It’s 2 degrees Celsius here in London today and it feels colder because there is a steady wind. I hope you're all warm and safe and ready to tackle the boring part of learning a language, and that is grammar. English like any other language has its own vocabulary to describe its own grammar rules. It helps to know what the most common of these words is and what they mean. In today's English lesson we cover the most important and frequently used.
If you are a regular listener, you will often hear phrases like “This is a noun, or that is a verb”, these words are just describing parts of English grammar and most people will have heard some or all of them and understand some or all of them.
However, it’s not fair to assume everyone knows what these words are. So today we explain the important ones to listeners who don’t know them, and for everyone else it’s a great way to confirm you know what it all means without having to pick up a book or a pen.
Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.
⭐ Joan Didion, Author
So next time you're listening to one of our podcasts and you hear “preposition” or another English grammar term you can jump to podcast 301 and remind yourself what it’s all about. We have covered a lot of English grammar and have a whole collection of grammar specific podcasts you can listen to.
Prepositions Phrasal Adverbs
Hi there and welcome to Adept English. One of the things which I do in almost every podcast, is use the proper words for the parts of grammar. English grammar, of course. So examples of proper terms for English grammar might be words like noun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition. You’ve heard me say those words, I’m guessing, in a podcast? Hopefully, the podcasts will still make sense, even if you don’t know the meaning of those words – and it probably depends upon where and when you’ve learnt your English, whether you learned formal grammar.
English is easier to learn if you understand the structure of the language though, how it’s built. So let’s do a short podcast today on words for parts of English grammar. If you know these words already, then time to sit back and relax! And if you don’t, this will make your learning easier. You’ll be moving towards perfect English grammar! And these words will be useful to you, if you’ve never had basic English grammar lessons. People learn English in all kinds of different ways, but today’s words will help.
So the first term today – a ‘noun’ and that is spelt N-O-U-N. So a noun is a ‘person, place or thing’. That’s what British children are taught in school - ‘a noun is a person, place or thing’. And they do teach English grammar today, in British schools, which is good. Also a noun is a word that you might put a ‘the’ or an ‘a’ in front of. So ‘the house’, ‘a dog’, ‘the apples’, or ‘the apples’, we’d probably say. And you can have ‘concrete nouns’ - that means things you can touch – like ‘the house, ‘a dog’ or ‘the apples’.
Also abstract nouns – that means nouns that you can’t touch, like the word ‘idea’ or ‘news’ or ‘sentence’. You can also have Proper Nouns – so these are usually names, like Hilary- so that’s got a capital H. Or London, with a capital L. In English, words like the days of the week or the months of the year are proper nouns, so they have capitals too. But unlike the German language, ordinary nouns don’t have capital letters.
So that’s a noun, ‘a person, place or thing’. So if you would like to describe a noun, give some more detail, then the words that you would use for this are called adjectives. That’s A-D-J-E-C-T-I-V-E. And again in British schools, we’re taught that adjectives are ‘describing words for nouns’. So if you say ‘the big house’, ‘the brown dog’, or the ‘fallen apples’ - then you’ve added adjectives to the nouns. And in English, they usually come before the noun in the sentence.
You can also stack them up – you might say ‘the big, brown dog’, so that’s adjective, adjective noun. And in this case, there’s a comma between the two adjectives. Notice also that if you use more than one adjective, we can be a bit fussy in English – size and colour adjectives have to go in a certain order. You would say ‘the big, brown dog’, but an English speaker would never say ‘the brown, big dog’. Strange, I know!
And then there are verbs, V-E-R-B-S. So the phrase that British children learn in school is ‘a verb is a doing word’. So the part of grammar, English grammar that we call a verb, is used where there’s an action and a sentence isn’t strictly a sentence, unless there’s a verb in it. Someone or something is doing something. So the way to tell that it’s a verb – if you can put ‘to’ in front of it. So ‘to go’, ‘to walk’, ‘to own’, ‘to speak’, ‘to smile’. They’re all verbs. And a very common thing in English is that many verbs can also be used as a noun.
So in that list there – ‘to walk’ - well, you can talk about ‘a walk’ or ‘the walk’ - that’s a noun. And ‘to smile’ - you could say ‘a smile’ or ‘the smile’ - that’s a noun too. And if I make this slightly more complicated – you can also take parts of verbs and make them into nouns. So ‘walking is good for you’ - there ‘walking’ is a noun – but also called a ‘gerund’, G-E-R-U-N-D, when it’s made from a verb. The same word can also be used also as an adjective, so someone might use ‘a walking stick’. So there’s a fair bit of flexibility going on here! You can’t make them up – I don’t mean that. But they ‘move around’, these words.
And if you want to describe a verb, so you want to add some description to the way that someone does something, then for this you would use an adverb, A-D-V-E-R-B. So while an adjective describes a noun, an adverb describes a verb. So you might say ‘I will go quickly to the car’ or ‘I spoke softly’. So not always, but often, adjectives have an -L-Y ending. And usually, though not always, the adverb goes after the verb.
And one of the mistakes which you might hear English speakers make sometimes, is using an adjective, where an adverb is needed. So someone might say ‘He looked at me strange’, when what they actually mean is ‘He looked at me strangely’. So you can also have adverbs that are about things like time or frequency. Examples of these kinds of adverbs are ‘often’ or ‘never’ or you can have adverbial phrases, like ‘all the time’.
And last of all today, prepositions. These are mostly tiny little words – and they indicate the relationship between things, or you can add them onto verbs, to change the meaning. Remember phrasal verbs? You’ve perhaps heard my podcasts on phrasal verbs. Examples of a phrasal would be ‘get up,’ ‘get on’, or ‘get along’?
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So prepositions are words like to and on, in and under, at, or about. What surprised me, when I looked this up – there are about 150 prepositions in English. Really? That sounds a lot to me – but probably you would need only to be familiar with around half of them. They’re little words that you barely notice. And they’re easy in English - I’m thinking of German, where the prepositions have cases, and they affect the form of the nouns and their adjectives.
In English, prepositions just sit there, with the noun – or the verb – and don’t really change anything else, though they are very useful, of course. You won’t get far, in grammar, English grammar, without prepositions. And just for completeness, a couple of English grammar sentence examples, using prepositions. ‘Please put the book on the table, the pen back into the drawer and come and stand over there’. Sounds a bit bossy. Another one – The cat jumped down off the table and ran under a chair’.
So that was easy, wasn’t it? I haven’t covered all the parts of English grammar of course, but those are the main ones. And they’re the ones I’m more likely to use in a podcast. Useful for when you’re checking out English grammar online.
And by the way, did you know that you can buy our podcasts as a bundle as part of our podcast download service? If you would like to have 50 podcasts to listen to on your phone, when you’re out, travelling, or exercising? Or when you’re at home, doing your cleaning or your cooking? Just imagine – 50 podcasts to listen to. Remember Rule Three of the Seven Rules of Adept English? Well, you can really go with Rule Three, if you have 50 podcasts to listen to. That’s a lot of quality English language listening. It’s all waiting for you, on our website at adeptenglish.com.
So there you have it – English grammar basics for you. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.