s hut (first wife’s hut) before he is buried on the right hand side of the hut. (pg38)

In order to pave way for elders to go to Yimbo following Akoko’s decision to go back to her parent’s  home,  four  young  men  are  dispatched  with  a  cow  and  an  ox,  a  he-goat  and  two nanny goats. ‘Chik’, also dictates that whatever the circumstances, a messenger should not be victimized hence the young men are only received coldly. (pg 40)

The traditions of the community  dictated that during deliberations centering around marriage disputes, both sides of the story had to be heard before a decision a decision was arrived at.

When the Jodongo (elders of Seme) went to Yimbo to negotiate the return of Akoko (their wife), being a grave matter, kong’o was not allowed unless until an agreement was reached.

Chiefdom is hereditary, Owuor tells his son, “do not take your duty practically my son, for the chiefdom has been in my family for generations.”

The  role  of  the  chief  is  well  outlined.  His  main  job  was  to  lead  the  council  of  Jodongo (elders) in their arbitration and his final word was law. He was also a sort od priest who led the whole community in sacrifice and libation on public worshipping days. He also led his people to battle, and if he is too old, his eldest son. (pg 57)

The community abhorred bloodshed. To them, bloodshed even in battle was a great taboo and required much cleansing. (pg 58)

In compliance with the dicates of ‘Chik’ upon dleievering of the message that Obura had died at war in Tanganyika, his mother Akoko came out of her son’s hut with his spear in her right and his colourful ox-hide skilled in her left-  the traditional salute of the fallen warrior. For four days the villagers wailed, sang dirges and the young men staged mock battles. A banana trunk was symbolically buried in the absence of Obura’s body. (Pg 62)

Suicide was considered a great taboo and would bring a great curse among the people. (pg 62)

Upon the death of chief Odero Gogni, the clan went into sixty days mourning mandatory for a chief. AKoko also mourned her husband, She sang dirges while donning his monkey skin headdress and brandishing his spear in one hand and his shield in the other.

‘Chik’  did  not  allow  a  mother  to  spend  the  night  in  her  married  daughter’s  house.  When Akoko visits her daughter Nyabera before she leaves for Kisuma, Nyabera conducts her to her mother-in-law’s house. (pg 78)

Akoko presents a petition to the white D.O. in Kisumu about her oppression in the hands of Otieno.  Thereafter  the  D.O  sends  his  messengers  to  discreetly  carry  out  investigations  to ascertain the allegations. AKoko is summoned back to Kisumu to appear before the D.C. The messenger  informs  the  D.C  that  the  chiefdom  is  hereditary  and  passes  from  father  to  his eldest son. In the absence of a son, the closest male relative takes over. In case the son is not yet of the age of marriage, the chiefdom is held in custody by the closest male relative with the council of elders. When the rightful heir comes of age, he ransoms his seat with twelve head of cattle, the price of a bride, payable to the custodian. In the event that he cannot raise the ransom his seat within two years of getting married, then the council of elders may decide that the seat remains with the custodian. (pg 92)

Having already lost three children, a little ceremony id preformed to confuse evil spirits and enhance Nyabera’s son’s chances of survival. (pg 92)

‘Chik’ dictated that a husband had to be found from close relatives of the dead man for the widow. “His job being that of siring children to maintain the dead man’s name and to keep his widow from wandering from man to man.” (pg 99) this is called ‘tero’. Therefore, Otieno,

chief Owuor Kembo’s brother should have married his brother’s widow, Akoko and become a guardian of the grandson and custodian not owner of the chief’s stool.” (pg 87)


Throughout the novel, instances have been vividly brought to life of determined personalities trying to acheve on thing or the other. For example:-Obura is determined to leave home and explore a whole new life outside that no amount of persuasion not to do so deters him. He finally flees home to unknown destinations.

Akoko is determined to find intervention of the white man’s government in a bid to alleviate the atrocities committed by her brother-in-law. To an unknown place, she sets off with hope that one day her people will be liberated.

Akoko  is  depicted  as  a  hardworking  and  determined  woman.  AS  a  young  woman  she  is known to rise early and till her lands and uses the left over to barter in exchange for cattle, sheep and goats. (pg 35) Her herds are impressive and her granaries were always full. (pg 66)

Akoko  also  tells  her  daughter  that  laziness  opens  the  door  for  evil  to  rule  one’s  mind  and body. She also tells her to work tirelessly and that it is shame for an able bodied person to feed on sweat of others. (pg86)

Nyabera is also determined to join the new faith. To the catechist at the mission, she says, “……teacher,  I  have  come  a  long  way  for  this,  I  doubt  there  will  be  a  going  back.  I  have nothing  to  go  back  to.” (pg  97)  She  leaves  behind  her  daughter  and  mother  to  the unknown….Nyabera  left  the  two  dearest  people  to  her  with  a  heavy  heart  but  determined feet…….” (pg 103)

When they (Akoko and  Nyabera together with the children) arrived at the mission, we are told that Akoko started working hard to form some kind of base for the children. “……..she had never begged for food and she was not about to begin……she was untiring and unsparing of herself.” (pg 117)

Awiti also worked hard in school. She is given an admission to college. “……this letter comes from  a  head  teacher  of  a  school  called  a  college,  where  they  teach  teachers  how  to  teach children. He says he is happy to offer me a place in his college so that I an also learn how to be a teacher.” (pg123)

Peter Owuor  also  worked  very  hard.  Things  in  the  seminary  were  not  that  east.  It  is  said, “……And so he entered the vigour and splendour life in the seminary. Sometimes when things were particularly tough, he would wonder whether mere flesh and blood would survive it, but it never entered in his mind to leave…..he was no quitter. He would survive. He would see it through.” (pg 127) Peter had learnt from his grandmother that once a job begun it had to be completed.




CHARACTERS-Are  people,  animals  or  objects  taking  a  specific  role  in  artistic  work  like  a story, play, novel narrative.

CHARACTERIZATION–  Is  the  author’s  presentation  and  development  of  the  characters.

Explaining character traits of characters is what characterization entails.

How to determine a character

 What the character says or does

 What the author says about him

 What other characters say about him/her

 We describe a character using an adjective

 There also MUST be an illustration to the character identified

e.g. Akoko  is  determined  and  courageous,  she  challenges  Otieno  and  dares  him  to  strike  her.

Determined and courageous are adjectives, and Akoko’s character traits.


Tony-  vera

Gogni Mboji



Becky- marries Owuor Peter- Bishop Awiti- Marries Mark Sigu

Owang Sino- Marries Alando  Nyabera-marries Okumu  Obura

Akoko- married to Owuor kembo

Chief Odero-marries Aketch as 2nd wife


She is the wife of Chief Owuor Kembo. She is the most prominent character. She is portrayed as  the  source  of  the  River  and  the  Source  of  great  successful  future  generation.  Akoko’s character can be illustrated as follows:

1)  Determined

She amazes everybody when she utters her first words ‘dwara mara’ (want mine). The author comments, “Akoko grew fairly slow but she made up for her lack of height….a determination that would be the hallmark of her entire life….everybody…..she would be a very determined person someday.(pg 14-15)

Despite  the  many  challenges  that  Akoko  faces  she  is  not  weighed  down  by  the  she  over obstacles but she overcomes them and moves forward.


2)  Hardworking /industrious/enterprising

Akoko believes in hardwork and learns that the way to make a husband happy is by the work of her hands.

She tells Nyabera, ‘My daughter, should it ever be said that you are as lazy as your mother, I will tun in my grave.”(pg 66)Her herds at Sakwa is said to have been so vast that a special dam separate from the rest is built, ”It was said of the herds that should you get to the water to drink before you drew your water then you had to wait for almost two hours before they drunk their fill.”(pg 66)

Akoko’s granaries are full to bursting so that during the lean season, “…..people coming to barter their cattle in exchange for food were rested and fed.”(pg 66)

When Akoko returns to Yimbo with all her property she has salvaged…….”It was a mighty herd which moved in three cohorts.” (pg93-94)

She advises Nyabera that laziness opens the door for evil to rule ones mind and body. She says, “It is a shame for able bodied person to feed off the sweat of others.” (pg 93)

When  Akoko  moves  to  Aluor  mission  with  daughter  and  grand  children,  she  continues  to work  hard.  The  writer  says,  “She  had  never  begged  for  food  and  she  was  not  about  to begin……”(pg 117)

“God has no time for the lazy, but the devil has, was a favorite saying of hers. (pg 145)

3)  Daring/bold courageous

She faces her brother head on when he takes something she is playing with at a very tender age. During the marriage negotiations she stares straight into the eyes of the husband to be and Otieno wonders at her courage.(pg 24)

In another incident when Otieno Kembo gets wind of some people nosing around with his affairs and confronts Akoko, she responds courageously , “Go away you fool…..Are you the village chief or the village fool?” (pg 90)

It  is  out  of  courage  that  she  dares  trek  to  Kisuma.  She  is  not  scared  of  the  hazards  of  the journey that has wild animals and worse still the killing and maiming Lang’o tribesmen.

4)  Understanding/supportive/concerned

Akoko is responsible and supportive as a mother; she understands Nyabera’s suffering after the loss of her brother Obura. She snaps out of her personal grief and pays attention to her.

She understands that people are different and accomodates Alando Nyar Uyoma’s weakness.

“She  leaned  over  backwards  to  accommodate  her  weakness  some  of  which  she   found irritating like her tendency to idleness.”(pg 70)

She lets Owuor Sino join priesthood even though she has hopes that one day he would sit on the chief’s stool, she consents him to take the new path. She tells him, “I will not stand in your way ……..Do whatever the spirit bids you.”

She stands by Nyabera during her trying moments and ensures that her grandchild Awiti is well taken care of.

5)  Decisive/ Independent minded

When her mother-in-law accuses her of witchcraft, Akoko takes her and  Otieno head-on in front of the village. She makes a hasty decision to go back to her people in Yimbo.

Soon after Otieno Kembo takes over the chief’s stool with glee and arrogance, Akoko decides that, “….the time had come for battle lines to be clearly drawn.” (pg 73) She treks to kisuma to seek justice from the sirikal.

6)  Intelligent/wise 

She  grows  up  as  an  intelligent  woman  and  is  full  of  wisdom.  “She  believed  that  a  young woman had to be intelligent…..”( pg 65)

She  offers  wise  counsel  to  her  daughter  who  is  mourning  the  loss  of  her  sons  through  an outbreak  of  measles.  She  tells  her,  “cry  my  child,  for  one  does  not  bury  a  child  without burying a part of ones’s soul with it,…Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow for each day rises fresh from the hands of Were….”(pg 75)

Her wisdom is further illustrated during her visit to Kisuma to appeal against her brother-inlaw. Wherelse the twins are dissatisfied with the verdict of the   D.O,  Akoko  tells  them,”

Do  not  decide  the  wisdom  of  a  man  by  the  brevity  of  his  quiet  or  the  multitude  of  his words……..A  fool  knows  everything.”(pg88).  She  discovers  that  s  she  cannot  physically confront Otieno Kembo who has reduced her head of cattle and decides to wait for the D.O’s intervention. She says, “There was no advantage in knocking one’s head against a tree trunk

……if you want to cut a tree, take time to sharpen an axe.”(pg 89)

She  encourages  Nyabera  to  seek  a  new  life  at  the  mission  in  Aluor  with  these  words, ”Bitterness is poison to the spirit…..if you are walking along and you find your path leading nowhere, then it is wise to try other path.”(pg 103)

She  plays  the  voice  of  reason  when  a  conflict  arises  between  Nyabera  and  Awiti  over  her fiancé whose background she has not investigated. Akoko tells Nyabera, “Accept it Maria, the  world  is  changing.”  (pg  143)  She  supports  Peter  Owuor’s  decision  to  become  a  priest despite the fact that he is the chief in waiting. She says, “Things have changed and people are turning to different things.”(pg126)

7)  Kind and generous

The  people  who  come  to  barter  their  animals  are  rested  and  fully  fed  before  they  being dispatched to their homes. Nyabera, in lamenting her mother’s misfortunes, describes her as one who had never looked at any one with an evil eye, never denied anyone food,  had been quite generous in sacrifice and libation

8)  Rash/impatient/short-tempered

Despite her positive personality, Akoko at times behaves in a rash manner. She reacts with temper when her mother-in-law accuses her of withcraft and does not wait for her husband to return.  She  goes  home  to  her  people  in  Yimbo.  Chief  Kembo  comments,  I  know  all  your virtues,  but  your  weakest  point  is  your  temper  and

impatience…..you  must  exercise  selfcontrol.”(pg 44-55)


  1. She is the main character in the story. Without her there would be no story
  2. She is symbolically referred to as the source of the river. She is also a symbol of change, wisdom, determination, hardwork and focused people.
  3. Through Akoko  several  themes  are highlighted; Tradition, change, education, religion and death.
  4. She helps  develop  other  characters e.g. through her Owuor Kembo is brought out as loving, committed, wise. Through her Otieno kembo is potrayed as abusive, cowardly, selfish, greedy and chauvinist.
  5. Through her, several  aspects  of  style such as proverbs, similes, vivid description, songs, myths and legends are brought out.


She is the second born  of Akoko, born three and a half  years  after  Obura. She is the only daughter  of  Akoko  and  Owuor  Kembo;  the  only  surviving  among  the  three  born.  She  is always merry and always meets people with a sunny smile. This is how she earns her name Nyabera-meaning the good one. She can be described as:

1)  Hardworking

Her husband confesses that, she never neglects her duty to go traipsing off to her home  for she is industrious.

In  Aluor,  she  would  always  accompany  her  mother  to  till  the  land  and  together  they  have granaries of food and a big herd of cattle. “The two women became some sort of a fixture on the  green  sloping  countryside,  and  the  locals,  not  as  motivated  as  they  were  made  endless jokes about their iron backs and caked feet.” (pg 117)

Even when she is told how hard it is to master Christian concepts, she does not hesitate to go to Aluor. She memorizes all the stories which she later recounts to her daughter, nephew and mother, “After she mastered the basics of religion she started attending mass every morning before class.”(pg 107)

2)  Likeable/Loveable/ adorable

Due to her jovial nature, she is easily likeable. She has,”…….a personally to charm the birds off the trees.”(pg 33) Right from a tender age, her mother does not have to worry about baby sitters for young girls line up to hold the baby. “Obura was very jealous for he would have liked to have more of his sister to himself.”(pg 33)

3)  Preserving/enduring

She undergoes a lot of suffering. Her first child dies at the age of two. The child suffers from fever, jaundice and swelling of the tummy. She loses her two sons to a ferocious outbreak of measles. She loses her father,  and miscarries when Awiti  is three  years  and soon  after her husband dies. She is inherited by Ogoma Kwach and they have two children, but they both die. When in Aluor, she hears that Ogoma’s wife has dies so she goes back to him. They have another  child  who  dies  soon  after.  The  man  also  start  to  court  a  younger  girl  and  feeling rejected, she goes back to Aluor.

4)  Loving/caring

As a sister, she loves her loves her brother, Obura, that his death devastates her. She becomes a loner wandering away by herself, mute and quite for days.

After she settles in Aluor she remembers to go for her daughter, nephew and mother whom she loves in a special way. She loves Owuor like her own son”…….formed such a solid wall of love around the children.” (pg116)

She supports Owuor in his decision to join  priesthood. She leaves some of her cattle with her mother-in-law since she has been her friend.

5)  Humble /modest

Although  she  marries  a  poor  man,  Okumu,  and  brought  with  her  a  sizeable  herd  of  cattle, sheep and goats, she respects her husband and shows him  humility although he could hardly raise the bride price. She treats him with the utmost respect and politely seeks his permission to go visiting her old home.


6)  Secretive/Discreet

When she decides to go back to her matrimonial home Aluor, she offers no explanation and her  mother  looking  into  her  eyes,  lets  her  go  without  demanding  one.  “There  are  many longings and fears which can never be put fully into words.”(pg 118)

7)  Weak-willed/indecisive

Even after making a break with tradition to join Christianity at Aluor, she still comes back to her matrimonial home to seek her inheritor, Ogoma Kwach in order to get a son. This is a breach of the the Christian doctrine that she now professes.

In most cases she depends solely on Akoko to make decisions.


  1. She helps in  the  development  of  the story as she is Akoko’s child.
  2. She brings about  change  by  seeking the Christian religion and gives birth to Awiti who pursues the white man’s education.
  3. Through her the following themes are highlighted; change, religion, education, family relationships and death.
  4. She helps  in  portraying  several aspects of style like; rhetorical questions, dialogue, allusion.
  5. She helps  develop  other  characters e.g. through her Akoko’s character traits as caring, comforting, independent minded and religious.


She  is  Nyabera’s  only  surviving  daughter.  She  is  also  the  wife  of  Mark  Sigu.  She  can  be described as;

1)  Intelligent/Brilliant

“She mesmerizes the class with her powers to recall…..”(pg 115) She is good at memorizing prayers  both in Latin and vernacular. The villagers wonder at her intelligence. “A girl! To be so clever….. to receive commendation after commendation!”

In  class  where  she  is  the  only  girl,  she  holds  her  position  quite  well  even  in  mathematics which  she  dislikes.  She  emerges  top  of  her  class  and  is  invited  to  join  the  first  teacher’s college near Aluor.

2)  Industrious/hardworking/determined

She inherits her grandmother’s industry and determination. While so many girls drop out of school,  she  reaches  the  top  class  at  eighteen.  She  receives  a  certificate  on  passing  a  tough examination at the end of the year.

She works hard on mathematics which she dislikes and passes well. Amongst ten boys, she is the only girl who holds top position in class.

She does so well at school  and gets admitted to a teachers training college. Upon graduation she becomes a teacher.

3)  Loving/ passionate/caring

She  her  mother  at  least  once  every  two  months,  but  still  she  feels  that  she  has  not  done enough. She also sends her two sons, Opiyo and Odongo to keep her company.

She  loves  her  grandmother  Akoko  and  writes  about  her  to  Mark.  “She  had  loved  her grandmother desperately….Had admired her unreservedly.” (pg 151)

When Aoro and Tony are punished by being denied food at night, after risking the life of the twins, Elizabeth hears them in the kitchen trying to steal food. However, she goes and gives them chapatis and dengu smiling at them.

4)  Firm/ Decisive/Resolute

When she gives birth to Mary, she decisively asks the nurse for water and baptizes the child in  hospital,  “I  baptize  you  Mary…..”(pg  194)  She  decides  she  is  going  to  get  admitted  in hospital. She asks Mark to go back to the children and only come to visit her at the weekend or whenever she can.

Elizabeth ensures Mary does not get spoilt………mother kept her head prevented the young lady from being completely spoilt.”(pg 195)

5)  Principled/dignified/self-controlled

Although many of the male students at the Teachers Training College are attracted to her and go to great lengths including throwing love notes wrapped around stones to her room to win her over, she does not yield. She remains the odd one out when all the other girls have paired up, either from within college outside.

She is variously referred to as the nun, Virgin Mary and church mouse. She  is shunned by both  men  and  women  for  being  a  non-conformist.  She  is  so  cold  towards  men  that  when Mark talks to her asking her why she is always alone she retorts,”What is that to you.”(pg137)

6)  Motherly/responsible/compassionate

When Mark feels so guilty for having been so ignorant as to give her anti-malaria drugs that makes her abort, Elizabeth comforts him.”Don’t worry, God will give us another. She didn’t bother telling him they had been twins. The poor man had suffered enough.”(pg 160)

As a mother, she” sleeps without sleeping.” Aoro’s scream when Tony falls sick at night gets her out of bed even before Aoro reaches her bedroom to report his brother’s ailment. Tony is taken to hospital “….. Held on his mother’s lap…..”(pg 180)

When  Aoro  faints  for  not  having  eaten  for  long,  which  is  a  punishment  for  his  being undisciplined, Elizabeth,”……was watching secretly……rushed out to her son.”(pg 190)


  1. She helps  in  development  of  plotShe moves with her mother and grandmother to Aluor mission, gets educated, marries Sigu and together they have seven children.
  2. Through her  we  see  change-  She acquires the white man’s education and gets employed.
  3. She helps highlight several aspects of style; dialogue and humuor.
  4. Through her, Akoko’s river continues to flow
  5. Helps develop  other  characters  e.g. through her we see Maria Nyabera as loving, Mark Sigu is portrayed as loving, caring and naive


She is Becky’s twin sister . The two are Elizabeth and Sigu’s first children. She is the first born of the two twins. She is a lady with many positive points, a replica of her mother and great grandmother, Akoko. She can be described as:

1)  Brilliant/Intelligent

She  carries  off  trophy  after  trophy.  She  is  into  everything  like  debate  and  sports.  After primary national exam, she gets an almost perfect score and wins a place at a top national school.  In  her  secondary  national  school.  In  her  secondary  national  exams,  she  gets distinction  in  Math,  Biology,  Physics  and  Geography.  In  her  A-level,  she  gets  As  in Mathematics and Physics and a B in chemistry. She opts to go for engineering.

2)  Loving/friendly

She has a great capacity for love. She has a passionate nature and is completely loyal and her sister is the object of her love and protection. “She was willing and ready to do battle with anyone who crossed Becky’s path and was a fearless fighter.”(pg 166)

At five, she almost tears a playmate apart before anyone realizes what is happening, because she is screaming while pummeling him. She loves her sister and shows her off to all. She opts to go to her sister’s school rather than a top national school. She still goes to look for Becky at the airport even when she thinks that Becky might not want to see her. She confesses to Becky  that  she  actually  loved  Tommy  only  that  she  cannot  marry  him.  She  and  Wandia become automatic friends.

3)  Responsible

She is made a captain in class seven, a position only held before by boys. Her mother allows her to join Becky’s secondary school so that she can look after her twin sister.

She  talks  to  Becky  until  she  agrees  to  go  and  inform  her  parents  about  her  impending marriage. Although she is not married and does not have children, Becky  entrusts the care and future of her children to her.

4)  Hardworking/ industrious

After form six, when Becky decides just  to stay at home, Vera gets a job as a teacher in a nearby harambee school.

Her excellent grades are always due to brilliance and hardwork.

With  her  tremendous  energy,  she  participates  in  many  school  activities  and  carries  trophy after trophy.

She chooses engineering because she thinks it is more challenging than architecture.

5)  Emotional

Her tears are ready to fall at the slightest provocation. She is about to cry when her mother tries  to  persuade  her  to  consider  refusing  to  go  to  a  national  school.  When  she   has  an argument with her sister, tears well in her eyes and she dashes them away angrily with her fist. She almost engages in a physical fight with her sister.

6)  Religious

Although  she  treats  church  going  as  a  formality,  and  is  a  good  Christian  thought  her childhood, she becomes very religious while in college after Mary-Anne introduces her to a “recollection”. She starts a hungry search for religious enlightenment and dedicates her life to God as an unmarried member of the Opus Dei.


  1. She is used  to  develop  themes  such as; change, education, women empowerment, conflict and religion.
  2. Through her  Becky  is  portrayed  as jealous and hateful, while Wandia is portrayed as loving and concerned.




She  is  one  of  the  twin  daughters  of  Mark  Sigu  and  Elizabeth  Awiti.  They  are  the  eldest.

Becky is brought out as follows:

1)  Loveable/Adorable

She draws love from one and all from a vey early stage, just plain irresistible. She has very many admires from her childhood up to almost the time she dies. She even marries a white man.

2)  Selfish/Egocentric

She is utterly selfish. Even after being informed of Tony’s illness, she continues lie in bed.

“Few things  bored  her  much  as  sickness,  suffering  and  death.”

She just”………stretched luxurious in bed enjoying the feel of her young lithe body.”(pg 181)

After her a-levels, she disappears to Nairobi without informing her parents. She just leaves a note and leaves Vera to do the explanation.

3)  Jealous/Envious

She is jealous of the attention Mary is given and wonders whether the latter has to murder to be punished. When Vera turns from a gawky faced teenager into a striking young woman and boys start noticing her, Becky notices this and becomes jealous.

When Vera goes to visit her at the airport and she takes her to her home, she confesses that she has been jealous of Vera all her life

4)  Unfaithful/Promiscuous/ immoral

Becky has an illicit love affair while her husband, John, is out of the country. This leads to their divorce when John finds out. Vera complains about her changing of men frequently as she changed clothes! She throws herself at every man as if she hates herself. This distances her from her children and she ends up dying of AIDS.

5)  Materialistic

Becky loves the things of this world. She loves money and what it can buy.

6)  Responsible/organized

Even  if  she  lives  an  irresponsible  life,  she  financially  caters  for  her  death;  the  family  is surprised to find that she has left her own children very well financially off. She has left a hefty  insurance,  a  string  of  mansions  two  bungalows  in  Spring  Valley  and  a  block  of offices and shops in west lands. She has also left clear documents and things legally tied up.

She had appointed a firm of trustees to run her affairs on behalf of the children and of their benefit. Her sister Vera has been appointed guardian of the children and is allowed to choose which family member they would live with.


  1. She is  used  to  develop  themes  such as; Education, relationships, change, immorality, conflict and materialism.
  2. Through her  interaction  with  other characters,  their  character  traits  are  brought  out.  For  instance  Vera  is  portrayed  as loving,  concerned  and  hardworking.  Her  father  is  depicted  as  strict  and  concerned while Wandia is portrayed as concerned and selfless.


Wandia  is  Aoro’s  wife,  she  is  a  doctor.  She  comes  from  a  different  community  from  her husband.  The  writer  uses  her  to  demystify  inter-tribal  marriages.  She  is  developed  as  a character that is;

1)  Intelligent

The battle for the top position in the anatomy class is between her and Aoro, and she finally beats him. The writer says, “But Wandia had beaten him…..she had 78 points.”(pg 127)

2)  Hardworking/ambitious/pioneering

She portrays several incidences of determination and ambition in life, at her early age that she wants to be a doctor. She later achieves this through her determination when after her second degree; she gets a scholarship to study haematology at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland.

3)  Bold/courageous

At the school of medicine, when told to stand in groups before the cavader, she is the first person to gather courage to move towards it. She courageously asks the group members to make introduction which helps them to ease the tension.

Her boldness is also shown when she takes the first step towards cementing their relationship.

She goes ahead and proposes to him. She, “When are you going to propose if at all……..”(pg 256)

4)  Loving/caring/understanding

Her mother, to whom she has always been close, means a lot to her. She has fond memories of her childhood with her  mother. When she learns that her mother is admitted in hospital, she asks her friends to cover for her at Machakos Hospital where she is an intern so that she can visit her.

Her love, care and understanding are exhibited when she adopts Becky’s children: Alicia and Johnny. She handles them better than their real mother.

Though she is a doctor with a tight schedule her love and care for her children and husband are not affected. She finds that she has time for them and understands them well and their academic potentials.

She loves her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, and always consults her. “The relationship between her and her mother was a constant source of amusement……other’s guts? (pg 294-295)

5)  Wise

Though  Wandia  is  younger  than  Vera,  Vera  seeks  advice  from  her  due  to  their  mutual understanding.  This  is  seen  when  Vera  seeks  advice  on  Becky’s  behavior  towards  her children after divorcing John.

She cautions Aoro, her husband, that though they have busy schedules as doctors, they have children and should not forget they need them.

6)  Observant/Keen

She has observed that Becky has lost significant weight and advises Vera that they have more cause to worry due to Becky’s promiscuity.

She is the first to realize that their son Daniel, though a happy child, has a problem because at the age of four he still drools a little. He has down syndrome. Later through close observation and keenness as a mother she realizes that Daniel has Leukemia. The writer says, “But today her keen eyes watched him frantically……..”(pg 286)


  1. She is  used  by  the  writer  to  portray the theme of change, Education and relationships
  2. Through her  Aoro  is  portrayed  as determined and supportive.
  3. She is also used to bring out humour and dialogue as a feature of style.


Mark Sigu is Elizabeth’s husband and an Ex-soldier. He studied at St. Mary’s Yala. He works as  a  manager  in  a  firm  in  Nakuru.  He  is  portrayed  as  a  determined  father  who  is  ready  to work hard and provide, bringing up his family in the best way possible.

1)  Loving/Caring

His  life  revolves  around  his  wife  and  seven  children.  Every  time  he  attains  promotion  he gathers his family protectively under his wing and resettles them to a bigger house.

He also takes a helping hand in the house since, though they have a house help, his  wife is overworked with seven children at home and others in school.

He loves his wife and when he realizes he has been unfaithful to her, he weeps.

2)  Firm/strict

When Becky leaves home, she writes a note because she is scared of facing him. She also follows  his  father’s  instructions  of  going  back  to  school  for  her  A  levels  without  much questioning. She is also afraid to introduce her white fiancé to his father for she feared him.

When Aoro is sent away from school, Oloo does not only deny him food, but also  gives him a month’s notice to get himself a place of his own. Aoro grows up knowing that his father is a man to be respected and feared.

3)  Respectful/Liberal/Just

His family loves him because he is just and fair, firm but understanding. This is evidenced when he accepts Vera’s vocation to the Opus Dei and Tony’s vocation to priesthood. He also accepts with respect Aoro’s and Becky’s wish to marry out of their tribe.

4)  Promiscuous/Unfaithful

At the peak of the State of Emergency that brings insecurity in Nakuru, Elizabeth and the children leave Oloo in Nakuru and go back to Aluor for safety. Left alone in Nakuru, Mark develops an illicit love affair with another woman and ignores his family for some time. He gets so involved in the affair that he does not reply to his wife’s letters including those that inform him of the children’s illness.

5)  Naïve

Together with his wife Elizabeth, they wrongly diagnosis her attacks of nausea and dizziness as malaria and he proceeds to buy her anti-malaria tablets which end up causing an abortion to their twins.


  1. Marries Elizabeth  and  together  they have seven children thus he develops the plot.
  2. Helps develop themes such as family relationships, change, education, sexual immorality and conflict.
  3. Helps develop  other  characters  like through him Elizabeth is brought out as emotional, wise, caring and loving


  1. Admirable/lovable/impressive
  2. Loving/caring/faithful/devoted
  3. Responsible/protective
  4. Wise/authoritative


  1. Greedy/jealous/selfish
  2. Contemptuous/hateful
  3. Lazy/dependent/opportunistic
  4. Arrogant/harsh
  5. Cowardly/ timid/fearful


  1. Admirable/lovable
  2. Pleasant/cheerful
  3. Loving
  4. Protective
  5. Industrious/hardworking
  6. Decisive/resolute
  7. Adventurous/outgoing


  1. Responsible
  2. Intelligent/bright
  3. Remorseful/repentant
  4. Admirable
  5. Caring/loving
  6. Determined/resilient


These are techniques through which a writer communicates his/her themes. Style involves the  use  of  artistic  language  or  feature  in  a  literary  work  for  effective  communication  of feelings, opinions and ideas.

The novel is divided into four parts that describe the life of Akoko and the generations that follow her. The language used at each historical time is unique to that period.

Part  I  and  II  make  reference  to  Luo  expression,  proverbs  and  words  while  in  part  III  and IV there  is  use  of  modern  expressions,  Kiswahili  words,  modrn  way  of  naming  ,  academic terms, Christian religious allusions as change is already felt in the land in different areas of life.


Various dreams are presented and which carry with them various messages and implications.

It  is  through  dreams  that  the  livings  are  connected  to  the  dead.  This  is  seen  for  instance through Akoko’s great uncle, Obanda who sends a dream through her father and grandmotherand the child is given a name.

Dreams also bring hope from the spirit world. This is seen through Maria’s dream where she dreams that Obura comes to her with a beetle which turns into a beautiful bird, the colour of the sky. This is interpreted that the dead brother wants the unborn baby named after him.

Dreams have also seen to influence characters action and hence build the plot. This is seen in Vera’s dream after breaking up with Tommy where she feels herself moving so fast towards the horizon and hangs  at the edge which falls into a bottomless abyss. Perhaps an indication  that she needs to take a grip over her life. She feels empty and hence accepts to join Anne to the recollection to fill the emptiness in her life.


Contrasting characters and incidents are used severally in the novel.

There is a contrast between Owuor and Otieno. Owuor was hardwor-king whereas Otieno was very lazy. Otieno married many wives i.e. six whereas his brother Owuor only had one. We are  further  told  that  Otieno  treated  his  wives  like  sluts  and  they  did  not  fail  him  whereas Owuor treated his wife like a queen.

There is also a contrast in Akoko’s sons. Obura was an active and inquisitive son while his brother Owang Sino was very quiet and reserved.

There  is  also  a  contrast  between  Vera  and  Becky.  Vera  is  generous,  loving  and  caring whereas  Becky  is  egocentric  and  jealous.  For  instance  Vera  is  concerned  that  she  is  not woken up when Aoro is taken ill but for Becky these are boring stories.

The marriage between Akoko and Owuor is contrasted to that between Mark and Elizabeth.

In Akoko’s so much bride price was paid but in Elizabeth’s she is given out almost for free.


The author uses this style to give authenticity to the story. Examples of local dialect are:

  1. Jorochere- The white people
  2. Were- The god of Ramogi
  3. Chik- The  way  of  the  people.  The laws which govern behavior
  4. Dwaro mara- want mine
  5. Dak- neighbourliness
  6. Wat- brotherhood
  7. Nak- inititation, removal of six lower teeth
  8. Juok- witchcraft
  9. Nyadhi- style
  10. Sirikal- government
  11. Turudi mashambani
  12. Uhuru
  13. Ruguru- man from the west( refers to

a non-kikuyu, or a person outside the central province)

  1. Daktari
  2. Mwalimu
  3. Muthoni- to mean in-law
  4. Mikai- first wife


This is a feeling or sign of an event set to happen in future.

“…….he did an unheard of thing by taking her, a widow, beaten and bruised by life back into his house.”(pg 15) This heightens suspense as one would want to read on and find out what made Akoko go back to her brother’s home after being widowed.

Obura’s  disappearance  and  death  marks  the  beginning  of  a  series  of  misfortunes  that  will haunt  Akoko  and  her  children.  “The  family  had  been  touched  by  tragedy  and  tragedy  can

sometimes  be  a  habitual  drunk  who  keeps  coming  back  for  more.”  After  Oburas’s  death, others in Akoko family who follow mot so long later are:

  1. a) Nyabera’s first born child at only two years
  2. b) Chief Owuor Kembo
  3. c) Akoko’s other son, Owang’ Sino
  4. d) Nyabera’s two sons
  5. e) Nyabera’s husband, Okumu Angolo
  6. f) Nyabera’s two other children she had with Ogoma Kwach
  7. g) Nyabera’s other child

While Elizabeth and Mark Sigu are being weeded by Peter Owuor, it is said, “……..she was a radiant a bride as only that had ever walked up the aisle to begin a marriage that would last forty six years.”(pg 157)

When Obura disappears to go and know about the white man, it is said of the mother, “A low moan  from  the  direction  of  the  main  hut  was  heard,  the  first  sound  in  three  days……The fearful premonition of doom that only a mother, closely connected as she is to the child, can sense , was in  the air.” (pg 57). The premonition eventually ends in fulfillment in the death of Obura. The family later receives the news that Obura died in the white man’s war.

When Nyabera tells Akoko of her dream about Obura, Akoko tells her “I think your brother is trying to tell  you something, to bring a message of hope from the spirit world…….May Were find it in his heart to fill our hearts with laughter again.(pg 76). This later becomes true or is fulfilled when Akoko and Nyabera head to the mission in Aluor together with Elizabeth and Peter. Their lives are improved and they become happy again.

When Odongo  and Opiyo (Oloo’s Sons) took Akoko to make an appeal before the D.O,  a foreshadow into the future is given. “When my brother and I took my aunt to make an apil (appeal) to the big white chief whose name was Diyo, would begin Odongo to some round eyed grandson many years later.”(pg 89). This is later fulfilled when they visited Akoko at the mission as married men.

When Mark hands Elizabeth a telegram, “Firm, decisive Elizabeth was standing there looking confused and unsure of her next action….she had the most oppressive premonition of doom pressing in on her from all sides and she simply could not make any sensible move.”(pg 200).

Eventually, just as she feared, her mother dies.


Flashback refers to the author’s regression to the past. Events that took place sometime ago are relived to elaborate the present or the future.

After the death of Akoko, Awiti is deeply affected and inconsolable. The mother, Nyabera, tries  to  console  her  by  telling  her  of  how  Akoko  grew  in  a  flashback.  “She  was  the  most beautiful girl in the whole village and the eldest daughter of the great chief Odero Gogni and the apple of his eye. Twelve suitors came……he was a young chief and single and his name was Owuor Kembo….”(pg 154)

Another instance of flashback focuses on the difficult birth of Mark and Elizabeth’s last born child, Mary. Mark was more attached to this particular child than the others because it was as if she was grabbed from the jaws of death. “This last one had come unexpectedly  and has threatened  miscarriage  after  miscarriage  needing  frequent  hospitalization  of  the mother……..”(pg 192)

Wandia  during  a  visit  to  Aoro  when  he  was  an  Intern,  remembers  her childhood, “.…………………she was lost in thoughts of her childhood, running bare foot in the red fertile volcanic soil, after her mother- going home after a hard days work. She and her mother had always been very close and having been named after her maternal grandmother, her mother had never referred to her as anything but mami….” (pg 255)

There she was a very little girl, clothed in nothing but the love of Were-the god of the rising sun; then she was sitting in the shadow of grandfather. Oloo’s largest bull missing her mother who had gone away to seek the new way…….”(pg 305-306)


This is making reference to a statement, person, place, event or thing that is well known from literature, history, religion, myth, sports or politics.

The bible has been alluded to on several occasions. For example, when Nyabera goes to the mission at Aluor to seek the new religion, she wants to go back and get her mother to as well join it. “It offered such consolation for one could identify oneself easily with the desolation of

Mary(a  sword  shall  pierce  your  heart),  with  the  joy  of  Elizabeth  (whose  barrenness  was removed by God), the warm love of weak Peter (Lord you know everything, you know that I love you!)(pg 108)

Maria gets baptized and during baptism it is said, “I baptize  you Maria in  the name of the father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.” There is mention of Misri (Egypt) and the bad King Herodes, plus birth of Yesu Kristo. (pg 109-110)Akoko and Nyabera’s leaving their homes to go to the mission center at Aluor is compared tothe Biblical epic journey of Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, “Like the children of Israel, they left the fresh pot of Egypt for uncertainties of Canaan,” (pg 113)

Maria alludes to the story of Daniel and the lions, Elias, the man who went to heaven on a bicycle of fire and great friendship of Daudi and Jonathan (pg 113)

Other quotations from the bible and the catholic belief are; “This is my body which will be given  up  for  you.”  The  story  of  the  prodigal  son  is  also  alluded  by  Aoro  when  his  father punished him he says,” Father I have sinned before you and God.”( pg 190),

When MaryAnne and Vera attend a mass at the recollection the priest says, “The mass has ended go in peace to love Lord and serve one another.”(pg 132)

The  students  studying  medicine  together  with  Aoro  are  said,  “……appeared  to  have  been turned into Pillars of salt of the Mrs. Lot variety.” (pg 244)

Another example of allusion is a statement used during graduation. “By the powers conferred to  me  by  the  University  of  Nairobi  I  give  you  the  powers  to  do  all  that  appertains  to  this degree.” (pg 300). This statement is made by the chancellor of the university when conferring a doctor in medicine degree on Wandia.

In  the  novel,  historical  allusion  comes  out.  For  example,  the  First  World  War  has  been alluded to. The year is 1918 and the Jo-ingresa (the English are at War with the Jo-Jerman (the German) for the last four seasons. The three young men from sakwa go to fight the Jo Jerman (The Germans) in a place called Tanganyika(Tanzania) of a country of black people ruled by Jo-Jerman.(pg 60-61)


Symbolism is the use of a person, an object, an event to represent or stand for an idea.

The title, “The River and The Source” is symbolic. Akoko represents the source of this river, as  Chief  Odero  comments,  “…..that  a  home  without  daughters  is  like  a  spring  without  a source.”(pg 11) She is symbolic of the beginning of a new generation of women in society.

She is a pioneer of women’s position and change in the society. Among the many positive qualities found in her and in the women she inspires are; intelligence, hardwork, courage and determination. In the course of her life the river is threatened by obstacles among them deaths causing it to  meander.  However,  the  stream  continues  to  flow  and  gains  momentum.  The writer comments, “She it was who had been the source of this river which at on time tricked to a mere rivulet in danger of petering out…..momentum.”(pg 204) She is indeed a source of inspiration in the family for through her guidance and  wisdom she counters all most all the obstacles that come her way and that of her children and grandchildren.

Akoko’s name which means “noisy one” implies that the female gender should not keep quiet whenthey  are  denied  what  is  rightfully  theirs.  Her  first  words  dwara  mara  means  want  mine signifies that women should stand out to what is theirs.

Otieno Kembo is symbolic of male chauvinism. He is also symbol of greed, opportunism and arrogance of men who cling to tradition in the name of defending male interests. (pg 73)

The journey by Akoko, Nyabera, Awiti and Owuor to Aluor mission, is symbolic of a new way  of  life  and  severance  from  the  old  way  of  life.  They  now  live  far  away  from  their matrimonial  homes.  Akoko  and  her  grandchildren  are  also  introduced  to  the  Christian religion. Living away from home means starting life a fresh, building a new home and not much food to eat, the children also get formal education. The journey is also symbolic of the hope that Akoko’s family must have in order to survive.  Having lost her husband, Nyabera has to be inherited as tradition dictated. This doesn’t satisfy her and she yearns for something different that will give her hope to live; the Christian religion. This gives them hope and as a result,  Awiti  acquires  education  and  eventually  becomes  a  teacher  while  Owuor  joins priesthood.

At Aluor mission, it is said there was the church with its steeple bearing, a cross at the top and the school. These symbolize Christianity and colonialism. There is gradual change from tradition  to  modernity.  Also  the  construction  of  the  railway  line  long  before  the  birth  of

Akoko is an indicator of colonial penetration and subsequent introduction of the white man’s government.  This   penetration  has  brought  with  it  positive  and  negative  changes  in  the society. There is positive in the sense that Akoko gets justice and negative in the sense that the beautiful cultural values of the people are washed away. In addition, hereditary leadership withers  when  Obura  Kembo  dies  in  Tanganyika  and  the  baby  Owuor  finally  opts  for priesthood.


This  is  something  that  amuses  or  that  which  has  the  quality  of  making  somebody  laugh.

There are several humorous instances in the “The River and The Source.” Humour makes the story more interesting and also eases tension in very serious and tragic situations.

Akoko’s beauty is described in a humorous manner. The writer comments, as for her legs, Were  must have carved them out personally rather than one of his apprentices (pg 28). It is interesting to note that Were did not delegate to create Akoko’s legs.

Akoko’s  conflict  with  Otieno  Kembo  is  humorous  especially  where  he  calls  her  she-wolf. Akoko  hisses  at  him  and  he  retreats.  It  is  humorous  to  see  a  man  who  had  dared  Akoko backing off in fear.

When Akoko and  her two grandsons go to Kisumu to lodge a complaint to the white chief (The  D.O),  the  word  D.O,  sounded  like  “diyo”  which  to  them  meant  to  squeeze.  They wondered whether he might squeeze their brains.

The people of Sakwa are amused by the god of the white man who has a son and died to save them. It is exciting that the ignoramus interprets this as sheer madness. It is also interesting that  one  can  sleep  on  both  ears.  “I  keep  my  ears  open,  my  friend;  I  am  not  like  you  who sleeps on both your ears. I keep one open and sleep on the other one!” (pg 59)

Awiti’s beauty is humorously described, “Her nose sat on her face as if the creator had really thought hard before placing it carefully in place.” (pg 135) It is laughable that Awiti receives notes in college using the most unorthodox means, “a love note would come flying into the room wrapped around a stone.” (pg 136)

The  responses  that  Nyabera  gets  from  Pilipo  who  seems  to  have  some  knowledge  in  the Christian religion introduced by the white man are humorous. She had expected to get some information about this religion so that she could pursue it. “………They said something about

God being three but only one but didn’t understand that very well.” “……………….There were laws which said do not kill…….and to take on one wife. The laws were too hard for me so I came home. (pg 102). This humour eases the tension that is created by Nyabera’s situation.

She has lost hope and is interested in the Christian religion which might give her hope. This humour  also  points  to the  dilemma  faces  by  the  new  converts  who  still wished  to  cling  to aspects so their traditional culture and could not cope with stringent requirements of the new religion.

When Wandia enquires about the well being of her relations Kamau and Timothy, Ester tells her;  “Timothy  is  still  waiting  for  the  beautiful  ones  to  be  born.  Meanwhile  he  chases whatever else is available.” (pg 262)

Before Elizabeth’s death, she recalls her life as a child and when many suitors were pursuing her. The description  of the suitors is humorous: “A love letter comes flying in through the open window; it was from a fellow student whose name was Cosmas somebody or other and like so many others it declared willingness to climb mountains, fold rivers and swim oceans in  order  to  reach  her  and  win  her  love.  The  guy  must  have  drowned  by  now,  thought Elizabeth her lips twitching. (pg 306)


Irony is the opposite of the expected. The writer has brought to the forth several instances of irony in the text.

It  is  ironical  for  chief  Odero’s  spokesman.  Aloo  K’lima  to  assure  the  chief’s  in-laws  that since they (in-laws) are their brothers they would not make things difficult for them during Akoko’s  bride  price  negotiations,  they  in  fact  make  things  difficult  for  the  in-laws  fromSakwa by setting the bride price at thirty heads of cattle which was two and half times the usual bride price. (pg 21-22)

Peter  Owuor  Kembo  is  Akoko’s  only  living  grandson.  He  is  expected  to  assume  the chieftainship when he grows up but he develops an interest in priesthood. The writer says of him, “he who has never really known his father or the joys of father-son relationship, now dreamt of being a spiritual father of many.” (pg 127)

It  is  also  ironical  that  Owuor  Peter  Sino  expected  Akoko  to  reprimand  him  and  reject  his proposal of wanting to become a priest and yet she accepts without any argument. She tells him to do what the spirit bids him because the world is changing (pg 126)

Irony is similarly evident when Mark Sigu tells Elizabeth, “it is easier  to fight Germans and their allies than to get the courage to talk to a girl.” (pg 138) He has waited to meet her for the last six weeks and this time round he had to gather enough courage to do so.

Akoko had lost her first born son, Obura to the white man’s war. Before she dies, she regards her grandson-in-law as a replacement for her son; “She had lost one son to the whiteman’s war; and by grace of God she has gained another from the white man’s army.” (pg 149)

In defiance to a sticker stuck on the windscreen just next to the driver of a matatu Vera and Maryanne are travelling in to Kangemi, the driver over speeds. One would have expected the driver  to  be  reminded  of  the  effects  of  dangerous  driving  by  the  sticker  aptly  entitiled,  “a speed song.”(pg 235)

Betty confesses to Vera that she loves money and all that it can buy. Despite living a lavish lifestyle, the carpet on the floor, the pictures on the wall spelled one word-money. She ends up having affairs during the husband trips abroad and they finally divorce. She lives alone with her children, well off but unhappy.

When Obura and Owang Sino die, Otieno, their uncle is supposed to assume the chiefdom but  in  the  custody  for  the  young  Owuor  Sino.  He  does  not  keep  it  in  custody  but  instead usurps his nephews chieftainship. He even grabs his brother’s as well as Akoko’s wealth.

When Obura and two other men are killed in a war against the Germans on Tanganyika, the white man’s messenger”…. presented the chief with a bracelet which they said was sent by the white people as a thank you and in memory of the fallen men” It is ironical that after a selfless struggle by Obura on behalf of the whites, through which he loses his life, they can exchange life with a bracelet.

When we study the character of Vera, we discover yet another irony. She had been brought up  embracing  all  the  basic  Christian  values  and  beliefs  and  we  expect  that  she  can  find  it quite  simple  to  comprehend  and  understand  the  existence  of  God.  But  when  she  becomes opposed to this belief and fails to  understand the being of God given such a background, it becomes ironical.


Owour Kembo is vividly described: “Even without his black and white Columbus monkey headdress,  he  stood  head  and  shoulders  above  most  men.  He  was  obviously  a  man  of nyadhi…..he has a spear in one hand, a shield in the other and splashes of white war paint across his body. His face was virtually tattooed, his head set proudly on his shoulders and he wore only a tiny piece of leopard skin…..(pg 18)

Akoko’s beauty is brought out through vivid description; “her eyes were set apart and neither too small nor too big, her teeth were white and even with a bewitching gap at the centre of the upper set. Her ears with earrings dangling from tiny holes were perfectly shaped standing just at the right angle from her head. And that neck! It was fit to inspire praise songs from nyatiti players! And were those two whole rings on her navel? ……As for her legs, Were must have curved them out personally rather than one of his apprentices.” (pg 28)


The writer had used some oral literature in “The River and the Source.” These include:

  Proverbs

  Songs

  Myth

  Legends


Akoko’s  father  said  of  her  birth,  “A  home  without  daughters  is  like  a  spring  without  a source”(pg 11). This indicates the chief’s flexibility. He hears the baby cry and thinks it is a boy, “another rock for my sling.” The fact that the baby is a girl does not dampen his spirit whatsoever.

Akoko’s  family  spokesman,  Oloo,  convinces  the  audience  about  a  woman’s  worth  to  her husband  during  the  dispute  between  Akoko  and  her  mother-in-law  and  brother-in-law

“……..who knows the goodness of a tree but he who sits under its shade and eats its fruits?” (pg 44)

Other examples of proverbs found in the story are-; “ Good manners is the fabric that holds the community together used in respect to the search parties to mean that even if they did not find Obura, it was a sign of respect to the search parties to mean that even if they dis not  find Obura, it was a sign of respect to go and report to the chief.

“Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow.” (pg 75) This proverb is used by Akoko to encourage her daughter Nyabera who had suffered greatly by losing her children.

“It was disquieting to have all one’s eggs in this one tiny frail basket.”  (pg 74). This is in reference  to  Akoko’s  family’s  hopes  of  that  long  over  the  chiefdom  which  has  now  been placed in the hands of the little boy, her grandson.

“Bitterness  is  poison  to  the  spirit  for  it  breeds  nothing  but  vipers  some  of  which  might consume your very self.” (pg 103) Akoko uses this proverb to encourage Nyabera to try new religion so that all bitterness in her can end.

“……Beggars cannot be choosers.” (pg 107) Nyabera had to make  do with the place shown to her to put a house at Aluor mission.

“………you don’t have to be good, all you have to be is lucky.” (pg 281). Vera uses this saying in reference to his brother who is lucky to have a good girl like Wandia.

“Laziness  opens  the  door  for  evil  to  rule  one’s  mind  and  body.”  (pg  93).  Akoko  uses  this proverb to chide her brother-in-law Otieno, who because of his laziness, ends up grabbing her wealth and inheritance.

  1. b) SONGS

The  young men who  come to escort Akoko  from Yimbo to her  husband’s home in Sakwa compose  chants  to  praise  certain  qualities  in  themselves.  The  song  also  creates  humour.  It also breaks monotony of narration. (pg 26) (quote the song in page 26)

Akoko sings a dirge full of praise for her husband as she morns him (pg69) .(quote the dirge on  page  69)  The  song  breaks  monotony  of  narration,  makes  the  story  interesting  and  also indicates how the two; Akoko and Owuor Kembo loved each other.

  1. c) MYTH

A myth is story that talks about the origin of a group of people or a phenomenon. AKoko narrates the story of the origin of the Luo to her grandson twins, Opiyo and Odongo as they embark  in  their  epic  journey.  “In  the  beginning,  Were  was  alone  in  the  world  which  was beautiful. Were is a spirit and a spirit is like a flame…..so he created Ramogi and his brothers who were men………(pg 81-82)

This myth highlights the role of elders in this community, which is to impact knowledge on the history of the tribe to all  young ones. “…….How can  you know where  you are  coming from?” (pg 81)

  1. d) LEGENDS

A legend is a story that talks about a heroic historical character. “Of the children of Ramogi many great brave men have arisen. They are called, “thuondi” the brave ones. These men of renown include Lwanda Magere. So strong and brave  a warrior was he that it is rumoured that sharp spears of Lang’o warriors could not pierce his skin.

Then there was Gor Mahia, the wily one who could change hid form into anything at all……. (pg 82)


  1. Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow.

Akoko returned to her village having won more than a victory for her infant grandson.

She had opened new vistas for her family, which showed another world and the possibility of a  different  way.  She  talked  about  her  journey  to  her  daughter  Nyabera,  who  sat  on  a  mat nursing her newborn daughter; she drank in her mother’s every word.

“You know my child, human beings are all the same the world over, with good ones and bad ones. The bad ones serve to high – light the goodness of the good ones. To allow oneself to sink unresistingly into evil is a bad thing. Take those white people, they are not of my  colour,  or  of  my  blood  but  they  are  just,  but  your  uncle  is  ruled  by  his  stomach  and directed by his loins.

He  forgot  everything  that  his  brother  had  ever  done  for  him  and  his  greed  turned  into vindictive hatred. It would have been something if he had worked to support his appetites, but he is lazy. Laziness opens the door to evil to rule one’s mind and body. Work tirelessly my child. It is a shame for an able bodied person to feed off the sweat of others.  It becomes like a sickness of the blood which transmits itself to generations and becomes a curse forever.”

Akoko  left  the  clan  of  her  husband  Owuor  and  returned  to  Yimbo  with  all  the property  she  had  salvaged  from  her  brother-in-law,  Otieno.  It  was  a  mighty  herd  which moved in three cohorts.  Of the three children she had borne, there survived only one; of the grand children only two still lived; and the she dwelt in the household of her brother Oloo.

She was fifty seasons of age, a middle aged woman. Sometimes she remembered how it had been and this was painful, for now she, a migogo, was reduced to living with her brother. She wondered how long it would be before his wives started making insinuations, but she did not allow herself to descend to bitterness; for yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow.

Each day rises from the hands of were and brings with it whatsoever it will.

  1. a) Outline events immediately before the extract. (4mks)
  2. b) In what two ways is Akoko’s journey important? (2mks)
  3. c) How does Otieno’s weakness serve to highlight Akoko’s strength? (2mks)
  4. d) Name Akoko’s children not mentioned in this passage. How did they die? (4mks)
  5. e) Comment on ONE feature of style evident in the extract. (2mks)
  6. f) Explain ONE theme coming out in this extract. (2mks)
  7. g) State and explain lesson you learn from the passage. (2mks)
  8. h) What does the last paragraph tell us about Akoko? Explain (2mks)
  9. i) Explain the meaning of the following expressions as used in the passage. (3mks)

……….she drank in her mother’s every word

……..feed off the sweat of others…..


  1. j) “He forgot everything that his brother had ever done for him”. What is it that Otieno forgot? (3 mks)

Possible Responses

  1. a) – Akoko  is  escorted  to  Kisuma  by  the  messanger  and  two  ‘askaris’  the  DO  has 

–  She makes her appeal before the DC who bears the petition.     1mk

–  The DC makes judgment in which Otieno Kembo is made to relinquish the stool and return that entire he had grabbed from Akoko.         (1mk)

Marking points

–  Journey to Kisuma √1mk

–  Appeal before the DC √1mk

–  Judgement by the DC/verdict √1mk

–  Justice √1mk

  1. b) – It has opened way for a newness e.g leadership

–  It serves to enhance the reservation of human right irrespective of gender. e.g right to ownership

–  It serves to reduce wrong doing while upholding morality e.g Otieno is punished

  1. c) – His  injustice√  1mk  greed,  etc  makes  Akoko’s  decisive  and  pioneering  √1mk characters to come out.
  2. d) – Obura Kembo √1mk who died in the world war √1mk

–  Oway Sino √1mk who died chocking with √1mk a fish bone.

  1. e) – Dialogue √ 1mk – Akoko talking to her daughter Nyabera √1mk who is listening…

“You know my child……….”

Comment : –  Reveals Akoko’s character of being wise

-Reveals the themes of justice and equality

– Reveals Otieno’e character – lazy and greedy

  1. f) – Justice – The DC gives Akoko justice by punishing wrong doing.

–  Equality – The DC provides justice irrespective of gender or race.

  1. g) – We should work hard – Akoko tells Nyabera that laziness is a disease……..

–  We should fight for our right/justice. Akoko looks for justice and gets it.

–  We should have hope and determination and live for have a better future/ no

Situation is permanent.

  1. h) – She is determined/ enduring

–  She is optimistic

–  Despite  the  challenges  she  expects  to  meet  in  her  brothers  household,  she  braces herself and hopes that all will end one day.”Yesterday is not today……”

  1. i) – She understood all that her mother told her

–  Depending on other people for survival

–  Large groups

  1. j) – He forgot that it is his brother the late Owuor Kembo who supported him by feeding

√1mk his entire household.√1mk

  1. 2. Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow:

“Mother, I have decided to seek the new religion which you have heard about. You know my life is a painful wound to me and much as I try my heart fills with bitternessfor me and for you”.

“ My child, do not feel bitterness for me for I am an old woman who has lived her life.

As for you it is better that you seek this new way. It might give you hope and rescue you from bitterness. Bitterness is poison to the spirit for it breeds nothing but vipers some of which might consume your very self. Pain and sorrow all human being feel; but bitterness drops on the spirit like aloes- causing it to wither. I give you my blessing my child. If you are walking along and you find your path leading nowhere, then it is only wise to try some other path.”

“ Thank you mother. I will bring you news as soon as I can. May Were protect you.”


(i) Place the above extract to its immediate context.  

(ii) “You know my life is painful wound.” What made Nyabera regard her life as a painful wound?

(iii) In what way was Nyabera’s life similar to that of Akoko according to the rest of the novel.

(iv)  Identify and illustrate one characters trait of Akoko and Nyabera as brought out in this extract.

  1. Akoko ii. Nyabera

150 | P a g e

(v)  Identify two features of style used in this extract  

(vi)  Pain and sorrow all human being feel. Rewrite this sentences making “human” the subject of the sentence.    

(vii)  Briefly explain one theme that is brought out in this extract.

Possible Responses    

  1. Before

Nyabera had gone to philipo to inquire about the new religion. She had then gathered her things and decided to leave her daughter with her mother in Yimbo. She informs her mother of her decision to seek the new religion .Her mother encourage her to go ahead and join the new religion and forget her bitters .Immediately after this Nyabera

t ravel s to Aluor mission and join the new religion .

  1. Nyabera had suffered a lot in her life because her children had died mysteriously leaving her with only a girlchild (Awiti). Her husband had died .Ogoma Kwach who had inherited her had back gone to his family.

iii). (i). Both had lost their husbands through death

(ii). Their children had died

(iii). They were both sonless

(iv).(i) Akoko – philosophical/Reasoning – Bitterness is poison to the spirit for it breeds nothing but viper

(ii). Nyabera

–  Bitter – ‘ You know my wife a painful wound and much as my heart fills with bitterness ‘

–  Religious – Decides to seek solace n the new religion “May Never protect you”

v). Dialogue – “Mother I have decided …….. Nyabera-Thank you mother

Simile – “but bitterness drops on the spirit like aloes ……..

Use of Local dialect- Were

(vi). Religion – Nyabera decides to seek new religion….

Death and suffering  –  You know my life is a painful wound

  1. Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow:

“Good. Very good. How about this marriage business-don’t you think it is too soon? I mean you’re only worked for a year – do you really have anything to offer a wife?”


Things like language to be spoken at home, the religion to be practised  –  and by the way to what faith does she belong?

(a)   Place this excerpt in its immediate context          (4 marks)

(b)  Illustrate any two themes brought out in this extract (4 marks)

(c)  Comment on any TWO stylistic devices used in the excerpt (6 marks)

(d)  Illustrate two aspects of Mark Sigu’s character shown in this excerpt (4 marks)

 (e)  Where else in the novel is Aoro in conflict with his father?   (2 marks)

(f)  In about 40 words, explain how Aoro defends Wandia as his choice for a wife.  (3 marks)

Possible Responses

(a)  Before

  Aoro and Wandia have gone to Aoro’s home

  They meet the parents of Aoro and exchange pleasantries

  Aro tells his father of his plans to go back to study surgery – his area of interest.


  Aoro’s father is skeptical about Aoro’s marriage to Wandia

  He cites religion as one of the problems likely to arise if the two get married

  Aoro tells his father they will sort out issues like religious differences and language to be spoken as Wandia is a rational person.

(b)  Themes

Religion  –  Aoro’s  father  wanted  to  know  Aoro  and  Wandia’s  religious  differences could cause them problems.

Tribalism  –  Aoro’s father asked Aoro why he could not get a nice Luo girl to marry instead of Wandia who is a Kikuyu

(c)  Dialogue

  Mark Sigu and Aoro are conversing concerning Aoro’s intention to marry Wandia.

Mark Sigu: How about the marriage business

Aoro : I guess not –

Comment – dialogue makes the conversation interesting and lively

Use of dashes-She is a Kikuyu after all – they have a thing about money

Comment – to indicate pause or deep thoughts creates suspense

(d)    Mark Sigu’s character

  Prejudicial/stereotyping/tribalistic-He regards all Kikuyus as money lovers

  Loving -He told Aoro that he loved him and was proud of him

  Caring-He told his son Aoro that he was trying to forestall any possible misery which may arise in future.

(e)  When Aoro and his brothers went to swim and his young twin brother almost drowned.

  When Aoro was suspended from school for being rude to the prefects in his school. His father denied him food for 36 hours and he passed out.

(f)  Aoro says he doubts that Wandia, irrespective of being a Kikuyu, is materialistic; that he has feelings for Wandia which he could not transfer to any other person; everyone, irrespective of the tribe, was the same beneath the skin.

  1. Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow:

“Brothers, we greet you and bring you many greetings from the people of seme. My nephew, Oloo, son of my late brother Sigu, came to me and said: “Father, I have found a girl and I want to get married. Now I am a reasonable man and I know the ways of chik, so I asked him:

‘Son I asked him one does not just find a girl in the air. One sends ajwanyoto go and spy a girl and find out her antecedents and character. Is she a thief or a witch? Is she lazy or shiftless? Might there be consanguinity between you and her? Who is her mother and father?

I tell you my brothers that I was flabbergasted to hear that none of these things had crossed his mind. He knew that her mother’s name was Maria and her grandmother’s name was Akoko and that was all. You will therefore forgive us because we do not know you and you

do not know us. We only came because we have faith in our son who has always been a reasonable man. We therefore wish to introduce ourselves before we go on. Iam SemoRakula of Seme,our village is near that strange rock- upon-a-rock,Kit-Mikai. We are the descendants

of that wear warrior, NyagudiKogambi.Oloo and these young men are my sons and nephew Oloo is a man of learning and what is more a soldier who has fought for the white man in distant land. Now he is a clerk with a big kambi (company)inNakuru, where he gets a good salary. So should this suit be acceptable to all you need have no fear that your daughter will starve. I tell you these things because there are things jawang’yowould havefound out for

you. Thank you brothers.” A pot of kong’owas moved near him and he drew a long refreshing draught. Some things never change-a spokesman needs to irrigate his throat.

“Brothers, people of Seme. My name is Oyange Silwal The girlAwiti is the only child of my late brother Okumu. We are from Sakwa from the village of Gombe, The girl has group in Gem because her mother being a widow and having converted to Christianity decided to

settle here which a good thing is because now she is like light for the rest of us. She is highly educated and a teacher of children.

(a) Place this excerpt in its immediate context.        (4marks)

(b) Identify and illustrate any three thematic concerns evident in this excerpt. (6marks)

(c) Describe the character of Awiti as brought out in this excerpt,  


(d) Apart from the case in this excerpt, explain where again there is a compromise in the brideprice later on in the novel.             (2marks)

(e) In one sentence,paraphrase the statements below       (2marks)

“Brothers, people of Seme. My name is OyangeSilwal The girl Awiti is the only child of my late brother Okumu. We are from Sakwa from the village of Gombe.

(f) ‘You will therefore forgive us brothers because we do not know you and you do not know us.’ In light of what happens in the novel, why is the speaker begging for forgiveness. (2marks)

(g) Identify and illustrate any two stylistic devices evidently used in this excerpt. (4marks)

(h)Give the meaning of the following words and phrases as used in the excerpt.(2marks)


irrigate his throat

Possible Responses

a.Awiti Elizabeth begins a relationship with Mark Sigu; she introduces the matter to Akoko and Nyabera; Akoko invites her relations and negotiation is fixed .Mark Sigu comes also with his relations. They meet, talk and are entertained. They agree on just a token as a bride

price. The talks are concluded and akoko calls Mark for a close talk, they joyously talk.

Later on in the night Akoko dies.

b.Love and friendship: Awiti and mark fall in love and marry; Family ties and relations: Akoko’s close relatives must be invited for the negotiation so is the family of Mark Sigu.Changes; mark and Awiti want to marry yet they do not know one another’s family background; religion: Awiti’s mother is said to be converted to Christianity and went to live in the mission; Eduaction: Awiti is said to be an educated girl and is a teacher.

C Hardworking; she studies very hard and becomes a teacher

d.Wandia’s mother does not demand any bride price but only asks Aoro to stay in peace with her daughter.

  1. Oyange Silwal tells the people of Seme that Awiti is the only child of his late brother Okumu and that they are from Sakwa from the clan of Gombe
  2. Because it is not customary to get into marriage negotiations without full knowledge of one another’s background.
  3. Rhetoric questions: Is she a thief or a witch? Is she lazy or shiftless? Might there be consanguinity between you and her?

Direct address “Brothers we greet you and bring you man greetings.

  1. Consanguinity;- close relationship To irrigate his throat – to take a drink to so as to talk with ease.
  2. Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow:

My fathers, “It is a shameful thing for my wife to leave her husbands house and return to her father’s house. This outrageous thing had occurred only because I was not here to prevent it.”

“Our chief, we are saddened by this unfortunate state of affairs, but you must admit that your mother has a point or two. Long have we pleaded with you to take another wife for two. Long

have we pleaded with you to take another wife for yourself and you have adamantly refused.

Now she has left you, you are like a misumba, a bachelor which would not have been the case if you had another wife. We beg you take another wife for yourself.” This was from Oyier, a grizzled old man who had been his mother’s greatest champion in her quest for a wife for Owuor. He realized that the old geezrs were going to give him a hard time of it, so he changed his tactics.

“Fathers, you are the wise men of this community. That is why you sit in the council. Is it that you have forgotten the ways of chik or that your determination to get me to marry other wives has clouded your judgement? Do you not know that a man’s mikai is the greatest jewel

that adorns his compound? That her position in maintained and protected by taboos imposed by the ways of chik? That if I die, Were forbid, my body can only lie of her hut? And this would do so even if she herself were dead? To lose one’s mikai is to lose one’s right hand.”

The Jodongo nodded sagaciously at the wisdom uttered by the chief. It is true that the mikaiis the centre post that holds up a man’s hut. Without her, or if she were stupid, only Were could rescue such a man from being blown away from among the people like so much chaff.

She it is who saves a young man from the follies and stupidities of youth. Indeed the people of Ramogi has a saying which declared that ‘The medicine for stupidity in marriage’. Yes, the chief had spoken wisely. But Oyier would not give up so easily

(a) Explain what happens just before this excerpt          (3mks)

(b) What is the bone of contention between Akoko and her mother-in-law, Nyar Asembo(3mks)

(c) “The girl child” brieflt explain the relevance of this sub-heading to the whole novel (2mks)

(d) Oyier sounds sarcastic in his speech. Identify and explain the sarcasm    (2mks)

(e) From the excerpt, contrast the character of Owuor with that of his brother Otieno(4mks)

(f) Explain the meaning of “It is true that “Mikai” is the centre post that hold up a man’s hut” (2mks)

(g) Identify parenthisis in the last paragraph of this excerpt       (1mk)

(h) Explain the main theme that comes out in this excerpt        (2mks)

(i) From your knowledge of the novel, describe the role of ‘Jodongo’ in the community represented in this novel Write your answer in note farm        (3mks)

(i) Local language is used in this exerpt. Give two examples and explain its significances(2mks)

(k) Discuss the mood that is prevalent in this extract         (1mk)

Possible Responses

(a) Owuor returns his journey only to find an empty house

He tries to inquire from neighbours and from his children what had happened

He gets very angry/locks himself up in his ‘simba’

He sermons the council;’jodongo’ to convene the following day  (3mks)

(b) Nyar Asembo alleges that Akoko is unable to conceive regularly/her rate of procreation is slow

She accuses Akoko of practicing witchcraft against her son

She also acuses Akoko of standing between Owuor and his marriage to other women by casting a spell on him

  1. c) “The Girl child’ This refers to AKoko

She is the source of the family tree (river) that extends for many generations for her, Nyabera, Elizabeth and her great grandchildren. Akoko is the source of life. She represents women as  Awiti, Vera and Wandia

As a source, her family survives due to he determination wisdom, hardwork and clarity of vision as a girl-child

She plays a role of those who have been wise in their time, pioneers through whose daring actions bring progress to the whole society(2mks)

(d) Oyier says that they are saddened by the disappearance of Akoko but in