English in Use/Introduction

English in Use
General ContentsIntroduction
Parts of speech ArticlesNounsVerbsGerunds and participlesPronounsAdjectivesAdverbsPrepositions, Conjunctions and Interjections
Other topics OrthographyPunctuationSyntaxFigures of SyntaxGlossary
External Resources

Welcome edit

Welcome to the English language Wikibook on the English language!

To learn about chapter format and whether this is the right book for you, continue reading this page. Most of this material is not dependent on other sections, so you can also use this book as a reference by clicking on any subject you would like to learn more about on the contents page. If you don't want to bother looking through chapters for a specific piece of information, click here to ask a question on any subject covered in this book. To learn more about this book and view a list of authors, see the About page.

Additionally, those knowledgeable about the English language are welcome and highly encouraged to contribute. See the About page to learn more about contributing and add your name to the authors listing.

Introduction to the English language edit

English has become one of the most popular languages in the world. Proper English skills are becoming a valuable asset in business around the world. Do not put off learning English because of the great variety of word orders available (even for simple things). Have a go and keep trying. Practice.

It is well worth remembering that English is not a fixed language - it is shifting like sand and so these "rules" are in the process of change and are often ignored or bent - much to the disdain of erudite scholars. This may be one reason why English can be tricky to learn.

Purpose and structure - What will this book cover? edit

This book will function as:

  1. A guide to structure and grammar,
  2. A usage guide, and
  3. A manual of style

It is divided into six units: Words and usage, Sentences, Punctuation, Other key topics, Appendices, and Topics in detail. The eventual goal is to be usable in English classrooms around the world. This book will not include English vocabulary and pronunciation (covered in English as an Additional Language). Advanced writing topics (covered in Rhetoric and Composition (PDF)) will also be excluded.

Intended audience - Who is this book for? edit

This book is written for native English speakers and those who wish to learn the finer grammar and mechanics points of the language and improve their writing and speech, including ESL speakers. It is meant to be both a structured textbook read chapter by chapter and a reference book. English as an Additional Language and Business English present English in the manner of a traditional foreign language course. Rhetoric and Composition (PDF) covers advanced writing techniques not covered in this book. See /External resources for other pages to read.

Chapter format edit

All pages of this book should be about the same length and difficulty, in order to provide consistency and allow readers to plan ahead how much they want to read each session. Each chapter will try to not be dependent on previous chapters as much as possible. Each chapter should be accompanied by exercises using {{English/Exercise}}.

Contributing - What can I do to help? edit

Both experts and beginners can help to improve this book. If you would like to help, the about page should tell you everything you want to know to help. If you don't have a lot of time to work on this book, there are two simple things you can do. Firstly, you can make sure that {{English/Navigation}} is on every page. Type <nowiki>

</nowiki> on the bottom of the page to include the template. Secondly, you are encouraged to comment on each chapter on its talk page. Don't understand something? Please say so so others don't experience the same problem! If you feel you understand the material on a page pretty well, write some exercises as practice. Be bold!

Brief language history edit

Modern English has evolved out of old Anglo-Saxon, a language much like modern German. In the process, it has borrowed many Latin words, and completely changed its grammar.

The story starts when the Romans left Britain, leaving the Celtic Britons in chaos. One Celtic king asked the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes to come and fight for him, but they decided to take over England instead, since the Celts couldn't put up a decent fight.

Soon, there were no Celts left in England, and hardly any trace of the Celtic languages. There are a few river names inherited from the Celts, or earlier, and maybe a dozen words, but no more. This complete obliteration of the Celts was unusually thorough for the times.

A few generations later the English converted to Christianity. The new religion brought with it a flood of new words, borrowed from Latin and Greek; religious terms such as Angel, priest, and nun, but also names of un-English things such lion, pepper, and oyster.

Around this time, the English began slurring the ends of words. This was the start of the process that created modern English grammar.

After a few centuries of peace the Vikings invaded. They spoke Old Norse, a language related to English. After much fighting, they settled down in North East England, and introduced many Norse words into English, including the pronouns them, they, and their.

Just as the Viking invasions stopped, the French-speaking Normans invaded. Commoners continued speaking English, but for the next two centuries the noblemen spoke French.

A few French words trickled into English during the period, but the number stayed pretty low until the nobles stopped speaking French, in the mid thirteenth century. This precipitated a large influx of words of French origin into the English language as an entire class migrated from French to English. Many of the French words were Anglicized, but some of the spelling of the words remained roughly intact. It should be noted that the Normans spoke an older version of French known as Old French that may sometimes actually seem to be closer to English than current French, because English took some words from Old French wholesale, such as mansion. Around the same time the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded.

During the Renaissance, the scholars of England added many more Greek and Latin words to the English language. As a result, much of the technical vocabulary in English consists of Greek or Latin words.

Since then, English has also borrowed many words from the major European languages, such as French, as well as a few words from almost every other language. It is still changing and developing.