Tuesday, 26 February 2013

7 Things to Know About Vocatives

1) A vocative refers to a person or persons to whom a sentence is addressed.

2) They could be used to call someone to get their attention. For example
John, your dinner's ready. 
Guys, it's poker time.

3) They can be used to address someone. For example:
Teacher, please tell me that one again. 
Are you sure that you want to do that, love?
Stop it, idiot. 

4) Vocatives are optional in a sentence. They can be added or removed without affecting the rest of the sentence. 

5) They can appear at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence. In this way they convey different kinds of nuance. For example:
Mary, I'd like my boy to walk here. 
I'd like my boy, Mary, to walk here.
I'd like my boy to walk here, Mary.

6) Vocatives can be:
a) Names.
b) Family.
c) Markers of status or respect - lord, sir...
d) Labels for occupations - doctor, teacher...
e) Evaluative - darling, love, fool...
f) General labels - guys, gals, boys...
g) The pronoun you - Although this can be very impolite - You, pass me that.
h) Occasionally, certain kinds of clause - Whatever your name is, don't touch it.

7) There is normally only one vocative per sentence because there is no need to keep addressing the same person or group of people. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

3 Things to Know About the Adverbial Element in a Clause

1) An adverb usually adds information about the situation, such as the time of an action or its frequency. 

2) The adverbial is different from other elements in several respects.

a) There can be several instances in one clause. For example:
I arrived via plane / on Wednesday / in the sun / wearing flip flops / eating chips / .....

b) Adverbials are most common at the end of a clause, but they can be used is several possible positions. For example:
(Twice) he (twice) asked me (twice).

c) Adverbials express a wide range of meanings, such as manner, space, and time. For example:
Fred remained quietly / at the library / all day.
                       (manner) (space)          (time)

d) Adverbials perform several roles in a clause.
i) Adding information - He ran quickly.
ii) Linking clauses together - The plane was full, however, I found a seat.
iii) Some comment about what is being expressed - Frankly, I think you look ridiculous. 

e) When adverbials relate specifically to the meaning of the verb, they are said to MODIFY the verb. 

3) Several things can be adverbs.

a) Adverb phrases - They ran quickly. 

b) Prepositional phrases - We cartwheeled through the garden.  

c) Nouns and noun phrases - That boy rang my bell today.

d) Some subordinate clauses - The women screamed when they saw the monster.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

8 Things to Know About the Complement Element in a Clause

1) It expresses meaning which adds to that of another clause element. 

2) It adds to either the subject (subject complement) or the object (object complement).

3) The subject complement usually follows the subject and verb in a clause. The verb is usually a form of be (is, was, etc.) It could be other verbs. As long as it can link the complement meaning with the subject meaning. These are called copular, or linking verbs. For example:

She is a housewife. 
 (S) (V)   (C)

The dog became agitated.
   (S)        (V)         (C)

The painting looks marvellous.
    (S)               (V)     (C)

4) Here is a list of some copular verbs with complements:

appear (sad)
feel (happy)
grow (weary)
remain (still)
seem (agitated)
turn (hot)

5) An object complement usually follows the direct object and its meaning relates to it. For example:

They voted him leader.
He made me happy.

6) All of these can be complements: 

Noun phrases, including single nouns:
John is a chef.          They became movie stars. 

Adjective phrases, including single adjectives:
Joyce is very sad.        The pie is ready.

This is her.       Where's that?       That's who?

Some subordinate clauses:
That's what I replied. 

7) When the complement is a noun phrase, it has the same number as its corresponding element. For example:

The child is a monster.
The children are monsters.

8) It's the same with the object complement:

I find your child a monster.
I find your children monsters.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Object Element of a Clause

The object element usually follows the subject and verb in a clause. There are two types of object:

Direct Object

This is usually a person or thing directly affected by the action expressed in the verb:

The fat woman ate a cake. 
       (S)             (V)  (O)d 

I saw Jane.
(S) (V) (O)d

Indirect Object

The indirect object usually refers to an animate being that is the recipient of the action. There is usually a direct object in these clauses also. The indirect object usually comes before the direct object. 

She gave the cat some water. 
(S)    (V)    (O)i        (O)d

I told her my plans.
(S)(V)(O)i   (O)d

What can be an Object?

Noun phrases, including single nouns:

I saw John. We've found a new car.


John saw me. Now hear this. He did what?

Some subordinate clauses:

John said I'd been foolish.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Subject Element of a Clause

In statements, the subject element usually appears before the verb:

Snow fell hard.

And after the first verb in questions:

Is she really going to wear that?

In third person present tense, the subject controls whether the verb is singular or plural:

He sees you.       They see you. 

The subject also controls how certain objects and complements are formed:

I slapped myself. He slapped himself. They slapped themselves. 
Amy's my friend. Amy and Holly are my friends

What Can be a Subject?

Noun phrases, including single nouns:

James ran fast. The bus was on time. Steak, ale, and cake are available. 


I like pumas. That interests me. Who owns this?

Some subordinate clauses:

What she did was out of order. Where you live doesn't count. 

When you string a list of nouns together, they form one subject in the clause, rather than separating them out. For example:

Amy, Alina, and John were laughing. 
            (S)                     (V)      (C)

This isn't S + S + S + V + C, but rather S + V + C

Saturday, 16 February 2013


The verb has a central role in the clause and it is rare to omit it from a clause. 

The fish (subject) eats (verb) fish food (object) by the handful (adverbial).

We can remove the adverbial: The fish eats fish food.
The object: The fish eats by the handful.
The subject, in casual style: Eats fish food by the handful. (Pointing at the tank).

But we cannot omit the verb: The fish fish food by the handful. 

However, there are such things as 'verbless' clauses, which I will look at later on. 

Verb Element

Only one verb element is allowed per clause. Sometimes that will just be one verb:

John (subject) went (verb) home (adverbial).

Or multiple verbs working together to form one meaning:

John (subject) has gone (verb) home (adverbial).

Although 'has gone' is two verbs, they work together to express one thing, so they count as one verb element. 

Intransitive Verbs

These are verbs that can be written without an object:

The builder's going. 

Some common intransitive verbs are:


Transitive Verbs

Verbs which require an object are traditionally known as transitive verbs. Enjoying is an example:

The builder's enjoying his lunch. 

Some common transitive verbs are:


Some verbs can be used intransitively or transitively. For example:

She's expecting a reply. She's expecting. 
He worked wonders. He worked.

As you can see from the example, what often happens is that the verb changes meaning when used in these different ways. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Echo Utterances

An echo utterance is a sentence that is used only in dialogue and confirms what a speaker has just said. 

All kinds of sentences can be echoed:


1) Will didn't like the meal.
2) He didn't what?


1) Did you just save my life?
2) Did I just save your wife?


1) Walk over there.
2) Over there?


1) What a beautiful dog!
2) What a beautiful dog, indeed! 

Thursday, 14 February 2013


These express the extent to which speakers are impressed or aroused by something. The are often short sentences or even one word. Although, they can take the form of major sentences too. 

Their first element begins with what or how, and is followed by a subject and verb, in that order. For example:

What an awful night that was!
What a masterpiece you've made!
How swell she is!

They can offer appear in a reduced form.

What an awful night!
What a masterpiece!
How swell!

Both sets of examples are said to have an exclamative structure. 

It's rare to find an exclamative with the subject and verb inverted, but they do exist. For example:

How often have I cursed that terrible day!

Monday, 11 February 2013


Directives are sentences which instruct someone to do something. To call them commands is misleading, because commands are one type of directive. 

Here are some examples:

Commanding - Sit down now!

Inviting - Have a drink with me tonight. 

Warning - Mind where you tread.

Pleading - Help me.

Advising - Take the medicine.

Requesting - Open the door, please.

Expressing good wishes - Have a nice day.

In all of these cases, the verb is in it's basic form, with no endings, and there is usually no subject element present. Sentences structured in this way are called imperatives. It is typical for a directive sentence to have an imperative structure. 

Some directives do not use the basic pattern. 

They allow a subject with strong stress - You be quiet! Nobody move! Everyone go!

They begin with let followed by a subject - Let me see. Let us pray. Let's go.

They begin with do or don't - Do come in. Don't laugh. Do not answer. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013


Questions are sentences that seek information. There are three main types, dependant on the kind of reply they expect and their construction. These type of sentences are said to have an interrogative structure. 

Yes-no questions

'Are you ready?' 'Do you want dinner?'

Wh- questions

What, why, where and how questions.

'What time is it?' 'How are you today?'

Alternative questions

Requires an option to be selected. They always have the connecting word 'or' in them.

'Would you like eggs or bacon?' 'Manchester City or Manchester United?'

Statements can be turned into questions by a tone of voice. 

'John's home?' 'You've spoken to him?'

Tag questions

These are questions where the interrogative structure is added at the end of the sentence. 

'You like ice cream, don't you?' 

These questions also expect a 'yes' or 'no' reply.

Exclamatory questions

These are questions that are an exclamation and ask the hearer to agree. 

'Hasn't she grown!' 'Wasn't the book marvellous!'

Rhetorical questions

These are questions that don't expect an answer. 

'Who cares?' 'How should I know?' 'What difference does it make?'


If we change the intonation of a question it can alter it's meaning. 

'She's not in, is she?' (I want to know - The tone at the end is rising)
'She's not in, is she!' (I told you so - The tone at the end is falling.)

This can be unclear when written down, so be careful. 

Friday, 8 February 2013


A statement is a sentence whose purpose is primarily to convey information. It usually has two criteria:

1) The clause contains a subject. 

2) The subject precedes the verb. 

These sentences are said to have a declarative structure. 

In conversation, the subject is often omitted from a declarative sentence:

Looks like snow. Told you so. Beg pardon. 

There are a very few cases where the subject follows a verb. This happens when the clause begins with words like 'hardly' and 'scarcely', which express a negative meaning. 

Hardly had he left, when the heavens opened.    

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Seven Basic Clause Types

Most sentences can be analysed into one of only seven basic clause types

Key - S: Subject, V: Verb, O: Object, C: Complement, A: Adverbial.

1) S + V - Jason sneezed.

2) S + V + O - Jason kicked a ball.

3) S + V + C - Jason is ready.

4) S + V + A - Jason walks to Manchester.

5) S + V + O + O - Jason took money from me.

6) S + V + O + C - Jason got a shoe wet.

7) S + V + O + A - Jason put his shoe in a box.

Sometimes the clause elements are used in a different sequence. This especially happens with questions, but can also happen with statements. 

Jonah Hex / his name / is! - C + S + V

The adverbial is different to the other elements as it can be used often in a clause. For example:

Jake / leaned / on the stick / again / happily - S + V + A + A + A

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Clause Elements

All clauses are made up of elements. 

There are five types of clause element:

This sentence has all five - John / has called / me / a fool / twice 


This usually identifies the theme or topic of the clause. (John)


This has a wide range of meanings, such as actions, sensations, or states of being. (has called).


Who or what is directly affected by the action. (me)  


These add information to another clause element. (a fool) - Which adds to the meaning of (me)


These usually add information to a situation, such as the time or frequency of an action. (twice)

In 90% of clauses containing a subject, verb, and object, the subject precedes the verb, and the verb precedes the object.

A clause element doesn't mean it is only one word. Here are some examples:

I / planted / a flower - Subject / Verb / Object.
All the kids / have eaten / chocolate - Subject / Verb / Object.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Types of Sentence

There are two main types of sentences: regular and irregular. They can also be called: major and minor.

Major Sentences

These are sentences that can be broken down into a specific pattern of elements (clauses):

My son                       has dropped                        a vase                       on the floor
David                         painted                                his house                  today
I                                 threw                                   a ball                        at John

Simple Sentences

A one clause sentence is called a 'simple sentence'. For example:

John dropped a rock on his toe. 

Multiple Sentences

A sentence with more than one clause is called a 'multiple sentence'. For example.

John dropped a rock on his toe and Freddie dropped a rock on his toe.

Minor Sentences

Minor sentences are not constructed in a regular way. Unlike major sentences, they use abnormal patterns and cannot be organised into a series of clause elements. They often appear in every day conversation and when dialogue is written in fiction.


Formulae for stereotyped social situations:

Hello. How are you? Thanks. Cheers!

Emotional noises - Known as interjections:

Oi! Hey! Tut-tut. Shh! Ow!

Proverbs or pithy sayings - Known as aphorisms:

Easy come, easy go. Like father, like son.

Abbreviated forms:

Wish you were here. Mix well. One lap more:

Words and phrases that are used as exclamations, questions, or commands:

Nice day! Oh for a gin! Taxi? All aboard!


Minor sentences, unlike major sentences, have to be remembered and used at they are. In a major sentence you can change the tense:

John drops a rock on his foot.
John dropped a rock on his foot.

Minor sentences however, don't work in this way:

Wish you were here.
Wish you are here.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Defining a Sentence

Defining a sentence can be a hard thing to do.

Sometimes people say it is 'A complete expression of a single thought', but this can be too vague.

There are sentences that express a single thought but are not complete:

- Nice one, Fred! 
- Horrible Night! 
- Taxi! 

Some sentences are complete and express more than one thought:

- Because it's Sunday, James wants to walk in the park, play on the swings, eat ice cream, and fish in the river.

The formal approach to english grammar looks at the way sentences are constructed - The pattern of the words they contain.

Three things apply to any English sentence:

- It is constructed according to a system of rules known by all the adult mother-tongue speakers of the language. A sentence formed in this way is said to be grammatical. 

- It can stand on its own without feeling incomplete.

- It is the largest construction to which the rules of grammar apply.   

Saturday, 2 February 2013

When to Use a Dash

A dash is a mark of separation. It is stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than a parenthesis. 

When he looked at the drink-that was bubbling and churning-he wondered if he should drink it at all.

The parrot made a noise-a wheezing, choking, exasperated cough. 

The bald spot that caught the sun, the hunch in his shoulders, the limp in his walk-all the signs of old age catching up with him. 

Only use a dash when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Using Colons

A colon should be used after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation. 

A colon tells the reader that what follows is closely related to the preceding clause. It has more effect than the comma, less power to separate than the semicolon, and it is more formal than the dash. For example:

A keen footballer requires three props: boots, a ball, and his favourite team's shirt. 

If the second independent clause interprets or amplifies the first, then a colon should be used to join them.  

A colon can be used to introduce a quotation that supports or contributes to the preceding clause. For example:

When I dwell on the past, it helps me to think of Oasis singing: "Don't look back in anger."

A colon can also be used to:
1) Follow the salutation of a formal letter. Dear Mr. Robertson:
2) To separate the hours and minutes in time. 11:22
3) To separate the title of a work from the subtitle. Super Noodles: A guide to terrible meals.
4) To separate a bible chapter from the verse. Genesis 10:14