Lecture Notes Foundation English 20/05/2012

Lecture Notes 20/05/2012


Words are used to form patterns of English grammar and syntax. Each word falls into one of eight categories referred to as parts of speech. Certain words have further categorization such as: adverbs of frequency: always, sometimes, often, etc. or determiners: this, that, these, those . However, the basic categorization of words in English fall into these eight categories.

Parts of Speech:
The words that we use can be divided into these classes:

  • noun – A noun is a type of word that represents a person, thing, or place, like mother, apple, or valley. There are different types of nouns including common, proper, abstract, concrete, possessive, compund

  • verb – A verb is a type of word that describes an action or a state of being, like wiggle, walk, run, jump, be, do, have, or think. Verbs fall into different categories including – auxillaey, linking and helping verbs. They ae further classified according to the time they depict – past tense, present and future tense.

  • pronoun – A pronoun is a substitute for a noun. Some pronouns are: I, me, she, hers, he, him, it, you, they, them, etc. Pronouns are either object, subject or possessive.

  • adjective – An adjective is a word that describes something (a noun). Some adjectives are: big, cold, blue, and silly. One special type of adjective is an article, a word that introduces a noun and also limits or clarifies it; in English, the indefinite articles are a and an, the definite article is the. Adjectives may be possessive, demonstrative or indefinite.

  • adverb – An adverb is a word that tells “how,” “when,” “where,” or “how much”. Some adverbs are: easily, warmly, quickly, mainly, freely, often, and unfortunately.

  • preposition – A preposition shows how something is related to another word. It shows the spatial (space), temporal (time), or logical relationship of an object to the rest of the sentence. The words above, near, at, by, after, with and from are prepositions.

  • conjunction – A conjunction is a word that joins other words, phrases, clauses or sentences. Some conjunctions are: and, as, because, but, or, since, so, until, and while.

  • interjection – An interjection is a word that expresses emotion. An interjection often starts a sentence but it can be contained within a sentence or can stand alone. Some interjections are oh, wow, ugh, hurray, eh, and ah.

Verb Tenses and Their Uses

Recognize a verb when you see one.

Verbs are a necessary component of all sentences. Verbs have two important functions: Some verbs put static objects into motion while other verbs help to clarify the objects in meaningful ways. Look at the examples below:

  1. My grumpy old English teacher smiled at the plate of cold meatloaf.

My grumpy old English teacher = static object; smiled = verb.

  1. The daredevil cockroach splashed into Sara’s soup.

The daredevil cockroach = static object; splashed = verb.

The important thing to remember is that every subject in a sentence must have a verb. Otherwise, the student will have written a fragment, which is a major writing error.

Remember to consider word function when you are looking for a verb.

Many words in English have more than one function. Sometimes a word is a subject, sometimes a verb, sometimes a modifier. As a result, students must often analyze the job a word is doing in the sentence. Look at these two examples:

  • Potato chips crunch too loudly to eat during an exam.

  • The crunch of the potato chips drew the angry glance of Professor Orsini to our corner of the room.

Crunch is something that can be done. In the first sentence, then, crunch is what the potato chips do, so it is called a verb.

Even though crunch is often a verb, it can also be a noun. The crunch of the potato chips, for example, is a thing, a sound that we can hear. Students therefore need to analyze the function that a word provides in a sentence before they can determine what grammatical name to give that word

Know an action verb when you see one.

Dance! Sing! Paint! Giggle! Chew! are expressing action, something that a person, animal, force of nature, or thing can do. As a result, words like these are called action verbs. Look at the examples below:

  • Clyde sneezes with the force of a tornado.

    • Sneezing is something that Clyde can do.

  • Sylvia always winks at cute guys driving hot cars.

    • Winking is something that Sylvia can do.

If a student is unsure whether a sentence contains an action verb or not, look at every word in the sentence and ask , “Is this something that a person or thing can do?” For example:

  • During the summer, my poodle constantly pants and drools.

Can you during? Is during something you can do? Can you the? Can you summer? Can you my? Can you poodle?. Can you pant? Bingo! Sure you can! Run five miles and you’ll be panting. Can you and? Of course not! But can you drool?

In the sentence above, therefore, there are two action verbs: pant and drool.

Know a linking verb when you see one.

Linking verbs, on the other hand, do not express action. Instead, they connect the subject of a verb to additional information about the subject. Look at the examples below:

  • Mario is a computer hacker.

Ising’ isn’t something that Mario can do. Is connects the subject, Mario, to additional information about him

  • During bad storms, trailer parks are often magnets for tornadoes.

Areing’ isn’t something that trailer parks can do. Are is simply connecting the subject, trailer parks, to something said about them, that they tend to attract tornadoes.

Auxillary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs are also known as ‘helping verbs’.

The three most common auxiliary verbs are:

be, do and have

I am leaving = Leaving is the main verb. Am is the auxiliary.

She has arrived = Arrived is the main verb. Has is the auxiliary.

Do you smoke? = Smoke is the main verb. Do is the auxiliary.

Using Verb Tenses

A verb indicates the time of an action, event or condition by changing its form. Through the use of a sequence of tenses in a sentence or in a paragraph, it is possible to indicate the complex temporal relationship of actions, events, and conditions

There are many ways of categorising the twelve possible verb tenses. The verb tenses may be categorised according to the time frame: past tenses, present tenses, and future tenses.

Verb Tense: Time

The four past tenses are

  1. the simple past (“I went”)

  2. the past progressive (“I was going”)

  3. the past perfect (“I had gone”)

  4. the past perfect progressive (“I had been going”)

The four present tenses are

  1. the simple present (“I go”)

  2. the present progressive (“I am going”)

  3. the present perfect (“I have gone”)

  4. the present perfect progressive (“I have been going”)

The four future tenses are

  1. the simple future (“I will go”)

  2. the future progressive (“I will be going”)

  3. the future perfect (“I will have gone”)

  4. the future perfect progressive (“I will have been going”)

The Function of Verb Tenses

The Simple Present Tense

The simple present is used to describe an action, an event, or condition that is occurring in the present, at the moment of speaking or writing. The simple present is used when the precise beginning or ending of a present action, event, or condition is unknown or is unimportant to the meaning of the sentence.

Deborah waits patiently while Bridget books the tickets.

The shelf holds three books and a vase of flowers.


The simple present is used to express general truths such as scientific fact, as in the following sentences:

Rectangles have four sides.

The moon circles the earth once every 28 days.

The simple present is used to indicate a habitual action, event, or condition, as in the following sentences:

Leonard goes to The Jumping Horse Tavern every Thursday evening.

My grandmother sends me new mittens each spring.

The simple present is also used when writing about works of art, as in the following sentences.

Lolly Willowes is the protagonist of the novel Townsend published in 1926.

One of Artemisia Gentleschi’s best known paintings represents Judith’s beheading of Holofernes.

The Present Progressive

While the simple present and the present progressive are sometimes used interchangeably, the present progressive emphasises the continuing nature of an act, event, or condition.

Deirdre is dusting all the shelves on the second floor of the shop.

The union members are pacing up and down in front of the factory.

The presses are printing the first edition of tomorrow’s paper.

The Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense is used to describe action that began in the past and continues into the present or has just been completed at the moment of utterance. The present perfect is often used to suggest that a past action still has an effect upon something happening in the present.

They have not delivered the documents we need.

This sentence suggest that the documents were not delivered in the past and that they are still undelivered.

The Present Perfect Progressive Tense

Like the present perfect, the present perfect progressive is used to describe an action, event, or condition that has begun in the past and continues into the present. The present perfect progressive, however, is used to stress the on-going nature of that action, condition, or event.

That dog has been barking for three hours; I wonder if someone will call the owner.

I have been relying on my Christmas bonus to pay for the gifts I buy for my large family.

They have been publishing this comic book for ten years.

The Simple Past Tense

The simple past is used to describe an action, an event, or condition that occurred in the past, sometime before the moment of speaking or writing.

A flea jumped from the dog to the cat.

Phoebe gripped the hammer tightly and nailed the boards together.

The gem-stones sparkled in a velvet lined display case.

The Past Progressive Tense

The past progressive tense is used to described actions ongoing in the past. These actions often take place within a specific time frame. While actions referred to in the present progressive have some connection to the present, actions referred in the past progressive have no immediate or obvious connection to the present. The on-going actions took place and were completed at some point well before the time of speaking or writing.

The cat was walking along the tree branch.

This sentence describes an action that took place over a period of continuous time in the past. The cat’s actions have no immediate relationship to anything occurring now in the present.

The archivists were eagerly waiting for the delivery of the former prime minister’s private papers..

The Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is used to refer to actions that took place and were completed in the past. The past perfect is often used to emphasise that one action, event or condition ended before another past action, event, or condition began.

Miriam arrived at 5:00 p.m. but Mr. Whitaker had closed the store.

All the events in this sentence took place in the past, but the act of closing the store takes place before Miriam arrives at the store.

The Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The past perfect progressive is used to indicate that a continuing action in the past began before another past action began or interrupted the first action.

The toddlers had been running around the school yard for ten minutes before the teachers shooed them back inside.

Here the action of the toddlers (“had been running”) is ongoing in the past and precedes the actions of the teachers (“shooed”) which also takes place in the past.

The Simple Future Tense

The simple future is used to refer to actions that will take place after the act of speaking or writing.

They will meet us at the newest café in the market.

Will you walk the dog tonight?

At the feast, we will eat heartily.

The Future Progressive Tense

The future progressive tense is used to describe actions ongoing in the future. The future progressive is used to refer to continuing action that will occur in the future.

Ian will be working on the computer system for the next two weeks.

The selection committee will be meeting every Wednesday morning.

The Future Perfect Tense

The future perfect is used to refer to an action that will be completed sometime in the future before another action takes place.

The surgeon will have operated on 6 patients before she attends a luncheon meeting.

In this sentence, the act of operating (“will have operated”) takes place in the future sometime before the act of attending (“attends”).

Subject Verb Agreement

Subject–verb agreement is “the matching of the number and person of the subject to the form of the verb. When the subject is third-person singular and the verb is in the present tense, the verb takes the –s inflection, as in: The dog barks all night. He bothers the neighbours. With other subjects and in other tenses, verbs (with the exception of be) do not change to match the number or person of the subject: I sleep, we sleep, he slept, they slept.”


A verb may change forms depending on whether its subject is singular or plural. For example, a

singular, first-person subject requires a different form of the verb, to be, than does a plural, first person subject.

EXAMPLES: I am from Guatemala. (First-person, singular)


Sentences are written in either first, second, or third person, depending on the writer’s perspective. If a sentence is written in first person, the writer is writing about herself/himself, using pronouns such as I and we. In a second-person sentence, the writer speaks directly to the reader, using the pronounyou. Third-person sentences generally refer to their subjects by name or with pronouns like he, she, it, or they.Often, the verb will also change forms, depending on whether its subject is in first, second, or thirdperson. For example, the singular first-person, second-person, and third-person forms of the verb to beare completely distinct from each other:

EXAMPLES: I sing on the youth choir. (The verb form, sing, is used with a first-person subject.)

You sing on the children’s choir at your church. (The verb form, sing, is used with a second-person subject.)

He sings in his bathroom at home. (The verb form, sings, is used with a third-person subject.)


To select the correct verb form, the following questions should be addressed:

1. Is the subject singular or plural?

2. Is the subject written in first person, second person, or third person?

In most cases, the verb will not change forms for any subject other than those that are singular and in

third person. For these third-person, singular subjects, the correct verb is usually created by adding an –s or –es to the end of the verb. An –s is added if the verb ends in a consonant, and the suffix –es is used if theverb ends with a vowel.


Some basic Rules

When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

She and her friends are at the fair.

2. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.

The book or the pen is in the drawer.

3. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.

The boy or his friends run every day.

His friends or the boy runs every day.

4. Doesn’t is a contraction of does not and should be used only with a singular subject. Don’t is a contraction of do not and should be used only with a plural subject. The exception to this rule appears in the case of the first person and second person pronouns I and you. With these pronouns, the contraction don’t should be used.

He doesn’t like it.

They don’t like it.

5. Do not be misled by a phrase that comes between the subject and the verb. The verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.

One of the boxes is open

The people who listen to that music are few.

The team captain, as well as his players, is anxious.

The book, including all the chapters in the first section, is boring.

The woman with all the dogs walks down my street.

6. The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb.

Each of these hot dogs is juicy.

Everybody knows Mr. Jones.

Either is correct.

7. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and news require singular verbs.

The news is on at six.

Note: the word dollars is a special case. When talking about an amount of money, it requires a singular verb, but when referring to the dollars themselves, a plural verb is required.

Five dollars is a lot of money.

Dollars are often used instead of rubles in Russia.

8. Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears require plural verbs. (There are two parts to these things.)

These scissors are dull.

Those trousers are made of wool.

9. In sentences beginning with there is or there are, the subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the verb agrees with what follows.

There are many questions.

There is a question.

10. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person but that are considered singular and take a singular verb, such as group, team, committee, class, and family.

The team runs during practice.

The committee decides how to proceed.

The family has a long history.

11. Expressions such as with, together with, including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is too.

The President, accompanied by his wife, is traveling to India.

All of the books, including yours, are in that box.

Pronoun Antecedent Agreement


A pronoun is a substitute for a noun. It refers to a person, place, thing, feeling, or quality but does not refer to it by its name. The pronoun in the following sample sentence is bolded.

The critique of Plato’s Republic was written from a contemporary point of view. It was an in-depth analysis of Plato’s opinions about possible governmental forms.


An antecedent is the word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers, understood by the context. The antecedent in the following sample sentence is bolded.


The critique of Plato’s Republic was written from a contemporary point of view. It was an in-depth analysis of Plato’s opinions about possible governmental forms.


While the pronouns I and you can be replaced by nouns, the context of a sentence does not always require the nouns to make clear to which persons I and you refer. However, the third person pronouns (he, she, it, they) almost always derive their meaning from their antecedents or the words for which they stand. Remember that pronouns in the third person communicate nothing unless the reader knows what they mean:

It is the best source available. What source is that?



A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in three ways:

  • Person refers to the quality of being.

  • Number is the quality that distinguishes between singular (one entity) and plural (numerous entities).

  • Gender is the quality that distinguishes the entities as masculine or feminine.


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