Guide: How to Say “What Are You Doing?” in Igbo (Formal and Informal Ways)

Welcome to our guide on how to say “What are you doing?” in Igbo! Igbo, also known as the Ibo language, is spoken primarily in southeastern Nigeria. Igbo is a beautiful language with its own unique expressions and variations. Whether you want to communicate formally or informally, we’ll provide you with useful phrases, tips, and examples to help you navigate this question in Igbo.

Formal Expression: “What Are You Doing?”

If you want to ask someone formally about their actions or activities, you can use the following expression in Igbo:

Gịnị ka ịna-eme?” which translates to “What are you doing?” in English.

The phrase “Gịnị ka ịna-eme?” is a polite and formal way to inquire about someone’s current activities. It’s suitable for situations like professional settings, formal meetings, or speaking to elders. Let’s now look at an example conversation to help you understand the usage:

Person A: Gịnị ka ịna-eme? (What are you doing?)
Person B: A naghị m a ebe m. A naghị eme ihe ọma. (I am not doing much. I am not doing anything significant.)

As you can see, using this formal expression helps create a polite and respectful tone when communicating with others. Now, let’s move on to the informal way of asking the same question.

Informal Expression: “What Are You Doing?”

In casual conversations or when talking to close friends, family members, or peers, you can use the following expression:

Gịnị ka ịna-asị?” which translates to “What are you doing?” in English.

The phrase “Gịnị ka ịna-asị?” is a relaxed and informal way to inquire about someone’s current activities. It’s perfectly suitable for friendly conversations and laid-back situations. Here’s an example conversation to illustrate its usage:

Person A: Gịnị ka ịna-asị? (What are you doing?)
Person B: A nọ mbebe. A gbakọ ngwọta n’eshishi. (I’m just relaxing. I’m watching a movie.)

Using this informal expression helps create a friendly and casual tone when conversing with others in a less formal setting. While the formal and informal expressions differ, both are equally important in understanding the nuances of the Igbo language. Next, we’ll share some tips and variations that may come in handy.

Tips and Variations:

1. Regional Variations: Igbo is a diverse language, and regional variations exist. The expressions provided in this guide are based on the standard Igbo dialect. However, in some regions or communities, alternative phrases or dialect-specific variations may be used. It’s always advisable to consider the local dialect if interacting with a specific Igbo-speaking community.

2. Politeness: In Igbo culture, showing respect and politeness is highly valued. When addressing someone older or in a position of authority, it’s essential to use the formal expression “Gịnị ka ịna-eme?” and show proper deference.

3. Non-Literal Responses: Often, when someone asks “What are you doing?” in any language, the response may not always involve specific actions. Responses can include various activities or general descriptions of one’s state. It’s important to be open-minded and understand that responses in Igbo might not always align with Western expectations of direct, action-focused answers.

4. Body Language: Communication in Igbo goes beyond words. Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice when interacting with Igbo speakers. These non-verbal cues provide additional context and help you better understand the nuances of the conversation.


Congratulations! You’ve now learned two different ways to say “What are you doing?” in Igbo. Remember, “Gịnị ka ịna-eme?” is the formal expression, while “Gịnị ka ịna-asị?” is the informal one. Make sure to adapt your language based on the formality of the situation and the relationship with the person you are speaking to.

Keep practicing and immersing yourself in the Igbo language to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for its rich culture. Learning how to communicate in someone’s native language is always a wonderful way to connect and show respect. Jisie ike! (Good luck!)

Leave comment