English Language- Grammar


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Outline of Grammar

= the system of rules that governs how words and sentences are constructed

  • a system that groups words into classes according to function
  • a system of rules about how these types of words function in relation to each other (syntax)
  • the individual units that make up whole words (morphology)
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Eight main word classes

Nouns- 'naming' words e.g. London, book, romance

Adjective- describe nouns e.g. large, sunny, featureless

verbs- 'doing' words e.g. jump, read, return

Adverbs- describe verbs e.g. steadily, incredibly, sadly

pronouns- take the place of nouns e.g. you, they, him, me ,it

conjunctions- 'connecting' words e.g. and, or, but, because

prepositions- define relationships between words in terms of time, space andd direction e.g. before, underneath, through

determiners- give specific kinds of information about a noun (e.g. quantity or possession e.g. a,the, two, his,few, those

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Types of Noun

=Name of thing/person/abstract state/idea etc

proper nouns= names of specific people, places and brands e.g. William, Paris

Count nouns= things that can be counted e.g. cars, cats

Mass nouns= can't be counted e.g. sugar

concrete nouns= things you can physically touch or see (would hurt if fell on you)

Abstract nouns= concepts, states, qualities and emotions e.g. truth, honesty

Compound nouns= made up of several words but act as if they were one e.g. arm chair, baby sitter

Gerund= noun in the form of the present participle of a verb (-ing form) they name actions so therefore function as nouns in sentences

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Singular and Plural nouns

Regular nouns- add -s or -es e.g. birds, buses

if ends in consonant and then -y, the -y is replaced with -ies e.g. ladies

word endings that use -f are replaced with -ves e.g. knives and dwarves

Some nouns are irregular e.g. woman-->woman, foot-->feet, mouse-->mice

there are some nouns that don't change their form at all e.g. sheep and deer

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Modification of nouns

nouns do not normally stand alone

  • Pre-modifiers- these come before the noun e.g. a sign that reads dangerous animal. The adjective dangerous pre-modifies animal and tells you something about it
  • Post-modifiers- come after the noun e.g. examinations in progress
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=qualifies, modifies, restricts a noun

classified according to their positions

  • Attributive- pre-modifying e.g. the red balloon
  • Predicative-usually linked to the noun they are modifing by a form of the verb be e.g. revision is brilliant
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Gradable and Non-Gradable Adjectives

Comparative- formed by adding an -er inflection e.g. long---> longer

Superlative- generally formed by adding -est e.g. longer---> longest

  • e.g. more careful, most careful

Some are irregular in way they form good->better->best

Non-Gradable- cannot have comparative and superlative, or be proceeded by 'very'

  • But some adjectives are graded by adding more and most
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Types of Adjective

Nouns as Adjectives- noun used to qualify another noun by adding -ish,-like, -ly,-y, -en, -al, -ar, -ory e.g. he spoke in a childish manner

Adjectives that modify an object- like and worth used e.g. stale bread tastes like styrofoam, prepositions like, of and with are used e.g. she is fearful of dogs

Numbers as adjectives e.g. two, twenty, few, many, dozen, third

Multiple adjectives- one or more adjectives are used to modify a noun, can be separated by a conjunction or commas

Compound adjectives- nouns and adjectives combined to form another noun e.g. warm-hearted, empty-headed

Adjectives used as nouns- using an adjective as the subject and omitting the noun it modifies, usually refer to a specific quality shared by a group e.g. the pleasant or a specific human characteristic shared by a group e.g. the wise

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A word that denotes action or being

Base form= the infinitive- normally follows to e.g. to be, to laugh, to think

Main verbs (lexical verbs) identify the action of the sentence e.g. she sings like a hyena

Auxiliary verbs- go before the main verb in a sentence, give extra information about the main verb and can affect the meaning of the sentence, 'helping' function

  • primary auxiliaries- 3 of them
    •  do, have, be
  • modal auxiliaries-only occur with reference to main verb, 9 of them
    • can, could, will, would, must, may, might, shall, do
    • give information about moods, attitudes, permission, certainty and probablity
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Regular Verbs and Tense

Regular verbs follow rules

Present tense- tells you about 'now' and uses the base form of the verb, unless its the third person singular- add -s

  • Regular verbs always agree with their subjects in person and in number

Past (perfect) tense- tells you about the past- done by adding -ed onto the end

Future tense- isn't anything specific to add to the end- often done by using modal auxiliary verbs like will or shall

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Irregular verbs

Don't change in the way you would expect

only about 300 of them

Past (perfect) tense of irregular verbs

  • can change the vowel at the base form (infinitive) to make their past (or past participle) forms
  • do not use the -ed endings in a regular way and often not at all
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Transitive and Intransitive verbs

A transitive verb takes a direct object

  • e.g. Jerry punched Dom, Wombats eat milky ways

An intransitive verb does not take a direct object

  • e.g. Jerry likes to punch, the gerbils don't matter
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Active and Passive Voice

Active voice- indicates that the subject of the verb acts, when the subject is the focus and performs the action being described by the verb

  • e.g. the zoo keeper fed the elephant

Passive voice- is less direct, focuses on the object, the order changes so that the object comes first, indicates the subject of the verb acted on

  • e.g. the elephant was fed by the zoo keeper
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Finite and Non-finite verbs

A finite verb must have a subject- limited by its subject with which it must agree in person and number

A Non-finite verb has no subject- means it can function in a number of ways in a clause

  • the infinitive; participles and gerunds
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The Present and Past Participle

Present Participle

Always formed with -ing and has a number of functions in clause structure

  • e.g. the hamster was eating
  • uses simplest form

Past Participle

can have different forms ending in -ed, -en, -d, -t

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Moods of the verb

The indicative- making a statement e.g. he speaks german

the imperative- giving an order e.g. be quiet

the subjunctive- expressing a wish or supposition e.g. if i were you...

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verb tense

shows when the action of a verb takes place

present tense-

  • marks an action now going on or an existing state e.g. here he comes
  • also used to show the habitual present e.g. lions are carnivorous animals
  • denote the stative present e.g. salt dissolves in water

Past tense- 

  • describes actions or states at a particular time before the present
  • formed by adding -ed or -d to the base form of regular verbs

Future time-

  • marked with the use of will and shall
  • also to be about to, to be going to + the base form of the verb
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Verb Aspect

Aspect shows whether the action described by the verb has finished or is still being performed

Progressive Aspect- ongoing, in progress or continuous

  • often to actions that don't have an indefinite end
  • made up of the auxiliary forms of to be and the past participle of a verb, which is the base form + -ing
  • e.g. they are doing well, dying

Perfect Aspect- tells you about actions that have a definite end, is in retrospective or has been completed

  • made up of one of the present forms of have (has/have) and the past tense of the verb e.g. they have bought a car
  • the past perfect aspect is formed in the same way but with the past tense of have (had) e.g. I had missed it

can be combined- for years we have been coming here for our holiday

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=qualifies/restricts/modifies verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, prepositions and conjunctions

A Simple adverb is used as a simple modifier telling manner, time, place, degree or number

An interrogative adverb asks a question

A conjunctive adverb connects independent clauses

Adverbs are defined according to the kinds of questions they answer about the verbs the modify:

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Types of Adverb

manner- how something is done e.g. well, nicely, cleverly

place- where something is happening e.g. here, home

direction- the direction in which something happens e.g. towards, up, down

time- when something is happening e.g. tomorrow, tonight, now, then

duration- how long something happens for e.g. temporarily

frequency- how often something takes place e.g. sometimes, once

degree- the extent to which something is done e.g. rather, quite, much, hardly

some adverbs express feeling or opinions e.g. hopefully

sentence adverbs- link sentences together e.g. however, therefore, probably

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=stand in place of a noun or noun phrase and are a sub-class of nouns, they can identify subjects and objects just like nouns do

personal pronouns can replace people or things who are the subject of a sentence and are classed in terms of person and whether are singular of plural

  • first person 
    • singular= I 
    • plural= we
  • second person 
    • singular= you 
    • plural= you
  • third person 
    • singular= he,she, it 
    • plural=they
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pronouns can also be used to replace the person or thing who is the object in the sentence

  • first person 
    • singular=me 
    • plural=us
  • second person 
    • singular= you 
    • plural=you
  • third person 
    • singular= him, her, it 
    • plural= them
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Other types of pronoun

possessive pronouns= express ownership

  • mine, yours, his, her, its, our their

reflexive pronouns- reflect or refer back to nouns or pronouns used elsewhere in the clause

  • myself, herself, yourself etc

Demonstrative pronouns- can replace people and things in a sentence where there's some shared understanding, express a contrast between 'near' and 'distant' from the speaker

  • this, that, these, those
  • if in kitchen: is this my coffee? - only people in kitchen will be able to tell you
  • you use different demonstratives depending on the distance of the object form the speaker- these and these= near and those or that= further away
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Other types of pronouns

Indefinite pronouns

  • someone, somebody, something, anyone/body/thong, everyone/thong. no-one/body/thing, none, one, any, some, few, several, little, much, many, more, all, most etc

Interrogative pronouns- used to ask questions, they help you simplify sentences by replacing nouns, ask questions about nouns

  • who, which, what, whom, whose, etc
  • aren't only the words used at the start of questions. why, where, how and when are also interrogatives but they are adverbs
  • interrogative pronouns and adverbs are usually classed together wh-words

relative pronouns- these give us extra information about nouns or pronouns mentioned elsewhere in the clause by expressing relationships

  • who, which, what, whom, that
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they show which noun is being referred to

similar sub-divisions to pronouns:

  • personal- my, your, his, its, our, their
  • demonstrative- this, that, these, those
  • indefinte- some, any, no, few, little, every, half, all, many, much etc
  • relative- whose

the most important class of determiner are the articles

  • the definite article indicates something specific- the
  • the indefinite article indicates something more general- a
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other types of determiners


  • one, two, three (cardinal numbers) first, second, third (ordinal numbers)

quantifiers- show quantity

  • few, many, enough

demonstrative adjectives e.g. this, that, these and those are also determiners

  • look the same as demonstrative pronouns but there is a significant difference between them
  • they refer to specific objects or people that the participants are close to, rather than replacing them like pronouns do
    • i like those- those replaces the noun= pronoun
    • i like those shoes- those precedes the noun= adjectives/ determiner
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pronoun or determiner

  • the distinction between pronouns and determiners is confusing as the same word can act both as determiner and pronoun
  • the point is that a pronoun is standing in for a noun whereas a determiner is determining a noun
    • if it's followed by a noun, it's a determiner
    • if it stands on it's own, it's a pronoun
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= the words that link sentences, clauses or words

2 types of conjunctions

  • co-ordinating conjunctions
  • subordinating conjunctions
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Co-ordinating conjunctions

link items of equal rank and or but (also one or two pairs of words - 'both....and', 'neither....nor' etc

co-ordinating conjunctions  are words like and, but, or.

they connect single words or longer units of language that have equal clause

others are:

  • and
  • but
  • or
  • yet
  • for
  • nor
  • so
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sub-ordinating conjunctions

-words like since, although, because, unless, whether and whereas

they link a main clause to one that's less important to the subject of the sentence

  • some people find maths really difficult, whereas others find it easy

sometimes called a dependant word or subordinator

comes at the beginning of a subordinate (or dependant) clause and establishes the relationship between the dependant clause and the rest of the sentence

it also turns the clause into something that depends on the rest of the sentence for its meaning

some subordinating conjunctions are also prepositions, but as subordinators they are being used to introduce a clause and to subordinate the following clause to the independent element in the sentence

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Subordinating Conjunction examples

  • after
  • although
  • as, as if, as long as, as though
  • because
  • before
  • even if, even though
  • if, if only
  • in order that
  • now that
  • once
  • rather than
  • since
  • that, so that
  • than 
  • though
  • unless, until, till
  • when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, while
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  • conjunctions are an important cohesion device- help discourse flow smoothly
  • a discourse without conjunctions seems disjointed
  • if you add conjunctions the discourse is much more fluent
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the clause is the basic unit of syntax and consists of five elements

  • sentences are made up of clauses- the simplest meaningful units of the sentence
  • a sentence can be made up of one clause
  • can be made of more than one clause, the clauses are seperated by conjunctions
  • clauses can be made up of a subject, verb, object, comlpement and adverbial
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what makes a clause

the subject= the person or thing that does something in the clause

the verb- tells you what the subject is doing

the object receives the action

a complement gives more information about the subject or object, and completes the meaning of the sentence

an adverbial is a word or group of words that refers back to the verb- simplest adverbial is just an adverb e.g. quickly- adverbials usually describe time, place or manner

the verb, complements and adverbials of a clause or sentence are sometimes also called the predicare

  • predicate refers to any part of the clause that is not the subject but that modifies in some way, the verb is sometimes referred to as the predicator
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The five clause slots

S=  Subject- noun phrase

V= Verb- verb phrase

O= Object- noun phrase

C= Complement- noun phrase or an adjective phrase

A= Adverbial- adverbial phrase, prepositional phrase or noun phrase

S normally comes before O, agrees with V as regards singular and plural etc

V, no problem, only one verb phrase per clause

O usually follows the verb

C normally follows V (and O if present) characterises or defines S or O

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Seven common types of clause

S+V- Harry + played

S + V + O- Harry + played + game

S + V + C- Harry + was + great

S + V + A- Harry + played + on Tuesday

S + V + O + O- Harry + gave + him + a drink

S + V + O + C- Harry + thought + his performance + disappointing

S + V + O + A- Harry + passed + the ball + quickly

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Phrases are units of language that have a head word

  • phrases are units of language built around a head word that identifies the type of phrase e.g. the noun phrase the empty house, the noun house is the head word- basic sentences are created from a combination of phrases

the simplest noun phrase (NP) possible is just the noun itself

  • it can be accompanied by a pre-modifier, a post-modifier or both
  • pre-modifiers come before the noun, they're often a determiner followed by an adjective

A very simple verb phrase (VP) has one verb, but you can also make up a verb phrase from the head word (a main verb) and one or more auxilary verb

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Clause status

Main clause (independent clause) can stand alone and still make sense

Coordinate clause occur in sentences where there are two or more independent clauses

  • they are joined by a co ordinating conjunction like and or but
  • the clauses could stand alone and still make sense

Subordinate clauses can't stand alone, they have to be with a main clause

  • gives extra information about the main clause
  • in most cases, a subordinate clause is led by a subordinating conjunction 

combining clauses- can combine coordinate and subordinate clauses in the same sentence

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Independent Clauses

  • part of a sentence that can stand alone and make sense by itself
  • every independent clause contains a subject and a verb

dependent clause

  • is a group of words that has a subject and a verb, but cannot stand alone or make sense by itself
  • a dependent clause needs to be attached to an independent clause in order to make sense


  • some elements that crop up in clauses that don't fit easily in the five function slots e.g. but, hot damn, babe, sweetie
  • they are: ejaculations/exclamarions e.g. yes, yippee, damn
  • or Vocatives e.g. your lordship, donald, honey
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Types of Sentence

Minor sentences

  • complete and meaningful statements that don't have a subject or verb combination
  • e.g. goodbye, be quiet, sounds good

Simple sentences

  • must have a subject and a verb
  • should express a complete thought
  • e.g. the snow falls- snow=subject, falls= verb
  • dramatize, emphasize, end or begin
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Types of Sentence

Compound sentences

  • an independent clause linked to another independent clause by a coordinating conjunction. either one could be the main clause in a different sentence
  • I went to Manchester and I went to Liverpool
  • present ideas of equal importance
  • to compare and contrast
  • uses a comma with a conjunction between 2 independent clauses
  • can take a semicolon to signal close connections
  • uses colons to signal expected information follows in a second independent clause
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Types of sentence

Complex sentence

  • main clause and subordinating clause (or subordinating clauses)
  • must have 1 independent and 1 dependent clause
  • a subordinating conjunction connects the clauses together
  • the workers left the building when they heard
  • connect different levels of thought
  • to show cause and effect

compound-complex sentence

  • made up of at least 2 coordinate clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction and at least one subordinate clause
  • some of the children went home early but the others remained because they had no transport
  • connect ideas of equal importance to ones of lesser importance
  • to analyse
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Structure of Sentence and target audience

  • the length and complexity of sentences can be varied according to the content and audience of a text
  • a good example of contrasting sentence structures is the difference between tabloid and broadsheet newspaper
  • broadsheet- uses more complex and compound-complex sentences
  • tabloid- uses more simple and compound
  • the writers create a different mood and tone depending on the types of sentence they use- appeal to different audiences
  • broadsheet- measured and serious tone
  • tabloid- more emotive and subjective
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Sentence Functions


  • give information e.g Bristol Rovers are a team with a future


  • give order, instructions, advice and directions
  • start with a main verb and don't have a subject
  • e.g. go left and its the first on your right, answer one question from each section
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Sentence Functions


  • ask questions
  • some are formed by inverting the verb and the subject- you are coming out tonight---> are you coming out tonight?
  • can start with wh-words e.g. where are you going
  • can also be added to the end of a statement, tag questions, it's cold, isn't it?
  • in spoken discourse can turn declarative statements into questions using stress and intonation- rising inflection e.g. he will get better?


  • have an expressive function
  • convey the force of a statement and end with an exclamation mark
  • that was fantastic!
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Stylistic types of sentence

-defined by the position of the main verb

trailing (loose)

  • sentence begins with the subject of the independent (main) clause
  • e.g. the parade moved through the streets
  • emphasises agency- who or what performed the action or who or what is the state of being

anticipatory (periodic)

  • sentence begins with an introductory word, phrase or subordinate clause before the subject of the main clause
  • joyfully, the parade moved through the streets
  • changed the pace and sentence rhythm.
  • emphasises the time place, or circumstance other than the main subject
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Stylistic types of sentence


  • has deliberate repetition of a word, phrase or clause, or there is repetition of structures
  • e.g. he grinned sheepishly; she worked doggedly; we heckled shamelessly.
  • is memorable and has rhythm
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Sentence Structure

right branching structure

  • learn about modification after the subject
  • subordinate clause comes after main
  • the dependent clause is added after the main clause 
  • normal order of sentence structure
  • e.g. the cat sat on the mat, scratching it's ears

left branching structure

  • to add interest, suspense or variety
  • a dependent clause is sometimes introduced before the main clause
  • because it was green, i didn't eat the apple
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Lauren Whale


these are fab! thanks x

sophie Woolford


PERFECT! Now I've just got to remember it all argh xo



Really good thanks



Very useful 

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