English Language Grammar and Syntax

The basics of grammar and syntax

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  • Created by: Shauni
  • Created on: 15-05-12 22:08


The area of language study that deals with the formation of words from similar units called morphemes.

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The smallest unit of grammatical meaning. Morphemes can be words in their own right or combine with other morphemes to form lexical units.

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Linguistic Rank Scale:

 A system for showing the relationship between levels of language units. The movement from left to right indicates that a unit is structured from that which precedes it, for example clauses are structured from phrases.

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Prescriptive Approach/ Attitude:

An approach that concentrates on how language ought to be structured (written or spoken) and sees alternative patterns or versions as deviant and inferior.

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Descriptive Approach/ Attitude:

An approach to language study that focuses on actual language use.

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Noun Phrases:

A group of words centred around a head noun.

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Constituent Structure:

The key components of a phrase.

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Modifying that occurs before the head noun.

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A word, usually an adjective or a noun used attributively, that qualifies the sense of a noun. Adverbs of comment also act as modifiers, e.g. obviously.

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Further information to complete the phrase.

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A modifying phrase or lexical item that occurs after the head noun in a noun phrase.

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Prepositional Phrase:

A phrase consisting of a preposition and an added noun phrase.

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Main Verb:

The verb that details the main process in a verb phrase.

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Auxiliary Verb:

A verb that supports or ‘helps’ another; it shows tense or modality.

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Negating Particle:

A small item used to form negative construction, for example not.

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Obligatory Component:

A necessary part of the verb phrase, that is the main verb.

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Optional Component:

An additional part of the verb phrase that may be present, for example an extension or negating particle.

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Primary Auxiliary:

Used to denote tense changes: ‘do’; ‘be’; ‘have’.

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Modal Auxiliary Verb:

A verb that never appears on its own and is used to express possibility, probability, certainty, necessity or obligation: will; would; can; could; shall; should; may; might; must.

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A combination of a primary auxiliary and another verb part.

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 A verb that can attach to another to form a chain.

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The individual or entity responsible for the action.

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The responsibility for, or cause of, an action.

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Adjectival Phrase:

 A phrase with an adjective as its head, for example ‘very big’.

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Adverbial Phrase:

A phrase with an adverb as its head, for example ‘very quickly’.

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A group of lexical items centred round a verb phrase.

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Clause Patterns:

Patterns produced by writers using certain types of clause for impact and effect.

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Double-object Construction:

A clause with a verb that has two objects: one direct and other indirect.

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Direct Object:

An object directly affected by a verb process, for example in ‘I gave him the pen’, ‘pen’ is directly affected by the giving and is the direct object.

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Indirect Object:

An object indirectly affected by a verb process, for example in ‘I gave him the pen’, ‘him’ is the indirect object.

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Ditransitive Verb:

A verb that requires two objects to form a double-object construction.

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Monotransitive Verb:

A verb that only requires one object.

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Intransitive Verb:

A verb process such as ‘yawned’ or ‘slept’ that has no object.

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Sentence Structures:

The kind of sentence(s) used by a writer for impact and effect.

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Simple Sentence:

A sentence consisting of a single main clause.

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Compound Sentence:

A sentence containing two or more main clauses, connected by coordinating conjunctions, or something just separated by punctuation (semicolon).

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Coordinating Conjunctions:

Words such as and, but or that link clauses to form compound sentences

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Complex Sentence:

A sentence containing a main clause with one or more subordinate or dependant clauses, often connected with a subordinating conjunction.

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Main Clause:

A clause that can stand independently and make sense on its own.

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Subordinate Clause:

A clause that is dependent on another to complete the full meaning of a sentence.

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Subordinating Conjunctions:

Words such as because, although and while that link a main clause to a number of subordinate clauses in complex sentences.

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Compound-complex Sentences:

A sentence containing at least two main clauses and at least one subordinate clause.

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A group of spoken words, roughly equivalent to the sentence in written terms.

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Active Voice:

Includes an actor or agent; verb phrase includes a finite present or past tense verb

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Passive Verb:

Omits an actor or agent or includes the agent as part of the prepositional phrase after the verb.

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