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Phrases

phrase consists of one or more words that belong together. It takes one of the major word class elements (noun, adjective, etc.) as its Head.

Preposing and postposing

As writers and speakers there are many ways in which we can present information to readers or hearers by using different word orders and sentence patterns to highlight different aspects of meaning. This is often referred to as information structuring.

There are many ways we can highlight information. Here we will look at two important ones:

Preposition phrases

A preposition phrase has a preposition as its Head word, usually followed by a noun phrase. Here are some examples of preposition phrases, showing a preposition + noun phrase sequence:

  • in + boxes
  • in + the boxes
  • in + the big boxes under the table

The noun phrase can be a single word or a string of words, as the examples show.

Here are some examples of prepositional phrases in sentences:

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:

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.

radio interactive

Interactive exercises are very important to assess your progress.

Exercise

Is the highlighted verb a main verb or an auxiliary verb?

Register

We all use different forms of language in different situations. At the most extreme, you’ll probably know that in casual conversation with friends you will use very different language from that which you’d use at a job interview.

The kinds of differences will relate to vocabulary (the word choices you make) but also to grammar (the structures, the complexity, the patterns of words).

Semantic roles

When we talk about grammar, we mostly discuss language from the point of view of its internal characteristics.

We can say that steered in the following example has a grammatical form, namely verb. More specificallty, we say that it is a verb in the past tense.

Sentence types: simple, compound, complex

This unit further explains simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences, which were introduced in the unit 'Clauses: main and subordinate'. Simple sentences contain one clause, while compound and complex sentences contain more than one clause.

National Curriculum note: The National Curriculum now refers to sentences that contain one clause as single-clause sentences, and those that contain more than one clause as multi-clause sentences.

simple interactive

Interactive exercises are very important to assess your progress.

Exercise

Identify all the nouns in the following extract.

Tap on the words that you think are nouns to select or deselect them.

Spelling

Is it always necessary to spell words correctly? Of course not. When students send text messages, for example, they abbreviate words and simplify spellings; indeed, sometimes to do anything else could be silly. But when they’re giving a presentation and need to write on the whiteboard, spelling words incorrectly can be a real problem.

Spelling: A history

Most alphabets in the world’s living languages evolved from a single alphabet developed around 2000 BC in the Eastern Mediterranean.

A lot has changed since then. Even from the time of Old English, from about AD 500 to about AD 1100, much has changed. In fact, languages are always changing. Over the generations, grammar changes, words and their meanings change, accents and pronunciations change, and spelling changes.

Spelling: Alternative spelling

Just like humour and humor, and centre and center, a number of other words vary in their British and American spellings. How different are British and American spelling and how should you choose which spelling to learn?

The number of spelling differences between British and American English amount to less than 1% of the overall vocabulary of contemporary English. It’s not something that we need to be terribly worried about, but it is always something that we must bear in mind.

Spelling: Double consonants

If a root word ends in a consonant, adding a suffix will sometimes require that you double the base word’s final consonant. How do you know when to double the consonant?

Consider the following examples, where doubled consonants are underlined.

  • shipment
  • shipped
  • muddy
  • fitful
  • fittest
  • waiting
  • greenest

Now take a look at some larger words, whose base forms have more than one syllable.

Spelling: Resources

The most important resource for English spelling is a good dictionary. Which dictionary should you use? A variety of dictionaries is available, suitable for various skill levels and specializations, for both British and American English.

Spelling: Rules

At some point, many of us learned some handy spelling rules that we’ve carried with us for years.

Most people probably remember the mnemonic:

  • I before E except after C.

That’s a very useful rule for remembering how to spell believe and receive. But what about seize and seizure? And what about leisure, either, or heifer?

Spelling: Spelling and word structure

Many common spelling errors occur with double consonants or vowel combinations, as in the following words:

Spelling: Suffixes

Suffixes cause many of our common spelling mistakes. One challenge is simply to know which is correct: for example, legible or legable? In fact, −ible and −able serve the same function, and sound the same. As a matter of history, -ible entered English from Latin, while −able entered English from French, but there’s no easy rule for knowing when to use which suffix. Each word with each suffix just requires practice.

Spelling: Suffixes and 'e'

If an original word ends in a final e, as in manage,adding a suffix will sometimes require that you drop the final e in the root word.

  • Drop the final e: managing
  • Keep the final e: management

How do you know when to drop the final e?

First, consider the following examples, which either drop or keep the final e.

Spelling: Suffixes and 'y'

When a word ends in y, adding a suffix will sometimes require that we change the y to an i or to an ie. How do you know when to change the y?

Look through the examples below and the rules that follow.

Spoken language

Spoken language and written language are often referred to as two different modes. Spoken language has a structure that is often different from that of written language. Because we use spoken language in different situations from written language, we can often rely on context, gesture and shared understanding, so many of the grammatical structures and devices that we tend to use in written language aren’t necessary.

One mode is not ‘better’ than another mode, and we should be careful not to describe spoken language as ‘incorrect’ or ‘wrong’.

Spoken language: Dialect and slang

[Amended from Dan Clayton's Teaching English Grammar in Schools blog]

The history of grammar teaching has often been associated with prescriptive models in which the "correction" of perceived faults in language has been paramount. While linguists are careful these days to talk about what is 'grammatical' or 'ungrammatical' and 'standard' or 'non-standard', rather than what is 'right' or 'wrong', there is still a tension at the heart of the teaching of English.

Subject

The Subject of a sentence is often defined as the phrase identifying the agent that carries out the action denoted by the verb. All the examples below involve actions (fleeingsniffingwriting) carried out by the individuals referred to by the highlighted phrases, and for this reason we identify these phrases as Subjects.

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