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Showing posts with label WRITING. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WRITING. Show all posts

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:
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💡More on sentence structure:

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

USAGE: "Compare With" Or "Compare To"? (From Oxford Lexico Usage)

In general terms, either preposition is correct, but the choice depends partly on meaning and partly on grammar. 

In addition, American English generally prefers to when there is a choice, whereas in British English the two different constructions are more evenly spread.

💡Let’s look first at the meaning of each phrase. To compare can be defined broadly as "to estimate the similarity or difference between things." For example:
  • Individual schools compared their facilities with those of others in the area.
  • It is difficult to compare our results to studies conducted in the United States.
In this meaning, either preposition can be used.

💡However, when compare is used to say that one thing resembles another, or to make an analogy between two different things, to is obligatory:
  • Her novel was compared to the work of Daniel Defoe.
  • He compared children to young trees, both still growing and able to be shaped.
A Shakespearean example ⇒ One of the most famous lines in English poetry, from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, uses compare to in this way:
  • Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Shakespeare is likening the addressee to a summer’s day, even though in the end he shows his beloved to be lovelier than such a day.

💡Intransitive uses

British English prefers with when compare is used intransitively, because similarities are being evaluated:
  • His achievements do not compare with those of A. J. Ayer.
  • No other English painter can compare with Sutherland in the subtlety of his vision.
In American English, however, compare to is possible and slightly more frequent:
  • None of those birds compare to L.A. pigeons.
  • No, today’s calamities don't compare to the Great Depression or even to the agricultural troubles of the 1980s.
💡Compared to...

When the past participle compared introduces a phrase, the preposition is either to or with, although here usage is moving in favour of to:
  • This was a modest sum compared to what other people spent.
  • Compared to physics and astronomy, cosmology is a young science.
  • However, compared with the USA and Japan, Europe contains a group of separate nation states.
💡Comparable, comparison

Comparable is used with to or with in line with the previous discussion, with a marked preference in current usage for to:
  • We find ourselves in a situation comparable to mediaeval times.
  • Social mobility is, in fact, comparable with most countries in Europe.
Comparison as the noun equivalent of compare can be followed by either with or to:
  • Poussin’s approach bears closest comparison to Michelangelo’s.
  • Prices for real estate in Tbilisi cannot stand comparison with Western capitals or indeed Moscow.
The phrase in comparison to is more often used than in comparison with, but by comparison with is more frequent than by comparison to:
  • The film is utterly benign in comparison to some of the more violent movies of today.
  • The standard is pitiable in comparison with other countries.
  • By comparison with North Sea oil production, it is a drop in the ocean.
Essentially, both with and to are correct prepositions to use after compare, comparable, or comparison, although it may be worth checking the regional and grammatical context of the sentence when making your choice.


💡GO TO OXFORD LEXICO and See more from Usage

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I ain’t standing for that! What is wrong with ‘ain’t’? By Charlotte Buxton (From Oxford Dictionaries Blog)

👉By Charlotte Buxton, an Associate Editor for Oxford Dictionaries.

The language we use every day is littered with contractions. Shortened words like I’m, I’ve, I’ll, don’t, won’t, and we’ve have become an accepted part of standard English […].

Contractions are as old as the English language itself. When speaking quickly, it is natural to run a group of words that are commonly used together into one word: a form of verbal shorthand that is in turn adopted into written language. Most contractions have become so commonplace that we barely even notice we’re using them, while excluding them can actually make language sound stilted and unnatural.

One contraction in particular remains out in the cold, however. Ain’t has never been accepted into standard English […].

Even the origin of ain’t is murky […]. Unlike most of its cousin contractions, the words it is formed from are not immediately clear. […] It may have originally come from am not or are not, but it could also have derived from isn’t, with the s being dropped to make in’t, which was in turn lengthened to ain’t. When used to mean ‘has not’ or ‘have not’, as in they still ain’t been found or I ain’t been there myself, it derives from the dialect form haint or hain’t – a somewhat more obvious contraction of have not. This irregular formation is part of the reason for the widespread condemnation of the word, but it ain’t the whole story (so to speak). We accept other irregular contractions, such as won’t (which formed from the archaic form woll not), so why can’t we allow ain’t?

[…] Though undoubtedly used earlier in speech, it first appears in writing in the 18th century (though the form an’t is found earlier). It was initially used to imitate Cockney speech, with Dickens using it to mean both ‘are not’ and ‘have not’:

She ain’t one to blab. Are you Nancy? (Oliver Twist)

I ain’t took so many year to make a gentleman, not without knowing what’s due to him. (Great Expectations)

The use of ain’t in Victorian literature carries a moral judgement, usually signalling that the speaker is a part of the ‘criminal class’, to be feared and avoided. These associations cling to the word to this day, with ain’t still strongly associated in many people’s minds with a lack of education and low social status. (GO TO FULL BLOG POST)

🎬 You may also want to watch this:
What does AIN'T mean? | Real English Vocabulary (4:08 minutes)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

GRAMMAR PILLS: How to use articles - A/AN, THE and ZERO article

How do we use articles in English?

💡 Quick answer:

NOUNS
In general
(indefinite / non-specific)
In particular
(definite / specific)
Uncountable
Countable Plural
(1) Zero article
(3) the (el, la, los, las)
Countable Singular
(2) a / an (un, uno, una)

💡 EXTENDED ANSWER:

(1) When we talk about an uncountable noun or a countable plural noun in general (i.e. we talk about all the items in a group, or there is no need to specify an item in particular), we do NOT use an article:
Cuando hablamos de un sustantivo (=nombre) incontable o contable plural en general (es decir, hablamos de todos los elementos de un conjunto o no hay necesidad de especificar uno en particular), NO usamos artículo:

Advances
in technology (❌The advances) have made it easier for us to keep in touch with our loved ones.
Modern technology (❌The modern technology) is essential to our lives, both at home and at work.
Students (❌The students) should hand in their assignments on time.
People (❌The people) are the same everywhere.
👉In these examples, we are talking about 'technology', 'students', and 'people' in general.


(
2) When we talk about a countable singular noun in general (i.e. we talk about one non-specific item in a group), we use a / an (the indefinite article):
Cuando hablamos de un sustantivo contable singular en general (es decir, hablamos de un elemento no especificado en un conjunto), usamos 'a' / 'an' (un, uno, una = el artículo indefinido):

⟶ I went to a pub last night. (Fui a un bar anoche.)
⟶ I’ve got a car. (Tengo un coche.)
⟶ He gave me an apple. (Él me dio una manzana.)


🔺 ‘A’ or ‘an’?

Use ‘a’ before words that start with a consonant SOUND:
Usamos ‘a’ antes de palabras que comienzan con un SONIDO consonante:
A university degree ⇒ ‘u’ is pronounced /juː/ here, and /j/ is a consonant sound
a one-hour class ⇒ ‘one’ is pronounced /wʌn/, and /w/ is a consonant sound
⟶ a uniform / a house, etc.

Use ‘an’ before words that start with a vowel SOUND:
Usamos ‘a’ antes de palabras que comienzan con un SONIDO vocal:
An honest man ⇒ ‘h’ is silent here, and the first sound is a vowel: /ˈɒnɪst/
an hour ⇒ ‘h’ is silent here, and the first sound is a vowel: /aʊə/
an MBA degree, etc.


(
3) When we talk about an uncountable, a countable plural or a countable singular noun in particular (i.e. we talk about a specific item, or there is only one item in the group, and it is therefore clear which item we are talking about – e.g.: ‘the sun’), we use ‘the’ (the definite article):
Cuando hablamos de un sustantivo incontable, contable plural o contable singular en particular (es decir, hablamos un elemento específico, o hay un solo elemento en el conjunto, por ejemplo: the sun’, el sol’), usamos ‘the’ (el, la, los, las = el artículo definido):

⟶ A look at the advances in technology during the 1960s (los avances en tecnología durante la década de los 60), from washing machines to computers. (BBC Four) (a specific set of advances)
The students who failed the exam (Los alumnos que reprobaron el examen) should study hard for the resit. (a specific group of students)
The people who migrate (La gente que migra) are called migrants. (a specific group of people)


👉The rules above apply to almost all cases; however, there are some special uses that should also be taken into account. Read more:
🎬 VIDEOS:
Using zero articles - BBC English Class (2:10 minutes)
The definite article - BBC English Class (2:22 minutes)
Learn about indefinite articles with singular countable nouns - BBC English Class (2:40 minutes)
GRAMMAR: How to use the definite article with abstract uncountable nouns (6:04 minutes)

📌 Practice:

Saturday, October 06, 2018

How many is a billion? (From Oxford Dictionary – Explore)


💡 In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English.
The same sort of change has taken place with the meaning of trillion. In British English, a trillion used to mean a million million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000). Nowadays, it's generally held to be equivalent to a million million (1,000,000,000,000), as it is in American English.

The same evolution can be seen with quadrillion and quintillion. In British English, a quadrillion used to mean a thousand raised to the power of eight (1024), and is now understood to be a thousand raised to the power of five (1015). A quintillion, in British English, used to mean a million raised to the power of five (1030), and is now most commonly held to be a thousand raised to the power of six (1018).

Even higher are sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, and decillion, some of which are not common enough to be included in OxfordDictionaries.com yet.

Other terms follow the same linguistic pattern (ending with -illion) but do not refer to precise numbers. These include jillion, zillion, squillion, gazillion, kazillion, bajillion, and bazillion. All of these words are used informally to refer to an extremely or indefinitely large number.

How many is a billion? (2:02 minutes)

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