This unit discussed many parts of speech relating to grammar. Nouns, Adjectives, Articles, Verbs, Adverbs, Gerunds, Pronouns, Prepositions, and Conjunctions were all covered with varying details. In some cases, additional information about a part of speech will be covered in future units. Grammar can be very difficult for students and teachers alike. Native speakers may be unaware that they know more grammar than they think because it is taught throughout their education and becomes a natural extension of their communication. However, an English teacher must be able to communicate parts of speech, grammar rules, and exceptions in order to gain the confidence of their students and provide correct lessons.
Nouns are people, places, things, ideas, states, qualities, and animals. There are five main types of nouns: common, proper, compound, abstract, and collective. A common noun refers to things such as a “person,” “chair,” or “cow” and is never capitalized. Proper nouns are names and are always capitalized. These could be “America,” “Donald Duck,” or “Uranus.” A compound noun is a noun created by combining two other nouns such as “cow” and “boy” to create “cowboy.” Abstract nouns refer to things that are experienced but can’t be touched. These are things such as “beauty,” “sadness,” and “communism.” Finally, collective nouns describe a group of things as if they were one thing. Collective noun examples are: “family,” “flock,” or “mass.”
Adjectives describe aspects of nouns and are often used in clusters or groups. The general rule for using more than one adjective is the following order: size, age, color, and material then followed immediately by the noun. Other rules apply in some cases but are not covered specifically in this unit. There are two types of adjectives: comparative and superlative. A comparative adjective describes how one noun is similar or different from another noun. For example: George is faster than Susan. The comparative adjective is “faster” and informs the reader or listener about how George and Susan differ. Generally, to make an adjective into a comparative adjective, the suffix “er” is added to the end. Exceptions and certain modifications apply in some situations. The other type of adjective is a superlative. These refer to the low and high limits of something. For example. Susan is the fastest girl in the class. The superlative adjective is “fastest” and indicates that no other person in the class is as fast as Susan. As a general rule, to make an adjective into a superlative adjective, the suffix “est” is added to the end. As usually, there are some exceptions and modifications in certain instances.
Articles modify a noun and can be either definite or indefinite. There are three articles in the English language, with one exception called the zero article. The indefinite articles are the words “a” and “an.” The word “some” can also be included as an indefinite article when describing a subset of a group. These precede a noun when indicating a member of a group. For example: a boy, an ostrich, a university, some girls. When the noun begins with a consonant or a consonant sound, the article “a” should be used. When the noun begins with a vowel but does not begin with a consonant sound, the article “an” should be used. The definite article is “the” and is used preceding a noun that is specific. For example: if it is known which boy, ostrich, university, or girl is being indicated, then “the boy,” “the ostrich,” “the university,” or “the girl” should be used. When something is unique, then “the” is used instead of “a” or “an.” For instances where the zero article are indicated, no article is used, but is instead implied. For example: coffee is popular does not include an article but implies the zero article.
Verbs are words that describe an action or state and can either be transitive or intransitive. Action verbs are words such as “go,” “run,” or “drive.” State verbs (sometimes called “to be” verbs) are words such as “am,” “seem,” or “feel.” A transitive verb is always immediately followed by an object. For example: George cooks dinner. “George” is the subject, “dinner” is the object, and “cooks” is the verb. Because “dinner” immediately follows the verb “cooks,” the verb is transitive. Generally, a transitive verb requires an object, however there are some exceptions. An intransitive verb is one that cannot be immediately followed by an object. These verbs do not do anything to anything, but instead does an action. For example: George promised. “George” is the subject and “promised” is the verb, but there is no object. George simply promised something which is unknown or has already been described and is therefore not needed as the object in the sentence. Verbs can also be described as an infinitive. This means an action is referred to as the whole action. Infinitives are indicated by using the base form of the verb and preceding it with the word “to.” For example, “to walk,” “to run,” “to cook” are all infinitive forms of the verbs “walk,”, “run,” and “cook.” Additionally, verbs have other forms besides the base form and infinitive form. These are: past simple, past participle, and present participle. These verb forms are described in more detail in another unit, but a list of some common verbs was included showing how there is no particular rule regarding how to create each of these verb forms and that memorization would most likely be necessary. Finally, auxiliary verbs were discussed and these words are verbs that contain no specific meaning, but help form the structure of the actual verb and sentence. There are only three auxiliary verbs: “do,” “have,” and “be.” These are used to help form the tenses and are also covered in more detail in another unit.
Adverbs are words that add meaning to a verb. Some adverbs can be modified by other adverbs and even adjectives. There are five main categories of adverbs: manner, place, time, degree, and frequency although there are many other types. Adverbs are commonly created by adding the suffix “ly” to the end of the word. For example: “odd” becomes “oddly” and “notable” becomes “notably.” There are exceptions to the rule and must be taught and memorized. Adverbs usually go after the object of a transitive verb and immediately after an intransitive verb. Exceptions to this rule are adverbs in the frequency category are put between the subject and the verb or between the auxiliary verb and the verb. When more than one adverb is used in a row, a general rule is to follow the “place, manner, time” sequence.
Gerunds are verbs that become a noun by adding the suffix “ing” to the end. Gerunds are used the same way that a noun is used. For example, the verb “run” becomes a the gerund “running.” Used as a noun, “running” can be the subject of a sentence such as “Running is fun,” or the object of the verb “enjoy” in the sentence “I enjoy running,” or as the object of the preposition “about” in the sentence “I am excited about running today.” There are some exceptions or differences in the use of certain gerunds where additional information about the verb is needed. For example: George admitted running the red light.
Pronouns are words that are used instead of a precise noun or noun phrase. Pronouns come in four types: personal, possessive, reflexive, and relative. Personal pronouns describe a person directly such as “I,” “me,” “she,” “they.” Possessive pronouns describe ownership or belonging such as “mine,” “theirs,” or “its.” A reflexive pronoun is used when the sentence object is the same as the subject and is directly related to the personal pronoun. “Himself,” “herself,” and “themselves” are reflexive and correspond to the personal pronouns “him,” “her,” and “them.” Lastly, a relative pronoun connects clauses together in a sentence and introduce relative clauses. For example, in the sentence “The man whose wife is Susan will come home,” the relative pronoun is “whose.” Students may find pronouns difficult when it comes to subject pronouns and object pronouns. Additionally, possessive pronouns might be confused with possessive adjectives.
Prepositions are words that show a relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word in a sentence. Prepositions do not have a rule for placement, but there are three main categories: place, time, and movement. For example: “I can’t come over before noon” has the preposition “before” which is in the time category.
Conjunctions are words that join other words or groups of words together. Conjunctions join words of the same class or join clauses of sentences. Common conjunctions are the words “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” and “yet.” For example, the sentence “George and I will come home” has the conjunction “and” which joins “George” and “I” together indicating that both will come home.
In summary, there are many aspects of grammar and parts of speech that must be known in order to teach English. Teachers must be prepared to cover the topics in each lesson and be familiar enough with these parts of speech to provide correct and quality lessons. If students are preparing for an English proficiency test, then grammar will be something that must be mastered and the teacher must be prepared to provide high level lessons. While slang and other colloquialisms might be great for everyday use amongst friends, proper English grammar is something that cannot be skipped or glossed over.