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Complete English Grammar Rules_Examples, Exceptions & Everything You Need to Master Proper Grammar, 2016_(Peter Herring).pdf
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The Farlex Grammar Book: Complete English Grammar Rules FARLEX International Copyright © 2016 Farlex International All rights reserved. ISBN: 1535231688 ISBN-13: 978-1535231688 2 Table of contents About the author Preface Editor’s Note English Grammar Parts of Speech Nouns Common and Proper Nouns Nouns of Address Concrete and Abstract Nouns Countable Nouns Uncountable Nouns Collective Nouns Compound Nouns Nominalization (Creating Nouns) Pronouns Personal pronouns Personal Pronouns - Number Personal Pronouns - Person (First person, Second person, Third person) Personal Pronouns - Gender Personal Pronouns - Case Personal Pronouns - Reflexive Pronouns Intensive Pronouns Indefinite Pronouns Demonstrative Pronouns Interrogative Pronouns Relative Pronouns Reciprocal Pronouns Dummy Pronouns Verbs Finite and Non-finite Verbs Transitive and Intransitive Verbs Regular and Irregular Verbs Auxiliary Verbs Primary Auxiliary Verbs Modal Auxiliary Verbs Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Will Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Would Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Shall Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Should 3 Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Can Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Could Modal Auxiliary Verbs - May Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Might Modal Auxiliary Verbs - Must Substituting Modal Verbs Semi-Modal Auxiliary Verbs Infinitives Participles Action Verbs Stative Verbs Linking Verbs Light Verbs Phrasal Verbs Common Phrasal Verbs Conditional Verbs Causative Verbs Factitive Verbs Reflexive Verbs Adjectives Attributive Adjectives Predicative Adjectives Proper Adjectives Collective Adjectives Demonstrative Adjectives Interrogative Adjectives Nominal Adjectives Compound Adjectives Order of Adjectives Degrees of Comparison Comparative Adjectives Superlative Adjectives Adverbs Adverbs of Time Adverbs of Place Adverbs of Manner Adverbs of Degree Mitigators Intensifiers Adverbs of Frequency 4 Adverbs of Purpose Focusing Adverbs Negative Adverbs Conjunctive Adverbs Evaluative Adverbs Viewpoint Adverbs Relative Adverbs Adverbial Nouns Regular and Irregular Adverbs Degrees ; of Comparison Comparative Adverbs Superlative Adverbs Order of Adverbs Prepositions Prepositional Phrases Categories of Prepositions Common Prepositional Errors Prepositions with Nouns Prepositions with Verbs Prepositions with Adjectives Prepositions in Idioms Idioms that Start with Prepositions Idioms that End with Prepositions Conjunctions Coordinating Conjunctions Correlative Conjunctions Subordinating Conjunctions Other parts of speech Particles Articles Determiners Possessive Determiners Gerunds Gerunds as Objects of Verbs Interjections Inflection (Accidence) Conjugation Tense Present Tense 5 Present Simple Tense Present Continuous Tense (Progressive) Present Perfect Tense Present Perfect Continuous Tense Past Tense Past Simple Tense Past Continuous Tense Past Perfect Tense Past Perfect Continuous Tense Future Tense (Approximation) Future Simple Tense Future Continuous Tense Future Perfect Tense Future Perfect Continuous Tense Aspect Perfective and Imperfective Aspect Aspects of the Present Tense Aspects of the Past Tense Aspects of the Future Tense Mood Indicative Mood Subjunctive Mood Subjunctive Mood - Expressing Wishes Voice Active Voice Passive Voice Middle Voice Speech Reported Speech (Indirect Speech) Grammatical Person Declension Plurals Gender in Nouns Regular and Irregular Inflection Syntax Subjects and Predicates The Subject The Predicate Complements 6 Objects Subject Complements Object Complements Adjective Complements Adverbial Complements Modifiers Adjuncts Phrases Noun Phrases Adjective Phrases Adverbial Phrases Participle Phrases Absolute Phrases Appositives Clauses Independent Clauses Dependent Clauses Noun Clauses Relative Clauses Adverbial Clauses Sentences Compound Sentences Complex Sentences Compound-Complex Sentences Declarative Sentences Interrogative Sentences Negative Interrogative Sentences Imperative Sentences Conditional Sentences Major and Minor Sentences (Regular and Irregular Sentences) Quiz answers Index 7 About the author Peter Herring was born in Boulder, Colorado, and grew up with a passion for reading. He attended the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada, where he majored in English Literature. He went on to complete a master’s degree in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at University College Dublin in Ireland, where he graduated with honors. Peter has worked as an editor since 2009, lending his passion for words to scientific research projects, non-fiction publishing, and The Free Dictionary. He lives in Dublin, Ireland, with his wife and son. About the editor Nick Norlen is the managing editor of The Free Dictionary, where he oversees all editorial projects. After graduating with honors from La Salle University in Philadelphia, he worked as a reporter before joining the Farlex team in 2008. He lives in Newtown, Pennsylvania, with his wife and daughter, whose first word is his favorite word. 8 Preface Grammar is without a doubt one of the most daunting aspects of the English language, an area riddled with complexities, inconsistencies, and contradictions. It has also been in a state of flux for pretty much its entire existence. For native speakers of English, as well as for those learning it as a new language, grammar presents a very serious challenge to speaking and writing both accurately and effectively. Having a single, reliable, go-to reference guide should therefore be indispensable to those trying to learn, improve, or perfect their speech or writing. This book is that guide: a clear, unambiguous, and comprehensive source of information that covers all the relevant topics of English grammar, while still being easy to understand and enjoyable to read. Every topic in the book has been broken down into basic units. Each unit can be read and understood in its own right, but throughout the book you will find cross-references to other sections and chapters to help make it clear how all the pieces fit together. If you’re having trouble understanding something, try going back (or forward) to other related topics in the book. Finally, it must be mentioned that, because English is such a flexible, inconsistent language, the “rules” that are often bandied about are usually not rules at all, but rather guides that reflect how the language is used. Accordingly, the guidelines contained within this book are just that— guidelines. They are not intended to provide constrictive or proscriptive rules that confine everyone to a particular way of speaking or writing. Learning how the English language works will enhance your engagement with speech and writing every day, from the books you read, to the e-mails you write, to the conversations you have with friends and strangers alike. As such, mastering grammar is not an exercise that is confined to the classroom. While it is certainly important to learn the structures, styles, and rules that shape the language, the key to truly learning English is to read and listen to the way people write and speak every day, from the most wellknown authors to the people you talk to on the bus. Take the information you find in this book and carry it with you into the world. -P. Herring 9 Editor’s Note This book is written according to the standard styles and spellings used in American English. While major differences between American and British English are usually addressed, some information in the book might not coincide with the styles, tendencies, or preferences of other English-speaking communities. 10 English Grammar Grammar refers to the way words are used, classified, and structured together to form coherent written or spoken communication. This guide takes a traditional approach to teaching English grammar, breaking the topic into three fundamental elements: Parts of Speech, Inflection, and Syntax. Each of these is a discrete, individual part, but they are all intrinsically linked together in meaning. Parts of Speech In the first part of the guide, we will look at the basic components of English —words. The parts of speech are the categories to which different words are assigned, based on their meaning, structure, and function in a sentence. We’ll look in great detail at the seven main parts of speech—nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions—as well as other categories of words that don’t easily fit in with the rest, such as particles, determiners, and gerunds. By understanding the parts of speech, we can better understand how (and why) we structure words together to form sentences. Inflection Although the parts of speech provide the building blocks for English, another very important element is inflection, the process by which words are changed in form to create new, specific meanings. There are two main categories of inflection: conjugation and declension. Conjugation refers to the inflection of verbs, while declension refers to the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Whenever we change a verb from the present tense to the past tense, for example, we are using conjugation. Likewise, when we make a noun plural to show that there is more than one of it, we are using declension. Syntax The third and final part of the guide will focus on syntax, the rules and patterns that govern how we structure sentences. The grammatical structures that constitute syntax can be thought of as a hierarchy, with 11 sentences at the top as the largest cohesive unit in the language and words (the parts of speech) at the bottom. We’ll begin the third part by looking at the basic structural units present in all sentences—subjects and predicates—and progressively move on to larger classes of structures, discussing modifiers, phrases, and clauses. Finally, we will end by looking at the different structures and categories of sentences themselves. Using the three parts together The best way to approach this guide is to think of it as a cross-reference of itself; when you see a term or concept in one section that you’re unfamiliar with, check the other sections to find a more thorough explanation. Neither parts of speech nor inflection nor syntax exist as truly separate units; it’s equally important to examine and learn about the different kinds of words, how they can change to create new meaning, and the guidelines by which they are structured into sentences. When we learn to use all three parts together, we gain a much fuller understanding of how to make our speech and writing not only proper, but natural and effective. 12 Parts of Speech Definition The parts of speech are the primary categories of words according to their function in a sentence. English has seven main parts of speech. We’ll look at a brief overview of each below; continue on to their individual chapters to learn more about them. Nouns Nouns are words that identify or name people, places, or things. Nouns can function as the subject of a clause or sentence, an object of a verb, or an object of a preposition. Words like cat, book, table, girl, and plane are all nouns. Pronouns Pronouns are words that represent nouns (people, places, or things). Grammatically, pronouns are used in the same ways as nouns; they can function as subjects or objects. Common pronouns include I, you, she, him, it, everyone, and somebody. Verbs Verbs are words that describe the actions—or states of being—of people, animals, places, or things. Verbs function as the root of what’s called the predicate, which is required (along with a subject) to form a complete sentence; therefore, every sentence must include at least one verb. Verbs include action words like run, walk, write, or sing, as well as words describing states of being, such as be, seem, feel, or sound. Adjectives Adjectives are words that modify (add description to) nouns and (occasionally) pronouns. They can be a part of either the subject or the predicate. Common adjectives are red, blue, fast, slow, big, tall, and wide. 13 Adverbs Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or even entire clauses. Depending on what they modify (and how), adverbs can appear anywhere in the sentence. Adverbs are commonly formed from adjectives by adding “-ly” to the end, as in slowly, quickly, widely, beautifully, or commonly. Prepositions Prepositions are words that express a relationship between a noun or pronoun (known as the object of the preposition) and another part of the sentence. Together, these form prepositional phrases, which can function as adjectives or as adverbs in a sentence. Some examples of prepositional phrases are: on the table, in the shed, and across the field. (The prepositions are in bold.) Conjunctions Conjunctions are words that connect other words, phrases, or clauses, expressing a specific kind of relationship between the two (or more) elements. The most common conjunctions are the coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet. Other Parts of Speech In addition to the seven parts of speech above, there are several other groupings of words that do not neatly fit into any one specific category —particles, articles, determiners, gerunds, and interjections. Many of these share characteristics with one or more of the seven primary categories. For example, determiners are similar in many ways to adjectives, but they are not completely the same, and most particles are identical in appearance to prepositions but have different grammatical functions. Because they are harder to classify in comparison to the seven primary categories above, they’ve been grouped together in this guide under the general category Other Parts of Speech. 14 Nouns Definition Nouns are words that indicate a person, place, or thing. In a sentence, nouns can function as the subject or the object of a verb or preposition. Nouns can also follow linking verbs to rename or re-identify the subject of a sentence or clause; these are known as predicate nouns. The Subject The subject in a sentence or clause is the person or thing doing, performing, or controlling the action of the verb. For example: • “The dog chased its tail.” (The noun dog is performing the action of the verb chase.) • “Mary reads a book every week.” (The proper noun Mary is performing the action of the verb read.) Objects Grammatical objects have three grammatical roles: the direct object of a verb, the indirect object of a verb, or the object of a preposition. Direct objects Direct objects are what receive the action of the verb in a sentence or clause. For example: • “The dog chased its tail.” (The noun tail is receiving the action of the verb chase.) • “Mary reads a book every week.” (The noun book is receiving the action of the verb read.) Indirect objects An indirect object is the person or thing who receives the direct object of the verb. For instance: • “Please pass Jeremy the salt.” (The proper noun Jeremy is receiving the 15 direct object salt, which receives the action of the verb pass.) • “I sent the company an application for the job.” (The noun company is receiving the direct object application, which receives the action of the verb sent.) Objects of prepositions Nouns are also used after prepositions to create prepositional phrases. When a noun is part of a prepositional phrase, it is known as the object of the preposition. For example: • “Your backpack is under the table.” (The noun table is the object of the preposition under, which creates the prepositional phrase under the table.) • “I am looking for work.” (The noun work is the object of the preposition for, which creates the prepositional phrase for work.) Predicate Nouns Nouns that follow linking verbs are known as predicate nouns (sometimes known as predicative nouns). These serve to rename or re-identify the subject. If the noun is accompanied by any direct modifiers (such as articles, adjectives, or prepositional phrases), the entire noun phrase acts predicatively. For example: • “Love is a virtue.” (The noun phrase a virtue follows the linking verb is to rename the subject love.) • “Tommy seems like a real bully.” (The noun phrase a real bully follows the linking verb seems to rename the subject Tommy.) • “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.” (The noun phrase a blessing in disguise follows the linking verb is to rename the subject this.) (Go to the section on Subject Complements in the part of the guide that covers Syntax to learn more about predicate nouns.) Categories of Nouns There are many different kinds of nouns, and it’s important to know the different way each type can be used in a sentence. Below, we’ll briefly look at the different categories of nouns. You can explore the individual sections to 16 learn more about each. Common and Proper Nouns Nouns that identify general people, places, or things are called common nouns—they name or identify that which is common among others. Proper nouns, on the other hand, are used to identify an absolutely unique person, place, or thing, and they are signified by capital letters, no matter where they appear in a sentence. Common Nouns Proper Nouns “He sat on the chair.” “Go find Jeff and tell him dinner is ready.” “I live in a city.” “I’ll have a Pepsi, please.” “We met some people.” “Prince William is adored by many.” Nouns of Address Nouns of address are used in direct speech to identify the person or group being directly spoken to, or to get that person’s attention. Like interjections, they are grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence —they don’t modify or affect any other part of it. For example: • “James, I need you to help me with the dishes.” • “Can I have some money, Mom?” • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.” • “Sorry, Mr. President, I didn’t see you there.” Concrete and Abstract Nouns Concrete nouns name people, places, animals, or things that are physically tangible—that is, they can be seen or touched, or have some physical properties. Proper nouns are also usually concrete, as they describe unique people, places, or things that are also tangible. For example: table rocks lake 17 countries people Africa MacBook Jonathan Abstract nouns, as their name implies, name intangible things, such as concepts, ideas, feelings, characteristics, attributes, etc. For instance: love hate decency conversation emotion Countable Nouns and Uncountable Countable nouns (also known as count nouns) are nouns that can be considered as individual, separable items, which means that we are able to count them with numbers—we can have one, two, five, 15, 100, and so on. We can also use them with the indefinite articles a and an (which signify a single person or thing) or with the plural form of the noun. Single Countable Nouns Plural Countable Nouns a cup two cups an ambulance several ambulances a phone 10 phones Countable nouns contrast with uncountable nouns (also known as noncount or mass nouns), which cannot be separated and counted as individual units or elements. Uncountable nouns cannot take an indefinite article (a/an), nor can they be made plural. ✔ Correct “Would you like tea?” ✖ Incorrect “Would you like a tea?” 18 “Do you have any information?” “We bought equipment.” new “Do you have an information?” camping “We bought equipments.” new camping Collective Nouns Collective nouns are nouns that refer to a collection or group of multiple people, animals, or things. However, even though collective nouns refer to multiple individuals, they still function as singular nouns in a sentence. This is because they still are technically referring to one thing: the group as a whole. For example: • “The flock of birds flew south for the winter.” • “The organization voted to revoke the rules that it had previously approved.” • “The set of tablecloths had disappeared. ” Attributive Adjuncts) Nouns (Noun Attributive nouns, also called noun adjuncts, are nouns that are used to modify other nouns. The resulting phrase is called a compound noun. For example: • “The boy played with his toy soldier.” In this sentence, toy is the noun adjunct, and it modifies the word soldier, creating the compound noun toy soldier. To learn more about attributive nouns, go to the section on Adjuncts in the chapter on The Predicate. Compound Nouns A compound noun is a noun composed of two or more words working together as a single unit to name a person, place, or thing. Compound nouns are usually made up of two nouns or an adjective and a noun. • water + bottle = water bottle (a bottle used for water) 19 • dining + room = dining room (a room used for dining) • back + pack = backpack (a pack you wear on your back) • police + man = policeman (a police officer who is a man) Noun Phrases A noun phrase is a group of two or more words that function together as a noun in a sentence. Noun phrases consist of a noun and other words that modify the noun. For example: • “He brought the shovel with the blue handle.” In this sentence, the shovel with the blue handle is a noun phrase. It collectively acts as a noun while providing modifying words for the head noun, shovel. The modifiers are the and with the blue handle. Nominalization (Creating Nouns) Nominalization refers to the creation of a noun from verbs or adjectives. When nouns are created from other parts of speech, it is usually through the use of suffixes. For example: • “My fiancée is an actor.” (The verb act becomes the noun actor.) • “His acceptance of the position was received warmly.” (The verb accept becomes the noun acceptance.) • “The hardness of diamond makes it a great material for cutting tools.” (The adjective hard becomes the noun hardness.) • “This project will be fraught with difficulty.” (The adjective difficult becomes the noun difficulty.) Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. A noun can be which of the following? a) The subject b) An object c) Predicative d) A & B e) B & C f) All of the above 20 2. What category of nouns is used to identify the person or group being directly spoken to? a) Common nouns b) Nouns of address c) Attributive nouns d) Abstract nouns 3. Identify the type of noun (in bold) used in the following sentence: “Your indifference is not acceptable.” a) Proper noun b) Countable noun c) Collective noun d) Abstract noun 4. What category of nouns is used to modify other nouns? a) Common nouns b) Nouns of address c) Attributive nouns d) Abstract nouns 5. Which of the following is commonly used to create a noun from a verb or adjective? a) Prefix b) Suffix c) Attributive noun d) Predicative noun Common and Proper Nouns Nouns fall into one of two broad categories: common nouns and proper nouns. Common Nouns All nouns serve to name a person, place, or thing. Those that identify general people, places, or things are called common 21 nouns—they name that which is common among others. For example: • “He sat on the chair.” • “I live in a city.” • “We met some people.” • “She went into politics.” • “Our teacher is angry.” • “Let’s go down to the lake.” Proper Nouns Proper nouns, on the other hand, are used to identify a unique person, place, or thing. A proper noun names someone or something that is one of a kind, which is signified by the use of a capital letter, no matter where it appears in a sentence. Names The most common proper nouns are names, as of people, places, or events. For example: • “Go find Jeff and tell him dinner is ready.” • “I lived in Cincinnati before I moved to New York.” • “My parents still talk about how great Woodstock was in 1969.” Brands Proper nouns are also used for commercial brands. In this case, the object that’s being referred to is not unique in itself, but the brand it belongs to is. For example: • “Pass me the Hellmann’s mayonnaise.” • “I’ll have a Pepsi, please.” • “My new MacBook is incredibly fast.” Appellations When a person has additional words added to his or her name (known as an 22 appellation), this becomes part of the proper noun and is also capitalized. (Some linguists distinguish these as proper names, rather than proper nouns.) For example: • “Prince William is adored by many.” • “Italy was invaded by Attila the Hun in 452.” Job Titles and Familial Roles Many times, a person may be referred to according to a professional title or familial role instead of by name. In this case, the title is being used as a noun of address and is considered a proper noun, even if it would be a common noun in other circumstances. For example: • “How are you doing, Coach?” • “I need your advice, Mr. President.” • "Mom, can you come with me to the playground?” • “Pleased to meet you, Doctor.” Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Common nouns identify people, places, or things that are ___________? a) Especially unique or one-of-a-kind b) Generic among other similar nouns c) Addressed by the speaker d) Uncountable 2. Things referred to by their brand use which kind of nouns? a) Common nouns b) Proper nouns 3. Nouns of address are used in the same way as which kind of nouns? a) Common nouns b) Proper nouns Nouns of Address 23 Definition Nouns of address (technically called vocatives, but also known as nominatives of address or nouns of direct address) identify the person or group being directly spoken to. Like interjections, they are grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence—that is, they don’t modify or affect any other part of it. Instead, they are used to let the listener or reader know who you are addressing, or to get that person’s attention. For example: • “James, I need you to help me with the dishes.” • “Can I have some money, Mom?” • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.” • “Mr. President, I didn’t see you there.” • “Hey, guy in the red shirt, can you help me?” Punctuation Nouns of address are found in the initial, middle, or final position in a sentence. No matter where they occur, they are normally set apart from the rest of the sentence by one or two commas. If they occur in the initial position, they are followed by a comma. If they occur in the middle position, they are enclosed between two commas, and if they occur in the final position, they are preceded by a comma. For example: • “James, I was wondering if you could help me with the dishes.” • “I was wondering, James, if you could help me with the dishes.” • “I was wondering if you could help me with the dishes, James.” • “Class, this is the video I was telling you about.” • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.” • “This is the video I was telling you about, class.” Capitalization Proper nouns Proper nouns, such as the name or title of a person, are the most frequent nouns of address. These nouns are always capitalized, no matter where they 24 appear in a sentence. If a professional title is used with the name, it is capitalized as well. For example: • “Can you help me, James?” • “Thank you, Mrs. Smith, for being here.” • “It’s so nice to meet you, Doctor Jenner.” • “Hey, Coach Frank, how are you doing today?” Common nouns in place of titles Common nouns can also be used as nouns of address. If the common noun is the title of a job or family member and is used in place of a person’s name, it should always be capitalized. For example: • “How are you doing, Coach?” • “I need your advice, Mr. President.” • "Can you come with me, Mom?” • “Pleased to meet you, Doctor.” Compare the examples above to the following cases in which the same titles of jobs and family members are not used to address the person directly, and therefore are not capitalized: • “Give that football to the coach.” • “Was the president at the meeting?” • “Tell your mom to come with us.” • “Did you call the doctor yet?” Terms of endearment When a term of endearment is being used in place of a person’s name, we do not capitalize the word unless it begins the sentence. For example: • “Would you get me a glass of water, sweetie?” • “Thanks, pal, I appreciate your help.” • “Love, please put away your clothes.” Other common nouns 25 If they do not act as a professional or familial title, other common nouns should generally remain in lowercase, unless they occur as the first word of the sentence. For example: • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.” • “Can you help me, guy in the red shirt?” • “Please stand up, boys and girls.” • “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated for the duration of the performance.” Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Nouns of address occur in the ________. a) initial position b) middle position c) final position d) A & C e) All of the above 2. Nouns of address are set apart by ________. a) periods b) commas c) hyphens d) semicolons 3. Which of the following sentences does not contain a noun of address? a) “Oh, hello, Dad.” b) “Come with me, Daniel.” c) “Coach, I thought that was you!” d) “Give that message to the president, please.” 4. Which of the following sentences is written incorrectly? a) “I wish you were here, grandma.” b) “I wish my grandma was here.” c) “I wish you were here, Grandma.” d) “Grandma, I wish you were here.” 26 5. Which of the following sentences is written incorrectly? a) “Please help us, Doctor Green.” b) “Doctor Green please help us.” c) “Please, Doctor Green, help us.” d) “Doctor Green, please help us.” Concrete and Abstract Nouns All nouns serve to name a person, place, or thing. Depending on whether they name a tangible or an intangible thing, nouns are classed as being either concrete or abstract. Concrete Nouns Concrete nouns name people, places, animals, or things that are or were physically tangible—that is, they can or could be seen or touched, or have some physical properties. For instance: rocks lake countries people child air water bread Proper nouns are also usually concrete, as they describe unique people, places, or things. Mary The Queen Africa my MacBook a Pepsi Abstract Nouns 27 Abstract nouns, as their name implies, name intangible things, such as concepts, ideas, feelings, characteristics, attributes, etc.—you cannot see or touch these kinds of things. Here are some examples of abstract nouns: love hate decency conversation emotion aspiration excitement lethargy Gerunds, verbs that end in “-ing” and function as nouns, are also abstract. For example: running swimming jumping reading writing loving breathing These all name actions as concepts. They cannot be seen or touched, so we know they are not concrete. Countable Nouns Uncountable Nouns Both concrete and abstract nouns can be uncountable, depending on what they name. vs. either countable or Countable Nouns Countable nouns (also known as count nouns) are, as the name suggests, nouns that can be counted as individual units. 28 Concrete countable nouns Many concrete nouns are countable. Consider the following, for example: cup ambulance phone person dog computer doctor Each of these can be considered as an individual, separable item, which means that we are able to count them with numbers—we can have one, two, five, 15, 100, and so on. We can also use them with the indefinite articles a and an (which signify a single person or thing) or with the plural form of the noun. For example: a cup – two cups an ambulance – several ambulances a phone – 10 phones a person – many people Abstract countable nouns Even though abstract nouns are not tangible, many of them can still be counted as separable units. Like concrete nouns, they can take a or an or can be made plural. For example: a conversation – two conversations an emergency – several emergencies a reading – 10 readings an aspiration – many aspirations Uncountable Nouns Uncountable nouns, on the other hand, are nouns that cannot be considered as separate units. They are also known as non-count or mass nouns. 29 Concrete uncountable nouns Concrete nouns that are uncountable tend to be substances or collective categories of things. For instance: • wood, smoke, air, water • furniture, homework, accommodation, luggage Uncountable nouns cannot take the indefinite articles a or an in a sentence, because these words indicate a single amount of something. Likewise, they cannot take numbers or plural forms, because there cannot be multiple units of them. For example: ✖ ✔ ✖ ✔ “I see a smoke over there.” (incorrect) “I see (some*) smoke over there.” (correct) “I don’t have furnitures.” (incorrect) “I don’t have (any*) furniture.” (correct) (*We often use the words some or any to indicate an unspecified quantity of uncountable nouns.) However, uncountable nouns can sometimes take the definite article the, because it does not specify an amount: • “They’re swimming in the water.” • “The homework this week is hard.” Abstract uncountable nouns A large number of abstract nouns are uncountable. These are usually ideas or attributes. For instance: • love, hate, news*, access, knowledge • beauty, intelligence, arrogance, permanence (*Even though news ends in an “-s,” it is uncountable. We need this “-s” because without it, news would become new, which is an adjective.) Again, these cannot take indefinite articles or be made plural. ✖ ✔ ✖ ✔ “He’s just looking for a love.” (incorrect) “He’s just looking for love.” (correct) “She’s gained a great deal of knowledges during college.” (incorrect) “She’s gained a great deal of knowledge during college.” (correct) 30 As with countable nouns, though, we can sometimes use the definite article the: • “I can’t stand watching the news.” • “Can you believe the arrogance he exhibits?” Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which of the following is a distinguishing feature of abstract nouns? a) They can be seen or touched b) They cannot be seen or touched c) They can be counted d) They cannot be counted 2. Proper nouns are generally _________. a) concrete b) abstract 3. Is the following word concrete or abstract? amazement a) concrete b) abstract 4. Is the following word concrete or abstract? sugar a) concrete b) abstract 5. Is the following word concrete or abstract? Australia a) concrete b) abstract 6. True or False: All concrete nouns are countable. a) True b) False 31 Countable Nouns Definition Countable nouns (also known as count nouns) are nouns that can be considered as individual, separable items, which means that we are able to count them with numbers—we can have one, two, five, 15, 100, and so on. We can also use them with the indefinite articles a and an (which signify a single person or thing) or in their plural forms. Countable nouns contrast with uncountable nouns (also known as noncount or mass nouns), which cannot be separated and counted as individual units or elements. Uncountable nouns cannot take an indefinite article, nor can they be made plural. Concrete vs. Abstract Countable Nouns Both concrete and abstract nouns can be countable. Concrete nouns name people, places, or things that are tangible—they can be seen or touched. Abstract nouns, on the other hand, name intangible things, such as ideas, concepts, feelings, or attributes. Concrete countable nouns Concrete nouns are a bit easier to understand as being countable—after all, they are things that we can see and feel, and so we can usually count them. Consider the following, for example: • cup • ambulance • phone • person • eel • computer • doctor Each of these can be considered as an individual item or unit, which means that we are able to count them: 32 Singular a cup Plural two cups an ambulance several ambulances a phone 10 phones a person many people an eel three eels a computer a few computers a doctor some doctors Abstract countable nouns Even though abstract nouns are not tangible, many of them can still be counted as separable units. Like concrete nouns, they can take a or an or can be made plural. Consider these abstract nouns: • conversation • emergency • reading • aspiration • emotion • belief Now let’s see how they can be counted: Singular Plural a conversation two conversations an emergency several emergencies a reading 10 readings an aspiration many aspirations an emotion hundreds of emotions a belief certain beliefs 33 Grammar with countable nouns When we use countable nouns, certain elements in a sentence will change depending on whether the noun is singular or plural. Third-person singular vs. thirdperson plural pronouns If a countable noun is being represented by a third-person pronoun, we must take care to use the correct singular or plural form. Singular When a noun is singular and names a person (or, sometimes, a pet) whose gender is known,* then we use the third-person singular he, him, or his (masculine) or she, her, or hers (feminine). For example: • “The man left early, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.” (Man is singular, so it takes the third-person singular pronoun him.) • “The president has many things that she wants to accomplish in office.” (President is singular, so it takes the third-person singular pronoun she.) • “We taught our dog to know which bed is his.” (Dog is singular, so it takes the third-person singular pronoun his.) If the noun names a singular place, thing, or non-domestic animal, then we must use the third-person neuter pronoun it: • “I hate this computer because it is so slow!” • “The cow lowed softly as it ate.” • “Some people dislike this town, but I’ve always loved it.” Plural When a noun is plural, we use the same third-person pronouns for people, places, animals, and things: they, them, and theirs*. For example: • “The parade floats are spectacular! I love watching them go down the street.” 34 • “Bill and Samantha told me they were coming over later.” • “Make sure the children know which bags are theirs.” *Usage Note: “Singular they” English does not have a way of identifying a single person with a pronoun if his or her gender is not known, so sometimes the third-person plural forms (they, them, etc.) are used as a gender-neutral alternative to the third-person feminine/masculine forms. This is sometimes called “singular they.” For example: • “You shouldn’t judge someone until you know what they are really like.” • “If anyone needs extra help with their studies, they should feel free to see me after class.” While it is still considered incorrect by some writers and writing guides, especially in American English, “singular they” is gradually becoming accepted as the norm, especially in instances with indefinite pronouns that sound plural but are grammatically singular (like anyone in the example above). Subject-Verb Agreement Because countable nouns can be either singular or plural, it is very important to use the correct subject-verb agreement when they are functioning as the subject of a clause. Subject-verb agreement refers to using certain conjugations of verbs for singular subjects and using other conjugations for plural subjects. This happens most noticeably with the verb to be, which becomes is or was with singular subject nouns and are or were with plural subjects. For example: • “My brother is back from college.” (singular present simple tense) • “The company was in financial trouble.” (singular past simple tense) • “Many people are getting frustrated with the government.” (plural present simple tense) • “The computers were rather old.” (plural past simple tense) For any other verb, we only need to make a change if it is in the present simple tense. For most verbs, this is accomplished by adding an “-s” to the 35 end if it is singular and leaving it in its base form if it is plural. For example: • “My father runs his own business.” (singular) • “But his sons run it when he’s away.” (plural) • “The dog wags his tail when he is happy.” (singular) • “Dogs sometimes wag their tails when they’re angry or scared.” (plural) The verbs have and do also only conjugate for singular subjects in the present simple tense, but they have irregular forms for this: has and does. For example: • “The apple has a mark on it.” (singular) • “All the apples have marks on them.” (plural) • “The teacher does not think it’s a good idea.” (singular) • “The other teachers do not mind, though.” (plural) Finally, the modal auxiliary verbs will, would, shall, should, can, could, might, and must do not conjugate for singular vs. plural subjects—they always remain the same. For instance: • “This phone can also surf the Internet!” (singular) • “Most phones can do that now.” (plural) • “The president will arrive in Malta next week.” (singular) • “The other diplomats will arrive shortly after that.” (plural) Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which of the following cannot be used with countable nouns? a) Indefinite articles b) Definite articles c) Third-person singular pronouns d) Plural forms e) All of the above f) None of the above 2. True or False: Countable nouns are always concrete nouns. a) True b) False 3. How do most verbs conjugate when they have a singular subject? 36 a) By adding “-d” to the end b) By adding “-s” to the end c) They remain in their base form d) They take an auxiliary verb 4. Which of the following third-person pronouns is used for plural nouns? a) he b) she c) it d) they 5. Which of the following third-person pronouns is used for non-gendered singular nouns? a) he b) she c) it d) they Uncountable Nouns Definition Nouns that cannot be divided or counted as individual elements or separate parts are called uncountable nouns (also known as mass nouns or noncount nouns). These can be tangible objects (such as substances or collective categories of things), or intangible or abstract things, such as concepts or ideas. Nouns that can be divided are called countable nouns, or simply count nouns. Here are some examples of uncountable nouns: • wood, smoke, air, water • furniture, homework, accommodation, luggage • love, hate, beauty, intelligence, arrogance • news*, access (*Even though news ends in an “-s,” it is uncountable. We need this “-s” because without it, news would become new, which is an adjective.) 37 Using articles with uncountable nouns Uncountable nouns cannot take the indefinite articles “a” or “an” in a sentence, because these words indicate a single amount of something. For example: ✖ “Would you like a tea?” (incorrect) ✔ “Would you like tea?” (correct) ✖ “Do you have an information?” (incorrect) ✔ “Do you have (some/any) information?” (correct) (We often use the words “some” or “any” to indicate an unspecified quantity of uncountable nouns. We’ll investigate this more in a later part of this section.) However, uncountable nouns can sometimes take the definite article “the,” as in: • “Have you heard the news?” • “The furniture in my living room is old.” However, this is only the case if a specific uncountable noun is being described. For example: ✖ “I am looking for an accommodation.” (incorrect) ✖ “I am looking for the accommodation.” (incorrect) ✔ “I am looking for accommodation.” (correct) ✔ “I am looking for the accommodation listed in this advertisement.” (correct—references specific accommodation) Uncountable nouns are not plural Third-person singular vs. thirdperson plural pronouns 38 Just as uncountable nouns cannot take the indefinite articles “a” or “an” because there is not “one” of them, it is equally incorrect to use third-person plural pronouns with them, as they are not considered a collection of single things. For example: • Person A: “Your hair looks very nice today.” ✖ Person B: “Yes, I washed them last night.” (incorrect) ✔ Person B: “Yes, I washed it last night.” (correct) Note that single hairs become countable. If there are two hairs on your jacket, you can say “hairs” or use the plural pronoun “they.” The hair on your head, however, is seen as an uncountable noun. Plural forms of the noun We also cannot make uncountable nouns plural by adding “-s” on the end. Again, they are grammatically regarded as single, collective units. For example: ✖ “We bought new camping equipments.” (incorrect) ✔ “We bought new camping equipment.” (correct) ✖ “The teacher gave us many homeworks.” (Incorrect. We also cannot use the quantifier “many” with uncountable nouns, because it refers to individual things.) ✔ “The teacher gave us a lot of homework.” (Correct. We can use the quantifier “a lot” to indicate a large amount of an uncountable noun.) Subject-verb agreement Because uncountable nouns cannot be plural, it is very important to use the correct subject-verb agreement. Subject-verb agreement refers to using certain conjugations of verbs with singular vs. plural subjects. This happens most noticeably with the verb to be, which becomes is or was with singular subject nouns and are or were with plural subjects. Because uncountable nouns are grammatically singular, they must take singular forms of their verbs. Here are a few examples illustrating this distinction: ✖ “The furnitures in my living room are old.” (incorrect) ✖ “The furnitures in my living room is old.” (incorrect) ✔ “The furniture in my living room is old.” (correct) 39 ✖ “Their behaviors are not good.” (incorrect) ✔ “Their behavior is not good.” (correct) ✖ “The news are good.” (incorrect) ✔ “The news is good.” (correct) Measurements of distance, time, and amount A notable exception to the subject-verb rule we just discussed relates to countable nouns that are describing measurements of distance, time, or amount. In this case, we consider the sum as a singular amount, and so they must take singular forms of their verbs. For example: ✖ “$20,000 have been credited to your account.” (incorrect) ✔ “$20,000 has been credited to your account.” (correct) ✖ “I think 50 miles are too far to travel on foot.” (incorrect) ✔ “I think 50 miles is too far to travel on foot.” (correct) ✖ “Wow, two hours fly by when you’re having fun!” (incorrect) ✔ “Wow, two hours flies by when you’re having fun!” (correct) Making uncountable countable nouns If we want to identify one or more specific “units” of an uncountable noun, then we must add more information to the sentence to make this clear. For example, if you want to give someone advice in general, you could say: • “Can I give you advice?” or; • “Can I give you some advice?” But if you wanted to emphasize that you’d like to give them a particular aspect or facet of advice, you could not say, “Can I give you an advice?” Instead, we have to add more information to specify what we want to give: • “Can I give you a piece of advice?” By adding “piece of” to the uncountable noun advice, we have now made it functionally countable. This means that we can also make this phrase plural, though we have to be careful to pluralize the count noun that we’ve 40 added, and not the uncountable noun itself. For example: • “Can I give you a few pieces of advice?” Using quantifiers uncountable nouns with As we’ve already seen, certain quantifiers (a kind of determiner that specifies an amount of something) can only be used with uncountable nouns, while others can only modify countable nouns. While we will examine these more in depth in the chapter on Determiners, here are a few examples that cause particular confusion. Too – Too Much – Too Many We use “too + adjective” to mean “beyond what is needed or desirable,” as in, “It is too big.” Too much, on the other hand, is used to modify uncountable nouns, while too many is used with countable nouns—they are not used with adjectives. For example, the following sentences would both be incorrect: ✖ “It is too much big.” ✖ “It is too many big.” One particular source of confusion that can arise here is the fact that much can be used as an adverb before too to give it emphasis, as in: • “It is much too big.” We also must be sure not to use too much with a countable noun, nor too many with an uncountable noun. ✖ “I have too much pieces of furniture.” (incorrect) ✔ “I have too many pieces of furniture.” (correct) ✖ “I have too many furniture.” (incorrect) ✔ “I have too much furniture.” (correct) Fewer vs. Less The conventional rule regarding less vs. fewer is that we use fewer with countable nouns and less with uncountable nouns. For example: 41 ✖ “I have less friends than Jill has.” (incorrect) ✔ “I have fewer friends than Jill has.” (correct) ✖ “I have fewer money than he has.” (incorrect) ✔ “I have less money than he has.” (correct) The rule carries over when we add words to an uncountable noun to make a countable phrase (as we looked at above). We can see this distinction in the following examples: • “I want less toast.” (toast is uncountable) • “I want fewer pieces of toast.” (pieces of toast is countable) • “There is less water in the jug.” (water is uncountable) • “There are fewer cups of water in the jug.” (cups of water is countable) Measurements of distance, time, and amount As we noted above, measurements of distance, time, or amount for nouns that we would normally consider countable (and thus plural) end up taking singular verbs. Likewise, these terms also take the word less, most often in the construction less than. For example: • “$20,000 is less than we expected to pay.” • “We walked less than 50 miles to get here.” • “We have less than two hours to finish this project.” • “I weigh 20 pounds less than I used to.” Note, however, that we can’t use less before these kinds of nouns: ✖ “We have less $20,000.” (incorrect) ✖ “I ran less 10 miles.” (incorrect) Less is also used with countable nouns in the construction one less _____, as in: • “That is one less problem to worry about.” Fewer can also be used (albeit less commonly), but the construction usually changes to one ______ fewer, as in: • “That is one problem fewer to worry about.” 42 Rule or non-rule? It is important to note that many grammar guides dispute the necessity of this supposed “rule,” referencing that it was in fact implemented as a stylistic preference by the 1770 grammarian Robert Baker, and that fewer and less had been used interchangeably for countable and uncountable nouns for hundreds of years before that. Specifically, it is considered by some as acceptable to use less with countable nouns, especially in informal or colloquial writing and speech. As long as the sentence does not sound awkward, it is probably safe to do so. However, many still regard the fewer vs. less rule as indisputable, so it is recommended to adhere to the rule for professional, formal, or academic writing. Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which article can be used with uncountable nouns? a) a b) an c) the d) A & B 2. What verb form is generally used with uncountable nouns? a) singular b) plural c) singular in the past tense only d) plural in the past tense only 3. Which of the following is an uncountable noun? a) person b) friend c) intelligent d) news 4. Which of the following is not an uncountable noun? a) love 43 b) piece c) wood d) water 5. Which of the following sentences is correct? a) “We are waiting for a news.” b) “You can never have too many love.” c) “These homeworks are very hard.” d) “Could I have less water, please?” Collective Nouns Definition Collective nouns are nouns that refer to a collection or group of multiple people, animals, or things. However, even though collective nouns refer to multiple individuals, they still usually function as singular nouns in a sentence. This is because they still are technically referring to one thing: the group as a whole. Here are some examples of collective nouns: group – A group is a single unit that is made up of a number of individuals, whether people or things. collection – A collection is a single unit that typically consists of many similar things organized together, such as paintings. tribe – A tribe is a single unit that is made up of a group of tribe members. fleet – A fleet is a single unit that is made up of several vehicles or vessels, such as ships. band – A band is a single unit that consists of a number of different musicians. Collective nouns are used in sentences to refer to a group of people, animals, or things. Here are some examples of collective nouns being used in sentences: • “The flock of birds flew south for the winter.” • “The organization voted to revoke the rules that it had previously approved.” • “The set of tablecloths had disappeared. ” 44 Similarity to plural nouns Collective nouns are very similar to plural nouns. Plural nouns are nouns that refer to multiple people, places, or things, and they primarily (but not always) end in “-s,” “-es,” or “-ies.” They are derived from singular nouns, and so are truly plural in form and function. For example, the following words are all plural nouns: dogs cities tables oceans sleds Both plural nouns and collective nouns can refer to multiple things. The difference is that collective nouns refer to a group of individuals in a single unit, whereas plural nouns refer to multiple individuals. To understand the difference, consider the following sentence: • “The musicians played the song beautifully.” This sentence contains the plural noun musicians. This word lets the reader know that there are multiple musicians who played the song beautifully. However, consider the following sentence: • “The orchestra played the song beautifully.” This sentence contains the collective noun orchestra. This word lets the reader know that there is a group of musicians that played the song beautifully. However, it also lets the reader know that the multiple musicians are arranged into a single group. The plural noun musicians in the first sentence does not do that. Here are two more examples: • “The soldiers marched very swiftly.” (plural noun) • “The platoon marched very swiftly.” (collective noun) As in the previous examples, both soldiers and platoon indicate multiple people. However, only platoon lets the reader know that the soldiers are organized into a collective unit. Singular vs. Plural Use 45 Collective nouns usually function as singular nouns in a sentence, but they are occasionally used as plurals, too. Whether they are used in a singular or plural manner can impact which verbs and pronouns should be associated with the word. The way we determine in which manner the collective noun should be used is to consider whether the members of the collective noun are being regarded as a single, whole unit, or as multiple individuals. If they are functioning as a whole, then you use singular verb tenses and pronouns; if they are acting individually, then you use plural verb tenses and pronouns. For example, the following sentence demonstrates singular use of a collective noun: • “The offense hopes to score a touchdown on its next play.” Here, the collective noun offense refers to the members of the team’s offensive unit functioning as a whole; therefore, it acts as a singular noun in the sentence. As a result, the verb hopes and the pronoun its are also singular. Compare this to the next sentence, which demonstrates plural use of a collective noun: • “The jury eat their lunches before they deliberate.” In this sentence, the collective noun, jury, refers to the jury members acting individually. As a result, jury functions as a plural noun in the sentence. This means that the plural pronouns they and their are used, as is the plural form of the verb eat. Finally, it is worth noting that in British English, it is more common for collective nouns to function as plurals in all instances. Plural-only collective nouns Certain collective nouns can only be plural, such as “police.” For example: ✖ “The police is investigating the matter.” (incorrect) ✔ “The police are investigating the matter.” (correct) However, we can make the noun countable by adding more information to the sentence. If we want to specify a single member of the police, we could say: • “A police officer is investigating the matter.” 46 Here are some other examples of collective nouns that can only be plural: people children poultry vermin cattle Collective Nouns and Animals In the English language, there are many different types of collective nouns that refer to different groupings of animals. There are hundreds of different collective nouns used to describe animal group names, but here are a few common ones: flock of birds pod of whales pack of wolves pride of lions gaggle of geese band of coyotes gatling of woodpeckers huddle of penguins mob of kangaroos school of fish Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which of the following words is a collective noun? a) birds b) berries c) cake d) team 2. Which word is the collective noun in the following sentence? “The herd moved north over the mountains.” a) moved 47 b) north c) herd d) mountains 3. Which of the following is not a collective noun? a) ships b) group c) committee d) government 4. A collective noun is usually _______ in a sentence. a) plural b) singular c) Neither d) A & B 5. Which of the following is a collective noun that refers to a group of animals? a) book b) snow c) flock d) sky Compound Nouns Definition A compound noun is a noun consisting of two or more words working together as a single unit to name a person, place, or thing. Compound nouns are usually made up of two nouns or an adjective and a noun, but other combinations are also possible, as well. Generally, the first word in the compound noun tells us what kind of person or thing it is or what purpose he, she, or it serves, while the second word defines the person or object, telling us who or what it is. For example: • water + bottle = water bottle (a bottle used for water) • dining + room = dining room (a room used for dining) 48 • back + pack = backpack (a pack you wear on your back) • police + man = policeman (a police officer who is a man) Like other nouns, compound nouns can be modified by other adjectives. For example: • “I need to buy a large water bottle.” • “That’s a beautiful dining room.” • “My old backpack is still my favorite.” • “A lone policeman foiled the attempted robbery.” You can recognize compound nouns because the meaning of the two words put together is different than the meaning of the words separately. For example, water and bottle have their own separate meanings, but when we use them together they mean a particular type of bottle that we drink water from. Forming compound nouns As mentioned, compound nouns are formed by combining two or more words, with the most common combinations being noun + noun or adjective + noun. However, combinations using other parts of speech are also possible. Below are the various combinations used to create compound nouns. Noun + noun There are a great number of compound nouns formed using the noun + noun combination. For example: • backpack • bathroom • bathtub • bedroom • bus stop • fish tank • football • handbag • motorcycle • shopkeeper • tablecloth • toothpaste 49 • wallpaper • water bottle • website • wristwatch Adjective + noun There are also many compound nouns that are formed using the adjective + noun combination. For example: • full moon • blackberry • blackbird • blackboard • cell(ular) phone • mobile phone • hardware • highway • greenhouse • redhead • six-pack • small talk • software • whiteboard Other combinations Although the noun + noun and adjective + noun combinations are the most common, there are also plenty of other possibilities for forming compound nouns. For example: Combination Examples noun + verb haircut, rainfall, sunrise, sunset noun + preposition hanger-on, passerby noun prepositional phrase brother-in-law, mother-in-law noun + adjective + cupful, spoonful 50 verb + noun breakfast, washing machine, pickpocket, swimming pool preposition + noun bystander, upstairs verb + preposition check-in, checkout/check-out, lookout, makeup adjective + verb dry cleaning, public speaking preposition + verb input, output, overthrow, upturn influx, onlooker, runway, underpants, drawback, Writing compound nouns Compound nouns are very common, both in written and spoken English, and there are spelling, punctuation, and pronunciation norms that we must be aware of if we want to use them correctly. The three written compound nouns forms of Writing compound nouns is a bit complicated due to the fact that they can take three different forms. First, open compound nouns (or spaced compound nouns) are those that are written as two separate words, such as washing machine, swimming pool, and water bottle. Second, there are hyphenated compound nouns, as in check-in, hangeron, and mother-in-law. Third, there are closed compound nouns (or solid compound nouns) —those that are written as one word, such as rainfall, drawback, and toothpaste. Unfortunately, there aren’t any rules that tell us which of the three forms is acceptable for a particular compound noun. Some compound nouns are commonly written in two forms, as in website / web site or checkout / checkout, while others, such as bus stop, are strictly used in one form. Where more than one is possible, the form that is more commonly used may depend on the variety of English (American English vs. British English, for example), 51 the style guide of a publication, or the personal preference of the writer. If you’re not sure which of the three forms to use, it’s important to check a good, up-to-date dictionary. If you are relying on the spellchecker in a word processor, remember that this has its limits. For example, spellcheck is good for checking whether a particular compound noun can be written as one word (closed); however, if we write a compound noun as two words (open) and it should be written as one word (closed), or if we write it with a hyphen and it should be written without a hyphen, spellcheck will not catch the mistakes. Finally, remember that, no matter which way the compound noun is written, it always functions grammatically as a single unit. Pluralizing compound nouns We usually pluralize a compound noun by adding an “-s” or “-es” to the main word, or the defining word, of the compound noun. This is usually the second word, but not always. For example: Singular Plural bedroom bedrooms football footballs water bottle water bottles full moon full moons BUT Singular Plural secretary general secretaries general mother-in-law mothers-in-law passerby / passer-by passersby / passers-by When it’s not obvious which of the words is the defining word, we pluralize the end of it. For example: Singular Plural 52 haircut haircuts check-in check-in checkout / check-out checkouts / check-outs upturn upturns Pronouncing compound nouns In general, compound nouns are pronounced with the emphasis on the first part of the word. For example: BEDroom BLACKbird CHECK-in GREENhouse MAKEup WATER bottle Pronouncing compound nouns in this way helps us distinguish words that form a compound noun like blackbird and greenhouse from other instances when the same words would appear together, as in: “Look at that beautiful black bird,” or “I like that green house on the corner.” Although we normally stress the first word in a compound noun, there are certain exceptions to this pattern. For example, we disregard this rule when pronouncing compound nouns that include titles or proper nouns, as in Secretary GENeral and Mount RUSHmore. If in doubt, you can use a good dictionary to determine which syllable should be emphasized. Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Compound nouns are made up of ________ words. a) two or more b) two c) many d) one or two 53 2. Closed compound nouns are written ________. a) as two words b) as one word c) with a hyphen d) with a comma 3. Which of the following sentences does not contain a compound noun? a) “Did you see that noisy blackbird?” b) “Let’s go eat breakfast.” c) “I’d love to live in a green house with a red door.” d) “Would you like to see my new swimming pool?” 4. Which of the following compound nouns is written incorrectly? a) spoonful b) tablecloth c) hangeron d) passerby 5. If capital letters show emphasis in pronunciation, which word is pronounced incorrectly? a) attorney GENeral b) PASSERby c) BACKpack d) PRIME minister Nominalization (Creating Nouns) Definition Nominalization refers to the creation of a noun from verbs or adjectives. Most of the time, nouns are created from other parts of speech through the use of suffixes. In other cases, the word remains the same but is simply used a different way; this is known as conversion or zero derivation. Suffixes 54 Suffixes are certain groupings of letters that can be attached to the end of words to change their meaning. Most verbs and adjectives that become nouns are changed using suffixes. (Be aware, however, that the examples below only show some of the common ways of using suffixes to change verbs and adjectives to nouns; they are not all concrete rules, and the lists of possible suffixes are not exhaustive ones. The best way to learn the spellings of such nouns is by using a good dictionary, or by encountering them in everyday speech and writing.) Verbs There are certain patterns that we follow to decide which suffix is needed in order to create a noun from a verb. Gerunds The most straightforward way of turning a verb into a noun is through the use of gerunds. These are made by adding the suffix “-ing” to the end of the verb. For example: • “Walking is very pleasant.” • “I enjoy reading.” • “Listening is an important aspect of any relationship.” • “My sleeping has been very disrupted lately.” • “Baking is my favorite pastime.” • “I hate running.” Note that if the gerund takes any additional information, such as an object, adverb, or prepositional phrase, then this entire group of words (known as a gerund phrase) acts as a noun. To learn more about gerunds and gerund phrases, go to the section on Gerunds in the chapter about Other Parts of Speech. Nouns of agency and profession When we turn a verb into a noun to represent someone (or occasionally something) who is an agent of that action, or who performs the action in a professional capacity, we typically use the suffixes “-or,” “-er,” or “-r.” For example: 55 • “My fiancée is an actor.” (Someone who acts.) • “I’m training to be a teacher.” (Someone who teaches.) • “The writer is very well known.” (Someone who writes.) • “The company is a major employer in the area.” (Something that employs people.) • “The projector was broken today.” (Something that projects.) Nouns of recipience For verbs that become nouns to represent someone who is the recipient of an action, we often use the suffix “-ee.” Perhaps the most common example of this in modern English is employee (someone who others employ), as in: • “The employee is disputing his wages.” Other examples include: • “The bank must approve you as the payee.” (Someone who is paid.) • “There is one more interviewee waiting to be seen.” (Someone who is interviewed.) Nouns of general action We can use a variety of different suffixes to describe an action in general. The most common of these are “-tion,” “-sion,” “-ance,” “-ment,” and “-ence”; in some instances, we change the ending of the verb slightly in order to take the suffix. For example: • “His acceptance of the position was received warmly.” (The verb accept becomes the noun acceptance.) • “Thank you for the invitation!” (The verb invite becomes the noun invitation.) • “In conclusion, we should see a spike in profits soon.” (The verb conclude becomes the noun conclusion.) • “Government must derive from the will of the population.” (The verb govern becomes the noun government; the verb populate becomes the noun population.)) 56 • “Attendance is at an all-time low.” (The verb attend becomes the noun attendance.) • “I was surprised by my enjoyment of the play.” (The verb enjoy becomes the noun enjoyment.) • “Use the textbook as your reference if you’re confused.” (The verb refer becomes the noun reference.) Some other suffixes that work in this way are “-al” and “-ure,” as in: • “Failure to find a solution is not an option.” (The verb fail becomes the noun failure.) • “The review will include a quick perusal of your work.” (The verb peruse becomes the noun perusal.) Adjectives We change adjectives into nouns when we want to speak of them as general ideas or concepts. Adjectives can take a variety of different suffixes, depending on how they are spelled. “-ness” We often use the suffix “-ness” for many adjectives. Most of the time, we can simply add the suffix on to the end of the adjective without making any changes to its spelling. For example: • “The hardness of diamond makes it a great cutting tool.” (The adjective hard becomes the noun hardness.) • “The child’s meekness is quite sweet.” (The adjective meek becomes the noun meekness.) • “His gruffness is not appreciated.” (The adjective gruff becomes the noun gruffness.) • “I don’t care for the roughness of my hands.” (The adjective rough becomes the noun roughness.) • “I don’t think you understand the seriousness of the situation.” (The adjective serious becomes the noun seriousness.) • “Please don’t underestimate my gratefulness.” (The adjective grateful becomes the noun gratefulness.) However, when we use this suffix with an adjective ending in “-y,” we change 57 “y” to “i”: • “We’re waiting for some steadiness in the market.” (The adjective steady becomes the noun steadiness.) • “The teacher puts her students’ happiness above all else.” (The adjective happy becomes the noun happiness.) Some adjectives ending in a “-t” preceded by a long vowel sound can take this suffix as well: • “Her greatness is without question.” (The adjective great becomes the noun greatness.) • “The flatness of the Earth was disproven long ago.” (The adjective flat becomes the noun flatness.) “-y” Other adjectives that end in a “-t” preceded by a consonant will take the suffix “-y” to become nouns. For example: • “This project will be fraught with difficulty.” (The adjective difficult becomes the noun difficulty.) • “That’s enough of your modesty.” (The adjective modest becomes the noun modesty.) • “Honesty is a very important virtue.” (The adjective honest becomes the noun honesty.) “-ity” When adjectives end in “-e,” they often take the suffix “-ity” to become nouns. However, there is often a change to the spelling of the word. Usually, we simply drop “e” and replace it with “-ity,” as in: • “There is a scarcity of food in the city.” (The adjective scarce becomes the noun scarcity.) • “Kindness is a rarity in this world.” (The adjective rare becomes the noun rarity.) When the word ends in “ble,” though, we have to change “le” to “il,” as in: • “This project is your responsibility.” (The adjective responsible becomes the noun responsibility.) 58 • “I have no question of your ability.” (The adjective able becomes the noun ability.) Uniquely, we also use the “-ity” suffix to change the adjective hilarious to hilarity, even though other adjectives with similar endings (such as serious, grievous, callous, etc.) take the suffix “-ness.” “-ance” and “-ence” We often use the suffix “-ance” for adjectives ending in “-ant,” as in: • “This is of the utmost importance.” (The adjective important becomes the noun importance.) • “Your ignorance is astounding.” (The adjective ignorant becomes the noun ignorance.) We often use the suffix “-ence” for adjectives ending in “-ent,” as in: • “We demand greater independence.” (The adjective independent becomes the noun independence.) • “Silence is expected during tests.” (The adjective silent becomes the noun silence.) Conversion When we use a verb or adjective as a noun without changing its spelling in any way, it is called conversion or zero derivation. Verbs Conversion is especially common with verbs, and there are many instances where the same word may function as a verb or a noun, depending on the context. For example: • “Please answer the phone, Tom.” (verb) • “We’ll need an answer by tomorrow.” (noun) • “I run each morning before breakfast.” (verb) • “I’m going for a run later today.” (noun) • “Meteorologists are forecasting a snowstorm overnight.” (verb) • “The forecast said there would be rain in the afternoon.” (noun) Less commonly, there are instances in which, instead of changing a word’s 59 spelling, we change where we pronounce a stress on the word’s syllables to indicate a shift from a verb to a noun; this change is known as a suprafix. Let’s look at some examples (with the stressed syllable underlined): • “You need to convert pounds into kilograms.” (verb) • “The church always welcomes recent converts to its meetings.” (noun) • “Make sure you record the meeting so we can review it later.” (verb) • “I love listening to old records.” (noun) • “Please don’t insult my intelligence.” (verb) • “We will not forget this insult to our company.” (noun) The word use can also function as either a noun or a verb, but instead of changing the stress on a syllable, we change the actual pronunciation of the word, as in: • “We plan to use a diagnostic test to evaluate the problem.” (verb—use is pronounced “yooz”) • “There is only one use for this tool.” (noun—use is pronounced “yuce”) Nominal adjectives We can also convert adjectives into nouns without changing spelling, but we generally do so by adding the article the before the word. These are known as nominal adjectives. For example: • “The wealthy have an obligation to help the poor.” • “We all want the best for her.” • “This law protects the innocent.” To learn more about how and when these are used, go to the section about Nominal Adjectives in the chapter on Adjectives. Infinitives Lastly, verbs can serve the function of nouns by being used in their infinitive form—that is, the base form of the verb with the particle to. Infinitives are not technically an example of nominalization, because they can also act as adjectives and adverbs, but it’s worth looking at how they work when they function as nouns. For example: As the subject of a clause 60 • “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” • “To study mathematics at Harvard was her ultimate dream.” • “To live in the city means adjusting to a completely different lifestyle.” As the object of a verb • “I’m not going unless you agree to go with me.” • “You appear to be correct.” • “Please be quiet; I’m trying to study.” As an object complement (An object complement is a word or group of words that describe, rename, or complete the direct object of the verb.) • “I don’t expect you to approve of my decision.” • “She’s forcing me to work through the weekend.” • “We need you to make a few more copies.” Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which of the following is used to change the spelling of a verb or adjective that is made into a noun? a) prefixes b) suffixes c) infixes d) circumfixes 2. What is the name for nominalization in which the spelling of the verb or adjective does not change? a) inversion b) conscription c) conversion d) elision 3. Which of the following suffixes is commonly used to change a verb to a noun to reflect agency or profession? 61 a) “-or” b) “-ing” c) “-ance” d) “-ence” 4. Which of the following nominalized verbs (in bold) is a gerund? a) “Adherence to the rules is expected of all students.” b) “We weren’t expecting her refusal of our offer.” c) “Winning isn’t everything, you know.” d) “We need to hire a few more employees.” Pronouns Definition Pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns in a sentence. The noun being replaced is known as the antecedent of the pronoun. Using pronouns We commonly use pronouns in speech and writing to avoid sounding unnatural and repetitive by reusing the same noun in a sentence multiple times. Take, for example, the following sentence: • “John said that John wants to use the computer that belongs to John.” The sentence is awkward because John is repeated so many times. Instead, we can use personal pronouns to stand in for the name of the antecedent to make the sentence sound more natural, as in: • “John said that he wants to use the computer that belongs to him.” In addition to making the sentence sound better, the pronouns provide specific information, telling us that John is in the third person. If the sentence were in the first person, it would read: • “I said that I want to use the computer that belongs to me.” (We never use our own names when we talk about what we’re doing in the first person, so we use the personal pronoun I instead of an antecedent.) As we can see in the examples above, the pronouns are all serving the same function as nouns. They can be the subject of a sentence or clause, the 62 object of a verb, or they can follow linking verbs to rename or re-identify the subject (known as a subject complement). Categories of Pronouns There is a wide range of different categories of pronouns that we use in everyday speech and writing. Each kind of pronoun has a unique function in a sentence; many pronouns belong to multiple categories, and can serve different purposes depending on the context. We’ll briefly summarize these categories below, but you can continue on into the chapter to learn more about each. Personal Pronouns Personal pronouns, which we looked at briefly above, are used to represent people in a sentence. Unique among pronouns, personal pronouns experience a wide range of inflection, meaning they change form to reflect specific meaning in different contexts. We already saw in the example above how personal pronouns can inflect according to grammatical person (first person, second person, or third person), but they also change to reflect grammatical number (singular or plural), gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter), and case (subjective, objective, or possessive). Go to each of the sub-sections of personal pronouns to learn more about all their different forms. Reflexive Pronouns Reflexive pronouns are very similar in style and form to personal pronouns—so similar, in fact, that they are listed as a sub-group of personal pronouns in this guide. (They are technically not personal pronouns, but their use and the way they are formed are so similar that it is useful seeing them in direct comparison to personal pronouns.) We use reflexive pronouns when the subject of a clause is also the object of the clause’s verb. This occurs with certain reflexive verbs. They are formed by adding “-self” (singular) or “-selves” (plural) to the end of my, your, our, him, her, it or them (as well as the indefinite pronoun one). For example: • “I saw myself in the mirror.” 63 • “She imagined herself on a tropical beach.” • “They consider themselves to be above the law.” • “One should not concern oneself with the business of others.” Intensive Pronouns Intensive pronouns are identical to reflexive pronouns in form, but, instead of functioning as the object of a verb, they serve to emphasize or reiterate the subject’s role in the verb’s action. For instance: • “I checked over these documents myself.” • “The president himself will be in attendance.” Indefinite Pronouns We use indefinite pronouns in place of a noun that is not being specified in the sentence. There are many different indefinite pronouns; which one we use depends on whether we are representing a noun that is a person or thing, and whether that noun is singular or plural. Some common examples include: • “Is everyone here?” • “I hope all is going well.” • “Whatever you decide is fine with me.” • “Many are coming to the show tonight.” Demonstrative Pronouns Demonstrative pronouns are used to indicate specific people or things and indicate whether they are a) singular or plural and b) near or not near to the speaker. The most common are this, that, these, and those. For example: • “This isn’t mine.” (singular, nearby) • “Give me that.” (singular, not near) • “These are really gross.” (plural, nearby) • “I forgot to bring those.” (plural, not near) Interrogative Pronouns 64 Interrogative pronouns are used to ask questions, functioning either as the subject or object of such sentences. There are five primary interrogative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, and what. • “Who is coming to the party tonight?” (subject) • “So, which will it be: $10,000, or a new sports car?” (object) • “Could you tell me whose these are?” (subject) • “Do you know what we’re doing here?” (object) Relative Pronouns Relative pronouns are used to connect relative clauses (also known as adjective clauses) to the main clause in a sentence. Relative clauses either help clarify the antecedent with essential information (in which case they are known as restrictive clauses), or else give extra, nonessential information about it (in which case they are known as non-restrictive clauses). In a relative clause, the relative pronoun functions in one of three ways: as the subject of the clause, as the object of the clause’s verb, or as a possessive determiner. For example: • “There’s the woman who always sits next to me on the bus.” (restrictive clause; who functions as the subject) • “The book that I wrote is being published in January.” (restrictive clause; that functions as the object of wrote) • “The escaped giraffe, which had been on the loose for weeks, was finally captured.” (non-restrictive clause; which functions as the subject) • “The person, whose name can’t be revealed, appeared in court today.” (non-restrictive clause; whose functions as a possessive determiner, modifying name) Reciprocal pronouns We use reciprocal pronouns when two or more people both act as the subject of a verb, and both (or all) individually and equally receive the verb’s action. They can be the object of either the verb itself or a preposition used to complete the verb’s meaning. There are two reciprocal pronouns—each other (traditionally used for two people) and one another (traditionally used for more than two people). For 65 example: • “Jake and I call each other every day.” • “My neighbors and I spent a lot of time at each other’s houses when we were kids.” Dummy Pronouns “Dummy” pronouns (more technically known as expletive pronouns) are words that function grammatically as pronouns but do not have antecedents—that is, they do not replace a noun, phrase, or clause. They refer to nothing in particular, instead helping the sentence to function properly in a grammatical context. There are two dummy pronouns, there and it. • “There is a ship in the harbor.” • “There were flowers in the meadow.” • “It looks like it may snow tonight.” • “Could you tell me what time it is?” Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. What is the term for a noun that is replaced by a pronoun? a) Remnant b) Descendent c) Antecedent d) Precedent 2. Which of the following pronouns are used when a subject is also the object of the same verb? a) Reflexive pronouns b) Relative pronouns c) Personal pronouns d) Demonstrative pronouns 3. Which of the following pronouns are used to indicate the nearness and number of a specific noun? 66 a) Reflexive pronouns b) Relative pronouns c) Personal pronouns d) Demonstrative pronouns 4. Pronouns have the same grammatical function as _______ in a sentence. a) Nouns b) Adjectives c) Adverbs d) Prepositions 5. Identify the type of pronoun (in bold) used in the following sentence: “Let me know if you need anything.” a) Reciprocal pronoun b) Interrogative pronoun c) Indefinite pronoun d) Dummy pronoun Personal pronouns Definition A personal pronoun is a pronoun (a word that functions as and acts as a substitute for a noun or nouns) that represents a grammatical person within a sentence. While personal pronouns often do indicate an actual person, they can also refer to animals, inanimate objects, or even intangible concepts. For instance, the word they in the previous sentence is a plural third-person neuter (gender neutral) pronoun representing the words “personal pronouns” as a grammatical person. Here are some other examples: • “As soon as John comes home, I am going to give him back his hat.” • “My team lost again. We really stink this year!” • “He spoke to the boss yesterday and already got her approval.” Which personal pronoun is used in each instance varies depending on four grammatical elements: number (singular or plural), person (first, second, or third person), gender (male, female, or neuter/neutral), and case (subjective, objective, or possessive). This shifting of form is called 67 inflection. Quite often, the inflection of a personal pronoun will change within the same sentence. There is also a different kind of pronoun called a reflexive pronoun, which is used when the subject of a verb is also the object (receiving the action) of the same verb. For example: • “He looked at himself in the mirror before he left.” • “I hurt myself on the playground today.” Although not technically considered personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns are so similar in form and use that they have been included in this section. We will examine each of these grammatical elements in relation to personal pronouns more in-depth in the sub-sections of this chapter, but here is a quick breakdown of all the personal pronouns and their different inflections. Subjective Objective Possessi Case Case Determi Person Number Gender First Person Singular Masculine/feminine I Me My First Person Plural Masculine/feminine We Us Our Second Singular/Plural Masculine/feminine You Person You Your Third Person Singular Feminine She Her Her Third Person Singular Masculine He Him His Third person Singular Neuter It It Its Third person Plural* Neuter Neutral) They Them Their (Gender (*See the usage note under “Gender” for information about using they as a singular pronoun.) 68 Personal Pronouns - Number Definition Grammatical number in English simply means whether something or someone is singular or plural—that is, is there one of something or someone (singular), or are there more than one (plural)? This is answered by the pronoun’s antecedent (the word, phrase, clause, etc., that indicates what pronoun should be used, and in what form). For nouns, we usually just add an “-s” to the end of the word to signify that it is plural (though there are many exceptions to this). Personal pronouns, however, have specific inflections (different forms of the word) depending on whether they are singular or plural. For the most part, only the firstperson and third-person personal pronouns have plural forms. The only plural second-person pronoun is the reflexive pronoun yourselves. For second-person pronouns that don’t inflect for number, you sometimes have to use information from another part of the sentence or paragraph to determine if it is plural or singular. (See the examples below.) Unfortunately, there is no rule to how personal pronouns change when they become plural; you simply have to memorize them. Refer to the table in the chapter overview to learn them. Examples: • “I (first-person singular) am meeting my (first-person singular) writing club this afternoon. We (first-person plural)always meet on Wednesdays after class.” • “I (first-person singular) really envy you (second-person singular)!” • “They (third-person plural) can’t tell you (second-person plural) what it will be like; you (second-person plural) will just have to find out for yourselves (second-person plural reflexive).” • “The main reason Martha is so beautiful is because she (third-person feminine singular) is so tall.” Quiz (answers start on page 610) 69 1. Which personal pronouns can be inflected for number? (Choose the answer that is most correct.) a) All of them b) First-person and third-person pronouns c) Reflexive pronouns d) Second-person pronouns e) B & C 2. Which of the following sentences has at least one pronoun that is plural? (Choose the answer that is most correct.) a) “I told you that I needed it done by yesterday, Jeff.” b) “She went for a walk by herself.” c) “Don’t take your sister’s toys, or you will make her cry.” d) “I asked all of you here so we could discuss the state of the business.” 3. Which of the following is the plural form of the second-person reflexive pronoun? a) yourselves b) itselves c) themselves d) ourselves 4. What is the plural form of the first-person possessive pronoun mine? a) our b) my c) ours d) theirs 70 Personal Pronouns - Person (First person, Second person, Third person) Definition Grammatical person refers to the perspectives of the personal pronouns used to identify a person in speech and text—that is, it distinguishes between a speaker (first person), an addressee (second person), and others beyond that (third person). First person • Singular: I, me, my, mine, myself • Plural: we, us, our, ours, ourselves First-person pronouns are used to express an autobiographical point of view —they tell what is directly happening to the speaker, writer, or fictional character. For example: • “I don’t know where my hat is!” • “Janet is meeting me in town later.” • “Hey, that book is mine! I bought it!” When the speaker is part of a group, the first-person pronouns inflect to the plural form: • “We brought our own car.” • “They told us to help ourselves.” Second person • Singular/Plural: you, you, your, yours, yourself (singular), yourselves (plural) We use the second-person pronouns to indicate those who are being addressed directly by the speaker. Unlike first-person pronouns, there is not a distinction between singular and plural second-person pronouns (except in 71 the reflexive form). Here are some examples: • “Bill, I was wondering if you could help me with the dishes?” (second person singular) • “Children, where are your manners?” (second person plural) • “You really must learn to help yourself.” (second person singular) • “I’m sick of cleaning up after all of you; from now on, you can clean up after yourselves!” (second person plural) Usage note: Generic “you” The second-person pronouns are also often used to indicate an unspecified person. This is sometimes referred to as generic you, impersonal you, or indefinite you. This is less formal than its counterpart, the pronoun one, but it is sometimes preferred because it does not sound as snobbish or unnecessarily formal. If one is writing something very formal or professional, then one might be better off using the generic pronoun one. If you’re writing something a bit less formal, then you are probably just fine using the generic pronoun you. Third person Third person is used to talk about someone or something that is not the speaker and is not being directly addressed. This is most widely used in fiction writing. When the person or thing is singular, the pronouns used in the third person are the different forms of she, he, and it: • Feminine singular: she, her, hers, herself • Masculine singular: he, him, his, himself • Neuter singular: it, its, its own, itself However, when there are multiple people or things, we use the ungendered forms of they: • Third person plural: they, them, their, theirs, themselves Sometimes, when a single person of an unknown gender is being discussed, the third-person plural forms (they, them, etc.) are used as a gender-neutral alternative to the third-person feminine/masculine forms. To learn more about this, please see the Usage Note about “Singular they” under the chapter section explaining gender in personal pronouns. 72 Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which perspective of grammatical person is used for someone being addressed directly by the speaker? a) First person b) Second person c) Third person d) Third-person plural 2. Which of the following sentences uses a first-person plural pronoun? a) “John said that I should be more careful with my writing.” b) “They are not happy with your sales this quarter.” c) “I’m not sure that he knows what they’re doing.” d) “She doesn’t think that we should be paying that much.” 3. Who or what would be represented by third-person pronouns in a sentence? a) A person or thing who is not being directly addressed by someone b) A person or thing who is being directly addressed by someone c) A person who is directly addressing someone or something d) A person who is speaking about someone or something who is not present 4. Which perspective (or perspectives) of grammatical person are being used in the following sentence? “When we were young, my father often told us that he didn’t have as many luxuries growing up.” a) First person b) Second person c) Third person d) Both first and third person e) Both second and third person f) First, second, and third person Personal Pronouns - Gender 73 Definition Modern English is largely an ungendered language. Whereas other languages might have masculine and feminine forms for nouns depending on the verbs, articles, or adjectives they are used with, English nouns by and large remain neutral. However, a personal pronoun can be inflected for gender to correspond to the gender of the person (and, in some cases, an animal) it represents. Personal pronouns are only inflected for gender when they are in the third person and singular—first-person and second-person pronouns (singular or plural) and third-person plural pronouns* remain gender neutral. Here are the gendered pronouns in English: • Third-person feminine singular: she, her, hers, herself • Third-person masculine singular: he, him, his, himself The third-person singular can also be neuter. This is used when a personal pronoun represents a thing or an animal. Animals can sometimes take gendered personal pronouns if they are pets or domesticated animals; otherwise, they take the third-person neuter form: • Third-person neuter singular: it, its, its own, itself Remember, when there are multiple people or things, we use the ungendered forms of they*: • Third person plural: they, them, their, theirs, themselves Examples • “I really love Jenny. She is my best friend.” • “Danny said that he would lend me his jacket for tonight.” • “Look at that cute dog wagging his tail!” • “Bill and Samantha told me they were coming over later.” • “You should not try to control love, but rather be guided by it.” • “I’ve got the report for you. I’ll just set it on your desk.” • “The horse galloped by, its hooves pounding the ground violently.” • “The parade floats are spectacular! I love watching them go down the street.” 74 Countries and ships Countries and vehicles, especially ships or boats, will sometimes be given a feminine form when spoken of in the third person. For example: • “The SS Freedom is a good ship. She has certainly seen her fair share of adventure.” • “The Prime Minister promised that the United Kingdom would be returned to her former glory during his term.” This is a more traditional usage; it is less common these days, and by no means necessary. Some style guides go so far as to discourage its use. *Usage Note: “Singular they” English does not have a way of identifying a single person with a pronoun if his or her gender is not known, so sometimes the third-person plural forms (they, them, etc.) are used as a gender-neutral alternative to the third-person feminine/masculine forms. This is sometimes called “singular they.” For example: • “You shouldn’t judge someone until you know what they are really like.” • “If anyone needs extra help with their studies, they should feel free to see me after class.” “Singular they” is gradually becoming accepted as the norm, especially in instances with indefinite pronouns that sound plural but are grammatically singular (like anyone in the example above). However, it is still considered incorrect by many writers and writing guides, especially in American English. Previously, it was standard practice to simply use the masculine third-person singular forms (he, him, his, himself), but this is now seen as being potentially sexist. Likewise, using only the feminine third-person singular would be exclusionary, and mixing him and her throughout a piece of writing would be confusing. Therefore, in formal or professional writing, the best form to use is “he or she” or “him or her,” or else simply to rewrite the sentence to avoid sounding cluttered or awkward. In informal writing or speech, though, using “singular they” is generally OK. 75 Quiz (answers start on page 610) 1. Which of the following is an appropriate third-person plural pronoun to use when talking about more than one girl or woman? a) Hers b) Herselves c) They d) We 2. With what non-human things is it sometimes considered acceptable to use a gendered pronoun? a) A ship or boat b) A country c) A pet or domestic animal d) All of the above e) None of the above 3. Which of the following sentences uses the informal “singular they”? a) “I asked them if they would like to join us for lunch.” b) “When a child asks you a question, you should always strive to answer them truthfully.” c) “Don’t pay any attention to them; that group is always bullying freshmen.” d) “John and Daniel said they would look after the kids tonight.” 4. When is an animal most commonly given a gendered pronoun? (Select the answer that is most correct.) a) Never b) If it is a wild animal c) If there is only one d) If it is a pet or domestic animal e) C & D 5. In what instance can a third-person neuter singular pronoun be used with a person? a) If his or her gender is not known or specified b) If there is more than one person 76 c) Never d) A & B e) Always Personal Pronouns - Case Definition The English language has largely discarded its case system, which is the manner by which a noun is inflected depending on its grammatical function as a subject or object in a sentence. English largely uses prepositions to accomplish this now, but personal pronouns are one part of English in which the case system is still active, being inflected depending on whether they function as a subject, object, possessive determiner, or possessive pronoun. Subjective Case When a personal pronoun is acting as the subject of a verb (that is, it is the person or thing doing the action), it is said to be in the subjective case. For instance: • “I know that she said that.” (Both pronouns are subjective, as both are agents of their respective actions.) • “He told her to be quiet.” (Here, only he is in the subjective case; her, the recipient or “object” of his action, is in the objective case.) Objective Case A personal pronoun is in the objective case when it is a direct or indirect object of a verb, or else if it is the object or a preposition. A direct object directly receives the action of a verb. For example: • “Please send them in straight away.” • “Take him away!” An indirect object, on the other hand, is the recipient of the direct object—it therefore indirectly receives the action of the verb via the direct object. For example: • “Please tell me any news immediately!” 77 Here, any news is acting as the direct object of the verb tell—it is the thing being told. Me, on the other hand, is looking to receive any news by means of the action of tell, making it the indirect object. • “I can’t believe he brought you flowers. How sweet!” Again, you is receiving the flowers, which is the direct object of brought. Be careful with the personal pronouns you and it, however—their subjective and objective forms are the same. Take the following sentence, for example: • “You said to give you the money as soon as I had it.” The pronouns you and I in italics are in the subjective case because they are each performing the action of their verbs. The pronouns you and it in bold are in the objective case because they are functioning as indirect and direct objects of their verbs (respectively). After Linking Complements) Verbs (Subject One confusing area is when a pronoun is a subject complement to a linking verb. For personal pronouns, this is almost always with forms of the verb be. In this situation, the personal pronoun should be in the subjective case. For example, “It was I who did this” is more correct than “It was me who did this.” It is easy to mistake it as the direct object because it seems like it is receiving the action of the verb, but linking verbs behave differently from action verbs. One way to be sure you are using the correct pronoun is to reverse the order of the verb and pronoun and see if the statement still makes sense. Let’s look again at the examples above: ✖ “It was me who did this.” (incorrect) ✔ “It was I who did this.” (correct) If you reverse the order of the verb and pronoun, you can see why the first sentence is incorrect: ✖ “Me was the one* who did this.” (incorrect) ✔ “I was the one* who did this.” (correct) (*Because in most instances we don’t refer to a person as being it in a subject complement (except maybe in a game of tag), the indefinite pronoun phrase the one is used instead to identify the speaker as the person who did 78 something.) Here are some more examples: • “Her husband took all the credit, but it was she who did all the work.” • “It was they who assured us that there would be no problems.” In many cases, it might be better to simply reword the sentence to sound less awkward. For example, “it was he who won the race” would sound better simply as “he won the race.” In conversational English, this distinction is much less frequently observed for simple sentences like our first examples, and you will often hear people using phrases such as “it’s me” or “that was her” in response to questions. But in writing (especially formal or professional writing), always use the subjective case for a personal pronoun if it is functioning as a subject complement after a linking verb. Possessive Case (Genitive Case) As the name implies, the possessive case changes the inflection of a personal pronoun to mark possession. There are two forms of personal pronouns in the possessive case: possessive determiners, and possessive pronouns. Possessive determiners function grammatically like adjectives, modifying a noun or nouns. However, they cannot function as nouns in a sentence. For example: ✔ “My dad’s glasses went missing.” (My is correctly used as a possessive determiner, modifying dad to show his relation to the speaker.) ✖ “Hey, those glasses are my!” (My is incorrectly used as a possessive pronoun; it should read “Hey, those are my glasses!” or “Hey, those glasses are mine!”) Possessive pronouns are personal pronouns in the possessive case which have the grammatical function of nouns. For example: • “I can see mine through the window!” • “You said you bought your