Grammar Refresher

If this is your first teaching position overseas you are unlikely to be using anything but the most basic grammar – unless you have stated otherwise. Take a look at our basic grammar refresher for a reminder.

Parts of Speech

There are nine parts of speech — verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, article, conjunctions, and interjections.

Part of Speech Basic Function Examples
Verb identifies action or state of being eat, sing, believe
Noun a person, place, or thing Kate, London, ball
Adverb modifies a verb often, happily, lazily
Adjective modifies a noun hot, happy, lazy
Article identifies and specifies a noun a, an, the
Preposition shows a relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence up, over, against, by, for
Conjunction joins words, phrases, and clauses and, but, or, yet
Interjection expresses emotion ah, whoops, ouch
Pronoun These are words that stand in the place of nouns in order to avoid unnecessary repetition. This, she, somebody

Verbs

Verbs are words that indicate actions or physical and/or mental states.

Action Jane hit her brother
Mental state Paul was tired
Physical state Kate was happy

Most verbs have three forms. The first form (present) also uses an inflection to indicate third person singular:

Form Example
First form (present) do(es),know(s), play(s), put(s)
Second form (past) did, knew, played, put
Third form (past participle) done, known, played, put

Auxiliary and Modal Auxiliary Verbs

There is a category of verb known as ‘auxiliary verbs’ or sometimes ‘helping verbs’. This category includes to be, to do and to have. This auxiliary is very important and shows the main verb is understood.

Base Present tense Past tense ing (participle) ed(participle)
Be is, am, are was, were being been
have has, have had having had
do does, do did doing done

Nouns

Nouns can be sub-divided into the following four types:

Explanation Example
Abstract "An abstract noun names an idea, feeling, emotion, or quality." beauty ,anger nature love ability
Collective Nouns can also be collective. That means that a noun would name a group of people, animals, or things. crowd audience group family staff
Common These nouns name a general person, place or thing toy , bus, car, tennis, town
Proper These nouns name a specific person, place, or thing. For example: Kate, David, London, England etc Capital letters are used in order to distinguish between common nouns and proper nouns

Types of pronouns

Type E.g
Demonstrative This, that, these, those, ‘Have you seen that’
Distributive Each, either, neither ‘Give me either’
Emphatic Myself, yourself, his/herself, ourselves, etc. ‘Do it yourself!’
Indefinite one, some, any, some-body/one, any-body/one, every-body/one ‘I’ll take that one, please’
Interrogative What, which, who, where, why ‘Who was that?’
Personal I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they ‘She went to the shop’
Possessive mine, yours hers, his, ours, theirs ‘That was hers’
Reflexive Myself, yourself, her/himself, ourselves, etc ‘He hurt himself’
Relative That, what, which, who ‘The car that hit her drove away’

Types of adjective

Type eg
Demonstrative This, that, these, those ('I like this picture.')
Distributive neither, each, every ('Either wine is fine by me.')
Interrogative What? Which? ('Which wine would you like?')
Numeral one, two, three, etc.
Indefinite all, many, several
Possessive my, your, his, her, our, their
Qualitative English, good, tall

Most adjectives fit into the ‘Qualitative’ category, as their basic function is to describe.

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Some adjectives are used to compare and contrast things:

  • big – bigger – biggest
  • happy – happier – happiest

Types of adverbs

Adverbs describe or add to the meaning of verbs, prepositions, adjectives, other adverbs and even sentences. They answer questions such as ‘How’, ‘Where’ or ‘When’. Many, but by no means all, adverbs are made from adjectives by simply adding the suffix ‘ly’.

Adverbs of manner carefully, gently, quickly, willingly (She kissed him gently on the forehead.)
Adverbs of place here, there, between, externally (He lived between a pub and a noisy factory.)
Adverbs of time now, annually, tomorrow, recently (I only returned recently.)
Adverbs of degree very, almost, nearly, too (She is very rich.)
Adverbs of number
Adverbs of certainty not, surely, maybe, certainly (Surely he's not drunk again!)
Interrogative How? What? When? Why? (What does it matter?)

Types of preposition

Prepositions are linking words that introduce prepositional phrases and are generally followed by a noun.
For example: This is a picture of her mother, she is on the phone
Most prepositions are short, invariable forms e.g. about, after, as, at, by, for, from, to etc. They also consist of more than one word: in front of, next to, etc.
In TEFL we talk a lot about prepositions of time, place and movement:

Time Place Movement
I'll see you at 5pm I live in England She went to the supermarket
I'll be home by 7 She is at work She is flying from Gatwick
We're having a party on Saturday The office is on the first floor You’re book is over there
Let's have a party at Christmas The school is next to the bank The man was walking up the hill

Interjections

These can be defined as parts of the speech that can be used on their own. These can be used on alone or with other complete sentences.

For example:

“Psst! ah! oh! ha! hey! well! oh! ouch! hey! eh!

Conjunctions

These are words that connect a words, phrases or clauses together. They are sometimes referred to as ‘linking’ words.

For example:

And, but, so, when, because

Pronouns

Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns in a sentence. If we look at the sentence below, we can replace the name of the person with the word ‘she’ this is

  • Sarah was dancing all night
  • She was dancing all night

As the second sentence shows, a pronoun (like a noun) may serve as the subject of a sentence. The common subject pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.

Generally, use definite articles (the) before specific nouns, while indefinite articles (a, an) precede non-specific nouns.