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English Grammar  


Sentence structure and parts of speech

It is important for learners of English to fully understand the basic grammar rules that govern the language in order to express themselves clearly. Without rules, we cannot communicate correctly with other people.

There are many grammar rules in English, but the basic rules refer to sentence structure and parts of speech.

  • Sentence :
    A sentence is a group of words which expresses a complete thought and consists of a subject and a predicate.
    A sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.
    Subject: 'The salesman'
    Predicate: 'sold 100 ties'.
    Sentence:The salesman sold 100 ties.

  • Subject:
    The person, animal or thing in a sentence performs an action or has an action done to it.
    John takes the bus every day.
    Food is eaten every day.

  • Predicate:
    The predicate is a word or a group of words that complete a sentence. The predicate contains a verb and gives information about the subject.
    Example: Jack walks to work.
    In this sentence ‘Jack’ is the subject and ‘walks to work’ is the predicate.

    A simple predicate consists of just one word: a verb.
    Example: Jack spoke.
    In this sentence the predicate 'spoke' consists of just one word.

  • Object:
    The person or thing affected by the action of the subject.
    Example: The monkey ate a banana.

  • Clause:
    Sentences can be broken down into clauses. Clauses, like any sentence, have a subject and predicate too.
    Example: My parents are going to a restaurant and they will be home late.
    This is a complete sentence composed of two clauses.

  • Phrase:
    A group of words that does not have a subject and predicate is called a phrase.
    Phrases act like parts of speech inside clauses.
    They can act as nouns, adjectives, adverbs and so on.
    See the examples of phrases underlined below:
    • The bewildered old man couldn’t find the exit. (noun phrase)
    • Around the corner came the postman. (adverbial phrase)
    • The newspaper is on the table. (prepositional phrase)

As well as the basic rules for sentence structure, it is also helpful for learners to learn about the parts of speech:
  • Noun
    A noun names a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, activity, or feeling.
    A noun can be singular or plural.
    Examples of nouns: Tom, people, Madrid, books, generosity
    • Tom usually reads a book or works on his computer during the flight to Madrid.
    • Alex works as an analyst in an office in a big city.

    There are different types of nouns:
    •  Common nouns: (common nouns are written in lower case letters)
      • people (boy, mother, cousin...)
      • place: (shop, street, park,...)
      • things: (hat, shoe, pen...)
    •  Proper nouns: (for proper nouns, the first letter is a capital letter)
      • people (John Brown, Dr Armstrong ...)
      • place (The Thames, The Alps, The Royal Hospital...)
      • things (Monday, August, Christmas Day...)
    •  Abstract nouns:
      • hope
      • kindness
      • courage
    •  Collective nouns:
      • audience
      • crowd
      • flock

  • See also: Collective and Compound Nouns

  • Pronoun
    A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun, such as “I”, “you”, 'him', 'us', 'they' etc.”
    • The passengers reacted well. They all stayed calm.
    • Alex needs exercise so he either walks to the office or takes his bicycle.

  • Verb
    A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence such as 'walk', 'happen', 'like'.
    A verb can be dynamic or stative.
    Dynamic verbs (actions): walk, eat, drink, play, write, etc.
    Stative verbs (thoughts, emotions, states of being): be, feel, think, see, hear, like, hate, etc.
    A verb can be a main verb or an auxiliary or helping verb such as “have” or “will.”
    Verbs can also change their form to show past, present, or future tense.
    • Today I am revising my English. Yesterday I wrote an essay. Our teacher will be absent tomorrow.
    • Alex lives in an area where he can walk or cycle to the office.

  • Adjective
    An adjective describes, identifies, qualifies or gives more information about a noun or a pronoun.
    • The young man drove his new car down the busy road.
    • It’s a short distance through a beautiful park in a quiet district.

    See: Adjectives

  • Adverb
    An adverb will modify a verb and tell us how, how often, where or in what manner we do something.
    Examples: quickly, carefully, well, often, usually, easily, energetically
    • She usually walks quickly to get to work on time.
    • The old man walked slowly and carefully down the icy street.

    See: Adverbs

  • Articles and Determiners
    Articles and determiners are words placed in front of a noun to specify quantity or to indicate what the noun refers to:
    'a', 'an', 'this', 'that', 'one', 'two', 'my', 'your', 'some', 'many' etc.

  • Preposition
    A preposition is a word that links a noun, pronoun or noun phrase to some other part of a sentence.
    Prepositions are often used with a noun to show location (for example 'in', 'on', 'under', 'across' ...).
    They can also show time, direction, motion, manner, reason, or possession.
    • The boy walked across the road, past the church and up the hill to get to his school.
    • Sam goes through the park and up the hill towards the city centre.

    See: Prepositions

  • Conjunction
    Conjunctions are words used to connect other words, phrases, or clauses.
    Using conjunctions helps us to avoid making multiple short sentences.
    Common conjunctions are “and”, “but”, and “or.”
    • The children like sailing and swimming, but they don’t like tidying their rooms or going to bed.
    • Alex and his colleagues like the company but not the new boss.

  • Interjection
    An exclamation used to express an emotional reaction:
    For example: Oh! Ah! Hey! Ouch! Watch out! Hurrah / Hurray! Alas! Gosh! Wow! Phew!