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Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 9: Determining Parts of Speech

 

Determining Parts of Speech

The part of speech of a word can be identified from its form and meaning. The form of a word refers to the ending it takes and what position it takes in a sentence. Form alone gives us a lot of information on the part of speech of a word. It is sometimes useful to look at the meaning of a word when we need to determine the part of speech.

Noun

  1. A word is a noun if it takes the subject or object position in a sentence.
  2. Countable nouns have two forms, singular and plural. The plural form of most words is marked by the plural ending (s/es/ies).

(Revisit Lessons 1-8 to review the following Parts of Speech)

Pronoun

Adjective

Adverb

Preposition

Verb

Interjection

Conjunction

Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 8: Conjunctions

 

Definition

A conjunction is a word or words used to show the relationship between one notion and another notion. There are two main types of conjunction: the coordinative conjunction, which joins phrases of equal importance and rank, and the subordinative conjunction, which joins a phrase with another phrase that is dependant on it.

Coordinative Conjunctions

A coordinative conjunction joins two sentences together that do not rely on each other for meaning. We can split the co-ordinative conjunctions into four smaller groups: the cumulative, the alternative, the adversative, and the illative.

Cumulative

A cumulative conjunction is used to add one thought to another. Examples of cumulative conjunctions include

  • and
  • both…and
  • not only
  • but also
  • as well as takes singular verb

Alternative

Used to indicate a choice between one notion and another. For example:

  • or
  • either…or
  • else
  • otherwise
  • neither…nor

Adversative

Used to contrast one notion and another.

  • but
  • yet
  • however
  • nonetheless
  • despite
  • still

Illative

These show that one notion is implied, inferred or proved by another.

  • then
  • thus
  • therefore
  • so
  • for

Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions express relationships of time, manner, cause or reason, comparison, condition, or purpose. They are used to introduce subordinate clauses that are not complete

Conjunctive adverbs

Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 7: Interjections

Definition

An interjections is a word or group of words that is used to express surprise, fear, pain or other emotions. It is not grammatically related to other words in a sentence, so it functions independently. It may be followed by an exclamation point or may be included in a sentence set off by a comma.

List of Interjections

ah goodness hurray tsk
aha gracious oh well
alas great omigosh/omg whew
dear hello/hi ouch wow
gee hey psst yipee

Examples

  • Ouch! You hurt my knee.
  • Hello, how have you been?

Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 6: Verbs

 

Definition

A verb is a word or group of words expressing an action, a condition or a state of being.

Categories of Verbs

  1. Action verb describe physical or mental action.
    • A transitive verb is a verb having a direct object.
    • An intransitive verb is a verb having no object.
      (Note: When passive voice are changed to their active form, they are always transitive.)
  2. Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to its complements: a predicate noun, a predicate pronoun or a predicate adjective. They do not express action.
    • various forms of be (am,is ,are, was, were, be, being, been)
    • verbs related to the senses (appear, feel, look, smell, sound, taste)
    • verbs expressing condition or placement of the subject (become, grow, remain, seem, stay)
      Note:
      Some verbs can function as either linking or action verbs depending on how they are used.
      Example:
      The drainage smells foul.(linking verb)
      We smell the fragrance of the blooming flowers. (action verb)
      Since linking verbs do not have objects, they may be considered intransitive.
  3. Auxiliary verbs help the main verb in a verb phrase. A verb phrase is a combination of a main verb and one or more auxiliary verb
    • Common auxiliary verbs:
      • forms of be (be, being, been, am, is, are, was, were)
      • forms of have (has, have, had)
      • modal auxliaries (can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must)

Auxiliary + Main Verb = Verb Phrase
is + singing = is singing
would have + gone = would have gone
will have been + working = will have been working

Principal Parts of Verbs

There are four principal parts of the verb: the present, the present participle, the past and the past participle. (The list below shows the present participle and past participle forms with auxiliary or helping verbs in parentheses.) A verb is also classified as regular or irregular verbs.

Regular Verbs

To form the past and past participle of a regular verb, add -d or -ed to the present and to form the present participle, add -ing to the present. However, some regular verbs change in spelling before adding -ing or -ed. Following is a list of some regular verbs in their different parts.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
carry (is) carrying carried (has) carried
cruise (is) cruising cruised (has) cruised
dance (is) dancing danced (has) danced
drop (is) dropping dropped (has) dropped
evolve (is) evolving evolved (has) evolved
jump (is) jumping jumped (has) jumped
picnic (is) picnicking picnicked (has) picnicked
scream (is) screaming screamed (has) screamed
work (is) working worked (has) worked

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs have different ways of forming their principal parts. Here, they are grouped into five. Note:

  • The present participle and past participle must always be used with auxiliary verbs.
    Example: are watching, will have known
  • The present participle of a verb, regular or irregular, is formed by adding -ing to the present form.

Group 1

The present, past an past participle have the same form.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
burst (is) bursting burst (has) burst
cost (is) costing cost (has) cost
cut (is) cutting cut (has) cut
hit (is) hitting hit (has) hit
hurt (is) hurting hurt (has) hurt
put (is) putting put (has) put
read (is) reading read (has) read
set (is) setting set (has) set
shut (is) shutting shut (has) shut

Group 2

The past and past participle of the verb have the same spelling except for the verb get which has two possible past participle, got and gotten.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
bring (is) bringing brought (has) brought
catch (is) catching caught (has) caught
fight (is) fighting fought (has) fought
flee (is) fleeing fled (has) fled
fling (is) flinging flung (has) flung
get (is) getting got (has) got or gotten
lead (is) leading led (has) led
lend (is) lending lent (has) lent
lose (is) losing lost (has) lost
say (is) saying said (has) said
seek (is) seeking sought (has) sought
shine (is) shining shone (has) shone
sit (is) sitting sat (has) sat
sting (is) stinging stung (has) stung
swing (is) swinging swung (has) swung
teach (is) teaching taught (has) taught
wind (is) winding wound (has) wound

Group 3

The past participle is formed by adding -n or -en to the past form except for bear, bite and shear.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
bear (is) bearing bore (has) borne
beat (is) beating beat (has) beaten
bite (is) biting bit (has) bitten
break (is) breaking broke (has) broken
choose (is) choosing chose (has) chosen
freeze (is) freezing froze (has) frozen
shear (is) shearing sheared (has) shorn
speak (is) speaking spoke (has) spoken
steal (is) stealing stole (has) stolen
swear (is) swearing swore (has) sworn
tear (is) tearing tore (has) torn
wear (is) wearing wore (has) worn

Group 4

The vowel i in the present changes to a in the past and u in the past participle. For the verb spring which has two past forms, sprang is preferred.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
begin (is) beginning began (has) begun
drink (is) drinking drank (has) drunk
ring (is) ringing rang (has) rung
shrink (is) shrinking shrank (has) shrunk
sing (is) singing sang (has) sung
sink (is) sinking sank (has) sunk
spring (is) springing sprang or sprung (has) sprung
swim (is) swimming swam (has) swum

Group 5

These verbs form their past participle from the present form.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
blow (is) blowing blew (has) blown
come (is) coming came (has) come
do (is) doing did (has) done
draw (is) drawing drew (has) drawn
drive (is) driving drove (has) driven
eat (is) eating ate (has) eaten
fall (is) falling fell (has) fallen
give (is) giving gave (has) given
go (is) going went (has) gone
grow (is) growing grew (has) grown
know (is) knowing knew (has) known
ride (is) riding rode (has) ridden
rise (is) rising rose (has) risen
run (is) running ran (has) run
see (is) seeing saw (has) seen
shake (is) shaking shook (has) shaken
slay (is) slaying slew (has) slain
take (is) taking took (has) taken
throw (is) throwing threw (has) thrown
write (is) writing wrote (has) written

Tenses of Verbs

A verb takes different forms to show when an action occurs. These forms are called tenses. The table below shows the six basic tenses (the three simple tenses and the three perfect tenses) and the special forms of a verb: the six progressive forms and two emphatic forms. Problems in using the tenses are also included. Note: In the formation of the passive voice, only two progressive forms are included.

Simple Tense

Simple Present Tense

The simple present tense encompasses the past, present and future time.
Formation:

Active Passive
-3rd person singular, present form +-s/-es
-other singular/plural forms, use unchanged present form.
-am,is,are + past participle

Uses

  1. Expresses present action or condition
  2. Expresses regularly occurring action or condition
  3. Expresses constant action or condition
  4. Expresses introduction to a quotation
  5. Expresses past historical action or a piece of literature as if happening now to make description more vivid and realistic
  6. Expresses future time when sentence contains adverb or phrase indicating the future
  7. Expresses action or condition as in present perfect tense

Simple Past Tense

The simple past tense indicates that an action terminated in the past.
Formation:

Active Passive
-regular verbs +-d / -ed
-irregular verbs, use past form
-was, were + past participle

Uses

  1. Expresses action or condition that happened at a definite time in the past
  2. Expresses action or condition that began and ended in the past
  3. Expresses polite speech

Simple Future Tense

Perfect Tense

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

Future Perfect

Special Forms of a Verb

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Problems in Using Tenses

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Improper Shifts in Tense and Form The same tense must be express two or more actions that occur in the same time.

  • A shift in tense within a sentence or between consecutive sentences must be avoided.

Incorrect: I watched television and my brother plays computer last night.
Correct: I watched television and my brother played computer last night.

  • A shift in tense may be necessary to show a logical sequence of actions or the relationship of one action to another. This is considered correct.

Example: The Beatles had performed (past perfect) in small German clubs before they conquered (past) the international scene. By the time our team wins (present) the World Cup, the Ice Age will have returned (future perfect).

Voices of Verbs

The voice of verbs indicates whether its subject is the performer or the receiver of the action the verb expresses.

  • Active voice shows that the subject is the doer or performer of the action. It is preferred in writing because it is more forceful and direct than the passive voice.
  • Passive voice shows that the subject is the receiver of the action. it is used in the following:
    • to express an action when the doer of the action is unknown.
    • to describe an ongoing experience
    • to avoid giving a direct order or to state a rule.
    • to express action when the doer is not important.

Moods of Verbs

Mood identifies the manner in which a verb expresses an idea.

The Three Moods of Verbs

  1. The indicative mood states a fact or asks a question.
  2. The subjunctive mood is used to express:
    • a wish or a condition that is contrary to fact.
    • a command or request after the word that.
  3. The imperative mood gives a command or makes a request. Verbs in this mood are always in the present tense and second person.

Note: The indicative and subjunctive moods have the same forms except for the following:

  • In the third=person singular, the -s is omitted from verbs.
  • The form of the verb to be is always be in the present subjunctive mood.
  • The form of the verb to be is always were in the past subjunctive mood.

Commonly Confused Verbs

Bring and Take

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Hang

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Learn and Teach

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Let and Leave

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Lie, Lay and Lie

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Rise and Raise

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Sit and Set

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Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 5: Prepositions

 

Definition

A preposition connects or shows the relationship between a noun, pronoun and phrase to other parts of the sentence. Whatever object or phrase the preposition is introducing is called the object of the preposition.

Each bold word in the following sentences are examples of prepositions:

The box is on the desk. The box is under the desk. The box is leaning against the desk. The box is beside the desk. He held the box over the desk. He looked at the box during lunch.

In each sentence a preposition is used to locate the box in time or space. People use prepositions everyday without even realizing it. Think of a preposition as a way to relate the object to the rest of the sentence.

List of Prepositions

Some Commonly Used Prepositions

about before down of throughout
above behind during off to
across below except on toward
after beneath for onto under
against beside from out underneath
along between in outside until
among beyond inside over up
around but into past upon
as by like since with
at despite near through without

Compound Prepositions

according to except for in response to
as well as in accordance with in spite of
because of in addition to inside of
by means of in place of instead of
by way of in relation to on account of

Object of the Preposition

The object of the preposition is always a noun, a pronoun or a noun equivalent.

Examples:

  1. With poise, Gwyneth Paltrow walked to the stage and accepted her Academy Award. (The noun poise is the object of the preposition with.)
  2. The Palace welcomed the Prince of Monaco and scheduled a sightseeing tour for him. (The pronoun him is the object of the preposition for.)
  3. The director asked about proposing the summer programs for the University. (Proposing the summer programs for the University is a group of words functioning as noun or is a noun equivalent. It is the object of the preposition about.)

Prepositions Indicating Time

  1. Use on before days of the week, before months followed by the day or before the time indicating the day, month and year.
  2. Use in to indicate year, before months not followed by the day or before the month and year without the day.
  3. Use for to refer to a period of time stating the number of hours, days or weeks.
  4. Use during to refer to a period of time.
  5. Use since to refer to a period of time from the past to the present.

Prepositions Indicating Place or Position

  1. Use between when you speak of two persons, places or things.
  2. Use among when you speak of three or more persons, places or things.
  3. Use on in an address with only the name of the street.
  4. Use at when referring to places which indicate the general location.
  5. Use in when the given location is more specific.
  6. Use in when something is already inside.
  7. Use into when there is movement involved in the placement of something.

Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 4: Adverbs

 

Summary of the Lesson

In the previous lesson, we know that an adjective can be used for giving more information about a noun. However, adjectives can only be used to modify a noun. If we want to modify a verb or an adjective, we need to use an adverb. Adverbs can also be used to modify another adverb or a clause. The following examples show how adverbs modify different parts of a sentence.

1. I clearly remember what happened. (An adverb modifying a verb.)

2. Is it really good for you?. (An adverb modifying an adjective.)

3. You are really very stupid. (An adverb modifying another adverb. ‘Very’ is also an adverb.)

4. Interestingly, he did not discuss this topic at all. (An adverb modifying a sentence.)

An adverb that modifies and add emphasis to an adjective and another adverb is called an intensifier. Some intensifiers are barely, fully, hardly, little, quite, rather, really, scarcely, too and very.

An adverb that tells where (place or direction) the action took place is a directive adverb. Some idioms are formed by combining directive adverbs and verbs. Examples are check in, set off and breakthrough. (Note: An idiom should not be taken literally.)

Several nouns function as adverbs that answer the question Where? or When?. Examples of these nouns used as adverbs are afternoons, evenings, home, month, mornings, nights, today, tomorrow, week, year and yesterday.

Positions of Adverbs

Adverbs which modify adjectives or other adverbs usually immediately precede the words they modify. However, when an adverb is used to modify a verb, besides before the verb, it can also be placed after the verb, or even at the beginning or the end of a sentence. However, as we see in the following example, when an adverb modifying a verb occupies different positions, there can sometimes be subtle differences in meaning.

1. Quickly I ran away.

2. I quickly ran away.

3. I ran quickly away.

4. I ran away quickly.

Types Adverbs

Adverb of Place

An adverb of place tells where about the word it modifies.

Adverb of Time

An adverb of time tells when about the word it modifies.

Adverb of Manner

An adverb of manner tells how about the word it modifies.

Adverb of Frequency

An adverb of frequency tells to what extent about the word it modifies.

Exercises

Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 3: Adjectives

Definition

An adjective is a part of speech used as a modifier that describes a noun or pronoun:

1. Traditional toys are still popular.

2. You have an interesting job.

3. Your suggestions are helpful.

4. You are gorgeous.

Positions of Adjectives

There are three positions where an adjective can be placed – before a noun, after a noun, or in the predicate. These positions of adjectives are called attributive, postpositive and predicative respectively.

Attributive Position

An adjective is in an attributive position when it is placed before the noun it modifies. For example,

1. I found some hilarious pictures. (Hilarious pre-modifies ‘pictures’.)

2. Clever people won’t stay in such an environment. (Clever pre-modifies ‘people’.)

However, pronouns cannot be pre-modified.

Postpositive Position

An adjective is in an postpositive position when it comes after the noun it modifies. Postpositive adjectives are not as common as attributive and predicative ones, but they are found in a number of fixed expressions. They are also used to post-modify indefinite pronouns because pronouns cannot be pre-modified. For example,

1. We have plenty of rooms available. (Available postmodifies ‘rooms’.)

2. There is nothing special. (Special post-modifies ‘nothing’. ‘There is special nothing’ is not acceptable.)

Predicative Position

An adjective is in an predicative position when it is placed in the predicate of a sentence. In that case, it modifies the subject of the sentence via a linking verb or other linking mechanism. For example,

1. Most students are happy. (Happy modifies ‘students’ via the linking verb ‘are’.)

2. She looked sad. (Sad modifies ‘she’ via the linking verb ‘looked’.)
Most adjectives can be placed either in the attributive or the predicative positions. However, a small number of adjectives are restricted to one position only. For example, some adjectives such as ‘previous’ can only occur in the attributive position. For example, it is unacceptable to say ‘this chapter is previous.’ Conversely, some adjectives such as ‘afraid’ can only occur predictively. For example, it is unacceptable to say ‘the afraid students did not say anything.’

Functions of Adjectives

There are two main uses of adjectives, namely describing and classifying.

Describing Function/Descriptive Adjective

An adjective can be used to describe the quality of a noun. It helps answer the question “what is X like?”, where X is the noun. For example,

1. The quick fox jumps over the lazy dog. (‘Quick’ describes the fox. ‘Lazy’ describes the dog.)

Describing adjectives can be modified by adverbs of degree like ‘very’ or ‘extremely’.

Common Descriptive Adjectives

A common descriptive adjective is not capitalized.
Example:
The sultry Mariah entertained her fans.

Proper Descriptive Adjectives

A proper descriptive adjective, being derived from a proper noun, is always capitalized.
Example:
I prefer the Chinese deli to the Japanese restaurant.

Classifying Function/Limiting Adjective

An adjective can be used to classify a noun. It indicates quantity, number or a limit to the word it modifies. It helps answer the question “what is the type of X?”, where X is the noun. For example,

1. These two British tourists know how to speak Italian. (‘British’ tells us the ‘type’ (nationality) of the tourists.)

Classifying adjectives cannot be modified by adverbs of degree like ‘very’ or ‘extremely’.

2. I prefer red wine to white wine. (‘Very red wine’ and ‘very white wine’ are not acceptable, because ‘red’ and ‘white’ function as classifying adjectives here.)

Types of Limiting Adjectives

  • Numerical adjectives may be cardinal (one, two, three,…) or ordinal *first, second, third,…)
  • Identifying adjectives are such, same and similar.
  • Articles are a and an (indefinite articles) and the (definite articles).
  • Nouns used as adjectives modify another noun or a pronoun.
  • Pronoun Used as Adjectives
    • Demonstrative adjectives are this, these, that and those.
    • Possessive adjectives show ownership. They are my, your, his, her, its, our and their.
    • Interrogative adjectives ask questions. They are which, what, whose and whose. When used they should immediately be followed by a noun.
    • Indefinite adjectives are grouped into three:
      • used with singular nouns – another, each, either, little, much, neither and one.
      • used with plural nouns – both, few, many and several.
      • used with singular or plural nouns – all, any, more, most, other and some.
  • Verbs are used with adjectives when they modify a noun or a pronoun. These verbs are usually in the present participle and past participle forms.
  • Complementary adjectives refer to the direct object and tell the result of the action of the verb on the direct object.

Comparatives and Superlatives

We change describing adjectives into comparatives and superlatives for making comparisons. The comparative form is used when one thing is compared with another. The superlative form is used when one thing is compared with any other thing in the domain of discussion.

For adjectives with more than two syllables, we always add more before the adjective to form its comparative, and most to form its superlative. For example, the two forms of ‘comfortable’ are ‘more comfortable’ and ‘(the) most comfortable’.

For adjectives with one or two syllables, we normally change the ending of the adjective to -er to make its comparative, and -est to make its superlative. For example, the two forms of ‘fast’ are ‘faster’ and ‘fastest’.

However, there are some of these short adjectives that can only take ‘more/most’. For example, the comparative form of ‘active’ is ‘more active’ instead of ‘activer’.

There are even some of these adjectives that can either take ‘more/most’ or ‘-er/-est’. For example, ‘commoner’ and ‘more common’ are both acceptable.

Order of Adjectives

When more than one adjectives are used to describe a noun, they are usually put in a certain order.

Article/Pronoun used as adjective
Intensifier
Quality
Size
Age
Color
Participle
Noun used as adjective
Head noun

Examples:

1. A beautiful young French woman (but not ‘a French beautiful young woman’)

2. A large blue paper bag (but not ‘a paper blue large bag’)

As a rule of thumb, if the adjective is more about personal opinion or judgement, it is further away from the noun. As a result, classifying adjectives are always closer to the noun than describing adjectives. We say ‘expensive white wine’ instead of ‘white expensive wine’. If two adjectives are both classifiers, the order is usually domain specific – based on how people categorise a certain noun.

Exercises

Online English Course: English Grammar: Basic Parts of Speech: Lesson 2: Pronouns

 

Definition

A pronoun replaces a noun in a sentence. The noun that is replaced is called an antecedent.

Pronouns can be classified in following different ways:

Types of Pronoun

Personal Pronoun

Type Nominative Possessive Objective Possessive Noun
Singular First Person I my me mine
Second Person you your you yours
Third Person he his him his
she her her hers
it its it its
Plural First Person we our us ours
Second Person you your you yours
Third Person they their them theirs
Interrogative who whose whom whose

Note: The possessive forms my, your, his, her, its, our and their function as adjectives when they modify a noun.

Cases of Personal Pronouns

  1. Nominative case – the pronoun is used as a subject or predicate nominative/subjective complement.
    Example:
    I am beautiful.(subject)
    The winner is she.(predicate nominative/subjective complement)
  2. Objective case – the pronoun is used as a direct object, indirect object or object of the preposition.
    Example:
    We met them in Florida. (direct object)
    You have to award him the medal. (indirect object)
    Are you finally going out with her? (object of the preposition)
  3. Possessive case – the pronoun is used to show ownership or possession.
    Example:
    That folder is mine.
    These paintings are theirs.

Compound Personal Pronouns

Compound personal pronouns are formed by adding -self or -selves to some personal pronouns.

Reflexive Pronoun

Reflexive pronoun may be used as a direct object or indirect object. It usually comes after the verb.

Intensive Pronoun

Intensive pronoun is used to emphasize that the action is done by the antecedent.

List of Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

Person Singular Plural
First Person myself ourselves
Second Person yourself yourselves
Third Person himself, herself, itself themselves

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns like that, which, who, whom and whose are used to introduce most adjective clauses and to connect them to the main clause.

  • That refers to either a person, animal or thing.
  • Which refers to animals or things.
  • Who refers to persons. It is usually used when the noun it refers to is the doer of the action or when the noun it refers to is the subject within the clause.
  • Whom refers to persons. It is usually used when the noun or pronoun it refers to is the receiver of the action or when the noun or pronoun is used as the object within the clause.
  • Whose refers to persons, animals or things. It is used to denote possession.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns like this, that, these and those are used to point out specific persons or things.

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions. They are who, whom, whose, which and what.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that do not refer to a particular person or group of persons.

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

another either neither other
anybody everybody nobody somebody
anyone everyone no one someone
anything everything nothing something
each much one

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

both few many several

Singular or Plural Indefinite Pronouns

all enough most plenty
any more none some

Online English Course: English Grammar: English Parts of Speech: Lesson 1: Nouns

 

Definition

A noun represents a person, place, thing, or idea. Nouns are used in sentences in two different ways: as subjects (performers of action), or objects (receivers of action).

The word comes from the Latin “nomen,” meaning “name.” Word classes like nouns were first described by the Sanskrit grammarian Pāṇini and ancient Greeks like Dionysios Thrax, and were defined in terms of their morphological properties. For example, in Ancient Greek, nouns inflect for grammatical case, such as dative or accusative.

Types of Nouns

Common and Proper Nouns

A common noun is any nonspecific person, place or thing.

A proper noun is any specific person, place, living being, or thing. A proper noun can be a name, places, companies, and trademarks. In the English language, all proper nouns are capitalized, which makes them easy to recognize.

Examples

In comparing common and proper nouns, the word cat can be used to describe many things, which makes it a common noun. Describing an animal as a thing happens in grammar but not biology since they’re living beings. (J.D. Meyer) However, you could be more specific and identify a certain cat as being Garfield or Felix, which would make it a proper noun.

Special Classes of Nouns

  • Concrete noun names something that can be perceived with the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste).
    Examples: air, flower, food, water
  • Abstract noun names something that can’t be perceived with the five senses.
    Examples: love, truth, belief, sympathy
  • Collective noun names a collection or a group of similar things.
    Examples: flock, herd, pack, etc.
  • Mass noun a noun that is very rarely plural and is never with articles ‘a’ and ‘an’.
    Examples: advice, equipment, fruit, information, weather
  • Compound noun is made up of two or more words forming a unit idea.
    Examples: skyscraper, rubout, commander-in-chief

Properties of Nouns

  1. Person
  2. Number
    • Singular in number indicates one object only.
      Examples: bus, girl, boy, town, stone
    • Plural in number indicates two or more objects. Most noun form their plural by adding -s or -es Examples: bag-bags, tree-trees, glass-glasses, church-churches
  3. Gender determines the sex of a noun.
    • Masculine gender indicates the male sex.
      Examples: brother, gander, nephew, father, John
    • Feminine gender indicates the female sex.
      Examples: mother, sister, doe, Mary
    • Common gender indicates uncertainty of sex which is either male or female.
      Examples: teacher, parent, horse, cat, child
    • Neuter gender indicates that an object is without sex.
      Examples: rock, leaf, sea, mountain, hill, paper
  4. Case shows the relation of a noun to other words in the sentence or phrase.
    • Nominative case indicates that a noun is doing or being something in the sentence. A noun in the nominative case can be either a subject or predicate but not both in the sentence.
    • Objective case indicates that a person or a thing is being acted upon. A noun in the objective case can be use as object of the verb or object of the preposition.
    • Possessive case indicates that a person or a thing owns something. The possessive form of a noun is usually formed by adding an apostrophe (‘) or an apostrophe s (‘s)

Uses of Nouns

  1. Subject refers to the word about something is said in a sentence.
  2. Predicative nominative or predicate noun renames, identifies or explains the subject in a sentence. It is normally placed after a linking verb.
  3. Direct object refers to the receiver of the action in a sentence. It answers the question What? or Who?
  4. Indirect object tells to whom, to what, for whom or for what a thing is done.
  5. Object of the preposition answers the question What? or Whom? after the preposition.
  6. Appositive refers to a noun that identifies or provides further information about another word in the sentence.
    • Essential appositive makes the meaning of a sentence clear. It is usually not set off by a comma.
    • Non-essential appositive may be omitted in the sentence without changing the meaning of it.
  7. Objective complement adds to the meaning of or renames the direct object. It appears only with these verbs: appoint, call, consider, declare, elect, judge, label, make, name, select or think.
  8. Direct address is the name or word by which a person is addressed. It is set off by a comma.

Identifying Nouns

In the following paragraph, taken from Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, all nouns appear in bold lettering. The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a plowed (British English: ploughed) field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master’s house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a grove of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank.

Exercises

Proper Noun and Common Noun

Identify if the noun is a proper noun or a common noun.

  1. cat
  2. Florida
  3. umbrella
  4. Wikipedia
  5. water
  6. shorts
  7. alcohol
  8. Samsung
  9. song
  10. Cinderella

Give a proper noun that is related to the common noun.

  1. television
  2. shoes
  3. singer
  4. actor
  5. country
  6. book
  7. laptop
  8. cellphone
  9. tree
  10. ball point pen

Give a common noun that is related to the proper noun.

  1. Snow White
  2. Google
  3. Ford
  4. Sunflower
  5. Asia
  6. Hawaii
  7. Meet the Robinsons
  8. Don’t Quit
  9. Kobe Bryant
  10. Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious

Other Exercises

Identify the nouns in the sentences below. There may be more than one noun per sentence.

1. Janet is the name of a girl.

2. Off-key whistling is annoying to me, but not to everybody.

3. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

4. The World Wide Web has become the least expensive way to publish information.

Identify the nouns in the paragraph below. Text is from the first stave of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

5. The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

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