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Grammar in English: Live the Adventure Okay…not really, but grammar can become our friend if we have been taught how to use it. Without a fairly good grasp of grammar, it’s very difficult to write well (or to improve in our ability to communicate), but without grammar, learning new languages (especially Greek) is made confusing when it should be fun. Parts of a Sentence Every sentence in English has two basic parts: A. The Subject: The subject tells whom or what the sentence is about. For the most part in English, the subject comes before the verb. The subject is made up of a noun (or nouns) and all of its (or their) modifiers. 1. Example: “Ron went surfing at Lake Michigan.” (The sentence is about Ron, so he’s the subject. 2. Example: “Of all my friends, Tracie is the funniest.” (The sentence is about Tracie, so she’s the subject. Note, however, that she’s not the first word in the sentence.) B. The Predicate: The predicate is the idea expressed about the subject. It usually tells what the subject is, what the subject does or did or will do, or what happened to the subject. The predicate has two parts – a verb (or verbs) and all of its (or their) modifiers, and the complement (or complements) and all of its (or their) modifiers. 1. Example: “Rachel is rather small.” [The predicate tells what Rachel (the subject) is. Note that “is” is a linking verb.] 2. Example: “Malee flew in from Lubbock, Texas.” [The predicate tells what Malee (the subject) does. Note that “flew” is an action verb. ] 3. Example: “Citlalli was helped by Greek class.” [The predicate tells what happened to Citlalli (the subject). This construction was helped by indicates that the sentence is passive. In a passive sentence, the subject receives the action of the sentence.] Parts of Speech: A. Nouns: If you’re an American, you probably learned from Saturday morning cartoons (like Schoolhouse Rock) and if you’re not American, you probably learned in school, that a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. In a sentence, the noun can act as the subject, direct object, indirect object, or predicate nominative. (The last four are called complements and are part of the predicate.) 1. Direct objects follow action verbs. They receive the action of the verb. For example, “Melissa drew the picture.” 2. Indirect objects also follow action verbs. They tell to whom, for whom, to what, or for what the verb happened. For example, “Rodrigo passed David his homework.” The indirect object in this case (David) answers the question “to whom?” as in “To whom did Rodrigo pass his homework?” The indirect object always comes before the direct object. 3. Predicate Nominatives also follow linking verbs. Predicate nominatives are nouns which tell you what the subject is. “Ben is a guy.” “Manuel is a German.” “David is


the classroom coordinator.” (Note: The nominative case always acts as the subject or the predicate nominative of the sentence. This is important for Greek.) B. Pronouns: Pronouns are words used in place of a noun. They can function in all the same ways that nouns do. Pronouns are so important when you’re talking about yourself! I, me, my, mine are all pronouns, as are he, she, it, they, them, her, his, its, those, these, and a bunch of others. C. Verbs: A verb expresses an action or a state of being. Many verbs have a main verb and a helping verb. For example: “I was going to Kmart in my truck when the accident happened.” Was is the helping verb and going is the main verb. There are two types of verbs: 1. Action: Truly, the most exciting verb, this category includes such gems as: devour, leap, slither, beckon, flounce, and grapple. It also includes jump, run, push, sit, sleep, and love. Other more potentially useful action verbs are study and read. a. Action verbs show physical action (“sit”), mental and emotional (“think” or “love”) or ownership (“have”). b. The complements that follow action verbs are indirect objects and direct objects. 2. Linking: More subtle and quiet, linking verbs are nonetheless essential. These are the verbs that show relationship. a. The “being” verbs equate one thing with another, or link the subject to an adjective that describes the subject. For example, “Japheth is Kenyan.” and “My pickup truck is old, ugly, and rusty.” The “being” verbs are: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.” Being verbs are often followed by a predicate nominative. b. The other sort of linking verb is the sort of touchy-feely kind…they express how something looks or feels (but not as in, “I smelled the flower.” Rather, this is “The flower smelled very beautiful.) The touchy-feely verbs are: sound, look, appear, smell, taste, feel, become, seem, grow, stay, and remain. For example, “My pickup seems more rusty every day.” Touchy-feely verbs will always be followed by a predicate adjective. D. Adjectives: You’ll love these because they add most of the excitement and color to language use. For example: “We had a fantastic time!” Is so much more exciting than “We had a time.” 1. Adjectives can be single words or whole phrases (usually a prepositional phrase). 2. Predicate Adjectives follow linking verbs. A predicate adjective is an adjective which tells you something about the subject of the sentence, as in “Greg is funny.” It is part of the predicate because it is a complement of the verb. 3. Adjectives answer four questions: a. Which one? (as in “Which bike is yours?” “The ugly bike.”) b. What kind? (as in “What kind of car do you drive?” “I drive a junkie car.”) c. How many? (as in “How many cats does she own?” “She owns twenty-four cats.”


d.

E.

Whose? (as in “Whose pickup did you say that was?” “That was my pickup!”)

Adverbs: Another favorite type of word is the adverb. Once you can use both adverbs and adjectives easily, your speech and writing will become much more exciting. For example, instead of saying. “I went to the store.” You can say, “Breathlessly, I went running to the gigantic store on the corner of Broadway and Main!” Really…much more descriptive. 4. Adverbs answer the following questions: a. How? (as in “How did Bekah do in the play?” “She did smashingly.”) b. When? (as in “When did you see that pickup truck?” “I saw the pickup truck at three in the morning.” Note that this is a prepositional phrase acting as an adverb.” c. Where? (as in “Where did Michael do his DTS?” “He did his DTS in Minneapolis.” The adverb in this case is a prepositional phrase.) d. To what extent? (as in “To what extent do you like mangoes?” I quite like mangoes.” Note that you must say this last sentence in an English accent to make it come out properly. Ask Mark to demonstrate.) e. Some handy adverbs are: extremely, just, more, most, nearly, quite, rather, really, so, somewhat, too, truly, very, and shockingly. There are many others. Look for the -ly ending.

F. Prepositions: A preposition is a little word that means so much. Prepositions are used with nouns or pronouns and also, any modifiers of the noun or pronoun. They can act as adverbs or as adjectives in the sentence – that is, they either give you more information about the subject and objects of the sentence, or more information about the verb. 5. Examples: “The man with the plan is the man in the brown pinstriped suit.” (These are both prepositional phrases acting as adjectives. The first modifies the subject and the second modifies the predicate nominative.” “The truck in the Kmart parking lot belongs without doubt to the person who committed the crime.” (In this case, the first prepositional phrase is an adjective which answers the question “which one.” The second two prepositional phrases are both adverbs. They both modify “belongs.”) 6. In English there are lots and lots of prepositions. The following is a list of words that are often used as prepositions: aboard before down on until about behind during out unto above below except over up across beneath for past upon after beside from since with against besides in through within along between inside throughout without amid beyond into till among but (meaning like to around except) near toward as by of under at concerning off underneath G. Conjunctions: Do you remember from Schoolhouse Rock…“Conjunction, junction, what’s your function?” Well, I do, and here it is: A conjunction brings words together.


There are two important kinds that you should know about for this class: a. Coordinating: Link single words and phrases that have the same rank or kind. (For example – Two subjects: “Solvei and Jonathan live with Gabe.” Two verbs: “Melvin sings and plays guitar.” Two complements: “I love eggs and bacon.” b. Correlative: Join words or phrases. They are always used in pairs. i. The pairs are: both…and not only…but (also) and…so notwithstanding…yet either…or whether…or as…as though…yet neither…nor as…so if…then ii. Examples: “Matthias is both English and Swiss.” “Though my truck is truly ugly, yet it still runs well.” “As the deer pants for water, so my soul pants for Thee, O Lord.” “I have neither money nor time.” H. Interjections: While interjections are wonderful fun to use (“WOW!” “Ugh!” “Outstanding!”), they are not grammatically connected to a sentence, and thus, for our purposes, are unimportant.


grammar-in-english