Thursday, December 31, 2009

Define : English Grammar....

English grammar is here understood as the body of rules describing the properties of the English language. A language is such that its elements must be combined according to certain patterns. This article is concerned with (and restricted to) morphology, the building blocks of language, and syntax, the construction of meaningful phrases, clauses and sentences with the use of morphemes and words.
The grammar of any language is commonly approached in two different ways: A descriptivist, usually based on a systematic analysis of a large text corpus and describing grammatical structures thereupon; and a prescriptivist, which attempts to use the identified rules of a given language as a tool to govern the linguistic behaviour of speakers (see Linguistic prescription and Descriptive linguistics). Prescriptive grammar concerns itself with several open disputes in English grammar, often representing changes in usage over time.
There are a number of historical, social and regional variations of the English language. For example, British English and American English have several lexical differences; however, the grammatical differences are not equally conspicuous, and will be mentioned only when appropriate. Further, the many dialects of English have divergences from the grammar described here; they are only cursorily mentioned. This article describes a generalized present-day Standard English, the form of speech found in types of public discourse including broadcasting, education, entertainment, government, and news reporting. Standard English includes both formal and informal speech.

Word classes and phrase classes

Seven major word classes are described here. These are: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and determiner. The first six are traditionally referred to as "parts of speech." There are minor word classes, such as interjections, but these do not fit into the clause and sentence structure of English.[1]
Open and closed classes
Open word classes allow new members; closed word classes seldom do.[1] Nouns such as "celebutante," (a celebrity who frequents the fashion circles)" and "mentee," (a person advised by a mentor) and adverbs such as "24/7" ("I am working on it 24/7") are relatively new words; nouns and adverbs are therefore open classes.[1] However, the pronoun, "their," as a gender-neutral singular replacement for the "his or her" (as in: "Each new arrival should check in their luggage.") has not gained complete acceptance during the more than 40 years of its life; pronouns, in consequence, form a closed class.[1]
Word classes and grammatical forms
A word can sometimes belong to several word classes. The class version of a word is called a "lexeme."[2] For example, the word "run" is usually a verb, but it can also be a noun ("It is a ten mile run to Tipperary."); these are two different lexemes.[2] Further, the same lexeme may have several grammatical forms: for example, as a verb lexeme, "run" has several finite forms such as "runs," "ran," and "running."[2] Words in one class can sometimes be derived from those in another and new words be created. The noun "aerobics," for example, has recently given rise to the adjective "aerobicized" ("the aerobicized bodies of Beverly Hills celebutantes."[2])
Phrase classes
Words combine to form phrases which themselves can take on the attributes of a word class. These classes are called phrase classes.[2] The phrase: "The ancient pulse of germ and birth" functions as a noun in the sentence: "The ancient pulse of germ and birth was shrunken hard and dry." (Thomas Hardy, The Darkling Thrush) It is therefore a noun phrase. Other phrase classes are: verb phrases, adjective phrases, adverb phrases, prepositional phrases, and determiner phrases.[2]

Nouns and determiners

Nouns form the largest word class. According to Carter and McCarthy, they denote "classes and categories of things in the world, including people, animals, inanimate things, places, events, qualities and states."[2] Consequently, the words, "Mandela," "jaguar," "mansion," "volcano," "Timbuktoo," "blockade," "mercy," and "liquid" are all nouns. Nouns are not commonly identified by their form; however, some common suffixes such as "-age" ("shrinkage"), "-hood" ("sisterhood"), "-ism" ("journalism"), "-ist" ("lyricist"), "-ment" ("adornment"), "-ship" ("companionship"), "-tude" ("latitude"), and so forth, are usually identifiers of nouns.[2] There are exceptions, of course: "assuage" and "disparage" are verbs; "augment" is a verb, "lament" can be a verb; and "worship" is a verb. Nouns can also be created by conversion of verbs or adjectives. Examples include the nouns in: "a boring talk," "a five-week run," "the long caress," "the utter disdain," and so forth.
Number, gender, type, and syntactic features.
Nouns have singular and plural forms.[3] Many plural forms have -s or -es endings (dog/dogs, referee/referees, bush/bushes), but by no means all (woman/women, axis/axes, medium/media). Unlike some other languages, in English, nouns do not have grammatical gender, one that affects the form the verb in a sentence.[3] However, many nouns can refer to masculine or feminine animate objects (mother/father, tiger/tigress, alumnus/alumna, male/female).[3] Nouns can be classified semantically, i.e. by their meanings: common nouns ("sugar," "maple," "syrup," "wood"), proper nouns ("Cyrus," "China"), concrete nouns ("book," "laptop"), and abstract nouns ("heat," "prejudice").[3] Alternatively, they can distinguished grammatically: count nouns ("clock," "city," "color") and non-count nouns ("milk," "decor," "foliage").[4] Nouns have several syntactic features that can aid in their identification.[4] Nouns (example: common noun "cat") may be
  1. modified by adjectives ("the beautiful Angora cat"),
  2. preceded by determiners ("the beautiful Angora cat"), or
  3. pre-modified by other nouns ("the beautiful Angora cat").[4]

Noun phrases

Noun phrases are phrases that function grammatically as nouns within sentences. In addition, nouns serve as "heads," or main words of noun phrases. [4] Examples (the heads are in boldface):
  1. "The burnt-out ends of smoky days."[5]
  2. "The real raw-knuckle boys who know what fighting means, ..."[6]
  3. "The idle spear and shield ..."[7]
The head can have modifiers, a complement, or both. Modifiers can occur before the head ("The real raw-knuckle boys ...," or "The burnt-out ends ..." and they are then called pre-modifiers; or, they can occur after the head ("who know what fighting means ...") and are called post-modifiers.[4] Example: "The rough, seamy-faced, raw-boned College Servitor ..."[8] The pre-modifying phrase, for example, is composed of determiners ("The"), adjectives ("rough," "seamy-faced," ...) and other nouns ("College").
Complements occur after the head as well; however, they are essential for completing the meaning of the noun phrase in a way that post-modifiers are not.[9] Examples (complements are italicized; heads are in boldface):
  1. "The burnt-out ends of smoky days."[10]
  2. "The suggestion that Mr. Touchett should invite me appeared to have come from Miss Stackpole."[11]
  3. "The ancient pulse of germ and birth was shrunken hard and dry."[12]
Within a sentence, a noun phrase can be a part of the grammatical subject, the object, or the complement. Examples (the noun phrase is italicized, and the head boldfaced):[9]
  1. grammatical subject: "Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest."[13]
  2. object: "Dr. Pavlov ... delivered many long propaganda harangues ..."[14])
  3. complement: "'All they see is some frumpy, wrinkled-up person passing by in a carriage waving at a crowd."[15]


Verbs form the second largest word class after nouns. According to Carter and McCarthy, verbs denote "actions, events, processes, and states."[16] Consequently, "smile," "stab," "climb," "confront," "liquefy," "wake," "reflect" are all verbs. Some endings, which while not dead giveaways, are often associated with verbs. Examples are: "-ate" ("formulate"), "-iate" ("inebriate"), "-ify" ("electrify"), and "-ize" ("sermonize").[16] There are exceptions, of course: "chocolate" is a noun, "immediate" is an adjective, "prize" can be a noun, and "maize" is a noun. Prefixes can also be used to create new verbs. Examples are: "un-" ("unmask"), "out-" ("outlast"), "over-" ("overtake"), and "under-" ("undervalue").[16] Just as nouns can be formed from verbs by conversion, the reverse is also possible:[16]
  • "so are the sons of men snared in an evil time"[17]
  • "[a national convention] nosed parliament in the very seat of its authority"[18]
Verbs can also be formed from adjectives:[16]
  • "To dry the old oak's sap, and cherish springs."[19]
  • "Time's glory is to calm contending kings"[20]
Regular and irregular verbs
A verb is said to be regular if its base form does not change when inflections are added to create new forms.[21] An example is: base form: climb; present form: climb; -s form: climbs; -ing form: climbing; past form: climbed; -ed participle: climbed.[21] Irregular verbs are ones in which the base form changes; the endings corresponding to each form are not always unique.[21] Examples:
  • base form: catch; present form: catch; -s form: catches; -ing form: catching; past form: caught; -ed participle: caught.
  • base form: choose; present form: choose; -s form: chooses; -ing form: choosing; past form: chose; -ed participle: chosen.
The verb "be" is the only verb in English which has distinct inflectional forms for each of the categories of grammatical forms: base form: be; present form: am, are; -s form: is; -ing form: being; past form: was, were; -ed participle: been.[21]
Type and characteristics
Verbs come in three grammatical types: lexical, auxiliary, and modal.[22] Lexical verbs form an open class which includes most verbs (state, action, processes, and events). For example, "dive," "soar," "swoon," "revive," "breathe," "choke," "lament," "celebrate," "consider," "ignore" are all lexical verbs.[22] Auxiliary verbs form a closed class consisting of only three members: be, do, and have.[22] Although auxiliary verbs are lexical verbs as well, their main function is to add information to other lexical verbs. This information indicates (a) aspect (progressive, perfect), (b) passive voice, and (c) clause type (interrogative, negative).[22] In the following examples, the auxiliary is in boldface and the lexical verb is italicized.
  1. aspect (progressive): "'She is breathing Granny; we've got to make her keep it up, that's all—just keep her breathing."[23]
  2. aspect (perfect): "'Yes, I want a coach,' said Maurice, and bade the coachman draw up to the stone where the poor man who had swooned was sitting."[24]
  3. passive voice: "When she was admitted into the house Beautiful, care was taken to inquire into the religious knowledge of her children."[25]
  4. clause type (interrogative): (Old joke) Boy: "Excuse me sir, How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Man on street: "Practice, Practice, Practice."
  5. clause type (negative): Wasn't she monstrously surprised?"[26]
Modal verbs also form a closed class which consists of the core modals ("can," "could," "shall," "should," "will," "would," "may," "might," "must"), semi-modals ("dare," "need," "ought to," "used to"), and modal expressions ("be able to," "have to").[22] Modals add information to lexical verbs about degrees of certainty and necessity.[22] Examples:
  • less certain: "Before the snow could melt for good, an ice storm covered the lowcountry and we learned the deeper treachery of ice."[27]
  • more certain: "Eat your eggs in Lent and the snow will melt. That's what I say to our people when they get noisy over their cups at San Gallo ..."[28]
  • expressing necessity: "But I should think there must be some stream somewhere about. The snow must melt; besides, these great herds of deer must drink somewhere."[29]
Modal verbs do not inflect for person, number or tense.[22] Examples:
  • person: "I/you/she might consider it."
  • number: "I/We/She/They might consider it"
  • tense: "They might have considered/be considering/have been considering it."
Verbs too have features that aid in their recognition:
  1. they follow the (grammatical) subject noun phrase (in italics): "The real raw-knuckle boys who know what fighting means enter the arena without fanfare."
  2. they agree with the subject noun phrase in number: "The real raw-knuckle boy/boys who knows/know what fighting means enters/enter the arena without fanfare."
  3. they agree with the subject noun phrase in person: "I/He, the real raw-knuckle boy who knows what fighting means, enter/enters the arena without fanfare", and
  4. with the exception of modal verbs, they can express tense:"The boys ... had been entering the arena without fanfare."

Verb phrases


Verb phrases are formed entirely of verbs. The verbs can be lexical, auxiliary, and modal. The head is the first verb in the verb phrase.[30] Example:
  • "I didn't notice Rowen around tonight," remarked Don, as they began to prepare for bed. "Might have been sulking in his tent," grinned Terry."[31] Here, the verb phrase "might have been sulking" has the form "modal-auxiliary-auxiliary-lexical."
In a verb phrase, the modal comes first, then the auxiliary or several auxiliaries, and finally the lexical (main) verb.[30] When a verb phrase has a combination of modal and auxiliaries, it is constituted usually in the following order: modal verb >> perfect have >> progressive be >> passive be >> Lexical verb.[30] Examples:
  • "He might have been being used by the CIA as part of their debriefing procedure, but he might just as easily have been part of the Russians' plans to use Oswald in America."[32] Here, the verb phrase is: might (modal) have (perfect) been (progressive) being (passive) used (lexical).
  • The modal expression "be able to" is an exception: "It is best to know that she has (perfect) been (progressive) able to (modal expression) balance (lexical verb) these qualities and quantities with a grace which has not fallen short of greatness ...."[33]


Verb phrases can vary with tense, in which case they are called "tensed verb phrases."[34] Example:
  • "They have accomplished a lot this year, but they had accomplished even more last year."
There are many non-tensed forms as well:
  1. base form of a lexical verb used as an imperative.[34] Example: "Halt!"
  2. base form of the lexical verb occurring as a subjunctive.[34] Example: "'If he is a spy,' said Gorgik, 'I would rather he not know who I am."[35]
  3. the infinitive with "to."[34] Examples:
    1. "Did you see her, chief—did you get a glimpse of her pleasant countenance, or come close enough to her ear, to sing in it the song she loves to hear?'"[36]
    2. "She got so she could tell big stories herself from listening to the rest. Because she loved to hear it, and the men loved to hear themselves, they would 'woof' and 'boogerboo' around the games to the limit."[37]
  4. the "-ing" form.[34] Examples:
    1. "Biological diversity is plummeting, mainly due to habitat degradation and loss, pollution, overexploitation, competition from alien species, disease, and changing climates."[38]
    2. "Then it was swooping downward, and in the next second, a huge metal magpie, with wings outstretched in full flight, was plummeting toward them."[39]
  5. the "-ed" participle.[34] Examples:
    1. "I also know that the painter has dined twice with the Prince Regent."[40]
    2. "Which in all probability means that you had dined together," replied Monte Cristo, laughing, "I am glad to see you are more sober than he was."[41]
The time frame of a non-tensed verb phrase is determined by examining that of the main clause verb.[34] Examples:
  • "From the very beginning, Coltrane was an indefatigable worker at his saxophone spending hours upon hours practicing every day."[42]
  • "By assuming a good position and by practicing every day he will in time acquire a feeling and an appearance of ease before people."[43]
In the first case, the time frame (past) of "practicing" is determined by "was" in the main clause; in the second, the time frame (present and future) of "practicing" is determined by "will in time," also in the main clause.


Verb phrases can also express two aspects: progressive and perfect. Aspect provides additional information on the speaker's perception of time.
Progressive aspect
The progressive aspect consists of the auxiliary be form and the -ing form of the lexical verb.[44] Examples:
  • "Landlord, chambermaid, waiter rush to the door; but just as some distinguished guests are arriving, the curtains close, and the invisible theatrical manager cries out, 'Second syllable!' "[45]
  • "She made her curtsy, and was departing when the wretched young captain sprang up, looked at her, and sank back on the sofa with another wild laugh."[46]
  • Progressive aspect may be found in verb phrases containing modals.[44]
    • "Restless, exciting and witty, he cannot resist a fantastic theory ..., so that one might be meeting Synge, Fielding, and Aldous Huxley, and on the same page."[47]
  • Non-tensed -ing forms, however, do not have the progressive aspect.[44]
    • "By working every day, he had learned the peculiarities, the weaknesses and strengths, of opposing batters ..."[48] It cannot be changed to "By being working every day, ...."
  • Progressive aspect can be combined with "to"-infinitive forms in a verb phrase.[44]
    • "He loved to sit by the open window when the wind was east, and seemed to be dreaming of faraway scenes."[49]
Perfect aspect
The perfect aspect is created by the auxiliary "have" and the "-ed" participle form of the lexical verb.[44] It refers to a time period that includes the present moment.[44] Contrast "The flowers didn't bloom this summer" with "The flowers haven't bloomed this summer." The latter sentence suggests that the summer is not over yet.
  • The perfect aspect can pair with modal verbs.[44]
    • "You might (modal) have invited (perfect) the Mad Hatter to the tea-party."
  • The perfect aspect can be combined with the -ing and the to-infinitive forms.[44]
    • "Having turned the TV on, he now mindlessly flicked through the channels."
    • "To have run the marathon, she would have needed to be in good shape."
Finally, the two aspects, progressive and perfect, can be combined in a verb phrase: "They've been laughing so hard that their sides hurt."


The passive voice, which provides information about the roles of different participants in an event, is formed with the auxiliary "be" and the "-ed" participle form of the lexical verb.[50] Examples:
  • (Sentence) "The older critics slammed the play with vituperation inexplicable unless one attributes it to homophobia."[51]
  • (passive voice) "Ever notice how she was (past of "be") slammed (-ed participle) by the critics until the actors started doing it themselves?"[52]
  • Modal verbs can occur in passive voice.[50]
    • "And if they couldn't get a handle on it soon, cities and towns all up and down the Eastern Seaboard could (modal) be slammed (passive) by the biggest storm of the year ...."[53]
  • Passive voice can be combined with non-tensed verbs forms such as "-ing" form and the "to-" infinitive.[50]
    • "There he was—getting slammed by the critics—and still taking the high road."[54]
    • "We were about to be slammed by an 80-foot breaking wave."[55]
  • Passive voice can combine with both the progressive and the perfect aspects.[50]
    • (passive, progressive): "The wind had picked up. The boat was being slammed by the swells, and floundering."[56]
    • (passive, perfect): "Although, alas, it's not such an exclusive club. I've sent them to everyone who has been slammed by that dreadful woman."[57]


A verb phrase can also express mood, which refers to the "factual or non-factual status of events."[50] There are three moods in English: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive.[50]
Indicative mood
The indicative is the most common mood in English.[50] It is a factual mood, and most constructions involving the various choices of person, tense, number, aspect, modality are in the indicative mood.[50] Examples:
  • "She will have a hangover tomorrow morning."
  • "The Prime Minister and his cabinet were discussing the matter on that fateful day in 1939."
Imperative mood
The imperative mood is a non-factual mood and is employed for issuing directives:[50]
Subjunctive mood
The subjunctive mood is also a non-factual mood which refers to demands, desires, etc.[50] It uses the base form of the verb without inflections.[50] It is rare in English and is used after only a handful of words such as "demand," "request," "suggest," "ask," "plead," "pray," "insist," and so forth.[50] Examples:
  • "I demanded that Sheriff Jeanfreau stay. I even wanted worthless and annoying Ugly Henderson to stay."[60]
  • "'I suggest that you not exercise your temper overmuch,' Mayne said, and the French tinge in his voice sounded truly dangerous now." [61]
  • Subjunctives can be used after conditional subordinators.[50]
    • "I accepted on the condition that I not be given a starring role."[62]
  • Subjunctives can also be used after expressions of necessity.[50]
    • "Two nuns are asked to paint a room in the convent, and the last instruction of Mother Superior is that they not get even a drop of paint on their habits."[63]
  • The subjunctive form of the verb "be" can occur as the base form "be".[50]
    • "Whenever a prisoner alleges physical abuse, it is imperative that the prisoner be seen by an officer at the earliest possible opportunity."[64]
  • In its "were" form the subjunctive is used to express a hypothetical situation.[50]
    • "'Lin said, turning toward Pei, "I'm afraid she's excited at seeing me home again." Pei smiled. "I would be too, if I were she."[65]


According to Carter and McCarthy, "Adjectives describe properties, qualities, and states attributed to a noun or a pronoun."[66] As was the case with nouns and verbs, the class of adjectives cannot be identified by the forms of its constituents.[66] However, adjectives are commonly formed by adding the some suffixes to nouns.[66] Examples: "-al" ("habitual," "multidimensional," "visceral"), "-ful" ("blissful," "pitiful," "woeful"), "-ic" ("atomic," "gigantic," "pedantic"), "-ish" ("impish," "peckish," "youngish"), "-ous" ("fabulous," "hazardous"). As with nouns and verbs, there are exceptions: "homosexual" can be a noun, "earful" is a noun, "anesthetic" can be a noun, "brandish" is a verb. Adjectives can also be formed from other adjectives through the addition of a suffix or more commonly a prefix:[66] weakish, implacable, disloyal, irredeemable, unforeseen. A number of adjective are formed by adding "a" as a prefix to a verb: "adrift," "astride," "awry."
Adjectives come in two varieties: gradable and non-gradable.[67] In a gradable adjective, the properties or qualities associated with it, exist along a scale.[67] In the case of the adjective "hot," for example, we can speak of: not at all hot, ever so slightly hot, only just hot, quite hot, very hot, extremely hot, dangerously hot, and so forth. Consequently, "hot" is a gradable adjective. Gradable adjectives usually have antonyms: hot/cold, hard/soft, smart/dumb, light/heavy.[67] Some adjectives do not have room for qualification or modification. These are the non-gradable adjectives, such as: pregnant, married, incarcerated, condemned, adolescent (as adjective), dead, and so forth.
In figurative or literary language, a non-gradable adjective can sometimes be treated as gradable, especially in order to emphasize some aspect:
  • "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with a forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room."[68]
A non-gradable adjective might have another connotation in which it is gradable. For example, "dead" when applied to sounds can mean dull, or not vibrant. In this meaning, it has been used as a gradable adjective:
  • "... the bell seemed to sound more dead than it did when just before it sounded in open air."[69]
Gradable adjectives can occur in comparative and superlative forms.[67] For many common adjectives, these are formed by adding "-er" and "-est" to the base form:[67] cold, colder, coldest; hot, hotter, hottest; dry, drier, driest, and so forth; however, for other adjectives, "more" and "most" are needed to provide the necessary qualification: more apparent, most apparent; more iconic, most iconic; more hazardous, most hazardous. Some gradable adjectives change forms atypically:[67] good, better, best; bad, worse, worst; little, less, least; some/many, more, most.

Adjective phrases

An adjective phrase may consist of just one adjective, or a single adjective which has been modified or complemented.[70]
Adjectives are usually modified by adverb phrases (adverb in boldface; adjective in italics):[70]
  • "... placing himself in a dignified and truly imposing attitude, began to draw from his mouth yard after yard of red tape ..."[71]
  • "Families did certainly come, beguiled by representations of impossibly cheap provisions, though the place was in reality very expensive, for every tradesman was a monopolist at heart."[72]
  • "... of anger frequent but generally silent, ..."[73]
An adjective phrase can also consist of an adjective followed by a complement, usually a prepositional phrase, or by a "that" clause.[70] Different adjectives require different patterns of complementation (adjective in italics; complement in bold face):[70]
  • "... during that brief time I was proud of myself, and I grew to love the heave and roll of the Ghost ..."[74]
  • "... her bosom angry at his intrusion, ..."[75]
  • "Dr. Drew is especially keen on good congregational singing."[76]
Examples of "that" clause in the adjective phrase (adjective in italics; clause in boldface):
  • "Was sure that the shrill voice was that of a man—a Frenchman."[77]
  • "The longest day that ever was; so she raves, restless and impatient."[78]
An adjective phrase can combine pre-modification by an adverb phrase and post-modification by a complement,[70] as in (adjective in italics; adverb phrase and complement in boldface):
  • "Few people were ever more proud of civic honours than the Thane of Fife."[79]
Attributive and predicative
An adjective phrase is attributive when it modifies a noun or a pronoun (adjective phrase in boldface; noun in italics):[70]
  • "Truly selfish genes do arise, in the sense that they reproduce themselves at a cost to the other genes in the genome."[80]
  • "Luisa Rosado: a woman proud of being a midwife"[81]
An adjective phrase is predicative when it occurs in the predicate of a sentence (adjective phrase in boldface):[70]
  • "No, no, I didn't really think so," returned Dora; "but I am a little tired, and it made me silly for a moment ..."[82]
  • "She was ill at ease, and looked more than usually stern and forbidding as she entered the Hales' little drawing room."[83]


Adverbs, according to Carter and McCarthy, are a class of words "which perform a wide range of functions. Adverbs are especially important for indicating time, manner, place, degree, and frequency of an event, action, or process."[84] They typically modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Adjectives and adverbs are often derived from the same word.[84] A majority of adverbs are formed by adding to "-ly" ending to their corresponding adjective form.[84] Recall the adjectives, "habitual," "pitiful," "impish." We can use them to form the adverbs:
  • "habitually": "... shining out of the New England reserve with which Holgrave habitually masked whatever lay near his heart."[85]
  • "pitifully": "The lamb tottered along far behind, near exhaustion, bleating pitifully."[86]
  • "impishly": "Well, and he grinned impishly, "it was one doggone good party while it lasted!"[87]
Some suffixes that are commonly found in adverbs are "-ward(s)" and "-wise":[84]
  • "homeward": "The plougman homeward plods his weary way."[88]
  • "downward": "In tumbling turning, clustering loops, straight downward falling, ..."[89]
  • "lengthwise": "2 to 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces."[90]
Some adverbs have the same form as the adjectives:[84]
  • "outside":
    • Adverb: "'You'd best begin, or you'll be sorry—it's raining outside."[91]
    • Adjective: "It would be possible to winter the colonies in the barn if each colony is provided with a separate outside entrance; ..."[92]
  • "straight"
    • Adverb: "Five cigars, very dry, smoked straight except where wrapper loosened, as it did in two cases."[93]
    • Adjective: "Numbering among the ranks of the "young and evil" in this text are ... straight women who fall in love with gay men, ..."[94]
Some adverbs are not related to adjectives:[84]
  • "quite": "Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and ... Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted."[95]
  • "too": "... like a child that, having devoured its plumcake too hastily, sits sucking its fingers, ...."[96]
  • "so": "... oh! ... would she heave one little sigh to see a bright young life so rudely blighted, ...?"[97]
Some adverbs inflect for comparative and superlative forms:[84]
  • "soon"
    • "O error, soon conceived, Thou never comest unto a happy birth, ..."[98]
    • "Nerissa: 'superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer."[99]
    • "'Least said, soonest mended!' "[100]
  • "well"
    • "Valrosa well deserved its name, for in that climate of perpetual summer roses blossomed everywhere."[101]
    • "'I'm afraid your appearance in the Phycological Quarterly was better deserved,' said Mrs. Arkwright, without removing her eyes from the microscope ..."[102]
    • "Who among the typical Victorians best deserved his hate?"[103]

Adverb phrases

An adverb phrase is a phrase that collectively acts as an adverb within a sentence; in other words, it modifies a verb (or verb phrase), an adjective (or adjective phrase), or another adverb.[104] The head of an adverb phrase (roman boldface), which is an adverb, may be modified by another adverb (italics boldface) or followed by a complement (italics boldface):[104]
  • "Yet all too suddenly Rosy popped back into the conversation, ...."[105]
  • "Oddly enough, that very shudder did the business."[106]
  • "The Stoics said, perhaps shockingly for us, that a father ceases to be a father when his child dies."[107]
An adverb phrase can be part of the complement of the verb "be." It then usually indicates location (adverbe phrase in boldface; form of "be" in italics):[104]
  • "'... it is underneath the pink slip that I wore on Wednesday with my Mechlin.'"[108]
  • "... north-by-northeast was Rich Mountain, ..."[109]
Adverb phrases are frequently modifiers of verbs:[104]
  • "They plow through a heavy fog, and Enrique sleeps soundlytoo soundly."[110]
  • "Sleepily, very sleepily, you stagger to your feet and collapse into the nearest chair."[111]
Adverb phrases are also frequently modifiers of adjectives and other adverbs (modifier in boldface; modified in italics):[104]
  • (adjectives) "Then to the swish of waters as the sailors sluice the decks all around and under you, you fall into a really deep sleep."[112]
  • (adverbs) "'My grandma's kinda deaf and she sleeps like really heavily."[113]
Adverb phrases can also be modifiers of noun phrases (or pronoun phrases) and prepositional phrases (adverb phrases in boldface; modified phrases in italics):[104]
  • (noun phrase): "She stayed out in the middle of the wild sea, and told them that was quite the loveliest place, you could see for many miles all round you, ...."[114]
  • (pronoun phrase): "... the typical structure of glioma is that of spherical and cylindrical lobules, almost each and everyone of which has a centrally located blood vessel."[115]
  • (prepositional phrase): "About halfway through the movie, I decided to ..."[116]
Adverb phrases also modify determiners (modifier in boldface; modified in italics):[104]
  • "The devil knows best what he said, but at least she became his tool and was in the habit of seeing him nearly every evening."[117]
  • "Nearly if not quite all civilized peoples and ourselves above almost all others, are heavily burdened with the interest upon their public debt."[118]
According to Carter and McCarthy, "As well as giving information on the time, place, manner and degree of an action, event, or process, adverb phrases can also have a commenting function, indicating the attitude and point of view of the speaker or writer towards a whole sentence or utterance."[119] Examples:
  • "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."[120]
  • "Astonishingly, she'd shelled every nut, leaving me only the inner skin to remove."[121]
Adverb phrases also indicate the relation between two clauses in a sentence.[119] Such adverbs are usually called "linking adverbs." Example:
  • "... they concluded from the similarities of their bodies, that mine must contain at least 1724 of theirs, and consequently would require as much food as was necessary to support that number of Lilliputians."[122]


Prepositions relate two events in time or two people or things in space.[119] They form a closed class.[119] They also represent abstract relations between two entities:[119] Examples:
  1. ("after":) "We came home from Mr. Boythorn's after six pleasant weeks."[123]
  2. ("after":) "The body of a little wizened Gond lay with its feet in the ashes, and Bagheera looked inquiringly at Mowgli. "That was done with a bamboo," said the boy, after one glance.[124]
  3. ("to":) "I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, ..."[125]
  4. ("between" and "through":) "Between two golden tufts of summer grass, I see the world through hot air as through glass, ..."[126]
  5. ("during":) "During these years at Florence, Leonardo's history is the history of his art; he himself is lost in the bright cloud of it."[127]
  6. ("of":) "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrances of things past."[128]
Prepositions are accompanied by prepositional complements;[129] these are usually noun phrases.[129] In the above examples, the prepositional complements are:
  1. preposition: "after"; prepositional complement: "six pleasant weeks"
  2. preposition: "after"; prepositional complement: "one glance"
  3. preposition: "to"; prepositional complement: "the seas"; preposition: "to"; prepositional complement: "the vagrant gypsy life";
  4. preposition: "Between"; prepositional complement: "two golden tufts of summer grass,"; preposition: "through"; prepositional complement: "hot air"; preposition: "as through"; prepositional complement: "glass."
  5. preposition: "during"; prepositional complement: "these years at Florence."
  6. preposition: "of"; prepositional complement: "sweet silent thought"; preposition: "of"; prepositional complement: "things past."

Prepositional phrases

A prepositional phrase is formed when a preposition combines with its complement.[130]. In the above examples, the prepositional phrases are:
  1. prepositional phrase: "after six pleasant weeks"
  2. prepositional phrase: "after one glance"
  3. prepositional phrases: "to the seas" and "to the vagrant gypsy life"
  4. prepositional phrases: "Between two golden tufts of summer grass," "through hot air" and "as through glass."
  5. prepositional phrase: "During these years at Florence."
  6. prepositional phrases "of sweet silent thought" and "of things past."


According to Carter and McCarthy, "Conjunctions express a variety of logical relations between phrases, clauses and sentences."[131] There are two kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions.[131]
Coordinating conjunctions link "elements of equal grammatical status."[131] The elements in questions may vary from a prefix to an entire sentence.[131] Examples:
  • (prefixes): "The doctor must provide facilities for pre- and post test conselling and have his own strict procedures for the storing of that confidential information."[132]
  • (words): "'No, I'll never love anybody but you, Tom, and I'll never marry anybody but you--and you ain't to ever marry anybody but me, either."[133]
  • (phrases): "Can storied urn or animated bust back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?"[134]
  • (subordinate clauses): "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.[135]
  • (independent clauses): "Well, I think you're here, plain enough, but I think you're a tangle-headed old fool, Jim."[136]
  • (sentences): "He said we were neither of us much to look at and we were as sour as we looked. But I don't feel as sour as I used to before I knew robin and Dickon."[137]
A correlative conjunction is a pair of constituent elements, each of which is associated with the grammatical unit to be coordinated.[131] The common correlatives in English are:
  • "either ... or":
    • "The clergyman stayed to exchange a few sentences, either of admonition or reproof, with his haughty parishioner ...."[138]
    • "...; for I could not divest myself of a misgiving that something might happen to London in the meanwhile, and that, when I got there, it would be either greatly deteriorated or clean gone."[139]
  • "neither ... nor":
    • "Buck made no effort. He lay quietly where he had fallen. The lash bit into him again and again, but he neither whined nor struggled."[140]
    • "For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech, to stir men's blood: I only speak right on; ..."[141]
  • "both ... and"
    • "There was no mistaking her sincerity—it breathed in every tone of her voice. Both Marilla and Mrs. Lynde recognized its unmistakable ring."[142]
    • "There messages have both ethical and pragmatic overtones, urging women to recognize that even if they do suffer from physical and social disadvantages, their lives are far from being determined by their biology."[143]
  • "Not only ... but also"
    • "The director of A Doll's House, the brilliant Zhang Min, ..., was impressed with Lin not only professionally but also personally."[144]
    • "... she attempted to persuade her husband to give up his affair. Not only did he refuse, but he also told her he loved them both ...."[145]
Subordinating conjunctions
Subordinating conjunction relate only clauses to one another. They make the clause associated with them into a subordinate clause.[146] Some common subordinating conjunctions in English are: (of time) after, before, since, until, when, while; (cause and effect): because, since, now that, as, in order that, so; (opposition): although, though, even though, whereas, while; (condition): if, unless, only if, whether or not, whether or no, even if, in case (that), and so forth.[146] Examples:
  • (time: "before"): "Perhaps Homo erectus had already died out before Homo sapiens arrived.[147]
  • (cause and effect: "in order that"): "In order that feelings, representations, ideas and the like should attain a certain degree of memorability, it is important that they should not remain isolated ..."[148]
  • (opposition: "although"): "Ultimately there were seven more sessions, in which, although she remained talkative, she increasingly clearly conveyed a sense that she did not wish to come any more."[149]
  • (condition: "even if"): "Even if Sethe could deal with the return of the spirit, Stamp didn't believe her daughter could."[150]

Sentence and clause patterns

Verb complementation, Clause types, Clause combination, Adjuncts, Information packaging

History of English grammar writing

The first English grammar, Pamphlet for Grammar by William Bullokar , written with the ostensible goal of demonstrating that English was just as rule-bound as Latin , was published in 1586. Bullokar’s grammar was faithfully modeled on William Lily ’s Latin grammar, Rudimenta Grammatices (1534), which was being used in schools in England at that time, having been “prescribed” for them in 1542 by Henry VIII . Although Bullokar wrote his grammar in English and used a “reformed spelling system” of his own invention, many English grammars, for much of the century after Bullokar’s effort, were written in Latin, especially by authors who were aiming to be scholarly. Christopher Cooper’s Grammatica Lingu√¶ Anglican√¶ (1685) was the last English grammar written in Latin.
The yoke of Latin grammar writing bore down oppressively on much of the early history of English grammars: any attempt by one author to assert an independent grammatical rule for English was quickly followed by equal avowals by others of truth of the corresponding Latin-based equivalent. Even as late as the early 19th century, Lindley Murray , the author of one of the most widely used grammars of the day, was having to cite “grammatical authorities” to bolster the claim that grammatical cases in English are different from those in Ancient Greek or Latin.

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Ramadhan Market in Samarinda