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English Grammar‏‎

In grammar a Verb Tense is a form of a verb‎ used to indicate roughly the time when the action described by the verb takes place. Here we talk about 3 basic tenses: Past, Present and Future. (Some people talk about more than 3, however.)

Compare this with Verb Form which is the form of a verb in a particular tense, e.g. present simple, present continuous, etc.

For more, see Verb Tenses‏‎ & Forms in English Grammar.

An Utterance is the spoken equivalent of a sentence. The only difference between them is that one is spoken whilst the other is written.

For more, see Utterances‏‎.

Parts of Speech (often abbreviated to PoS and sometimes known as Word Classes) are the different categories of words‎ in English. They refer to the way in which those words are used grammatically.

Common PoS include adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs and so on.

For more on this, see Parts of Speech in English Grammar.

The Bare Infinitive is the base form of the verb‏‎:
be, have, walk...

The Full Infinitive has to at the beginning:
to be, to have, to walk...

Both are known as the Infinitive.

For more, see Infinitives in English Grammar.

Grammar is the way in which words come together to form sentences‏‎ (or utterances‏‎ in spoken language).

It is difficult to define this word accurately because people use it in different ways. Some definitions include:

  • the branch of linguistics‏‎ which deals with syntax‏‎ and morphology‏‎ and sometimes semantics
  • the study of parts of speech‏‎, their inflection‏‎ and relations in a sentence

Perhaps though the simplest explanation is that grammar is the rules which we have to combine words so they make sense.

NB For a full (and user-friendly) look at English grammar just use the search box on each page to find the term you’re looking for.

Prescriptive or Descriptive

There has been much debate on this point. Essentially a prescriptive grammar tells people what to say.

For example, old-fashioned grammars‏‎ used to say one must never split an infinitive‏‎. The problem thought is that millions of people split infinitives everyday in their speech so if the majority of people do it, can it be wrong?

Another problem with prescriptive grammars is that they look at language as a fixed entity. They assume that language does not change. However, language does change and new ways of speaking come into fashion.

More recently, we have what are called descriptive grammars. These don’t tell people what to say, they simply describe how people speak.

The ICAL Grammar Guide takes a very pragmatic view. We describe what most people say and what is most useful for learners of English. If a learner splits and infinitive they will still be understood so why complicate matters?

See the main article, Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars.

Useful Links

The ICAL Grammar Foundation Course – an online course to learn English grammar

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