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