English Grammar Basics
Learning English grammar will develop confidence in us to speak and to write in English. When we speak or write, we use words. We use these words in groups which make sense. Such a group of words is called a sentence. Grammar involves a set of rules; we have to obey to form sentences.
There are many grammar rules in English language. But the basics are in connection with Parts of Speech and sentence structure
Let us start from Parts of Speech
What are parts of speech?
Words are the smallest elements of a language. In English language, based on their use and functions, word are mainly categorised to eight parts of speech. They are:
- Nouns : Radha, tree, grief ,goat
- Verbs : run, play, sleep, laugh
- Adjectives: black, beautiful, wise, young
- Adverbs :quickly, slowly, very, properly
- Pronouns : I, you, he, they
- Prepositions :under, on, above, in
- Conjunctions : and ,or, because, but
- Determiners: my, this, the, a
There is also another small classification called Interjections which are used to express surprise or strong feelings. Hurrah, wow, oh, ah etc are examples of such words. They are grammatically related to other parts of speech. Therefore this word category has not been included in the eight categories of parts of speech mentioned before.
Major portion of the English vocabulary come under the four main classes, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Therefore the words of these four categories are called vocabulary words.
Pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and determiners belong to much smaller classes. These words are sometimes called as grammatical words.
A Noun is the word used to express the name of person, place, quality, feeling, idea, or thing.
Examples: Mary, Washington ,bitterness, sadness, book
Depending upon the function, there are several types of nouns, as follows:
- Common noun.
- Proper noun.
- Abstract noun
- Concrete noun
- Collective noun
- Countable noun
- Uncountable (mass) noun
- Compound noun
A common noun is the name given to a class of person, thing, or places .Common means shared by all.
- Flower (It can refer to any flower)
- Country (It can refer to any country)
- City (It can refer to any city)
- Girl (It can refer to any girl)
- Boy (It can refer to any boy)
- River (It can refer to any river)
Common nouns are capitalized only when they start a sentence.
A Proper noun is a name which refers to a single person, place, or something to make it specific.
Examples of proper noun:
- John – (refers to only one particular person.)
- London – (refers to only one City. There is no other city named London)
- Mary – refers to one particular girl.
- Nile – refers to one particular river
Proper nouns are always written with a capital letter at the beginning.
Abstract nouns are things you cannot see or touch (e.g., bravery, joy) that is, they are intangible.
Abstract nouns are usually the name of a quality, action or state.
Concrete noun refers to the things you can see or touch .
Collective noun is the name of a collection of person, animals, or things taken together and spoken as one whole.
- Crowd – A collection of people.
- Team – A group of players.
- Flock – A group of birds
- Herd – A group of cattle
- Shoal – A group of fishes.
- Class – A group of students
- Army – A collection of soldiers.
- Pride – A group of lions.
As the name indicates, Countable nouns are the name of the nouns which can be counted as one, two, three, and so on. These nouns can take the indefinite articles, a or an (if there is only one person or thing) or they can be used in the plural form.
Examples of countable nouns:
- Book Three books
- Umbrella Several umbrellas
- Pencil 10 pencils
- Boy Five boys
- Girl Many girls
Uncountable (mass) noun
Name of anything that cannot be counted is called an uncountable or mass noun.
Compound nouns are nouns made up of more than one word. The word thus formed has a new meaning
- Mother- in-law.
- Car park
- Bus stop
- Root cause
- Station master
Nominalization (How to make nouns):
Nominalization is the forming of nouns from other parts of speeches generally from verbs or Adjectives, using suffixes.
Nominalisation from verbs:
a). Using the suffix,”-ing”: The easiest way to form a noun from verb is to use the suffix,”-ing”.When a noun is thus formed, it is called a gerund.
- Swimming is a good exercise.
- I like teaching.
b).Using the suffixes, “-or”, “-er”, “-r”, “ar”. A noun thus formed generally means one who performs that action.
- Collector.(Someone who collects)
- Worker.(Someone who works)
- Baker. (Someone who bakes).
- Preacher.(Someone who preaches)
- Beggar. (Someone who begs)
c).Using the suffixes, “-ee”, “-ence”, “-ance”, “-ment”, “-tion”, “-sion”,”-al”, “-ure”.
- Devotee.(from the verb, devote)
- Recurrence.( from the verb, recur)
- Acceptance. ( from the verb, accept)
- Amusement.( from the verb, amuse)
- Statement.( from the verb, state)
- Fluctuation.( from the verb, fluctuate)
- Corrosion. ( from the verb, Corrode)
- Approval. ( from the verb, approve)
- Arrival. ( from the verb, arrive)
- Pressure. ( from the verb, press)
- Exposure. ( from the verb, expose)
Nominalisation from adjectives:
The suffixes,”-ness”,”-ence”,”-ance”, “-th”,”-y”, “-ity” are generally used to form nouns from adjectives.
- Kind – kindness
- Rich- richness
- Useful- usefulness
- Silent – silence
- Important- importance
- Difficult- difficulty
- Able- ability
- Touchable – Touchablity
When a verb or adjective is used as it is as a noun, without changing its spelling, it is called zero derivation or conversion. Conversion is common with verbs. When adjectives are used as nouns without changing their spelling, they are known as nominal adjectives. Then we use the article, the, before these words.
- The captain could take only two runs in the test- match.(run is noun here)
- He runs very fast (run is verb here).
- They insult me frequently.(Insult is verb)
- I cannot tolerate their insults any more. (Insult is noun)
- In our village, the poor help one another. (Here the poor is used as noun.)
Infinitives and infinitive phrases are also sometimes used as nouns.
- To walk in the morning is good for health.(Infinitive used as noun, that is as subject)
- I like to read during Sundays.(‘to read’ is used here as a noun ,being the object of the verb, like)
- I had no choice, but to obey.( to obey, is object of preposition,” but”, hence here too the infinitive is used as noun)
The Noun: Case
Case is the grammatical function of a noun or pronoun. In modern English there are only three cases.
- Subjective case.(Also called nominative case)
- Objective case.(Also called accusative case)
- Possessive case.(Also called genitive case)
Subjective case (nominative case)
When a noun or pronoun is used as a subject, it is called subjective case or nominative case.
- The man saw a snake.
In the above sentence, man is the subject. Therefore,”man” is a noun in the subjective case.
Note: In order to know the Subject, put who? Or What? Before the verb and the answer is the subject.
Objective case. (Accusative case)
I read a novel.
In the above sentence,” novel” is the object and it is the noun in the Objective case.
Note: In order to know the object, put whom? or What? before the verb and the answer is the object.
Possessive case. (Genitive case)
Possessive case is mainly used for showing possession or ownership (but not always). This case applies to nouns, pronouns and adjectives. With nouns, the possessive case is shown by “of”, or adding “‘s “or just adding just “‘ ” to the end.
Branches of the tree.
This is John’s book.
To make a singular noun possessive, we add ” ‘s “. To make plural noun Possessive we add simply apostrophe.
Possessive pronouns: The possessive case pronouns are, mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours and theirs.
Possessive adjectives: The Possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our, their and whose.
The Noun: Gender
In English language, there are four types of genders of noun. They are:
- Masculine gender
- Feminine gender
- Common gender
- Neuter gender.
A noun that denotes the male member of a species is called Masculine gender.
A noun that denotes the female member of a species is called feminine gender.
A noun that denotes the members of a species without specifying the gender is called common gender.
A noun that denotes things which have no gender is called Neuter gender.
The Noun: Number.
There are two numbers in noun-Number. They are:
- Singular Number
- Plural Number
A noun that denotes one person or thing is said to be in singular number.
A noun that denotes one person or thing is said to be in Plural number.
How plurals are formed:
- Plurals are generally formed by adding” -s “to the singular.
- Plurals of nouns ending with -s, -ch,-sh,-o, or -x are generally formed by adding -es to the singular.
- Plurals of nouns ending with ‘y’ are formed by changing ‘y’ into ‘i’ and adding ” -es” to the singular.
- Plurals of nouns ending with -f or -fe are formed by changing -f or -fe to ‘ v’ and adding -es.
- Plurals of some of the nouns are formed by changing the inside vowel of the singular.
- Plurals of some of the nouns are formed by adding -en to the singular.
- Some nouns have same spelling in singular and plural.
Dozen-dozen Some nouns are used only in plural.
- Some nouns which are seemingly plural are used as singular.
- Some collective nouns, seemingly singular, are always used in plural.
- A compound noun generally forms its plural by adding -s to the principal word.
Son-in-law sons- in- law
Passer- by passers- by
- Many nouns taken from foreign languages, keep their original plural form.
Note: For more details ,see: Noun-number
A verb is a word (or combination of words) that is used to indicate an action in a sentence.Verb is the most important word in a sentence. A sentence consists of a subject which is a noun with or without adjunct and a predicate which essentially contains a finite verb. The number of the verb must match with the number of the subject.(subject-verb agreement).
Forms and categories of verbs
Depending on their function and form, there are different categories and forms of verbs.
1. Finite and non finite verbs
Finite verbs are verbs that have subjects and change form according to person and number of the subject.Its form as per the tense too.(subject-verb agreement).
They went to the market yesterday.
He is going to the market now.
I shall go to the market tomorrow.
Non – finite verbs: Non-finite verbs do not have tense and do not show agreement with subject.They do not change their form.Gerunds(-Ing form of verb), infinitives, present particples and past particples are non – finite nouns. Eg. swimming,to play,running,loved etc.
Examples considering an infinitive,to buy::
They went to the market yesterday to buy vegetables.
He is going to the market now to buy provisions.
I shall go to the market next week to buy books.
In the above sentences, the non – finite verb, “to buy “,an infinitive , does not according to tense.
Also see: Finite verbs and Non-finite verbs