Explore Essential English – The Principles and Practice of English Grammar in Use

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Like other languages, the English language can be spoken and written. For both purposes we require vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary consists of words. Grammar has rules for combining words for meaningful communication in spoken and written English. By vocabulary, we mean all the words in English or any other language. No one knows precisely how many words there are in the English language. One of the main reasons is that it is a dynamic language, which is continuously changing. The other reason is that experts have different views on what constitutes a distinct word, and whether we should include scientific words in the English vocabulary. However, it is generally understood that the English language, excluding scientific words, has about one million words. Some words do become obsolete, and some new words are being continuously included.

It is interesting to imagine for a moment what is required to build a strong and safe brick wall. You will need some bricks. If you just pile these up on top of each other, the wall will not be a strong and safe structure. Therefore, you would require some lime or cement and sand in order to mix these with water to make some mortar. The mortar is used to hold the bricks together. By using the right amount of mortar between bricks, you can create a strong and safe brick wall structure.

Like bricks, vocabulary (words) by itself is insufficient for both writing and speaking purposes. To create a language structure, such as a phrase or a sentence, what is needed is a set of rules of grammar (mortar). Like mortar, the correct application of the rules of English grammar can convert a meaningless combination of words into a meaningful structure.

Here, the word structure means the way some words are arranged, in accordance with the rules of grammar, into phrases, clauses, etc. There are numerous types of structures such as a human body structure, building structure and so on. We are interested in the grammatical structure of the English language.

A particular style is a distinct way in which something is organised, arranged or done for whatever purpose. For instance, a manager can be kind, friendly and assertive when dealing with staff in order to get the job done. We can label this manager’s style as a “friendly style of management”.

On the other hand, another manager can be nasty, unfriendly and authoritarian. This is an autocratic style of management. These are two distinct styles of management. Similarly, there are many styles of using the language. For example:

. simple style some people prefer a simple style they use common words, short phrases and sentences mainly in private conversation and personal letters

. complex style some people find simple writing and speaking dull they use complicated words and jargon (words and phrases that are used by some group of people and are difficult for others to understand)

. colourful style some people such as toastmasters, writers and speakers who make money by writing and speech making, use very colourful language(metaphor, alliteration, simile, hyperbole and wordplay)

. colloquial style some people use very simple words and phrases. This style is not for formal speech and writing. It is used in private conversation

One can think of many other styles such as a humorous style, prose style, archaic style, etc.

The English language is widely used in the world and therefore it has many different forms. I am concerned with the contemporary English in use in Britain. Despite the fact that there are many regional variations, there is standard English. Standard English is the form of the language that is nationally used in Britain. It is the medium of communication at the national level. It is used by institutions including educational bodies, text books, newspapers, broadcasting services, government agencies, etc. Standard English is socially accepted as the most correct form of the English language. Speakers of other languages also learn standard English.

A number of words can be put together without applying any rules of grammar. Let’s consider the phrase “any grammar book”, in which three words are side by side. We do understand the meaning of the combination of these three words. If you exchange places of two words in this combination, or pattern of words, it will not make any sense. The reason is that we do not say ‘book grammar any’. This new combination of words becomes no more than a meaningless jumble of words.

If you ask a number of native speakers of English, they will immediately recognize both the correct and incorrect pattern of these words. They use mental pictures which help them to recognize these groups of words as meaningful or meaningless. It is not only the combination of words that native speakers recognize, but also the meaning associated with that combination of words. They apply their knowledge of the order in patterns of words, and their associated meanings, by using their familiar vocabulary.

Native speakers use the language in its complexity from early childhood. They have been using the language up to the present time in their lives, and their knowledge of grammar is stored somewhere in their memories, just like the memory of a computer. Often, they are able to recall it and use it intuitively. They might have forgotten the technical terms needed to explain why the structure, such as a complicated sentence, is unrecognizable, or difficult to understand. Whether you are a native speaker or a student of the English language, you must learn English grammar in order:

. to be able to put words into recognized structures, namely phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs

. to identify grammatical structures, e.g. sentences, etc.

. to understand the meaning associated with these structures

. to analyze these structures in order to explain them to others, if there is a need for it

What is grammar? Grammar is an umbrella term. In essence, it is concerned with the words of a language and the mechanism, or rules of combining, or joining them together in meaningful phrases, clauses and sentences. It can also mean a person’s knowledge and use of a language. For our purpose, the word rule means a recognised standard way of constructing structures. Therefore, the rules of grammar are principles for both spoken and written language.

In this age of the World Wide Web, the use of English is expanding exponentially through the Internet, and the correct use of English and its grammar is increasingly becoming highly desirable. Boldly speaking, it can be said that you are only as good as your grammar.

The prime aim of this book is to describe, and explain with the aid of numerous helpful examples, those aspects of English which are essential for both written and spoken standard English. The general objective of this book is to enable readers to improve their knowledge and skills in using the language with confidence. If you are an intermediate or advanced learner of English, or a teacher of English, you will find this book invaluable. The prescriptive method of grammar explanation is applied in this book. This approach is concerned with prescribing what is correct. It means discussing how the language should be used.

Diagram 1 shows that the relationship between words and rules is inseparable as indicated by a double arrow between them. The rules of grammar govern words and words are needed to make rules about them. All illustrations are numbered simply as 1,2, etc. within chapters.

The linguistic aspects of the English grammar are beyond the scope of this book. In passing, linguistics is the scientific study of language. Linguistic is connected with linguistics. A linguist studies languages and works in the linguistic field, mainly in the academic world. In this book, uncommon words, such as discourse (for combining sentences) and lexis (the words of a language) i.e. linguistic terminology used by linguists, are not included.

. How to use this book

This book consists of four parts. These are:

Part 1 starts with word classes which are also known as parts of speech. As words are the building blocks of language, it is, therefore, vitally important to understand how they are classified and governed by the rules of the English grammar.

Part 2 is devoted to analysis, transformation and synthesis of different types of phrases, clauses and sentences. This part follows Part 1 so that the reader can fully grasp the importance of each class of words and the role that can be played by different words in phrases, clauses and sentences.

Part 3 deals with punctuation. Punctuation makes written communication clear.

Part 4 examines writing skills for letter writers. It demonstrates good letter writing basic requirements in the English-speaking world.

It is suggested that Parts 1 and 2 are to be read consecutively. Parts 3-4 may be read in any order.

Test Your Knowledge section has some exercises. It is recommended that self-learners and students work the exercises out for themselves first and then compare them with the solutions provided.

The glossary contains an alphabetical list of definitions of terms used in this book.

Addendum contains some information on word formation, such as phrasal verbs.

The book finishes with an index. This can be used for reference at any time. Illustrations, diagrams and tables are numbered simply as 1,2,3 – – -etc. within chapters.