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November 14th, 2014, 12:27 PM #1
English Language Rules and Definitions.
English Has a lot of Rules and Definitions most people either take for granted that they understand or just don't know, and so I thought it might be an idea to try and make as comprehensive, and clearly explained, a list of them as possible.
Even down to apparently simple things like nouns,adjectives, correct comma and semicolon (;)usage and double spacing.
I will kick the ball off the tee with Indefinite/ Definite Articles and hopefully if others pitch in with the clearest possible definition for specific elements of the English language. This thread can score a slamdunk. (oh mixed metaphors that's another definition someone could add maybe.)
Preferably cut and paste info rather than post links though to keep the info in the thread. Maybe save people hoping around between sites and the wait while pages load.
As each new def is added (f any are) I'll try to add it into this intro along with page locations. So the thread is easier to navigate.
Page One - 1/, Indefinite and Definite Articles (A, AN, THE.) 2/. Parts of Speech ((NOUN, ADJECTIVE, VERB, ADVERB, PRONOUN, CONJUNCTION, PREPOSITION, INTERJECTION.) 3/. Clauses. (MAIN CLAUSE, SUBORDINATE CLAUSE, CONDITIONAL CLAUSE, RELATIVE CLAUSES) 4/. Dangling Participles and Participles 5/. Structural Versus Traditional Grammar and more on Clauses (FINITE, NON-FINITE and VERBLESS) by Dawn Storm Nov.21st.2014. 6/. Homonyms by Demon Nov.21st.2014. 7/. Multiple Paragraphs in a Dialogue (or How to use Quotation Marks to show a single character's speech has run across Multiple Paragraphs.) by Peter Kenson. Nov.22nd.2014. 8/.
Last edited by Luka Datas; Today at 02:45 AM.
November 14th, 2014, 12:29 PM #2
1/. Indefinite/ Definite Articles - A, An, The
There are two indefinite articles in English: 'a' and 'an'. They are used before a singular noun that has a plural form. 'A' is used before a consonant sound and 'an' is used before a vowel sound.
The vowels are A, E, I, O and U and the consonants are ALL the other letters of the alphabet. Therefore;
an Apple, an Elephant, an Igloo, an Ostrich etc. (the vowels)
a Bike, a Car, a Dog, a Frog, etc. (the consonants)
The sound is more important than the spelling; we say 'an umbrella' and 'a union' because the sounds of the first letter are different.
- union is pronounced as yoon-yuh n and since y is the initial letter in the word's phonetic breakdown and it's a consonant the correct IA to use with it is 'a'
- umbrella, which is pronounced uhm-brel-uh, obviously has the letter u first in its phonetic breakdown and since u is a vowel the correct IA to use with it is 'an'
'The' is the definite article is English. It is used to restrict the meaning of a noun to make it refer to something that is known by both the speaker or writer and the listener or reader:
He's gone to the shops. (Here the listener knows which shops I mean)
It can also be used to refer back to something that has already been mentioned:
There's a word for that. Now, what is the word?
It can be used to refer forwards to something that is coming:
The key to the front door is under the mat.
It can be used to refer to a group:
The car has changed our way of living.
Indefinite and Definite Articles are also called Noun Markers
Last edited by Luka Datas; Today at 02:38 AM.
November 15th, 2014, 03:11 PM #3
2/. Parts of speech
PARTS OF SPEECH
Words are often named according to how they are used in sentences. These names for the words are called their parts of speech. The eight parts of speech in English are:
nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
1. The names of persons, places, things, feelings, or ideas. Nouns usually answer the questions who or what.
2. Nouns are often preceded by "noun markers," the words a, an, and the. The word answering "who or what" asked after a noun marker will be a noun.
3. Nouns usually form a plural by adding an s. If you are unsure if a word is a noun, try adding s to mean more than one. If it works, the word is probably a noun.
4. Word endings -ance, -ancy, -ence, -ice, -ion, -ity, -ment, -ness, and -ure usually form nouns.
1. Verbs are words which show action or doing. All sentences must have at least one verb.
2. A few verbs, called "linking verbs," express that someone or something exists or is a certain way. Memorize them: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being. They are always verbs.
3. Verbs change form to show a difference in time. If you change a sentence from present to past, or past to present, the words which change are verbs.
4. Complete verbs may include two or more verbs working together and consisting of a main verb and "helping verbs." The only words that can be helping verbs are:
can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, must -- (always helping verbs)
have, has, had, do, does, did,be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being -- (helping or main)
5. The endings -ify and -ize usually form verbs; -ing or -ed endings are common verb forms.
6. Check verbs by fitting them in one of the following: He (or she) _______. They _______.
1. Adjectives are words which describe only nouns. They tell what kind? or how many?
2. The noun markers a, an, and the are always adjectives.
3. Adjectives pile up in front of nouns. For example: the big, red, flashy car. All underlined words are adjectives describing the noun car.
4. Adjectives may also follow a linking verb and describe the subject of a sentence. For example: The car is big, red, and flashy.
5. The word endings -able, -ful, - ible, - ical, -ious, -ive, -y usually form adjectives.
1. Pronouns are words which take the place of nouns to keep from repeating the nouns over and over in a sentence or paragraph.
2. The most common pronouns are: I, he, we, she, they, me, him, us, her, them, it, this, that, who, which, what.
3. One form of pronoun shows possession or ownership. These possessive pronouns work like adjectives, describing nouns. They include the words my, mine, his, her, hers, our, ours, their, theirs, your, yours, its, and whose. Note that they don’t use apostrophes.
1. Prepositions are common words which begin prepositional phrases (groups of words which work together). Prepositional phrases always start with a preposition and end with a noun or pronoun, and the entire phrase describes other words.
2. Most prepositions indicate time, place, or position.
3. The most common prepositions are: at, to, with, from, for, of, on, in, into, onto,between, under, over, against, and around.
some examples of prepositional phrases are;
- Amid the confusion
- Around the world
- Before we start the meeting
- Between a rock and a hard place
- By the light of the moon
- Like a beautiful swan
1. Conjunctions are words which hook (or join) words, phrases, or sentences.
2. The most common conjunctions are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
Other common conjunctions are: because, when, while, as, since, although, whenever.
A subordinating conjunction is a word that introduces an adverb clause. Here are some subordinating conjunctions: after, although, as, as soon as, because, before, by the time, even if, even though, every time, if, in case, in the event that, just in case,now that, once, only if, since, the first time, though, unless, until, when, whenever, whereas, whether or not, while.
1. Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They answer the questions: how, when, where, why, or under what conditions.
2. A number of words are always adverbs. They include: not, very, often, here, almost, always, never, there, and too.
3. Adverbs very often end with -ly. However, be careful: not all words ending in -ly are adverbs.
1. Words which express emotion or are "fillers" in sentences, but which serve little other function are called interjections.
For example: The underlined words in each of these sentences are interjections.
Oh, I am surprised. Ouch! I hit my hand. Yes, I am here.
Remember: The part of speech is determined by how a word is used in a sentence. The same word may be a noun, verb, adjective, preposition, or conjunction according to how it is used.
Last edited by Luka Datas; Today at 02:39 AM.
November 16th, 2014, 06:08 AM #4
Perhaps this should be made into a sticky thread? I know I'd find it handy to come back to if there's anything I get a brain fart over.
November 21st, 2014, 03:29 AM #5
3/. Clauses (traditional)
A clause is a group of words that contains a verb (and usually other components too). A clause may form part of a sentence or it may be a complete sentence in itself. For example:
He was eating a bacon sandwich.
She had a long career but she is remembered mainly for one early work.
Every sentence contains at least one main clause. A main clause may form part of a compound sentence or a complex sentence, but it also makes sense on its own, as in this example:
He was eating a bacon sandwich.
Compound sentences are made up of two or more main clauses linked by a conjunction such as and, but, or so, as in the following examples:
I love sport and I’m captain of the local football team.
[main clause] [conjunction] [main clause]
She was born in Spain but her mother is Polish.
[main clause] [conjunction] [main clause]
A subordinate clause depends on a main clause for its meaning. Together with a main clause, a subordinate clause forms part of a complex sentence. Here are two examples of sentences containing subordinate clauses:
After we had had lunch, we went back to work.
[subordinate clause] [main clause]
I first saw her in Paris, where I lived in the early nineties.
[main clause] [subordinate clause]
There are two main types of subordinate clause: conditional clauses and relative clauses.
A conditional clause is one that usually begins with if or unless and describes something that is possible or probable:
If it looks like rain a simple shelter can be made out of a plastic sheet
[conditional clause] [main clause]
I'll be home tomorrow unless the plane's delayed for hours.
[main clause] [conditional clause]
A relative clause is one connected to a main clause by a word such as which, that, whom, whose, when, where, or who:
I first saw her in Paris, where I lived in the early nineties.
[main clause] [relative clause]
She wants to be with Thomas, who is best suited to take care of her.
[main clause] [relative clause]
I was wearing the dress that I bought to wear to Jo's party.
[main clause] [relative clause]
Using relative clauses
Have you ever wondered about when to use that and when to use which or who in this type of sentence? In fact, for much of the time that is interchangeable with either of these words. For example:
√ You’re the only person who has ever listened to me.
√ You’re the only person that has ever listened to me.
√ It’s a film that should be seen by everyone.
√ It’s a film which should be seen by everyone
When referring to something, rather than someone, that tends to be the usual choice in everyday writing and conversation in British English. However, there is one main case when you should not use that to introduce a relative clause. This is related to the fact that there are two types of relative clause: a restrictive relative clause and a non-restrictive relative clause.
Restrictive relative clause
A restrictive relative clause (also known as a defining relative clause) gives essential information about a noun that comes before it: without this clause the sentence wouldn’t make much sense. A restrictive relative clause can be introduced by that, which, whose, who, or whom. You should not place a comma in front of a restrictive relative clause:
√ She held out the hand which was hurt.
√ She held out the hand that was hurt.
[main clause] [restrictive relative clause]
You can also leave out that or which in some restrictive relative clauses:
√ It reminded him of the house that he used to rent in Oxford.
√ It reminded him of the house which he used to rent in Oxford.
√ It reminded him of the house he used to rent in Oxford.
[main clause] [restrictive relative clause]
Non-restrictive relative clause
A non-restrictive relative clause (also called a non-defining relative clause) provides extra information that could be left out without affecting the meaning or structure of the sentence. Non-restrictive relative clauses are normally introduced by which, whose, who, or whom, but never by that. You should place a comma in front of them:
She held out her hand, which Rob shook.
[main clause] [non-restrictive relative clause]
If a non-restrictive relative clause is in the middle of a sentence, you should put commas before and after it:
Bill, who had fallen asleep on the sofa, suddenly roused himself.
[non-restrictive relative clause]
Last edited by Luka Datas; Today at 02:40 AM.
November 21st, 2014, 05:17 AM #6
4/. Dangling Participles and Participles
Dangling participles and Participles.
Ask me what a participle is and I've got no idea. Do you know? Someone knows because someone always knows but if your not one of those who knows everything this is what a participle is.
Participle - in English a participle is a word formed from a verb, usually by adding -d, -ed, or -ing.
There are two kinds of participle in English, as follows:
The present participle
The present participle ends with -ing, e.g.:
We are going to Italy.
The company is building new headquarters in the UK.
The past participle
The past participle ends with -d or -ed for regular verbs, e.g.:
She had decided to go to Italy.
Fans had camped outside the studio.
and with -t or -en or some other form for irregular ones, e.g.:
New houses are still being built.
The glass is broken.
That's all they are
look - looking, be - being, hike - hiking, see - seeing etc.
Participles of verbs are often used to introduce subordinate clauses, which give extra information about the main part of a sentence (known as the main clause). It’s important to use participles in subordinate clauses correctly. The participle should always describe an action performed by the subject of the main part of the sentence. For example:
Mrs Stevens, opening the door quietly, came into the room.
Everybody knows what participles are now - but how could something like that dangle..?
It might help to take a look at a few examples first:
- "Looking around the yard, dandelions sprouted in every corner."
- "Eating like a hungry hippo, the pancakes disappeared from my plate within seconds."
- "Running after the school bus, the backpack bounced from side to side."
Clearly something's missing in these sentences. The phrase (subordinate clause) at the beginning sets us up for a noun that doesn't exist! Dangling participles "dangle" because they hang out there in the sentence with no noun to connect them to.!
LOOKING AROUND THE YARD | DANDELIONS SPROUTED
Who is looking around the yard? Not dandelions! And the yard definitely isn't looking around! We know that the participle "looking" really must refer to a person, and in the sentence that this person should be identified with a noun or pronoun. To fix this sentence, you should add the most apt one to match your modifier.
"Looking around the yard, dandelions sprouted in every corner."
LOOKING AROUND THE YARD, I COULD SEE THAT DANDELIONS SPROUTED IN EVERY CORNER. (for instance.)
EATING LIKE A HIPPO | PANCAKES DISAPPEARED
Who is doing the eating? Not pancakes! Not the plate! - Wait! I need something or someone to do the eating and these are the only two nouns that get a mention. Something needs fixing SO.... To fix this, you could add the pronoun 'I" again. (or He, She, Jenny, Rufus, The cat, The man-eating Ficus etc.)
"Eating like a hungry hippo, the pancakes disappeared from my plate within seconds."
EATING LIKE A HUNGRY HIPPO, I MADE THE PANCAKES DISAPPEAR…
And the next example:
RUNNING AFTER THE BUS | BACKPACK BOUNCED
Who is running? Not the backpack!
Running after the school bus, the backpack bounced from side to side."
RUNNING AFTER THE BUS, THE GIRL FELT HER BACKPACK BOUNCE…
Note: Each sentence in the examples above begins with an "ing" word called the participle. However the sentence doesn't need to begin with the Verb's Participle for it to be left Dangling.
Travelling to Finland, the weather got colder and colder.
Could also read 'While travelling to Finland, the weather got colder and colder."
notice how the participle is still dangling? Because the verb hasn't been attached to a noun.
Strictly speaking, this sentence means that it is ‘the weather’ that is ‘travelling to Finland’, which obviously isn’t what the writer was intending to say. The sentence needs to be reworded to make the meaning clear and to make it grammatically correct, e.g.:
As I was travelling to Finland, the weather got colder and colder.
While Travelling to Finland, I found that the weather got colder and colder.
Last edited by Luka Datas; Today at 02:41 AM.
November 21st, 2014, 06:56 AM #7
Great thread. These are the kinds of things I obsessed over when I was learning the language. There are still a couple hiccups here and there on my end, but studying even just what is present in this thread can go a long, long way.
November 21st, 2014, 10:21 AM #8
Thanks Demon and Sarunus, As a first language English speaker I didn't know any of these things. Before my interest in writing was recently rekindled it wasn't really necessary for me to
I'm therefore not an expert which is why if anyone can see any glaring faults in these explanations I am open to making changes or refinements to the definitions .
Also - hopefully this thread will stop being just mine soon when other people begin to contribute bits and bobs. The more the better. Obviously this thing can't go on forever and there has to be a limit to the rules and definitions in the English language. Be nice to get every single one of them, on here though.
If this thing goes sticky I'm happy to hand it over to a moderator to manage as well. In case win a slot on the Mars mission.
PS if anyone needs any inspiration "Word Crimes" by Weird Al might give you some ideas ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc
Last edited by Luka Datas; November 21st, 2014 at 10:29 AM.
November 21st, 2014, 01:41 PM #9
You're using traditional grammar. It's the type of grammar that's almost exclusively used by teachers these days. Linguists don't use it anymore. There are different grammars that linguists use; the most common one being structural grammar.
For example, you said about clauses that they contain verbs, and with traditional grammar that's the case. Structural grammar, however, does not require clauses to contain verbs. (See here for an example; they distinguish finite, non-finite and verbless clauses.) I hesitate posting things, because sometimes the differences can be pretty big, and that might be confusing.
Basically, you're not wrong, but there are sources out there which contradict you, and they're not wrong either. Terms aren't as uniform as we'd sometimes like them to be. Different theories divide language in different ways, but they use the same words for their descriptions.
November 21st, 2014, 04:31 PM #10
The English language I would have to admit is probably the most difficult language to grasp on paper, as there are a horde of rules and a lot of them can be broken. Even more often, are broken when they shouldn't be. As Dawnstorm pointed out, nothing you wrote is wrong, but it's not concrete either. And on top of all this, the English language is also addapting and changing as the generations go by and people become less inclined to use older words that are considered tough to pronounce [too big] and too difficult to remember or spell. What makes it even more challenging are Homonyms: words that mean different things, but are spelt the same
Examples: Bear = an omnivorous mammal, or the act of enduring something.
Tear = a salivation of the eye tear ducts, or to rip something apart
Plane = An aerodynamic vehicle, or a level of dimensions
English was a struggle for most of my class mates, because they've developed a method of using the most simple words possible to avoid the difficulties. Writing, unfortunately, will force in some cases to use those big words to cut down a lot of words, which the one larger, most likely more complex word, would suffice.
Still think this should be a sticky. How difficult the language is when native speakers struggle with it on such a large scale?
November 21st, 2014, 05:38 PM #11
How difficult the language is when native speakers struggle with it on such a large scale?
For example, my mother tongue is German, and one of the biggest problems learning English was understanding when to use the perfect aspect ("have done"). German has the form, but not the meaning. I literally had to create a distinction in my mind that I didn't have yet. Occasionally, being a native speaker of German even gives me an advantage over native speakers, because English and German share a past and sometimes there are traces of constructions in English that survive fully in English. For example, "Woe is me!" is difficult for many native speakers. They often think it should be "Woe is I!" It shouldn't. Since German still distinguishes the dative and accusative cases, this is readily apparent to a native speaker of German. In English, prepostions tend to do the work that case does in German (Normal modern English would have something like "Woe is (in store) for me," or something.)
Finally, analysing a construction can be difficult, even if using it can be completely unproblematic. There are problems I have in English with such simple things as identifying the subject of a sentence; whether I get it right, though, doesn't change the sentence itself. I prefer not to give an example, since this would go beyond the level of grammatical-term usage that's useful for writers and might confuse people even more.
The one thing that readers of this thread have to be aware of is that even a simple word such as "noun" doesn't only have one meaning, and while most of the time this isn't problematic, it can lead to "false conflicts". I've once read a heated discussion on whether "taxi" in "taxi driver" is a noun or an adjective. Both sides were convinced they were right (which they were) and the other side was wrong (which it wasn't). They just didn't use the same jargon (even though they used the same terms). Basically, even if you get the hang of the definitions in this thread, there's no guarantee that people out there use this set of definitions.
But it's not a simple case of posting rival definitions, partly because there isn't only one, but mainly because whithout understanding the underlying theories it's not immediately apparent why the differences matter. Why, for example, would a writer need to know whether "taxi" in "taxi driver" is a noun or an adjective, when "taxi driver" is perfectly easy to use in a sentence? The definitions overlap enough that it usually doesn't make any difference which one you use.
Last edited by Dawnstorm; November 21st, 2014 at 05:39 PM. Reason: "depends about"? Wtf?
Yesterday, 08:21 AM #12
I found the biggest difficulty coming from Lithuanian was the lack of specificity in the grammar. English does not have much inflection, and in Lithuanian, which is highly inflected, it is sometimes easier (for me) to communicate the time of actions and sort out subjects, objects, and indirect objects. The use of the subjunctive in English took some practice as well.
I learned German before learning English, and much of what I learned in German was pretty helpful with my English acquisition. Admittedly, my German is not so great these days, but I find my ability to use some of the Middle English terms (thou, thine, thee, etc) is greatly helped by my knowledge of German (du, dein, dich).
Articles are not present in Lithuanian or Russian, so that was a bit of a curve, but not as hard as I thought it would be.
Yesterday, 07:17 PM #13
- Join Date
- Jul 2014
Multiple paragraphs in a dialogue
This is an interesting one which seems to trip up a few people, including reviewers.
If in a conversation, one person's dialogue is split into several consecutive paragraphs, you put opening quotation marks at the start of each paragraph but you only put closing quotation marks at the end of the final paragraph, not the intermediate ones. If you put closing quotation marks at the end of every paragraph, it implies that the following paragraph is spoken by somebody else.