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English grammar for teachers of ESL/EFL

Major Word Classes

include noun, verbs, adverbs and adjectives
"Open" meaning new words can be added
carry most of the content or meaning of a sentence

Minor Word Classes

include auxiliary verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, determiners
"closed" no new words are added
functors--provide structure or functions words


a minimal unit that cannot be broken down further
ie: book

grammatical morphemes of English nouns

plural inflection "s"-- boy vs boys--for countable nouns
possessive "s"-- Ritch's house--all nouns

derivational morphemes

nouns derived from other parts of speech such as:
-ness "sadness" or -dom "wisdom"

3 criteria for identifying subsentential parts of speech

semantic, structural and functional
form, meaning, use


Semantic: person, place, thing, event, idea
-derivational morphemes (sadness),
- grammatical morphemes for possessive and plural
-frequently preceded by determiners and before verbs

role of nouns in a sentence

subject of verbs
direct object
indirect object
subject noun predicate
object noun predicate
objects of prepositions

subject noun predicate

We are all learners--learners is the S N P because it defines the subject "We"

object noun predicate

They elected Ann President-- President is the O N P because it defines the object, Ann.


A noun, noun phrase or series of nouns used to identify or rename another noun.
Albany, capital of New York,....


word or phrase used to address a reader or listener directly, usually in the form of a personal name, title, or term of endearment.
Good Morning, my love....

Common nouns

person, place, thing, idea
2 categories
1. Count Nouns--Farmers
2. Non count nouns or Mass nouns-"air"

Proper Nouns

names for unique individuals or places
can be singular or plural

collective nouns

singular or plural depending on the interpretation given to the word "family" "The family is together again" vs "the family are all coming for the holiday"
team, staff, band, group, class,


Semantic: denotes an action or a state of being
4 inflections,
follows the noun and may be followed by N, Adj or Adv
has two qualities, aspect and tense

4 inflections of English verbs

-s of 3rd person singular present tense
-ed of past tense verbs
-en of the past participle
-ing of present participle

verb position

generally verbs follow nouns
can be followed by adjectives, adverbs or nouns

intransitive verbs

take no following object
Pauline snores
appear, happen, die, digress, matter, fall, rise, go

transitive verbs

require an object
He raises llamas

ditransitive verbs

can take 2 objects (direct and indirect)
I handed her the bowl.

linking verbs

what follows the verb relates back to the subject
We are women-- women defines We
be, seen, become, taste, appear

complex transitive verbs

what follows the verb relates to the object
They considered the book a piece of crap--pice of crap relates to the object, the book

prepositional verbs

require a prepositional phrase to be complete
Ritch glanced at the headlines
glance, suffer, lurk

2 qualities of verbs

tense and aspect


refers to time of an event's occurrence
past, present, future


whether or not the action has been completed
perfect or progressive


Semantic-describe or denote the qualities of something,
contributes to the meaning of direction, location, manner, time and frequency
Structural- flexible location
-commonly occur between a determiner and a noun
-after "to be" or another linking verb
-some derivational morphemes ( -ish, -ful, -able, -y) childish, likable, thoughtful, lazy
-inflectional morphemes for comparative or superlative forms: happy, happier, happiest


Semantic- Replace noun and noun phrases within a text OR are a direct reference to an outside text
-Occupy the same position as would the noun or NP
-distinguish number,person, gender and proximity


Semantic--Limit the nouns that follow them
Structural- precedes noun or adj. noun
What was that? (pronoun)
What was that noise? (determiner)


Semantic- spatial relations , position, destination(on the table, to the park)
Structural- Precedes noun or NP in prepositional phrase


Semantic-signal addition (and), contrast (but) alternative (unless)
Structural- connect words, phrases or clauses
2 types: coordinating and subordinating

Coordinating conjunction

make compound sentences with two or more independent clauses
FANBOYS- for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

Subordinating conjunction

make a complete sentence with one main clause and one subordinate clause.
If it rains, we won't go.
After the rain stops, we will leave
Rather than driving, I'll take the train

Sentence moods

3 Main Moods: Declarative, Interrogative, Imperative
2 MInor Mood: Subjunctive, Exclamatory

marked vs unmarked

marked is out of the ordinary, unmarked is what you would expect


formal or informal


the type of writing and the audience you are writing for. Academic vs email

compound words

can be one or more words
computer lab or hairbrush


in language, the smallest unit that carries meaning
two types: free and bound

free morphemes

smallest unit of language that carries meaning and can exist independently

bound morpheme

morpheme that only has meaning when attached to a word (like the 'un' in unlikely). Is never a word by itself.
2 kinds: derivational and inflectional

derivational morpheme

bound morpheme
changes meaning or parts of speech
kind-unkind or doubt to doubtful

inflectional morphemes

different forms of the same word
8 total
2 noun (-s and 's)
4 verb-3rd person singular, -ed, -ing,-en
2 adj -er, -est

transitive adjective

must be followed by an object noun and have a preposition before the object noun
Claudia is fond of chocolate
Dogs are attracted by cheese

intransitive adjective

does not take an object noun
The dog is pretty

both transitive and intransitive adjectives

Can either take an object or not
John is tired/ John is tired of walking


lexical process that occurs when one part of speech is converted into another without any derivational affixation. He gardens in the garden.


-contribute to the meaning of direction, time, location manner or frequency
-flexible location: sentence final, medial or initial
-manner adverbs take the inflection -ly

lexical phrase

words commonly used together as a little phrase that serves a specific function
some are flexible some fixed
"by the way"
"Need any help?"


multi word phrase used by convention
gramatically correct and most flexible
literal translation
"Little old lady" can also use "Short old lady" it's just not what we say
"ask a question" not "say a question"
"high and dry"


phrases used by convention the meaning of which cannot be predicted from the individual words
meaning not literal
"kick the bucket" "raining cats and dogs" "break a leg"


a verb form that links a subject with a nonverbal predicated (NP, AP, PrepP or AdvP)
She is a teacher (NP)
SHe is pretty (AP)
She is on the table (PrepP)
She is upstairs (AdvP)

The verb "to be"

marked by tense, person and number
--I am, you are, he is vs I was, you were, he was
question and negation it acts like an auxiliary with no need for DO like other verbs
-Isn;t the dog hungy vs Doesn't the dog want to walk?

other copular verbs

Perception copulars: seem, feel, taste
(meat tastes funny, cushion feels soft)
State copulars: remain, lie, stand (he remained outside, she stood firm)
Change of state copulars: become, grow, come, go, turn (he turned pro, he grew tall, he went native)

copula "be" vs other linking verbs

-"be" can be followed by NP, AP, PrepP or AdvP
other followed by APs, except...
become and turn--AP and NP
He became a teacher, turned pro
She remained on the roof
-"be" does not take a "do" auxiliary in the negative and interrogatory forms


have + -en


be + -ing

perfect progressive

have +en be +-ing




{(det)3 (AP) N (-pl) (PrepP)}
{NP' {NP or AP or PrepP}}


(intens)n (ADJ)n (prepP)


Prep NP


AUX VP (Advl)n


{Advl CL}
{Advl P}

Advl CL

adv sub S

Adv P

(intens)n ADV


{T/M} (pm) (perf) (prog)








{cop NP or AP or PrepP}
{V (NP)2 (PrepP)}


{(det)3 (AP) N (-pl) (PrepP)}

simple future

I will eat pancakes for breakfast tomorrow

present progressive

I am running for president

present perfect

I have eaten every type of pancake on the menu

past progressive

I was running for city council but I dropped out of hte race

past perfect

I had eaten all the pancakes before the boys woke up

present perfect progressive

I have been eating pancakes for breakfast for 8 years.

phrasal modals

be able to
be going to/ be about to
have to/have got to
be to/be supposed to
used to
be allowed to/be permitted to

example of a phrasal modal

I am going to run a marathon

true modals

would (past habit)

example of a modal

YOu should walk the dog before dark

Example of a phrasal modal and a modal

You should be able to see the moon tonight.

Modal high to low certainty


modal and prediction high to low


HIstorical past tense in modals


use of historical past

indirect or reported speech

logical probability of a modal

It's getting cloudy, it might rain.

Mapping rules for negation

output at base
copy s/t
operator addition
not placement
not contraction

sentence level negation

I don't want to go.

phrasal negation

He ate all of the pancakes that did not fall o the floor.
He was surprised she did not want to go.

lexical negation

She was unwilling to go to the store.

operator addition

I do not want to eat the pancakes

no determiner

There are no pancakes left.

negative equative

Dee is not as tall as Sam.

negative indefinite pronoun

No one is at the door.

mapping rules for yes/no questions with copular be

output at base
copy s/t
subject operator inversion

mapping rules for yes/no question with other verbs

output at base
copy s/t
operator addition
subject operator inversion

unmarked yes/no question

Did you enjoy the pancakes?

negative yes/no question

Didn't the package arrive?

some in a yes/no question

WOuld you like some pancakes?

uncontracted negative yes/no question

Do you not want any pancakes?

uninverted question

You did what last night?
You went out with who?

yes/no question with a phrasal modal

Do you have to go to the office today?

elliptical yes/no question

You going out tonight?
leave off the operator.

reflexive sentences

the object of a reflexive verb must be identical in reference to the reflexive pronoun:
Anne prided herself on her accomplishments.

mapping rules for imperatives

output at base: you -imperative get a life
subject deletion: -imper get a life
morphology: Get a life

Imperative with a do operator

output at base: you -imperative get a life
operator addition: you -imper do get a life
subject deletion: -imper do get a life
morphology: Do get a life.

negative imperatives:

output at base: not you -imper touch that
operator addition: not you -imper do touch that
not placement: you -imper do not touch that
not contraction: you -imper don't touch that
subject deletion: -imper don't touch that
morphology: don't touch that.

imperative be

cannot go with NOT, must add an operator

elliptical imperatives


You retention in imperatives

for use when there are a bunch of people there and you just want to talk to one
"You call 911."

Diffuse imperative

Somebody help me

Inclusive imperative

Let's go.

imperatives and politeness

Least polite of the moods
Can increase politeness with "please" or "kindly."

Hierarchy of imperatives: least polite to most polite

elliptical: A glass of water
Imperative: Give me a glass of water
Declarative (no modal): I want a glass of water
Declarative (present): I will have a glass of water.
Declarative (historical past): I would like a glass of water
Interrogative (no modal): Do you have a glass of water?
Interrogative (present modal): Can you give me...
Interrogative (historical past): Could you give me..

mapping rules for wh- questions

output: what/who/where at end as adverbial
copy s/t
wh- fronting
operator addition
subj/operator inversion

wh- fronting and the possessive determiner

When the possessive determiner is being queried the object it determines must be fronted:
Whose boss did lee write a note to?

wh-question focusing on the subject

WHo wrote the story?
Who is in that movie?

WH- question focusing on the object

WHo is it?

WH- question focusing on the object of a preposition

To whom did you send that package?
Whom did you send that package to?

Tag question

short question form appended to a statement
generally contrast the polarity of the statement
tag must match the subject
tag is generally clause final
looking for confirmation
You bought the books, didn't you?

marked tag question

You call yourself a musician, do you?

meaning of marked tag questions

nuanced meaning including expressing doubt, incredulity, checking for meaning or sarcasm

Alternative questions

offer choice yes/no answer would be inappropriate
affected by intonation
Would you like coffee or tea?

alternative question speaker irritation hierarchy

the more redundnacy the more irritated the speaker
Did you take out the garbage or didn't you
Did you take out the garabge or did you not take out the garbage?

alternative wh- question

What would you like water or juice or chocolate milk?

Exclamatory question

Isn't that grand?
Shall me dance?
more emphatic than tag questions and also invites confirmation
interrogative in form but not in function

Rhetorical questions

interrogative in form but not function
not looking for information or a yes/no question

Rhetorical question example

You're not really going to wear that to the party?

idiosyncratic tag question

We're having fun aren't we?


definite, indefinite or ø

definite article with count noun

the book

indefinite article with count noun

I need to get a book about trees

indefinite articles

some (pl count, non count), a (sg count), ø(pl count or noncount),

indefinite article with a noncount noun

I need to get some air.

some vs ø

quantity is irrelevant with ø
some cant be used to classify

shared knowledge

The is only used when the noun is specific (known) to both the speaker and the listenener.

Anaphoric use

prior mention
He left a book on the table. He returned home to get THE book.

CAtaphoric use

subsequent mention
This is the truth: I am just too tired to clean the kitchen.

Deductive anaphoric

He ordered the hummous and later got the recipe from the chef.

mass noun

Water is all around us.

abstract noun

Friendship is important.

definite article with textual coreference

I went to the opera last night. The aria was magnificent

definite article with local coreference

I'll run down to the pharmacy and get some cream.

definite article with immediate situational use

Eat at that restaurant. The pasta is delicious.

definite article with perceptual situational use

the object is visible or audible
Pass the sugar, please.

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