Tag Archives: Word classes

The key to verbs

The section on verbs under the WORD tab is now complete. If you are studying language or want to know more about how language works – this is for you …

key 2 Unlock verbs:

          • 5 key facts you need to know about verbs
          • key terms that will help you to recognise and describe verbs
          • lots of exercises for practice with answers just one click away
          • and finally a look at verbs in context – a sports commentary, an extract from an autobiography and a News in Brief report 

It’s really important to be able to recognise and describe verbs, so have a look now!

Verbs

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How many ‘likes’ have you used today?

The like test – do you know you’re saying it?

The colloquial use of like in informal situations is pervasive – try counting how many the people around you use and you’ll find its frequency is high. The question is whether speakers are aware that they are using like – if you don’t know you’re saying it, then you won’t be able to choose alternatives in a formal situation!

And now for the grammatical explanations …

The word like is very versatile: it can be found in different positions in a sentence and it does different jobs.

Word classes

It can be:

a noun

Earthquakes cause devastation, destruction, pain, suffering and the like.

i.e. resembling something that has already been mentioned

Do you have any particular likes and dislikes?

i.e. things that are preferred (usually in plural)

like-this-md 

  I’ve got lots of likes on my post.

  i.e. the act of showing support for or approval of something posted on the internet by clicking ‘like’

 

You shouldn’t hang around with the likes of them.

  i.e. such a person or thing (colloquial, now usually derogatory)

an adjective

What is the new girl like?

i.e. what sort of person (expects description in response rather than a comparison)

a verb

1197103980603314298addon_bucket_and_spade.svg.medIn the summer, the children all like ice-creams and going to the beach.

i.e. to find something enjoyable (transitive – followed by an object usually in the form of a noun or a present participle)

We always like to run early on Saturday morning.

i.e. to do something as a regular habit (transitive – followed by an object usually in the form of an infinitive)

I should like to know whether the essays need to be uploaded with the application form.

1197104193998287648papapishu_Baby_boy_crawling.svg.med

i.e. conditional, implying that the question has no obvious answer

Have you liked the photo of the baby on Stacey’s facebook page?

i.e. the act of registering one’s support for or approval of a post on the internet

a preposition

 A mathematician like you will never be misled by statistics in the news.

  i.e. ‘such as’

The girl’s eyes shone like sapphires caught in moonlight. 

i.e. in the same manner as (simile)

Idioms

So far, so good. The usage of like in each of the examples above is standard. We can add to this list a number of idiomatic expressions:

She looks like a runner. (i.e. to have the appearance of being)girl-running-md

Like father like son. (proverbial)

That’s more like it! (colloquial)

He feels like a take-away tonight. (i.e. to have an inclination for something, colloquial)

I want you to sort out all your computer junk, your old files and the like. (formula to avoid further listing of similar items)

Oh come on. Don’t be like that. (i.e. stop behaving in a negative way)

I like that! (i.e. don’t like = ironic, colloquial)

The essay requires polish, good editing if you like, before it will be ready for submission. (i.e. suggesting something with which others may disagree, formal)

You can borrow my coat if you like(i.e. making a casual suggestion or an offer)

He’d do it like a shot if he was asked. (i.e. quickly, colloquial)

dig-mdI was digging like crazy all day. (i.e. in the manner of someone who is crazy)

Informal spoken usage

From here on, we’re venturing into increasingly informal territory – examples of like that linguistic traditionalists may well describe as ‘vulgar’, but which have a high frequency in casual spoken interactions, particularly among young people. You can often trace the origins to American English in the second half of the twentieth century. If you are in a formal context, these colloquialisms are best avoided!

as a conjunction

Although this use of like is widespread, many people see it as an inappropriate choice where we need a conjunction to join clauses.

The rain came down heavily like it was the end of the world. (i.e. as if + verb)12236147771872367369johnny_automatic_waiting_out_the_storm.svg.thumb

He’s good at English like his brother was. (i.e. as + verb)

The sun was weak like in winter. (as + ‘it was’, ellipsis of subject + verb)

as an intensifier

It was like wild last night.

i.e. draws attention to the adjective (often followed by a micropause and rising intonation on the adjective)

It was like so bad I didn’t want to go back. 

as a marker for recounted speech (quoting clause)

1194984513646717809chat_icon_01.svg.thumb  And he was like no way and I was like yeah. 

i.e. said (used when telling an anecdote, often to express emotion, attitude or reaction)

as a hedge

He like totally died! 

i.e. indicates that the  following words are not to be taken literally (figurative use of language or hyperbole) 

It’ll take like a year for Game of Thrones Season 3 to be out on DVD.

 i.e. about (approximation)

Man, like if you could just like, you know, let us stay like for tonight.

 i.e. expresses uncertainty  

as a filler

Like how much do you want for the car?

i.e. has no semantic function in the context of the sentence

sitdown-mdHe came over and like sat down with us.

i.e. a discourse marker (functioning much like um or er)

Can you spot the difference?

The examples below are the like-count of a 20-minute car journey with a teenager … can you describe the use of like in each case?

Thorntons have like really nice chocolate.

I’ve liked Stewart Lee.

A police commissioner liaises with the police, so a crime commissioner would have to like liaise with criminals!burglar-md

How far is that above like minimum wage?

It’s like literally the same thing.

I’ve worn that shirt for like two days.

Like, that’s not fair!

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WOWs

as and like

Which one should I choose?

stick man The first thing to know is that:

as = conjunction or preposition

likeverb (to express a preference) or preposition

So, think about the context … look at the meaning and the words that come before and after as and like   then decide whether you need to use a verb, a conjunction or a preposition …

The sentences below are examples of non-standard usage. Can you explain why? 

1194986450373692781smiley002.svg.med   My uncle can plaster a wall like he’s a real plasterer.   

   My friends are working hard for their exams, like they did last year.   

If you would like more information about as/like and practice exercises with answers, follow the link: WOW 5

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WOWs

of and ′ve

Which one should I choose?

11954376991581374061listenworld_john_olsen_01.svg.med

 The first thing to know is that:

of = preposition

′ve = verb

(a shortened form of have, typical in informal speech)

So, think about the context … look at the words that come before and after the of or the ve , and then decide whether you need to use a verb or a preposition …

The sentences below are examples of non-standard usage. Can you explain why?

   I could of run faster.  1194986450373692781smiley002.svg.med

   He was tired‘ve always being last.   

If you would like more information about of /ve and practice exercises with answers, follow the link: WOW 4  

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Evolutionary biology, mathematical models and language study – an unexpected mix

Language is an inherited system of information – we inherit the language of our parents in much the same way that we inherit their genes …

And why is that useful? Because we can use language to study questions about human history. That’s what the Radio 4 programme Material World discussed on 28 February 2013.

Evolutionary biologists at Reading University have been looking at the language of Homer’s Iliad so they could work out exactly when it was written.

800px-Heroes_of_iliad_by_Tischbein

So what did they do?

  • they looked at the many different copies of The Iliad to put together an ‘original’ version of Homer’s oral poem
  • they compared the vocabulary and turns of phrase with Modern Greek
  • they studied the rate of replacement of two hundred common words (e.g. body parts, colours, family relationships, pronouns, numbers)

Using their mathematical model, they found that closed class words evolved slowly and open class words more quickly. 

To find out more – including a ‘precise’ date for Homer’s poem – use the link below :

Scroll through to 22:11 to find the start of the discussion.

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The key to open and closed class words

key 2

This is where we start … you  first need to be able to RECOGNISE and then DESCRIBE words according to their class.

The first two sections are short and straightforward. They introduce you to open class words and closed class words. These are two very broad categories and all words fit into one group or the other.

Follow the links to read about word classes. Then use the exercises to test your knowledge. Can you spot which words belong to the open class and which to the closed?

Open class words

Closed class words

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