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What is Grammar?

Grammar is the system of a language. People sometimes describe grammar as the "rules" of a language; but in fact no language has rules*. If we use the word "rules", we suggest that somebody created the rules first and then spoke the language, like a new game. But languages did not start like that. Languages started by people making sounds which evolved into words, phrases and sentences. No commonly-spoken language is fixed. All languages change over time. What we call "grammar" is simply a reflection of a language at a particular time. Do we need to study grammar to learn a language? The short answer is "no". Very many people in the world speak their own, native language without having studied its grammar. Children start to speak before they even know the word "grammar". But if you are serious about learning a foreign language, the long answer is "yes, grammar can help you to learn a language more quickly and more efficiently." It's important to think of grammar as something that can help you, like a friend. When you understand the grammar (or system) of a language, you can understand many things yourself, without having to ask a teacher or look in a book. So think of grammar as something good, something positive, something that you can use to find your way - like a signpost or a map. * Except invented languages like Esperanto. And if Esperanto were widely spoken, its rules would soon be very different.

Glossary of English Grammar Terms

This glossary of English grammar terms relates to the English language. Some terms here may have additional or extended meanings when applied to other languages. For example, "case" in some languages applies to pronouns and nouns. In English, nouns do not have case and therefore no reference to nouns is made in its definition here. Term active voice Definition one of two voices in English; a direct form of expression where the subject performs or "acts" the verb; see also passive voice eg: "Many people eat rice"

adjective adjective clause adjunct

part of speech that typically describes or "modifies" a noun eg: "It was a big dog." seldom-used term for relative clause word or phrase that adds information to a sentence and that can be removed from the sentence without making the sentence ungrammatical eg: I met John at school. word that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb eg: quickly, really, very dependent clause that acts like an adverb and indicates such things as time, place or reason eg: Although we are getting older, we grow more beautiful each day. statement that expresses (or claims to express) a truth or "yes" meaning; opposite of negative eg: The sun is hot. language unit (morpheme) that occurs before or after (or sometimes within) the root or stem of a word eg: un- in unhappy (prefix), -ness in happiness (suffix) logical (in a grammatical sense) links between words based on tense, case or number eg: this phone, these phones word, phrase or clause that is replaced by a pronoun (or other substitute) when mentioned subsequently (in the same sentence or later) eg: "Emily is nice because she brings me flowers." noun phrase that re-identifies or describes its neighbouring noun eg: "Canada, a multicultural country, is recognized by its maple leaf flag." determiner that introduces a noun phrase as definite (the) or indefinite (a/an) feature of some verb forms that relates to duration or completion of time; verbs can have no aspect (simple), or can have continuous or progressive aspect (expressing duration), or have perfect or perfective aspect (expressing completion) verb used with the main verb to help indicate something such as tense or voice eg: I do not like you. She has finished. He can swim.


adverbial clause


affix agreement (also known as "concord") antecedent




auxiliary verb (also called "helping verb")

bare infinitive

unmarked form of the verb (no indication of tense, mood, person, or aspect) without the particle "to"; typically used after modal auxiliary verbs; see also infinitive eg: "He should come", "I can swim" basic form of a verb before conjugation into tenses etc eg: be, speak form of a pronoun based on its relationship to other words in the sentence; case can be subjective, objective or possessive eg: "I love this dog", "This dog loves me", "This is my dog" verb that causes things to happen such as "make", "get" and "have"; the subject does not perform the action but is indirectly responsible for it eg: "She made me go to school", "I had my nails painted" group of words containing a subject and its verb eg: "It was late when he arrived" form of an adjective or adverb made with "-er" or "more" that is used to show differences or similarities between two things (not three or more things) eg: colder, more quickly part of a sentence that completes or adds meaning to the predicate eg: Mary did not say where she was going. noun that is made up of more than one word; can be one word, or hyphenated, or separated by a space eg: toothbrush, mother-in-law, Christmas Day sentence with at least two independent clauses; usually joined by a conjunction eg: "You can have something healthy but you can't have more junk food." another term for agreement structure in English where one action depends on another ("if-then" or "then-if" structure); most common are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd conditionals eg: "If I win I will be happy", "I would be happy if I won" to show the different forms of a verb according to voice, mood, tense, number and person; conjugation is quite simple in English compared to many other languages eg: I walk, you walk, he/she/it walks, we walk, they walk; I walked, you walked, he/she/it walked, we walked, they walked

base form


causative verb

clause comparative, comparative adjective complement

compound noun

compound sentence

concord conditional



word that joins or connects two parts of a sentence eg: Ram likes tea and coffee. Anthony went swimming although it was raining. word that has meaning in a sentence, such as a verb or noun (as opposed to a structure word, such as pronoun or auxiliary verb); content words are stressed in speech eg: "Could you BRING my GLASSES because I've LEFT them at HOME" verb form (specifically an aspect) indicating actions that are in progress or continuing over a given time period (can be past, present or future); formed with "BE" + "VERB-ing" eg: "They are watching TV." shortening of two (or more) words into one eg: isn't (is not), we'd've (we would have) thing that you can count, such as apple, pen, tree (see uncountable noun) eg: one apple, three pens, ten trees illogical structure that occurs in a sentence when a writer intends to modify one thing but the reader attaches it to another eg: "Running to the bus, the flowers were blooming." (In the example sentence it seems that the flowers were running.) sentence type typically used to make a statement (as opposed to a question or command) eg: "Tara works hard", "It wasn't funny" relative clause that contains information required for the understanding of the sentence; not set off with commas; see also non-defining clause eg: "The boy who was wearing a blue shirt was the winner"

content word

continuous (also called "progressive") contraction countable noun

dangling participle

declarative sentence defining relative clause (also called "restrictive relative clause") demonstrative pronoun demonstrative adjective

pronoun or determiner that indicates closeness to (this/these) or distance from (that/those) the speaker eg: "This is a nice car", "Can you see those cars?" part of a sentence that contains a subject and a verb but does not form a complete thought and cannot stand on its own; see also independent clause eg: "When the water came out of the tap..." word such as an article or a possessive adjective or other adjective that

dependent clause


typically comes at the beginning of noun phrases eg: "It was an excellent film", "Do you like my new shirt?", "Let's buy some eggs" direct speech saying what someone said by using their exact words; see also indirect speech eg: "Lucy said: 'I am tired.'" noun phrase in a sentence that directly receives the action of the verb; see also indirect object eg: "Joey bought the car", "I like it", "Can you see the man wearing a pink shirt and waving a gun in the air?" question that is not in normal question form with a question mark; it occurs within another statement or question and generally follows statement structure eg: "I don't know where he went," "Can you tell me where it is before you go?", "They haven't decided whether they should come" verb form that has a specific tense, number and person eg: I work, he works, we learned, they ran "if-then" conditional structure used for future actions or events that are seen as realistic possibilities eg: "If we win the lottery we will buy a car" incomplete piece of a sentence used alone as a complete sentence; a fragment does not contain a complete thought; fragments are common in normal speech but unusual (inappropriate) in formal writing eg: "When's her birthday? - In December", "Will they come? Probably not" purpose or "job" of a word form or element in a sentence eg: The function of a subject is to perform the action. One function of an adjective is to describe a noun. The function of a noun is to name things. tense* used to describe things that will happen in the future at a particular time; formed with WILL + BE + VERB-ing eg: "I will be graduating in September." tense* used to express the past in the future; formed with WILL HAVE + VERB-ed eg: "I will have graduated by then" tense* used to show that something will be ongoing until a certain time in the future; formed with WILL HAVE BEEN + VERB-ing

direct object

embedded question

finite verb

first conditional



future continuous (also called "future progressive") future perfect future perfect continuous

eg: "We will have been living there for three months by the time the baby is born" future simple tense* used to describe something that hasn't happened yet such as a prediction or a sudden decision; formed with WILL + BASE VERB eg: "He will be late", "I will answer the phone" case expressing relationship between nouns (possession, origin, composition etc) eg: "John's dog", "door of the car", "children's songs", "pile of sand" noun form of a verb, formed with VERB-ing eg: "Walking is great exercise" adjective that can vary in intensity or grade when paired with a grading adverb ; see also non-gradable adjective eg: quite hot, very tall adverb that can modify the intensity or grade of a gradable adjective eg: quite hot, very tall another term for dangling participle another term for auxiliary verb form of verb used when giving a command; formed with BASE VERB only eg: "Brush your teeth!" pronoun does not refer to any specific person, thing or amount. It is vague and "not definite". eg: anything, each, many, somebody group of words that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence; see also dependent clause eg: "Tara is eating curry.", "Tara likes oranges and Joe likes apples." noun phrase representing the person or thing indirectly affected by the action of the verb; see also direct object eg: "She showed me her book collection", "Joey bought his wife a new car" another term for embedded question saying what someone said without using their exact words; see direct speech eg: "Lucy said that she was tired"

genitive case


gradable adjective

grading adverb hanging participle helping verb imperative

indefinite pronoun independent clause (also called "main clause")

indirect object

indirect question indirect speech (also called "reported speech")


base form of a verb preceded by "to"**; see also bare infinitive eg: "You need to study harder", "To be, or not to be: that is the question" change in word form to indicate grammatical meaning eg: dog, dogs (two inflections); take, takes, took, taking, taken (five inflections) common word that expresses emotion but has no grammatical value; can often be used alone and is often followed by an exclamation mark eg: "Hi!", "er", "Ouch!", "Dammit!" (formal) sentence type (typically inverted) normally used when asking a question eg: "Are you eating?", "What are you eating?" pronoun that asks a question. eg: who, whom, which verb that does not take a direct object; see also transitive verb e.g. "He is working hard", "Where do you live?" any reversal of the normal word order, especially placing the auxiliary verb before the subject; used in a variety of ways, as in question formation, conditional clauses and agreement or disagreement eg: "Where are your keys?","Had we watched the weather report, we wouldn't have gone to the beach", "So did he", "Neither did she" verb that has a different ending for past tense and past participle forms than the regular "-ed"; see also regular verb eg: buy, bought, bought; do, did, done all of the words and word forms in a language with meaning or function another term for main verb verbs that connect the subject to more information (but do not indicate action), such as "be" or "seem" another term for independent clause any verb in a sentence that is not an auxiliary verb; a main verb has meaning on its own eg: "Does John like Mary?", "I will have arrived by 4pm" auxiliary verb such as can, could, must, should etc; paired with the bare infinitive of a verb



interrogative interrogative pronoun intransitive verb


irregular verb see irregular verbs list lexicon, lexis lexical verb linking verb main clause main verb (also called "lexical verb") modal verb (also called "modal")

eg: "I should go for a jog" modifier word or phrase that modifies and limits the meaning of another word eg: the house => the white house, the house over there, the house we sold last year sentence type that indicates the speaker's view towards the degree of reality of what is being said, for example subjunctive, indicative, imperative unit of language with meaning; differs from "word" because some cannot stand alone e.g. un-, predict and -able in unpredictable verb that consists of a basic verb + another word or words (preposition and/or adverb) eg: get up (phrasal verb), believe in (prepositional verb), get on with (phrasal-prepositional verb) form which changes a "yes" meaning to a "no" meaning; opposite of affirmative eg: "She will not come", "I have never seen her" another term for subjective case relative clause that adds information but is not completely necessary; set off from the sentence with a comma or commas; see defining relative clause eg: "The boy, who had a chocolate bar in his hand, was still hungry" adjective that has a fixed quality or intensity and cannot be paired with a grading adverb; see also gradable adjective eg: freezing, boiling, dead another term for non-defining relative clause part of speech that names a person, place, thing, quality, quantity or concept; see also proper noun and compound noun eg: "The man is waiting", "I was born in London", "Is that your car?", "Do you like music?" clause that takes the place of a noun and cannot stand on its own; often introduced with words such as "that, who or whoever" eg: "What the president said was surprising"



multi-word verb

negative nominative case non-defining relative clause (also called "nonrestrictive relative clause") non-gradable adjective non-restrictive relative clause


noun clause

noun phrase (NP)

any word or group of words based on a noun or pronoun that can function in a sentence as a subject, object or prepositional object; can be one word or many words; can be very simple or very complex eg: "She is nice", "When is the meeting?", "The car over there beside the lampost is mine" change of word form indicating one person or thing (singular) or more than one person or thing (plural) eg: one dog/three dogs, she/they thing or person affected by the verb; see also direct object and indirect object eg: "The boy kicked the ball", "We chose the house with the red door" case form of a pronoun indicating an object eg: "John married her", "I gave it to him" one of the classes into which words are divided according to their function in a sentence eg: verb, noun, adjective verb form that can be used as an adjective or a noun; see past participle, present participle one of two voices in English; an indirect form of expression in which the subject receives the action; see also active voice eg: "Rice is eaten by many people" tense used to talk about an action, event or situation that occurred and was completed in the past eg: "I lived in Paris for 10 years", "Yesterday we saw a snake" tense often used to describe an interrupted action in the past; formed with WAS/WERE + VERB-ing eg: "I was reading when you called" tense that refers to the past in the past; formed with HAD + VERB-ed eg: "We had stopped the car" tense that refers to action that happened in the past and continued to a certain point in the past; formed with HAD BEEN + VERB-ing eg: "I had been waiting for three hours when he arrived" verb form (V3) - usually made by adding "-ed" to the base verb typically used in perfect and passive tenses, and sometimes as an adjective eg: "I have finished", "It was seen by many people", "boiled eggs"



objective case

part of speech


passive voice past tense (also called "simple past") past continuous

past perfect past perfect continuous

past participle


verb form (specifically an aspect); formed with HAVE/HAS + VERB-ed (present perfect) or HAD + VERB-ed (past perfect) grammatical category that identifies people in a conversation; there are three persons: 1st person (pronouns I/me, we/us) is the speaker(s), 2nd person (pronoun you) is the listener(s), 3rd person (pronouns he/him, she/her, it, they/them) is everybody or everything else pronoun that indicates person eg: "He likes my dogs", "They like him" multi-word verb formed with a verb + adverb eg: break up, turn off (see phrasal verbs list) NB: many people and books call all multi-word verbs "phrasal verbs" (see multi-word verbs) two or more words that have a single function and form part of a sentence; phrases can be noun, adjective, adverb, verb or prepositional of a noun or form indicating more than one person or thing; plural nouns are usually formed by adding "-s"; see also singular, number eg: bananas, spoons, trees grammatically correct placement of a word form in a phrase or sentence in relation to other word forms eg: "The correct position for an article is at the beginning of the noun phrase that it describes" basic state of an adjective or adverb when it shows quality but not comparative or superlative eg: nice, kind, quickly adjective (also called "determiner") based on a pronoun: my, your, his, her, its, our, their eg: "I lost my keys", "She likes your car" case form of a pronoun indicating ownership or possession eg: "Mine are blue", "This car is hers" pronoun that indicates ownership or possession eg: "Where is mine?", "These are yours" one of the two main parts (subject and predicate) of a sentence; the predicate is the part that is not the subject eg: "My brother is a doctor", "Who did you call?", "The woman wearing a blue dress helped me"


personal pronoun

phrasal verb





possessive adjective

possessive case possessive pronoun



affix that occurs before the root or stem of a word eg: impossible, reload part of speech that typically comes before a noun phrase and shows some type of relationship between that noun phrase and another element (including relationships of time, location, purpose etc) eg: "We sleep at night", "I live in London", "This is for digging" multi-word verb that is formed with verb + preposition eg: believe in, look after -ing form of a verb (except when it is a gerund or verbal noun) eg: "We were eating", "The man shouting at the back is rude", "I saw Tara playing tennis" tense usually used to describe states and actions that are general, habitual or (with the verb "to be") true right now; formed with the basic verb (+ s for 3rd person singular) eg: "Canada sounds beautiful", "She walks to school", "I am very happy" tense used to describe action that is in process now, or a plan for the future; formed with BE + VERB-ing eg: "We are watching TV", "I am moving to Canada next month" tense that connects the past and the present, typically used to express experience, change or a continuing situation; formed with HAVE + VERB-ed eg: "I have worked there", "John has broken his leg", "How long have you been in Canada?" tense used to describe an action that has recently stopped or an action continuing up to now; formed with HAVE + BEEN + VERB-ing eg: "I'm tired because I've been running", "He has been living in Canada for two years" another term for continuous word that replaces a noun or noun phrase; there are several types including personal pronouns, relative pronouns and indefinite pronouns eg: you, he, him; who, which; somebody, anything noun that is capitalized at all times and is the name of a person, place or thing eg: Shakespeare, Tokyo, standard marks such as commas, periods and question marks within a


prepositional verb

present participle

present simple (also called "simple present") present continuous (also called "present progressive")

present perfect

present perfect continuous progressive pronoun

proper noun punctuation

sentence eg: , . ? ! - ; : quantifier question tag question word determiner or pronoun that indicates quantity eg: some, many, all final part of a tag question; mini-question at end of a tag question eg: "Snow isn't black, is it?" another term for WH-word pronoun that indicates that two or more subjects are acting mutually; there are two in English - each other, one another eg: "John and Mary were shouting at each other", "The students accused one another of cheating" construction similar to a relative clause, but containing a participle instead of a finite verb; this construction is possible only under certain circumstances eg: "The woman sitting on the bench is my sister", "The people arrested by the police have been released" pronoun ending in -self or -selves, used when the subject and object are the same, or when the subject needs emphasis eg: "She drove herself", "I'll phone her myself" verb that has "-ed" as the ending for past tense and past participle forms; see also irregular verb eg: work, worked, worked adverb that introduces a relative clause; there are four in English: where, when, wherever, whenever; see also relative pronoun dependent clause that usually starts with a relative pronoun such as who or which, or relative adverb such as where eg: "The person who finishes first can leave early" (defining), "Texas, where my brother lives, is big" (non-defining) pronoun that starts a relative clause; there are five in English: who, whom, whose, which, that; see also relative adverb another term for indirect speech another term for defining relative clause "if-then" conditional structure used to talk about an unlikely possibility

reciprocal pronoun

reduced relative clause (also called "participial relative clause") reflexive pronoun

regular verb see regular verbs list relative adverb

relative clause

relative pronoun reported speech restrictive relative clause second conditional

in the future eg: "If we won the lottery we would buy a car" largest grammatical unit; a sentence must always include a subject (except for imperatives) and predicate; a written sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop/period (.), question mark (?) or exclamation mark (!); a sentence contains a complete thought such as a statement, question, request or command eg: "Stop!", "Do you like coffee?", "I work." list of items in a sentence eg: "The children ate popsicles, popcorn and chips" of a noun or form indicating exactly one person or thing; singular nouns are usually the simplest form of the noun (as found in a dictionary); see also plural, number eg: banana, spoon, tree situation where a word or phrase comes between the particle "to" and the verb in an infinitive; considered poor construction by some eg: "He promised to never lie again" "normal" spelling, pronunciation and grammar that is used by educated native speakers of English word that has no real meaning in a sentence, such as a pronoun or auxiliary verb (as opposed to a content word, such as verb or noun); structure words are not normally stressed in speech eg: "Could you BRING my GLASSES because I've LEFT them at HOME" one of the two main parts (subject and predicate) of a sentence; the subject is the part that is not the predicate; typically, the subject is the first noun phrase in a sentence and is what the rest of the sentence "is about" eg: "The rain water was dirty", "Mary is beautiful", "Who saw you?" case form of a pronoun indicating a subject eg: Did she tell you about her? fairly rare verb form typically used to talk about events that are not certain to happen, usually something that someone wants, hopes or imagines will happen; formed with BARE INFINITIVE (except past of "be") eg: "The President requests that John attend the meeting"




split infinitive Standard English (S.E.)

structure word


subjective case also called "nominative"


subordinate clause suffix superlative, superlative adjective SVO syntax

another term for dependent clause affix that occurs after the root or stem of a word eg: happiness, quickly adjective or adverb that describes the extreme degree of something eg: happiest, most quickly subject-verb-object; a common word order where the subject is followed by the verb and then the object eg: "The man crossed the street" sentence structure; the rules about sentence structure special construction with statement that ends in a mini-question; the whole sentence is a tag question; the mini-question is a question tag; usually used to obtain confirmation eg: "The Earth is round, isn't it?", "You don't eat meat, do you?" form of a verb that shows us when the action or state happens (past, present or future). Note that the name of a tense is not always a guide to when the action happens. The "present continuous tense", for example, can be used to talk about the present or the future. "if-then" conditional structure used to talk about a possible event in the past that did not happen (and is therefore now impossible) eg: "If we had won the lottery we would have bought a car" action verb that has a direct object (receiver of the action); see also intransitive verb eg: "The kids always eat a snack while they watch TV" thing that you cannot count, such as substances or concepts; see also countable nouns eg: water, furniture, music way in which words and constructions are normally used in any particular language referring to Verb 1, Verb 2, Verb 3 - being the base, past and past participle that students typically learn for irregular verbs eg: speak, spoke, spoken word that describes the subject's action or state and that we can change or conjugate based on tense and person eg: (to) work, (to) love, (to) begin

tag question


third conditional

transitive verb uncountable nouns (also called "mass nouns" or "noncount") usage

V1, V2, V3



form of a verb that shows the relation of the subject to the action; there are two voices in English: active, passive question using a WH-word and expecting an answer that is not "yes" or "no"; WH-questions are "open" questions; see also yes-no question eg: Where are you going? word that asks a WH-question; there are 7 WH-words: who, what, where, when, which, why, how order or sequence in which words occur within a sentence; basic word order for English is subject-verb-object or SVO question to which the answer is yes or no; yes-no questions are "closed" questions; see also WH-question eg: "Do you like coffee?" "if-then" conditional structure used when the result of the condition is always true (based on fact) eg: "If you dial O, the operator comes on"

WH-question WH-word (also called "question word") word order

yes-no question

zero conditional

* note that technically English does not have a real future tense ** some authorities consider the base form of the verb without "to" to be the true infinitive

Glossary of English Grammar Terms

Active Voice In the active voice, the subject of the verb does the action (eg They killed the President). See also Passive Voice. Adjective A word like big, red, easy, French etc. An adjective describes a noun or pronoun. Adverb A word like slowly, quietly, well, often etc. An adverb modifies a verb. Article The "indefinite" articles are a and an. The "definite article" is the.

Auxiliary Verb A verb that is used with a main verb. Be, do and have are auxiliary verbs. Can, may, must etc are modal auxiliary verbs. Clause A group of words containing a subject and its verb (for example: It was late when he arrived). Conjunction A word used to connect words, phrases and clauses (for example: and, but, if). Infinitive The basic form of a verb as in to work or work. Interjection An exclamation inserted into an utterance without grammatical connection (for example: oh!, ah!, ouch!, well!). Modal Verb An auxiliary verb like can, may, must etc that modifies the main verb and expresses possibility, probability etc. It is also called "modal auxiliary verb". Noun A word like table, dog, teacher, America etc. A noun is the name of an object, concept, person or place. A "concrete noun" is something you can see or touch like a person or car. An "abstract noun" is something that you cannot see or touch like a decision or happiness. A "countable noun" is something that you can count (for example: bottle, song, dollar). An "uncountable noun" is something that you cannot count (for example: water, music, money). Object In the active voice, a noun or its equivalent that receives the action of the verb. In the passive voice, a noun or its equivalent that does the action of the verb. Participle The -ing and -ed forms of verbs. The -ing form is called the "present participle". The -ed form is called the "past participle" (for irregular verbs, this is column 3). Part Of Speech One of the eight classes of word in English - noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction and interjection. Passive Voice In the passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb (eg The President was killed). See also Active Voice. Phrase A group of words not containing a subject and its verb (eg on the table, the girl in a red dress).

Predicate Each sentence contains (or implies) two parts: a subject and a predicate. The predicate is what is said about the subject. Preposition A word like at, to, in, over etc. Prepositions usually come before a noun and give information about things like time, place and direction. Pronoun A word like I, me, you, he, him, it etc. A pronoun replaces a noun. Sentence A group of words that express a thought. A sentence conveys a statement, question, exclamation or command. A sentence contains or implies a subject and a predicate. In simple terms, a sentence must contain a verb and (usually) a subject. A sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop (.), question mark (?) or exclamation mark (!). Subject Every sentence contains (or implies) two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is the main noun (or equivalent) in a sentence about which something is said. Tense The form of a verb that shows us when the action or state happens (past, present or future). Note that the name of a tense is not always a guide to when the action happens. The "present continuous tense", for example, can be used to talk about the present or the future. Verb A word like (to) work, (to) love, (to) begin. A verb describes an action or state.

English Parts of Speech

There are thousands of words in any language. But not all words have the same job. For example, some words express "action". Other words express a "thing". Other words "join" one word to another word. These are the "building blocks" of the language. Think of them like the parts of a house. When we want to build a house, we use concrete to make the foundations or base. We use bricks to make the walls. We use window frames to make the windows, and door frames to make the doorways. And we use cement to join them all together. Each part of the house has its own job. And when we want to build a sentence, we use the different types of word. Each type of word has its own job. We can categorize English words into 8 basic types or classes. These classes are called "parts of speech". Some grammar books categorize English into 9 or 10 parts of speech. At EnglishClub, we use the traditional categorization of 8 parts of speech (see table for more details).

It's quite important to recognize parts of speech. This helps you to analyze sentences and understand them. It also helps you to construct good sentences. In this lesson, we have an overview of the eight parts of speech, followed by a quiz to check your understanding:

Parts of Speech Table

This is a summary of the 8 parts of speech*. You can find more detail if you click on each part of speech.
part of speech

function or "job"

example words

example sentences


action or state

(to) be, have, do, like, work, sing, can, must pen, dog, work, music, town, London, teacher, John a/an, the, 2, some, good, big, red, well, interesting quickly, silently, well, badly, very, really I, you, he, she, some is a web site. I like


thing or person

This is my dog. He lives in my house. We live in London.


describes a noun

I have two dogs. My dogs are big. I like big dogs.


describes a verb, adjective or adverb replaces a noun links a noun to another word

My dog eats quickly. When he is very hungry, he eats really quickly. Tara is Indian. She is beautiful.



to, at, after, on, but

We went to school on Monday.


joins clauses or sentences or words

and, but, when

I like dogs and I like cats. I like cats and dogs. I like dogs but I don't like cats.


short exclamation, sometimes inserted into a sentence

oh!, ouch!, hi!, well

Ouch! That hurts! Hi! How are you? Well, I don't know.

* Some grammar sources categorize English into 9 or 10 parts of speech. At, we use the traditional categorization of 8 parts of speech. Examples of other categorizations are:

Verbs may be treated as two different parts of speech: o Lexical Verbs (work, like, run) o Auxiliary Verbs (be, have, must) Determiners may be treated as a separate part of speech, instead of being categorized under Adjectives

Parts of Speech Examples

Here are some sentences made with different English parts of speech:
verb Stop! noun John verb works. noun John verb is verb working.

pronoun She

verb loves

noun animals.

noun Animals

verb like

adjective kind

noun people.

noun Tara

verb speaks

noun English

adverb well.

noun Tara

verb speaks

adjective good

noun English.













pron. She

verb likes

adj. big

noun snakes

conjunction but

pron. I

verb hate

pron. them.

Here is a sentence that contains every part of speech:

interjection Well, pron. she conj. and adj. young noun John verb walk prep. to noun school adverb slowly.

What are Verbs?

The verb is king in English. The shortest sentence contains a verb. You can make a oneword sentence with a verb, for example: "Stop!" You cannot make a one-word sentence with any other type of word. Verbs are sometimes described as "action words". This is partly true. Many verbs give the idea of action, of "doing" something. For example, words like run, fight, do and work all convey action. But some verbs do not give the idea of action; they give the idea of existence, of state, of "being". For example, verbs like be, exist, seem and belong all convey state. A verb always has a subject. (In the sentence "John speaks English", John is the subject and speaks is the verb.) In simple terms, therefore, we can say that verbs are words that tell us what a subject does or is; they describe:

action (Ram plays football.) state (Anthony seems kind.)

There is something very special about verbs in English. Most other words (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions etc) do not change in form (although nouns can have singular and plural forms). But almost all verbs change in form. For example, the verb to work has five forms:

to work, work, works, worked, working

Of course, this is still very few forms compared to some languages which may have thirty or more forms for a single verb.

Verb Classification
We divide verbs into two broad classifications:

1. Helping Verbs
Imagine that a stranger walks into your room and says:

I can. People must. The Earth will.

Do you understand anything? Has this person communicated anything to you? Probably not! That's because these verbs are helping verbs and have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of the sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb. (The sentences in the above examples are therefore incomplete. They need at least a main verb to complete them.) There are only about 15 helping verbs.

2. Main Verbs
Now imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says:

I teach. People eat. The Earth rotates.

Do you understand something? Has this person communicated something to you? Probably yes! Not a lot, but something. That's because these verbs are main verbs and have meaning on their own. They tell us something. Of course, there are thousands of main verbs. In the following table we see example sentences with helping verbs and main verbs. Notice that all of these sentences have a main verb. Only some of them have a helping verb.
helping verb John main verb likes coffee.

You They The children We I are must do not

lied are playing. go want

to me. happy.

now. any.

Helping verbs and main verbs can be further sub-divided, as we shall see on the following pages.

Helping Verbs
Helping verbs are also called "auxiliary verbs".

Helping verbs have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of a sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb (which has the real meaning). There are only about 15 helping verbs in English, and we divide them into two basic groups:

Primary helping verbs (3 verbs)

These are the verbs be, do, and have. Note that we can use these three verbs as helping verbs or as main verbs. On this page we talk about them as helping verbs. We use them in the following cases:

o o

to make continuous tenses (He is watching TV.) to make the passive (Small fish are eaten by big fish.)


to make perfect tenses (I have finished my homework.)


to make negatives (I do not like you.)

o o o

to ask questions (Do you want some coffee?) to show emphasis (I do want you to pass your exam.) to stand for a main verb in some constructions (He speaks faster than she does.)

Modal helping verbs (10 verbs)

We use modal helping verbs to "modify" the meaning of the main verb in some way. A modal helping verb expresses necessity or possibility, and changes the main verb in that sense. These are the modal verbs:

can, could may, might will, would, shall, should must ought to

Here are examples using modal verbs:

I can't speak Chinese. John may arrive late. Would you like a cup of coffee? You should see a doctor. I really must go now.

Semi-modal verbs (3 verbs) The following verbs are often called "semi-modals" because they are partly like modal helping verbs and partly like main verbs:

need dare used to

Main Verbs
Main verbs are also called "lexical verbs".

Main verbs have meaning on their own (unlike helping verbs). There are thousands of main verbs, and we can classify them in several ways:

Transitive and intransitive verbs

A transitive verb takes a direct object: Somebody killed the President. An intransitive verb does not have a direct object: He died. Many verbs, like speak, can be transitive or intransitive. Look at these examples:


I saw an elephant. We are watching TV. He speaks English.


He has arrived. John goes to school. She speaks fast.

Linking verbs
A linking verb does not have much meaning in itself. It "links" the subject to what is said about the subject. Usually, a linking verb shows equality (=) or a change to a different state or place (>). Linking verbs are always intransitive (but not all intransitive verbs are linking verbs).

Mary is a teacher. (mary = teacher) Tara is beautiful. (tara = beautiful) That sounds interesting. (that = interesting) The sky became dark. (the sky > dark) The bread has gone bad. (bread > bad)

Dynamic and stative verbs

Some verbs describe action. They are called "dynamic", and can be used with continuous tenses. Other verbs describe state (non-action, a situation). They are called "stative", and cannot normally be used with continuous tenses (though some of them can be used with continuous tenses with a change in meaning). dynamic verbs (examples):

hit, explode, fight, run, go

stative verbs (examples):

be like, love, prefer, wish impress, please, surprise hear, see, sound belong to, consist of, contain, include, need appear, resemble, seem

Regular and irregular verbs

This is more a question of vocabulary than of grammar. The only real difference between regular and irregular verbs is that they have different endings for their past tense and past participle forms. For regular verbs, the past tense ending and past participle ending is always the same: -ed. For irregular verbs, the past tense ending and the past participle ending is variable, so it is necessary to learn them by heart. regular verbs: base, past tense, past participle

look, looked, looked work, worked, worked

irregular verbs: base, past tense, past participle

buy, bought, bought cut, cut, cut do, did, done

Here are lists of regular verbs and irregular verbs.

One way to think of regular and irregular verbs is like this: all verbs are irregular and the so-called regular verbs are simply one very large group of irregular verbs.

Often the above divisions can be mixed. For example, one verb could be irregular, transitive and dynamic; another verb could be regular, transitive and stative.

It's not easy to describe a noun. In simple terms, nouns are "things" (and verbs are "actions"). Like food. Food (noun) is something you eat (verb). Or happiness. Happiness (noun) is something you want (verb). Or human being. A human being (noun) is something you are (verb).

What are Nouns?

The simple definition is: a person, place or thing. Here are some examples:

person: man, woman, teacher, John, Mary place: home, office, town, countryside, America thing: table, car, banana, money, music, love, dog, monkey

The problem with this definition is that it does not explain why "love" is a noun but can also be a verb.

Another (more complicated) way of recognizing a noun is by its: 1. Ending 2. Position 3. Function 1. Noun Ending There are certain word endings that show that a word is a noun, for example:

-ity > nationality -ment > appointment -ness > happiness -ation > relation -hood > childhood

But this is not true for the word endings of all nouns. For example, the noun "spoonful" ends in ful, but the adjective "careful" also ends in -ful. 2. Position in Sentence We can often recognise a noun by its position in the sentence. Nouns often come after a determiner (a determiner is a word like a, an, the, this, my, such):

a relief an afternoon the doctor this word my house such stupidity

Nouns often come after one or more adjectives:

a great relief a peaceful afternoon the tall, Indian doctor this difficult word my brown and white house such crass stupidity

3. Function in a Sentence Nouns have certain functions (jobs) in a sentence, for example:

subject of verb: Doctors work hard.

object of verb: He likes coffee. subject and object of verb: Teachers teach students.

But the subject or object of a sentence is not always a noun. It could be a pronoun or a phrase. In the sentence "My doctor works hard", the noun is "doctor" but the subject is "My doctor".

Countable Nouns
Countable nouns are easy to recognize. They are things that we can count. For example: "pen". We can count pens. We can have one, two, three or more pens. Here are some more countable nouns:

dog, cat, animal, man, person bottle, box, litre coin, note, dollar cup, plate, fork table, chair, suitcase, bag

Countable nouns can be singular or plural:

My dog is playing. My dogs are hungry.

We can use the indefinite article a/an with countable nouns:

A dog is an animal.

When a countable noun is singular, we must use a word like a/the/my/this with it:

I want an orange. (not I want orange.) Where is my bottle? (not Where is bottle?)

When a countable noun is plural, we can use it alone:

I like oranges. Bottles can break.

We can use some and any with countable nouns:

I've got some dollars. Have you got any pens?

We can use a few and many with countable nouns:

I've got a few dollars.

I haven't got many pens.

"People" is countable. "People" is the plural of "person". We can count people:

There is one person here. There are three people here.

Uncountable Nouns
Uncountable nouns are substances, concepts etc that we cannot divide into separate elements. We cannot "count" them. For example, we cannot count "milk". We can count "bottles of milk" or "litres of milk", but we cannot count "milk" itself. Here are some more uncountable nouns:

music, art, love, happiness advice, information, news furniture, luggage rice, sugar, butter, water electricity, gas, power money, currency

We usually treat uncountable nouns as singular. We use a singular verb. For example:

This news is very important. Your luggage looks heavy.

We do not usually use the indefinite article a/an with uncountable nouns. We cannot say "an information" or "a music". But we can say a something of:

a piece of news a bottle of water a grain of rice

We can use some and any with uncountable nouns:

I've got some money. Have you got any rice?

We can use a little and much with uncountable nouns:

I've got a little money. I haven't got much rice.

Uncountable nouns are also called "mass nouns". Here are some more examples of countable and uncountable nouns:

Countable Uncountable dollar song suitcase table battery bottle report tip journey job view money music luggage furniture electricity wine information advice travel work scenery

When you learn a new word, it's a good idea to learn whether it's countable or uncountable.

Nouns that can be Countable and Uncountable

Sometimes, the same noun can be countable and uncountable, often with a change of meaning. Countable There are two hairs in my coffee! There are two lights in our bedroom. Shhhhh! I thought I heard a noise. There are so many different noises in the city. Have you got a paper to read? (newspaper) Hand me those student papers. Our house has seven rooms. hair light noise Uncountable I don't have much hair. Close the curtain. There's too much light! It's difficult to work when there is too much noise. I want to draw a picture. Have you got some paper?


room Is there room for me to sit here?

We had a great time at the party. How many times have I told you no? Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's greatest works.


Have you got time for a coffee?

work I have no money. I need work!

Drinks (coffee, water, orange juice) are usually uncountable. But if we are thinking of a cup or a glass, we can say (in a restaurant, for example):

Two teas and one coffee please.

Proper Nouns (Names)

A proper noun is the special word (or name) that we use for a person, place or organization, like John, Marie, London, France or Sony. A name is a noun, but a very special noun - a proper noun.

Possessive 's
When we want to show that something belongs to somebody or something, we usually add 's to a singular noun and an apostrophe ' to a plural noun, for example:

the boy's ball (one boy) the boys' ball (two or more boys)

Notice that the number of balls does not matter. The structure is influenced by the possessor and not the possessed.
one ball more than one ball

one boy the boy's ball the boy's balls

more than one boy the boys' ball the boys' balls

The structure can be used for a whole phrase:

the man next door's mother (the mother of the man next door) the Queen of England's poodles (the poodles of the Queen of England)

Although we can use of to show possession, it is more usual to use possessive 's. The following phrases have the same meaning, but #2 is more usual and natural: 1. the boyfriend of my sister 2. my sister's boyfriend Proper Nouns (Names)

We very often use possessive 's with names:

This is Mary's car. Where is Ram's telephone? Who took Anthony's pen? I like Tara's hair.

When a name ends in s, we usually treat it like any other singular noun, and add 's:

This is Charles's chair.

But it is possible (especially with older, classical names) to just add the apostrophe ':

Who was Jesus' father?

Irregular Plurals

Some nouns have irregular plural forms without s (man > men). To show possession, we usually add 's to the plural form of these nouns:
singular noun my child's dog the man's work the mouse's cage plural noun my children's dog the men's work the mice's cage

a person's clothes people's clothes

Noun as Adjective
As you know, a noun is a person, place or thing, and an adjective is a word that describes a noun:

adjective noun clever small black teacher office horse

Sometimes we use a noun to describe another noun. In that case, the first noun "acts as" an adjective.
noun as adjective noun history ticket race teacher office horse

The "noun as adjective" always comes first

If you remember this it will help you to understand what is being talked about:

a race horse is a horse that runs in races a horse race is a race for horses a boat race is a race for boats a love story is a story about love a war story is a story about war a tennis ball is a ball for playing tennis tennis shoes are shoes for playing tennis a computer exhibition is an exhibition of computers a bicycle shop is a shop that sells bicycles

The "noun as adjective" is singular

Just like a real adjective, the "noun as adjective" is invariable. It is usually in the singular form.
Right boat race boat races Wrong NOT boats race, boats races

toothbrush shoe-lace

toothbrushes shoe-laces

NOT teethbrush, teethbrushes NOT shoes-lace, shoes-laces

cigarette packet cigarette packets NOT cigarettes packet, cigarettes packets

In other words, if there is a plural it is on the real noun only. A few nouns look plural but we usually treat them as singular (for example news, billiards, athletics). When we use these nouns "as adjectives" they are unchanged:

a news reporter, three news reporters one billiards table, four billiards tables an athletics trainer, fifty athletics trainers

Exceptions: When we use certain nouns "as adjectives" (clothes, sports, customs, accounts, arms), we use them in the plural form:

clothes shop, clothes shops sports club, sports clubs customs duty, customs duties accounts department, accounts departments arms production

How do we write the "noun as adjective"?

We write the "noun as adjective" and the real noun in several different ways:

two separate words (car door) two hyphenated words (book-case) one word (bathroom)

There are no easy rules for this. We even write some combinations in two or all three different ways: (head master, head-master, headmaster)
How do we say the "noun as adjective"?

For pronunciation, we usually stress the first word:

shoe shop boat-race bathroom

Can we have more than one "noun as adjective"?

Yes. Just like adjectives, we often use more than one "noun as adjective" together. Look at these examples: car production costs: we are talking about the costs of producing cars
noun as noun as adjective adjective

noun costs

production costs car production costs

England football team coach: we are talking about the coach who trains the team that plays football for England
noun as noun as noun as adjective adjective adjective noun coach team coach football England football team coach team coach

Note: in England football team coach can you see a "hidden" "noun as adjective"? Look at the word "football" (foot-ball). These two nouns (foot+ball) have developed into a single noun (football). This is one way that words evolve. Many word combinations that use a "noun as adjective" are regarded as nouns in their own right, with their own dictionary definition. But not all dictionaries agree with each other. For example, some dictionaries list "tennis ball" as a noun and other dictionaries do not. government road accident research centre: we are talking about a centre that researches into accidents on the road for the government

noun as

noun as noun as noun as


adjective adjective adjective centre research centre accident research centre road accident research centre


road accident research centre

Newpapers often use many nouns together in headlines to save space. Look at this example: BIRD HEALTH RESEARCH CENTRE MURDER MYSTERY To understand headlines like these, try reading them backwards. The above headline is about a MYSTERY concerning a MURDER in a CENTRE for RESEARCH into the HEALTH of BIRDS. Note, too, that we can still use a real adjective to qualify a "noun as adjective" structure:

empty coffee jar honest car salesman delicious dog food rising car production costs famous England football team coach

Compound Nouns
A compound noun is a noun that is made with two or more words. A compound noun is usually [noun + noun] or [adjective + noun], but there are other combinations (see below). It is important to understand and recognize compound nouns. Each compound noun acts as a single unit and can be modified by adjectives and other nouns. There are three forms for compound nouns: 1. open or spaced - space between words (tennis shoe) 2. hyphenated - hyphen between words (six-pack) 3. closed or solid - no space or hyphen between words (bedroom) Here are some examples of compound nouns:

bus stop noun + noun fire-fly football full moon adjective + noun blackboard software breakfast verb(-ing) + noun washing machine sunrise noun verb noun + verb(-ing) + preposition + prepositional phrase haircut train-spotting check-out

Is this the bus stop for the number 12 bus? In the tropics you can see fire-flies at night. Shall we play football today? I always feel crazy at full moon. Clean the blackboard please. I can't install this software on my PC. We always eat breakfast at 8am. Put the clothes in the red washing machine.

swimming pool What a beautiful swimming pool! I like to get up at sunrise. You need a haircut. His hobby is train-spotting. Please remember that check-out is at 12 noon.

mother-in-law My mother-in-law lives with us. underworld truckful Do you think the police accept money from the underworld? We need 10 truckfuls of bricks.

preposition + noun noun + adjective

Pronunciation Compound nouns tend to have more stress on the first word. In the phrase "pink ball", both words are equally stressed (as you know, adjectives and nouns are always stressed). In the compound noun "golf ball", the first word is stressed more (even though both words are nouns, and nouns are always stressed). Since "golf ball" is a compound noun we consider it as a single noun and so it has a single main stress - on the first word. Stress is important in compound nouns. For example, it helps us know if somebody said "a GREEN HOUSE" (a house which is painted green) or "a GREENhouse" (a building made of glass for growing plants inside). British/American differences Different varieties of English, and even different writers, may use the open, hyphenated or closed form for the same compound noun. It is partly a matter of style. There are no definite rules. For example we can find:

container ship container-ship containership

If you are not sure which form to use, please check in a good dictionary.

Plural forms of compound nouns In general we make the plural of a compound noun by adding -s to the "base word" (the most "significant" word). Look at these examples: singular a tennis shoe one assistant headmaster the sergeant major a mother-in-law my toothbrush a woman-doctor a doctor of philosophy a passerby, a passer-by plural three tennis shoes five assistant headmasters some sergeants major two mothers-in-law our toothbrushes four women-doctors two doctors of philosophy two passersby, two passers-by

an assistant secretary of state three assistant secretaries of state

Note that there is some variation with words like spoonful or truckful. The old style was to say spoonsful or trucksful for the plural. Today it is more usual to say spoonfuls or truckfuls. Both the old style (spoonsful) and the new style (spoonfuls) are normally acceptable, but you should be consistent in your choice. Here are some examples: old style plural (very formal) truckful bucketful cupful 5 trucksful of sand 2 bucketsful of water 4 cupsful of rice new style plural

teaspoonful 3 teaspoonsful of sugar 3 teasponfuls of sugar 5 truckfuls of sand 2 bucketfuls of water 4 cupfuls of rice

Some compound nouns have no obvious base word and you may need to consult a dictionary to find the plural:

higher-ups also-rans go-betweens has-beens good-for-nothings grown-ups

Note that with compound nouns made of [noun + noun] the first noun is like an adjective and therefore does not usually take an -s. A tree that has apples has many apples, but we say an apple tree, not apples tree; matchbox not matchesbox; toothbrush not teethbrush.

With compound nouns made of [noun + noun] the second noun takes an -s for plural. The first noun acts like an adjective and as you know, adjectives in English are invariable. Look at these examples: long plural form becomes 100 trees with apples 20 boxes for tools 10 stops for buses 4,000 wheels for cars plural compound noun [noun + noun] 100 apple trees 20 tool boxes 10 bus stops 4,000 car wheels

1,000 cables for telephones 1,000 telephone cables

An adjective is a word that tells us more about a noun. (By "noun" we include pronouns and noun phrases.) An adjective "qualifies" or "modifies" a noun (a big dog). Adjectives can be used before a noun (I like Chinese food) or after certain verbs (It is hard). We can often use two or more adjectives together (a beautiful young French lady).
It is sometimes said that the adjective is the enemy of the noun. This is because, very often, if we use the precise noun we don't need an adjective. For example, instead of saying "a large, impressive house" (2 adjectives + 1 noun) we could simply say "a mansion" (1 noun).

Determiners are words like the, an, my, some. They are grammatically similar. They all come at the beginning of noun phrases, and usually we cannot use more than one determiner in the same noun phrase. Articles:

a, an, the

A, An or The?
When do we say "the dog" and when do we say "a dog"? (On this page we talk only about

singular, countable nouns.) The and a/an are called "articles". We divide them into "definite" and "indefinite" like this: Articles Definite Indefinite the a, an

We use "definite" to mean sure, certain. "Definite" is particular. We use "indefinite" to mean not sure, not certain. "Indefinite" is general. When we are talking about one thing in particular, we use the. When we are talking about one thing in general, we use a or an. Think of the sky at night. In the sky we see 1 moon and millions of stars. So normally we would say:

I saw the moon last night. I saw a star last night.

Look at these examples: the

a, an The capital of France is Paris. I have found the book that I lost. Have you cleaned the car? There are six eggs in the fridge. Please switch off the TV when you finish.

I was born in a town. John had an omelette for lunch. James Bond ordered a drink. We want to buy an umbrella. Have you got a pen?

Of course, often we can use the or a/an for the same word. It depends on the situation, not the word. Look at these examples:

We want to buy an umbrella. (Any umbrella, not a particular umbrella.) Where is the umbrella? (We already have an umbrella. We are looking for our umbrella, a particular umbrella.)

This little story should help you understand the difference between the and a, an: A man and a woman were walking in Oxford Street. The woman saw a dress that she liked in a shop. She asked the man if he could buy the dress for her. He said: "Do you think the shop will

accept a cheque? I don't have a credit card."

Possessive Adjectives:

my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose

Warning! These are adjectives. Don't confuse them with pronouns! We use possessive adjectives to show who owns or "possesses" something. The possessive adjectives are:

my, your, his, her, its, our, their whose (interrogative) possessive example sentence adjective my your his her its our your their This is my book. I like your hair. His name is "John". Her name is "Mary". The dog is licking its paw. We have sold our house. Your children are lovely. The students thanked their teacher.


person 1st 2nd

gender male/female male/female male

singular 3rd

female neuter

1st plural 2nd 3rd

male/female male/female male/female/neuter



male/female (not neuter)


Whose phone did you use?


your = possessive adjective you're = you are its = possessive adjective it's = it is OR it has their = possessive adjective they're = they are there = adverb (I'm not going there / look over there / there is a car outside) whose = possessive adjective who's = who is OR who has

Be careful! There is no apostrophe (') in the possessive adjective "its". We use an apostrophe to write the short form of "it is" or "it has". For example: it's raining = it is raining it's finished = it has finished I'm taking my dog to the vet. It's broken its leg.

Other determiners:

each, every

Each, Every
Each and every have similar but not always identical meanings. Each = every one separately Every = each, all

Sometimes, each and every have the same meaning:

Prices go up each year. Prices go up every year.

But often they are not exactly the same. Each expresses the idea of 'one by one'. It emphasizes individuality. Every is half-way between each and all. It sees things or people as singular, but in a group or in general. Consider the following:

Every artist is sensitive. Each artist sees things differently. Every soldier saluted as the President arrived. The President gave each soldier a medal.

Each can be used in front of the verb:

The soldiers each received a medal.

Each can be followed by 'of':

The President spoke to each of the soldiers. He gave a medal to each of them.

Every cannot be used for 2 things. For 2 things, each can be used:

He was carrying a suitcase in each hand.

Every is used to say how often something happens:

There is a plane to Bangkok every day. The bus leaves every hour.

Verbs with each and every are always conjugated in the singular.

either, neither some, any, no

Some, Any

Some = a little, a few or a small number or amount Any = one, some or all Usually, we use some in positive (+) sentences and any in negative (-) and question (?) sentences. some + ? I have some money. I don't have any money. Do you have any money? any I have $10. I don't have $1 and I don't have $10 and I don't have $1,000,000. I have $0. Do you have $1 or $10 or $1,000,000? example situation

In general, we use something/anything and somebody/anybody in the same way as some/any. Look at these examples:

He needs some stamps. I must go. I have some homework to do. I'm thirsty. I want something to drink. I can see somebody coming. He doesn't need any stamps. I can stay. I don't have any homework to do. I'm not thirsty. I don't want anything to drink. I can't see anybody coming. Does he need any stamps? Do you have any homework to do? Do you want anything to drink? Can you see anybody coming?

We use any in a positive sentence when the real sense is negative.

I refused to give them any money. (I did not give them any money) She finished the test without any difficulty. (she did not have any difficulty)

Sometimes we use some in a question, when we expect a positive YES answer. (We could say that it is not a real question, because we think we know the answer already.)

Would you like some more tea? Could I have some sugar, please?

much, many; more, most little, less, least few, fewer, fewest what, whatever; which, whichever both, half, all several enough

Some grammarians do not consider determiners as adjectives, but give them a class of their own.

Adjective Order
There are 2 basic positions for adjectives: 1. before the noun 2. after certain verbs (be, become, get, seem, look, feel, sound, smell, taste) adj. noun 1 I like big 2 cars. My car is big. verb adj.

In this lesson we look at the position of adjectives in a sentence, followed by a quiz to check your understanding:

Comparative Adjectives
When we talk about two things, we can "compare" them. We can see if they are the same or different. Perhaps they are the same in some ways and different in other ways. We can use comparative adjectives to describe the differences.
We can use comparative adjectives when talking about two things (not three or more things).

In the example below, "bigger" is the comparative form of the adjective "big":

A1 A2

A1 is bigger than A2. In this lesson we will look first at how we make comparative adjectives, and then at how we use them:

Formation of Comparative Adjectives

There are two ways to make or form a comparative adjective:

short adjectives: add "-er" long adjectives: use "more"

Short adjectives

1-syllable adjectives 2-syllable adjectives ending in -y

old, fast happy, easy old older late later big bigger happy happier

Normal rule: add "-er" Variation: if the adjective ends in -e, just add -r Variation: if the adjective ends in consonant, vowel, consonant, double the last consonant Variation: if the adjective ends in -y, change the y to i Long adjectives

2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y all adjectives of 3 or more syllables

modern, pleasant expensive, intellectual modern more modern expensive more expensive

Normal rule: use "more"

With some 2-syllable adjectives, we can use '-er' or 'more':

quiet quieter/more quiet clever cleverer/more clever narrow narrower/more narrow simple simpler/more simple

Exception The following adjectives have irregular forms:

good better well (healthy) better bad worse far farther/further

Use of Comparative Adjectives

We use comparative adjectives when talking about 2 things (not 3 or 10 or 1,000,000 things, only 2 things). Often, the comparative adjective is followed by "than". Look at these examples:

John is 1m80. He is tall. But Chris is 1m85. He is taller than John. America is big. But Russia is bigger. I want to have a more powerful computer. Is French more difficult than English?

If we talk about the two planets Earth and Mars, we can compare them as shown in the table below: Earth Diameter (km) Distance from Sun (million km) Length of day (hours) Moons Surface temperature (degrees Celcius) 12,760 150 24 1 22 Mars 6,790 228 25 2 -23 Mars is smaller than Earth. Mars is more distant from the Sun. A day on Mars is slightly longer than a day on Earth. Mars has more moons than Earth. Mars is colder than Earth.

Although we use comparative adjectives when talking about two things (not three or more things), in fact one or both of the things may be a group of things.

Mt Everest is higher than all other mountains.

Here, we are talking about hundreds of mountains, but we are still comparing one thing (Mt Everest) to one other thing (all other mountains).

Superlative Adjectives
A superlative adjective expresses the extreme or highest degree of a quality. We use a superlative adjective to describe the extreme quality of one thing in a group of things. In the example below, "biggest" is the superlative form of the adjective "big":

A is the biggest.

Formation of Superlative Adjectives

As with comparative adjectives, there are two ways to form a superlative adjective:

short adjectives: add "-est" long adjectives: use "most"

We also usually add 'the' at the beginning. Short adjectives 1-syllable adjectives 2-syllable adjectives ending in -y Normal rule: add "-est" Variation: if the adjective ends in -e, just add -st Variation: if the adjective ends in consonant, vowel, consonant, double the last consonant old, fast happy, easy old the oldest late the latest big the biggest

Variation: if the adjective ends in -y, change the y to i Long adjectives 2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y all adjectives of 3 or more syllables

happy the happiest

modern, pleasant expensive, intellectual modern the most modern expensive the most expensive

Normal rule: use "most"

With some 2-syllable adjectives, we can use '-est' or 'most':

quiet the quietest/most quiet clever the cleverest/most clever narrow the narrowest/most narrow simple the simplest/most simple

Exception The following adjectives have irregular forms:

good the best bad the worst far the furthest

Use of Superlative Adjectives

We use a superlative adjective to describe one thing in a group of three or more things. Look at these examples:

John is 1m75. David is 1m80. Chris is 1m85. Chris is the tallest. Canada, China and Russia are big countries. But Russia is the biggest. Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

If we talk about the three planets Earth, Mars and Jupiter, we can use superlative adjectives as shown in the table below: Earth Diameter (km) 12,760 Mars 6,790 Jupiter 142,800 Jupiter is the biggest.

Distance from Sun (million km) Length of day (hours) Moons Surface temp. (degrees Celcius)

150 24 1 22

228 25 2 -23

778 10 16 -150

Jupiter is the most distant from the Sun. Jupiter has the shortest day. Jupiter has the most moons. Jupiter is the coldest.

When we compare one thing with itself, we do not use "the":

England is coldest in winter. (not the coldest) My boss is most generous when we get a big order. (not the most generous)

Gradable and Non-gradable Adjectives

Adjectives describe qualities (characteristics) of nouns.

Some qualities can vary in intensity or grade (for example: rather hot, hot, very hot; hot, hotter, the hottest). The adjective hot is gradable.

Other qualities cannot vary in intensity or grade because they are: a. extremes (for example: freezing) b. absolutes (for example: dead) c. classifying (for example: nuclear)

The adjectives freezing, dead and nuclear are non-gradable.

Gradable Adjectives
A gradable adjective can be used with "grading adverbs" that vary the adjective's grade or intensity. Look at these examples:
grading adverbs a little, dreadfully, extremely, fairly, hugely, + gradable adjectives angry, big, busy, clever, cold, deep, fast, friendly,

immensely, intensely, rather, reasonably, slightly, unusually, very

good, happy, high, hot, important, long, popular, rich, strong, tall, warm, weak, young

A gradable adjective can also have comparative and superlative forms:

EC Tip: "Gradable adjectives" are also called "qualitative adjectives". "Grading adverbs" are also called "submodifiers".

big, bigger, the biggest hot, hotter, the hottest important, more important, the most important

Look at these example sentences:

My teacher was very happy with my homework. That website is reasonably popular. But this one is more popular. He said that Holland was a little cold and Denmark was rather cold. But Sweden was the coldest.

EC Tip: The adjective dead is non-gradable because it is an absolute. Dead is dead. We cannot be more or less dead. One person cannot be "deader" than another. Other absolutes include: correct, unique, perfect

Non-gradable Adjectives
A non-gradable adjective cannot be used with grading adverbs:

It was rather freezing outside. The dog was very dead. He is investing in slightly nuclear energy.

Non-gradable adjectives do not normally have comparative and superlative forms:

freezing, more freezing, the most freezing dead, deader, the deadest nuclear, more nuclear, the most nuclear

Often, non-gradable adjectives are used alone:

EC Tip: Don't try to learn lists of gradable and non-gradable adjectives! It's better to understand what makes an adjective gradable or non-gradable. This is a matter of logic and common sense. Most nativespeakers have never heard of gradable and non-gradable adjectives. They just "feel" that it doesn't make sense to say "fairly excellent" or "very unique". You probably have the same idea in your language.

It was freezing outside. The dog was dead. He is investing in nuclear energy.

However, a non-gradable adjective can be used with "non-grading adverbs" (which usually just give the adjective extra impact), for example:
non-grading adverbs non-gradable adjectives absolutely utterly completely totally nearly virtually essentially mainly almost awful excellent terrified dead impossible unique chemical digital domestic classifying absolute extreme

Here are some example sentences with non-gradable adjectives:

Her exam results were absolutely awful. She will have to take the exam again. Is there anything like it in the world? It must be virtually unique. It starts an essentially chemical reaction.

Adjectives that can be gradable and non-gradable

Some adjectives may have more than one meaning or sense. It's possible for the same adjective to be gradable with one sense and non-gradable with another sense. For example:

adjective He's got a very old car. I saw my old boyfriend yesterday. He has some dreadfully common habits. "The" is a very common word in English. gradable

common = not young

non-gradable former, exgradable gradable vulgar prevalent

The two countries' common border poses problems. non-gradable shared

Adverbs used with gradable and non-gradable adjectives

The adverbs really (very much) and fairly and pretty (both meaning "to a significant degree, but less than very") can often be used with gradable and non-gradable adjectives:
gradable non-gradable

Please don't forget! It's really important. He was really terrified. He's a fairly rich man. He's pretty tall. It's a fairly impossible job. It's pretty ridiculous when you think about it.

"Quite" with gradable and non-gradable adjectives

The meaning of the adverb "quite" changes according to the type of adjective we use it with:
adjective It's quite warm today. gradable quite = fairly, rather

Are you quite certain? non-gradable completely, absolutely

Non-gradable adjectives Although we don't recommend that you learn lists of non-gradable adjectives, here are some for reference. You can decide for yourself whether they are extreme, absolute or classifying. alive, awful, black, boiling, certain, correct, dead, domestic, enormous, environmental, excellent, freezing, furious, gigantic, huge, immediately, impossible, miniscule, mortal, overjoyed, perfect, pregnant, principal, ridiculous, superb, terrible, terrified, unique, unknown, white, whole

Non-grading adverbs Again, no need to learn lists. Here are a few examples. There are many more. Remember that you cannot use all non-grading adverbs with all non-gradable adjectives. Some collocate (go together). Some don't. absolutely, almost, completely, entirely, exclusively, fully, largely, mainly, nearly, perfectly, practically, primarily, utterly, virtually

Adverbs are an important part of speech. They usually answer questions such as how?, where?, when?, how often? and how much?

What is an Adverb?
An adverb is a word that tells us more about a verb. It "qualifies" or "modifies" a verb (The man ran quickly). In the following examples, the adverb is in bold and the verb that it modifies is in italics.

John speaks loudly. (How does John speak?) Afterwards she smoked a cigarette. (When did she smoke?) Mary lives locally. (Where does Mary live?)

But adverbs can also modify adjectives (Tara is really beautiful), or even other adverbs (It works very well). Look at these examples:

Modify an adjective: - He is really handsome. (How handsome is he?) - That was extremely kind of you. Modify another adverb: - She drives incredibly slowly. (How slowly does she drive?) - He drives extremely fast.

Note that adverbs have other functions, too. They can:

Modify a whole sentence: Obviously, I can't know everything. Modify a prepositional phrase: It's immediately inside the door.

Adverb Form
We make many adverbs by adding -ly to an adjective, for example:

quick (adjective) > quickly (adverb) careful (adjective) > carefully (adverb) beautiful (adjective) > beautifully (adverb)

There are some basic rules about spelling for -ly adverbs. See the table below: Adjective ending do this adjective quick nice sole careful regrettable horrible happy economic adverb quickly nicely solely carefully regrettably horribly happily economically

most adjectives

add -ly

-able or -ible -y -ic

change -e to -y change -y to -ily change -ic to -ically

But not all words that end in -ly are adverbs. The words friendly, lovely, lonely and neighbourly, for example, are all adjectives. And some adverbs have no particular form. Look at these examples:

well, fast, very, never, always, often, still

Note that the form of an adverb can also change to make it comparative or superlative.

Kinds of Adverbs
Here you can see the basic kinds of adverbs.

Adverbs of Manner
Adverbs of Manner tell us the manner or way in which something happens. They answer the question "how?". Adverbs of Manner mainly modify verbs.

He speaks slowly. (How does he speak?) They helped us cheerfully. (How did they help us?) James Bond drives his cars fast. (How does James Bond drive his cars?)

We normally use Adverbs of Manner with dynamic (action) verbs, not with stative or state verbs.

He ran fast. She came quickly. They worked happily. She looked beautifully. It seems strangely. They are happily.

Adverbs of Place
Adverbs of Place tell us the place where something happens. They answer the question "where?". Adverbs of Place mainly modify verbs.

Please sit here. (Where should I sit?) They looked everywhere. (Where did they look?) Two cars were parked outside. (Where were two cars parked?)

Adverbs of Time
Adverbs of Time tell us something about the time that something happens. Adverbs of Time mainly modify verbs. They can answer the question "when?":

He came yesterday. (When did he come?) I want it now. (When do I want it?)

Or they can answer the question "how often?":

They deliver the newspaper daily. (How often do they deliver the newspaper?) We sometimes watch a movie. (How often do we watch a movie?)

Adverbs of Degree
Adverbs of Degree tell us the degree or extent to which something happens. They answer the question "how much?" or "to what degree?". Adverbs of Degree can modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs.

She entirely agrees with him. (How much does she agree with him?) Mary is very beautiful. (To what degree is Mary beautiful? How beautiful is Mary?) He drove quite dangerously. (To what degree did he drive dangerously? How dangerously did he drive?)

Adverb Position
When an adverb modifies a verb, there are usually 3 possible positions within the sentence or clause:
1. FRONT - before subject 2. MID - between subject + verb 3. END - after verb/object I I read books Now often carefully. I will read a book. read books.

When an adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, it usually goes in front of the word that it modifies, for example:
adverb She gave him a really adverb We quite adjective dirty adverb often study English. look.

The position of an adverb often depends on the kind of adverb (manner, place, time, degree). The following table gives you some guidelines for placement based on the kind of adverb.

Warning: these are guidelines only, and not complete. There are many exceptions. sentence usual position adverb She stroked his hair He was working He finished the job verbs frequency We I degree verbs, adjectives and adverbs It was He works often nearly terribly really go to Paris. died. funny. fast. MID MID before adjective before adverb gently. here. yesterday. END END END

kind of adverb

mainly modifies

manner place definite time

verbs verbs

Adverbs of Frequency
Adverbs of Frequency are Adverbs of Time that answer the question "How frequently?" or "How often?". They tell us how often something happens. Here are some examples: a. daily, weekly, yearly b. often, sometimes, rarely You probably see a difference between a) and b) above. With words like daily we know exactly how often. The words in a) describe definite frequency. On the other hand, words like often give us an idea about frequency but they don't tell us exactly. The words in b) describe indefinite frequency. We separate them into two groups because they normally go in different positions in the sentence.

Adverbs of definite frequency


hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly every second, once a minute, twice a year once, twice, once or twice, three times

Adverbs of definite frequency, like all adverbs of definite time, typically go in END position. Look at these examples:

Most companies pay taxes yearly. The manager checks the toilets every hour. The directors meet weekly to review progress.

Sometimes, usually for reasons of emphasis or style, some adverbs of definite frequency may go at the FRONT, for example:

Every day, more than five thousand people die on our roads.

Adverbs of indefinite frequency


never, seldom, sometimes, often, always 100% always, constantly usually, normally frequently, regularly often 50% sometimes

Adverbs of indefinite frequency mainly go in MID position in the sentence. They go before the main verb (except the main verb "to be"):

We usually go shopping on Saturday. I have often done that. She is always late.

Occasionally, sometimes, often, frequently and usually can also go at the beginning or end of a sentence:

occasionally rarely, infrequently seldom hardly ever 0% never

Sometimes they come and stay with us. I play tennis occasionally.

Rarely and seldom can also go at the end of a sentence (often with "very"):

We see them rarely.

John eats meat very seldom.

Pronouns are small words that take the place of a noun. We can use a pronoun instead of a noun. Pronouns are words like: he, you, ours, themselves, some, each... If we didn't have pronouns, we would have to repeat a lot of nouns. We would have to say things like:

Do you like the president? I don't like the president. The president is too pompous.

With pronouns, we can say:

Do you like the president? I don't like him. He is too pompous.

Personal Pronouns
Personal pronouns represent specific people or things. We use them depending on:

number: singular (eg: I) or plural (eg: we) person: 1st person (eg: I), 2nd person (eg: you) or 3rd person (eg: he) gender: male (eg: he), female (eg: she) or neuter (eg: it) case: subject (eg: we) or object (eg: us)

We use personal pronouns in place of the person or people that we are talking about. My name is Josef but when I am talking about myself I almost always use "I" or "me", not "Josef". When I am talking direct to you, I almost always use "you", not your name. When I am talking about another person, say John, I may start with "John" but then use "he" or "him". And so on. Here are the personal pronouns, followed by some example sentences: personal pronouns number person gender 1st 2nd singular 3rd male/female male/female male female neuter subject I you he she it object me you him her it

1st plural 2nd 3rd

male/female male/female male/female/neuter

we you they

us you them

Examples (in each case, the first example shows a subject pronoun, the second an object pronoun):

I like coffee. John helped me. Do you like coffee? John loves you. He runs fast. Did Ram beat him? She is clever. Does Mary know her? It doesn't work. Can the engineer repair it? We went home. Anthony drove us. Do you need a table for three? Did John and Mary beat you at doubles? They played doubles. John and Mary beat them.

When we are talking about a single thing, we almost always use it. However, there are a few exceptions. We may sometimes refer to an animal as he/him or she/her, especially if the animal is domesticated or a pet. Ships (and some other vessels or vehicles) as well as some countries are often treated as female and referred to as she/her. Here are some examples:

This is our dog Rusty. He's an Alsation. The Titanic was a great ship but she sank on her first voyage. My first car was a Mini and I treated her like my wife. Thailand has now opened her border with Cambodia.

For a single person, sometimes we don't know whether to use he or she. There are several solutions to this:

If a teacher needs help, he or she should see the principal.

If a teacher needs help, he should see the principal. If a teacher needs help, they should see the principal.

We often use it to introduce a remark:

It is nice to have a holiday sometimes. It is important to dress well. It's difficult to find a job. Is it normal to see them together? It didn't take long to walk here.

We also often use it to talk about the weather, temperature, time and distance:

It's raining. It will probably be hot tomorrow. Is it nine o'clock yet? It's 50 kilometres from here to Cambridge.

Demonstrative Pronouns
demonstrate (verb): to show; to indicate; to point to A demonstrative pronoun represents a thing or things:

near in distance or time (this, these) far in distance or time (that, those) near far that those

singular plural

this these

Here are some examples with demonstrative pronouns, followed by an illustration:

This tastes good. Have you seen this? These are bad times. Do you like these? That is beautiful. Look at that! Those were the days! Can you see those?

This is heavier than that. These are bigger than those.

Do not confuse demonstrative pronouns with demonstrative adjectives. They are identical, but a demonstrative pronoun stands alone, while a demonstrative adjective qualifies a noun.

That smells. (demonstrative pronoun) That book is good. (demonstrative adjective + noun)

Normally we use demonstrative pronouns for things only. But we can use them for people when the person is identified. Look at these examples:

This is Josef speaking. Is that Mary? That sounds like John.

Possessive Pronouns
We use possessive pronouns to refer to a specific person/people or thing/things (the "antecedent") belonging to a person/people (and sometimes belonging to an animal/animals or thing/things). We use possessive pronouns depending on:

number: singular (eg: mine) or plural (eg: ours)

person: 1st person (eg: mine), 2nd person (eg: yours) or 3rd person (eg: his) gender: male (his), female (hers)

Below are the possessive pronouns, followed by some example sentences. Notice that each possessive pronoun can:

be subject or object refer to a singular or plural antecedent person gender (of "owner") 1st 2nd male/female male/female male 3rd female 1st male/female male/female male/female/neuter hers ours yours theirs possessive pronouns mine yours his




2nd 3rd

Look at these pictures. Mine is the big one. (subject = My picture) I like your flowers. Do you like mine? (object = my flowers) I looked everywhere for your key. I found John's key but I couldn't find yours. (object = your key) My flowers are dying. Yours are lovely. (subject = Your flowers) All the essays were good but his was the best. (subject = his essay) John found his passport but Mary couldn't find hers. (object = her passport) John found his clothes but Mary couldn't find hers. (object = her clothes) Here is your car. Ours is over there, where we left it. (subject = Our car) Your photos are good. Ours are terrible. (subject = Our photos) Each couple's books are colour-coded. Yours are red. (subject = Your books) I don't like this family's garden but I like yours. (subject = your garden) These aren't John and Mary's children. Theirs have black hair. (subject = Their children) John and Mary don't like your car. Do you like theirs? (object = their car)

Notice that the following (with apostrophe [']) do NOT exist: her's, your's, their's

Notice that the interrogative pronoun whose can also be a possessive pronoun (an interrogative possessive pronoun). Look at these examples:

There was $100 on the table and Tara wondered whose it was. This car hasn't moved for two months. Whose is it?

Interrogative Pronouns
We use interrogative pronouns to ask questions. The interrogative pronoun represents the thing that we don't know (what we are asking the question about). There are four main interrogative pronouns: who, whom, what, which Notice that the possessive pronoun whose can also be an interrogative pronoun (an interrogative possessive pronoun). subject person thing person/thing person who object whom what which whose (possessive)

Notice that whom is the correct form when the pronoun is the object of the verb, as in "Whom did you see?" ("I saw John.") However, in normal, spoken English we rarely use whom. Most native speakers would say (or even write): "Who did you see?" Look at these example questions. In the sample answers, the noun phrase that the interrogative pronoun represents is shown in bold. question Who told you? Whom did you tell? What's happened? answer John told me. I told Mary. An accident's happened. subject object subject

What do you want? Which came first? Which will the doctor see first? There's one car missing. Whose hasn't arrived? We've found everyone's keys. Whose did you find?

I want coffee. The Porsche 911 came first. The doctor will see the patient in blue first. John's (car) hasn't arrived.

object subject object


I found John's (keys).


Note that we sometimes use the suffix "-ever" to make compounds from some of these pronouns (mainly whoever, whatever, whichever). When we add "-ever", we use it for emphasis, often to show confusion or surprise. Look at these examples:

Whoever would want to do such a nasty thing? Whatever did he say to make her cry like that? They're all fantastic! Whichever will you choose?

Reflexive Pronouns
reflexive (adj.) [grammar]: reflecting back on the subject, like a mirror

We use a reflexive pronoun when we want to refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause. Reflexive pronouns end in "-self" (singular) or "-selves" (plural). There are eight reflexive pronouns:
reflexive pronoun


myself yourself himself, herself, itself


ourselves yourselves


Look at these examples:

reflexive pronouns

the underlined words are NOT the same person/thing

the underlined words are the SAME person/thing

John saw me.

I saw myself in the mirror.

Why does he blame you?

Why do you blame yourself?

David sent him a copy.

John sent himself a copy.

David sent her a copy.

Mary sent herself a copy.

My dog hurt the cat.

My dog hurt itself.

We blame you.

We blame ourselves.

Can you help my children?

Can you help yourselves?

They cannot look after the babies.

They cannot look after themselves.

Intensive pronouns
Notice that all the above reflexive pronouns can also act as intensive pronouns, but the function and usage are different. An intensive pronoun emphasizes its antecedent. Look at these examples:

I made it myself. OR I myself made it. Have you yourself seen it? OR Have you seen it yourself?

The President himself promised to stop the war. She spoke to me herself. OR She herself spoke to me. The exam itself wasn't difficult, but exam room was horrible. Never mind. We'll do it ourselves. You yourselves asked us to do it. They recommend this book even though they themselves have never read it. OR They recommend this book even though they have never read it themselves.

Reciprocal Pronouns
reciprocal (adj.): given or done in return; [grammar] expressing mutual action We use reciprocal pronouns when each of two or more subjects is acting in the same way towards the other. For example, A is talking to B, and B is talking to A. So we say:

A and B are talking to each other.

The action is "reciprocated". John talks to Mary and Mary talks to John. I give you a present and you give me a present. The dog bites the cat and the cat bites the dog. There are only two reciprocal pronouns, and they are both two words:

each other one another

When we use these reciprocal pronouns:

there must be two or more people, things or groups involved (so we cannot use reciprocal pronouns with I, you [singular], he/she/it), and they must be doing the same thing

Look at these examples:

John and Mary love each other. Peter and David hate each other. The ten prisoners were all blaming one another. Both teams played hard against each other. We gave each other gifts. Why don't you believe each other? They can't see each other. The gangsters were fighting one another. The boats were bumping against each other in the storm.

You probably notice that each other is used in more examples above than one another. That's because in general we use each other more often than one another, which sounds a little formal.

Also, some people say that we should use one another only for three or more people or things, but there is no real justification for this.

Indefinite Pronouns
That's Not My Job! This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. An indefinite pronoun does not refer to any specific person, thing or amount. It is vague and "not definite". Some typical indefinite pronouns are:

all, another, any, anybody/anyone, anything, each, everybody/everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody/someone

Note that many indefinite pronouns also function as other parts of speech. Look at "another" in the following sentences:

He has one job in the day and another at night. (pronoun) I'd like another drink, please. (adjective)

Most indefinite pronouns are either singular or plural. However, some of them can be singular in one context and plural in another. The most common indefinite pronouns are listed below, with examples, as singular, plural or singular/plural. Notice that a singular pronoun takes a singular verb AND that any personal pronoun should also agree (in number and gender). Look at these examples:

Each of the players has a doctor. I met two girls. One has given me her phone number.

Similarly, plural pronouns need plural agreement:

Many have expressed their views. meaning example

pronoun singular another anybody/anyone anything

an additional or different person or thing no matter what person no matter what thing

That ice-cream was good. Can I have another? Can anyone answer this question? The doctor needs to know if you have eaten anything in the last

two hours. each either enough everybody/everyone every one of two or more people or things, seen separately one or the other of two people or things as much or as many as needed all people Each has his own thoughts. Do you want tea or coffee? / I don't mind. Either is good for me. Enough is enough. We can start the meeting because everybody has arrived. They have no house or possessions. They lost everything in the earthquake. "Less is more" (Mies van der Rohe) Little is known about his early life. Much has happend since we met. I keep telling Jack and Jill but neither believes me. I phoned many times but nobody answered. If you don't know the answer it's best to say nothing. Can one smoke here? | All the students arrived but now one is missing. One was tall and the other was short. Clearly somebody murdered him. It was not suicide. Listen! I just heard something! What could it be? And you can see why.


all things

less little much neither nobody/no-one nothing

a smaller amount a small amount a large amount not one and not the other of two people or things no person no single thing, not anything


an unidentified person a different person or thing from one already mentioned an unspecified or unknown person an unspecified or unknown thing an unidentified person (informal)

other somebody/someone something you

plural both few fewer many others several they singular or plural all any more most the whole quantity of something or of some things or people no matter how much or how many a greater quantity of something; a greater number of people or things the majority; nearly all All is forgiven. All have arrived. Is any left? Are any coming? There is more over there. More are coming. Most is lost. Most have refused. They fixed the water so why is none coming out of the tap? I invited five friends but none have come.* Here is some. Some have arrived. He was a foreigner and he felt that he was treated as such. two people or things, seen together a small number of people or things a reduced number of people or things a large number of people or things other people; not us more than two but not many people in general (informal) John likes coffee but not tea. I think both are good. Few have ever disobeyed him and lived. Fewer are smoking these days. Many have come already. I'm sure that others have tried before us. They all complained and several left the meeting. They say that vegetables are good for you.


not any; no person or persons


an unspecified quantity of something; an unspecified number of people or things of the type already mentioned


* Some people say that "none" should always take a singular verb, even when talking about countable nouns (eg five friends). They argue that "none" means "no one", and "one" is obviously singular. They say that "I invited five friends but none has come" is correct and "I invited five friends but none have come" is incorrect. Historically and grammatically there is little to support this view. "None" has been used for hundreds of years with both a singular and a plural verb, according to the context and the emphasis required.

Relative Pronouns
A relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces a relative clause. It is called a "relative" pronoun because it "relates" to the word that it modifies. Here is an example:

The person who phoned me last night is my teacher.

In the above example, "who":

relates to "person", which it modifies introduces the relative clause "who phoned me last night"

There are five relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, that* Who (subject) and whom (object) are generally only for people. Whose is for possession. Which is for things. In non-defining relative clauses, that is used for things. In defining relative clauses (clauses that are essential to the sentence and do not simply add extra information) that can be used for things and people**. Relative pronouns can refer to singular or plural, and there is no difference between male and female. Look at these examples showing defining and non-defining relative clauses: example sentences S=subject, O=object, P=possessive - The person who phoned me last night is my teacher. - The person that phoned me last night is my teacher. - The car which hit me was yellow. - The cars that hit me were yellow. O - The person whom I phoned last night


That is preferable

defining relative clauses

That is preferable Whom is correct but very

is my teacher. - The people who I phoned last night are my teachers. - The person that I phoned last night is my teacher. - The person I phoned last night is my teacher. - The car which I drive is old. - The car that I drive is old. - The car I drive is old. - The student whose phone just rang should stand up. - Students whose parents are wealthy pay extra. P - The police are looking for the car whose driver was masked. - The police are looking for the car of which the driver was masked. - Mrs Pratt, who is very kind, is my teacher. S - The car, which was a taxi, exploded. - The cars, which were taxis, exploded. - Mrs Pratt, whom I like very much, is my teacher. - Mr and Mrs Pratt, who I like very much, are my teachers. - The car, which I was driving at the time, suddenly caught fire. - My brother, whose phone you just heard, is a doctor. P - The car, whose driver jumped out just before the accident, was completely destroyed.

formal. The relative pronoun is optional.

That is preferable to which. The relative pronoun is optional.

Of which is usual for things, but whose is sometimes possible

non-defining relative clauses

Whom is correct but very formal. Who is normal.

Of which is usual for things, but whose is sometimes possible

- The car, the driver of which jumped out just before the accident, was completely destroyed. *Not all grammar sources count "that" as a relative pronoun. **Some people claim that even in defining relative clauses we cannot use "that" for people but must use "who/whom". There is no good reason for such a claim; there is a long history of "that" for people in defining relative clauses from Chaucer, Shakespeare and the Authorized Version of The Bible to Fowler's and Churchill.

Pronoun Case
Pronouns (and nouns) in English display "case" according to their function in the sentence. Their function can be:

subjective (they act as the subject) objective (they act as the object) possessive (they show possession of something else)

The following table shows the different forms for pronouns depending on case. subjective case objective case personal pronouns singular 1st I me you him her it us you them whom whomever possessive case mine yours his hers its ours yours theirs whose

2nd you he 3rd she it plural 1st we

2nd you 3rd they relative/interrogative pronouns who whoever

which/that/what which/that/what indefinite pronouns everybody everybody everybody's

A problem of case: Mary and I or Mary and me? 1. Mary and I are delighted to be here today. (NOT Mary and me) 2. The letter was addressed to Mary and me. (NOT Mary and I) In 1, Mary and I are subjects, which is why the pronoun takes the subjective case ("I"). In 2, Mary and I are objects, which is why the pronoun takes the objective case ("me"). An easy way to check the correct case is to try the sentence without Mary. Would you say "I am delighted to be here" or "Me am delighted to be here"? Would you say "The letter was addressed to me" or "The letter was addressed to I"?

English Prepositions
A preposition is a word governing, and usually coming in front of, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element, as in:

She left before breakfast.

What did you come for? (For what did you come?)

English Preposition Rule

There is one very simple rule about prepositions. And, unlike most rules, this rule has no exceptions. Rule A preposition is followed by a "noun". It is never followed by a verb. By "noun" we include:

noun (dog, money, love) proper noun (name) (Bangkok, Mary) pronoun (you, him, us) noun group (my first job) gerund (swimming)

A preposition cannot be followed by a verb. If we want to follow a preposition by a verb, we must use the "-ing" form which is really a gerund or verb in noun form. Quick Quiz: In the following sentences, why is "to" followed by a verb? That should be impossible, according to the above rule:

I would like to go now. She used to smoke.

Here are some examples: Subject + verb The food is She lives Tara is looking The letter is Pascal is used She isn't used I ate preposition on in for under to to before "noun" the table. Japan. you. your blue book. English people. working. coming.

Answer to Quick Quiz: In these sentences, "to" is not a preposition. It is part of the infinitive ("to go", "to smoke").

Prepositions of Place: at, in, on

In general, we use:

at for a POINT in for an ENCLOSED SPACE on for a SURFACE in ENCLOSED SPACE in the garden in London in France in a box in my pocket in my wallet in a building in a car on SURFACE on the wall on the ceiling on the door on the cover on the floor on the carpet on the menu on a page

at POINT at the corner at the bus stop at the door at the top of the page at the end of the road at the entrance at the crossroads at the front desk

Look at these examples:

Jane is waiting for you at the bus stop. The shop is at the end of the street. My plane stopped at Dubai and Hanoi and arrived in Bangkok two hours late. When will you arrive at the office? Do you work in an office? I have a meeting in New York. Do you live in Japan? Jupiter is in the Solar System. The author's name is on the cover of the book. There are no prices on this menu. You are standing on my foot. There was a "no smoking" sign on the wall. I live on the 7th floor at 21 Oxford Street in London.

Notice the use of the prepositions of place at, in and on in these standard expressions: at at home at work at school at university at college at the top at the bottom at the side at reception in in a car in a taxi in a helicopter in a boat in a lift (elevator) in the newspaper in the sky in a row in Oxford Street on on a bus on a train on a plane on a ship on a bicycle, on a motorbike on a horse, on an elephant on the radio, on television on the left, on the right on the way

Prepositions of Time: at, in, on

We use:

at for a PRECISE TIME in for MONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODS on for DAYS and DATES in MONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODS in May in summer in the summer in 1990 in the 1990s on DAYS and DATES on Sunday on Tuesdays on 6 March on 25 Dec. 2010 on Christmas Day

at PRECISE TIME at 3 o'clock at 10.30am at noon at dinnertime at bedtime

at sunrise at sunset at the moment

in the next century in the Ice Age in the past/future

on Independence Day on my birthday on New Year's Eve

Look at these examples:

I have a meeting at 9am. The shop closes at midnight. Jane went home at lunchtime. In England, it often snows in December. Do you think we will go to Jupiter in the future? There should be a lot of progress in the next century. Do you work on Mondays? Her birthday is on 20 November. Where will you be on New Year's Day?

Notice the use of the preposition of time at in the following standard expressions: Expression at night at the weekend* Example The stars shine at night. I don't usually work at the weekend.

at Christmas*/Easter I stay with my family at Christmas. at the same time at present We finished the test at the same time. He's not home at present. Try later.

Notice the use of the prepositions of time in and on in these common expressions: in in the morning in the mornings in the afternoon(s) in the evening(s) on on Tuesday morning on Saturday mornings on Sunday afternoons on Monday evening

When we say last, next, every, this we do not also use at, in, on.

I went to London last June. (not in last June) He's coming back next Tuesday. (not on next Tuesday) I go home every Easter. (not at every Easter) We'll call you this evening. (not in this evening)

A conjunction is a word that "joins". A conjunction joins two parts of a sentence. Here are some example conjunctions:
Coordinating Conjunctions and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so Subordinating Conjunctions although, because, since, unless

We can consider conjunctions from three aspects.

Conjunctions have three basic forms:

Single Word for example: and, but, because, although Compound (often ending with as or that) for example: provided that, as long as, in order that Correlative (surrounding an adverb or adjective) for example: so...that

Conjunctions have two basic functions or "jobs":

Coordinating conjunctions are used to join two parts of a sentence that are grammatically equal. The two parts may be single words or clauses, for example: - Jack and Jill went up the hill. - The water was warm, but I didn't go swimming.

Subordinating conjunctions are used to join a subordinate dependent clause to a main clause, for example: - I went swimming although it was cold.


Coordinating conjunctions always come between the words or clauses that they join. Subordinating conjunctions usually come at the beginning of the subordinate clause.

Coordinating Conjunctions
The short, simple conjunctions are called "coordinating conjunctions":

and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

A coordinating conjunction joins parts of a sentence (for example words or independent clauses) that are grammatically equal or similar. A coordinating conjunction shows that the elements it joins are similar in importance and structure: + Look at these examples - the two elements that the coordinating conjunction joins are shown in square brackets [ ]:

I like [tea] and [coffee]. [Ram likes tea], but [Anthony likes coffee].

Coordinating conjunctions always come between the words or clauses that they join. When a coordinating conjunction joins independent clauses, it is always correct to place a comma before the conjunction:

I want to work as an interpreter in the future, so I am studying Russian at university.

However, if the independent clauses are short and well-balanced, a comma is not really essential:

She is kind so she helps people.

When "and" is used with the last word of a list, a comma is optional:

He drinks beer, whisky, wine, and rum. He drinks beer, whisky, wine and rum.

The 7 coordinating conjunctions are short, simple words. They have only two or three letters. There's an easy way to remember them - their initials spell: F







Subordinating Conjunctions
The majority of conjunctions are "subordinating conjunctions". Common subordinating conjunctions are:

after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that, though, till, until, when, where, whether, while

A subordinating conjunction joins a subordinate (dependent) clause to a main (independent) clause:

+ Look at this example: main or independent clause Ram went swimming subordinate or dependent clause although subordinating conjunction A subordinate or dependent clause "depends" on a main or independent clause. It cannot exist alone. Imagine that somebody says to you: "Hello! Although it was raining." What do you understand? Nothing! But a main or independent clause can exist alone. You will understand very well if somebody says to you: "Hello! Ram went swimming." A subordinating conjunction always comes at the beginning of a subordinate clause. It "introduces" a subordinate clause. However, a subordinate clause can sometimes come after and sometimes before a main clause. Thus, two structures are possible: it was raining.

+ Ram went swimming although it was raining.

+ Although it was raining, Ram went swimming.

Hi! That's an interjection. :-) Interjection is a big name for a little word. Interjections are short exclamations like Oh!, Um or Ah! They have no real grammatical value but we use them quite often, usually more in speaking than in writing. When interjections are inserted into a sentence, they have no grammatical connection to the sentence. An interjection is sometimes followed by an exclamation mark (!) when written.
Interjections like er and um are also known as "hesitation devices". They are extremely common in English. People use them when they don't know what to say, or to indicate that they are thinking about what to say. You should learn to recognize them when you hear them and realize that they have no real meaning.

The table below shows some interjections with examples.

interjection meaning expressing pleasure expressing realization ah expressing resignation expressing surprise alas expressing grief or pity expressing pity dear expressing surprise "Dear me! That's a surprise!" "Ah well, it can't be heped." "Ah! I've won!" "Alas, she's dead now." "Oh dear! Does it hurt?" example "Ah, that feels good." "Ah, now I understand."

asking for repetition

"It's hot today." "Eh?" "I said it's hot today." "What do you think of that, eh?" "Eh! Really?" "Let's go, eh?" "Lima is the capital" "Hello John. How are you today?" "Hello! My car's gone!" "Hey! look at that!" "Hey! What a good idea!" "Hi! What's new?"


expressing enquiry expressing surprise inviting agreement


expressing hesitation expressing greeting

hello, hullo expressing surprise calling attention hey expressing surprise, joy etc hi expressing greeting expressing hesitation, doubt or disagreement expressing surprise oh, o expressing pain expressing pleading ouch uh uh-huh expressing pain expressing hesitation expressing agreement


"Hmm. I'm not so sure."

"Oh! You're here!" "Oh! I've got a toothache." "Oh, please say 'yes'!" "Ouch! That hurts!" "Uh...I don't know the answer to that." "Shall we go?" "Uh-huh."

um, umm

expressing hesitation expressing surprise

"85 divided by 5" "Well I never!" "Well, what did he say?"

well introducing a remark

What Is A Sentence?
In simple terms, a sentence is a set of words that contain: 1. a subject (what the sentence is about, the topic of the sentence) 2. a predicate (what is said about the subject) Look at this simple example: <----- sentence -----> predicate subject verb You speak English.

The above example sentence is very short. Of course, a sentence can be longer and more complicated, but basically there is always a subject and a predicate. Look at this longer example: <----- sentence -----> predicate subject verb Ram and Tara speak English when they are working.

Note that the predicate always contains a verb. Sometimes, in fact, the predicate is only a verb: <----- sentence -----> subject predicate

verb Smoke rises.

So we can say that a sentence must contain at least a subject and verb. There is one apparent exception to this the imperative. When someone gives a command (the imperative), they usually do not use a subject. They don't say the subject because it is obvious the subject is YOU! Look at these examples of the imperative, with and without a subject: <----- sentence -----> predicate subject verb Stop! Wait You look! a minute!

Everybody look! Note that a sentence expresses a complete thought. Here are some examples of complete and incomplete thoughts: complete thought? He opened the door. Come in, please. Do you like coffee? people who work hard NO a fast-moving animal with big ears Note also that a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop* or a question mark or an exclamation mark. Look at these examples: People need food. YES

How are you? Look out! Actually, it is not easy to define a sentence. Grammarians do not all agree on what is or is not a sentence. For the purposes of introduction, this page describes rather simple sentences. Of course, sentences can be much longer and more complex, and these will be covered on other pages.

* British English = full stop | American English = period

Words with More than One Job

Many words in English can have more than one job, or be more than one part of speech. For example, "work" can be a verb and a noun; "but" can be a conjunction and a preposition; "well" can be an adjective, an adverb and an interjection. In addition, many nouns can act as adjectives. To analyze the part of speech, ask yourself: "What job is this word doing in this sentence?" In the table below you can see a few examples. Of course, there are more, even for some of the words in the table. In fact, if you look in a good dictionary you will see that the word "but" has six jobs to do:

verb, noun, adverb, pronoun, preposition and conjuction! part of speech noun example My work is easy. I work in London. John came but Mary didn't come. Everyone came but Mary. Are you well? She speaks well. Well! That's expensive! We ate in the afternoon.

word work

verb conjunction but preposition adjective well adverb interjection noun afternoon

noun acting as adjective We had afternoon tea.