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Aristotle defines “speech” as a kind of articulated “voice”, and the basic difference between “voice” and “speech” is the process of articulation which is performed by the tongue. Aristotle thinks that only human beings have the ability to use “language”to indicate the advantageous and the harmful, the right and the wrong, while other animals can only emit voice to indicate painful and pleasant things. Grammar is the study or use of the rules about how words change their form and combine with other words to make sentences. (Cambridge Dictionary). The history of English grammar began late in the sixteenth century with the Pamphlet for Grammar by William Bullokar. In the early works, the structure and rules of English grammar were based on those of Latin. A more modern approach, incorporating phonology, was introduced in the nineteenth century (Cole, 2005). Extended nominal groups are types of nouns that include tangible objects as well as abstract ones. In academic writing, nouns are often used as part of large nominal groups. Nominal groups are groups of words that provide more information about people, places or concepts. In systemic functional grammar, a nominal group is a group of words which represents or describes an entity, for example “The nice old English police inspector who was sitting at the table is Mr Morse“(Target 4, pg 88). The verbal group is one of the groups in English and it consists of a group of verbs usually with the lexical verb as the headword. The structure of the verbal group is a dynamic one. A verbal group can consist of a lexical verb or a lexical preceded by an auxiliary verb. Articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific. Consider the following example: After the long day, the cup of tea tasted particularly good (Link 3 pg 76). This write-up intends to discuss the uses and functions of three vital aspect of English grammar, that is; Nominal groups, Verbal groups and Articles with relevant examples from the prescribed English Grammar texts used at Year 9 to Year 13 level in schools around Fiji.
To begin, Nouns and nominal groups are used for various purposes in English grammar and has its own functions. Foremost, Formal written English uses nouns and nominal group (noun-based phrases) more than verbs. One simple example is: Like all other forms of life, we human beings are the product of evolution. (Realities, pg 34). Like all other forms of life, we human beings are the product of how we have evolved. The noun “evolution” is preferred to the verb “evolve”. Another example is: Premack used a set of plastic chips to teach a chimpanzee named Sarah the meaning of a set of symbols. Premack used a set of plastic chips to teach a chimpanzee named Sarah what a set of symbols mean. “The meaning of the symbols” is preferred to “what the symbols mean” ( Realities pg 54). It can be said that noun phrases are preferred over verb phrases because it makes sentences formal.
Secondly, Nominal groups can function as subjects, complements or objects of prepositions.Its function as a subject is explained in the sentence below. A more detailed life of Lord Reading, Liberal leader in the House of Lords and an important actor in the events of 1931( subject), would be of great value. (Target 7 pg 89).Nominal groups also act as a Complement. Take for example,There are plans to extract a much greater harvest from the timber resource(Complement) . In simple it can be said that the underlined sentence complements the subject Plans.
( Target 7 Pg 66) . Its function as the Object of preposition is also considered. Example,the information very properly reached the files of the survey for antimalarial compounds under the Survey Number SN-183. The underlined Prepositional phrase is giving details of the information. (Target 7 pg 43).
The table above shows a complex structure of nominal groups with relevant examples. Generally, it can be said that nominal groups are identified in English grammar for names of people, places and things and make writings or conversations clearer to understand.
Verb- verbal groups are used in English grammar for many reasons. A verbal group can consist of a lexical verb or a lexical preceded by an auxiliary verb. The verbal group is one that occurs under the predicator; that is everything under the predicator is verbal in nature. The structure is auxiliary (a) and lexical (l). It is not possible to have more than one lexical verb in a sentence. Negation is the operation of changing a sentence or other unit into its negative form, especially by using ‘not’. The normal form of negation in English is to add not or its contracted form (n’t) after the operator; that is, after the first auxiliary verb or the finite verb ‘be’. In the examples used below, (a) represents ‘auxiliary’, (n) means ‘negator’ and (l) stands for ‘lexical’. Consider the following: We did not like the samples she brought. [a, n, l] . He won’t leave until you pay his money. [a, n, l]. She could not come for the meeting. [a, n, l] (Link 3 pg 94,113&146).
Another important function of verbal phrases is to introduce a verb as a direct object. In the absence of an operator (modal auxiliary or non-modal auxiliary), we introduce one of the primary auxiliary verbs, specifically, the verb do. For instance: Tommy hates sweating – Tommy does not hate. The women travel together – The women do not travel together. She cooked the food – She did not cook the food. The underlined phrases represent direct object.
Similarly, verbs are used as a list of Phrasal Verbs. A phrasal verb is a phrase that consists of a verb plus an adverbial. Phrasal verbs are also similar to idioms. For example, Argue someone down – defeat someone in a debate. Sally could always argue him down if she had to. Argue something down – reduce something, such as a bill or a price, by arguing. I tried to argue the price down, but it did no good. Tom could not argue down the bill. (English the Basics, pg 119). All in all, it can be said that verbs- verbal groups play a vital role in bringing out the action in the sentences for clarity and analysis purpose.
The final aspect of the part of speech in grammar for this write-up is the use of Articles. English language uses three words as articles: “a” before indefinite singular nouns starting with a consonant sound, “an” before indefinite singular nouns starting with a vowel sound and “the” before definite nouns. “A”/”An” is considered as a Substitute for “One” or “Any“. This is the most common use of indefinite articles. You should use “a” or “an” before any singular countable noun that is indefinite. For example, you say, “This morning I saw a dog.” (Target 5 pg 23) .Use “a” because the dog is neither your dog nor the only dog in town; it is just one dog that you happened to see. “A”/”An” is used to show Frequency (incidence or occurrence) or Allotment (allocation or portion). You say, “The show costs $20 a person,” or “I visit my relatives twice a year.” Using “a” or “an” in this way denotes frequency or allotment. (Target 3 pg.76).
Likewise, “A”/”An” is used as One Single (only or on its own). Using “a” or “an” in this way is a little old-fashioned, but you can still see and hear it used. “A” or “An” can be used in negative sentences to state emphatically “a single”. For example, you say, “We had not a thing to eat,” or “There was not a tree in sight.”
(I Heard the Owl Call My Name Year 11).
On the Contrary, “The” is used for Known Things. This is the most common use of “the.” Use “the” when talking about definite things that your audiences already know about or that is obvious. For example, you say, “I spilled my drink on the carpet.” Use “the” because you did not spill your drink on just any carpet; it was a specific carpet in a specific place that your audience knows about. (Target 4 pg. 93) . “The” is also used for Things that have already been mentioned. Use “the” to refer to something that you have already mentioned. For example, you say, “I saw a dog this morning,” when you first mention the dog, but later you should say, “The dog looked hungry.” Every time you refer to the dog after this, you should use “the. “ (Target 3 pg. 25). “The” is used for something unique. Use “the” to refer to things that are unique. For example, you say, “I saw the Queen of England.” There is only one Queen of England. If you say, “I saw a Queen of England,” you are implying that there are many queens of England. (English The Basics pg. 234).
Finally, “The” is used for Superlatives. Use “the” with superlatives. For example, you say, “This is the most expensive steak I have ever eaten,” or, “Russia is the biggest country in the world.” You use “the” for both of these examples because you are talking about single, unique and specific things. So, Articles function mostly to denote nouns as definite or indefinite based on the situations in the sentences or conversations.
To conclude, Grammar is made up of lots of little rules that work together to create a language. Since there are so many rules, you can’t expect to remember everything, especially not at once. Remember, language is always changing: new words are being created (e.g., Google, Selfie), and words are changing meaning (e.g., they, literally). Nominal groups, verbal groups and articles are important aspect in learning rules of grammar and applying it in real life situations on a day to day basis whether it be your office, workstations or a friendly chat. This helps us become good speakers and writers. Mistakes will help improve our day to day conversations. I’ve tried to cover what you need to know to expand your knowledge of the language. I firmly believe that improving your writing necessarily requires an understanding of the parts of speech.
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