Monday, March 22, 2010

Interrogative Sentences: Asking a Yes/No Question

As you know, there are two kinds of questions in English , Yes / No Questions and Information Questions ( Wh- questions) .

Asking a Yes/No question is simple when compared to asking a Wh- question . In this post, I am going to discuss how Yes/No questions are framed in English .

Well, what is a Yes/ No question? It is a question which requires yes or no as answer .The basic structure of all Yes/No questions is the same . It can be expressed as follows:

auxiliary +subject+ main verb+ (complement)+(object)+(adverbial).

The items given in round brackets are optional . You need use them only if the context requires them . Their order, however, should not be disturbed!

I am giving below a few examples of Yes/No questions .

1 Are you a student?


2 Has she finished her job?


3 Have you sent her the e-mail?

aux+subject+verb+indirect object+ direct object

4 Did you see her yesterday?

dummy aux+subject +verb+object+ adverbial

5 Can she speak French?

modal aux+subject+verb+object

6 Shall I help you?

modal aux +subject+verb+object

7 Did you see her off at the airport yesterday?

dummy aux+subject+verb+object + particle+adverbial of place + adverbial of time

8 Need I accompany her to the airport?

modal aux+ subject+ verb+object+adverbial

9 Shall I make you some tea ?

modal aux+ subject +verb+ indirect object+ direct object

10 Have you had your lunch?

aux+ subject+verb+object

If you take a closer look at these examples , you will notice the following points:

1 The auxiliaries are primary auxiliaries like have, be or do , or they may be modal auxiliaries like shall, will, can need etc

2 The tense of the questions is determined by the tense of the first auxiliary

3 When the question makes use of simple present or simple past tense , the auxiliary is do, does or did . They are called dummy auxiliaries. These tenses have no auxiliaries in their verb- forms .
4 When be is the main verb in a question, it does the job of both the auxiliary and the main verb .

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Subjunctive Mood : Frequently Asked Questions

1 What is Subjunctive Mood?

The word mood has more or less the same meaning in grammar as in common parlance . . In common parlance it refers to one's state of mind . In grammar ,too, it refers to the speaker's state of mind when he makes an utterance . The speaker may say something as a statement of fact ( indicative mood) , as a command or request (imperative mood ) or he may be expressing aa opinion, suggestion, demand, doubt or a wish .(subjunctive mood) .

Look at these sentences :

*He is a student

* Bring me a glass of beer .

* I wish (that) I were rich .

The first sentence is statement of a fact . and so it is in the indicative mood .

The second sentence is a request or a command , and so it is in the imperative mood .

The third sentence expresses a wish, and so it is in the subjunctive mood .

2 How do we know that the speaker is using one mood rather than the other?

The form of the verb provides the clue! Majority of English sentences are in the indicative mood . The various verb forms we learn are in the indicative mood for that reason . The imperative mood makes use of the base- form of the verb . Subjunctive mood is signalled by the base- form of the verb where we expect some other forms ! Base -form of the verb is used in the that -clause , no matter whether the verb in the main clause is in the present tense or past tense .

Subjunctive mood is used in the that- clause after words like demand, insist , suggest, recommend , request etc . When the main clause is It is necessary , It is important , It is essential etc , it is usual to use subjunctive mood in the that-clause that follows it . Why?The speaker is expressing a view , and not making statement of a fact in the that-clause. Examples:

* He demanded that his salary be raised .

*Our Manager insists that everybody come in time .

* It is essential that we work together in unity .

* She insists that every student read this book .

Please note that the use of base form of the verb signals that it is not statement of a fact but only somebody's demand , insistence and so on!

3 What is the mood of the verb in sentences using as if / as though ?

After as if / as though indicative mood is unacceptable . As if is contraction of " as it would be if it were" Example :

He talked as if he were drunk

This sentence means he talked as he would talk if he were drunk .

The subjunctive verb were (where we expect was ) signals that it is not a fact but only an impression that one gets from his way of talking . Other examples :

* He behaves as if he were our boss .

*She looked pale as she saw a ghost .

* He smiled at me as if he had known me for several years!

Please note that past perfect is used when the action belongs a distinctly earlier time . Another example

He ate fast as if he had not eaten for several days

I hope that this lesson has been of help to you .

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Direct Object and Indirect Object: FAQs

1 What is an Object?

English verbs can be classified as transitive verbs and intransitive verbs . A transitive verb is a verb that takes an object . In other words , it can answer the questions whom? or what? An intransitive verb, on the contrary, is incapable of answering these questions . Examples :

1 Rama wrote a story .

The verb wrote is transitive because it can answer the question what? What did Rama write? the answer is a story. , and it is the object of the verb wrote

2 Rama saw his friend.

The verb saw is transitive because it can provide answer to the question whom? Whom did Rama meet? The answer his friend is the object of the verb meet .

3 Sita went to the temple yesterday .

The verb went is incapable of providing answer to the question whom or what So it i9s called an intransitive verb .

2 What is Direct Object?

There are a few verbs in English called ditransitive verbs They are so called because they take two objects . One of these objects provides answers to the question whom ? or what ? and the other provides answer to the question for whom? or to whom?The commonly used ditransitive verbs are;

give , offer, grant , teach, send, bring, make, buy etc

1 I bought her a beautiful saree.

" a beautiful saree" is called the direct object . to distinguish it from her which is called indirect object .

2 Ramesh gave Sita a lovely birthday present. . Sita is the indirect object and a lovely birthday present is the direct object .

Please note that indirect object is usually a person and both the objects are Noun Phrases .

3 Can we change the positions of direct and indirect objects ?

No! English depends on word-order for meaning and , therefore, indirect object must always come before direct object .

However , in order to give end-focus to the indirect object we can shift it to the end of a sentence as a prepositional phrase It is then called an adverbial rather than the indirect object!


She made him coffee?

She made coffee for him .

I bought her an apple.

I bought an apple for her .

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