Saturday, February 17, 2018

Verb phrases

A verb phrase consists of a main verb , which may be preceded
by one or more auxiliary verbs :

Auxiliary 1   Auxiliary 2   Auxiliary 3      Main Verb

may                have             been                 stolen        

    The ordering of auxiliary verbs

When two or more auxiliary verbs occur in a verb phrase, they observe the following relative order:

        Modal – Perfective – Progressive – Passive

However, it is very unusual to find all four of the auxiliary verb types in the same verb phrase. Usually, a maximum of two or three 
auxiliaries will co-occur, as in the following examples:

Modal – Passive:
                         The seat can be lowered.

Progressive – Passive:
                         This lecture is being recorded.

Perfective – Progressive:
                         She has been collecting books for years.

Perfective – Passive:
                         The deficit has been reduced.

Modal – Perfective – Passive:
                        The concert should have been cancelled.


There are two tenses in English, the present tense and the past tense. In regular verbs, the present tense is indicated by the -s form of the verb, when the subject is third-person singular:

3rd-person singular:  he walks
                                     she walks
                                     it/David/the man walks

For all other subjects, the base form of the verb is used:

1st-person singular:     I walk

2nd-person singular:    you walk

1st-person plural:        we walk

2nd-person plural:       you walk

3rd-person plural:       they walk

The past tense is indicated by an -ed verb ending, regardless of the

1st-person singular: I walked

2nd-person singular: you walked

3rd-person singular: he/she/it/David/the man walked

1st-person plural: we walked

2nd-person plural: you walked

3rd-person plural: they walked

In these examples, only a main verb is present, so this verb carries the tense marker. When an auxiliary verb is present, the tense is 
indicated by the first (or only) auxiliary verb, and not by the main verb:

Present tense:       The chairman is speaking. 

Past tense:             The chairman was speaking.

Present tense:       The ambassador has done his duty.

Past tense:             The ambassador had done his duty.

Present tense:        A new script is being written.

Past tense:             A new script was being written.

     Expressing future time

As we saw in  English has two tenses, the present tense and the
past tense. The -s ending indicates present tense and the -ed ending indicates past tense. However, there is no ending to indicate the future, so it would be incorrect to speak of a ‘future tense’ in English. In fact, future time is very often expressed by using the present tense form of a verb:

             Peter arrives next Friday.

            Your flight leaves in ten minutes.

             David graduates in September.

There are several other ways to express future time in English:

1       Modal auxiliary will :

                                 Peter  will  arrive next Friday.  

                                Your flight  will  leave in ten minutes.  

                                David  will  graduate in September.  

                 The contracted form ’ll is often used informally:

                                 I  ’ll   see you later.

2       Semi-auxiliary be going to (present tense):

                                 Peter  is going to  arrive next Friday.

                                  Your flight  is going to  leave in ten minutes.

                                 David  is going to  graduate in September.

3 Progressive auxiliary be (present tense) + ing verb :

                                Peter  is  arriving  next Friday.

                                Your flight  is leaving  in ten minutes.

                                David  is graduating  in September.

    Finite and non-finite verb phrases

Verb phrases are either finite or non-finite. A verb phrase is finite if the first (or only) verb exhibits tense (past or present). The following examples illustrate finite verb phrases. The finite (‘tensed’) verbs are in italics.

                Simon leaves work at five.

               Simon left early yesterday.

               Simon has left.

               Simon had left when I arrived.

               Simon has been leaving early every day.

Notice that when two or more verbs occur in a finite verb phrase (e.g. has left, has been leaving), only the first verb indicates the tense.All the other verbs have non-finite forms. The non-finite verb forms are:

1        The base form, often introduced by to  (to leave)

2        The -ed form (left)

3        The -ing form (leaving)

If the first (or only) verb in a verb phrase has one of these forms, thenthe verb phrase is non-finite:

         To leave now would be such a pity.

         Leaving home can be very traumatic.

         Left to himself, Paul copes quite well.

         Having left school at 15, David spent years without a job.

In a non-finite verb phrase, all the verbs have a non-finite form. The distinction between finite and non-finite verb phrases is important in th
classification of clauses .


Tense  refers to the absolute location of an event in time –either
 past or present. Aspect refers to how an event is to be viewed
with respect to time. We can illustrate this using the following examples:

[1] David  fell  in love on his eighteenth birthday.

[2] David  has fallen  in love.

[3] David  is falling  in love.

In [1], the verb fell  tells us that David fell in love in the past, and specifically on his eighteenth birthday. This is a past-tense verb.

In [2] also, the action took place in the past, but it is implied that it
took place quite recently. It is further implied that David’s falling in love
is still relevant at the time of speaking – David has fallen in love, and that’s why he’s behaving so strangely now.
The auxiliary has in [2] is the perfective auxiliary , and it
expresses perfective aspect in the verb phrase has fallen.

In [3], the action of falling in love is still in progress – David is falling in love at the time of speaking. For this reason, it is called progressive aspect. Progressive aspect is expressed by using the progressive auxiliary be.

Aspect always includes tense. In [2] and [3] above, the verb phrases are in the present tense, but they could also be in the past tense:

Perfective aspect, past tense :      David  had fallen  in love.

Progressive aspect, past tense :    David  was falling  in love.


Mood refers to distinctions in the form of a verb phrase that express the
speaker’s attitude towards what is said. There are three moods: indicative,
imperative and subjunctive.

1      Indicative mood is the most common mood in declarative,
        interrogative and exclamative sentences :

                Paul enrolled in a music class

                Does Amy like her new school?

                What a big house you have!

2       The imperative is used in issuing orders:

                 Move over.

                 Stop that at once.

3        Subjunctive mood is used when we refer to a non-factual or

          hypothetical situation:

           If  I were you, I would accept the offer.

           If  Mr Heseltine were Prime Minister, what would he do?

    This is called the were-subjunctive because the verb phrase
    consists solely of were.

The mandative subjunctive is used after a small number of verbs,
including  ask, decide, insist, recommend, suggest, when these verbs are followed by that:

        The committee insisted that she resign immediately.

       The lawyer asked that he be given more time to prepare.

The mandative subjunctive is also used after the following 
crucial, essential, imperative, important, necessary, vital:

         It is important that every room be ventilated.

        It is vital that prisoners be supervised at all times.

The use of the subjunctive is much more common in American English
than in British English. In British English, the indicative mood is often preferred:

If I was you, I would accept the offer.

It is vital that prisoners are supervised at all times.

The subjunctive survives in a number of formulaic expressions:

              as it were

              be that as it may

              far be it from me

              if need be

             God be praised

             long live the Queen

            wish you were here

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Noun phrases

Noun phrases have the following basic structure:

Determiner       Premodifier       Noun             Postmodifier           
the                      young                 boy              who lives beside us

Determiners introduce noun phrases. Premodifiers and postmodifiers
depend on the main word – the noun – and may be omitted.

 -  Determiners

The most common determiners are the articles – the definite
article the and the indefinite article a/an.

        the tree

        the books

        a newspaper

        an optician

Other determiners include:

1 Possessive pronouns :

        my books

        your ideas

        his diet

        our house

        their problem

2 Demonstrative pronouns :

       this book

       that car

       these buildings

       those children

3 Numerals :

        one page

        two books

       second chance

       fourth paragraph

4 Each, every, all, both and some:

        each child

        every time

        all types

        some sugar

        both children

5 Many, more and most:

       many years

       more food

      most people

With certain restrictions, determiners can co-occur in a noun 

         all the children

         our first home

         every second week

         his many talents

        all my many relatives

Determiners are unique to noun phrases. They do not occur in any of the other phrase types.

-  Premodifiers

Premodifiers in a noun phrase occur before the noun, and after any determiners which may be present. In a noun phrase, the premodifier is typically an adjective:

      green eyes

      a young child

      some beautiful flowers

Premodifiers can co-occur, that is, more than one adjective can premodify the same noun:

      lovely green eyes

     an innocent young child

     some beautiful yellow flowers

As well as adjectives, the following words can function as premodifiers
in a noun phrase:

1 Nouns :

bank manager               bedroom window

computer manuals        the Science Museum

2 Genitive nouns :

David’s homework               the President’s office

the company’s accounts       our child’s school

  - Postmodifiers

Postmodifiers in a noun phrase occur after the noun, and are most
commonly prepositional phrases  introduced by of:

       a piece of cheese           the rotation of the earth

       the top of the hill          a biography of Mozart

       a view of the sea           the Museum of Mankind

The postmodifier may also be introduced by other prepositions:

      the house on the hill

      the Museum in Kensington

      a coat with a brown collar

      people without computer skills

As well as prepositional phrases, postmodifiers of noun phrases can be:

1 Relative clauses :

        the boy who lives beside us

        the books which you bought

        the film that I enjoyed most

2 To-clauses :

         a valve to regulate the airflow

         a place to store your clothes

         the first man to walk on the moon

Postmodifiers in a noun phrase can co-occur. The following examples illustrate noun phrases with two postmodifiers each:

a holiday [for two] [in Rome]

the shop [in the High Street] [that sells fish]

the photograph [you took] [of Napoleon’s tomb]

  - Restrictive and non-restrictive postmodifiers

A postmodifier in a noun phrase may be restrictive or non-restrictive. A restrictive postmodifer serves to define the noun:

     The student who got the highest grade was given a prize.

Here, the postmodifier, who got the highest grade, is used to define exactly which student was given a prize. The postmodifier is therefore strictly necessary to the meaning of the sentence. Compare this with:

   The student, who comes from Birmingham, was given a prize.

Here, the postmodifier, who comes from Birmingham, does not define exactly which student, from among all the students in the class, was given a prize. It simply conveys additional, optional information. This is a nonrestrictive postmodifier.

In writing, non-restrictive postmodifiers are usually marked off with commas, as in the example above. In speech, the intonation pattern usually indicates their status.
   - Postmodifiers and complements

Complements are a type of noun-phrase postmodifier , but
they have a much closer link with the noun than ordinary postmodifiers. Compare the following:

[1] Postmodifier:

       The news that he gave us today was welcomed by everyone.

[2] Complement:

  The news that he intends to resign was welcomed by everyone.

In [1], the postmodifier that he gave us today does not define the news.
It does not tell us what the news was. In contrast with this, the complement in [2], that he intends to resign, plays a defining role. It tells us precisely what the news was (he intends to resign).

The distinction between a postmodifier and a complement is not just one of meaning. There is also a grammatical difference. In the 
postmodifier, we can usually replace that with which:

[1a] Postmodifier:

    The news which he gave us today was welcomed by everyone.

We cannot replace that with which in the complement:

[2a] Complement:

   *The news which he intends to resign was welcomed by

In general, nouns which take complements tend to have abstract reference.Here are some more examples:
the realisation that it wouldn’t work

the fact that no one came

the idea that secularisation means something

the theory that light is a wave motion

  - Apposition

Apposition is a relationship between two noun phrases which have identical reference:

        the poet, Andrew Motion

The two noun phrases, the poet and Andrew Motion, refer to the sameperson, and are said to be in apposition to each other. Further 
examples of apposition include:

        the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade

        John’s favourite food, pasta

        the SAC’s chairman, Sir Alan Peacock

        our good friends, the Browns

Apposition is often used as a device for clarifying the meaning of the first noun phrase:

       the SB (the Polish secret police)

       the larynx (voice box)

       230 litres (50 gallons)

In this type of ‘clarifying’ apposition, the word or is sometimes introduced between the two noun phrases:

       phototaxis, or light-directed motion

       vexillology, or the study of flags

  - The functions of noun phrases

Noun phrases are grammatically very versatile. They can perform a wide range of functions in sentence structure . We illustrate           the main functions of noun phrases here:

1 Subject :

        A large tile fell from the roof.

        Four people entered the room.

        The man who lives beside us is unwell.

2 Subject complement :

        Paul is my nephew.

       She is a teacher of English.

       That is the wrong way to wire a plug.

3 Direct object:

       The plane left the runway.

       I bought a jar of coffee.

       Our teacher writes detective stories.

4 Indirect object :

        She told the chairman the bad news.

        I offered the girl beside me a drink.

        It gives people with disabilities more independence.

5 Object complement:

       He called her an idiot.

       They appointed him President of the Board of Trade.

       The unions made Britain the country it is today.

6 Adjunct :

        Last week, our freezer broke down.

        She’s going to Harvard next year.

        One day you’ll regret quitting college.