Topic: Word class

These resources relate to word classes (traditionally known as 'parts of speech'). Words are grouped into different classes, such as noun and verb, on the basis of their behaviour: where they occur in relation to other words and what they do within sentences.

Nouns: Count and non-count

Common nouns are either count or non-count. Count nouns can be ‘counted’, as follows:

one pen, two pens, three pens, four pens...

Non-count nouns, on the other hand, cannot be counted in this way:

*one software, *two softwares, *three softwares, *four softwares...

Phrasal verbs

What is a phrasal verb? Phrasal verbs consist of a combination of a verb and another word, which we’ll call a preposition. Some examples are come over, look (something) up. The first word in a verb-preposition combination can be just about any verb. The verbs that most commonly appear in such combinations are listed below:

Phrasal verbs: New phrasal verbs

There are many phrasal verbs that you won’t find in any dictionary. This is because we commonly create new phrasal verbs based on the meanings of existing phrasal verbs. Usually, new phrasal verbs are either transparent or aspectual – new idiomatic phrasal verbs would usually be too difficult for listeners to decode. Perhaps you’ve heard examples like the following:

Phrasal verbs: Three categories

Non-native speakers are often told that their only option is to memorise each phrasal verb individually. Is it really necessary to do all that work? No. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s inefficient. And it’s inefficient for three reasons:

Playing with person

In this exercise, students make changes to pronouns in texts, and evaluate the effects of those changes.

Goals

  • Identify first, second, and third person pronouns, and practise switching from one to another.
  • Evaluate the effects of writing using different personal pronouns.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will make changes to existing texts by changing the personal pronouns in those texts.

Playing with person: Activity

I’m sitting here looking out of the window. Nothing’s happening; it never does. I sit here every day for hours on end, just looking. Looking for what? I don’t know. They never told me what I should be looking for. And I’ve never found out.

I once thought I’d found something, but I couldn’t be sure. It might just have been a trick of the light. How was I to tell?

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 commands 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.

Prefixes in adjectives

In this lesson, students will look at some common prefixes that can be added to adjectives and see how they change meanings.

Goals

  • Identify some common prefixes in adjectives.
  • Describe the meanings contributed by common adjective prefixes.
  • Experiment with acceptable and unacceptable prefixes for particular adjectives.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at adjectives with distinctive prefixes.

Prepositions

Prepositions are a closed class of words. They are generally quite short words that often relate to meanings of place and time.

The following are common prepositions:

  • about, above, across, after, at, before, below, by, down, during, excluding, for, from, in, into, near, of, off, on, onto, outside, through, to, towards, under, up, upon, with, within, without

This is not a complete list.

Some prepositions are made up of more than one word:

Prepositions in instructional writing

Prepositions are particularly important when trying to communicate instructions about time and place.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The Activity page contains one slide: an example of instructional writing from our corpus. You can see that quite precise instructions are given as part of a recipe. It is reprinted below with the prepositions highlighted.

Method

Prepositions in instructional writing: Activity

Method

Cut the meat into even-sized cubes, leaving any fat, but removing all gristle.

Process for 10 seconds, scrape the sides. Make sure the meat is thoroughly evenly cut, then turn the meat into a separate bowl.

Add the onion and egg yolk to the bowl and process until the food is pureed, add salt and pepper to the meat.

Pronouns

Pronouns are one of the eight word classes in the National Curriculum. Some linguists would treat pronouns as a subclass of nouns, and there are some good reasons for that, but we adhere to the National Currciulum specifications.

Pronouns can sometimes replace a noun in a sentence:

Pronouns: Advanced

Pronouns behave in some ways like nouns and can sometimes replace them in a sentence. For this reason, pronouns are often treated as a subclass of nouns and there are some good reasons for doing this, but they are – in some important ways – different from nouns.

Regional vocabulary

Looking at the grammar of regional vocabulary items

In the work you’ve done so far on ways to identify word classes, you have seen that many words can be identified by form, function and distribution.

In this activity, we’ll look at how you might use these ideas to identify some words which appear in regional varieties of English. You’ll see examples of regional dialect terms in the context which they were used, and your task will be to work out what grammatical role the word is performing.

Subject-Verb Agreement

In this lesson, students select the correct verb to compose an acceptable sentence.

Goals

  • Practise composing sentences with appropriate Subject-Verb agreement.
  • Identify acceptable patterns in Standard English.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will select the correct verb on the smart board, to construct acceptable sentences.

Subject-Verb Agreement: 'Be' verbs

Telephones
are
is
am
really weird.

Tense and aspect in fiction

Exploring the use of tense and aspect in a range of literary texts

In this activity we will examine some short extracts from novels. The idea is to look at the tense and aspect forms used, and think about how they are used to unfold the action of the story.

Tense and aspect in fiction: Activity

It was after supper, and I was reading and smoking at the table. Algie was playing patience and drumming a tattoo with his fingers, and Gus was outside checking on the dogs. Suddenly he burst in. 'Chaps! Outside, quick!'

Verb endings

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change adjectives and nouns into verbs. This process is a part of derivational morphology

Verb identification

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying verbs.

Goals

  • Practise identifying verbs.
  • Recognise linguistic criteria for identifying verbs.
  • Remember the list of verb criteria for use and application later on.

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students move beyond what is called the notional or semantic way of identifying verbs as 'doing words' to explore grammatical ways of identifying verbs. (You can listen to Bas Aarts discuss this.)

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