Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pre -Determiners

In my previous post I explained the difference between adjectives and determiners. Determiners can be sub- divided into three sub- classes : pre-determiners, regular determiners and post- determiners .

Pre- Determiners come before regular determiners in a Noun Phrase . I this post I will discuss some commonly used pre-determiners and their proper use in sentences .


These pre-determiners are followed by the + noun or demonstrative + noun (these+ noun)

All the ministers resigned from the cabinet .
Both the boys are clever.
Half the apples are rotten.

Of-construction is optional

All of the ministers resigned from the cabinet .
Both the boys are clever.
Half of the apples are rotten .

Please note that if pronouns are used of-construction is required

All of them resigned from the cabinet n.
Both of them are clever.
Half of them are rotten.

There are some intensifiers which are used as pre-determiners , especially in conversational English . These intensifiers are : such, quite rather and what . These pre-determiners indicate the attitude of the speaker. They are followed by a/an and a noun or an adjective .

He is such a darling! (admiration)
It was quite a calm place .(I liked it )
It is rather a small house (I don't like it ) )
What a pretty girl!(wonder)

Multipliers like twice , thrice etc are pre-determiners They are followed by the +noun

She gets thrice the salary of her husband
Possessives can be used in the place of the

He gets twice my salary.

Words indicating fractions like one-third, two- fourths etc are pre-determiners

He spends one third salary on travel.

Of- construction is optional

He spends one -third of his salary on travel.

Thank you for visiting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Determiners and Adjectives --Difference Explained

Adjectives are words that describe the intrinsic or inherent qualities of persons and things. Determiners , on the contrary , show attributes which are not inherent in persons or things , but are extraneous to them.

Good, bad, pretty, young , old etc are qualities that are inherent in persons and things , and so they are adjectives

Words denoting possession ( my, your , his ,her their etc ) , proximity ( this , that , these , those ) , distribution ( each, every , either, neither, both, all etc ) , quantity ( how much of something or how little of something like many, few, some , several ,little and the counting numbers one, two , three etc ) , reference (both anaphoric and cataphoric like the definite article the and the indefinite article a/an ) , order ( like the ordinal numbers , first, second, third etc ) ---these show attributes which are extraneous to the objects the nouns signify .

These words form a category by themselves ; and they are called determiners because they determine the way a noun is used in the context .

Determiners can be sub- divided into pre-determiners, regular determiners and post -determiners . I will discuss them in detail in my next post .

Thank you for visiting !

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Emphatic Pronouns and Reflexive Pronouns

Emphatic Pronouns and Reflexive Pronouns look alike in form , but they are different in usage .

Both of them are formed by adding -self or -selves to the possessive or object-form of pronouns .

I ----------------Myself






You----------------Yourselves (plural)


Emphatic Pronouns are used to emphasize the subject of the sentence . They are often placed at the end of sentences .

*I did it myself . ( that is , no other person did it )

*She cooked the meals herself .

* He cleaned the room himself .

* I drove the car all the way myself .

Emphatic Pronouns sometimes come immediately after the subject

I myself did it .

She herself cleaned the whole house .

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns are used when the doer is affected by his or her own action

* She hurt herself while cutting vegetables,

* He blamed himself for what had happened .

* Othello stabbed himself to death

*She pricked herself with a needle .

Please note that there are some verbs which are used with reflexive pronouns and then these verbs have different meanings !

* She enjoyed herself during her stay in Cochin .( that is , she had a nice time )

*You should behave \yourself in public. . ( that is , you should behave decently .)*

Enough for today !

Thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Difference between Word Stress and Sentence Stress

Dear Readers,

Stress is the force with which we pronounce a syllable in a word . A syllable may consist of a single vowel or a combination of two vowels called diphthongs or it may consist of a vowel or diphthong in combination with one or more consonants .

An English word may be divided into a number of syllables .All syllables do not get the same degree of stress . One syllable gets the maximum degree of stress called the primary stress .and the remaining syllables get varying degrees of stress This is the phonic identity of that word . Thus the word examination has five syllables and the primary stress is on the syllable - na -

What happens to a syllable when it is stressed?

1 It has greater duration

2 it has greater resonance /

3It has greater loudness or volume

What happens to unstressed syllables?

The vowel or diphthong in unstressed syllables becomes the central vowel sound such as you can hear as the first syllable in words like a-bout or a-round.

This phenomenon is called vowel reduction

However, when words are put together in sentences they may lose their phonic identity . English does not like two stressed syllables coming close together. In such situations a word may lose its stress distribution pattern Which syllable will lose its stress depends on the speaker's meaning .

The word English normally has stress on the first syllable . But in the phrase English Channel it may lose its stress.because Channel has stress on the first syllable . Adjectives normally are stressed words, but in the phrase Old English it loses its stress because English has stress on the first syllable .

Please remember that Stress-Time Rhythm is a fundamental feature of English speech and word stress must make way for it !

Thank you for visiting!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to Improve Your English Skills

Dear readers,

When you learn English ,your aim is to learn it fast . It is possible to learn English faster if you adopt modern scientific methods of learning it . Unfortunately, out-dated grammar- translation method is still used in several countries . This method may have certain advantages over other methods , but it is unsuitable for the needs of the present world where speaking and listening skills are more important than the traditional skills , namely, writing and reading skills .

You are learning English to speak it . Righr? Then you are on the right track. Speaking skill is the primary skill to be acquired , particularly in the context of globalization . Its complementary skills is listening skill .

While learning to speak English , the first thing for you to be on the guard against is Mother -tongue Interference Never ever speak English with the rhythm your first language ! I have heard several learners complain that the native speakers of English speak English too fast and so they are not able to follow them . I must say that this is a wrong impression The truth is that you cannot follow them because you have not familiarized yourself with the Stressed-timed rhythm of English ! What is stressed-timed rhythm?

The native speakers of English have a tendency to put stress on certain words or syllables in their sentences and slur over other words and syllables . The stressed syllables or words come at regular intervals of time
Then what about the unstressed words or syllables in between them ? Well, they are slurred. , That is, they are rapidly pronounced or drawled . This ensures regularity of rhythm . This is the stressed- timed rhythm of E nglish . You have to become familiar with this rhythm in order to follow English spoken by native speakers .

I these days of satellite television a learner can improve his / her listening and speaking skills by listening to TV serials and newscasts . When you have doubts about the pronunciation of a word , consult a good pronouncing dictionary .

Remember, English is an international language ! You can't speak it with the rhythm of your first language . Your English must conform to an accepted standard , British or American . A good English pronunciation is a must for success in the present globalized world .It is the key to success!

I wish you all success in your efforts to learn English!

Thank you for visiting!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Verbs followed by Gerunds

Dear Readers,

While speaking and writing English , you may have come across situations in which one verb follows another as its object . In such situations you may have to choose either to-infinitive or gerund

In today's post I propose to give a list of very commonly used verbs which are followed by gerunds ,along with illustrative sentences :

1 avoid

You should avoid making friends with bad people .

2 consider

I will condider accepting your offer .

3 delay

Don't delay seeing a doctor anymore !

4 dislike

I dislike talking with opinionated people .

5 enjoy

I enjoy listening to good music .

6 finish

She has finished cooking

7 imagine

I can't imagine doing such a wicked thing .

8 keep

She kept singing though her time was up .

9 mind

I don't mind vacating my seat for you .

10 stop

It stopped raining

Please remember that phrasal verbs end in preposition or adverb particles and hence they are followed by gerunds

1 Don't put off meeting a good doctor !

2 He gave up drinking .

3 She went on dancing though she was tired.

4 I look forward to seeing you soon .

5 She left off reading when I entered the room .

N.B verbs confess and admit are often followed by preposition+ gerund

She confessed to knowing little about current events

He admitted to having a secret relationship with that girl .

Enough for gerunds!

Thank you foy visiting !

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Proper Nouns vs Common Nouns

Dear Readers,

The English word "proper" is taken from a Latin word which means "own" .So, proper nouns refer to the "own" names of persons and places . These names are specific to the individual person or place . and not shared by a class of entities . For example, John is the name of an individual person and , therefore, it is a proper noun . It is the "own" name of a person . Similarly, Cochin is the "own" name of a city Therefore, john and Cochin are proper nouns .

Please remember that proper nouns are capitalized and they are not usually preceded by the definite article the

Common Nouns , on the contrary, are names of a class of persons or places . For example the name "city" is shared by several entities . Hence, "city" is a common noun . Similarly, " .boy" is a common noun .

There will be a corresponding common noun for every proper noun.

Example :

proper noun( common noun )

John ( boy)

Jane ( girl)

London ( city)

India ( country )

The distinction between proper nouns and common nouns is a useful one for learners of English , but don't stretch it too far !

I will carry on the discussion on classification on nouns in my next post


Thank you for visiting !

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tense of the Verb in Question Tags

Dear Readers,

This is the concluding part of my posts on Question Tags . The English question tag baffles non-native learners of English because the English people conceive of their question tags as interrogative versions of the statement, cut short after the pronoun -subject . But in several languages of Europe and India the question tag is conceived in a different way . The set phrase in these languages is "isn't it?", the it in it refers to the fact contained in the statement .Example

She is a nice girl, isn't it ?

(isn't it a fact that she is a nice girl )

The English , on the contrary, use a truncated question as question tag

She is a nice girl, isn't she?

An important thing to note here is the tense of the auxiliary in question tags . It varies according to the tense of the verb in the statement . Note these examples

1 She was a charming girl, wasn't she ?

2 He will come tomorrow, won't he ?

3 She has finished her job, hasn't she?

4 They are watching television , aren't they?

5 He returned home yesterday, didn't he ?

Enough for Tag Questions! Iwill continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you for visiting !

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Question Tags for Imperative Sentences

Dear Readers,

An imperative sentence , as you know, is a sentence that makes a request or a command The subject of an imperative is often omitted . It is because the subject is always the second person pronoun "you" .I am giving below a few examples for imperative sentences :

1. Shut the door .

2. Get out of here!

3. Pass the salt , please.

4. Obey my orders.

5. Stop smoking.

The question tag or tag question that goes with imperative sentences normally is "will you ?""


1. Shut the window , will you?

2 Stop talking, will you?.

3 Help me , please, will you?

4. Bring me a glass of water, will you ?

5. Don't be cruel to him, will you?

Dear readers , the concluding part of my lessons on question tags will be published in my next post .

Thank you for visiting

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Formation of Question Tags in English

Dear Readers,

I have been discussing different aspects of question tags in my previous posts . In this post I would like to discuss the structure of question tags which is the despair of ESL learners !

Basically an English question tag consists of an operator followed by the relevant pronoun of the subject of the statement to which it is attached .

The operator may be an auxiliary verb , a dummy auxiliary verb or some form of the verb be.

While in other languages like the languages of India or French the question tag is a set phrase or a single unchanging word , the English question tag keeps changing its form according to the subject of the statement , the tense of the verb and the positive or negative character of the statement it is attached to . This is because the English conceive of their question tag as the interrogative version of the statement , cut short after the pronoun-subject .

It is quite natural that non-native users of English find English question highly devious and cumbersome ; and they are more comfortable with the honest "isn't it?"" for all kinds of statements!

I will continue the discussion in my next post.

Thank you for visiting!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Question Tags : Rule No 2

Dear readers,

In my previous post I explained Question Tag Rule No 1 . In the present post I am going to discuss Rule No 2 which can be stated as follows:

The subject of the question tag is always a pronoun and the verb (operator) always agrees with it .

As you know, a Question Tag or a Tag Question is always attached to a statement and the statement has a subject of its own .

When the subject of a statement is a proper noun , the subject of the question tag should be its corresponding pronoun .


Tom is a clever boy, isn't he ?

Sita is a nice girl, isn't she ?

Tom and Sita are students, aren't they?

Cochin is a big city, isn't it ?

The Nile is the longest river in the world, isn't it?

When the subject of the statement is the sex-neutral pronoun everybody , nobody ,etc its corresponding pronoun is they, and the operator agrees with it . , even though it is plural!


Everybody makes mistakes, don't they?

Nobody is above law, are they?

Please note that when the first person pronoun I is the subject of a positive statement, the tag is aren't I , and NOT amn't I . But am I ? is perfectly OK!


Iam your guardian , aren't I ?

I am not your slave, am I ?

Dear readers, I will discuss the remaining rules in my next post

Thank you for visiting!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Question Tags : Rule No 1

Dear readers,

In my previous post I discussed question tags and gave 4 rules for their correct use . I think that these rules have to be discussed one by one in some more detail for the benefit of ESL learners .In this post I am going to discuss Rule No 1 .


When the statement is positive the tag is negative : and when the statement is negative the tag is positive

What is a positive statement ? Well, it may be defined as a declarative sentence noted for the absence of negative words like no , not etc .Examples

1. This apple is a good one, isn't it?

2 Everyone is liable to make mistakes, aren't they?

3 He is a good boy, isn't he ?

4 He is playing cricket, isn't he ?

5 There is a tea stall in front of rhe college , isn't there?

6 She used to work with him , didn't she?

7 She is used to living in luxury, isn't she ?

8 Honesty is the best policy, isn't it ?

9 She will be sixteen next year, won't she ?

10 I am your wife , aren't I ?

In the examples given above I have tried to include a few rare cases which deserve special attention .

1. When everyone is the subject ,the tag has they as the subject and the verb agrees with it .

2 Please note that sentences 3 & 4 have the same tag .( see my previous post for the structure of the tags)

3 '"There" in existential sentences can be used as subject of tags

4 In sentences 6&7 used to has two different meanings and hence two different tags .

5 Amn't I is not used in standard English .

The second part of Rule No 1 says that negative statements have positive tags . There are negative words besides no and not which can make statements negative

. See these examples

1 She hardly ever attends parties these days , does she ?

2 He never tells lies , does he ?

3 She has never gone abroad , has she ?

4 He scarcely talks sense , does he ?

5 We seldom see good movies these days, do we ?

6 She is seldom late for the show , is she?

7 This train hag only few stops , does it ?

8 There are only few mangoes in the basket, are there?

9 She does not play well , does she ?

10 It isn't true, is it ?

Dear readers , I will discuss the second rule in detail in my next post


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear readers.

A question tag ,as you know , is a short question attached to a statement . The purpose of the question tag is (1) to get the listener's concurrence or (2) to elicit the answer yes or no from him .


1. English is a world language, isn't it?

If "isn't it" has a falling intonation ,the speaker expects the listener to agree with him and the listener need not say yes or no . !

2 He is an honest man. isn't he?

If "isn't he " has a rising intonation ,the speaker expects the listener to say yes or no .

There is no end to the trouble that question tags cause to the non-native learners of English .The crux of the problem is that question tag is a set phrase in most languages like n'est-ce pas ? in French .The English question tag is like the chameleon!

I am giving below a few question tag rules

1 )If the statement is positive the tag is negative , and vice-versa .

He is a good boy isn't he?

He is not a clever boy , is he ?

Remember, words like never , hardly, scarcely, seldom etc can make a statement negative .

2) The subject of the tag is always a pronoun If words like everyone nobody no-one etc are used as subjects in the statements . their pronoun is "they" and the verb agrees with it

Everyone makes mistakes , don't they?

3) the structure of the tag is operator +pronoun If the statement has no auxiliary as in the case of simple present and past tenses, the operator is the dummy auxiliary do, does or did

He went to school, didn't he ?

She plays tennis, doesn't she?

4)The tense of the tag should be the same as the tense of the statement .

He will go tomorrow, won't he?

She left yesterday , didn't she ?

He sings well, doesn't he?

What is the tag to the statement "I am a teacher" ?The correct answer is Aren't I " " It is because"am't" is non-standard!

Enough for question-tags .I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you for visiting ! !

Monday, October 12, 2009

Passive Voice : When to drop by+agent

Dear readers,

In my previous post I discussed passive voice from the point of view of sentence focus . In the present post I am going to discuss " agent deletion"in passive sentences .

Look at the following sentences

1 Tom is re-painting the car .

2The car is being re-painted by Tom

The meaning of both the sentences is the same .In the passive version the sentence elements, subject and object, are seen from a different perspective . The active subject (Tom)is seen as an agent (instrument) through the action of which the active object is in a certain state (re-painted) , indicated by the past participle of the verb . The past participle has the force of adjectives in passive sentences . That is why suitable forms of the verb be are used before it . Remember, the verb always agrees with the passive subject !

The active subject is expressed as a by + agent phrase But as end-focus is the rule in English ,by+agent is required only when we want to focus on it . Example

By whom is the car re-painted?

It is re-painted by Tom.(focus on Tom )

It follows that by-phrase can be dropped if it does not carry focus!

Generally speaking, by-phrase can be dropped if the agent is unknown or it is too well-known to be worth mentioning . Example

1 He was killed in a drunken brawl .

2 She was murdered and the police are investgating .

3 He was admitted to the hospital yesterday .

$ Obama was elected President.

5 Many American soldiers were killed in Vietnam.

Non-native learners of English may find it difficult to grasp the rationale behind English passive voice This is definitely due to the influence of their first languages .

Dear readers , I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Passive Voice for ESL Learners

Dear readers,

In this post I wish to discuss passive voice from a different perspective Every sentence must have a point of focus . The speaker's or writer's attention or interest is held by a particular element in the clause , and this may be called point of focus. For example, in the sentence

Shakespeare was born at Stratford

the focus could be on any element , depending on the context . If the sentence was answer to the question"Who was born at Stratford?'the focus would be on Shakespeare .Generally speaking, the focus of a normal English sentence is on the last lexical item It carries new information This is known as the Principle of End-Focus. End-Focus is signalled by tonic accent .The last lexical item carries end-focus unless it has to be brought forward by the requirement of the context

Passive Voice & the Principle of End -Focus

In passive construction the clause elements are manipulated in such a way that the active subject receives end-focus .The motivation of the writer who prefers the passive alternative is to confer focus on the active subject by bringing it to the end of the sentence where it can receive end-focus . Look at these sentences

Tom fed the kittens

If Tom is to be given focus ,the writer can use the passive construction

The kittens were fed by Tom

This gives us another perspective on passive voice. It is a syntactic device to give focus on the active subject by bringing it to the end of the sentence where it can receive end-focus .However, in conversational English tonic accent can achieve the same effect in a much more economical way!

ESL Learners are generally not aware of this aspect of passive voice . They look upon passive construction as an interchange of the positions of the subject and the object. They do not see it in relation to focus

I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Indefinite Article A/AN

Dear readers,

Today I am going to discuss the indefinite article -a/an.Most of the mistakes made by non-native speakers of English is the omission of the indefinite article ..

ESLlearners seldom fail to use the indefinite article when it is the non-emphatic form of the counting number ONE.Example

I bought a pen for Rs.10.

However, most non-native speakers of English are not aware of several idiomatic uses of a/an because it makes no sense for them.Example

Her mother is a teacher .

The tendency of ESLlearners is to omit a The use of the indefinite article before nouns denoting trade or profession is unknown to speakers of native languages of India. Hence,one of the common errors made by Indian learners of English is the omission if the indefinite article before nouns denoting trade/profession.

The use of a/an before nouns preceded by adjectives is common among native speakers of English .But non-native speakers of English tend to omit a/an due to the influence of their mother tongues Example

Shakespeare had a deep understanding of human nature.

Non-native speakers may find the article unnecessary and omit it

Please note that a/an never takes stress .English is a stressed -timed language .This may explain the native English speakers' fondness for a/an.

Where AN is used

AN is used before nouns having an initial vowel sound Spelling is not always a guide!Example

French ia a European language.

"a European" because the initial sound is a consonant denoted by the IPA symbol/j/

It is a one-time offer>

"a one-time " because the initial sound is not a full vowel It is a semi-vowel denoted by the IPA symbol/w/

He was an honest man

"an honest" because ihe initial sound is a full vowel denoted by the IPA symbol/o/ and h is silent ,though present in spelling

Enough for indefinite article! I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Definite Article '"THE"

Dear Readers,

As you know, the definite article "the" is the most frequently used word in the English language Therefore, every learner ought to know how to use the definite article . Remember, this short word has tremendous significance from the point of view of discourse !

'The" coming before a noun indicates an anaphoric reference . In other words , after introducing an object with an indefinite article a/an ,we can refer to the same object later in the discourse in an economical way by simply putting "the" before the object .

Look at this passage

"I bought a necklace at Cochin . I brought it home and showed it to my cousin. She took a fancy to the necklace and wanted to buy a necklace like the one I had bought . I told her that she didn"t need to buy one .I had bought the necklace as a wedding gift to her ! "

The use of "the" has an anaphoric reference and it saves us the labor of repeating "which I had bought at Cochin" as a post-modifier after the noun "necklace"

Sometimes "the" before a noun shows that it is the only one of its kind known to or understood by the speaker/listener.. An important thing to bear in mind in this connection is that language is a system based on context and shared conventions between the speaker and the listener.

Look at this sentence

"The Queen is not receiving visitors today "

Both the speaker and the listener know the identity of the queen,. Other examples

*The key is missing .

*The telephone is ringing .

*Where is the thermometer?

The use of "the" based on conventions (not on hard-and-fast rules)

"The" is conventionally used before the names of

rivers(the Nile)

mountain ranges (the Himalayas)

oceans ( the Atlantic )

deserts (the Sahara )and

seas (the Arabian sea )

It is used before the official names of countries (theUnited States of America ) It is omitted before proper nouns, that is , the names of particular persons and places But it can be used when proper nouns are used as common nouns ! examples

Martin Luther King is the Gandhi of America .

Alleppey is the Venice of the East .

Enough for definite article ! I will continue the discussion ti my next entry

Thank You!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bare Infinitives

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed that one of the most commonly used structures in English is

Subject + transitive verb + direct object +to-infinitive


She asked me to help her

But there are a few verbs in English which demand the structure

subject + transitive verb + direct verb + bare infinitive

Bare infinitives are infinitive forms , but without the usual to particle preceding them .

Why do some verbs behave in this aberrant way?No satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming yet . These verbs are

let, bid, make (causative use ) help(chiefly in U.S English)


* I let her go early .

*The King bade the soldiers release the prisoner .

* He made her sign the agreement .

*I helped her organize the birthday party..

Bare Infinitives are used after modal auxiliaries like will, shall, can, may, must, could, might , would , should etc Examples

*He will come if you invite him.

*i shall go to Cochin tomorrow .

*She can help you .

*The train may arrive late .

*We must be kind to beggars .

*I could swim when I was young .

*It might rain at any time this season.

*She would play tennis when she was at school.

* We should respect our teachers .

DUMMY AUXILIARIES like do, does and did are followed by bare infinitives . These auxiliaries carry inflection and tense , thus enabling the verbs to remain in their base forms .. Examples

* Does she play tennis ?(both inflection and tense carried by does )

*Do they speak English ?(do carries the tense of the verb )

*Did the plane take off on time ?((did carries the tense of the verb )

Enough for bare infinitives! I will continue the discussion in my next entry .

Thank you

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Split Infinitives or Misplaced Adverbs?

Dear Readers

As I explained in my previous posts infinitives are a form of non-finite verbs and they are often preceded by the particle to . Examples: to come ,to go ,to sleep etc

The concept of infinitives is borrowed from Latin where it is a kind of verbal nouns., sharing the characteristics of a noun and verbs .

When we use a to-infinitive as the subject and object of a verb , we treat it as a verbal noun When the characteristics of a verb are dominant , infinitives can be modified by adverbs like any verb . Examples

To work is to worship

Both to work and to worship have the meaning of nouns .To work is the subject of the verb is and to worship is its complement.

He wanted to leave immediately.

Here, to leave has the characteristics of a verb and , therefore, it has been modified by the adverb immediately .

What is a split infinitive ?

A split infinitive occurs when to-infinitive is more like a verb than a noun and an adverb comes in between to and the verb example : to successfully solve the problem

Is split infinitive a mistake?

In the early Middle English period -en was the infinitive marker. Later to was used before the verb as an additional infinitive marker. eg . to seeken In course of time -en was dropped because to served the purpose any way Originally ,to had a directional sense But it continued to be used even after the directional sense was dropped

Thus English came to have a two-word infinitive Unfortunately, traditional grammarians conceptualized it as a solid , indivisible entity by analogy with Latin -in which infinitive consists of a single word .So they considered insertion of adverbs between to and the verb as 'SPLITTING '" the infinitive ! .If they had called the practice misplacing of adverbs it would have made better sense

Adverbs generally follow verbs in English as in Latin .In course of time adverbs came to be used before verbs . These adverbs had a different meaning when used before verbs.This is the way English grew into a rich and versatile language .

Please note the adverbs that "split" infinitives are often short ones and they carry emphasis . I think that the so-called split infinitive is a big step in the growth of English and it is not to be denounced as a solecism .

I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

Thursday, July 23, 2009

to-infinitives and their uses

Dear readers

I have already explained non-finite verbs in my previous post. Now I will discuss infinitives which is the most frequently used non-finite verb form in E nglish .Infinitives are found in two forms , to-infinitives and bare infinitives According to scholars the particle to originally had a directional sense , but it continued to be used even after the directional sense got dropped.Traditional grammarians look upon to as an integral part of the infinitive , and so they regard split infinitive as a mistake .But split infinitive is no longer regarded as a mistake

uses of to-infinitive

1 Infinitive is a concept borrowed from Latin grammar . In Latin it is a kind of verbal noun .In English too this Latin sense is retained when to-infinitive is used as subject of a verb and as the object of a verb . Example:

To err is human (subject of the verb )
She likes to dance (object of the verb)

Please note the use of to-infinitive as subject is somewhat rare in modern English Its use as object is very frequent indeed.

2 to-infinitive is often used as an adjective which post -modifies a noun .Examples

I had no work to do
The next guest to arrive was the District Collector

t3 To -nfinitives are often used for adjective complementation . Look at thesre sentences

She was happy to come
To-come complements the adjective by stating the cause .

She is hard to please

This kind of complementation is possible only when the object of the transitive verb ,please, is the same as the subject , she . Other examples

English is easy to learn
Sita is difficult to convince .

4 To-infinitive is used as adverbial clause of purpose

We eat to live
She is working hard to get a promotion

5 To-infinitive is also used for object complementation Example

I asked him to leave

She invited me to attend the party .

This construction , Subject +transitive verb + direct object+to-infinitive , is a frequent one in English

I Will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Non-finite Verbs

Dear readers,

In my previous post I discussed finite verbs .In this post I propose to discuss non-finite verbs .Finite verbs . as you have seen , provide information about the number and person of the subject and the tense of the sentence .Non-finite verbs ,on the contrary, merely give idea of the action Look at these sentences :

1Little Johnny wants to play .

2I let her go .

3She has written a poem .

4They are playing tennis .

Thus non-finite verbs come in various forms In sentence1 it comes in the form of to-infinitive In sentence2 it comes in the form of bare infinitive .in sentence3 it comes in the form of past participle and in sentence 4 it comes in the form of present participle .

I will discuss to- infinitive in detail in my next post

Thank you

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Finite Verbs

Dear Readers,

In this post I wish to discuss the concept of finite verbs .A finite verb is a verb which shows a particular tense, person or number. Look at the verb -form goes.It shows a particular tense , doesn't it ? Simple Present Tense . It shows a particular number, too. The Singular Number. Similarly, the verb-form am indicates a particular person --first person singular . ,and a particular tense as well .

Please remember that the concept of finite verbs is borrowed from Latin grammar .It has only limited application in English grammar . It lacks explicitness when applied to English .

In Latin there are no compound verb-forms as in English . In English ,except simple present tense and simple past tense , all other tenses make use of compound verb-forms .The firsr element of a verb expression may be taken as the finite verb . Example

I am writing a letter.

In this sentence the verb expression am writing has two elements The first element am is the finite verb .because it shows a particulat person and tense . Writing , on the contrary , shows no particular person or tense . It is ,therefore. called a non-finite verb .

As I have said the concept of finite verbs has only limited application in English grammar . It is highly relevant in Latin grammar.because theLatin finite verb provides a lot of information. . In English grammar it is still useful from the point of view of concord . Finite verbs change their forms according to the number and person of the subject . In compound verb-forms there may be two ,or sometimes more than two, auxiliary verbs . The first auxiliary is the finite verb and it agrees with the subject in number and person . Look at the following sentences

*I am writing a letter .

*He is writing a letter.

* They are writing letters .

*She was writing a letter.(past tense )

*I was writing a letter(. past tense)

*They were writing letters .(past tense )

The finite verbs indicate number and person of the bubject . and also the tense .The use of was in in fourth and fifth sentences may be noted -was shows no particular person!

When lexical verbs are used without auxiliaries they behave like finite verbs . --They inflect for number and tense .Past tense forms of lexical verbs, however, do not inflect for number and person The only exception is the verb beIt alone has two separate forms according to number --was and were.

It is clear that the concept of finite verbs does not fit well into English grammar . The concept of operator has far greater application in English grammar .

Dear readers , I will discuss infinitives in my next post

Thank you

Monday, June 22, 2009

Frequency Adverbs : Frequently Asked Questions

What are Frequency Adverbs?

Frequency Adverbs are a group mof adverbs which answer the question: How often?Examples are : never, always, often, seldom , rarely etc . They show similarity in grammatical behavor in sentences .

What is the position of Frequency Adverbs in sentences ?

Frequency Adverbs come just before main verbs in sentences . When a compound verb-form is used , they come between the auxiliary and the main verb . When there are two auxiliaries, they come after the first auxiliary . Look at these examples :

*He never comes late for work.
*He has never told a lie to anyone .
* He has always been trying to win her favor .

What is the position of the Frequency Ad verbs when the verb is the lexical verb be ?

The lexical verb be takes several forms like is, are, am etc . In English sentences Frequency Adverbs come immediately after the lexical be . Look at these examples :

*Indian women are always committed to their families>
* Mothers are sendom strict with their sons >

Do Frequency Adverbs ever come at the beginning of sentences?

Yes, they do, sometimes . When they are used at the beginning of sentences for emphasis , subject and operator exchange positions . This is called subject-operato inversion .The term operator is used in modern grammar to signify the first auxiliary , or the dummy auxiliary do or the lexical verb be . Look at these examples

* We seldom see a comet .
Seldom do we see a comet .

*He has never seen an elephant .
Never has he seen an elephant .

He was never a trusted friend of mine .
Never was he a trusted friend of mine .

Please note that always is not fronted like other frequency adverbs

What is the position of Frequency Adverbs when modal auxiliaries used to , have ti, and ought to are used ?

Strictly speaking , used to and have to are not modal auxiliaries . They may be called substitute modal auxiliaries . Frequency Adverbs come before these auxiliaries . However, ought to behaves somewhat differently . In conversational English it behaves like used to and have to . but in formal English frequency adverbs come between ought and to as in the sentence "You ought always to mix with good people ".

I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

Friday, June 12, 2009

Correlative Conjunctions & Proximity Concord

There are a few conjunctions in English known as correlative conjunctions .They are : neither...nor, either...or , both...and , not only....but also etc .

While using these correlative conjunctions students of English are often faced with the problem of subject-verb agreement . Correlative conjunction connect two or sometimes more than two pronouns or nouns in subject position,and the problem confronting the student is to make the verb agree with which subject .

Look at these two examples

1. Neither you nor I am responsible for this

Here the correlative conjunction neither...nor connects two pronouns , you (second person) and I (first person singular) In such cases we apply the Principle of Proximity Concord . According to this Principle the verb agrees with the subject just preceding it . Hence, we chose am and not are

2. Neither the Principal nor the teachers were present on the occasion

The Principle of Proximity Concord can be applied here ,too . The noun-subject just preceding the verb is the plural noun teachers and hence were is used and not was .

Students may note that when two nouns (both third persons) are connected with neither...nor the plural noun always follows the singular noun . and not the other way round . Similarly, First Person Singular I always follows the Second Person pronoun you in constructions using neither...nor and either...or

Dear readers . I will discuss a few more examples of subject -verb agreement in my next post

Thank you

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Subject - Verb Agreement

Dear Readers,

Subiect-Verb Agreement is yet another slippery area for ESL learners . What is subject-verb agreement? This simple rule can be stated as follows :

" The verb shall agree with the subject in number and in person"

It sounds so simple! Doesn't it ? The problem for most ESL learners is to determine which word or words constitute the subject of the senntence . then they have to determine the number of the subject , whether the subject is singular or plural . The problem is complicated by the fact that number is sometimes determined by meaning and sometimes by form! Take this sentence as an example
More than one student has been chosen for the scholarship.
The singular verb has is bound to confuse ESL learners . The subject is definitely a plural one as far as meaning goes . It is a case where number is determined by form rather than by meaning . Now look at this sentence

"One of the boys has been chosen for the awars"

the verb has agrees with the subject "one of the boys" , and this is a case where number is determined by meaning .

Collective Nounns like committee , jury couple ,team etc constitute another source of confusion for ESL learners . These nouns are sometimes singular and sometimes plural , depending on the way the speaker perceives them . Thus committee can be singular when the speaker perceives it as a body of persons working together in unison , and it can be plural when he perceives it as a body of persons divided . Look at these examples
The committee has submitted its report to the government
The committee are divided in their findings

It would seem that the tendency of the native speakers of English is to use a singular verb unless there is a strong case for treating the subject as plural Take for example the proverb
Time and tide waits for no man

The singular verb waits suggests that the words time and tide constitute a single subject , They have the same contextual meaning. . Tey are united in one overwhelming aspect - they do not wait for anybody . The singularity of the subject is reinforced by alliteration . Take another example

Slow and steady wins the race

The singularity of the subject is again reinforced by alliteration .
Thus the English language makes creative use of the principle of subject-verb agreement. to enrich the meaning of discourses.

I will discuss the various aspects of subject-verb agreement in my next posts

Thank you


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Modal Auxiliaries : WILL and WOULD

Non- native learners of English are often puzzled at the way English speakers use the auxiliaries WILL and WOULD .ESL learners often think that will has the auxiliary function of indicating future tense and nothing more , and would is its past tense form used in reported speech .

The truth is that WILL and WOULD are used in present-day English mainly as Modal Auxiliaries Apart from their use as future time indicators they express a variety of moods or emotional attitudes of the speakers .

The Use of WILL as a Modal Auxiliary

1Will expresses willingness

*I will help you to carry this suit-case.
*I wii lend you some money .

2 Will used to make requests

*Will you ,please, pass the salt?*
*Will you open the window, please?

3Will used to make a command or order.

* You will never talk to her like that!
* you will never step into my house again.!

4 Will used to state a general truth.

*Children will be children.
*A burnt child will dread the fire.

5 Will used to express a guess
* " Listen! Somebody is ringing the door-bell"
"Oh, it will be John. I'm expecting him"

6 Will expresses a habit

* She will sit for hours watching TV.
*He will smoke whenever he feels lonely. .

The Use of WOULD as a Modal Auxiliary

1WOULD is used in impossible conditions to nexpress something ( an action or an event) which could not be done or could not take place because the condition was not fulfilled . Example

*I would have helped if she had asked me to.

(This sentence means that I did not help her because she did not ask me to help her)

2 WOULD is used in imaginary or hypothetical conditions

*I would be happy if he apologized to her,.

(WOULD suggests that apologizing is hypothetical or imaginary )
Please note that the past tense form of the verb does not mean that the action is past in meaning .. It is the way English language shows unreal or imaginary things This may puzzle ESL learners!

3 WOULD expresses a wish

*I wish she would make a speedy recovery>.

WOULD expresses the result of an action imagined by the speaker

*She would look better in a yellow sari!

* It would be unfair to deny her a chance

WOULD expresses a polite request

*Would you, please, vacate this seat for this lady?

WOULD is sometimes used instead of used to to indicate a habitual action in the past

*She would play tennis when she was at college.

Dear readers , I hope that you have found this lesson usrful I will discuss the remaining modal auxiliaries in my next post

Thank you

Sunday, May 10, 2009

modal auxiliary : NEED

The Use of NEED

When NEED is used as an ordinary English verb with the structure : verb+ to-infinitive it behaves exactly like the verbs want , wish , desire etc. It is inflected for number and person when the subject is third person singular . Its negatives and questions are formed with the help of dummy auxiliary do Look at these examples:

*She needs to take a few days rest.

*He does not need to go to office.

*She didn't need to call a taxi. I offered her a lift.

*Does he need to show his passport every time he checks-in ?

You can see from these examples that NEED behaves like ordinary verbs want or wish .

NEED as a Modal Auxiliary

When NEED is used as a modal auxiliary , it does not inflect for number or person when the subject is third person singular Need is followed by bare infinitive, that is , base-form of the verb,.

She need not go to school today

He need not learn Chinese for studying medicine in China.

When NEED is used as a modal auxiliary do- support is not required for negatives and questions

She need not worry about getting a job .

Need he come early tomorrow?

Please note that this dual behavior of NEED has enriched the English languageWhen NEED is used with do-support it carries the idea of a permanent habit and when it is used as a modal auxiliary it carries the idea of a particular occasion

Do I need to wear a tie whenever I attend the club(permanent habit)

Need I get up so early tomorrow?(a particular occasion)

Moreover, the question using need as ordinary verb is an open question The answer can be yes or no ..On the contrary ,the question using need as a modal auxiliary anticipates a negative reply.

The negative of needed is didn't need in present-day English .(that is, need as an ordinary verb) Examples:
He needed to earn a little more money to heep family happy .

He didn't need to work so hard He has a lot of money in the bank!

Needn't have is used when an action was unnecessary , but was done nevertheless.(Amodal use of the verb) Examples:

You needn't have gone to the railway station Your train has been cancelled.

You needn't have booked the tickets .She has changed her plans!

Thus the use of NEED as both an ordinary verb and a modal auxiliary has enriched the E nglish language It would be a poor version of English if it uses need only as an ordinary verb .!

Now to summarize

NEED as ordinary verb:
*takes -s ending in present tense when subject is third person singular

*do-support required for questions and negatives.

*it is followed by to-infinitive

NEED as modal auxiliary
*does not take -s ending when subject is third person singular

*no do-support for questions and negatives

*it is followed by bare infinitive

I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you