You are on page 1of 11

English Grammar A Short Guide

Graham Tulloch

This book was prepared in the English Discipline of the Flinders University of South Australia and printed by Flinders Press. Sidney Greenbaum. For a more detailed introduction with exercises see J. very complex (and very expensive) treatment of the subject see Randolph Quirk. Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartik. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (London: Longman. A University Grammar of English (London: Longman. 1985). Bernard's excellent book A Short Guide to Traditional English Grammar (Sydney: Sydney University Press. ©1990 Graham Tulloch FURTHER READING This is intended as a basic and simple guide to English grammar. 2 . For a longer study read Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. l975) to which I am much indebted. 1973) and for a very detailed.R.

PARTS OF A WORD A word can be divided into its STEM (the basic part of the word containing its meaning) and its INFLECTIONS (the endings added to indicate such things as that a noun is PLURAL or a verb is in the past tense).g. Sometimes we apparently have two objects. ask who or what before the verb. For example. Here the book is the direct object and me the indirect object . it is called the indirect object. Example: He said that the Green Knight was really orange. the house overlooks what? Answer: the plain. dog walk s in dogs ed in walked In some cases a whole clause can act as object. in the sentence The house stands on the hill. Examples: Stem: Inflections: PARTS OF A SENTENCE SUBJECT The subject is the person. instead of He gave me the book we can say He gave the book to me. It overlooks the plain. Where one of these can alternatively be expressed by placing to before it. Examples: The house stands on the hill. To discover the subject. thing or topic which the sentence deals with. COMPLEMENT 3 . It overlooks the plain. He watches himself carefully.g. e. OBJECT The object is the person. To discover the object. Examples: The house overlooks the plain. Examples: The house stands on the hill. PREDICATE The predicate is all of the sentence except the subject. thing or topic upon which the subject carries out the action of the verb. what stands on the hill? Answer: the house. I see him clearly. ask who or what after the verb. e.

In this sentence the clause fulfills the same function as an adverb such as immediately in the sentence immediately all were astounded. Examples: I am a man. which stands on the hill. The noun following the verb to be is called the complement. Subordinate clauses can be classified according to their function: Adverbial Clause Example: As soon as the Green Knight entered the room. When I come home. I will let the cat in. and subordinate (or dependent) clauses. is empty. This is the question. He said that the Green Knight was really orange. The following are not principal clauses because they do not make a complete statement which can stand by itself: Which is a problem That the house is standing on the hill When I come home The house which stands on the hill Subordinate Clause A group of words which includes a finite or non-finite verb but does not make a statement which stands by itself. all were astounded. Examples: As soon as the Green Knight entered the room all were astounded. The house. The house stands on the hill. Principal Clauses A group of words which includes a subject and a finite verb and makes a complete statement. Examples: I am a man. Noun Clause 4 . CLAUSE There are two kinds of clauses: principal (or main) clauses.After the verb to be there is no object since the noun which follows refers to the same thing as that which precedes the verb (the subject).

Nonfinite verbs include participles and infinitives . PHRASE A phrase is group of words without a verb. Finite Clause A finite clause contains a finite verb and. He went over the sea. Examples: Singing and dancing. Relative clauses are adjectival in nature. he moved slowly up the aisle. The clause fulfills the same function as a noun such as the words in He said the words.Example: He said that the Green Knight was really orange. Filled with joy. is empty. Clauses can also be classified by whether they contain a finite verb. Examples: It is on the hill. PARTS OF SPEECH Examples: house The house The house stands The house stands firmly 5 noun article + noun article + noun + verb article + noun + verb + adverb . He gave me an invitation to bring you to the party. Relative Clause Example: The house. (principal clause) When they say nice things about you they are not lying. It can be a principal clause or a subordinate clause. he began to consume the biscuits. which stands on the hill. A non-finite clause cannot be a principal clause. Having eaten all the cakes. he left the room. (subordinate clause) Non-Finite Clause A non-finite clause contains a non-finite verb but does not contain a finite verb and cannot stand alone. a subject. The clause fulfills the same role as an adjective such as high-placed in the sentence The high-placed house is empty. Examples: They say nice things about you. usually.

they denote things. an.The house stands firmly on the hill article + noun + verb + adverb preposition + article + noun The empty house stands on the hill article + adjective + verb + adverb + preposition + article + noun It stands on the hill pronoun + verb + preposition + article + noun Since it stands on the hill it overlooks conjunction + pronoun + verb + the plain preposition + article + noun + pronoun + verb + article + noun NOUN Nouns can be thought of as 'names'. Virtue is its own reward. a (and an) is called the indefinite article. a. A king was here. The is called the definite article. With an active verb this action is carried out by the subject. people. He adjudicates between the parties concerned. It expresses the carrying out of an action. abstract ideas. Examples: It stands. With a passive verb the action is carried out upon the subject: Examples: The cakes were burnt by Alfred. The Bible is read in many languages. I am. VERB A verb is a "doing word". Verbs have various qualities: Tense This is the feature of the verb indicating when the action took place 6 . Alfred burnt the cakes. ARTICLE The articles are: the. Examples: The house is old. Accidents will happen.

Examples: Active: Passive: I place I am placed A full complement of passive verbs exists in English. 7 . Voice In English we have the active and the passive voice. 'perfect' or continuous. If the verb is unmarked as to whether it is completed.Examples: Present tense: Past Tense: Future Tense: It stands It stood It will stand Aspect This is the feature of the verb which indicates whether the action is was or will be a completed one or a continuous one. it is called simple. 'progressive'. in the passive the action of the verb is carried out upon the subject. In the active voice the subject carries out the action of the verb. Examples: Present Progressive Passive: Past Perfect Passive: Future Perfect Passive: I am being placed I had been placed I will be placed Mood There are three moods in English. Hence we can draw up the following scheme: Simple Present: Simple Past: Simple Future: Present Perfect: Past Perfect: Future Perfect: Present Progressive: Past Progressive: Future Progressive It stands It stood It will stand It has stood It had stood It will have stood It is standing It was standing It will be standing The present perfect is often know simply as the perfect and the past perfect is sometimes called the pluperfect . The passive is formed with the appropriate tense of the verb to be and the past participle.

However the infinitive is not always preceded by to: in the sentence I will stand the infinitive is stand. Combined with will the infinitive stand makes the finite (future tense) verb will stand. It is often combined with to as in I am going to stand here. One kind of non-finite verb is the infinitive. Finite and Non-Finite Verbs Verbs are either finite or non-finite. I wish I were going to the pictures. The past participle is used in constructions like: I have walked. She has grown. She is a growing child. 3. 8 . The infinitive is the basic form of the verb. it expresses a hypothetical action. Other non-finite parts of the verb are the participles. It has developed into a major argument. Indicative: The indicative mood is the normal one in present-day English (PE): Example: I was going to the pictures 2.1. Subjunctive: The subjunctive mood is much rarer in PE. or as an adjective (in which case it is called a gerundive or verbal adjective: Examples: The third world is made up of the developing countries. Imperative: The imperative mood expresses an order. The same form of the verb can also be used as a noun (in which case it is called a gerund or verbal noun: Examples: Developing is not easy. Walking is pleasant in the summer. The present participle is the form of the verb used in constructions like: I am going. Non-finite verbs do not include any indication of tense. Example: Go to the pictures. They are developing rapidly. He is combing his hair. Examples: If I were going to the pictures.

This form is often the same in PE as the past tense (cf. Precious purple prose provokes profound professors. This also appears as an adjective: A grown man ADVERB An adverb modifies a verb. Examples: The house stands firmly. She speaks well. Examples: PRONOUN Pronouns take the place of nouns. The house which stands on the hill overlooks the plain. Examples: It stands on the hill. I see myself. It can also modify an adjective or another adverb. She told the good news to him. The swagman jumped into the billabong. England is over the sea. What stands on the hill? The house stands on the high hill. The house is very firm. I grew). He dresses beautifully. PREPOSITION A preposition connects a noun (with or without an article) or a pronoun to some other word. ADJECTIVE An adjective qualifies a noun. That stands on the hill. it indicates how the action of a verb is carried out. I walked) but not always (cf. Prepositions are the "little words of English". Examples: It stands on hills. She answered most considerately. it describes the attributes of a noun. There are a number of different kinds of pronouns: Personal Pronouns These are divided into "persons" as follows: 9 .

This is the man whom I saw. They themselves want to stay on. it Plural we you they The personal pronouns also include the reflexive and emphatic pronouns. These are the same in form but different in function. which . I think myself that it is wrong. that whom. Interrogative Pronouns These are used in questions: People Subject 10 who Things what. himself. They are also used as demonstrative adjectives: Examples: This man is green. These are used in relative clauses such as: Examples: This is the man who saw me. They are myself. that whose I see myself. This is the man that I saw.First person Second person Third person Singular I you (thou) he. that which. Examples: Reflexive: Emphatic: Relative Pronouns The relative pronouns are as follows: Subject Object Possessive People who. she. This s the man whose house I saw. Demonstrative Pronouns These are: Examples: This these That those This is the house. That house is red. that whose Things which. That is the question. themselves etc. This is the house that Jack built. People help themselves.

Examples: It stands on the hill and overlooks the plain. Although I say this she says that. joining elements of the same kind) like and or but. joining a subordinate clause to a main clause) like when because.Object Possessive Examples: whom. Examples: Since it stands on the hill it overlooks the plain. as. who whose Who(m) did you see? Who is that man? Which is the right way? Who(m) did you speak to? what. Examples: Which house stands on the hill? Which Prime Minister was drowned? What sweet do you recommend? CONJUNCTIONS Some conjunctions are coordinating (i. 11 . I say this but she says that. since. Other conjunctions are subordinating (i.e.e. which What and which can be also used as interrogative adjectives in which case they can be applied to people. When Gawain saw the Green Knight he did not show that he was afraid.