Parts of Speech and Grammatical Terms
1.1 Some words have simple meanings.
Many words have several meanings. Take the word “round”, for example.
This word has quite different meanings as in
A round shape.
The second round of a boxing or wrestling match.
Come round for a meal next week.
The different meanings of “round” stem from the different uses to which the the word may be put. In a “round shape”, for example, the word has a describing function; in the “second round” it has an identifying function, naming a feature of a boxing or wrestling match.
To understand the structure of English, it is necessary to understand the various functions which words can have. These functions are usually known as “parts of speech”. Remember that there are many words that have more than one function.
1.2 A noun names a person, place or thing:
Paul, man, dog, street, Ireland
The “thing” may be a place (garden, Sussex), quality (pretty, tranquility), state (illness, agitated) action (intervention, work) or be a concept (democracy, crime). It may also be either tangible or intangible.
Nouns may be singular (forest, woman, quality) or plural (forests, women, qualities). A few are the same in the singular and plural (aircraft, sheep) and some have no singular (scissors, pants).
Nouns which name a group of people or things (crowd, collection, herd) are called collective nouns and may be regarded as either singular or plural depending on whether the emphasis is on the singular entity or its plural components.
Nouns which name special or unique persons or things (the President, Charles II, the Museum of Childhood) have capital letters and are known as proper nouns.
Two nouns are sometimes found side by side, one of them identifying or explaining the other:
George Thompson, a farmer, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention.
The pedestrian, a schoolboy, was unhurt when the scaffold collapsed. .
Such nouns are said to be in apposition.
1.3 A pronoun stands in place of a noun:
she, we, it, everybody.
Pronouns are a handy device for avoiding the repetition of nouns.
Instead of writing
The tree has been felled. The tree had been damaged in the storm.
We are able to write
the tree has been felled. It had been damaged in the storm.
The noun that the pronoun stands in place of is called its antecedent.
Here, the antecedent of It is a tree in the previous sentence. In
The players thought they had won.
The actress forgot her lines.
The antecedents of they and her are players and actress in the same sentence.
Pronouns may be singular (I, he, she, it) or plural (we, they); the pronoun you may be singular or plural depending on whether it refers to one person or to several.
The most important categories of pronoun are:
Personal e.g. (I, me, my, mine, you, your, yours, he, him, his).
Demonstrative e.g. (This, these, that, those, (as in belonged to my father)).
Interrogative e.g. (Who, whose, which, what (as in Who did that?)).
Indefinite e.g. (Anybody, none, no-one, either, each).
Relative e.g. (Who, whose, which, what, whom, that).
Relative pronouns are so called because, as well as acting as pronouns, they relate or join groups of words. Instead or writing
The tree has been felled. The tree (or It) had been damaged in a storm. We may write.
The tree, which had been damaged in a storm, has been felled. Thus joining two short sentences into one by using a relative pronoun.
1.4 An adjective describes a noun or pronoun.
Enthusiastic, eighth, tallest, invisible.
Adjectives are normally placed before the nouns they describe (several large white whales) but other positions are possible.
The morning was misty and cold.
The morning, was misty and cold, depressed his spirits.
If adjectives are formed from proper pronouns, they too have capital letters (the American way of life, the Christian religion).
It is a particular flexibility of English that words which are used as nouns may be used as adjectives (country customs, office manager, beauty treatment).
1.5 A Verb expresses an action or state of being.
Walked, think, thought, arm.
Verbs may consist of several words:
They should have known that he was working.
Verbs have different forms to indicate the times when actions take place. These forms are called tenses.
Present tense: I agree
Past tense: I agreed, I had agreed
Future tense: I shall agree
There are varieties of tense, such as the continuous tense (I am agreeing, I was agreeing).
The subject of a verb is the word or group of words that performs the action of that verb:
He fell over. To delay too long would be risky.
The object of a verb is the word or group of words that receives the action of that verb:
I stubbed my toe. Do you like the colour? Try jogging.
It is not necessary for a verb to have an object:
She was sleeping. They are trying very hard.
Some pronouns have different forms depending on whether they are subject or object of a verb:
I saw him but he did not see me.
The words I and me refer to the same person, as do him and he, but I and he are subject forms, and me and him are object forms.
Some verbs, notably the verb to be (am, are, is, and there past and future tenses) cannot have an object because they do not express an action which can affect or transmit to an object. They express a state:
I am a neighbour of his. He is helpful.
The words following these verbs are called complements. Verbs which take complements are sometimes called linking verbs (or copulas) because their function is to link subject and complement, as distinct from expressing an action performed by a subject upon an object.
A verb that has a subject is called a finite verb. Sometimes, mainly when a command is expressed, the subject is omitted but clearly implied: for example, in Keep Off the Grass, the subject of Keep is ‘understood’ to be you, and the verb is finite even though no subject is stated.
A verb that does not have a subject is called a non-finite verb.
Examples of non-finite verb were seen in
To delay too long would be risky. Try jogging.
Which are verb forms without subjects. Non-finite verbs may be used as nouns.
Shopping is easiest on Mondays.
Or as adjectives.
The shopping bag is full of squashed tomatoes.
A verb is said to be transitive when it has an object and intransitive when it does not. Many verbs function both transitively, with a difference in meaning.
The neighbours were burning garden rubbish. (Transitive)
The lamps were burning brightly. (Intransitive)
Some verbs, however, are always intransitive (e.g. rise, pause, shudder) and others always transitive.
A verb is active when the subject performs an active.
I misled you.
And passive when the subject suffers it
I was misled by you.
The form of some verbs is affected whether the subject is singular or plural:
The roof leaks. The pipes leak.
This agreement of subject and verb is an important feature of English.
1.6 An adverb describes a verb, adjective or other adverb:
He called loudly. There was a very faint reply. He called more loudly.
When an adverb describes a verb, it usually indicates how, when, where or why the action of the verb takes place.
Most adverbs are formed by adding –ly to adjectives (casual, casually), though this is not always so. Some adverbs have the same for as adjectives.
They deliver weekly. (Adverb) There is a weekly delivery. (Adjective).
Occasionally, an adverb may describe a preposition or conjunction.
Some adverbs affect the sense of the whole sentence rather than just one of its components (e.g. the verb). The word then is used as a straightforward adverb of time in
The book then goes on to describe the cause of this revolution.
(Indicating the time when the action of the verb occurs), but in
The book, then, makes an important contribution to our understanding of modern South America.
Then (meaning in this way) had a dual purpose: it enlarges the meaning of the verb makes, and also – more importantly – expresses a relationship between the whole sentence and what has gone before. The preceding sentences have, presumably, been about the book, and the writer wishes to draw a conclusion from them; then indicates that the conclusion expressed in the sentence follows logically from what he previously written.
A different sort of relationship – not a logical conclusion but a contrast – is found in.
Food is expensive. Wine, however, is cheap.
Adverbs used in this way are known as sentence adverbs (because they affect a whole sentence) or conjuncts or conjunctive adverbs.(because of their linking function). They normally occur at or near the beginning of sentences.
Adverbs which are found as conjuncts include incidentally, instead, namely, so, likewise, indeed, moreover, therefore, still, consequently, nevertheless, yet, then otherwise, for, thus, besides, accordingly, again, furthermore, hence.
1.7 A preposition expresses a relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other
part of the sentence:
He disappeared into the crowd. She took it from me.
A preposition usually precedes (‘governs’) a noun or pronoun, or a group of words having the same grammatical function as a noun and expresses its relationship to some other word (normally a verb, noun or adjective) in another part of the same sentence. This other part is usually earlier in the same sentence.
You must walk around in the wood, not through it.
The preposition indicate different relationships of place between walk (verb) and wood. Prepositions may express relationships of time
They arrived during the afternoon/before nightfall/after lunch.
Or of manner
Hit with a hammer. It was delivered by hand.
Preposition are sometimes omitted
They showed (to) him the way.
And may occasionally come after a noun/pronoun they govern instead of
With what did you mend it?
It is more natural to say
What did you mend it with?
It has already been shown that some pronouns (I, he, he, she, we, they, who,) adopt a different form when used as an object of a verb (me, him, her, us, them, whom). These object-forms must also be used when the pronouns are governed by a proposition:
Share it between him and me. For whom it is intended?
The same word may be a proposition (Wait outside the door) or an adverb (Wait outside) depending on its function in a sentence.
1.8 A conjunction joins two words or groups of words.
blue and white stripes; take it or leave it; I went early because I was tired.
The conjunction need not always be placed between the words being linked:
Because I was tired, I went early.
Although he was injured, he went on playing.
It is possible for a word to be a conjunction in one sense and a different part of speech in another.
Because I was tired, I went early.
Although he was injured, he went on playing.
It is possible for a word to be considered a conjunction in one sentence and a different part of speech in another:
Look before you leap. (Conjunction)
It has happened before. (Adverb)
We left before the end. (Preposition).
Several examples have been provided to show how a word may act as several different parts of speech, depending on its function in a particular sentence.
Put it down. (Adverb)
Let’s walk down the hill. (Preposition)
These pillows are filled with down. (Noun)
Is there any down payment? (Adjective)
They decided to down tools. (Verb)
It is important to think of parts of speech as categories of work, and to bear in mind than many English words belong to more than one category. Most dictionaries indicate what these categories are.
1.10 A group of words may act as part of speech. The next chapter shows how parts of speech, whether as single words or groups, are built into sentences,