Topic: Grammar and meaning

These resources consider how grammar is important in expressing certain types of meaning.

Adjectives and meaning

What are other ways of expressing the meanings conveyed by adjectives? In this starter activity, students are asked to replace the adjectives in the given examples with some other means of expressing the general meaning of the sentence.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right of this page. It can be displayed on a projector or smart board. The slide in the Activity page presents four example sentences with adjectives. Ask the students to do the following:

Adjectives and meaning: Activity

  1. Kyle was sad.
  2. Derrick was so much smaller than Stanley.
  3. He wasn’t entirely sure.
  4. When she saw what was inside the envelope, Lucy was delighted.
  5. It was a big meeting, and Ben felt incredibly nervous.
  6. It was the most expensive meal I'd ever eaten.
  7. The water tasted terrible!

Clause types and discourse functions

Analysing declarative, imperative, interrogative and exclamative clauses

In this activity we will look at text examples drawn from our corpus and think about the clause types used within the extracts (for example, declarative, imperative, interrogative or exclamative clauses).

Click on the interactive whiteboard icon (top right) and work through the following slides with students. Read each extract and analyse it by answering the accompanying questions. After each extract, there are some suggestions and pointers.

Passives in use

Investigating the effect of using passives

The slides in the Activity page in the right hand menu contain examples of passives from real writing. Have students do the following:

Passives in use: Activity

Extract A (from a student exam paper on emotion)

Furthermore there is evidence that supports these bodily changes as being essential to an emotional state. This evidence involved testing patients with spine severances. The patients were interviewed and tested in a laboratory and results consistently showed that the higher the spine severance the less patients reported being able to ‘feel’ an emotion.

Politeness and directness

This task is about using verbs and modal verbs in different ways. We all know that people can be direct or indirect in the ways they phrase things. We often use imperative forms to give instructions, but sometimes these might be seen as too direct and blunt. We sometimes soften them with modal verbs, among other tools.

Politeness and directness: Activity

Try to make the following expressions less direct. Compose alternative sentences for each one.

  1. Shut the window.
  2. Tell me your name.
  3. Stop talking.

What changes did you make to render the expressions less direct? 

Now, make the following expressions more direct. Compose an alternative sentence for each example.

Word order

We have to have some sort of structure to organise words if we are to communicate. That structure is a big part of grammar. Linguists use a term – syntax – to describe word order.

Word order: Activity

The dog chased the girl.
The girl chased the dog.
The bus has left.
Has the bus left?
The woman with the walking-stick knocked on the door.
The woman knocked on the door with the walking-stick.
Only Lisa ate icecream.
Lisa ate only icec

Ambiguity and headlines

Newspaper headlines often compress sequences of actions into very compact structures. Sometimes the meaning becomes ambiguous as a result.

Ambiguity and headlines: Activity

Police chase driver in hospital

Violinist linked to Japan Airlines crash blossoms

BT ducks break-up with price cuts

Reagan wins on budget, but more lies ahead

Juvenile court to try shooting defendant

Baby Sentences

Goals

  • Use implicit grammatical knowledge to translate examples of infant speech into complete sentences.
  • (For older students) use explicit grammatical knowledge to identify the types of changes that have been made in translating from the original examples.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at some real examples of English spoken by infants, and translate it into adult speech.

Baby Sentences: Activity

Daddy go work

Mummy read

Daddy bike

What that

Where blanket

Sock off

Teddy fall

Sammy tired

Building characters

Goals

  • Understand some of the ways that writers use language to create characters
  • Analyse the use of language in a literary text

Lesson Plan

  • You could start by asking students to think about some of the ways that writers use language to create fictional characters. What makes a convincing character? What are some of their favourite characters from fiction, and why?
  • Next, talk students through the first passage from Jekyll & Hyde.

Building characters: Activity

This extract is from later in the novel, where Mr. Hyde attacks a stranger in the street. Read it through, and think:

Certainty and uncertainty

Sometimes we make confident statements, while at other times we want to express some uncertainty. In this resource we will explore the expression of certainty and uncertainty. This is one of the areas of meaning we call modality.

Certainty and uncertainty: Activity 1

Imagine that you are not sure about the following statements, and find ways to make them sound less certain.Write three different versions for each example.

  1. Amy has gone home.
  2. I will definitely have the essay written by tomorrow.
  3. This disease is caused by a virus.
  4. The British team will win this match easily.

Certainty and uncertainty: Activity 2

Rank the given examples in order from most certain to most uncertain, with most certain at the top and most uncertain at the bottom. Identify the words in the examples that help to convey certainty or uncertainty. Are they modal auxiliary verbs? Adverbs? Main verbs? What conclusions can you make about the way that individual word choices affect the certainty of expressions?

This may not be easy, and some examples may be debatable!

Compare your rankings with somebody else. Are there any areas of disagreement?

 

Changing voice

Goals

  • Practise changing voice: from active sentences to passive, and passive sentences to active.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will practise turning actives into passives, and passives into actives.

Activity 1 in the right hand menu presents students with active sentences. Ask students to work individually, in pairs, or in groups and to write down a passive version of the sentence.

Changing voice: Activity 1

Two guards examined the BMW. → The BMW was examined by two guards.

Renoir painted the same road a few months later. → The same road was painted by Renoir a few months later.

His critics were attacking him on all sides. → He was being attacked by his critics on all sides.

Changing voice: Activity 2

The leader of the party is elected by the political party. → The political party elects the leader of the party.

The full costs of their care are met by the NHS. → The NHS meets the full costs of their care.

Discourse structure

Goals

  • Review a list of useful vocabulary and phrases for establishing continuity, cohesion, and structure in discourse.
  • Apply knowledge of discourse structure to arranging sentences into an appropriate, meaningful order as an article.
  • Analyse existing texts to identify elements that support the discourse structure of the texts.

Lesson Plan

Activity 1

Formal and informal

This lesson resource is designed to draw attention to how we use different registers in a variety of written contexts. When we use language, we make a number of different lexical and grammatical choices, depending on the context, or 'situation of usage'.

Formal and informal: Activity

working with register variation

The concept of register is about the idea of appropriate language, which is shaped by context. Thinking about context is a fundamental part of language analysis, and is a useful 'way in' to exploring language choices and meanings. 

Being able to vary your register is an important skill.

In this activity we will start by looking at two real letters. One of them is a personal letter and the other a business letter. You can download them, or read through them here:

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