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Ken Ward's Writing Pages
Writing: Parts of Speech

Main Page: Writing Contents
Page Contents

  1. Parts of Speech
    1. Nouns
      1. Common and Proper Nouns
      2. Identifying Nouns
        1. Determiners
          1. Note on Using the Tests
          2. Examples of Nouns and Non-Nouns
        2. Plurals
        3. Possession
      3. Abstract and Concrete Nouns
      4. General and Specific Nouns
      5. Countable and Uncountable Nouns (Mass Nouns)
      6. Collective Nouns (Group Nouns)
      7. Quantity Nouns
    2. Pronouns
      1. Why Pronouns
      2. Identifying Pronouns
      3. Types of Pronoun
      4. Personal Pronouns
      5. Relative Pronouns
        1. Examples of relative pronouns
      6. Restricting and Non-Restricting Clauses
      7. Example Sentences With Relative Pronouns -Restricting and Non-Restricting
      8. Indefinite Pronouns
        1. Any and Some
        2. Gender Problems
      9. Demonstrative Pronouns
        1. Examples
      10. Possessive Pronouns
        1. Examples
      11. Interrogative Pronouns
      12. Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns
    3. Subjects, Objects and Predicates
      1. Subjects and Predicates
      2. Objects
    4. Verbs
      1. Identifying Verbs
        1. Pronoun Test
      2. Parts of Verbs
      3. Auxiliary Verbs
      4. Verb Tenses
      5. Present Tense
        1. Simple Present
        2. Present Progressive (Present Continuous)
        3. Present Perfect 
          1. been and gone
        4. Present Perfect Progressive (Present Perfect Continuous)
      6. Past Tense
        1. Simple Past
        2. Past Progressive (Past Continuous)
        3. Past Perfect 
        4. Past Perfect Progressive (Past Perfect Continuous)
      7. Future
        1. Simple Future
        2. Future Progressive (Future Continuous)
        3. Future Perfect 
        4. Future Perfect Progressive (Future Perfect Continuous)
      8. Linking Verbs
      9. Active and Passive Voice
        1. Is it Passive or Active?
      10. Active or Passive - More.
        1. State or Condition
      11. Examples of Passive Voice
      12. Passive and Time
    5. Adjectives
      1. Descriptive Adjectives
      2. Possessive Adjectives
      3. Numerical Adjectives
      4. Demonstrative Adjectives
      5. Relative Adjectives
      6. Interrogative and Exclamatory Adjectives
      7. Indefinite Adjectives
      8. Comparison of Adjectives
      9. Attributive and Predicative Use
    6. Determiners
      1. Articles
      2. Possessive Adjectives 
      3. Demonstrative Adjectives 
      4. Interrogative Adjectives 
      5. Quantifiers
    7. Adverbs
      1. Adverbs of Manner
      2. Adverbs of Place
      3. Adverbs of Time
      4. Adverbs of Degree
      5. Linking Adverbs (or conjuntival adverbs)
      6. Stance
      7. Adding and Subtracting
      8. Prepositional Adverbs (or Particles)
      9. Phrasal Verbs
    8. Conjunctions
      1. Coordinating Conjunctions
        1. Examples
      2. Subordinating Conjunctions
      3. Double Conjunctions (Correlatives)
    9. Prepositions
      1. Simple Prepositions
      2. Complex Prepositions
      3. Prepositional Verbs
      4. Comparison of Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs
    10. The Substitution Test
      1. Nouns
      2. Pronouns
      3. Verbs
      4. Adjectives
      5. Conjunctions

Parts of Speech

If you ask someone what part of speech a given word is, they cannot answer without knowing some context for the word. A word, such as running – that is the word found in the dictionary and spelt r-u-n-n-i-n-g – can have many functions in a sentence. For instance:
The running man was late for work. (adjective)
Running is good for the body. (noun)
I was running for the bus when I saw her. (present participle)
Even dyed in the wool conjunctions such as and can function in a sentence as a different part of speech. In the sentence below, it functions as a noun:
The word, and, is a conjunction. 

In addition, different authorities might differ on the part of speech of a word in a sentence. For instance:
My cat is meowing.
Here, the word, my, could be:
Fortunately, it is all of these. And naming the part of speech does not matter. At least, it doesn't matter as much as our being able to figure out the functions of a word in a sentence, and understand how it works in that sentence. However, in modern grammar we might not call my an adjective, although it is an adjective in traditional grammar (and it still modifies the word cat). 


A noun is the name of a person, a place, a thing or an idea. Sometimes a noun is the name of an action.
person man, woman, child
place ocean, desert, wood, farm
thing cabbage, hammer,
idea hope, plan, memory
action intention, thinking, running

Common and Proper Nouns

Common nouns describe groups or members of groups; whereas, proper nouns identify a unique example. Proper names are usually capitalised.
Common Noun Proper Noun
man Tom
aircraft Tiger Moth
religion Christianity
entertainers The Beatles
nation England
In English, the days of the week and the months are capitalised, but the seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn) are not. (Although the seasons are capitalised in USA).

Identifying Nouns

Proper nouns are easy to identify because they are the names of particular people or things. For instance, Rob, Betty, Lorrain.

Common nouns have the following properties:


Common nouns can be preceded by determiners: a, the, some, a few, my, ...

If a word is a common noun, then the following sentence makes sense when the word is inserted:
My [insert noun] (is/are here).
For instance, house is a noun, so:
My house is here, 
makes sense.

The word happy, however, isn't a noun, so:
My happy is here,
does not make sense.
Note on Using the Tests
Most tests show whether a word could be a noun - sometimes. They do not indicate the word is a noun in the given sentence. For instance,
The delicate and time-consuming work is important.
Using our test:
My work is here.
makes sense. So work can be a noun. If we remember that The is a determiner, then we see work is preceded by a determiner (and some adjectives) so work is clearly a noun in our sentence. If we do not remember this, then we can apply our test with my in the sentence:
My delicate and time-consuming work is important.
Showing that work is a noun in the given sentence.

In this sentence:
They work till they drop.
We cannot precede the word work with my in:
My work till they drop. x.gif
Therefore work isn't a noun in this sentence.

Examples of Nouns and Non-Nouns
Here are some examples of applying the test on nouns and non-nouns:
Nouns Non-Nouns
My cat is here tick.gif My entertaining is here x.gif
My bread is heretick.gif My starchy is here x.gif
My principal is heretick.gif My quickly is here x.gif
My dollars are heretick.gif My full is here x.gif
My envelope is heretick.gif My exceptional is here x.gif


Nouns often have plurals; whereas other parts of speech do not. So if a word has a plural, it is a noun. Uncountable Nouns, however, do not have plurals.
Singular Plural
cat cats
man men
fish fishes
formula formulae
MP (Member of Parliament) MPs
Nowadays, in Standard English, acronyms do not have periods. So M.P. becomes MP. Plurals are made by adding an s -- MPs. If periods are retained, then apostrophe s is used -- M.P.'s. The 's plural is sometimes used when confusion might result -- Dot the i's and crosss the t's, 1's and 2's (because 1s might look like Is, and 2's for consistency).


We can check whether a word is a noun, by asking whether it has a possessive form. For instance:
Noun Possessive Form
dog the dog's dinner.
Charles Charles' dinner.
yesterday yesterday's error.
We indicate possession by adding the apostrophe (') s. If Mary is the owner of the book we write -- Mary's book. When the word for the owner ends in s anyway, we would normally add only an apostrophe at the end of the word. So we write and say the boys' school. However, especially with proper names, we add the apostrophe s when sound requires it -- Charles's book, Odysseus's Quest. But ... if this would mean we end up saying a sound like "iz-iz", we do not add the final s. So if the owner of the book is Mr Bridges, we write and say Mr Bridges' book (without an s after the apostrophe).
Notes: In older English, Charles' book and Odysseus' Quest would have been correct, although almost everyone would have said Charles's book, although some might have tried to say Odysseus' Quest (because it sounds more literary).
The apostrophe is not used with pronouns -- its, yours, ours.
The apostrophe is sometimes called a mark of elision to indicate some letters have been omitted -- it's going (it is going), it'll go fine (it will go fine).

Abstract and Concrete Nouns

In grammar, a concrete noun names something you can see or touch. An abstract noun names concepts, ideas and qualities.
Concrete Abstract
woman, rock, wind, turnip, test tube, chair, basket humanity, intention, freedom, mischief, abstraction, implication,

General and Specific Nouns

A general noun or expression can be concrete or abstract.
General and Specific Nouns
General More Specific Even More Specific
animal carnivore cat, lion, tiger
furniture table, chair, sofa, divan
food meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, beef, turnip, apple, cod
subjects mathematics, English, science calculus, grammar, chemistry
sport running, swimming, football, cricket sprint, back-stroke, soccer, bowling
business shop bakery, grocers, supermarket
humanity people men, women, children
mind cognition, affect thinking, remembering, loving, hating

Countable and Uncountable Nouns (Mass Nouns)

Most nouns have a plural and a singular form. For instance:
Singular Plural
man men
dog dogs
idea ideas
beach beaches
mind minds
All such nouns are countable.

Other nouns are uncountable in certain uses. For instance:
fish, bread, art, luck, greed, flour, data
We cannot use the determiner a before uncountable nouns: we can, however, use the determiners the and some. In American English, data is regarded as plural, but in English it is singular:
 The data is ready. tick.gif
The data are ready. x.gif (tick.gifAmerican)

We can sometimes quantify such nouns using words like:
slice, piece, bits, ounces, snippets
For example:
Singular Plural
a slice of bread some slices of bread
a piece of fish some pieces of fish
an ounce of salt several ounces of salt
a snippet of music several snippets of music
a book on film several books on film

Uncountable nouns are sometimes called mass nouns. We think of them as a mass. For instance, fish is uncountable when used to refer to food, but is countable when we think of a number of individual fish, when its plural is fish or fishes. Similarly, we can say:
I spent the weekend watching films.
When we think of watching several films. But when we think of the subject, film, we do not use the plural. We might say:
I spent the weekend studying film. (Reading books about film or films, watching films, etc).

Collective Nouns (Group Nouns)

Collective nouns identify groups of things. Examples are:
audience, council, jury, flock, herd

The group is considered as a unit.
The Union refuses to negotiate.
The jury is hung.
The staff has objected.
The team plays well.
The flock turned and flew away
The herd is about to stampede.

Collective nouns are normally singular, except when this seems obviously wrong.

Considered as a unit. Considered as a number of Individuals
The audience is quiet The audience are clapping their hands.
The flock of birds is heading North. Now, the flock of birds are competing for food.
The team is working together. The team are squabbling.
The family is going to the cinema. The family are at loggerheads.
For instance:
The audience is clappings its hand. x.gif
is obviously wrong.

Quantity Nouns

In the following sentences, the quantity nouns take a plural verb:
A number of books are on the table.
A few people are coming today.
One half of the animals are trained.
The couple over there are available.

In the following sentences, the quantity nouns take a singular verb:
The number of applicants is small.
The quantity of sand is large.
The weight of the truck is ten tons.
The measure of success is profit

Where the number is definite, we use a singular verb:
The number of applicants has increased recently. tick.gif

But when it is indefinite, we use a plural form:
A number of people are coming. tick.gif

In the following sentence, the author says a combination ... are instead of a combination ... is.
A combination of increased physical activity and suitable weight reducing diets are recommended for overweight/obese adults who wish to lose weight. x


A pronoun is a word that stands for a nouns. The words, I, you and he, she or it are pronouns.

Why Pronouns

The following sentence does not have any pronouns, so it seems repetitive:
John drove John's car to John's workplace, where John met John's boss. 

With pronouns we have:
John drove his car to his workplace, where he met his boss.
By using pronouns to stand for John, we replace four Johns with he or his. Readers do not notice the repetition of pronouns as much as they notice the repetition of nouns, so the sentence seems less repetitive.

Identifying Pronouns

If a word stands for a noun, then it is a pronoun. We can substitute a noun for this word (usually a noun preceded with a or the), and the sentence, or the clause, makes sense (with a minor change in the verb). In the following sentence:
He thinks this is true.
we can substitute a noun for he, for instance, substitute the speaker for he, and we get:
The speaker thinks this is true.
which makes sense, and shows that the word, he, stands for a noun, and is therefore a pronoun.

Sometimes, when we apply this test, we need to change the verb so in:
I like to watch films.
We can substitute a noun, such as the speaker, and get (after changing the verb):
The speaker likes to watch films.
showing that the word I stands for a noun.

Types of Pronoun

There are six types of pronoun.
  1. personal pronouns
  2. relative pronouns
  3. indefinite pronouns
  4. demonstrative pronouns
  5. possessive pronouns
  6. interrogative pronouns
  7. reflexive pronouns

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns stand for nouns referring to people, places, objects and ideas.
Personal Pronouns
Singular Plural
Subject Object Possessive Subject Object Possessive
1st Person I me my, mine we us our, ours
2nd Person you you your, yours you you your, yours
3rd Person he, she, it, who him, her, it his, her, its, whose they them their, theirs

Personal pronouns have a possessive form.
We can say:
They are our hats. 
They are ours. 

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns relate a noun to a clause which they introduce. They can be defining or restricting, or non-defining and non-restricting. For instance:
The man who ate the food was hungry.
 If we ask who ate the food, we find who stands for the noun phrase, the man. If we substitute the noun phrase, the man, for who in who ate the food, the resulting sentence, the man ate the food, makes sense. Therefore, who is a pronoun because it passes our test. It is a relative pronoun because it relates the man to ate the food. It defines (or at least identifies) the man we are referring too, and also restricts the meaning of the man to the particular man who ate the food. This use is therefore restricting.

Restricting relative pronouns do not follow a comma. The clauses with a relative pronoun are adjectival in function: they modify a noun.

Examples of relative pronouns

that, which, who, whom, whose, when, where, and why

Restricting and Non-Restricting Clauses

A non-restricting relative pronoun follows a comma, to indicate the clause it introduces is not essential to define the noun. (The clause should, however, be relevant). A restricting relative pronoun does not have a comma.
The report that is most relevant is in the book.
The word that is a pronoun because it stands for the report. Substituting this in that is most relevant, we get: the report that is most relevant. As this makes sense, that passes our pronoun test. It is a relative pronoun because it relates the report to most relevant. It defines the report, and restricts the meaning of the word report to the particular report that is most relevant. There is no comma between the word that and the noun phrase the report. We cannot omit this clause because it is essential to the meaning of the sentence - it tells us which report we are talking about.

The word that is special in that it is never preceded by a comma, and is always used in the restricting sense. It is widely believed and taught that the word which is always used in the non-restricting sense. While it is true that that must never be used in a non-restricting sense:
The Smith Report, that is most relevant, is in the book. x.gif
r_arrow.gif The Smith Report, which is most relevant, is in the book. tick.gif
The report is defined already by the adjective, Smith, so we do not need a defining clause. So we cannot use that.
Using which without a comma, however, is also correct:
The report which is most relevant is in the book. tick.gif

It is sometimes better to write:
The report which caused the controversy that brought down the government.
Than to write:
The report that caused the controversy that brought down the government.
to avoid the "rata-ta-ta" of the repeating thats, but this is a question of style, not grammar.

Example Sentences With Relative Pronouns -Restricting and Non-Restricting

Our friend Tom, who likes to sing in the bath, visited the concert today.
The word who stands for the subject of the sentence, our friend Tom, and so it is a pronoun. It is a relative pronoun because it relates Tom to likes to sing in the bath, but it does not define, or restrict the meaning of the word Tom: our friend Tom is a clear definition of who we are referring to, and who likes to sing in the bath does not add any essential meaning to the sentence. In fact, it could be dropped and the sentence would still be understandable (We would still know who likes to sing in the bath). Because this clause is non-restricting, we separate it from the rest of the sentence with commas.

The place where they found the treasure was on a desert island. 
The word where is a pronoun because it stands for the place. It is a relative pronoun because it relates the place to they found the treasure. It defines and restricts the place. There is no comma after place.

The elephant that we saw in the circus has escaped.
The word that stands for the elephant, and is a pronoun. It relates the elephant to we saw in the circus, and so is a relative pronoun. It tells us which particular elephant we are referring to, so it defines and restricts the elephant. There is no comma after elephant, because the clause is defining or restricting.

Yesterday, we planned our journey across the desert. The plan, which is sound, will enable us to make the journey safely.
The pronoun, which, does not define the plan (We know which plan from the previous sentence). It is therefore neither defining nor restricting. We do not begin the clause with that here, but we begin with which, and surround the clause with commas, showing it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence (But it is relevant.)

The reason why they did it will never be known.
The word why is a pronoun because it stands for the reason. It relates, restricts and defines the reason, so it is a relative pronoun. It is restrictive, so no comma.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite Pronouns refer to someone or something that has not been clearly identified. The indefinite pronoun someone refers to a noun, but this noun is not definitely identified. It means a person in general, or any person.

Indefinite Pronouns
Singular another, anyone, anybody, anything, each, either, enough, everyone, everybody, everything, neither, nobody, nothing, no one, someone, somebody, something, sufficient
Plural both, few, many, several

Any and Some

Any is used in negative statement and in questions. Some is used in positive statements. Any can be singular or plural.
Are there any people here?
Yes, there are some.
No, there aren't any.
No, none have arrived.

Is anyone here?
Yes, someone is waiting.
No, there isn't anyone here.
No, no one is here.

Gender Problems

These are in the third person, and so their pronouns are he, she or it. As we do not have a gender-free, third person singular personal pronoun, we get sentences like this:
If anyone replies, ask him his name. s3
If all those considered are male (or in the equivalent sentence using her and her, are all female), then this is acceptable. However, when the replies can be from either sex, we might wish to be clearer:
If anyone replies, ask him or her his or her name. s_surprised.gif

We can say:
If anyone replies, ask them their names. s1.gif tick.gif
This is what I would say. It is grammatically incorrect, because, at present, anyone is singular, and them and their are plural. (Perhaps in the future this will be allowed).

However, much better in writing:
If there are any replies, ask them their names.
That is, we say it in a different way, retaining correct grammar and good style. The difference, here, between speaking and writing, is that when speaking we are usually present to defend our sentence (and perfect grammar is not expected in speech), but when a reader is reading our sentence we are not usually present so cannot defend it.

Traditionally, he can refer to either a male or a female; however, she is always feminine. When she is used, it definitely excludes males. However, when he is used, it does not necessarily exclude females. It is less sexist to use he than to use she, when both genders are referred to. If she is used in a document to refer to both genders, this should be made clear. (As should the use of he).

Demonstrative Pronouns

We use the demonstrative pronouns, this, that, these and those, when pointing to something or some things, or referring to something previously mentioned.


The pronouns this, that, these and those can be pure pronouns, or both pronouns and determiners. As determiners, they appear before a noun, and tell us which noun we are talking about. For example, that woman refers to a particular woman who is being pointed out or has been mentioned earlier, or otherwise identified.  
Pronoun Comment Determiner and Pronoun
That is the woman who pressed the button. that is a pronoun because it stands for 'the woman over there'. That woman pressed the button.
He gave me this. this is a pronoun because it stands for 'the thing here'. He gave me this report.
Of all the flowers in the garden, these are the ones I like best. these is a pronoun because it stands for 'the flowers here'. These flowers are the ones I like best..
Can I have some of those? those is a pronoun because it stands for 'the things over there'. I'd like those chocolates, please.

Possessive Pronouns

mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs are possessive pronouns. They are also personal pronouns.


The pen is my pen. The pen is mine.
Is this your hat? Is this yours?
His car is in the garage. His is in the garage.
Her money has been paid. Hers has been paid.
Can you see their book? This one is theirs.
Our time has come. Ours has come.

Interrogative Pronouns

These pronouns are part of questions:
Who was there?
The interrogative pronouns are: what, which, who, whom, and whose.

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

The following are reflexive or intensive pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.

Reflexive pronouns are used when the object of the action is the subject. For instance:
I washed myself. (reflexive)
The person washing and the person being washed are the same.

Intensive pronouns, as their name suggests, intensify statements:
I saw it myself.
We created it ourselves.

Subjects, Objects and Predicates

Subjects and Predicates

A simple sentence has a subject and a predicate. The subject tells us who or what the sentence is about, and the predicate tells us about the subject. In the table below, the simple sentences are divided into subject and predicate.
Subject Predicate
I sneezed.
Martin ate the food.
Cecile likes fish and chips.
The man in the iron mask was in jail.
Thinking too much makes you miserable.

The subject does not have to come first in the sentence:
To succeed in maths (object) you (subject) need to study for many years.
What is important (object) is that you (subject) think it out.
Over the wall appeared a familiar face (subject).

A word, phrase or clause that functions as noun can be replaced by a pronoun. This fact can sometimes help us to identify the subject of a sentence. In the sentences above, we can replace the subject with a pronoun, and it still makes sense (with a possible change in the person of the verb).


A verb may have a direct object or an indirect object, or no object at all. Verbs that have an object are called transitive verbs, and those which do not are called intransitive. (See also, linking verbs).
Example Alternative Comment
The parson gave a sermon to the congregation. The parson gave the congregation a sermon. The thing given is a sermon (the direct object) and it was given to the congregation (the indirect object).
Jo said it was late. (Only a direct object) The thing said is "it was late", and is the direct object.
They handed me the papers. They handed the papers to me. The thing handed over is "the papers" (direct object) and the indirect object is "me".
The officer made the cake for me. The officer made me a cake. The thing made is "the cake" (direct object) and the receiver of this object is "me". (indirect object).
I gave her them. I gave them to her. The direct object is "them" and "her" is the indirect object.
The indirect object can sometimes be identified because it can be preceded by to or for. In the above examples, the indirect object is either preceded with to or for, or it comes before the direct object.
Note: In "Can you attend to this for me?", the to is part of the verb, and the direct object, the thing attended to, is this. The indirect object is me.


Verbs have person, number, tense, voice and mood.

Identifying Verbs

A verb shows an action, or a state or condition. The verbs in the table below are in bold.
Example Comment
The elephant trumpeted. trumpeted is what the elephant did.
The store is open. is tells us the state of the store.
The point strikes you at once. strikes tells us what the point did.
I feel good feel tells us I am in a good condition.
She is wrong. is tells us she is in a wrong state.
We can identify verbs in sentences by asking the question: What is (the subject) doing (or being)?

Pronoun Test

Only a verb can follow a personal pronoun (I, you, he, she, it) and make sense.
verb non-verb
I think tick.gif I dog x.gif
I ran tick.gif I running x.gif
I sneezed tick.gif I at x.gif
I contemplated tick.gif I and x.gif
I am tick.gif I ouch! x.gif
I feel tick.gif I what x.gif
Therefore, we can test whether a word is a verb by seeing if it makes sense when it following I, you, he, she, it. However, it might not be a verb in the given sentence. The test shows the word can be a verb sometimes. However, if we replace the subject of the sentence (or clause) with a personal pronoun, the word following must be a verb.

For instance:
The lost boys returned home.
In the sentence, we can replace "The lost boys" with the pronoun They to get "They returned home". Because returned follows a pronoun in the given sentence, returned is a verb in that sentence.

In addition, we can ask "What did they do?". Here we are applying the definition of a verb. The answer, "They returned", shows returned is the verb.

Parts of Verbs

The main parts of a verb are:

Auxiliary Verbs

There are verbs that help other verbs to form verb phrases. The primary auxiliary verbs are:
be, do and have.

In these sentences:
I am going tomorrow.
I did answer the letter.
I have eaten enough.
The auxiliary verbs help other verbs to make a verb phrase.

The three main auxiliary verbs in English can also be main verbs, when they can stand alone:
I am happy.
I did it.
I have a coat.

There are 11 other auxiliary verbs, called modal auxiliary verbs:
can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, must, and ought to and used to

These help other verbs to indicate certainty and uncertainty, and in various ways show time.

Verb Tenses

We have two verb tenses in English: present and past; the future is formed by using auxiliary verbs. There is no future verb tense in English.

Present Tense

Simple Present

The present simple is simply the present tense of the verb.
The simple present is used to indicate something that is always true, or a present state or disposition. The following examples are statements that are always true, now, yesterday, and in the future, so we use the present simple:
The sun rises every morning.
Animals can move.
Mathematics is the science of number.
Hydrogen is the lightest gas.
Scientific truths and principles are often stated in the simple present.

The next statements are ones that are true habitually, or under certain circumstances, but not necessarily at the time they are said:
I seek the truth.
Do you play tennis.
The army moves on the enemy.
He loses his temper.
The statements may not be true at the time they are uttered. For instance, a person might claim they play tennis, but this does not mean they are playing it at the time. Similarly, a scientist might seek the truth, but might not be seeking it at the time the statement is made. We use the present progressive to say what we are doing at the moment.

The present simple is used to indicate a present state:
I feel good.
I am full.
She is happy
These statements are true at the time they are uttered. In speaking of feelings we often use the present simple to refer to the present state. (This is an exception because normally we use the present progressive for reporting on the present.)

The simple present can be used to refer to the future:
The bus leaves in 5 minutes.

Or the past:
The car drives at me. I scream and try to avoid it. There is a screech of brakes...
This is sometimes called the historic past and is meant to dramatize the action, making the reader think it is happening now.

Present Progressive (Present Continuous)

This is formed by using the present tense of the verb to be and the present participle.
The present progressive is used to refer to what is happening at the moment:
The sun is rising.
The birds are chirping.
Share prices are dropping.

Sometimes it is used to refer to something that is true temporarily:
I live in London, but I am living in New York (temporarily, at the moment).
I am coughing a lot. (As I have a cold at the moment.)
She is travelling to work by horse, while here car is in the garage.

Present Perfect 

The present perfect is formed from the present tense of have and the past participle.
The present perfect form of the verb is used to refer to something that has been happening up to the present, but has now stopped.

I have eaten the food.
I have played sport this morning.
I have studied physics.
I have had a cold.
These refer to past events which have now finished.
been and gone
Consider these sentences:
He has been to America.
He has gone to America.
The first means has has travelled to America and returned. The second means he has travelled to America, but has not yet returned. These are two forms of the past participle of the verb to go.

Present Perfect Progressive (Present Perfect Continuous)

The present perfect progressive is formed from the present tense of have, been (the past participle of be) and the past participle of the verb. It is used to refer to something that has been going on in the past and is still going on.
It has been snowing all day.
The road works have been going on for ages.
I have been waiting for ages.

Past Tense

Simple Past

The simple past tense is formed from the past tense of the verb. For instance:
He went home.
I wrote a story.
It was late.
The simple past often refers to an event which occurred at a definite time in the past.

It is also used to refer to unreal present or future time:
If I were king, then I would stay in bed till lunchtime.
If I studied harder, I would do better.

Past Progressive (Past Continuous)

The past progressive form is formed using was or were and the present participle. This is used to refer to a past time when some state or activity was temporarily going on.
I was eating a hamburger and listening to the radio.
They were laughing and joking when he arrived.

It is also used to refer to unreal present and future time:
I would be happier if we were making more money.
The captain said "If the ship were sinking, I would not be standing here."

Past Perfect 

The past perfect is formed by using had and the past participle. It is used to refer to an action or state that was completed before a past time.
He had finished the book by the time they came.
They had completed the work before the owners returned.

The past perfect is also used to refer to the unreal past.
If I had not studied hard, then I would not have passed the exam.
If you had paid, you could have gone in.
If it had not snowed, you wouldn't have been able to ski.

Past Perfect Progressive (Past Perfect Continuous)

This is formed by using had, been and the present participle.

It had been raining for some time, when the lightning started.
Most of the staff had been working hard up to lunchtime.
Only a few people had been eating in the restaurant when the manager arrived.
I had been feeling bored, when I noticed an interesting film was on the television.
The past perfect progressive refers to a state or activity that was going on before something else in the past.


There isn't a future tense of English verbs. The future can be formed in various ways, some of which have been mentioned under the past and present tenses. Here we will simply mention the use of the future auxiliary will. The use of shall as a future auxiliary seems to have disappeared in English since about the 1950s. Some people, however, think the future auxiliary will should not be used with the first person and shall ought to be be used.

Simple Future

I will go shopping tomorrow. r_arrow.gif I'll go shopping tomorrow.
As will is contracted in speech, no one knows whether the speaker meant will or shall.

Future Progressive (Future Continuous)

Next week, I will be going shopping r_arrow.gif Next week, I'll be going shopping.

Future Perfect 

By this time next week, I will have started my new job.  r_arrow.gif  By this time next week, I'll have started my new job.

Future Perfect Progressive (Future Perfect Continuous)

By this time next month, I'll have been working at my new job for a week.

Linking Verbs

Linking verbs join the subject of the sentence to an adverb, noun or phrase, which describes the subject. The main linking verb is the verb to be. The linking verbs in the table below are in bold.
Richard was angry.
Sara is a scientist.
Brenda was in a pensive mood.
The scientist feels glum.
The music sounds fine.
The spy must keep out of sight.
In the examples, the verbs link the subject with a phrase that describes the subject, rather than receives the action of the subject. The verbs are therefore linking verbs. The phrase is called a complement, rather than an object.

Active and Passive Voice

Normally verbs (and clauses) are in active voice. The subject of the sentence is the agent that performs the action of the verb. Sometimes clauses are in the passive voice, where the subject receives the action of the verb, and is not the agent.
Active Passive
The dog bit the man. The man was bitten by the dog.
The scientists disputed the infrerences. The inferences were disputed by the scientists.
He is stroking the dog. The dog is being stroked by him.
I will eat the crisps. The crisps will be eaten by me.
The boss fired Henry. Henry got fired.
He had had a good time. A good time had been had by him.
The form of the passive is a form of the verb to be plus a past participle.

Is it Passive or Active?

When the state or condition of something is indicated by the verb to be, it is often followed by an adjective. For instance:
The cat is hungry.
When the adjective has the same form as the past participle, some confusion can result.
She is an educated woman.
Here educated is an adjective. If we try to convert the sentence into an active voice, we have:
They educated her. a
This is not what we mean! We are not referring to an activity or process of educating, but to her state, or one of her characteristics. The word educated is therefore an adjective, and the sentence, She is an educated woman, isn't passive.
The following may be confusing (they are all active):
Example Active Voice Comment
He was tired. tired is an adjective. And is is a linking verb.
The shop is closed. A bit tricky. We do not mean "The shop was closed by the shopkeeper. But, who knows, it might be open now". closed is an adjective, not part of a verb.
She is enraged. Again, is is a linking verb, and enraged is an adjective.
The plane is damaged.  damaged is an adjective.
Sometimes we need to know the context to be sure whether an expression is actually passive.

Active or Passive - More.

State or Condition

When the verb to be occurs with a word in the form of a past participle and it means the state or condition of something, it might not be passive, but might be an adjective.
While a passive sentence can be identified by noting the presence of the verb to be and the past participle, not all sentences having this form are in the passive voice. The past participle form can sometimes be an adjective, not a part of a verb phrase.
The shop is closed, so we cannot get any milk till tomorrow. tick.gif
The word closed, which is in the form of a past participle, is an adjective, not a verb. We are sympathetic to those who argue it is in the passive voice, but ask them to consider the sentence:
The shop is open, so we can get some milk now.tick.gif
The word open is an adjective. If we use the passive in the first sentence, why not use it in this sentence?
The shop is opened, so we can get some milk now. x.gif [This is not English! No one would say this.]
Clearly, it is not the activity of closing or opening the shop that we are referring to, but the state of the shop - whether it is open or closed (adjectives) state.
[These questions were raised by a beginner in English as a foreign language.]

The tyres were worn.tick.gif
It is difficult to convert this into a passive. For instance:
The road wore the tires. s2.gif
This does not seem right. It doesn't capture the meaning of the state of the tyres. Even more, in the following sentence:
They were lost in the woods.  tick.gif
If we try to convert it to an active form, it seems we would have:
They lost themselves in the woods.s
Which seems a very strange thing to say, and does not sound like English.

I suggest the words worn and lost in the above sentences are really adjectives, and the sentences aren't in the passive voice. [Controversial statement!]

Examples of Passive Voice

In the above examples, the past participle and the verb to be appear in all the examples, except the one with got. The agent in a passive sentence may be mentioned in a by + noun phrase. If the sentence has a to be form followed by a past participle, you determine whether a sentence is in the passive, by asking the following questions:

Sentence Comment and Questions
He is going to town. This sentence does not have a past participle, so it isn't passive.
We can ask "Who is doing the going?", and the answer is he, and he is the subject of the sentence. The sentence isn't in the passive.
The king was crowned by the bishop. The sentence has a to be form (was) and a past participle (crowned), so it could be passive.
Ask "Who was doing the crowning?", and the answer is the bishop. The bishop isn't the subject of the sentence, so the sentence is in passive form.
The house was built. The sentence has a to be form (was) and a past participle (built), so it could be passive.
Ask "Who was doing the building?", and the answer is not mentioned in the sentence, but we can guess it was the builders. The subject of the sentence isn't the builders, so the sentence is in the passive. 
It is a house designed by Mary and built by Tom. Supplying missing words, we have:
It is a house (that was) designed by Mary and (that was) built by Tom.
The sentence has a form of the verb to be, and a past participle.
Ask: Who did the designing? It was Mary. She designed it. However, Mary is not the subject of that (the house) was designed.
Who did the building? It was Tom. Also, Tom is not the subject of the clause that was built. The sentence is therefore in the passive voice.
The book will be completed tomorrow. The sentence has a to be form (be) and a past participle (completed), so it could be passive.
Ask "Who will be doing the completing?", and the answer is not mentioned in the sentence, but we can guess an author is completing it. The subject of the sentence isn't the author, so the sentence is in the passive. 
Tom has been there often. The sentence has a to be form (been)
Ask "Who was doing the being (there)?", and the answer is Tom, the subject of the sentence. The sentence is in the active voice, and is in the present perfect tense.
The story is an allegory of justice delivered by Angelo and embodied in the Duke. We see the sentence may be passive when we add some omitted parts:
The story is an allegory of justice (which is) delivered by Angelo and (which is) emboided in the Duke.
So, Angelo delivered it, and the Duke embodied it are the active forms.

Passive and Time

The table below illustrates the passive voice in the past and present tenses and in the future.
Passive Voice and Time
Time Type Example
Present Simple The ball is thrown.
Progressive The ball is being thrown.
Perfect The ball has been thrown.
Past Simple The ball was thrown.
Progressive The ball was being thrown.
Perfect The ball had been thrown.
Future Simple The ball will be thrown.
Progressive The ball will be being thrown.
Perfect The ball will have been thrown.


An adjective is a word that modifies or describes a noun. Normally, adjectives precede the noun they modify. Sometimes they follow a linking verb. For instance:
The red book was on the table. (Precedes its noun.)
The book on the table was red. (Follows the linking verb was.)
The following are also adjectives:
The last dance. The new computer. The top man.

Descriptive Adjectives

The following adjectives describe the noun:
The flowery dress. The long train. The hairy pig. The smelly dog. The noteworthy example. The spacious garden. The rough surface. The insipid drink. The crazy idea.
They tell us what the noun, or thing, looks like, sounds like, tastes like, feels like or smells like.

These adjectives might look a bit like adverbs!
The moor is lonely. It feels tacky. The bush is prickly.

The following are also adjectives:
The last dance. The new computer. The top man. The late train. 
They describe the noun, but they do not tell us what it looks like, smells like or sounds like. We might say they modify or define a noun.

Possessive Adjectives

These show ownership:
my car, your cat, our house, their ideas
In traditional grammar, these are considered adjectives; nowadays, they are usually considered pronouns. They define the nouns, but do not describe them (Or describe them in the widest sense of describe, whatever that means). So we can think of them as adjectives. Also they stand for a noun. The word my stands for mine (of me). So my is also a pronoun. 

Numerical Adjectives

The ordinal numbers: first, second, third, etc., are usually adjectives:
The first one. The second train. The third man.
Also, the adjectives of quality: few, many, several are adjectives.

Demonstrative Adjectives

These point something out:
this book that pencil, these boxes, those cats,
Like possessive adjectives, nowadays, these are considered pronouns. In traditional grammar, they are demonstrative adjectives. But when used like this:
He gave me this. That is the pencil he gave me. These are her cats.
current grammar, like traditional grammar, calls them pronouns.

Relative Adjectives

Having faith is what matters most. This is the dog whose collar we found. 

Interrogative and Exclamatory Adjectives

The following are examples of interrogative adjectives:
Which bottle contains the medicine? What shape is the new building?

And these are exclamatory adjectives:
What foolishness! What big eyes you have!

Indefinite Adjectives

The words in bold are indefinite adjectives:
any person, each difficulty, another twinge

Comparison of Adjectives

Some adjectives can be compared:
Descriptive Comparative Superlative
Describing Comparing 2 things Comparing More Than 2 Things
good better the best
bad worse the worst
little less the least
few fewer the fewest
important more important the most important

Some adjectives cannot be compared. They are in the absolute degree. Here are some of them:
absolute impossible principal
ideal whole  stationary
chief perpetual sufficient
complete main unanimous
dead enough unavoidable
devoid manifest unbroken
entire minor unique
fatal paramount universal
For instance, is someone or something is dead, they cannot be deader, or the deadest! Such words cannot be compared because it is illogical to do so. paramount means of the highest rank or importance. If it is the highest, nothing can be higher. So we cannot say something is more paramount (more higher!). Similarly, it doesn't make sense to say something is more unique. As unique means "the only one of its kind", something cannot be more unique (If something is rarer than something else, then the first thing isn't unique, but rare).

Attributive and Predicative Use

When an adjective is placed before its noun, it is used attributively. When it follows a linking verb, it is used predicatively.We can say:
The green bush (is over there). [Attributive]
The bush is green. [Predicative]

We can move some adjectives around, putting them before the noun or after a linking verb, such as the verb to be.

I feel good. I am thirsty. It is late. They seem happy.

The following adjectives cannot be used predicatively:
It is sheer madness.tick The madness is sheer.x
He is the only one.tick The one is only.x
It is the utter truth.tick The truth is utter. x
Mathematics is his main interest.tick His interest is mainx
The following cannot be used attributively:
He was ashamed.tick The ashamed man.x
The ship was afloat.tick The afloat ship. x


In modern grammar, as opposed to classical grammar, determiners sometimes have their own part of speech, instead of being part of adjectives (or pronouns). They always precede a noun. Some determiners are also other parts of speech, such as pronouns or adjectives. The determiners mentioned below are also mentioned elsewhere under a different class. For instance, articles are also adjectives (at least in traditional grammar, but also because they modify nouns).


a, an, the

Possessive Adjectives 

my, your, his, her, its, our, their

Demonstrative Adjectives 

this, that, these and those

Interrogative Adjectives 

what, which, whose


many, few, several, two, half


An adverb is a word that describes or modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. The class adverb is also a home for unwanted words, which do not easily fit into the other categories. Therefore, the words in this class are not a uniform group.

Sometimes adverbs modify pronouns:
Almost everyone gave something. Nearly all of them came.
Naturally, some will argue that these words are adjectives. Of course, they function as adjectives in these sentences. Yet they are quite unlike adjectives in other uses.

Adverbs of Manner

These adverbs tell us how something is done. They answer the question, "How".
quickly, slowly, elegantly, rationally, thoughtfully, clumsily, expertly

For example:
He ran fast. How did he run? The word fast tells us how he ran and is an adverb.
He thoughtfully read the book. How did he read the book? thoughtfully tells us how he read the book and is an adverb.

Adverbs of Place

These tell us where the action of the verb happened. They answer the question, "Where?"
here, there, everywhere, above, below

For example:
She went upstairs. Where did she go? And the answer is the adverb, upstairs.

Adverbs of Time

Adverbs of time often answer the question, "When".
These tell us when something happened. They answer the question, "When?"
now, later, yesterday, immediately, generally

For example:
He received the letter yesterday. When did he receive the letter? And the answer is the adverb, yesterday.

Others refer to a period of time:
never, always, just, long

She will never do it. Will you be long? I have just done it. We always have to wait.

Still others, sometimes called adverbs of frequency, answer the question, "How often?"
often, seldom, sometimes, never

For example:
He mows the lawn weekly. How often does he mow the lawn? The answer weekly, gives us the adverb.

Adverbs of Degree

These often modify an adjective. They answer the question, "To what extent?"
very, too, slightly, excessively, so, quite, rather

For example:
The horse is too tired.

Linking Adverbs (or conjuntival adverbs)

Linking adverbs link the current sentence to a previous one. They are sometimes called transition words. They differ from conjunctions, which link nouns, phrases or clauses. Unlike a conjunction, linking adverbs can often be omitted without making the sentence ungrammatical.

They include:
hence, afterwards, then, nonetheless, therefore, beforehand

Words which are normally considered conjunctions, such as and, but, for, nor, yet, and or are considered linking adverbs when they begin a sentence. Conjunctions cannot be used to begin a sentence, because they link two words or two clauses, not two sentences. But words which look like conjunctions, when acting as linking adverbs, can be so used. For instance:
She hated cricket. And she hated soccer even more.  r_arrow.gif She hated cricket. She hated soccer even more. 
And is a linking adverb not a conjunction. It, unlike a conjunction, can be omitted without drastically affecting the sentences. Also, unlike a conjunction, it does not link two words or clauses, but links two sentences.

Because they link sentences, not clauses, linking adverbs are always preceded by a full stop or a semicolon. For instance:
Bob does not like sport; hence, he isn't coming to the game. r_arrow.gif Bob does not like sport; he isn't coming to the game.
Bob does not like sport. Hence, he isn't coming to the game. r_arrow.gif Bob does not like sport. He isn't coming to the game.
In the above sentences, we can omit the linking adverb, hence, and the sentences remain grammatical and still make sense. (Of course, we also need to omit the comma, and need to capitalise the first word of the sentence).


These often show the speakers attitude or emotion and include:
probably, perhaps, surely, oddly, actually, officially, obviously, clearly, wisely, morally, disgustingly

Adding and Subtracting

neither, too, either, else, also

Prepositional Adverbs (or Particles)

Prepositional adverbs have the word form of a preposition, but function as an adverb, that is they modify verbs, often saying where the action takes place. For example:
All the words in bold above are prepositional adverbs. They differ from prepositions in that they modify a verb (adverbial) and they do not stand before a noun.

Prepositional adverbs are used to form phrasal verbs. When they do this, they change the meaning of the verb. That is, act as an adverb by modifying a verb. For instance:
Phrasal Verbs
Example Alternative
I looked the word up. I looked up the word.
She brought up an interesting point in the meeting. She brought an interesting point up in the meeting.
Oh! Have they fallen out [had a quarrel] again?  (No object)
They have decided to give smoking up. They have decided to give up smoking.
A verb plus prepositional adverb is a phrasal verb only when the verb's meaning changes. Also it is often possible to place the object of the verb (if there is one) between the verb and the prepositional adverb. Phrasal verbs differ from prepositional verbs in the previous mentioned two ways.

See comparison of phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are composed of a verb and a prepositional adverb. The prepositional adverb, which has the word form of a preposition, modifies the verb and changes its literal meaning. In addition, the prepositional adverb can be precede the object as a Noun Phrase, or follow it, as in the examples in the table below. If the object is a pronoun, it must come before the particle (prepositional adverb).
Phrasal Verbs
Example Alternative
The lift has broken down. (No object)
She brought up an interesting point in the meeting.
She brought up it in the meeting. x.gif
She brought an interesting point up in the meeting.
She brought it up in the meeting. tick.gif
Oh! Have they fallen out [had a quarrel] again?  (No object)
They have decided to give smoking up.
They have decided to give it up.tick.gif
They have decided to give up smoking.
They have decided to give up it.x.gif
His children are grown up. (No object)
I looked the word up.
I looked it up. tick.gif
I looked up the word.
I looked up it. x.gif
She put the meeting off.
She put it off. tick.gif
She put off the meeting.
She put off it. x.gif
They ran the dog over. They ran over the dog.
We turned off the tv. We turned the tv off.
The phrasal verbs, shown in bold, differ in meaning from the literal form of the verb. They differ from prepositional verbs.

See comparison of phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs.


Conjunctions are words or phrases that join two nouns, phrases or clauses. There are two types: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions

The coordination kind join two grammatically equal elements, for instance, two main clauses. These conjunctions include:
for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
Remembered with the mnemonic FANBOYS.

Other classes of words have a linking function. For instance, linking adverbs can link clauses together. The table below shows the four main functions of coordinating conjunctions. (The adverb column has been added for comparison).
Function Example Conjunctions Example Linking Adverbs
Addition and, nor furthermore
Alternative or alternatively
Contrast but, yet however
Inference for, so therefore


When they got there the place was empty and they found no evidence the place had been occupied recently. and joins the clause before to the one after. It does not indicate any particular relationship between them, and the clauses can be interchanged.
There was a bang and the lights went out. and joins the two clauses, but they cannot be interchanged. It tells us that event of the first clause comes before the event of the second.
She had waited all day but couldn't get in to see them. but joins the two clauses, indicating some contrast between them.
You can choose this one or that one, but not both. or joins the first and the second clauses, indicating an alternative. but joins the second and third clauses, indicating an exception
He always studied hard, yet he never seemed to do well. yet joins the two clauses, indicating a contrast.
He felt despondent, for he had searched all day, yet he had not found them. for joins the first two clauses indicating a cause or reason. yet joins the last two clauses, indicating a contrast.

The conjunction and sometimes tells us little or nothing about the relationship between the two clauses, but implies they belong together. Sometimes it means after that, and the first clause occurs earlier in time than the second. The other conjunctions in the table above tell us some relationship. For instance, yet tells us the two clauses are contrasted. If the only conjunction we can think of to relate two clauses is and, then we should make sure the two clauses really belong together.

For instance:
The police and the doctors are trying to find out the cause of death.
The police and the doctors are seeking the same end, discovering the cause of death. So they belong together in the sentence.

Mary is beautiful. She has a pretty face and plays the violin.
If the topic is beauty, we might wonder how and plays the violin is relevant.

Subordinating Conjunctions

While the coordinating conjunctions join two equal parts of the sentence, the subordinating conjunctions join a modifying clause to a main clause. Subordinating conjunctions include:
time When he comes, I will be ready.
Before the clock struck seven, they had assembled in the road.
After the sun rises, we will set out on our journey.
Once we have the information, we will begin the analysis.
place The city was located where the old castle had been.
comparison They were as ready as they would ever be.
He was as tall as she was (tall).
condition The church bells will ring, if the Vikings land.
Unless we stay till late, we can get a bus home.
contrast Although she was very popular, she wasn't pretty.
She was a good actress, while he was only a mediocre actor.
He used to be reckless, whereas now he is cautious.
cause or reason The bomb went off because they lit the fuse.
She was annoyed, as they had not completed the work.
All had been forgotten, since it was long ago.

Double Conjunctions (Correlatives)

Coordinating double conjunctions join two equal clauses:
Correlating Double Conjunctions
Double Conjunction Example
both...and He told them both where to go and how to get there.
either...or She could either have one week abroad or two weeks at home.
neither...nor It was neither possible nor advisable.
not only...but (also) She was not only their mentor, but also their friend.

Subordinating double conjunctions
join two clauses: one clause is subordinated to the other.
Subordinating Double Conjunctions
Double Conjunction Example
if ...then If he had told the truth, then he wouldn't be in trouble. 
scarcely...when Scarcely had she gone out, when he arrived. 
hardly...when He had hardly finished cleaning the car, when they arrived.
more...than No one loves you more truly than I.
less...than He was less a rogue than a fool.
so...that She was so angry that she could have cried. 
such...that The place was such a problem in terms of maintenance that he sold it.


Prepositions are words that relate noun phrases, or pronouns, with another part of the sentence. They always have an object (a noun), but they do not always precede this object, although they often do. The prepositions in the table below are in bold. To find the object, ask "<preposition> whom or what?" For example, "Under what?" Simple prepositions are ones that consist of one word.

Simple Prepositions

Sentence Comment
The book was under the chair. Under what?
The chair. The chair is the object of the preposition "under".
The cat jumped on the table. On what?
The table. .
We left before the end. Before what?
The end.
The bird flew over the house. Over what?
The house.
It is ten past five. Past what?
She dreamed of travelling beyond the stars. Of what?
Beyond what?
The stars.
The waste is produced during the process. During what?
The process.
He argued strongly against them. Against what?
They worked for the mayor. For whom?
The mayor.

The following words in bold are also prepositions:
Example Comment
They visited circa 321 BC circa what?
321 BC.
The diploma was awarded cum laud. Cum what?
He comes everyday except Saturdays. Except what?
10 minus 1 plus 2 is 11. Minus what?
Plus what?
He did it notwithstanding the risk. Notwithstanding what?
The risk.
She was paid per hour. Per what?
We travelled via the underpass. Via what?
The underpass.
I was happy with this project vis a vis the other one. Vis a vis what?
The other one.

The phrase formed by a preposition is an adverbial phrase, or an adjectival phrase.

Complex Prepositions

Simple prepositions consist of one word only. The examples in the previous section are simple prepositions. Complex prepositions consist of more than one word. Some are wordy and in bad style.
Complex Preposition Example
according to Stranding prepositions is acceptable, according to Fowler.
ahead of We are releasing the document ahead of time.
along with
as a consequence of As a consequence of their discussion, plans were made for the new department.
as far as The land is clear as far as the sea.
as for As for Tom
as per Please bring all the items as per our letter.
as to
as well as You can do it as well as him.
aside from Aside from the earlier matter, we can go ahead.
because of Because of the storm, the roads were impassable.
by means of We will get their by means of boat.
close to Keep close to the shore.
due to The absence was due to illness.
except for Except for Jill, everyone is welcome.
far from They were far from home.
for use in This is for use in medical products only.
in accordance with This is quite in accordance with the regulations.
in addition to In addition to soap, bring a towel.
in association with This page is produced in association with Brian.
in breach of He was in breach of our sacred laws.
in case of
in charge of He is in charge of the project.
in conjunction with I shall investigate the matter in conjunction with my colleagues.
in contrast to Her response was sharply in contrast to his.
in control of She was in control of the machine.
in front of The cat sat in front of the dairy.
in keeping with This is in keeping with the prevailing paradigm.
in lieu of You can stay here in lieu of payment.
in line with The action taken was in line with our policy.
in order to He measured the quantities in order to avoid error.
in place of Use this in place of that.
in reference to My work is in reference to previous research.
in respect of There was disagreement in respect of the new plan.
in response to I am writing in response to your letter.
in spite of In spite of the war, he continued his work.
instead of I'd like the ice cream instead of the cake.
on behalf of I would like to thank everyone on behalf of the government.
on top of On top of the building was a strange, metallic thing.
on top of The fairy is on top of the Christmas tree.
owing to Owing to the quarrel, we have not spoken for days.
prior to They were always together, prior to their quarrel.
regardless of All are welcome, regardless of race, creed or religion.
subsequent to Subsequent to our discussion, I would like to add some more points.

Prepositional Verbs

Prepositional verbs are formed by adding a preposition to a verb.
The following are examples of prepositional verbs:
Unlike phrasal verbs, prepositional verbs:
The prepositional part of a prepositional verb may come at the end of a clause. See the next section.

Comparison of Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

Phrasal Verb Prepositional Verb
Stress In speech you often stress the particle, and your intonation rises. In speech, you do not stress the preposition and your intonation drops.
Meaning The meaning of the verb changes from its basic meaning. The verb and the preposition form a single idea. The basic meaning of the verb isn't changed.
Noun Phrase If you write the verb's object as a Noun Phrase, you can write it before or after the particle. If you write the verb's object as a Noun Phrase, you must place it after the preposition.
Pronoun If you write the verb's object as a Pronoun, you must write the particle after it. If you write the verb's object as a Pronoun, you must write the preposition before it.
Adverb You cannot place an adverb between the verb and its particle. You can place an adverb between the verb and its preposition.
Pied Pipering The phrasal verb cannot be pied pipered. The prepositional verb can be pied pipered.

Phrasal Verb Prepositional Verb
Stress She wrote the project up. He wrote to his friend.
Meaning write up=compose a report, etc, from notes. write to= compose and send a letter, etc, to
Noun Phrase She wrote the project up. tick.gif
She wrote up the project. tick.gif
He wrote his friend to. x.gif
He wrote to his friend. tick.gif
Pronoun She wrote it up.  tick.gif
She wrote up it.  x.gif
He wrote him to. x.gif
He wrote to him. tick.gif
Adverb She wrote the project willingly up. x.gif
She wrote the project up willingly. tick.gif
He wrote willingly to his friend. tick.gif
Pied Pipering The project up which she wrote. x.gif The friend to whom he wrote. tick.gif

The Substitution Test

If a word or phrase can substitute a word or phrase in a sentence; that is, the sentence is grammatical with the substitute, then the substitute has the same or similar function to the word substituted in that sentence. Sometimes, we cannot substitute a word or expression in the same place in the sentence as another word or expression, although the substitutions are nonetheless equivalent. For instance, see adjectives, where an adjective usually precedes a headword, but an adjectival phrase follows it. Also, it may be necessary to change the person of the verb.


For instance, we can substitute Tom for Hermonie in the sentence:
Hermonie went home. r_arrow.gif Tom went home.
We know that Tom is a Proper Noun, and because substituting Tom for Hermonie makes a grammatical sentence, then we can conclude that Tom and Hermonie perform similar functions in the sentence. In fact, both are Proper Nouns.


We can substitute she for Hermonie in the above sentence:
Hermonie went home. r_arrow.gif She went home.
Because the sentence is grammatical, we can conclude that she and Hermonie have a similar function in the sentence. We know that Hermonie is a Proper Noun, and so she must be a Proper Noun, or a Pronoun.


In the sentence below, we can substitute ran for helter-skeltered:
Tom helter-skeltered down the road. r_arrow.gif Tom ran down the road.
helter-skelter therefore has a function similar to ran. They are both verbs.


We can substitute big for black in the following sentence:
The black cat crossed the road.  r_arrow.gif The big cat crossed the road.

With adjectives, we might have to substitute a word before a noun with an expression after the noun.
We saw a tall man.  r_arrow.gif We saw a man who was tall
We cannot substitute the expression who was tall in the same place as the adjective tall in first sentence, but need to put it after the noun man. However, the expression who was tall has the same effect as the adjective tall, so it functions as an adjective.


If we substitute however for but in the following sentence, we get:
Harry was usually mean but he always gave to charity. r_arrow.gif Harry was always mean however he always gave to charity.x.gif
Something is wrong. It isn't grammatical. If we read the sentence aloud, we have to pause before and after however, to make it sound idiomatic. In speech we have to separate the two clauses with a pause. In other words, we have to turn them into sentences. We write this as:
Harry was usually mean; however, he always gave to charity.
Harry was usually mean. However, he always gave to charity.

We know and is a conjunction. It is a word that joins two clauses. And we cannot substitute however for and. So however does not join two clauses (although ";however," does). It seems that however modifies the previous sentence. It add information to or takes information away from the previous sentence. The word however is not a conjunction, but a linking adverb.

Ken Ward's Writing Pages

The Last Place in Space
- by Ken Ward

When pilot Philip Turner is accidentally transported by an anomaly and marooned on an unknown planet, he discovers the planet is threatened by a group of ruthless aliens similarly marooned. With the help of a group of young women with superpowers, and a powerful being called a god, he reluctantly uses his advanced knowledge and technology to help the planet's inhabitants, but will he succeed when outnumbered by aliens, opposed by greedy and squabbling kings, and limited by his gentle nature and moral beliefs? Paperback and Kindle:
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The Last Place in Space