24 Oct 2014

The participle phrase

A participle is a form of a verb and may act as an adjective. There are two kinds of a participle: the present participle and past (perfect) participle. A present participle always ends in 
-ing form (smiling, cooking, walking), whereas a past participle usually ends with –ed (smiled, cooked, walked) for regular verbs and for irregular verbs they vary considerably (break – broken).

A participle phrase consists of a participle and an object and, optionally, its modifiers  - acts as an adjective, modifying a noun or a pronoun. They may modify a subject or other nouns/objects in a sentence.

a smiling lady

a – an indefinite article (determiner) modifies ‘lady’, 
smiling – an adjective, which modifies ‘lady’;
both are modifiers and called ‘determiners’, which occur before a noun being modified. Therefore, ‘a smiling lady’ is a noun phrase with a particle working as an adjective.

a retired teacher
this is again the same pattern.

This lady walking towards us is Peter’s sister.

Peter’s old, red, Japanese sport car repaired three times this month is a scrap of metal.

These parts coloured in red are participial phrases. 

Having been a teacher of English, Peter’s older sister of Nottingham in Yorkshire in England does not like the East London accent.

Being a retired teacher of English for over 30 years, Jane loves to correct Peter’s London’s accent.

23 Oct 2014

Noun phrases and adjective prepositional phrases

Today it is time to put the knowledge into action. I highly recommend you, a reader, try on your own. You may check out if your sentences are correct at Ginger, interesting software – an automatic proof-reader.

Peter's older sister from the lovely scenic countryside in Yorkshire in England is a retired teacher of English.

Let’s analyse this sentence; firstly, it is a simple sentence with one independent clause.

Peter’s old sister – a noun phrase with a noun: sister and modifiers: Peter’s (possessive noun) and old (adjective); from the lovely scenic countryside – an adjectival prepositional phrase modifying ‘sister’ (from where) which is followed by two adjectival prepositional phrases in Yorkshire in England, which modify ‘countryside’.

from the lovely scenic countryside – starts with a preposition 'from' of an object: ‘countryside’, a noun preceded by two adjectives, its modifiers.

The subject of this sentence is ‘sister’ with the main verb ‘is’, which is a linking verb, thus a noun phrase ‘a retired teacher’ is a noun phrase acting as a subject complement modified by another prepositional phrase: of English.

Instead of a short and boring sentence: ‘Peter’s sister is a teacher.’, we have quite a long sentence, depicting Peter’s sister’s location and profession in one, but more sophisticated sentence, which sounds more interesting.

That tall, curly grey-haired lady in a beige pair of breeches with a brownish and yellow checked sport jacket is a retired teacher of English from the lovely scenic countryside in Yorkshire in England.

If you can create another sentence, adding the information that our lady is also a sister of Peter, please let me know. 

In the sentence above there are: a noun phrase, two adjectival prepositional phrases, a linking verb, a subject complement, followed by four adjectival prepositional phrases. And only one comma.

Now, your turn, dear reader, and please share your sentences with others. 

22 Oct 2014

A prepositional phrase

In previous posts I talked about modifiers which come before a noun to create a noun phrase. Now, I will discuss those modifiers which come after a noun and a prepositional phrase is one of them.

It starts with a preposition and ends with an object of a preposition; the object itself can be preceded by its modifiers. Objects of prepositions are nouns and pronouns and take an objective case.

There is never the subject of a sentence in a prepositional phrase, only a subject of a preposition.

The most commonly used prepositions are: about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, but (when it means except), by, concerning, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, out, outside, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, until, up, upon, with, within, and without.

We have to remember that these words above can be used as other parts of speech, for example ‘up’ is used as: adjective, adverb, particle, preposition, verb and noun. A particle is a part of a phrasal verb or an idiom.

To be sure whether a certain word acts as a preposition in a prepositional phrase we need to find an object of it. If there is none – this is not a preposition, nor a prepositional phrase.

Finally, prepositional phrases may function in a sentence as an adjective or an adverb; therefore, there are two types of prepositional phrases: adjectival prepositional phrases and adverbial prepositional phrases.

An adjectival prepositional phrase comes directly after a noun as its modifier or after another adjectival prepositional phrase modifying an object from the first phrase.

Peter’s old red car from Japan in Asia cost a fortune.

There are two simple adjectival prepositional phrases in this sentence: ‘from Japan’ which modifies a car and ‘in Asia’ modifying Japan.

In the next post I will try to use more prepositions to show how we can join noun phrases with adjectival prepositional phrases to get the effect of the complex and interesting writing.

21 Oct 2014

Noun phrase – a role in a sentence

In the previous post I talked about a noun phrase and its modifiers coming before a noun or pronoun.
In my explanatory phrase: ‘Peter's old, French automobile’ – a noun phrase may, like any noun - be used as a subject, an object and a complement. In plain English it means that this phrase can be used in any part of a sentence, depending on its role.

Peter’s old, French automobile is in the garage.

The first noun phrase is used as a subject with ‘automobile’ being strictly a subject and ‘Peter’s old, French’ as modifiers: a possessive noun followed by two adjectives; ‘the garage’ is a noun phrase an object of a preposition ‘in’. In English there are three types of objects: a direct object, an indirect object and an object of a preposition.

Consider a sentence:
Please, pass Peter the butter. (Please, pass the butter to Peter.)

There are two nouns and two noun phrases: Peter (an indirect object) and the butter (a direct object of passing). I have found the English grammar quite difficult to explain without explaining some basic linguistic concepts; therefore, before running into all phrases and clauses I am trying to get familiar with terms used while talking about a sentence.

Consider another sentence:
Tell her what to do.

A subject is understood ‘you’, tell what? ‘what to do’ – this is a noun phrase (‘what’ is a pronoun here) and a direct object of telling ‘to whom?’. To her, so she is an indirect object in the objective case. In English this affects only pronouns, without affecting the subjective pronouns ‘you’ and ‘it’.
A subjective pronoun takes its objective case when it is used as an indirect object.

Subjective Pronoun
Objective Pronoun

A noun phrase as a complement follows a verb and is called a subject complement, as it gives us vital information about a subject and cannot be erased from a sentence. There are other complements, but for the time being I will concentrate only on subject complements being noun phrases.

Peter’s old, French automobile is a scrap of metal.

The noun phrase ‘a scrap of metal’ complements the car - a subject of a sentence. This type of a noun phrase follows verbs: ‘be’ in all its forms, ‘become’ and ‘seem’, which are true linking verbs.  
Noun phrases are the most common phrases used in the English language. Mastering constructing them and linking in a sentence is one of ways on a road to become a good English writer.

20 Oct 2014

Noun Phrase

A noun phrase comprises a noun (or sometimes pronoun: we, someone, no one) and any associated modifiers which distinguish it; modifiers can come before or after a noun; there may be one or many different modifiers which can stand together (contiguous) or the noun phrase may be broken (discontinuous ) where the second part is delayed.

Usually, after the definition of a noun phrase there are given examples of modifiers which themselves are parts of a sentence - but - as I am going to talk about all grammar structures one by one, I will be adding information about that in next posts.

Here let's discuss words which may come before a noun: articles, possessive pronouns, possessive nouns, adjectives and participles and nouns.

  • Articles: a child, the child 
  • Possessive pronouns: my child, their child
  • Possessive nouns: the Smith's child, teacher's child
  • Adjectives: tall child, ill child
  • Participles: the smiling child, a running child, a well-behaved child
  • Nouns: book cover, student body.

Participles are formed from verbs and can come in two types: present (gerund, -ing form) and past (from regular verbs mostly ending with -ed); participles, which is important, can play three different roles in a sentence. They may be components in compound verbs (is smiling) or act as adjectives (smiling boy) or nouns (reading: Reading books is my hobby).

In compound nouns a preceding noun acts as an adjective - modifying a main noun.  When there are too many nouns  in one string (called stacked or packed noun phrase) a reader may have a problem with understanding the phrase, like in: 'uniform resource locator protocol problem', therefore is better to avoid such structures or at least to separate them: the problem with the protocol of …

A noun phrase can take a form of a vocative (nouns of address) and is separated by comma.
My dear, ….
You, put it down.
Call the ambulance, somebody!

May I ask you, Sir, ….

It is worth reminding that technically a word, a phrase or a clause which modifies a noun can act as an adjective, that is why maybe it is better to talk about modifiers as a part of a sentence. In modern linguistics adjectives are separated from determiners (seven, only, much, many, articles and more) which in some dictionaries are still treated as adjectives. It is highly recommended to check out in a dictionary what part of speech and sentence represents our word. 
A few examples on how to make a noun phrase more interesting, playing with a word 'car'.

A car,
Peter's old, French automobile
My father's brand-new, red, Japanese sport car
That dirty, seven-year-old whitish limousine
The slowest East India asphalt road eater
Most desirable and enviable, Peter's first generation racket car

Any other ideas?

19 Oct 2014

The Phrase

The simplest English sentence consists of just one word: a verb and understood subject.

Go! (You go!)

In general, to create a sentence in English we need at least a subject and a verb. There are four types of English sentences: simple, complex, compound and compound-complex. I will talk about sentences later, first I would rather learn about phrases and clauses. This part of English grammar is quite complex.

A phrase usually consists of two or more words, do not contain a pair subject-verb, can be very short or very long and complicated.

Here are two example (source)

After lunch

After slithering down the stairs and across the road to scare nearly to death Mrs Philpot busy pruning her rose bushes

There are many different types of phrases in English, usually named after a word that starts and rules the phrase: noun phrase, verb phrase, prepositional phrase, infinitive phrase,participle phrase, gerund phrase, and absolute phrase.

Here is another list of phrases with slightly different names: Absolute Phrases || Appositive Phrases || Gerund Phrases || Infinitive Phrases ||Noun Phrases || Participial Phrases || Prepositional Phrases from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/

To discuss phrases, clauses and sentences we need to have a good knowledge of parts of a sentence. For the start let’s say that a sentence tells us: who (subject), does what (verb), about the object of doing. Other words usually play role of modifiers, like the most common adjectives and adverbs.

18 Oct 2014

New year, new aims

It is almost a year since I wrote the last post here.
Next year I will be sitting the next English exam; this time GCSE in English. And soon I will be writing assessments in creative, persuasive English. Albeit, as I think, I can write in decent English, this year's goal is to sound like an English writer and I do not find it easy.

First of all I need to master my grammar, especially sentence structures. I must recognise and fully understand how to build a sentence using phrases, clauses and language devices to address my reader in clear, yet very engaging way. The variety of language techniques, usage of adjectives, adverbs and strong, emotive words are the clue of the successful writer.

Therefore, I am going to share on this blog with what I have learnt, as well with some sentences I am going to write and rewrite to master my style. My strong resolution is to write here every day, picking up a subject, trying new words or new techniques.

For today, two sentences, the first is an example of a simple sentence (according to this website), the second - a try in descriptive language. This kind of a sentence has its name in English, but for now I cannot find it in my head.

Being an avid reader with a penchant for a plot's complexity, I love mystery books full of tension of the 19th century.

Hair tousled, she silently marched out of the cramped room where her family made an awful, suffocated and discordant din. (Rule of three - awful, suffocated and discordant; oxymoron: silently marched.)

The advice I was given which I am impairing to others: read a lot, mostly aloud, write down new words and exemplary sentences. Read a few or even many books at the time, not bother with ending them, read for the language, to taste it.