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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

BASIC STRUCTURES 2: PARTS OF SPEECH

In English, like in Spanish, a word is a single unit that has full meaning and can stand alone or be part of a larger structure (spoken or written). 

Words can be classified according to their meaning and function and divided into different categories or parts of speech. Some books list up to 8 or 9 parts of speech depending on whether they take determiners as adjectives or as a separate category. Others divide verbs into lexical verbs and auxiliary verbs. In my posts, I’ll be taking determiners as adjectives and treating verbs as a single part of speech, so the 8 major parts of speech in English grammar are noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, preposition, and interjection.

NOUN: A noun names a person, thing or quality: E.g. boy, John, brick, beauty, decision, etc.

It can be further classified as common (book, chair) or proper (Italy, Mary), abstract (intuition, love) or concrete (house, table), countable (cup, car) or uncountable (mass: advice, work), collective (group: staff, team), compound (father-in-law, coursebook), etc. Moreover, countable nouns can have regular (adding -s/-es) or irregular plural forms.

PRONOUN: A pronoun replaces a noun (to avoid repeating the noun): E.g. he, him, me, it, they, them, you, anyone, who, whom, etc. As a pronoun replaces a noun, which is called the antecedent, proper pronoun usage requires that this antecedent should be clear and agree in person and number with the pronoun if applicable.

Pronouns can also be classified as personal (he, she, them), relative (who, whom), demonstrative (this, those), interrogative (who, which), indefinite (none, some), reflexive (myself, yourselves), etc.

ADJECTIVE: An adjective modifies = describes a noun (or a word working as a noun, such as a pronoun or a gerund). It can either stand in front of a noun (attributive position) or refer back to it (postpositive or predicative position): E.g. a black cat, your story, the quick brown fox, the students present; Tom is clever.

Adjectives can be further classified as descriptive (large, interesting), possessive (my, our), demonstrative (that, these), quantitative (one, many), interrogative (which, whose, what), articles (a, the), distributive (every, either), etc. They can also be divided into gradable and non-gradable or extreme.

ADVERB: An adverb usually modifies = describes a verb, telling how, where, when or why an action is done: E.g. Tom speaks Spanish fluently. I truly believe he can win. I usually go to the beach in the summer.

However, an adverb
 can also describe an adjective (I’m truly sorry) or another adverb (You speak Spanish very well.)

VERB: A verb expresses an action or state of being: E.g. run, be, become, go, have, etc.

Verbs can be classified according to different criteria and deserve a post of their own (or several) to explain and discuss the different classes. Broadly speaking, a verb can be classified as transitive, intransitive or ergative (labile); dynamic (action) or stative; main (including linking verbs), auxiliary or modal; finite (conjugated) or non-finite (verboid or verbal).

In this post, I’m going to include only finite and non-finite verbs because I think this classification is the most relevant regarding parts of speech:

The FINITE or CONJUGATED VERB works as a verb in a clause, and it has voice (active / passive) + aspect (continuous / perfect) + tense, which shows the time (present / past / future), continuance or completion of the action: E.g. When I arrived (active voice/past simple) at the party, John had left (active voice / past perfect simple.)

A NON-FINITE VERB (verboid or verbal) also expresses an action; however, although it can have voice (active / passive) + aspect (perfect / continuous), it never has tense, i.e. it is not conjugated, and therefore, it never works as a verb in a clause (it will always work as a noun, an adjective or an adverb). Non-finite verbs are:
  • The to-infinitive: to break, to be broken, to have been writing, etc.
  • The infinitive without to, bare infinitive or base form: be, be broken, etc.
  • The gerund: studying, having studied, writing, etc.
  • The present participle: studying, having studied, writing, etc.
  • The past participle: written, studied, broken, etc.
Notice that there is no difference in form between a gerund and a present participle (they both are '-ing' forms); however, they are different in terms of function: the gerund always works as a noun in a phrase/clause, while the present participle is always an adjective or an adverb, or is used in continuous /progressive forms: to be writing

CONJUNCTION: A conjunction (linking word, connector, connecting word, etc.) connects words, phrases or clauses. There are two types of conjunctions:

COORDINATING CONJUNCTION: The action of joining similar structures is called coordination, so a coordinating conjunction joins similar structures, i.e. structures that are at the same level (clause with clause; noun phrase with noun phrase; adjectival phrase with adjectival phrase, etc.): E.g. fish and chips, poor but honest, for better or worse.

There are 7 coordinating conjunctions: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so; a mnemonic for these conjunctions is FANBOYS.

SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTION: A subordinating conjunction introduces a subordinate clause, i.e. links the subordinate clause to the main clause: E.g. Tom played well although he was injuredI went to bed because I was tiredIf I were you, I’d apply for that job.

PREPOSITION: A preposition introduces a phrase and is followed by a noun or a word working as a noun (such as a pronoun or a gerund), which is the object of the preposition; it also expresses a relation to another word or element in the clause: E.g. the pencil on the table, travelling by air, between you and me.

INTERJECTION: An interjection is a short exclamation or remark, especially as an interruption or as part of speech: E.g. Oh! Ouch! Wow! Aha!

💡Notice that some words may belong in more than one word class or part of speech: increase is both a noun and a verb, yet is an adverb and a conjunction, over is a preposition and an adverb, etc.

👉The contents of these posts comply with formal grammar rules. Take into account that, in a language that is constantly changing, there is always some conflict between current usage and established practice. Similarly, there are differences between what is permissible in popular speech and what is expected in formal writing. I’ll be describing structures and full forms as they are used in standard written English.

📌ONLINE EXERCISES:
💡You may also be interested in:
💡More on sentence structure:

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