English Grammar

English grammar basic concepts with detail


“I don’t want to speak correctly. I want to speak like a lady, “- these words belong to Eliza Doolittle, the heroine of the famous play” Pygmalion “by Bernard Shaw. English grammar basic concepts

Eliza may not have wanted to learn to speak correctly, but without grammar she would not have been able to speak at all. We are now talking about grammar as a system of words and syntactic constructions inherent in a particular language. Grammar in this sense is “our main asset,” emphasized Eliza’s mentor, Professor Henry Higgins.

But this is not the only definition of grammar. The systematic study and description of a language or a group of languages ​​is also grammar, descriptive grammar. Professor Higgins mainly dealt with just one aspect of it – phonetics, or the study of the sounds of speech. Henry Higgins wrote down the common people in his notebook, a very accurate representation of what descriptive grammar is.

Yet for most, “speaking like a lady” means speaking correctly, as prescribed, speaking in accordance with the language norm. Bernard Shaw said about the importance of prescriptive grammar when he wrote in the preface to Pygmalion: “The English do not respect their native language and stubbornly refuse to teach children to speak it.” It is about the need for a prescriptive approach and the remark of Rex Harrison, who played the role of Professor Higgins in the musical “My Fair Lady”: “And there are places where our language has already been reduced to naught. In America, he is not in use for God knows how many years! “.

Why do we need to learn English grammar?

A grammar is a tool with which you can describe any language. The grammar gives names to the words and word groups that make up sentencesAlready in early childhood, we learn to make sentences – the grammar of the native language is subject to everyone. Studying English at school, university, with a tutor or in  English courses , we are faced with the need to once again independently and consciously go through this path. And here we already need to have an idea of ​​the types of words and phrases and how they add up to sentences. English grammar basic concepts

People who are literate are more likely to be successful in relationships with the opposite sex
According to an online survey of 1,700 people, 43% of users on dating sites consider low literacy as a bold disadvantage to attractiveness.
More than a third (35%) say literacy is sexy. The survey also found that women are more demanding about partner literacy than men (Michael Sebastian, “43 Percent of Singles Say Bad Grammar Is a Turnoff” ).

Parts of speech in English grammar

Depending on the function in the sentence, words are referred to one or another part of speech. There are 8 parts of speech in English. Just by learning their names, you certainly won’t become an English grammar professor. On the other hand, you will have a basic understanding of the English language and will be ready to start reading other articles on our site – and these articles will help you make significant progress in learning English grammar.

Remember: if a sentence consists of one word, only interjection can act as this word.

Other parts of speech – nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions – appear in combinations. To understand which part of speech a word belongs to, we must look not only at the word itself, but also at its meaning, place and role in the sentence.

Consider three sentences:

  1. Jim showed up for work two hours late. (Jim showed up at work two hours late.)
    Here work is what Jim came to the service for.
  2. He will have to work overtime. (He will have to work overtime.)
    And here work is the action that Jim will perform.
  3. His work permit expires in March. (His work permit expires in March).
    Finally, here work denotes the attribute of the noun permit.

In the first sentence, the word work acts as a noun, in the second as a verb, and in the third as an adjective.

We hope you are not confused yet? Let’s see what functions are performed by the 8 parts of speech in English.

Part of speech Main function Examples of
noun names an animate object, place, or thing pirate, Caribbean, ship
(a pirate, caribbean, ship)
pronoun substitutes for a noun I, you, he, she, it, ours, them, who
(me, you, he, she, it, our, them, who)
verb expresses an action or state sing, dance, believe, be
(sing, dance, believe, be)
adjective denotes the sign of a noun hot, lazy, funny
(hot, lazy, funny)
adverb denotes a feature of a verb, adjective
or other adverb
softly, lazily, often
(gently, lazily, often)
pretext shows the relationship between a noun (pronoun) and other words in a sentence up, over, against, for
(up, through, against, for)
union connects words, parts of a complex sentence and  simple sentences in a complex and, but, or, yet
(and, but, or, else)
interjection expresses emotions ah, whoops, ouch
(ah! oh!)

NB! Articles (the, a / an) were once considered a separate part of speech. Now they are more often referred to the category of determinants or determiners. English grammar basic concepts

What we build our proposals from

A sentence  is a statement that expresses a complete thought. A sentence contains an event message, conveys an order, voices a question, or describes something. The first word in a sentence is capitalized, followed by a full stop, ellipsis, question mark or exclamation mark.

Subject and predicate

The main members of a sentence are the subject and the predicate. The subject is most often a noun. The predicate usually follows the subject.

Try to isolate the subject and predicate yourself in the following sentences:

  1. The sky darkens. (The sky is darkening).
  2. The Buddhists pray. (Buddhists pray).
  3. This cat is hungry. (This cat is hungry.)
  4. My ancestors were farmers. (My ancestors were farmers.)

In each of these sentences, the subject is expressed by a noun: sky, Buddhists, cat, ancestors. The verbs in sentences 1 and 2 (darkens, pray) express the action that the subject performs. The verbs in sentences 3 and 4 (is, were) are so-called linking verbs, they connect the subject with the word that describes it (hungry) or clarifies it (farmers). English grammar basic concepts

The subject can be not only a noun, but also a pronoun. Pronouns are words that replace nouns in a sentence. The pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we and they act as the subject. For example, below in the second sentence, the subject-pronoun she replaces the subject-noun Jane.

  1. Jane got tired after running the marathon. (Jane is tired after running the marathon.)
  2. She is in bed now, resting. (She is now in bed, resting.)


Nouns in a sentence can act as not only a subject, but also an object. The subject is that which performs the action; addition is what the action is directed at. The addition usually follows the predicate.

Try to isolate the addition in the sentences yourself:

  1. My friend collects DVDs. (A friend of mine collects DVDs).
  2. The shop assistant wrapped the present. (The sales assistant wrapped the gift).
  3. The boy dropped the pen. (The boy dropped his pen.)

Here are the additions: DVDs, present, pen. All of them answer the question “what?”: “What do they collect?”, “What did they turn up?”, “What did they drop?”.

Pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us and them) can also act as complements. For example:

  1. Before submitting the essay, Jessy checked it for mistakes. (Before submitting the essay, Jesse checked it for errors). English grammar basic concepts
  2. When I finally found my brother, I hugged him. (When I finally found my brother, I hugged him.)

What does a simple sentence consist of?

So, now you can define the members of a simple sentence: subject + predicate or subject + predicate + object.

Remember? The subject is what the sentence says; predicate – what the subject does; addition is what the action is directed at. This is a basic construct that can be isolated in long and complex sentences. Other members of the sentence can be added to it, for example, circumstances (about the circumstances, as well as about the unusual order of words in a sentence, read the article “5 simple rules of word order in English” ).

TOP-18 grammatical terms with movie examples

Refresh your English grammar with catchy quotes from your favorite movies and show off your knowledge in a job interview or exam! We have compiled a dossier on 18 of the most common grammatical terms with some rather unusual examples:

1. Valid (active) voice – Active Voice

A verb form that denotes an action performed by a subject (that is, the protagonist of the sentence, expressed by the subject, subject). In other words, we are talking about how someone does, produces, performs, that is, acts actively. English grammar basic concepts

This construction is opposite to the passive (passive) voice (see below).

“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.
( Tyler Durden , Fight Club, 1999)

2. Passive (passive) voice – Passive Voice

A verb form that denotes an action to be performed on an object. The object (expressed by the complement, object), as it were, takes an action directed at it (expressed by the predicate).

This construction is opposite to the active (real) voice.

“Any attempt by you to create a climate of fear and panic among the populace must be deemed by us an act of insurrection.” Any attempt by you to create an atmosphere of fear and panic among the population should be viewed by us as a rebellion.
(First Elder – Jor-Elu, Superman, 1978)

3. Grammatical basis – Clause

It is customary to call a grammatical base a group of words that contains one subject and / or one predicate.

There are also one-part sentences in which either the subject or the predicate is absent.

The grammatical base can be a separate clause (in this case, it is an independent clause, that is, an independent, main sentence), or it can be included in another sentence (then it is a dependent clause, that is, a dependent or subordinate sentence as part of a complex sentence).

“Don’t ever argue with the big dog [main clause], because the big dog is always right [dependent clause].” Never argue with a big dog, because a big dog is always right.
(Federal Marshal Samuel Gerard, The Fugitive, 1993)

4. Independent (Main) Clause

Sentence that does not depend on the meaning of others (as part of a complex).

The main clause, in contrast to the clauses, can act as an independent clause. English grammar basic concepts

“I wanna be the person who gets happy over finding the perfect dress [main clause], I wanna be simple [main clause], ’cause no one holds a gun to the head of a simple girl [dependent clause].” I want to be a simple girl who is already happy because she found the perfect dress, I want to be simple because no one will put a gun to the head of a simple girl.
(Christina Young, Grey’s Anatomy, 2012)

5. Subordinate clause – Dependent (Subordinate) Clause

A group of words that begins with a relative pronoun or subordinate conjunction. The subordinate clause contains both the subject and the predicate, but, unlike the main clause, it cannot exist as an independent clause.

In other words, if a complex sentence consists of two simple ones: the main and the dependent, the disappearance of the main sentence turns the statement into nonsense.

“I hope that’s a rhetorical question [main clause], because I don’t know [dependent clause].” I hope this is a rhetorical question because I don’t know.
(Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory, 2012)

6. Direct Complement – Direct Object

A direct object is a noun or pronoun that takes on the action of the predicate (while there is no preposition between it and the predicate).

“All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my uncles. I had to fight my brothers. “ All my life I have been forced to fight. I had to fight my dad. I had to fight my uncles. I had to fight my brothers.
(Sofia, “Flowers in the Purple Fields”, 1985)

7. Indirect addition – Indirect Object

This is a noun or pronoun that indicates with whom or for whom the action denoted by the predicate takes place.

“It’s a family motto. Are you ready, Jerry? I want to make sure you’re ready, brother. Here it is: Show me the money. ” This is the motto of the family. Are you ready Jerry? I want to make sure you’re ready, brother. Here it is: “Show me the money!”
(Rod Tidwell to Jerry Maguire, Jerry Maguire, 1996)

8. Declarative Sentence

A sentence that contains a statement. English grammar basic concepts

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
(Don Corleone, The Godfather, 1972)

9. Exclamatory Sentence – Exclamatory Sentence

This is a sentence in which the speaker expresses his strong feelings through an exclamation.

“God! Look at that thing! You would’ve gone straight to the bottom! ” God! Take a look at this! You would go straight to the bottom!
(Jack Dawson, looking at the ring of the Rose, Titanic, 1997)

10. Incentive Sentence – Imperative Sentence

A proposal that provides advice or instruction, expresses a demand or command.

“Close your eyes and pretend it’s all a bad dream. That’s how I get by. ” Close your eyes and imagine that this is all just a bad dream. This is how I manage to survive.
(Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, 2007)

11. Interrogative Sentence

The sentence that asks the question.

“What is the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse?” English grammar basic concepts What is the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse?
(Mr. Parker, A Christmas Carol, 1983)

12. Simple Sentence

This is a sentence in which there is only one grammatical basis (subject + predicate; also the subject or predicate can act “in splendid isolation”).

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” I ate his liver with beans and some decent Chianti.
(Hannibal Lecturer, The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

13. Complex sentence – Complex Sentence

This is a complex sentence, consisting of at least one main clause and one subordinate clause.

“Don’t fight for honor, don’t fight for glory, don’t fight for riches [main offers], because you won’t get any [dependent sentence].” Don’t fight for honor, don’t fight for glory, don’t fight for wealth – you won’t get either one or the other or the third.
(Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones, 2012)

14. Compound Sentence

This is a sentence, which consists of at least two sentences that are equal in meaning, often connected by a union.

“I can’t compete with you physically [main sentence], and you’re no match for my brains [main sentence].” I cannot compete with you physically, but your brains are in no way comparable to mine.
(Vizzini, The Princess Bride, 1987)

15. Subject – Subject

One of the two main members of the sentence, indicating which particular object is being discussed.

“I don’t ever remember feeling this awake.” I don’t remember the last time I felt so keenly what was happening.
(Thelma Dickinson, Thelma and Louise, 1991)

16. Predicate

The predicate is one of the two main members of a sentence. It modifies the subject and includes a verb group (a semantic verb with auxiliary and dependent words).

For a better understanding of the topic, read our article on the rules for matching subject and predicate.

“I don’t ever remember feeling this awake.” I don’t remember the last time I felt so keenly what was happening.
(Thelma Dickinson, Thelma and Louise, 1991)

17. Prepositional phrase – Prepositional Phrase

A group of words that consists of a preposition and a noun with qualifying words.

“A long time ago, my ancestor Paikea came to this place on the back of a whale. Since then, in every generation of my family, the first born son has carried his name and become the leader of our tribe. “ Long ago, my ancestor Paikea sailed to this place on the back of a whale. From that moment, in every generation of my family, the first son was called by his name and he became the leader of our tribe.
(Paikea, Rider the Whale, 2002)

18. Grammatical Time – Tense

The category of time is intended to clarify at what moment or period of time the action described by the subject occurs. English grammar basic concepts

Read more in our article “All verb tenses in English” .

“Years ago, you served [past tense] my father in the Clone Wars; now he begs [present] you to help him in his struggle against the Empire. ” Years ago, you served my father during the Clone Wars; now he begs you to help him in the fight against the Empire.
(Princess Leia to General Kenobi, Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope, 1977)

In  English classes, it is important to learn to build big from small: put words in the correct form and combine them into phrases, arrange parts of a sentence so as to get a meaningful statement.

We hope that our article helped you remember the basic principles of English grammar. Now you’re ready to move on – read other articles on our site and learn how to write common and complex sentences!

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