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An Introduction to English Grammar

An Introduction to English Grammar provides a comprehensive overview of all

aspects of English grammar. The first part of the book ('The Grammar') provides a step-by-step introduction to the key topics in English grammar. The second part ('The Applications') shows how a grasp of these topics can be helpful in resolving usage problems, in developing a clear writing style and mastering punctuation and spelling. A whole chapter, 'English in Use', is devoted to illustrating the grammatical features of a wide range of modem text types, including emails, Facebook pages and 'tweets'. It also looks at the special grammatical features of English in everyday conversation. Each chapter is followed by two sets of exercises. The first set can be used in self­ study or in the classroom. The second set deals with more advanced topics and can be used for classroom discussion or essay writing. This fourth edition has been fully revised and updated and includes: clearer descriptions and improved presentation; new material on word structure and word formation; new exercises, examples and extracts; updated further reading. Assuming no prior knowledge of English grammar, this book is ideal for beginning students on a one-term course and provides everything a student needs on the theory and practice of English usage. A comprehensive glossary of grammatical terms is included and a new companion website provides invaluable additional exercises

Gerald Nelson is Professor of English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His publications include English: An Essential Grammar, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2010) and Internet Grammar of English, Survey of English Usage, University College London (1998). The late Sidney Greenbaum was Director of the Survey of English Usage and formerly Quain Professor of English Language and Literature, University College London. He was the author of The Oxford English Grammar (1996) and co-author of several books, including Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985), University Grammar of English (1973) and The Grammar of Contemporary English


An Introduction to English Grammar Fourth Edition

Gerald Nelson Sidney Greenbaum

� � ��o���;n�f{;up LONDON AND NEW YORK

Fourth edition published 2016 By Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OXI4 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor



Francis Group, an informa business

2016 Gerald Nelson and Sidney Greenbaum

The right of Gerald Nelson and Sidney Greenbaum to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Every effort has been made to contact copyright-holders. Please advise the publisher of any errors or omissions and these will be corrected in subsequent editions.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. First edition published by Pearson Education 1999 Second edition published 2002 Third edition published 2009

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Greenbaum, Sidney, author. An introduction to English grammar


by Sidney Greenbaum and

Gerald Nelson. - Fourth Edition. pages em Includes index.


English language--Grammar. I. Nelson, Gerald, 1959- author. II. Title.

PE1112.G685 2015 428.2-dc23 2015019541 ISBN: 978-1-138-85545-8 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-85549-6 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-72031-9 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by FiSH Books Ltd, Enfield


MIX Paper from responsible sources FSC" C013056

Printed and bound in Great Britain by TJ International Ltd, Padstow, Cornwall

To Sholem and Wendy Jonathan, David, and Sima with affection


Preface to the fourth edition Introduction What is grammar? 1 Grammar and other aspects of language 1 Grammars of English 2 National varieties of English 3 Standard English and non-standard English Variation according to use 4 Descriptive rules and prescriptive rules 5 Why study grammar? 5 How this book is organized 6





The grammar 1

The parts of a simple sentence How we analyse sentences: form and function Subject, predicate, verb 10 1.2 1.3 Operator 10 Do, be and have 12 1.4 Identifying the subject 13 1.5 Grammatical features of the subject 15 1.6 Transitive verbs and direct object 16 1.7 Linking verbs and subject complement 17 1.8 Intransitive verbs and adverbials 18 1.9 1.10 Adverbial complement 19 1.11 Direct object and indirect object 19 1.12 Direct object and object complement 21 1.13 Summary: the basic sentence structures 22 1.14 The meanings of the sentence elements 24 Exercises 27 Advanced exercises 33


9 9



Contents Word classes Open and closed classes 36 2.2 Word classes and word uses 37 Nouns 38 2.3 Noun suffixes 38 2.4 Noun classes 38 2.5 Number 40 2.6 Gender 40 Case 41 2.7 Dependent and independent genitives 2.8 Main verbs 42 2.9 Verb suffixes 42 2.10 Regular verbs 43 2.11 Irregular verbs 43 Auxiliary verbs 46 2.12 Classes of auxiliaries 46 2.13 The passive auxiliary 46 2.14 The progressive auxiliary 46 2.15 The perfect auxiliary 46 2.16 Auxiliary do 47 2.17 Modal auxiliaries 47 2.18 The meanings of the modals 47 Adjectives 48 2.19 Adjective suffixes 48 2.20 Adjective classes 48 2.21 Gradability and comparison 49 Adverbs 51 2.22 Adverb suffixes 51 2.23 Gradability and comparison 51 Pronouns 51 2.24 Pronoun classes 51 2.25 Personal pronouns 53 2.26 Possessive pronouns 54 2.27 Reflexive pronouns 54 2.28 Demonstrative pronouns 55 2.29 Reciprocal pronouns 56 2.30 Interrogative pronouns 56 2.31 Relative pronouns 56 2.32 Indefinite pronouns and numerals 57 2.33 Pronoun one 58 Determiners 59 2.34 Classes of determiners 59 2.35 Pre-determiners 60 2.36 Central determiners 61 2.37 Post-determiners 61




Contents 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42


The articles and reference Conjunctions 64 Coordinating conjunctions Subordinating conjunctions Prepositions 65 Simple prepositions 65 Complex prepositions 67 Exercises 67 Advanced exercises 76


62 64 65

The structures of phrases Phrase types 78 The noun phrase 79 The structure of the noun phrase 79 3.2 3.3 Determiners 80 3.4 Modifiers 80 3.5 Relative clauses 8I 3. 6 Appositive clauses 82 3.7 Apposition 82 3.8 Coordination of noun phrases 83 3.9 Noun phrase complexity 84 3.10 Functions of noun phrases 84 The verb phrase 85 3.11 The structure of the verb phrase 85 3.12 Main verbs 86 3.13 Tense, person, and number 87 3.14 Aspect 88 3.15 Voice 89 3.16 Expressing future time 91 3.17 The ordering of auxiliaries 91 3.18 Finite and non-finite verb phrases 93 3.I9 Mood 94 3.20 Multi-word verbs 96 The adjective phrase 99 3.2I The structure of the adjective phrase 99 3.22 Functions of adjective phrases I00 The adverb phrase I02 3.23 The structure of the adverb phrase 102 3.24 Functions of adverb phrases I02 The prepositional phrase I03 3.25 The structure of the prepositional phrase 3.26 Functions ofprepositional phrases I05 Exercises I05 Advanced exercises I16







Sentences and clauses What is a sentence? 121 4.2 Irregular sentences and non-sentences 122 What is a clause? 123 4.3 4.4 Sentence types 124 4.5 Declaratives 124 4.6 Interrogatives 125 4.7 Imperatives 126 4.8 Exclamatives 127 4.9 Speech acts 127 4.10 Active and passive sentences 128 4.11 Positive and negative sentences 129 4.12 Compound sentences 130 4.13 Complex sentences and subordinate clauses 4.14 Non-finite and verbless clauses 131 4.15 Functions of subordinate clauses 133 4.16 Sentence complexity 134 4.17 There-structures 135 4.18 Cleft sentences 136 4.19 Anticipatory it 136 Exercises 137 Advanced exercises 143





The applications



1 47

Usage problems Subject-verb agreement 147 5.1 The general rules 147 5.2 And 148 5.3 Or, nor 149 5.4 With 150 Collective nouns 150 5.5 Indefinite pronouns 151 5.6 5.7 Quantity phrases 152 5.8 Singular nouns ending in -s 153 5.9 Who, which, that 153 5.10 What 154 5.11 There is, there are 154 5.12 Citations and titles 155 Case 155 5.13 Subject complement 155 5.14 Coordinated phrases 155 5.15 After as and than 156

Contents 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 5.29


Style 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15


Afterbut 156 After let 156 Who, whom 157 Case with -ing clauses 157 Auxiliaries and verbs 158 Problems with auxiliaries 158 Lie, lay 159 Present tense 159 Past and -ed participles 160 Past and were subjunctive 160 Multiple negation 161 Adjectives and adverbs 162 Confusion between adjectives and adverbs Comparison 163 Only 164 Dangling modifiers 164 Exercises 165 Advanced exercises 173



1 75

Style in writing 175 Emphasis 175 End-focus 175 Front-focus 176 There-structures and cleft sentences Parenthetic expressions 177 Clarity 177 End-weight 177 Misplaced expressions 178 Abstract nouns 180 Modifiers in noun phrases 181 Subordination 181 Parallelism 182 Repeated sounds 183 Pronoun reference 184 Consistency 185 Pronoun agreement 185 Tense consistency 185 Exercises 186 Advanced exercises 189

English in use Register variation 191 7.2 Conversational English 7.3 Unscripted monologue




191 200


Contents 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7


Sports commentary 202 English in emails and text messages 206 English in chatrooms, message boards, and tweets The language of literature 221 Exercises 232 Advanced exercises 237

Punctuation Punctuation rules 242 8.2 Sentence fragments and fragmentary sentences 8.3 Run-on sentences and comma splices 245 8.4 Coordinated main clauses 246 8.5 Direct speech 248 8.6 Citations 251 8.7 Questions 252 8.8 Restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses 8.9 Restrictive and non-restrictive apposition 254 8.10 Adverbial clauses 256 8.11 Vocatives and interjections 258 8.12 Avoiding misunderstanding 258 8.13 Genitives of nouns 258 8.14 Genitives ofpronouns 259 Exercises 260 Advanced exercises 266







Word formation and spelling The structure of words 268 9.2 Morphemes 268 9.3 Derivation and inflection 270 9.4 Compounding 272 9.5 Blending and clipping 273 9.6 Acronyms and abbreviations 274 9.7 Combining forms and back formations 274 9.8 Spelling, pronunciation, and meaning 275 9.9 Spelling variants 277 9.10 Spelling rules for short and long vowel sounds 278 9.11 Spelling rules for adding suffixes 279 9.12 Spelling rules for adding prefixes 286 9.13 Other aids to spelling 287 9.14 Homophones: words pronounced similarly 289 Exercises 294 Advanced exercises 299


Glossary Further reading Index

301 329 33 1


Preface to the fourth edition

Sidney Greenbaum's An Introduction to English Grammar was first published in 1 99 1 . Since then, I have been privileged to work on the second edition, in 2002, and the third edition, in 2009. In preparing this fourth edition, I have become aware of how well the original text has stood the test of time. The fourth edition includes a new section on word formation, which I have added to Chapter 9. I have also updated ' English in use ' (Chapter 7) by adding some examples of English from the social media networks, Facebook and Twitter. In the presentation of grammar items, I have given special attention to certain topics which - based on my own experience of teaching grammar - are often particularly difficult for students. These include adverbials and the role of the operator (Chapter 1 ), and determiners and prepositions (Chapter 2). Many of the citations and extracts used in this book have been taken from the British component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-GB). ICE-GB is a one million-word collection of samples of British English, taken from both spoken and written sources. The corpus is available from the Survey of English Usage, University College London (http :// Many of the original exercises were compiled by Professor Charles F. Meyer (University of Massachusetts-Boston) . Gerald Nelson Department of English, The Chinese University of Hong Kong 20 1 5


What is grammar? Some combinations of words are possible in English, while others are not possi­ ble. Every native speaker of English can easily judge that 'Home computers are now much cheaper' is a possible English sentence, whereas * 'Home computers now much are cheaper' is not, because they know that much is wrongly posi­ tioned in the second example. The ability to recognize such distinctions is evidence that, in some sense, native speakers already know the rules of gram­ mar, even if they have never formally studied grammar. Similarly, native speakers apply the rules every time they speak or write (they can put words in the right order) and every time they interpret what others say (they know that 'Susan loves Tom ' means something quite different from ' Tom loves Susan '). We acquire a working knowledge of our native language simply through being exposed to it from early childhood: nobody taught us, for example, where to posi­ tion much . However, we undertake a formal study of grammar to make explicit the knowledge of the rules that we apply when we use the language. There is a clear difference between having a working knowledge of our native language and having a formal knowledge of the rules of its grammar. Many languages have never been analysed in terms of their grammar, and some have been analysed only fairly recently. People were speaking and writing English long before the first English grammars were written towards the end of the sixteenth century.

Grammar and other aspects of language Linguistic communications are channelled mainly through our senses of sound and sight. Grammar is the central component of language. It mediates between the system of sounds or of written symbols, on the one hand, and the system of meaning on the other (Figure 0. 1 ). Phonology is the usual term for the sound system in the language: the distinctive sound units and the ways in which they may be combined. Orthography parallels phonology in that it deals with the writing system in the language : the distinctive written symbols and their possible


Throughout this book, we indicate ungrammatical sentences by placing an asterisk before them.



Phonology Grammar



Figure 0.1 The major components of language

combinations. Semantics is concerned with the system of meanings in the language: the meanings of words and the combinatory meanings of larger units. Three other aspects of language description are often distinguished: phonetics, morphology, and pragmatics. Phonetics deals with the physical characteristics of the sounds in the language and how the sounds are produced. Sounds and letters combine to form words or parts of words. Morphology refers to the set of rules that describe the structure of words. The word computer, for example, consists of two parts: the base compute (used separately as a verb) and the suffix -er (also found in many other nouns derived from verbs, such as printer, blender, cooker). Pragmatics is concerned with the use of particular utterances within particular contexts. For example, ' Will you join our group ? ' is a question that, depending on the speaker 's intention, is either a request for information or a request for action. For descriptive purposes, it is convenient to deal with the components of language separately but, because of the central place of grammar in the language system, it is sometimes necessary to refer to the other components when we discuss the grammar.

Grammars of English There are many grammars of English, that is to say, books describing English grammar. They differ in how much of the grammar they cover and in how they set out the rules. There are also some differences in the categorization and termi­ nology they use. Nevertheless, most categories and terms are widely shared, deriving from a long tradition of grammatical description. The grammatical analysis in this book follows the approach found in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik. First published in 1 985, this is a reference work on contemporary English grammar that contains nearly 1 800 pages. A shorter version, A Student s Grammar of the English Language, by Sidney Greenbaum and Randolph Quirk, is also available. For details of these and other useful references, see the 'Further reading' section at the end of this book.



National varieties of English English is the first language of over 3 60 million people. Most of them live in the United States of America, which has about 260 million native speakers of English, and the United Kingdom, with about 59 million. Other countries with large numbers of native English speakers that also constitute the maj ority of the popu­ lation are Canada and Australia (about 1 7 million each), the Irish Republic and New Zealand (about 4 million each). Some countries have large concentrations of native English speakers, though they do not constitute the maj ority of the popula­ tion; for example, South Africa has about 4.5 million native English speakers, though they constitute only about 9% of the total population. While recognizing that these people all speak English, we can distinguish the national varieties they use as American English, British English, Canadian English, and so on. English is a second language for over 3 00 million people who speak another language as their native tongue but who also use English in communicating with their compatriots. For example, the first language for about 22 per cent of Canadians is French and for about 1 1 per cent of Americans it is Spanish. English is also the second language in countries where only a small minority speak it as their mother tongue but where it is the official language or j oint official language for government business. Among these countries is India, where it is estimated that about 30 million people speak English as their second language (although these constitute only about 4 per cent of lndia's population of around 1 .2 billion). Other countries where English is the official or j oint official language include Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Since the English in each of these countries has certain distinctive features, it is reasonable to refer to such national varieties as, for example, Indian English or Nigerian English. Finally, English is studied in classrooms around the world as the primary foreign language. Its popularity lies in its value as an international language. A knowledge of English is perceived in most parts of the world as essential for international communication in business and tourism, in Internet communication, and in scientific and technological literature.

Standard English and non-standard English As well as differences between national varieties of English, there are also differ­ ences within each national variety. Each has a number of dialects. In countries where the maj ority speak English as their first language, one dialect is used nationally for official purposes. That dialect is called Standard English. Standard English is the national dialect that generally appears in print. It is taught in schools and students are expected to use it in their essays. It is the norm for dictionaries and grammars. We expect to find it in official printed communi­ cations, such as letters from government officials, solicitors and accountants. We expect to hear it in national news broadcasts and documentary programmes on radio or television and we expect to read it on official websites.



Within each national variety, the standard dialect is relatively homogeneous in grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation. Pronunciation is a different matter, since there is no equivalent standard accent (type of pronunciation). For each national variety there are regional accents, related to a geographical area, and social accents, related to the educational, socioeconomic and ethnic back­ grounds of the speakers. In British English, received pronunciation (RP) is a non-regional social accent associated with public school education but it is not regarded as a standard accent to be learned in schools throughout the country. It is spoken by about 3 per cent of the population in Britain. Standard English enj oys considerable social prestige because people associate it (rightly or wrongly) with education and with higher-income social groups. It is not intrinsically better than other dialects, although many people believe that it is. One of its maj or advantages is that it has developed a range of styles to suit differ­ ent kinds of uses of the language, particularly in writing. Non-standard dialects tend to be restricted to people from a particular region or social group or to social groups within a region. Many people speak more than one dialect and can switch effortlessly between them, perhaps using different dialects at home and at work.

Variation according to use Language also varies according to context and communicative purpose. For example, newspapers, cookery books, scientific papers, emails, poetry and fiction all have distinctive language features. Newspapers have a distinctive layout, headlines are often highly compressed ('Banks warned on student loans '), cook­ ery books tend to use many imperatives ( ' Mix the ingredients '), scientific papers use many passive constructions ('A colourless gas is produced'). These varieties are known as registers, that is, varieties of language associated with specific uses and communicative purposes. Some variation depends on the medium, that is, the channel of communica­ tion. There is a maj or distinction between spoken and written language. Conversation, the most common type of speech, involves immediate interchange between the participants, who convey their reactions both in words and through facial expressions and physical gestures. There is more spontaneity in conversa­ tion than in writing; self-correction occurs in the flow of conversation, whereas it is eliminated through editing in writing. Writing needs to be more explicit, since obscurities and misunderstandings cannot be resolved immediately. People feel more committed to what they write because of the potential permanence of the written communication. The differences in the nature of the media are reflected in the greater concision that is possible in writing and in the greater care that writ­ ers take over their choice of words. Language also varies according to the attitude of the speaker or writer towards the listener or reader, towards the topic and towards the purpose of communica­ tion. We can select from features that range from the most formal to the most informal. For instance, comprehend and strive are more formal than their respec-



tive equivalents, understand and try. Similarly, ' This is the student to whom I gave the message' is more formal than ' This is the student I gave the message to ' . In Chapter 7 we examine the grammatical features o f a range o f registers, including conversations, sports commentaries, emails, text messages, and literary texts.

Descriptive rules and prescriptive rules At the beginning of this Introduction, we said that the rules of grammar state which combinations of words are possible in the language and which are not. Our example of an impossible sentence in English was 'Home computers now much are cheaper' . The rule that disallows that sentence is a descriptive rule, that is, a rule that describes how people use their language. The validity of this descriptive rule depends on whether it is true that 'Home computers are now much cheaper' is a possible English sentence and 'Home computers now much are cheaper' is an impossible English sentence. The evidence to validate this rule is drawn from the knowledge of their language that speakers of English have, as well as from samples of their actual use of the language. Of course, the descriptive rule must be accurately formulated to make the distinctions valid. Sometimes people speaking the same dialect disagree in their evaluation of particular sentences. For example, some speakers of standard British English find acceptable 'I demand that she gives her reasons ' ; others prefer or require a differ­ ent form of the verb in the that clause, either ' that she give her reasons ' or ' that she should give her reasons ' . A number o f differences in the use o f standard British English have acquired social importance. Some speakers of the standard dialect consider that certain usages mark their user as uneducated. Rules that specify which usages should be adopted or avoided are called prescriptive rules. Examples of prescriptive rules are : -

Don't Don't Don't Don't

use like as a conjunction, as in He speaks like his father does. use between you and I, but between you and me. split an infinitive, as in to actually feel. use them people, but those people.

Speakers of the standard dialect tend to pay greater attention to prescriptive rules when they are on their best behaviour, in particular when they are writing in a formal style.

Why study grammar? The study of language is a part of general knowledge. We study the complex working of the human body to understand ourselves; the same reason should attract us to studying the marvellous complexity of human language. Everybody has attitudes towards the English language and its varieties and



opinions on specific features. These attitudes and opinions affect relationships with other people. If you understand the nature of language, you will realize the grounds for your linguistic prejudices and perhaps moderate them; you will also more clearly assess linguistic issues of public concern, such as worries about the state of the language or what to do about teaching English to immigrants. Studying the English language has a more immediate practical application: it can help you to use the language more effectively. In the study of language, grammar occupies a central position but there is also a practical reason to emphasize the study of grammar. It is easy to learn to use dictionaries by yourself to find the pronunciation, spelling or meanings of words but it is difficult to consult grammar books without a considerable knowledge of grammar. There are several applications of grammatical study: A recognition of grammatical structures is often essential for punctuation. A study of one 's native grammar is helpful when studying the grammar of a foreign language. A knowledge of grammar is a help in the interpretation of literary as well as nonliterary texts, since the interpretation of a passage sometimes depends crucially on grammatical analysis. A study of the grammatical resources of English is useful in composition: in particular, it can help you to evaluate the choices available to you when you come to revise an earlier written draft.

How this book is organized This book consists of two main parts. Part I is the grammar (Chapters 1 -4), which begins with an overview of the maj or sentence elements and goes on to discuss progressively larger units : words, phrases, clauses and sentences. Part II covers the applications of grammar (Chapters 5-9). In this part, we discuss common usage problems and writing styles, as well as variation in English grammar according to register (Chapter 7). Part II concludes with chapters on punctuation (Chapter 8) and word formation and spelling (Chapter 9). The book concludes with a glossary of grammatical terms and provides suggestions for further read­ ing. A set of exercises follows each chapter, with advanced exercises at the end. Answers to all the exercises, as well as additional exercises, are available on the companion website (URL).
An Introduction to English Grammar 4th Edition 352 002_2

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