Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.
Grammar and Word Form
If you are cooking, it generally doesn't work out too well if you just throw everything into a pan at the same time and cook it all for a random amount of time. Why, that's not cooking, you'd say, that's just heating up random ingredients. And you'd be right, because you know that cooking requires recipes to be followed in order for your dish to come out right.
In the same way, the English language has specific 'recipes' for utilizing the different word forms in sentences so that what we write and say makes sense. After all, if you are asking someone for a pair of scissors, you'd probably get a pretty funny look if you told them: 'Pair of please the give scissors me.' In this lesson, we'll discuss grammar and the different word forms that make up the English language and dictate the way we speak and write.
There are several different forms words can take, and words can change spelling depending on the form they take. How words interact with each other to give a sentence meaning is called syntax. In order to help you pick out each word form, we are going to use one sentence as our example sentence for this entire lesson. Our example sentence:
'The carpenter quickly built his son a large, green treehouse in his backyard for his birthday.
Let's get started.
Every sentence must have a subject. The subject is the main actor in the sentence and is usually a noun. In our sentence, 'carpenter' is the subject as it is the one performing the action.
Every sentence must also have a verb. The verb is the action being completed by the subject. In our example, 'built' is the verb, as it is what the subject is doing.
Modifiers are usually adjectives or adverbs and are used to give more detail and description to the subjects and verbs in the sentence. Adjectives are used to modify nouns and are usually placed in front of the noun. Adverbs, on the other hand, are used to modify verbs and can be found either before or after the verb.
The modifiers in our sentence are 'quickly,' 'large,' and 'green.' 'Large' and 'green' are adjectives, as they are both modifying the noun treehouse, by telling us its size and color. 'Quickly' is an adverb as it is modifying the verb built by telling us how the treehouse was built. Adverbs tend to end in '-ly' and can sometimes become an adjective by removing the '-ly' suffix (e.g., the adverb 'quickly' becomes the adjective 'quick').
Direct objects are the receivers of the action. Not all sentences will have a direct object. In order to locate one, find your subject and verb, then ask 'who' or 'what.' In this example, 'The carpenter built' who or what? He built a treehouse, so that is our direct object.
Indirect objects are the words that receive the direct object. You cannot have an indirect object if you do not have a direct object. The indirect object modifies the verb and will always be found between the verb and the direct object. To find the indirect object (once you have identified a direct object) ask 'to whom' or 'for whom.' In this example, 'The carpenter built...the treehouse' for whom or to whom? He built it for his son, so 'son' is the indirect object.
Prepositions and Conjunctions
Prepositions and conjunctions are words that do the important job of linking together the principal words of the sentence to give us more information or background. These words generally don't mean anything on their own and also tend to be shorter words. Words like 'with,' 'and,' 'by,' 'for,' and 'toward' are just a few of the dozens of prepositions and conjunctions in the English language. For example, our above example has two prepositional phrases 'for his birthday' and 'in his backyard.' Although the sentence is complete without these phrases, it only gives us partial information. The addition of the prepositional phrases adds interesting information and gives us a full picture of why the carpenter built the treehouse and where it was located.
Different grammatical word forms have an enormous impact on the meaning of sentences. Subjects are the main actor of a sentence, while verbs are the main action being completed by the subject. Direct objects are the primary recipient of the action, while indirect objects are the recipients of the direct object. Modifiers, usually adjectives or adverbs, on the other hand, give us more detail on the subject, verb, and other objects in the sentence. Prepositions and conjunctions complete the important task of linking words, indicating direction, and generally giving us a better feeling of a sentence's true meaning.
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