15 Nov 2014

Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions, also called two words conjunctions or paired conjunctions, may link words, phrases and clauses. Here are the most common pairs.
  • As / as
  • Both / and
  • Either / or
  • Hardly / when
  • If / then
  • Just as / so
  • Neither / nor
  • Not only / but also
  • No sooner / than
  • Not / but
  • Rather / than
  • Scarcely / when
  • What with / and
  • Whether / or
Correlative conjunctions create parallel structures which must agree grammatically. They may connect: nouns, adjective, phrases and independent clauses. 

Connecting nouns:
  • I like both cats and dogs. 
  • Both France and Germany agreed to the treaty. 
  • Both John and Peter are teachers. 

Connecting adjectives:
  • Theresa reads both romance and fantasy books. 
  • They were both kind, nice and cheerful. 
  • Life is not easy but difficult. 
  • In her life, Theresa was not only successful but also happy.

Connecting prepositional phrases:
  • I will go for a holiday either in June or in July. 
  • He worked hard the whole life neither for fame nor for money.
  • Our children want neither to go for a stroll nor to stay home. 
Connecting independent clauses:
  • Either I will read a book, or I will go for a walk in the park. 
  • Stella likes both going to the cinema, and cooking dinner for her family. 
  • If it is raining tomorrow, then I will stay home.
More about correlative conjunctions and independent clauses in the next post. 

Independent clauses linked by a conjunctive adverb

Two independent clauses joined by a transitional word or phrase require a semicolon between them and a comma after a linking word.

Let's look at some examples:

It is true that among the Arunta, where visible traces of classification still exist, as we shall see, different words designate the totem and the other beings placed with it; however, the name given to these latter bears witness to the close relations which unite them to the totemic animal.

They themselves have an interest in its being celebrated; therefore, in certain tribes, it is they who invite the qualified clan to proceed with the ceremonies.
(Emile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life) 

Here is the list of the most common conjunctive adverbs: accordingly, furthermore, moreover, similarly, also, hence, namely, still, anyway, however, nevertheless, then, besides, incidentally, next, thereafter, certainly, indeed, nonetheless, therefore, consequently, instead, now, thus, finally, likewise, otherwise, undoubtedly, further, meanwhile.

In linguistics, conjunctive adverbs are also called conjuncts or disjuncts, depending on the role in a sentence they play.

Previous to the Revolution Ras Tafari expected daily that he would be imprisoned which, in his opinion, would have been the equivalent of a death sentence; and accordingly he confided his will and all his available money to me in order that I should arrange for its transmission to the Bank of England in trust for his children. The life of my choice. Thesiger, Wilfred.

A conjunctive adverb, as it is shown in the example sentence above, can be modified by coordinating conjunctions or other words, mostly adverbs. I think that the most important is to try to use them in your own sentences, and then incorporate them into your writings.

Here, are my own sentences.

I was late for work; hence, I had to stay late at the office to finish off the project.

She was running; and yet, she was speaking on her mobile.

She was running in panic; certainly, there was someone pursuing her.

He studied hard; thus, he got all A stars in his exams.

He was very lazy; consequently, he was not promoted.

I like cats; nonetheless, there are no cats at my home; instead, we have three dogs.

I was late for work because of the signal failure on the Tube; consequently, my wife complained when I came back home late.

Firstly, I was late for work; next, I was late for the meeting; finally, I was late for the family's dinner, and, as a result, my wife gave me three silent days.

I was late for work; furthermore, my co-worker was late too; likewise, half of other Londoners were also delayed.

She was running in the park; meanwhile, the villain in the black shades was observing her every stop.

She was running in the park every day during the last month; undoubtedly, she was preparing to win the London Marathon.

In English, there are many adverbs and phrases which may connect two or more independent sentences, and usually they are classified into groups of:

  • addition (next, in addition to, again, also)
  • comparison (similarly, likewise, also)
  • concession (of course, naturally, granted)
  • emphasis (certainly, indeed, in fact)
  • contrast (and yet, but at the same time, although, nevertheless)
  • example or illustration (for example, for instance, after all)
  • summary (to sum up, on the whole, therefore)
  • time sequence (firstly, next, finally, thereafter)

8 Nov 2014

Conjunctive adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs called also transitional words and expressions or adverbial phrases or big, ugly linking words can be rather difficult to master for students of English as a second language.

First, they may work as simple adverbs, thus play the role of adverbs, modifying verbs, adjectives and other adverbs.

You can do it however you like, it really doesn't matter. (a modifier of a verb DO)
However hungry I am, I never seem to be able to finish off a whole pizza. (a modifier of an adjective HUNGRY)
As simple adverbs, conjunctive adverbs may be placed at the beginning, at the end or in the middle of a sentence and they do not require using a comma. 

Conjunctive adverbs can also start a clause (a sentence) to indicate: result, concession, apposition, addition, time, contrast, summary or reinforcement. 

This is one possible solution to the problem. However, there are others.
There may, however, be other reasons that we don't know about.

(The examples are from the same page in Cambridge Dictionary.)

Conjunctive adverbs used in such a manner require a comma or two commas. 

And now we may continue our discussion about independent clauses. In literature, there are two ways of introducing conjunctive adverbs, linking independent clauses; one school categorise them into classes whereas the second defines them as sets of relations between clauses. 

For example, a class of 'addition': and, in addition or furthermore; a class of 'contrast': although, and yet or on the contrary, and so on. The problem with classes is that the same conjunctive adverb may be used to show different relations. The point is to use them correctly, not to memorise the list of different classes of plenty of conjunctive adverbs. 

Again, there are two schools of grammarians on how often we should use them. Typically, a very formal piece of work, especially academic essays, will require you to add them not only to link independent clauses, but also to link the paragraphs to show your way of thinking and transition of your ideas. However, many a teacher does not like them in abundance. Less academic writing looks better when transitional sentences between paragraphs are used to connect and to develop the ideas. 

In the next post, I will discuss the most common conjunctive adverbs linking independent clauses. 

6 Nov 2014

Independent clauses and coordinating conjunctions

An independent clause contains a subject and a verb, creates a complete thought and stands alone as a sentence.

A cat was basking in the sun.

When we add some phrases, the sentence is more interesting but it is still an independent clause.

Alise's big, fluffy cat was basking in the afternoon sun.
I have read that a simple sentence does not require commas. Well, as we can see it depends on a sentence. A simple sentence does not mean a short sentence.

Snoring and breathing aloud, Alise's big, fluffy cat was basking in the afternoon sun.
Snoring and breathing aloud, Alise's old, big, fluffy cat was happily basking in the afternoon sun on the sofa in the dining room.

As we can see, the length of the sentence will not tell us whether the sentence is simple or not. Sometimes a good simple sentence with many phrases is better than a compound sentence (two independent clauses).

Alise was reading and a cat was basking in the sun. (a compound sentence)

Independent clauses are linked together by special linking words or structures, as well as a comma and a semicolon,

Coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS): far, and, nor, but, or, yet, so, link equal words, phrases and clauses. Conjunctions. which coordinate the independent clauses require a comma before the linking word. In some cases, when both clauses are short, the comma is left out.

Peter bought a new bike yesterday, for he wanted to join a biking club. (because)
Peter bought a new bike yesterday, but Jane bought a new computer.
I did not like bananas, nor I like apples.
Tomorrow, we will go to eat at town, or we will stay home for a barbecue.
I saw a film on tv yesterday, yet I do not remember the ending. (similar to but)
People regard me as a stay-at-home, so I am not invited for most parties.

Two independent clauses/sentences may be joined by a semicolon instead of a comma plus a conjunction, but where to use it - depends on your feelings. Semicolon used instead of a comma plus a conjunction does not indicate the relationship between the two independent clauses; it is a reader's job to solve the mystery or wait for additional information.

My mother does not live for holidays abroad; she spends the summer at her allotment, devoted to the gardening.

Usually, we do not place a semicolon and a coordinating conjunction, but it is not a mistake if the two independent clauses are lengthy, complex and with commas within the clauses. My advice is: do not try it unless you feel strong in the language field. Smiles.

4 Nov 2014

What is a clause?

We talked about phrases first, as it will help us discuss clauses.
A phrase is a group of words without subject-verb agreement whereas a clause has a subject and a verb, describing the subject of a clause. Therefore, a clause has at least two parts: a noun phrase (a subject) and a verb phrase. A clause constructs a simple sentence.

The girls were laughing. Two phrases - a noun phrase and a verb phrase together create a complete thought, an independent clause and a sentence.

As we can see we use phrases to create sentences.

The little girls were laughing at my mistake.

An English clause always has a subject, sometimes it is a phrase acting as the subject of a sentence/clause. In imperative sentences, the subject is understood:

(You) Go and play.
(You) Please give me that book.

Some structures use a dummy subject: there, it:

It feels nice.
It was raining yesterday.
There were many people at the concert.

A subject of a sentence is created by nouns, pronouns and the whole noun phrase.
She likes speaking.
This is the first time I have seen it.
What I want to talk to you about is tomorrow's meeting.

In some cases, there are two schools of grammar in terms of indicating the subject:
The minister of agriculture stepped down due to the Green Party demands.
Some will argue that a subject of this sentence is a minister and that the other words function as its modifiers.

Clauses are classified depends on their roles and their dependency.

Independent clause can stand alone expressing a complete thought.
She is a sweet girl.

Dependent clause cannot stand alone and always needs an independent clause.
Because she is a sweet girl, everyone likes her.

In this sentence, an independent clause is: everyone likes her.
Because she is a sweet girl is not the complete thought, therefore, cannot stand on its own.

Do not confuse a dependent clause with a phrase; the phrase has not a subject and a verb.

Dependent clauses are also called subordinate clauses because they are created by subordinating conjunctions or dependent words.

Clauses are also classified as essential and nonessential (restrictive and non-restrictive, defining and non-defining), relative clauses, elliptical clauses and sentential clauses.

Dependent clauses are classified in three basic groups, according to the role, they play in a sentence:

  • adjectival clauses (relative clauses, wh-clauses)
  • adverbial clauses - seven types: contrast, reason, place, purpose, result, time and conditional clauses
  • noun(nominal) clauses (subject, subject complement, direct object, object of preposition)

One independent clause creates a simple sentence. Two or more - create a compound sentence.
To create a complex sentence we need to join an independent clause with at least one dependent clause. Therefore, it is important to learn about clauses; how to use them, where to use them and how to use the proper punctuation with clauses.

3 Nov 2014

Verb phrases and verbals

Obviously, every sentence in English has to have a verb or a verb phrase, sometimes in grammar called: a verb, a compound verb and a verb string.

A one-word verb in a sentence:
She went to the park.

A compound verb:
She went to the park and watched birds.

A verb phrase (a verb string) in English may comprise as many as four words:

  • must have been reading, 
  • should have been asked 
  • will have been built

Importantly, any word we may find between verbs in a verb string is an adverb, not a verb.

She must not have been reading.
She has often gone to the park.
Peter would also like to go to the park.
I will never let you go.

All words in blue are adverbs, modifying verbs.

After talking about phrases, we know that there are words in a sentence which look like verbs, but in a sentence they do not play verb roles. They are called verbals and may function in many different ways in a sentence.

Gerund (doing) is a noun; a gerund phrase will always act as a noun in a sentence.
Participle (doing, done) is an adjective, but a participle phrase may act as an adjective or an adverb.
Infinitive (to do, to have done) is a verbal and  an infinitive phrase may play a role of a: noun, adjective or adverb.

1 Nov 2014

An appositive

An appositive is a word or a phrase re-naming or amplifying a noun/object right beside it. An appositive phrase does not exist on its own; it is a function of the phrases we already know, but acting as an appositive, therefore, all phrases which may act as nominals. An appositive phrase is set off by commas unless it is closely tied with a noun so that it renames it.

We will talk more about apposition while discussing defining and non-defining relative clauses.

My son Richard is a student. A vocative closely related and the comma is not needed. She probably has another son. In a sentence: My son, Richard, is a student, we understand that she has only one son.

Our teacher, Peter, is a very nice guy.
A vocative - a noun adding extra information about our teacher. Two commas separate the appositive from the sentence.

Professor Henry, a mathematics teacher at London's university, is going to visit New York next month.

The girl in a red dress is Sara Patterson of East Yorkshire, the best student in our class.

An appositive phrase can be a compound phrase, in the same way as a noun or an object.

Two girls, Jane and Juliet, went for help.

I have two hobbies, collecting stamps and watching BBC documentaries.

An appositive phrase may help us to create an interesting sentence instead of having two, short ones.

Compare: This girl is Jane. She is my sister.
This girl is my sister Jane.

I have been reading a book. The title of this book is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
I have been reading a book, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

The best pastime, reading books, is less and less popular amongst teenagers, the generation of WhatsApp.
Two appositive, first a gerund phrase and the second a noun phrase.

Peter's dream, to become a famous singer, has not come true, so far.  An infinitive phrase acting as a noun phrase and an appositive, modifying Peter's dream.