English in Use/Print version

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Overview · Nouns and pronouns · Verbs · Adjectives and adverbs · Prepostions, conjunctions, and interjections · Verbals
Overview · Basic components · Phrases · Clauses · Fragments and run-on sentences
Adjective and adverb usage · Pronoun usage · Subject-verb agreement · Verb usage
End marks · Commas · Apostrophes · Quotations · Other common punctuation marks · Less common typographical marks
Other key topics
Capitalization · Spelling · Writing and composition · Syntax · Figures of syntax · Recent grammar restructure attempts
Glossary · External resources · About · GNU Free Documentation License


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


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

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?

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?

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

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 chapter as much as possible. Each chapter should be accompanied by exercises using {{English/Exercise}}. </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! </noinclude>

Brief language history

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.

Unit I: Words

Parts of Speech Overview

English in Use/Parts of Speech Overview


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

This page is written in English, and therefore needs to be translated at a later date to other languages for it to become more useful.
  • Janet is the name of a girl.
  • Apple is a fruit and a computer company.

In the above sentence, "computer" is an adjective because it is describing "company".

  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
  • The World Wide Web has become the least expensive way to publish information.

A noun, or noun substantive, is a part of speech (a word or phrase) which functions as the head of a noun phrase. The word "noun" derives from the Latin nomen meaning "name", and a traditional definition of nouns is that they are only those expressions that refer to a person, place, thing, event, substance, quality, or idea. They serve as the subject or object of a verb and as the governed term of a preposition, and can co-occur with articles and attributive adjectives.

There are different groups of nouns:

  • Common nouns—"chair",
  • Proper nouns—"Fred",
  • Abstract nouns—"love",
  • Collective nouns—"gaggle",
  • Compound nouns—"butterfly",
  • Verbal nouns—"triumphing".

Each of these different groups of nouns have different properties, each making them different in how we use them.

Thus, nouns are names of objects, places, people and things. They are used with adjectives to describe something, and with verbs to show an action.

Concrete nouns

Concrete nouns are proper nouns and common nouns.

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are the names of people, places, groups or dates: as, Adam, Boston, the Hudson, the Romans, the Azores, the Alps. They almost always have a capital letter as their first letter. Example:

  • "Timmy is not someone to be toyed with."No one likes to hear other people boast their talents

Common nouns

Common nouns are the names of a sort, kind, or class, of beings or things: as, beast, bird, fish, insect, creatures, persons, children. They often refer to objects or things which we can see, touch and feel, like the word chair. Example:

  • "I sat at the table."

Individual nouns

Their refer to only one thing of the same kind, for eg: man, player, cow, chicken, minister.

Collective nouns

Collective nouns are the names of a groups of objects or many individuals together: as, council, meeting, committee, flock. Example:

  • "They are a group."

Abstract nouns

Abstract nouns are the names of some particular qualities considered apart from its substance: as, goodness, hardness, pride, frailty. They are often names of the things that we cannot touch or see, but are there all the same. Example:

  • "I think I've fallen in love!"


Verbal nouns

Verbal nouns or participial nouns are the names of some actions, or states of being; and are formed from a verb, like a participle, but employed as a noun: as,

  • "The triumphing of the wicked is short."—Job, XX, 5.

Sui generis

A thing sui generis, (i.e., of its own peculiar kind,) is something which is distinguished, not as an individual of a species, but as a sort by itself, without plurality in either the noun or the sort of thing: as, galvanism, music, geometry.

Words and word groups used as nouns

Adjectives made nouns

  • "The Ancient of days did sit."—Bible.
  • "Of the ancients."—Swift.
  • "For such impertinents."—Steele.
  • "He is an ignorant in it."—Id.
  • "In the luxuriance of an unbounded picturesque."—Jamieson.
  • "A source of the sublime;"—Burke.
  • "The vast immense of space:"—Murray.
  • "There is none his like."—Job, XLI, 33.
  • "A little more than a little, is by much too much."—Shakespeare.
  • "And gladly make much of that entertainment."—Sidney.
  • "A covetous man makes the most of what he has."—L'Estrange.
  • "It has done enough for me."—Pope.
  • "He had enough to do."—Bacon.
  • "All withers here; who most possess, are losers by their gain, stung by full proof, that bad at best, life's idle all is vain."—Young.
  • "Nor grudge I you the much the Grecians give, nor murmuring take the little I receive."—Dryden.

Pronouns made nouns

  • "A love of seeing the what and how of all about him."—Story's Life of Flaxman: Pioneer, Vol. i, p. 133.
  • "The nameless he, whose nod is Nature's birth."—Young, Night iv.
  • "I was wont to load my she with knacks."—Shak. Winter's Tale.
  • "Or any he, the proudest of your sort."—Shak.
  • "I am the happiest she in Kent."—Steele.
  • "The shes of Italy."—Shak.
  • "The hes in birds."—Bacon.
  • "We should soon have as many hes and shes as the French."—Cobbet's E. Gram., Para. 42.
  • "If, for instance, we call a nation a she, or the sun a he."—Ib., Para. 198.
  • "When I see many its in a page, I always tremble for the writer."—Ib., Para. 196.
  • "Let those two questionary petitioners try to do this with their whos and their whiches."—Spect: Ash's Gr., p. 131.
  • "Such mortal drugs I have; but Mantua's law is death to any he that utters them."—Shak.

Verbs made nouns

  • "Avaunt all attitude, and stare, and start theatric."—Cowper.
  • "A may-be of mercy is sufficient."—Bridge.
  • "Which cuts are reckoned among the fractures."—Wiseman.
  • "The officer erred in granting a permit."
  • "Feel darts and charms, attracts and flames."—Hudibras.
  • "You may know by the falling off of the come, or sprout."—Mortimer.
  • "And you have talked of sallies and retires."—Shak.
  • "For all that else did come, were sure to fail; yet would he further none, but for avail."—Spenser.

Participles made nouns (gerunds)

  • "For the producing of real happiness."—Crabb.
  • "For the crying of the poor and the sighing of the needy, I will arise."—Bible.
  • "Surely the churning of milk brings forth butter, and the wringing of the nose brings forth blood; so the forcing of wrath brings forth strife."—Prov., xxx, 33.
  • "Reading, writing, and ciphering, are indispensable to civilized man."
  • "Hence was invented the distinction between doing and permitting."—Calvin's Inst., p. 131.
  • "Knowledge of the past comes next."—Hermes, p. 113.
  • "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me."—Sol. Song, vii, 10.
  • "Here's—a simple coming-in for one man."—Shak.
  • "What are your rents? What are your comings-in? O Ceremony, show me but your worth."—Id.

Adverbs made nouns

  • "In these cases we examine the why, the what, and the how of things."—L'Estrange.
  • "If a point or now were extended, each of them would contain within itself infinite other points or nows."—Hermes, p. 101.
  • "The why is plain as way to parish church."—Shak.
  • "It is heaven itself that points out an hereafter."—Addison.
  • "The dread of a hereafter."—Fuller.
  • "The murmur of the deep amen."—Sir W. Scott.
  • "For their whereabouts lies in a mystery."—Book of Thoughts, p. 14. Better.
  • "Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind; you lose here, a better where to find."—Shak.

Conjunctions made nouns

  • "The if, which is here employed, converts the sentence into a supposition."—Blair's Rhet.
  • "Your if is the only peacemaker; much virtue is in if."—Shak.
  • "So his lordship decreed with a grave solemn tone, decisive and clear, without one if or but—that whenever the nose put his spectacles on, by daylight or candlelight—eyes should be shut."—Cowper.

Prepositions made nouns

  • "O, not like me; for mine's beyond beyond."—Shakspeare: Cymb., iii, 2.
  • "I.e., her longing is further than beyond; beyond anything that desire can be said to be beyond."—Singer's Notes.
  • "You whirled them to the back of beyont to look at the auld Roman camp."—Antiquary, i. 37.

Interjections or phrases made nouns

  • "Come away from all the lo-heres! and lo-theres!"—Sermon.
  • "Will cuts him short with a 'What then?'"—Sermon.
  • "With hark and whoop, and wild halloo."—Scott.
  • "And made a pish at chance and sufferance."—Shak.
  • "A single look more marks the internal wo, than all the windings of the lengthened oh."—Lloyd.

Countable and uncountable nouns

Inflections of Nouns

Nouns have modifications of genders, numbers, and cases.


Genders, in grammar, are modifications that distinguish objects in regard to sex.

There are three genders; the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter:

  1. The masculine gender is that which denotes persons or animals of the male kind: as, man, father, king.
  2. The feminine gender is that which denotes persons or animals of the female kind: as, woman, mother, queen.
  3. The neuter gender is that which denotes things that are neither male nor female: as, pen, ink, paper.

Hence, names of males are masculine; names of females, feminine; and names of things inanimate, literally, neuter.

  • Masculine nouns make regular feminines, when their termination is changed to ess: as,
Hunter, huntress; prince, princess; lion, lioness.
  • In some instances the syllable ess is simply added: as,
Accuser, accuseress; advocate, advocatess; archer, archeress; author, authoress; avenger, avengeress; barber, barberess; baron, baroness; canon, canoness; cit, cittess; coheir, coheiress; count, countess; deacon, deaconess; demon, demoness; diviner, divineress; doctor, doctoress; giant, giantess; god, goddess; guardian, guardianess; Hebrew, Hebrewess; heir, heiress; herd, herdess; hermit, hermitess; host, hostess; Jesuit, Jesuitess; Jew, Jewess; mayor, mayoress; Moabite, Moabitess; monarch, monarchess; pape, papess; or, pope, popess; patron, patroness; peer, peeress; poet, poetess; priest, priestess; prior, prioress; prophet, prophetess; regent, regentess; saint, saintess; shepherd, shepherdess; soldier, soldieress; tailor, tailoress; viscount, viscountess; warrior, warrioress.
  • In other instances, the termination is changed, and there is no increase of syllables: as,
Abbot, abbess; actor, actress; adulator, adulatress; adulterer, adulteress; adventurer, adventuress; advoutrer, advoutress; ambassador, ambassadress; anchorite, anchoress; or, anachoret, anachoress; arbiter, arbitress; auditor, auditress; benefactor, benefactress; caterer, cateress; chanter, chantress; cloisterer, cloisteress; commander, commandress; conductor, conductress; creator, creatress; demander, demandress; detractor, detractress; eagle, eagless; editor, editress; elector, electress; emperor, emperess, or empress; emulator, emulatress; enchanter, enchantress; exactor, exactress; fautor, fautress; fornicator, fornicatress; fosterer, fosteress, or fostress; founder, foundress; governor, governess; huckster, huckstress; or, hucksterer, hucksteress; idolater, idolatress; inhabiter, inhabitress; instructor, instructress; inventor, inventress; launderer, launderess, or laundress; minister, ministress; monitor, monitress; murderer, murderess; negro, negress; offender, offendress; ogre, ogress; porter, portress; progenitor, progenitress; protector, protectress; proprietor, proprietress; pythonist, pythoness; seamster, seamstress; solicitor, solicitress; songster, songstress; sorcerer, sorceress; suitor, suitress; tiger, tigress; traitor, traitress; victor, victress; votary, votaress.
  • In a few instances the feminine is formed as in Latin, by changing or to rix; but some of these have also the regular form, which ought to be preferred: as,
Adjutor, adjutrix; administrator, administratrix; arbitrator, arbitratrix; coadjutor, coadjutrix; competitor, competitress, or competitrix; creditor, creditrix; director, directress, or directrix; executor, executress, or executrix; inheritor, inheritress, or inheritrix; mediator, mediatress, or mediatrix; orator, oratress, or oratrix; rector, rectress, or rectrix; spectator, spectatress, or spectatrix; testator, testatrix; tutor, tutoress, or tutress, or tutrix; deserter, desertress, or desertrice, or desertrix.
  • The following are irregular words, in which the distinction of sex is chiefly made by the termination:
Amoroso, amorosa: archduke, archduchess; chamberlain, chambermaid; duke, duchess; gaffer, gammer; goodman, goody, or goodwife; hero, heroine; landgrave, landgravine; margrave, margravine; marquis, marchioness; palsgrave, palsgravine; sakeret, sakerhawk; sewer, sewster; sultan, sultana; tzar, tzarina; tyrant, tyranness; widower, widow.


Numbers, in grammar, are modifications that distinguish unity and plurality.

There are two numbers; the singular and the plural.

The singular number is that which denotes but one: as,

  • "The boy learns."

The plural number is that which denotes more than one: as,

  • "The boys learn."
  • Plurals in meaning and form:
Analects, annals, archives, ashes, assets, billiards, bowels, breeches, calends, cates, chops, clothes, compasses, crants, eaves, embers, estovers, forceps, giblets, goggles, greaves, hards or hurds, hemorrhoids, ides, matins, nippers, nones, obsequies, orgies, piles, pincers or pinchers, pliers, reins, scissors, shears, skittles, snuffers, spectacles, teens, tongs, trowsers, tweezers, umbles, vespers, victuals.
  • Plurals by formation, derived chiefly from adjectives:
Acoustics, aeronautics, analytics, bitters, catoptrics, commons, conics, credentials, delicates, dioptrics, economics, ethics, extraordinaries, filings, fives, freshes, glanders, gnomonics, goods, hermeneutics, hustings, hydrodynamics, hydrostatics, hydraulics, hysterics, inwards, leavings, magnetics, mathematics, measles, mechanics, mnemonics, merils, metaphysics, middlings, movables, mumps, nuptials, optics, phonics, phonetics, physics, pneumatics, poetics, politics, riches, rickets, settlings, shatters, skimmings, spherics, staggers, statics, statistics, stays, strangles, sundries, sweepings, tactics, thanks, tidings, trappings, vives, vitals, wages, withers, yellows.
  • Plurals by composition:
Backstairs, cocklestairs, firearms, headquarters, hotcockles, spatterdashes, self-affairs. To these may be added the Latin words, aborigines, antipodes, antes, antoeci, amphiscii, anthropophagi, antiscii, ascii, literati, fauces, regalia, and credenda, with the Italian vermicelli, and the French belles-lettres and entremets.

Regular plurals

The plural form is usually represented orthographically by adding s to the singular form. The phonetic form of the plural morpheme is [z] by default. When the preceding sound is a voiceless consonant, it is pronounced [s]. Examples: boy makes boys; girl, girls; chair, chairs; cat, cats.

Where a noun ends in a sibilant sound, the plural is formed by adding es (pronounced [?z]), which is spelled es if the word does not already end with e: glass makes glasses; dish, dishes; witch, witches; phase, phases; judge, judges.

Most nouns ending in o preceded by a consonant also form their plurals by adding es (pronounced [z]): hero makes heroes; potato, potatoes; volcano, volcanoes.

Nouns ending in a y preceded by a consonant drop the y and add ies (pronounced [iz]): cherry makes cherries; lady, ladies.

Proper nouns (particularly those for people or places) ending in a y preceded by a consonant form their plurals regularly: Harry makes Harrys; Germany, Germanys.

This does not apply to words that are merely capitalised common nouns: as, P&O Ferries.

A few common nouns ending in a y preceded by a consonant form their plurals regularly: henry makes henrys; zloty, zlotys.

Words ending in ey form their plurals regularly, in order to avoid the unpleasant-appearing vowel sequence eie: monkey, monkeys.

Almost-regular plurals

Many nouns of Italian or Spanish origin are exceptions to the oes rule: canto makes cantos; piano, pianos; portico, porticos; quarto, quartos; solo, solos.

Many nouns ending in a voiceless fricative mutate that sound to a voiced fricative before adding the plural ending. In the case of [f] changing to [v] the mutation is indicated in the orthography as well: calf makes calves; bath, baths; mouth, mouths; house, houses.

Some retain the voiceless consonant: proof makes proofs; moth, moths; place, places; dwarf, dwarfs or dwarves; hoof, hoofs or hooves; staff, staffs or staves; turf, turfs or turves; roof, roofs or rooves.

Irregular plurals

There are many other less regular ways of forming plurals. While they may seem quirky, they usually stem from older forms of English or from foreign borrowings.

Irregular Germanic plurals

The plural of a few Germanic nouns can also be formed from the singular by adding n or en, stemming from the obsolete weak declension: ox makes oxen; child, children.

The plural is sometimes formed by simply changing the vowel sound of the singular, in a process called umlaut (these are sometimes called mutated plurals): foot makes feet; goose, geese; louse, lice; man, men; mouse, mice; tooth, teeth; woman, women.

Some nouns have singular and plural alike, although they are sometimes seen as regular plurals: as, aircraft, sheep, deer, fish, cod, trout, head, cannon.

Generally, plurals refer to several species or kinds of animal, while the unmarked plural is used to describe multiple individual animals; one would say the classification of fishes, but five fish in an aquarium.

Irregular plurals of foreign origin

Such nouns often retain their original plurals. In some cases both forms are still vying: for a librarian, the plural of appendix is appendices; for physicians, the plural of appendix is appendixes. A radio engineer works with antennas and an entomologist deals with antennae. The "correct" form is the one that sounds better in context. Correctly formed Latin plurals are the most acceptable, in academic and scientific contexts. In common usage, plurals with s are sometimes preferred.

  • Final a becomes ae (also æ) or just adds s:
Formula makes formulae, lamina, laminae; macula, maculae; minutia, minutiae; nebula, nebulae; siliqua, siliqiuae; dogma, dogmas or dogmata; exanthema, exanthemas or exanthemata; miasm or miasma, miasms or miasmata; stigma, stigmas or stigmata.
Saliva and scoria have no occasion for the plural.
  • Final ex or ix becomes ices (pronounced [??si?z] or [??siz]) or just adds es. Of nouns in x, there are few, if any, which ought not to form the plural regularly, when used as English words; though the Latins changed x to ces, and ex to ices, making the i sometimes long and sometimes short: as,
Apex, apices, for apexes; appendix, appendices, for appendixes; calix, calices, for calixes; calx, calces, for calxes; calyx, calyces, for calyxes; caudex, caudices, for caudexes; cicatrix, cicatrices, for cicatrixes; helix, helices, for helixes; index, indices, for indexes; matrix, matrices, for matrixes; quincunx, quincunces, for quincunxes; radix, radices, for radixes; varix, varices, for varixes; vertex, vertices, for vertexes; vortex, vortices, for vortexes.
Some Greek words in x change that letter to ges: as, larynx, larynges, for larinxes; phalanx, phalanges, for phalanxes. Billet-doux, from the French, is billets-doux in the plural.
  • Final is becomes es (pronounced [?i?z]. Of nouns in is, some are regular: as, trellis, trellises: so, annolis, butteris, caddis, dervis, iris, marquis, metropolis, portcullis, proboscis.
Some seem to have no need of the plural: as, ambergris, aqua-fortis, arthritis, brewis, crasis, elephantiasis, genesis, orris, siriasis, tennis.
But most nouns of this ending follow the Greek or Latin form, which simply changes is to es: as, amanuensis, amanuenses; analysis, analyses; antithesis, antitheses; axis, axes; basis, bases; crisis, crises; diaeresis, diaereses; diesis, dieses; ellipsis, ellipses; emphasis, emphases; fascis, fasces; hypothesis, hypotheses; metamorphosis, metamorphoses; oasis, oases; parenthesis, parentheses; phasis, phases; praxis, praxes; synopsis, synopses; synthesis, syntheses; syrtis, syrtes; thesis, theses.
In some, however, the original plural is not so formed; but is made by changing is to ides: as, aphis, aphides; apsis, apsides; ascaris, ascarides; bolis, bolides; cantharis, cantharides; chrysalis, chrysalides; ephemeris, ephemerides; epidermis, epidermides.
So iris and proboscis, which we make regular; and perhaps some of the foregoing may be made so too.
  • Final ies remains unchanged: as, series, species.
  • Final on becomes a. Of nouns in on, derived from Greek, the greater part always form the plural regularly: as, etymons, gnomons, ichneumons, myrmidons, phlegmons, trigons, tetragons, pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, octagons, enneagons, decagons, hendecagons, dodecagons, polygons.
So trihedrons, tetrahedrons, pentahedrons, etc., though some say, these last may end in dra.
For a few words of this class, however, there are double plurals in use; as, automata or atomatons, criteria or criterions, parhelia or parhelions; and the plural of phenomenon appears to be always phenomena.
The plural of legumen is legumens or legumina; of stamen, stamens or stamina: of cherub, cherubs or cherubim; of seraph, seraphs or seraphim; of beau, beaus or beaux; of bandit, bandits or banditti.
  • Final um becomes a or just adds s: as, addendum makes addenda, medium makes media or mediums. Of nouns in um, some have no need of the plural: as,
Bdellium, decorum, elysium, equilibrium, guaiacum, laudanum, odium, opium, petroleum, serum, viaticum. Some form it regularly; as, asylums, compendiums, craniums, emporiums, encomiums, forums, frustums, lustrums, mausoleums, museums, pendulums, nostrums, rostrums, residuums, vacuums. Others take either the English or the Latin plural; as, desideratums or desiderata, mediums or media, menstruums or menstrua, memorandums or memoranda, spectrums or spectra, speculums or specula, stratums or strata, succedaneums or succedanea, trapeziums or trapezia, vinculums or vincula. A few seem to have the Latin plural only: as, arcanum, arcana; datum, data; effluvium, effluvia; erratum, errata; scholium, scholia.
  • Final us becomes i (second declension), era, ora (third declension), or just adds es (especially in fourth declension, where it would otherwise be the same as the singular): as, alumnus makes alumni, viscus viscera, corpus corpora, prospectus prospectuses.
But such as have properly become English words, may form the plural regularly in es; as, chorus, choruses: so, apparatus, bolus, callus, circus, fetus, focus, fucus, fungus, hiatus, ignoramus, impetus, incubus, isthmus, nautilus, nucleus, prospectus, rebus, sinus, surplus.
Radius makes radii or radiuses. Genius has genii, for imaginary spirits, and geniuses, for men of wit. Genus, a sort, becomes genera in Latin, and genuses in English. Denarius makes denarii or denariuses.
Of nouns in us, a few have no plural: as, asparagus, calamus, mucus.
Some have only the Latin plural, which usually changes us to i: as, alumnus, alumni; androgynus, androgyni; calculus, calculi; dracunculus, dracunculi; echinus, echini; magus, magi.
Final us in nouns of Greek origin "properly" add es. These words are also heard with the Latin i instead, which is sometimes considered "over-correct", but this is so common as to be acceptable in most circumstances, even technical ones: cactus makes cactuses or cacti; hippopotamus, hippopotamuses or hippopotami, octopus, octopuses, octopi, or octopodes; platypus, platypuses, rhinoceros, rhinoceroses or rhinoceri, uterus, uteruses or uteri.
  • Final as in one case of a noun of Greek origin changes to antes: Atlas makes Atlantes; atles, atlases.
  • Final ma in nouns of Greek origin add ta: stigma makes stigmata; stoma, stomata; zeugma, zeugmata.
Though some take s more commonly: schema makes schemata or schemas; dogma, dogmata or dogmas; lemma, lemmata or lemmas.
  • Some nouns of French origin add x: beau makes beaux; chateau, chateaux; bureau, bureaus or bureaux.
  • Nouns from Slavic languages: kniazhestvo makes kniazhestvos or kniazhestva; kobzar, kobzars or kobzari, oblast, oblasts or oblasti.
  • Nouns of Hebrew language origin add im, ot (generally m/f), or just s: cherub makes cherubim or cherubs; seraph, seraphim or seraphs; matzoh, matzot or matzos.
The Hebrew plurals cherubim and seraphim, being sometimes mistaken for singulars, other plurals have been formed from them.
  • Some nouns of Japanese origin have no plural and do not change: as, samurai, otaku.
However, other nouns such as kimonos, futons and tsunamis are more often seen with a regular English plural.
  • In New Zealand English, nouns of Maori origin can either take an s or have no separate plural form: as, waka makes waka; marae, marae; kohwai, kohwai or kohwais; tui, tuis or tui, kiwi, kiwi or kiwis.
  • Nouns from languages that have donated few words to English, and that are spoken by relatively few English-speakers, generally form plurals as if they were native English words: canoe makes canoes; kayak, kayaks; igloo, igloos; kangoroo, kangoroos; sauna, saunas; cwm, cwms; pizza, pizzas; kindergarten, kindergartens.
In Canada and Alaska, some words borrowed from Inuktitut retain traditional plurals: Inuk makes Inuit; inukshuk, inukshuit.
  • Some words of foreign origin are much better known in the plural. In common usage, the proper plural is considered the singular form. Back-formation has usually resulted in a regularized plural: candelabra makes candelabras; data, data; agenda, agendas or agendae; graffiti, graffiti; insignia, insignias; algae, algae or algaes; opera, operas; viscera, viscera; panini, paninis; phalanx, phalanges; magazine, magazines.


Cases, in grammar, are modifications that distinguish the relations of nouns or pronouns to other words.

There are three cases; the nominative, the possessive, and the objective.

The nominative case

The nominative case is that form or state of a noun or pronoun, which usually denotes the subject of a finite verb: as,

  • "The boy runs;"
  • "I run."

The subject of a finite verb is that which answers to who or what before it: as,

  • "The boy runs."
  • Who runs? "The boy."

Boy is therefore here a noun in the nominative case, or nominative.

For example:

  • I eat an orange
  • I buy a chocolate
  • I love my family
  • I love yellow

The possessive case

The possessive case is that form or state of a noun or pronoun, which usually denotes the relation of property: as,

  • "My hat;"
  • "The boy's hat."

Boy is here a noun in the possessive case, or possessive.

The possessive case of nouns is formed, in the singular number, by adding to the nominative s preceded by an apostrophe; and, in the plural, when the nominative ends in s, by adding an apostrophe only: as, singular, boy's; plural, boys'; sounded alike, but written differently.

The objective case

The objective case is that form or state of a noun or pronoun which usually tells the object of a verb, participle, or preposition: as,

  • "I know the boy, having seen him at school; and he knows me."

The object of a verb, participle, or preposition, is that which answers to whom or what after it: as,

  • "I know the boy."
  • I know whom? "The boy."

Boy is therefore here a noun in the objective case, or objective.

The nominative and the objective of nouns, are always alike in form, being distinguishable from each other only by their place in a sentence, or by their simple dependence according to the sense.

For example:

  • I am playing with my football.
  • I take her bag.
  • Anoud's room is dirty.

The declension of nouns

The declension of a noun is a regular arrangement of its numbers and cases. Thus:

Sing. Nom.  friend,    Plur. Nom.  friends,
      Poss. friend's,        Poss. friends',
      Obj.  friend;          Obj.  friends.

Sing. Nom.  man,       Plur. Nom.  men,
      Poss. man's,           Poss. men's,
      Obj.  man;             Obj.  men.

Sing. Nom.  fox,       Plur. Nom.  foxes,
      Poss. fox's,           Poss. foxes', 
      Obj.  fox;             Obj.  foxes.

Sing. Nom.  fly,       Plur. Nom.  flies,
      Poss. fly's,           Poss. flies', 
      Obj.  fly;             Obj.  flies.

The noun as a modifier

A short syntax

The subject must be in the nominative case, as "You say it."

The subject is placed before the attribute, as "Peace dawned on his mind," except the following cases: a question, as "How many loaves have you?" imperative mood, as "Go you," strong feeling, as "May she be happy!" a supposition, as "Were it true," neither or nor, as "Neither shall you touch it," emphasis, as "Here am I," no regimen, as "Echo the mountains round," dialogue, as "My name is Hassan," and the adverb there, as "There lived a man."

A noun in apposition is put in the same case as the noun it explains, as "But he, our gracious master, knows us."

A possessive is governed by the name of the thing possessed, as "Man's life."

A possessive comes immediately before the governing noun, as "Nature's peace," except the following cases: an intervening adjective, as "Flora's earliest smells," affirmation or denial, as "The book is not John's," a possessive without sign, as "Brother Absalom's house," or "David and Jonathan's friendship."

The predicate is governed by attribute in objective case, as "I found her."

A noun or a pronoun put after a non-transitive verb or participle, agrees in case with a preceding noun or pronoun referring to the same thing, as "The child was named John."

The case of absolute noun or pronoun depends on no other word, as "Your fathers, where are they?"



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A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun: as,

  • "The boy loves his book; he has long lessons, and he learns them well."

Pronouns are not a requirement of a sentence, and it is possible for them to never to be used in sentences. However, many sentences become unwieldy without them:

  • "Alistair is doing what Alistair thinks is best according to Alistair's rights as a human being."
  • Better, "Alistair is doing what he thinks is best according to his rights as a human being."

The pronouns in English language are twenty-four; and their variations are thirty-two: so that the number of words of this class, is fifty-six.

Pronouns are divided into three classes; personal, relative, and interrogative.

Pronouns also change depending on whether they refer to one person or thing (singular) or a group of people or things (plural).

Personal pronouns

A personal pronoun or personal is a pronoun that shows, by its form, of what person it is: as,

  • "Whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so you believed."—1 Cor., xv, 11.

The simple personal pronouns are five: namely, I, of the first person; you (thou), of the second person; he, she, and it, of the third person.

The compound personal pronouns are also five: namely, myself, of the first person; yourself (thyself), of the second person; himself, herself, and itself, of the third person.

First person pronouns are used when referring to oneself:

  • "I think I am not silly."

Second person pronouns are used to refer to someone who you are conversing with, the person the sentence is intended to be heard by:

  • "You are not very silly."

("Thou art not very silly.")

Third person pronouns are used when referring to something else that is outside the conversation, either some other person, or an object not capable of understanding or communicating:

  • "I like the tree because it is beautiful."
  • "I don't like the RIAA because they sued me."

Third person singular pronouns are the only pronouns marked for gender. If gender is unknown, use he or she or use a plural.

Relative pronouns

A relative pronoun or relative is a pronoun that represents an antecedent word or phrase, and connects different clauses of a sentence: as,

  • "No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous."—Dr. Johnson.

The relative pronouns are who, which, what, that, as, and the compounds whoever or whosoever, whichever or whichsoever, whatever or whatsoever.

What is a kind of double relative, equivalent to "that which" or "those which"; and is to be parsed first as antecedent, and then as relative: as,

  • "This is what I wanted; that is to say, the thing which I wanted."—L. Murray. III.

Interrogative pronouns

An interrogative pronoun or interrogative is a pronoun with which a question is asked: as,

  • "Who touched my clothes?"—Mark, v, 30.

The interrogative pronouns are who, which, and what; being the same in form as relatives.

Who demands a person's name; which, that a person or thing be distinguished from others; what, the name of a thing, or a person's occupation and character.

Pronouns have the same modifications as nouns; namely, persons, numbers, genders, and cases. Definitions universally applicable have already been given of all these things; it is therefore unnecessary to define them again in this place.

The declension of a pronoun is a regular arrangement of its numbers and cases.

Simple personals

The simple personal pronouns are thus declined:

I, of the first person, any of the genders.

Sing. Nom.  I,             Plur. Nom.  we,
      Poss. my, or mine,         Poss. our, or ours,
      Obj.  me;                  Obj.  us.

You, of the second person, any of the genders.

Nom.  you,
Poss. your, or yours,
Obj.  you.

He, of the third person, masculine gender.

Sing. Nom.  he,            Plur. Nom.  they,
      Poss. his,                 Poss. their, or theirs,
      Obj.  him;                 Obj.  them.

She, of the third person, feminine gender.

Sing. Nom.  she,           Plur. Nom.  they,
      Poss. her, or hers,        Poss. their, or theirs,
      Obj.  her;                 Obj.  them.

It, of the third person, neuter gender.

Sing. Nom,  it,            Plur. Nom.  they,
      Poss. its,                 Poss. their, or theirs,
      Obj.  it;                  Obj.  them.

Compound personals

The word self, added to the simple personal pronouns, forms the class of compound personal pronouns; which are used when an action reverts upon the agent, and also when some persons are to be distinguished from others. They all want the possessive case, and are alike in the nominative and objective. Thus:

Myself, of the first person, any of the genders

Sing. Nom.  myself,   Plur. Nom.  ourselves
      Poss. ------,         Poss. ---------,
      Obj.  myself;         Obj.  ourselves.

Yourself, of the second person, any of the genders.

Sing. Nom.  yourself,
      Poss. --------,
      Obj.  yourself.

Plur. Nom.  yourselves,
      Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  yourselves.

Himself, of the third person, masculine gender.

Sing. Nom.  himself,  Plur. Nom.  themselves,
      Poss. -------,        Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  himself;        Obj.  themselves.

Herself, of the third person, feminine gender.

Sing. Nom.  herself   Plur. Nom.  themselves,
      Poss. -------,        Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  herself;        Obj.  themselves.

Itself, of the third person, neuter gender.

Sing. Nom.  itself,   Plur. Nom.  themselves,
      Poss. ------,         Poss. ----------,
      Obj.  itself;         Obj.  themselves.

Relatives and interrogatives

The relative and the interrogative pronouns are thus declined:

Who, literally applied to persons only.

Sing. Nom.  who,      Plur. Nom.  who,
      Poss. whose,          Poss. whose,
      Obj.  whom;           Obj.  whom.

Which, applied to animals and things.

Sing. Nom.  which,    Plur. Nom.  which,
      Poss. ----,           Poss. -----,
      Obj.  which;          Obj.  which.

What, applied ordinarily to things only.

Sing. Nom.  what,     Plur. Nom.  what,
      Poss. ----,           Poss. ----,
      Obj.  what;           Obj.  what.

That, applied to persons, animals, and things.

Sing. Nom.  that,     Plur. Nom.  that,
      Poss. ----,           Poss. ----,
      Obj.  that;           Obj.  that.

As, applied to persons, animals, and things.

Sing. Nom.     as,    Plur. Nom.  as,
      Poss.    ----,        Poss. ----,
      Obj.     as;          Obj.  as.

Compound relatives

The compound relative pronouns, whoever or whosoever, whichever or whichsoever, and whatever or whatsoever are declined in the same manner as the simples. Thus:

Whoever or whosoever, applied only to persons.

Sing. Nom.  whoever,     Plur. Nom.  whoever,
      Poss. whosever,          Poss. whosever,
      Obj.  whomever;          Obj.  whomever.

Sing. Nom.  whosoever,   Plur. Nom.  whosoever,
      Poss. whosesoever,       Poss. whosesoever,
      Obj.  whomsoever;        Obj.  whomsoever.

Whichever or whichsoever, applied to persons,
animals, and things.

Sing. Nom.  whichever,   Plur. Nom.  whichever,
      Poss. ---------,         Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whichever;         Obj.  whichever.

Sing. Nom.  whichsoever, Plur. Nom.  whichsoever,
      Poss. ---------,         Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whichsoever;       Obj.  whichsoever.

Whatever or whatsoever, applied ordinarily to things only.

Sing. Nom.  whatever,    Plur. Nom.  whatever,
      Poss. --------,          Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whatever;          Obj.  whatever.

Sing. Nom.  whatsoever,  Plur. Nom.  whatsoever,
      Poss. ---------,         Poss. --------,
      Obj.  whatsoever;        Obj.  whatsoever.

Unclear Usage of Pronouns

Although helpful to eliminate repetitiveness of nouns, pronouns, when used too much, can make a sentence extremely vague: as,

  • "Pictures on walls make it look pretty."

The reader does not know what it is.

  • "The teachers prepared the food. The students ate it. They had fun."

The reader does not know who they are.


The pronoun y'all is a contraction of "You all". It is traditionally used in the south of the United States, where in the north you all is more common. Y'all follows the same conjugation rules as they. Very often it is incorrectly spelled ya'll.

A short syntax

A pronoun must agree with its antecedent, as "This is the book; it is excellent," except the following cases: something indefinite, as "Tell me who it was," a neuter pronoun, as "I cannot view it," the pronoun it, as "It is not for kings," the adjective many, as "Many a great genius, they have no friends," enallage, as "We shall close our remarks," another sense, as "Lamps is of the plural number," nominatives, as "Who are you?", absolute nominatives, as "It need not be any wonder," possessives, as "Him whose yoke is easy," objectives, as "Those whom she persuaded," neuter verbs, as "Whom did you suppose me to be?", familiar language, as "The man [whom] I trust," omission of the relative, as "The worst thing [that] could happen," a collective noun, as "The council were divided," the conjunction or, as "James or John will favour us with his company," the conjunction and, as "Saul and Jonathan were pleasant in their lives," one person or thing, as "This great philosopher and statesman," empathy, as "The good man, and the sinner too, shall have his reward," and each, every, or no, as "Every plant and every tree produces others after its kind."


See also


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Verbs are often called action words that show what the subject (a noun or pronoun) is doing. A verb is a word that signifies to be, to act, or to be acted on: as, I am, I rule, I am ruled, I love, you love, he loves. Verbs are so called, from the Latin verbum, a word; because the verb is that word which most essentially contains what is said in any clause or sentence. Although described as "action words", they can describe abstract concepts. They are a requirement of any sentence. Verbs have modifications of four kinds: moods, tenses, persons and numbers.

Morphological forms

An English verb has four morphological forms (forms of word formation) ever needful to be ascertained in the first place: the present, the past, the present participle, and the past participle. The third person singular is the fifth morphological form.

The present is that form of the verb, which is the root of all the rest; the verb itself; or that simple term which we should look for in a dictionary: as, be, act, rule, love, defend, terminate.

The past is that simple form of the verb, which denotes time past; and which is always connected with some noun or pronoun, denoting the subject of the assertion: as, I was, I acted, I ruled, I loved, I defended.

The present participle is that form of the verb, which ends commonly in ing, and implies a continuance of the being, action, or passion: as, being, acting, ruling, loving, defending, terminating.

The past participle is that form of the verb, which ends commonly in d or ed, and implies what has taken place: as, been, acted, ruled, loved.


English, like many Germanic languages, contains both strong (or irregular, which is not quite the same as strong) and weak (regular) verbs. Irregular verbs are one of the most difficult aspects of learning English. Each irregular verb must be memorized, because they are not often easy to identify otherwise.

Verbs are divided, with respect to their regularity, into four classes: regular and irregular, redundant and defective.

A regular verb is a verb that forms the past and the past participle by assuming d or ed: as, love, loved, loving, loved.

An irregular verb is a verb that does not form the past and the past participle by assuming d or ed: as, see, saw, seeing, seen.

A redundant verb is a verb that forms the past or the past participle in two or more ways, and so as to be both regular and irregular: as, thrive, thrived or throve, thriving, thrived or thriven.

A defective verb is a verb that forms no participles, and is used in but few of the moods and tenses: as, beware, ought, quoth.

Persons and numbers

The person and number of a verb are those modifications in which it agrees with its subject. There are three persons and two numbers: thus,

  1. Singular first person. I love.
  2. Singular third person. He loves.
  3. Plural first person. We love.
  4. Plural second person. You love.
  5. Plural third person. They love.

Where the verb is varied, the third person singular in the present tense, is regularly formed by adding s or es: as, I see, he sees; I give, he gives; I go, he goes; I fly, he flies; I vex, he vexes; I lose, he loses.

Where the verb is not varied to denote its person and number, these properties are inferred from its subject: as, if I love, if he love; if we love, if you love, if they love.


Tenses are those modifications of the verb, which distinguish time. There are three tenses -

  • The Present,
  • The Past, and
  • The Future.

Each of the above category lists subcategories. One could even say there are twelve tenses because each of those comes in simple and in progressive forms, which have different meaning.

The past tense is sometimes called imperfect, but the names perfect and imperfect do not fit their meaning. These names were derived from Latin where they were correct.

The Present

Simple Present Tense is that which expresses what now exists, is normal or correlated to senses. It is used with adverbs like always, generally.

  • "There is a house in New Orleans."
  • "I read a book every week."
  • "I hear a noise."

Present Continuous Tense is that which expresses what is temporary:

  • "I am reading a letter."
  • "The car is running at high speed."
  • "Someone is always working."

Present perfect tense is that which expresses what has taken place, within some period of time not yet fully past, or is still valid. It is used with adverbs like ever, never, today, this week.

  • "I have read several of Shaw's novels."
  • "I have seen him today; something must have detained him."
  • "Have you ever tried fugu fish?"

Present perfect continuous tense is that which which started in the past and has not yet finished.

  • "Since I have been standing here, five planes took off."

The Past

Simple Past tense is that which expresses what took place in time fully past. It is used with adverbs like yesterday, last week.

  • "Last week, I read several of Shaw's novels."

Past continuous tense is that which expresses what was taking place when (suddenly) something else occurred.

  • "I saw him yesterday, and hailed him as he was passing."
  • "I was giving a presentation when the microphone broke."

Past perfect tense is that which expresses what had taken place, at some past time mentioned, before something other happened.

  • "I had seen him, when I met you."
  • "As soon as my car had been repaired, I could continue my trip."

Past perfect continuous tense is that which expresses what had started before and was still going on, when something else occurred.

  • "I had been listening to the radio when she dropped in."

The Future

Simple Future Tense is that which expresses what will take place hereafter.

  • "I shall see him again, and I will inform him."

Future continuous tense is that which expresses what will be currently taking place at a certain time in future.

  • "I will be swimming in the sea by the time you'll awake."

Future Perfect Tense is that which expresses what will have taken place at some future time mentioned.

  • "I shall have seen him by tomorrow noon."

Future Perfect continuous Tense is that which expresses what will have started at some time and will still be ongoing, at some future time mentioned.

  • "I will have been swimming in the sea for four hours by the time you'll awake tomorrow."


An active verb is a verb in an active sentence, in which the subject performs the verb: as,

  • "I hit the dog."

An active verb can be transitive or intransitive, but not passive or neuter.

Verbs are divided again, with respect to their signification, into four classes: transitive, intransitive, passive, and neuter.

A transitive verb is a verb that expresses an action which has some person or thing for its object: as,

  • "Cain slew Abel."
  • "Cassius loved Brutus."

An intransitive verb is a verb that expresses an action which has no person or thing for its object: as,

  • "John walks."
  • "Jesus wept."

A passive verb is a verb in a passive sentence (passive voice) that represents its subject, or what the nominative expresses, as being acted on: as,

  • "I am compelled."
  • "Caesar was slain."

In a passive sentence, the action is performed on the subject.

  • "I hit the dog,"
  • "The dog was hit by me."

These sentences have the same denotative meaning, but their connotative meaning is quite different; active verbs are much more powerful and personal.

A neuter verb or impersonal passive verb is a verb that expresses neither action nor passion, but simply being, or a state of being: as,

  • "There was light."
  • "The babe sleeps."


Voice of speech can be active or passive. Principally in passive voice the same tenses can be used as in active voice. There are two forms of passive voice (the second form is preferred):

  • "He gave me the book." =>
  • "The book was given to me,"
  • "I was given the book."

There are however some things to note.

  • "They build a house."
  • "The house is built."

Here active and passive do not really have the same meaning. If for example you describe a picture where people build a house, the first sentence is perfectly correct. The second sentence however will be interpreted as the static perfect of the sentence

  • "The house has been built—it is built now."

This is, the house is now ready and not under construction. So the correct passive form is

  • "The house is being built."

Passive voice can be built quite formally by adhering to some rules. You will however not find normally all tenses as in active voice. Formal rules will lead you to monstrosities like the following, you will certainly never hear (already the active sentence is quite monstrous):

  • "The speech will have been being held for four hours when finally you'll arrive."
  • "The president will have been holding a speech for four hours when finally you'll arrive."


Moods are different forms of the verb, each of which expresses the being, action, or passion, in some particular manner.

There are five moods; the infinitive, the indicative, the potential, the subjunctive, and the imperative.

The infinitive mood is that form of the verb, which expresses the being, action, or passion, in an unlimited manner, and without person or number: as,

  • "To die,—to sleep;—to sleep!—perchance, to dream!"—from Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

The indicative mood is that form of the verb, which simply indicates or declares a thing: as,

  • "I write,"
  • "You know."

or asks a question: as,

  • "Do you know?"
  • "Know you not?"

The potential mood is that form of the verb which expresses the power, liberty, possibility, or necessity, of the being, action, or passion: as,

  • "I can walk."
  • "He may ride."
  • "We must go."

The subjunctive mood is that form of the verb, which represents the being, action, or passion, as conditional, doubtful, and contingent: as,

  • "If you go, see that you offend not."
  • "See you do it not."—Rev., xix, 10.
  • "God save the queen."
  • "It is a requirement that ... be done."
  • "It's high time you were in bed."
  • "If I were you,..."

The imperative mood is that form of the verb which is used in commanding, exhorting, entreating, or permitting: as,

  • "Depart you."
  • "Be comforted."
  • "Forgive me."
  • "Go in peace."


The conjugation of a verb is a regular arrangement of its moods, tenses, persons, numbers, and participles.

An auxiliary, or a sign of a verb, is a short verb prefixed to one of the morphological forms of another verb, to express some particular mode and time of the being, action, or passion. The auxiliaries are do, be, have, shall, will, may, can, and must, with their variations. Do, be, and have express the indicative mood.

Most often, the auxiliaries are used in the following way:

  • When talking about actions that take place in the future, add the word will before the verb.
  • To describe an action that is temporary, add the appropriate form of the verb be before the verb and add ing to the end of the verb root.
  • To describe an action that has taken place, put the verb in the past tense and add the appropriate form of the verb have before the verb.
  • You can combine the previous two auxiliaries by putting the appropriate form of have before been, and putting both of them before the verb.


  • Present tense, sign of the present. I do, he does, we do, you do, they do.
  • Past tense, sign of the past. I did, he did, we did, you did, they did.


  • Present tense, sign of the present. I am, he is, we are, you are, they are.
  • Past tense, sign of the past. I was, he was, we were, you were, they were.


  • Present tense, sign of the perfect. I have, he has, we have, you have, they have.
  • Past tense, sign of the past perfect. I had, he had, we had, you had, they had.

Shall and will

Often confused with each other in modern English. These auxiliaries have distinct meanings, and, as signs of the future, they are interchanged thus:

Present tense, sign of the indicative first-future.

  • Simply to express a future action or event: I shall, he will, we shall, you will, they will.
  • To express a promise, command, or threat: I will, he will, we will, you will, they will.

Past tense, sign of aorist, or indefinite.

  • Used with reference to duty or expediency: I should, he should, we should, you should, they should.
  • Used with reference to volition or desire: I would, he would, we would, you would, they would.

See also: Shall and will by Wikipedia


  • Present tense, sign of the potential present. I may, he may, we may, you may, they may.
  • Past tense, sign of the potential past. I might, he might, we might, you might, they might.


  • Present tense, sign of the potential present. I can, he can, we can, you can, they can.
  • Past tense, sign of the potential past. I could, he could, we could, you could, they could.


  • Present tense, sign of the potential present. I must, he must, we must, you must, they must.

If must is ever used in the sense of the past tense, the form is the same as that of the present: this word is entirely invariable.

Is being

English grammar has changed,

  • "The house is being built."

no longer means the same as

  • "The house is built."

The first sentence refers to an ongoing action, the second to a completed one.

  • "If the expression, 'Is being built,' be a correct form of the present indicative passive, then it must be equally correct to say in the perfect, 'Has been being built;' in the past perfect, 'Had been being built;' in the present infinitive, 'To be being built;' in the perfect infinitive, 'To have been being built;' and in the present participle, 'Being being built;' which all will admit to be expressions as incorrect as they are inelegant, but precisely analogous to that which now begins to prevail."—Bullions's Principles of English Gram., p. 58.

Forms of conjugation

Verb may be conjugated in four ways:

  • Affirmatively: as, I write, I do write, or, I am writing; and so on.
  • Negatively: as, I write not, I do not write, or, I am not writing.
  • Interrogatively: as, write I? do I write? or, am I writing?
  • Interrogatively and negatively: as, write I not? do I not write? or, am I not writing?

The verbs would be conjugated affirmatively, unless said otherwise.

Love, conjugated in simple form

The verb love is a regular active verb.

Simple form, active or neuter

The simplest form of an English conjugation, is that which makes the present and past tenses without auxiliaries; but, even in these, auxiliaries are required for the potential mood, and are often preferred for the indicative.

Morphological forms

Present Past Present Participle Past Participle
Love Loved Loving Loved


Present Past Past Perfect
Loving Loved Having loved.

Infinite mood

The infinitive mood is that form of the verb, which expresses the being, action, or passion, in an unlimited manner, and without person or number. It is used only in the present and perfect tenses.

Present tense

This tense is the root, or radical verb; and is usually preceded by the preposition to, which shows its relation to some other word: thus,

  • To love.

Perfect tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliary have to the past participle; and, like the infinitive present, is usually preceded by the preposition to: thus,

  • To have loved.

Indicative mood

The indicative mood is that form of the verb, which simply indicates or declares a thing, or asks a question. It is used in all the tenses.

Present tense

The present indicative, in its simple form, is essentially the same as the present infinitive, or radical verb; except that the verb be has am in the indicative.

The simple form of the present tense is varied thus:

  • I love, he loves, we love, you love, they love.

This tense may also be formed by prefixing the auxiliary do to the verb: thus,

  • I do love, he does love, we do love, you do love, they do love.

Past tense

This tense, in its simple form is the past; which, in all regular verbs, adds d or ed to the present, but in others is formed variously.

The simple form of the past tense is varied thus:

  • I loved, he loved, we loved, you loved, they loved,

This tense may also be formed by prefixing the auxiliary did to the present: thus,

  • I did love, he did love, we did love, you did love, they did love.

Perfect tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliary have to the past participle: thus,

  • I have loved, he has loved, we have loved, you have loved, they have loved.

Past perfect tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliary had to the past participle: thus,

  • I had loved, he had loved, we had loved, you had loved, they had loved.

First-future tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliary shall or will to the present: thus,

  • Simply to express a future action or event: I shall love, he will love, we shall love, you will love, they will love.
  • To express a promise, volition, command, or threat: I will love, he shall love, we will love, you shall love, they shall love.

Second-future tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliaries shall have or will have to the past participle: thus,

  • I shall have loved, he will have loved, we shall have loved, you will have loved, they will have loved.

Potential mood

The potential mood is that form of the verb, which expresses the power, liberty, possibility, or necessity of the being, action, or passion. It is used in the first four tenses; but the potential past is properly an aorist: its time is very indeterminate: as,

  • "He would be devoid of sensibility were he not greatly satisfied."—Lord Kames, El. of Crit., Vol. i, p. 11.

Present tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliary may, can, or must, to the radical verb: thus,

  • I may love, he may love, we may love, you may love, they may love.

Past tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliary might, could, would, or should, to the radical verb: thus,

  • I might love, he might love, we might love, you might love, they might love.

Perfect tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliaries, may have, can have, or must have, to the past participle: thus,

  • I may have loved, he may have loved, we may have loved, you may have loved, they may have loved.

Past perfect tense

This tense prefixes the auxiliaries, might have, could have, would have, or should have, to the past participle: thus,

  • I might have loved, he might have loved, we might have loved, you might have loved, they might have loved.

Subjunctive mood

The subjunctive mood is that form of the verb, which represents the being, action, or passion, as conditional, doubtful, or contingent. This mood is generally preceded by a conjunction: as, if, that, though, lest, unless, except. But sometimes, especially in poetry, it is formed by a mere placing of the verb before the nominative: as,

  • "Were I," for, "If I were;"
  • "Had he," for, "If he had;"
  • "Fall we" for, "If we fall;"
  • "Knew they," for, "If they knew."

It does not vary its termination at all, in the different persons. It is used in the present, and sometimes in the past tense; rarely, and perhaps never properly, in any other. As this mood can be used only in a dependent clause, the time implied in its tenses is always relative, and generally indefinite: as,

  • "It shall be in eternal restless change, self-fed, and self-consumed: if this fail, the pillared firmament is rottenness."—Milton, Comus, l. 596.

Present tense

This tense is generally used to express some condition on which a future action or event is affirmed. It is therefore erroneously considered by some grammarians, as an elliptical form of the future.

  • If I love, if he love, if we love, if you love, if they love.

In this tense, the auxiliary do is sometimes employed: as,

  • "If you do prosper my way."—Genesis, xxiv, 42.
  • "If he do not utter it."—Leviticus, v, 1.
  • "If he do but intimate his desire."—Murray's Key, p. 207.
  • "If he do promise, he will certainly perform."—Ib., p. 208.
  • "An event which, if it ever do occur, must occur in some future period."—Hiley's Gram., 3d Ed., Lond., p. 89.
  • "If he do but promise, you are safe."—Ib., 89.
  • "Until old experience do attain to something like prophetic strain."—Milton: Il Penseroso.

Past tense

  • If I loved, if he loved, if we loved, if you loved, if they loved.

This tense, like the past of the potential mood, with which it is frequently connected, is properly an aorist, or indefinite tense; for it may refer to time past, present, or future: as,

  • "If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, what further need was there that an other priest should rise?"—Heb., vii, 11.
  • "They must be viewed exactly in the same light, as if the intention to purchase now existed."—Murray's Parsing Exercises, p. 24.
  • "If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."—Matt., xxiv, 24.
  • "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?"—1 Corinthians, xii, 17.
  • "If the thankful refrained, it would be pain and grief to them."—Atterbury.

Imperative mood

The imperative mood is that form of the verb, which is used in commanding, exhorting, entreating, or permitting. It is commonly used only in the second person of the present tense.

  • Love [you,] or do you love.

See, conjugated in simple form

The verb see is an irregular active verb.

Morphological forms

Present Past Present Participle Past Participle
See. Saw. Seeing. Seen.


Present  Past   Past Perfect
Seeing.  Seen.  Having seen.

Infinitive mood

  • Present tense. To see.
  • Perfect tense. To have seen.

Indicative mood

  • Present tense. I see, he sees, we see, you see, they see.
  • Past tense. I saw, he saw, we saw, you saw, they saw.
  • Perfect tense. I have seen, he has seen, we have seen, you have seen, they have seen.
  • Past perfect tense. I had seen, he had seen, we had seen, you had seen, they had seen.
  • First-future tense. I shall see, he will see, we shall see, you will see, they will see.
  • Second-future tense. I shall have seen, he will have seen, we shall have seen, you will have seen, they will have seen.

Potential mood

  • Present tense. I may see, he may see, we may see, you may see, they may see.
  • Past tense. I might see, he might see, we might see, you might see, they might see.
  • Perfect tense. I may have seen, he may have seen, we may have seen, you may have seen, they may have seen.
  • Past perfect tense. I might have seen, he might have seen, we might have seen, you might have seen, they might have seen.

Subjunctive mood

  • Present tense. If I see, if he see, if we see, if you see, if they see.
  • Past tense. If I saw, if he saw, if we saw, if you saw, if they saw.

Imperative mood

  • Present tense. See [you,] or do you see.

Be, conjugated in simple form

The verb be is an irregular neuter verb.

Morphological forms

Present  Past  Present Participle  Past Participle.
Be.      Was.  Being.              Been.


Present  Past   Past Perfect
Being.   Been.  Having been.

Infinitive mood

  • Present tense. To be.
  • Perfect tense. To have been.

Indicative mood

  • Present tense. I am, he is, we are, you are, they are.
  • Past tense. I was, he was, we were, you were, they were.
  • Perfect tense. I have been, he has been, we have been, you have been, they have been.
  • Past perfect tense. I had been, he had been, we had been, you had been, they had been.
  • First-future tense. I shall be, he will be, we shall be, you will be, they will be.
  • Second-future tense. We shall have been, he will have been, we shall have been, you will have been, they will have been.

Potential mood

  • Present tense. I may be, he may be, we may be, you may be, they may be.
  • Past tense. I might be, he might be, we might be, you might be, they might be.
  • Perfect tense. I may have been, he may have been, we may have been, you may have been, they may have been.
  • Past perfect tense. I might have been, he might have been, we might have been, you might have been, they might have been.

Subjunctive mood

  • Present tense. If I be, if he be, if we be, if you be, if they be.
  • Past tense. If I were, if he were, if we were, if you were, if they were.

Imperative mood

  • Present tense. Be [you,] or do you be.

Read, conjugated in progressive form

The verb read is an irregular active verb.

Compound or progressive form

Active and neuter verbs may also be conjugated, by adding the present participle to the auxiliary verb be, through all its changes: as,

  • "I am writing a letter."
  • "He is sitting idle."
  • "They are going."

This form of the verb denotes a continuance of the action or state of being, and is, on many occasions, preferable to the simple form of the verb.

Morphological forms of the simple verb

Present  Past   Present Participle  Past Participle
Read.    Read.  Reading.            Read.


Present         Past      Past Perfect
Being reading.  ————————  Having been reading.

Infinitive mood

  • Present tense. To be reading.
  • Perfect tense. To have been reading.

Indicative mood

  • Present tense. I am reading, he is reading, we are reading, you are reading, they are reading.
  • Past tense. I was reading, he was reading, we were reading, you were reading, they were reading.
  • Perfect tense. I have been reading, he has been reading, we have been reading, you have been reading, they have been reading.
  • Past perfect tense. I had been reading, he had been reading, we had been reading, you had been reading, they had been reading.
  • First-future tense. I shall be reading, he will be reading, we shall be reading, you will be reading, they will be reading.
  • Second-future tense. I shall have been reading, he will have been reading, we shall have been reading, you will have been reading, they will have been reading.

Potential mood

  • Present tense. I may be reading, he may be reading, we may be reading, you may be reading, they may be reading.
  • Past tense. I might be reading, he might be reading, we might be reading, you might be reading, they might be reading.
  • Perfect tense. I may have been reading, he may have been reading, we may have been reading, you may have been reading, they may have been reading.
  • Past perfect tense. I might have been reading, he might have been reading, we might have been reading, you might have been reading, they might have been reading.

Subjunctive mood

  • Present tense. If I be reading, if she be reading, if we be reading, if you be reading, if they be reading.
  • Past tense. If I were reading, if he were reading, if we were reading, if you were reading, if they were reading.

Imperative mood

  • Be you reading, or do you be reading.

Be loved, conjugated in simple form

The verb be loved is a regular passive verb.

Form of passive verbs

Passive verbs, in English, are always of a progressive form; being made from transitive verbs, by adding the past participle to the auxiliary verb be, through all its changes: thus from the active transitive verb love, is formed the passive verb be loved.

Morphological forms of the active verb

Present Past Present Participle Past Participle
Love Loved Loving Loved Loving

Infinitive mood

  • Present tense. To be loved.
  • Perfect tense. To have been loved.

Indicative mood

  • Present tense. I am loved, he is loved, we are loved, you are loved, they are loved.
  • Past tense. I was loved, he was loved, we were loved, you were loved, they were loved.
  • Perfect tense. I have been loved, he has been loved, we have been loved, you have been loved, they have been loved.
  • Past perfect tense. I had been loved, he had been loved, we had been loved, you had been loved, they had been loved.
  • First-future tense. I shall be loved, he will be loved, we shall be loved, you will be loved, they will be loved.
  • Second-future tense. I shall have been loved, he will have been loved, we shall have been loved, you will have been loved, they will have been loved.

Potential mood

  • Present tense. I may be loved, he may be loved, we may be loved, you may be loved, they may be loved.
  • Past tense. I might be loved, he might be loved, we might be loved, you might be loved, they might be loved.
  • Perfect tense. I may have been loved, he may have been loved, we may have been loved, you may have been loved, they may have been loved.
  • Past perfect tense. I might have been loved, he might have been loved, we might have been loved, you might have been loved, they might have been loved.

Subjunctive mood

  • Present tense. If I be loved, if he be loved, if we be loved, if you be loved, if they be loved.
  • Past tense. If I were loved, if he were loved, if we were loved, if you were loved, if they were loved.

Imperative mood

  • Present tense. Be you loved, or do you be loved.

Love, conjugated negatively

Form of negation

A verb is conjugated negatively, by placing the adverb not and participles take the negative first: as, not to love, not to have loved; not loving, not loved, not having loved.

First person singular

  • Indicative. I love not, or I don't love; I loved not, or I didn't love; I haven't loved; I hadn't loved; I shalln't, or won't, love; I shalln't, or won't, have loved.
  • Potential. I may, can, or mustn't love; I might, could, would, or shouldn't love; I may, can, or mustn't have loved; I might, could, would, or shouldn't have loved,
  • Subjunctive. If I love not, if I loved not, if they loved.

Third person singular

  • Indicative. He loves not, or he doesn't love; he loved not, or he didn't love; he hasn't loved; he hadn't loved; he shalln't, or won't, love; he shalln't, or won't, have loved.
  • Potential. He may, can, or mustn't love; he might, could, would, or shouldn't love; he may, can, or mustn't have loved; he might, could, would, or shouldn't have loved.
  • Subjunctive. If he love not, if he loved not.

Love, conjugated interrogatively

Form of question

A verb is conjugated interrogatively, in the indicative and potential moods, by placing the nominative after it, or after the first auxiliary: as,

First person singular

  • Indicative. Love I? or do I love? loved I? or did I love? have I loved? had I loved? shall I love? shall I have loved?
  • Potential. May, can, or must I love? might, could, would, or should I love? may, can, or must I have loved? might, could, would, or should I have loved?

Third person singular

  • Indicative. Loves he? or does he love? loved he? or did he love? has he loved? had he loved? shall or will he love? will he have loved?
  • Potential. May, can, or must he love? might, could, would, or should he love? may, can, or must he have loved? might, could, would, or should he have loved?

Love, conjugated interrogatively and negatively

Form of question with negation

A verb is conjugated interrogatively and negatively, in the indicative and potential moods, by placing the nominative and the adverb not after the verb, or after the first auxiliary: as,

First person plural

  • Indicative. Love we not? or do we not love? loved we not? or did we not love? have we not loved? had we not loved? shall we not love? shall we not have loved?
  • Potential. May, can, or must we not love? might, could, would, or should we not love? may, can, or must we not have loved? might, could, would, or should we not have loved?

Third person plural

  • Indicative. Are they not loved? were they not loved? have they not been loved? had they not been loved? shall or will they not be loved? will they not have been loved?
  • Potential. May, can, or must they not be loved? might, could, would, or should they not be loved? may, can, or must they not have been loved? might, could, would, or should they not have been loved?

Irregular verbs

An irregular verb is a verb that does not form the past and the past participle by assuming d or ed: as, see, saw, seeing, seen. Of this class of verbs there are about one hundred and ten, beside their several derivatives and compounds.

Methods of learning irregular verbs:

  • To remember verbs:
  1. Learn them by heart.
  2. Write a reference lists of verbs.
  3. Say the verbs aloud (not silently).
  4. Set yourself targets, e.g. learn one verb a day.
  5. Learn these verbs in groups.
  6. Test yourself.
  • To learn how to use them:
  1. Write your own example sentences.
  2. Collect some examples of use for each verb, e.g. from books, magazines or newspapers.
  3. Use an English grammar.

List of the top irregular verbs:

Present Past Present Participle Past Participle
Awake awoke awaking awoken
Arise arose arising arisen
Be was,were being been
Bear bore bearing borne
Begin began beginning begun
Bend bent bending bent
Blow blew blowing blown
Break broke breaking broken
Bring brought bringing brought
Build built building built
Buy bought buying bought
Catch caught catching caught
Choose chose choosing chosen
Come came coming come
Cost cost costing cost
Cut cut cutting cut
Do did doing done
Draw drew drawing drawn
Drink drank drinking drunk
Drive drove driving driven
Eat ate eating eaten
Fall fell falling fallen
Feel felt feeling felt
Fight fought fighting fought
Find found finding found
Fly flew flying flown
Forget forgot forgetting forgotten
Forgive forgave forgiving forgiven
Get got getting gotten
Give gave giving given
Go went going gone
Grow grew growing grown
Have had having had
Hear heard hearing heard
Hide hid hiding hidden or hid
Hit hit hitting hit
Hold held holding held
Keep kept keeping kept
Know knew knowing known
Lay laid laying laid
Lead led leading led
Leave left leaving left
Lend lent lending lent
Let let letting let
Lie lay lying lain
Lose lost losing lost
Make made making made
Mean meant meaning meant
Meet met meeting met
Pay paid paying paid
Put put putting put
Read r~ead reading r~ead
Rend rent rending rent
Ride rode riding ridden
Ring rung or rang ringing rung
Rise rose rising risen
Run ran running run
Say said saying said
See saw seeing seen
Seek sought seeking sought
Sell sold selling sold
Send sent sending sent
Set set setting set
Shake shook shaking shook
Shine shone shining shone
Shoot shot shooting shot
Show showed showing shown
Sing sang singing sung
Sit sat sitting sat
Sleep slept sleeping slept
Speak spoke speaking spoken
Spend spent spending spent
Stand stood standing stood
Steal stole stealing stolen
Strike struck striking struck
Swim swam swimming swum
Take took taking taken
Teach taught teaching taught
Tell told telling told
Think thought thinking thought
Throw threw throwing thrown
Wake woke waking woken
Wear wore wearing worn
Win won winning won
Write wrote writing written

Redundant verbs

A redundant verb is a verb that forms the past or the past participle in two or more ways, and so as to be both regular and irregular: as, thrive, thrived or throve, thriving, thrived or thriven. Of this class of verbs, there are about ninety-five, beside sundry derivatives and compounds.

List of the redundant verbs:

Present Past Present Participle Past Participle
Abide abode or abided abiding abode or abided
Awake awaked or awoke awaking awaked or awoke
Belay belayed or belaid belaying belayed or belaid
Bend bent or bended bending bent or bended
Bereave bereft or bereaved bereaving bereft or bereaved
Beseech besought or beseeched beseeching besought or beseeched
Bet betted or bet betting betted or bet
Betide betided or betid betiding betided or betid
Bide bode or bided biding bode or bided
Blend blended or blent blending blended or blent
Bless blessed or blest blessing blessed or blest
burn burnt or burned burning burnt or burned
Clothe clothed or clad clothing clothed or clad
Crow crew or crowed crowing crew or crowed
Curse curst or cursed cursing curst or cursed
Dare dared or durst daring dared or durst
Dive dove or dived diving diven or dived
dream dreamt or dreamed dreaming dreamt or dreamed
Dress drest or dressed dressing drest or dressed
Geld gelt or gelded gelding gelt or gelded
Gild gilt or gilded gilding gilt or gilded
Gird girt or girded girding girt or girded
Grave graved graving graven or graved
Hang hung or hanged hanging hung or hanged
Heat het or heated heating het or heated
Heave hove or heaved heaving hoven or heaved
Hew hewed hewing hewn or hewed
Knit knit or knitted knitting knit or knitted
lean leant or leaned leaning leant or leaned
Leap leapt or leaped leaping leapt or leaped
learn learnt or learned learning learnt or learned
light lit or lighted lighting lit or lightied
melt melted melting molten or melted
Mulct mulct or mulcted mulcting mulct or mulcted
Pass past or passed passing past or passed
Pen pent or penned penning pent or penned
Plead pled or pleaded pleading pled or pleaded
Prove proved proving proven or proved
quit quit or quitted quitting quit or quitted
Rap rapt or rapped rapping rapt or rapped
Reave reft or reaved reaving reft or reaved
Roast roasted or roast roasting roasted or roast
rot rotted rotting rotten or rotted
seethe seethed seething sodden
Shape shaped shaping shapen or shaped
Shave shaved shaving shaven or shaved
Shear shore or sheared shearing shorn or sheared
shred shred or shredded shredding shred or shredded
Smell smelt or smelled smelling smelt or smelled
Sow sowed sowing sown or sowed
Speed sped or speeded speeding sped or speeded
spell spelt or spelled spelling spelt or spelled
spill spilt or spilled spilling spilt or spilled
Spoil spoilt or spoiled spoiling spoilt or spoiled
Stave stove or staved staving stove or staved
strew strewed strewing strewn or strewed
Strow strowed strowing, strown or strowed
Sweat sweat or sweated sweating sweat or sweated
Swell swelled swelling swollen or swelled
Thrive throve or thrived thriving thriven or thrived
Wake woke or waked waking woke or waked
Wax waxed waxing waxen or waxed
Wed wed or wedded wedding wed or wedded
Wet wet or wetted wetting wet or wetted
Whet whet or whetted whetting whet or whetted
Wont wont or wonted wonting wont or wonted
Work worked or wrought working worked or wrought

Defective verbs

A defective verb is a verb that forms no participles, and is used in but few of the moods and tenses: as, beware, ought, quoth.

List of the defective verbs:

Present Past
Beware —————
Can could
May might
Methinks methought
Must must
Ought ought
Shall should
Will would
Quoth quoth
Wis wist
Wit wot

A short syntax

The finite verb must agree with its subject, as "The birds fly", except the following cases: the conjunction and, as "Rhetoric and logic are allied," one person or thing, as "Flesh and blood has not revealed it," empathy, as "Consanguinity, and not affinity, is the ground," each, every, or no, as "No one is the same," and the conjunction or, as "Fear or jealousy affects him."


See also

  • English Verbs Fully Conjugated - 665 Regular and Irregular English verb list. Conjugated in various tenses.
  • conjugation.com English Verb Conjugation. 15 000 English verbs conjugated in all 3 forms, affirmative, interrogative, and negative, in all tenses and persons.


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An adjective is a word added to a noun or pronoun, and generally expresses quality: as, A wise man; a new book; you two are diligent. Adjectives may be divided into six classes; namely, common, proper, numeral, pronominal, participial, and compound.

A common adjective is any ordinary epithet, or adjective denoting quality or situation: as, good, bad, peaceful, warlike, eastern, western, outer, inner.

A proper adjective is an adjective formed from a proper name: as, American, English, Platonic, Genoese.

A numeral adjective is an adjective that expresses a definite number: as, one, two, three, four, five, six, etc.

A pronominal adjective is a definitive word which may either accompany its noun, or represent it understood: as,

  • "All join to guard what each desires to gain."—Pope.

That is,

  • "All men join to guard what each man desires to gain."

A participial adjective is one that has the form of a participle, but differs from it by rejecting the idea of time: as,

  • "An amusing story,"
  • "A lying divination."

A compound adjective is one that consists of two or more words joined together, either by the hyphen or solidly: as, nut-brown, laughter-loving, four-footed; threefold, lordlike, lovesick.

Cardinal: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, etc.

Ordinal: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, twenty-first, twenty-second, etc.

Multiplicative: single or alone, double or twofold, triple or threefold, quadruple or fourfold, quintuple or fivefold, sextuple or sixfold, septuple or sevenfold, octuple or eightfold, etc.

All that occur above decuple or tenfold, are written with a hyphen, and are usually of round numbers only: as, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, hundred-fold.

Adjectives ending in ing and ed

Adjectives word order

In English, multiple adjectives should follow a certain pattern as follows:

  1. opinion (e.g. lovely, fantastic)
  2. size (e.g. tiny, large)
  3. most other qualities (e.g. warm, tight)
  4. age (e.g. new, young)
  5. colour (e.g. red, beige)
  6. pattern (e.g. stripy, plain)
  7. nationality (e.g. Spanish, foreign)
  8. material (e.g. silk, cotton)

Although you generally shouldn't use more than 2 or 3 adjectives together it is possible to make a sentence like this:

  • "I just bought a lovely, large, warm, new, red, stripey, foreign, cotton sweater."


Adjectives have, commonly, no modifications but the forms of comparison. Comparison is a variation of the adjective, to express quality in different degrees: as, hard, harder, hardest; soft, softer, softest.

There are three degrees of comparison; the positive, the comparative, and the superlative.

The 'positive degree is that which is expressed by the adjective in its simple form: as,

  • "An elephant is large; a mouse, small; a lion, fierce, active, bold, and strong."

The comparative degree is that which is more or less than something contrasted with it: as,

  • "A whale is larger than an elephant; a mouse is a much smaller animal than a rat."

The superlative degree is that which is most or least of all included with it: as,

  • "The whale is the largest of the animals that inhabit this globe; the mouse is the smallest of all beasts."—Dr. Johnson.

Those adjectives whose signification does not admit of different degrees, cannot be compared: as, two, second, all, every, immortal, infinite.

Those adjectives which may be varied in sense, but not in form, are compared by means of adverbs: as, fruitful, more fruitful, most fruitful; fruitful, less fruitful, least fruitful.

Regular comparison

Adjectives are regularly compared, when the comparative degree is expressed by adding er, and the superlative, by adding est to them: as, great, greater, greatest; mild, milder, mildest.

In the variation of adjectives, final consonants are doubled, final e is omitted, and final y is changed to i, agreeably to the rules for spelling: as, hot, hotter, hottest; wide, wider, widest; happy, happier, happiest.

The regular method of comparison belongs almost exclusively to monosyllables, with dissyllables ending in w or y, and such others as receive it and still have but one syllable after the accent: as, fierce, fiercer, fiercest; narrow, narrower, narrowest; gloomy, gloomier, gloomiest; serene, serener, serenest; noble, nobler, noblest; gentle, gentler, gentlest.

Comparison by adverbs

The two degrees of superiority may also be expressed with precisely the same import as above, by prefixing to the adjective the adverbs more and most: as, wise, more wise, most wise; famous, more famous, most famous; amiable, more amiable, most amiable.

The degrees of inferiority are expressed, in like manner, by the adverbs less and least: as, wise, less wise, least wise; famous, less famous, least famous; amiable, less amiable, least amiable. The regular method of comparison has, properly speaking, no degrees of this kind.

Nearly all adjectives that admit of different degrees, may be compared by means of the adverbs; but, for short words, the regular method is generally preferable: as, quick, quicker, quickest; rather than, quick, more quick, most quick.

Irregular comparison

The following adjectives are compared irregularly: good, better, best; bad, evil, or ill, worse, worst; little, less, least; much, more, most; many, more, most.

A short syntax

Adjectives relate to nouns or pronouns, as "Worldly enjoyments," except the following cases: an intervening verb, as "To err is human," arithmetical numbers, as "Four hundred and fifty-six men," an abstract adjective, as "Being sublime," and an adjective as abstract noun, as "Sensations of sublime."

An adjective is placed immediately before noun, as "Vain man," except the following cases: pronouns, as "They left me weary," other words, as "A mind conscious of right," an action, as "Virtue renders life happy," admiration, as "Goodness infinite," a verb, as "Truth stands independent," a prefix a, as afraid, the nature of a participle, as "The time then present," poetry, as "Isles atlantic," technical usage, as "Notary public," an adjective, as "A being infinitely wise," several adjectives, as "A woman, modest, sensible, and virtuous," empathy, as "Weighty is the anger," an adjective in predicate, as "We call the boy good," and an adjective as adverb, as "Particularly".


See also


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An adverb is a word added to a verb, a participle, an adjective, or another adverb; and generally expresses time, place, degree, or manner: as,

  • "They are now here, studying very diligently."

Adverbs can modify a verb, a clause, adjective or a phrase.


Adjectives are generally turned into adverbs with the addition of a ly suffix. Ly is a contraction of like, and is the most common termination of adverbs. When added to nouns, it forms adjectives; but a few of these are also used adverbially: as, daily, weekly, monthly.

Examples of adverbs are:

  • "Jack is swimming quickly."
  • "Unfortunately, he lost the race."
  • "We told him to run much faster."

In the first sentence, the adverb modifies the verb swimming. The adjective quick has had a ly added to it to make an adverb. In the second sentence, it modifies the entire sentence and in the final example, the adverb much modifies the adverb faster.

Comparative forms of adverbs

Adverbs have no modifications, except that a few are compared, after the manner of adjectives: as, soon, sooner, soonest; long, longer, longest; fast, faster, fastest.

The following are irregularly compared: well, better, best; badly or ill, worse, worst; little, less, least; much, more, most; far, farther, farthest; forth, further, furthest.

Kinds of adverbs

Adverbs may be reduced to four general classes; namely, adverbs of time, of place, of degree, and of manner. Besides these, it is proper to distinguish the particular class of conjunctive adverbs.

Adverbs of time

Adverbs of time are those which answer to the question, when? how long? how soon? or how often?

Of time present: as, now, yet, today, nowadays, presently, instantly, immediately, straightway, directly, forthwith.

Of time past: as, already, just now, lately, recently, yesterday, formerly, anciently, once, heretofore, hitherto, since, till now, long ago, erewhile, erst.

Of time to come: as, tomorrow, hereafter, henceforth, henceforward, by-and-by, soon, erelong, shortly.

Of time relative: as, when, then, first, just, before, after, while, whilst, meanwhile, as, till, until, seasonably, betimes, early, late, whenever, afterward, afterwards, otherwhile, otherwhiles.

Of time absolute: as, always, ever, never, aye, eternally, forever, perpetually, continually, incessantly, endlessly, evermore, everlastingly.

Of time repeated: as, often, oft, again, occasionally, frequently, sometimes, seldom, rarely, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, annually, once, twice, thrice, or three times.

Above thrice, we use only the phrases four times, five times, six times, etc. Times, for repetitions, or instances, may be supposed a noun; but such phrases often appear to be used adverbially.

Adverbs of degree

Adverbs of degree are those which answer to the question, how much? how little? or to the idea of more or less.

Of excess or abundance: as, much, more, most, too, very, greatly, far, besides; chiefly, principally, mainly, mostly, generally; entirely, full, fully, completely, perfectly, wholly, totally, altogether, all, quite, clear, stark; exceedingly, excessively, extravagantly, intolerably; immeasurably, inconceivably, infinitely.

Of equality or sufficiency: as, enough, sufficiently, competently, adequately, proportionally, equally, so, as, even, just, exactly, precisely.

Of deficiency or abatement: as, little, less, least, scarcely, hardly, scantly, scantily merely, barely, only, but, partly, partially, nearly, almost, well-nigh, not quite.

Of quantity in the abstract: as, how, however, howsoever, everso, something, anything, nothing, a groat, a sixpence, and other nouns of quantity used adverbially.

Adverbs of manner

Adverbs of manner are those which answer to the question, how? or, by affirming, denying, or doubting, show how a subject is regarded.

Of manner from quality: as, well, ill, wisely, foolishly, justly, wickedly, and many others formed by adding ly to adjectives of quality.

Of affirmation or assent: as, yes, yea, ay, verily, truly, indeed, surely, certainly, doubtless, undoubtedly, assuredly, certes, forsooth, amen.

Of negation: as, no, nay, not, nowise, noway, noways, nohow.

Of doubt or uncertainty: as, perhaps, haply, possibly, perchance, peradventure, maybe.

Of mode or way: as, thus, so, how, somehow, nohow, anyhow, however, howsoever, like, else, otherwise, across, together, apart, asunder, namely, particularly, necessarily, hesitatingly, trippingly, extempore, headlong, lengthwise.

Adverbs of place

Of place in which: as, where, here, there, yonder, above, below, about, around, somewhere, anywhere, elsewhere, otherwhere, everywhere, nowhere, wherever, wheresoever, within, without, whereabout, whereabouts, hereabout, hereabouts, thereabout, thereabouts.

Of place to which: as, whither, hither, thither, in, up, down, back, forth, aside, ashore, abroad, aloft, home, homewards, inwards, upwards, downwards, backwards, forwards.

Of place from which: as, whence, hence, thence, away, out, off, far, remotely.

Of the order of place: as, first, secondly, thirdly, fourthly, etc.

Thus, secondly means in the second place; thirdly, in the third place; etc.

Conjunctive adverbs

The conjunctive adverbs are those which perform the office of conjunctions. The following words are the most frequently used as conjunctive adverbs: after, again, also, as, before, besides, consequently, else, ere, even, furthermore, hence, how, however, moreover, nevertheless, as well, otherwise, since, so, still, till, then, thence, therefore, too, until, when, where, wherefore, whither, while.

The adverbs of cause: why, wherefore, therefore; but the last two of these are often called conjunctions.

The pronominal compounds: herein, therein, wherein, etc.

A short syntax

Adverbs relate to verbs, participles, adjectives, or other adverbs: as, "How blessed," except the following cases: independent adverbs, as "No," the word amen, as "These things say the amen," an adverb before preposition, as "All along", and much, little, far, and all, as "Thus far is right."


Prepostions, Conjunctions, and Interjections

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A preposition is a word used to express some relation of different things or thoughts to each other, and is generally placed before a noun or a pronoun: as,

  • "The paper lies before me on the desk."

In that sentence, before is the preposition, me is the governed term of a preposition, "before me" is a prepositional phrase, and the verb lies is the prior term of a preposition. "On the desk" is the other prepositional phrase, and lies is its prior term.

To a preposition, the prior term may be a noun, an adjective, a pronoun, a verb, a participle, or an adverb; and the governed term may be a noun, a pronoun, a pronominal adjective, an infinitive verb, or a participle.

Although overlooked in common speech, prepositional phrases should not be placed at the end of a question: as,

  • "Who do I give this to?"
  • Say, "To whom do I give this?"

Prepositional phrases can be placed at the end of a sentence: as,

  • "She did not sign up for tennis."

See also: List of English prepositions

Some words are linked with their prepositions, e.g. compared with, similar to, and different from (possibly different than in USA).

Commonly used prepositions include:

  • About—In concern with; engaged in; intent on; on the point or verge of; in act of; concerning; with regard to; on account of.
  • Above—In or to a higher place; on or over; superior to; surpassing; beyond; higher in measure or degree.
  • Across—From side to side; athwart; crosswise; quite over.
  • After—Behind in place; below in rank; later in time; subsequent to; following; in search of; in pursuit of; concerning; in relation to; in imitation of; in conformity with; after the manner of; according to; in accordance with; in proportion to.
  • Against—Abreast; opposite to; facing; towards; in opposition to; counter to; in contrariety to; adverse to; by of before the time; in preparation for.
  • Along—By the length.
  • Amid(st)—In the midst or middle of; surrounded or encompassed by; among.
  • Among—Conjoined; associated with; making part of.
  • Around—On all sides of; encircling; encompassing; at random through; about; on another side of.
  • As—Similar of like. It can be used as conjunction and preposition.
  • At—Expresses the relations of presence, proximity to, nearness in place or time, age or order, state or condition, employment or action, point or position, rate or value, source, occasion, reason, consequence or effect, direction toward an object or end; occupied with.
  • Before—In front of; preceding in space, order, rank, right, worth, or time; ahead of; earlier than; previously to; anterior to; an advance of; farther onward; in presence or sight of; face to face with; under the jurisdiction of; open for; free of access to; in the power of.
  • Behind—At the back part; in the rear; toward the back part or rear; backward; out of sight; remaining.
  • Below—Under, or lower in place; beneath; inferior to; unworthy of; unbefitting.
  • Beneath—Lower in place; under; underneath; lower in rank, dignity, or excellence.
  • Beside(s)—Over and above; separate or distinct from; in addition to; other than; else than.
  • Between—In the space which separates; betwixt; from one place to another; shared by both; affecting mutual relation; with relation to two.
  • Beyond—On the further side of; further on or away than; at a place or time not yet reached; out of the reach or sphere of; further than; greater than; exceeding or surpassing.
  • During—In the time of; as long as the action or existence of.
  • Except—With exclusion of; leaving or left out; excepting.
  • For—In consideration of; in view of; with reference to; the cause, occasion, motive or inducement of; the reason of; in favor of; in promoting which; on account of which; indicating the object of an act; toward which; in the character of; instead of which; during; in or through the space or time of; in prevention of which.
  • From—Lessening or losing proximity to; leaving behind; by reason of; out of; by aid of; indicates the point of space or time at which the action or state is regarded as setting out or beginning; the source; the cause; the correlative of to.
  • In—With reference to space or place, circumstances or conditions, a whole, physical surrounding, personal states, reach, scope, movement or tendency, limit of time.
  • Into—To the inside of; expressing penetration beyond the outside or surface; indicating insertion, inclusion, or passing to another form or condition.
  • Like—Similar of as. It can be used as conjunction and preposition.
  • Of—Out from; proceeding from; belonging to; relating to; concerning; about; belonging to; connected with; indicating origin, source, descent, possession or ownership, relation of subject to attribute, material, part, source of a purpose or action, distance in space or time, identity or equivalence, agent, or passage from one state to another.
  • Off—Not on; away from.
  • On—At, to or against the surface; by means of; with; adjacent to; in addition to; besides; indicating dependence or reliance; at or in the time of; during; in consequence of; toward; for; at the peril of; for the safety of; by virtue of; with the pledge of; to the account of; in reference or relation to; occupied with; in the performance of; in the service of; connected with; of the number of; forward; onward; in continuance; without interruption or ceasing; adhering; not off; attached to the body; in progress; proceeding.
  • Over—Above, or higher than; across; from side to side of; on the whole surface of; throughout the whole extent of; superiority in excellence, dignity, condition, value or authority; across or during the time of; from beginning to end of; beyond; in excess of; in addition to; more than; across; crosswise.
  • Past—Beyond, in position, degree or time; further than; beyond the reach or influence of; above; exceeding; more than; by.
  • Through—From one end to the opposite; between the sides or walls of; by means of; by the agency of; over the whole extent of; among or in the midst of; to the end; to a conclusion; to the ultimate purpose.
  • To—Indicates motion, course, or tendency toward a limit; connects adjectives, nouns and verbs with their governed terms and contains less the idea of appropriation than for; a sign of the infinitive; extent; limit; degree of comprehension; inclusion as far as; effect; end; consequence; apposition; connection; antithesis; opposition; accord; adaptation; comparison; addition; union; accompaniment; character; condition of being.
  • Toward(s)—In the direction of; with respect or reference to; regarding; concerning; tending to; in behalf of; near; about; approaching to.
  • Under—Below or lower; lower than; beneath; denoting relation to some thing, condition or person that is superior, or to something that comprehends, includes or furnishes a cover.
  • Underneath—Under; beneath; below.
  • Until—To; unto; towards; up to; till; before.
  • With—Denotes relation of nearness, proximity, association, connection, opposition or hostility, connection of friendship, support, alliance, assistance, countenance, accomplishment of cause, means, instrument, simultaneous happening, immediate succession, consequence, possession or appendage; among; in the company of.
  • Without—On or at the outside of; out of; not within; out of the limits of; out of reach of; in absence of, separation from, or destitution of; not with use or employment of; independently of; exclusively of; with omission; unless; except.

A short syntax

A noun or a pronoun made the object of a preposition, is governed by it in the objective case, as "From whom."

Prepositions show the relations of words, and of the things or thoughts expressed by them, as "He came from Rome," except the following cases: the preposition to, as "To learn to die," and the preposition for, as "For us to learn."


A conjunction is a word used to connect words or sentences in construction, and to show the dependence of the terms so connected: as,

  • "You and he are happy, because you are good."—Murray.

Conjunctions are divided into two general classes, copulative and disjunctive; and a few of each class are particularly distinguished from the rest, as being corresponsive.

A copulative conjunction is a conjunction that denotes an addition, a cause, a consequence, or a supposition: as,

  • "He and I shall not dispute; for, if he has any choice, I shall readily grant it."

The copulatives: and, as, both, because, even, for, if, that, then, since, seeing, so.

A disjunctive conjunction is a conjunction that denotes opposition of meaning: as,

  • "Though he were dead, yet shall he live."—St. John's Gospel.
  • "Be not faithless, but believing."—Id.

The disjunctives: or, nor, either, neither, than, though, although, yet, but, except, whether, lest, unless, save, provided, notwithstanding, whereas.

The corresponsive conjunctions are those which are used in pairs, so that one refers or answers to the other: as,

  • "John came neither eating nor drinking."—Matt., xi, 18.
  • "But if I cast out devils by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come to you."—Ib., xii, 28.

The corresponsives: both, and; as, as; as, so; if, then; either, or; neither, nor; whether, or; though, yet; although, yet.

A short syntax

Conjunctions connect words, sentences, or parts of sentences, as "Between me and you," except the following cases: introducing a sentence, as "That you have wronged me," corresponding conjunctions, as "Neither sun nor stars," and either and neither, as "It is not dangerous neither."


An interjection is a word that is uttered to indicate a strong or sudden emotion. The following are the principal interjections, arranged according to the emotions which they are intended to indicate:

  • Of joy; yoo! hey! oi! yeah!
  • Of sorrow; oh! ah! hoo! alas! alack! lackaday! welladay! or welaway!
  • Of wonder; gotit! ha! strange! indeed!
  • Of wishing, earnestness, or vocative address; (often with a noun or pronoun in the nominative absolute;) O!
  • Of praise; well-done! good! bravo!
  • Of surprise with disapproval; whew! hoity-toity! really! no-way! what!
  • Of pain or fear; oh! ooh! ah! eh! O dear! Oh, no!
  • Of contempt; fudge! pugh! poh! pshaw! pish! tush! tut! humph! fine!
  • Of aversion; foh! faugh! fie! fy! foy!
  • Of expulsion; out! off! shoo! whew! begone! avaunt! aroynt!
  • Of calling aloud; oi! yo! dude! hollo! holla! hallo! halloo! hoy! ahoy! hey!
  • Of exultation; ah! aha! hazza! hey! heyday! harrah!
  • Of laughter; ha, ha, ha; he, he, he; te-hee, te-hee.(lol)
  • Of salutation; welcome! hail! all-hail!
  • Of calling to attention; ho! lo! la! law! look! see! behold! hark!
  • Of calling to silence; hush! hist! whist! 'st! aw! pst! shhh! zip it!
  • Of dread or horror; oh! ha! hah! what!
  • Of languor or weariness; heigh-ho! heigh-ho-hum!
  • Of stopping; hold! soft! avast! whoh! halt! stop! hold-on! calm!
  • Of parting; farewell! adieu! good-bye! good-day! see ya!
  • Of knowing or detecting; oho! ahah! ay-ay!
  • Of interrogating; eh? ha? hey? no?

A short syntax

Interjections are put absolute, either alone, or with other words, as "Ah Dennis!"



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See the verbs infinitive mood.

A short syntax

An infinitive can be joined to every part of speech: a noun, as "Obtain felicity," an adjective, as "Desirous to speak," a pronoun, as "What to accuse," a finite verb, as "Come to seek," an infinitive, as "To wait to consider," a participle, as "Bent to unhoard," an adverb, as "How to act," a conjunction, as "More than praise it," a preposition, as "About to write," and an interjection, as "O to forget her!".

An infinitive may stand for the following: a supplement to verb, as "Go to seek," purpose, as "Labour not to be rich," an object of passion, as "He loves to ride," a cause of passion, as "I rejoice to hear it," the subject of proposition, as "To steal is sinful," the object of proposition, as "To enjoy is to obey," a coming event, as "Things to come," a necessary event, as "It is to be remembered," something previously suggested, as "The gift to know it," and measure, as "Enough to show."


Gerunds are nouns built from a verb with an ing suffix. They can be used as the subject of a sentence, an object, or an object of preposition. They can also be used to complement a subject. Often, gerunds exist side-by-side with nouns that come from the same root but the gerund and the common noun have different shades of meaning. Examples: breath and breathing, knowledge and knowing. Yet, distinguishing between a gerund, and a verb can sometimes cause trouble. For example:

  • "Swimming has to be the best sport ever." (Swimming is gerund.)
  • "I went swimming today." (Not a Gerund, because it is not an idea.)

Examples of gerunds as the subject of a sentence are:

  • "Backpacking is a rewarding pastime."
  • "Stretching can loosen up muscles."
  • "No smoking." (I.e., no smoking is allowed / you may not smoke here.)

As an object:

  • "We all love to go bowling on the weekend."
  • "He loves eating chips."

An object of preposition:

  • "They complained of hearing strange sounds from the next cabin."
  • "They sang about being eaten by bears to allay their fears."

And as a complement to a subject:

  • "One of the most dangerous things to do on the lake is ice-skating."


Participles are forms of verbs which are used as adjectives. A participle is a word derived from a verb, participating the properties of a verb, and of an adjective or a noun; and is generally formed by adding ing, d, or ed, to the verb: thus, from the verb rule, are formed three participles, two simple and one compound; as, ruling, ruled, having ruled.

English verbs, not defective, have severally three participles; which have been very variously denominated, perhaps the most accurately thus: the present, the past, and the past perfect. Or, as their order is undisputed, they may be conveniently called the first, the second, and the third.

The present participle is that which ends commonly in ing, and implies a continuance of the being, action, or passion: as, being, acting, ruling, loving, defending, terminating. Therefore:

  • Talk becomes talking
  • Jump becomes jumping
  • Open becomes opening
  • See becomes seeing

The present participle, when simple, is always formed by adding ing, or it is formed by prefixing being to some other simple participle; as, being reading, being read, being completed.

The past participle is that which ends commonly in ed or en, and implies a completion of the being, action, or passion: as, been, acted, ruled, loved, defended, terminated. Therefore:

  • Talk becomes talked
  • Jump becomes jumped
  • Open becomes opened
  • However, See becomes seen

The past participle is always simple, and is regularly formed by adding d or ed to the radical verb: those verbs from which it is formed otherwise, are either irregular or redundant.

The irregular verb see also did not have a regular past participle. As with most irregular words, there is no good "general rule" which applies, but often ed is replaced by 'en'. More irregular verbs with irregular past participles are:

  • Be, been
  • Break, broken
  • Eat, eaten
  • Slide, slid

The past perfect participle is that which takes the sign having, and implies a previous completion of the being, action, or passion: as, having loved, having seen, having written; having been loved, having been writing, having been written.

The past perfect participle is always compound, and is formed by prefixing having to the past participle, when the compound is double, and having been to the past or the present participle, when the compound is triple: as, having spoken, having been spoken, having been speaking.

A short syntax

Participles relate to nouns or pronouns, as "Reading Plato," except the following cases: the preceding phrase, as "To leave them, appearing a duty," an abstract action or being, as "To seem compelled, is disagreeable," substitute for infinitive, as "Afraid of trying," and substitute for a noun, as "This is talking."


  • He is talking to her.
  • They are jumping into the pool.
  • We had eaten the pie.

Each of these cases has a verb acting as an adjective, describing the subject.

In case you were wondering, had plus a past participle is called a past perfect, or in the United Kingdom, the pluperfect.


Unit II: Sentences

Sentences Overview

This section will serve as a basic overview of sentences. Each topic will be discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters.


A phrase is a group of words which contains neither a subject nor a verb. (It may, however, contain a verbal form such as an infinitive, a participle, or a gerund.)[1]


A clause is a group of words containing at least a subject and a verb (the baby ate), and frequently it lets its hair down by containing some kind of a complement as well (the baby ate the goldfish). There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent.[2]


There are three forms of a sentence: simple, compound, and complex, and one combined form: compound-complex.





It is a sentence which is made to by joining two or more simple sentences.


Sentences are created for four main reasons: to declare, to command, to question, and to exclaim.





Sentence diagrams

Basic Componenents

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Simple subject


Simple predicate

Direct object

Indirect object


Prepositional phrase

keep on

Appositive phrase

Participial phrase

Gerund phrase

Infinitive phrase


Clause can be defined as a group of words that carries a finite verb but do not act as a sentence. It acts like a part of a sentence that can not express its meaning without being depended on the other part. as in 'Rahul,who lives in London, is my friend. In the above sentence 'who lives in London' is the part that has to be depended on the part "Rahul is my friend' to expresses its proper meaning. Clauses can be divided into two parts;

  1. Principal Clause
  2. Sub-ordinate Clause

Sub-Ordinate Clauses are divided into three parts:

  1. Noun Clause
  2. Adjective Clause
  3. Adverb Clause

Fragments and Run-on Sentences

English in Use/Fragments and Run-on Sentences

Unit III: Usage

Adjective and Adverb Usage

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An adjective is simply a word which modifies the noun it is related to. Adjectives usually come before the modified noun. An adjective could also be a phrase or a clause instead of being a single word. John bought a blue shirt. (single word) Last night, a man in a blue coat stole my wallet. (phrase) I love the car which just crossed the street. (clause)

Adverbs are like adjectives, but they modify the verb. Ordinarily, there are three types of adverbs (see above examples).

He carefully left the room. He left the room with a scared face. He left the room which was located on the seventh floor.

Most single word adverbs are made simply by adding -ly to the end of the respective adjective: Careful-ly = in a careful manner Usually = in a usual manner (often) Simply = in a simple way

Pronoun Usage

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Pronoun Usage

A pronoun comes from a Latin word that means 'for a noun'. It is a word that stands in for a noun. The English language has lots of different kinds of pronouns.

Pronouns are often divided into first, second and third person, singular and plural. First person refers to the speaker, second person refers to the person or thing being spoken to, and third person refers to a person or thing neither speaking nor being spoken to.

The first person pronoun (referring to the speaker) is 'I' or 'me' in the singular, and 'we' or 'us' in the plural. The first of each set, "I/we", is used as the subject of a verb; the second, 'me/us', is used as the object of a verb or preposition. There are also reflexive pronouns which can be made (i.e. they are the same person as the subject) by adding the suffix '-self' to the possessive (myself/ourselves).

The second person pronoun (referring to the person being spoken to) is 'you' in singular and plural, as subject or object. The reflexive is "yourself" in the singular and "yourselves" in the plural.

Subject-verb Agreement

English features a loose conjugation and declension pattern. For this reason, subject-verb agreement is of paramount importance.

Subject-Verb agreement is a rule which states that the number present in a noun must agree with the number shown in the conjugated form of the verb that is being used, and that the person of the noun must agree with the person of the conjugated form of the verb that you are using.

Proper Subject-Verb agreement:

  • TO BE: I am - you are - he is - we are - you are - they are
  • TO WORK: I work - you work - he works - we work - you work - they work

Where the subject is a pronoun or complex or modified as part of an adjectival phrase, or modified by parenthetic expressions, or clarified in meaning by common knowledge or something that occurs later in the sentence, then subject-verb agreement can become a little more complicated. Some grammar rules say that the complex part of the subject closest to verb in the sentence should determine the verbal agreement. However, many examples can be found that make this sound funny. A better rule is to consider the entire complex subject phrase as one subject, and then think about what kind of thing it represents.

The basic idea in idiomatic English is to make the verb agree with the idea that the subject REPRESENTS, which could have different plurality than the actual subject as a word. This is actually helpful in understanding meaning since it gives subject-verb agreement a role that is not simply redundant (in echoing the pluarity of the subject). Whatever the subject represents can be considered singular or plural, and that is what the verb should agree with.

  • The president and the children (plural) are at the party.
  • Neither the president nor the children (plural) are at the party.
  • Either the president or the children (plural) are at the party.
  • Neither the children nor the president (singular) is at the party.
  • Somebody (singular) is at the party.
  • Nobody (singular) is at the party.
  • We (plural 1st person) are at the party.
  • I (singular 1st person) am at the party.
  • The Three Musketeers (singular-book) is a good book.
  • Ten dollars (singular) is enough to buy the book.
  • Ten dollars (plural) are in my pocket.
  • Economics (singular subject of study) is an interesting subject.
  • Bryans and Hastings (singular supermarket) is a great place to shop.
  • The idea of serving frankfurters (singular idea) is a good one.
  • My sister is (singular) with my friend, Roberta, at the party.
  • My sister and my friend are (both) at the party.

In many cases, the author decides whether the subject represents something singular or plural, depending upon which idea is desired to be expressed. For example, a group can act as a whole (singular) or as a group of individuals (plural), and despite many attempts at making rules for this, there is no simple rule that covers all cases:

  • All of my family is going camping.
  • Most of my family is at the party.
  • All of my family are fans.
  • Some of my family are fans.
  • Most of my family is at the party.
  • Most of my family are at the party.
  • Some of my family are in their homes.
  • The sounds the car makes, the ways they irritate (singular idea stated with 2 phrases)--it is all the same idea no matter how you say it.

Another needed example is one in which the noun that is clearly singular until the entire sentence is read, and something near the end changes the meaning of the noun so that it clearly represents a plural thing.

Verb Usage

A verb is a part of speech that usually denotes action ("bring", "read"), occurrence ("to decompose" (itself), "to glitter"), or a state of being ("exist", "live", "soak", "stand"). Depending on the language, a verb may vary in form according to many factors, possibly including its tense, aspect, mood and voice. It may also agree with the person, gender, and/or number of some of its arguments (what we usually call subject, object, etc.).

Verbs can be conveyed in many ways. Lets look in particular at the word "wear"

She wears a pink dress - This sentence is made up of three main parts, she, being the noun. Wears, being an action or 'doing' word. Pink, describing the noun about to be added to the sentence and, Dress, the noun which pulls all these words together (giving them all one key point) to complete the sentence.

Unit IV: Punctuation

End Marks

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The period, or full stop, is used to mark an entire and independent sentence, whether simple or compound.

Distinct sentences

When a sentence, whether long or short, is complete in respect to sense, and independent in respect to construction, it should be marked with the period: as,

  • "Every deviation from truth is criminal. Abhor a falsehood. Let your words be ingenuous. Sincerity possesses the most powerful charm."
  • "The force of a true individual is felt through every clause and part of a right book; the commas and dashes are alive with it."—R. W. Emerson.
  • "By frequent trying, Troy was won. All things, by trying, may be done."—Lloyd, p. 184.

Allied sentences

The period is often employed between two sentences which have a general connection, expressed by a personal pronoun, a conjunction, or a conjunctive adverb: as,

  • "The selfish man languishes in his narrow circle of pleasures. They are confined to what affects his own interests. He is obliged to repeat the same gratifications, till they become insipid. But the man of virtuous sensibility moves in a wider sphere of felicity."—Blair.
  • "And whether we shall meet again, I know not. Therefore our everlasting farewell take."—Shak., J. C.


The period is generally used after abbreviations, and very often to the exclusion of other points; but, as in this case it is not a constant sign of pause, other points may properly follow it, if the words written in full would demand them: as, A. D. for Anno Domini; Pro tem. for pro tempore; Ult. for ultimo; i.e. for id est, that is;

  • "Add., Spect, No. 285."
  • For "Addison, in the Spectator, Number 285th."
  • "Consult the statute; 'Quart.' I think, it is, 'Edwardi sext.,' or 'prim. et quint. Eliz.'"—Pope, p. 399.

Note of interrogation

The eroteme, or note of interrogation, is used to designate a question.

Questions direct

Questions expressed directly as such, if finished, should always be followed by the note of interrogation: as,

  • "Was it possible that virtue so exalted should be erected upon injustice? that the proudest and the most ambitious of mankind should be the great master and accomplished pattern of humility? that a doctrine so pure as the Gospel should be the work of an uncommissioned pretender? that so perfect a system of morals should be established on blasphemy?"—Jerningham's Essay, p. 81.
  • "In life, can love be bought with gold? Are friendship's pleasures to be sold?"—Johnson.

Questions united

When two or more questions are united in one compound sentence, the comma, semicolon, or dash, is sometimes used to separate them, and the eroteme occurs after the last only: as,

  • "When—under what administration—under what exigencies of war or peace—did the Senate ever before deal with such a measure in such a manner? Never, sir, never."—D. Webster, in Congress, 1846.
  • "Cannot you, and honoured with a christian name, buy what is woman-born, and feel no shame; trade in the blood of innocence, and plead expedience as a warrant for the deed?"—Cowper.
  • "Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land? All fear, none aid you, and few understand."—Pope.

Questions indirect

When a question is mentioned, but not put directly as a question, it loses both the quality and the sign of interrogation: as,

  • "The Cyprians asked me why I wept."—Murray.

Note of exclamation

The ecphoneme, or note of exclamation, is used to denote a pause with some strong emotion of admiration, joy, grief, or other feeling; and, as a sign of great wonder, it is sometimes, though not very elegantly, repeated: as,

  • "Grammatical consistency!!! What a gem!"—Peirce's Gram., p. 352.


Emphatic interjections, and other expressions of great emotion, are generally followed by the note of exclamation: as,

  • "Hold! hold! Is the devil in you? Oh! I am bruised all over."—Molière: Burgh's Speaker, p. 250.
  • "And O! till earth, and seas, and heaven decay, never may that fair creation fade away!"—Dr. Lowth.


After an earnest address or solemn invocation, the note of exclamation is now generally preferred to any other point: as,

  • "Whereupon, O king Agrippa! I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision."—Acts, xxvi, 19.
  • "Be witness you, immortal Lord of all! Whose thunder shakes the dark aerial hall."—Pope.

Exclamatory questions

Words uttered with vehemence in the form of a question, but without reference to an answer, should be followed by the note of exclamation: as,

  • "How madly have I talked!"—Young.
  • "An Author! It is a venerable name! How few deserve it, and what numbers claim!"—Id., Br. Po., viii, 401.



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The comma is used to separate those parts of a sentence, which are so nearly connected in sense, as to be only one degree removed from that close connection which admits no point.

Introductory phrases


Appositives are always separated from the main body of the sentence by punctuation, usually commas, but sometimes—when greater separation is desired—dashes are used.

Words in apposition, especially if they have adjuncts, are generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "He that now calls upon you, is Theodore, the hermit of Teneriffe."—Johnson.
  • "Lowth, Dr. Robert, bishop of London, born in 1710, died in 1787."—Biog. Dict.
  • "Home, Henry, lord Kames."—Ib.
  • "What next I bring shall please you, be assured, your likeness, your fit help, your other self, your wish exactly to your heart's desire."—Milton, P. L., viii, 450.
  • "And he, their prince, shall rank among my peers."—Byron.

Parenthetical expressions


Adjectives, when something depends on them, or when they have the import of a dependent clause, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "Among the roots of hazel, pendent over the plaintive stream, they frame the first foundation of their domes."—Thomson.
  • "Up springs the lark, shrill-voiced and loud, the messenger of morn."—Id.

Adjective which follows its noun

When an adjective immediately follows its noun, and is taken in a restrictive sense, the comma should not be used before it: as,

  • "And on the coast averse from entrance or cherubic watch."—Milton, P. L., B. ix, l. 68.

Finite verbs

Where a finite verb is understood, a comma is generally required: as,

  • "From law arises security; from security, curiosity; from curiosity, knowledge."—Murray.
  • "Else all my prose and verse were much the same; this, prose on stilts; that, poetry fallen lame."—Pope.

A pause for the omitted verb

As the semicolon must separate the clauses when the comma is inserted by this rule, if the pause for the omitted verb be very slight, it may be left unmarked, and the comma be used for the clauses: as,

  • "When the profligate speaks of piety, the miser of generosity, the coward of valour, and the corrupt of integrity, they are only the more despised by those who know them."—Comstock's Elocution, p. 132.


The infinitive, when it follows a verb from which it must be separated, or when it depends on something remote or understood, is generally, with its adjuncts, set off by the comma: as,

  • "One of the greatest secrets in composition is, to know when to be simple."—Jamieson's Rhet., p. 151. [?]
  • "To confess the truth, I was much in fault."—Murray's Gram., p. 271.
  • "The Governor of all—has interposed, not seldom, his avenging arm, to smite the injurious trampler upon nature's law."—Cowper.


Participles, when something depends on them, when they have the import of a dependent clause, or when they relate to something understood, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "Law is a rule of civil conduct, prescribed by the supreme power in a state, commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong."—Blackstone: Beattie's Moral Science, p. 346.
  • "Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star, lingering and listening wandered down the vale."—Beattie.
  • "United, we stand; divided, we fall."—Motto.
  • "Properly speaking, there is no such thing as chance."

Participle which follows its noun

When a participle immediately follows its noun, and is taken in a restrictive sense, the comma should not be used before it: as,

  • "A man renowned for repartee, will seldom scruple to make free with friendship's finest feeling."—Cowper.


Adverbs, when they break the connection of a simple sentence, or when they have not a close dependence on some particular word in the context, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "We must not, however, confound this gentleness with the artificial courtesy of the world."
  • "Besides, the mind must be employed."—Gilpin.
  • "Most unquestionably, no fraud was equal to all this."—Lyttelton.
  • "But, unfortunately for us, the tide was ebbing already."
  • "When buttress and buttress, alternately, seem framed of ebon and ivory."—Scott's Lay, p. 33.


Conjunctions, when they are separated from the principal clauses that depend on them, or when they introduce examples, are generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "But, by a timely call upon religion, the force of habit was eluded."—Johnson.
  • "They know the neck that joins the shore and sea, or, ah! how changed that fearless laugh would be."—Crabbe.


Prepositions and their objects, when they break the connection of a simple sentence, or when they do not closely follow the words on which they depend, are generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "Fashion is, for the most part, nothing but the ostentation of riches."
  • "By reading, we add the experience of others to our own."
  • "In vain the sage, with retrospective eye, would from the apparent what conclude the why."—Pope.


Interjections that require a pause, though more commonly emphatic and followed by the ecphoneme, are sometimes set off by the comma: as,

  • "For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north."—Jeremiah, i, 15.
  • "O, it was about something you would not understand."—Columbian Orator, p. 221.
  • "Ha, ha! you were finely taken in, then!"—Aikin.
  • "Ha, ha, ha! A facetious gentleman, truly!"—Id.
  • "Oh, when shall Britain, conscious of her claim, stand emulous of Greek and Roman fame?"—Pope.

Words emphatically repeated

A word emphatically repeated, is generally set off by the comma: as,

  • "Happy, happy, happy pair!"—Dryden.
  • "Ay, ay, there is some comfort in that."—Shak.
  • "Ah! no, no, no."—Dryden.
  • "The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket, the moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well!"—Woodworth.

Dependent quotations

A quotation, observation, or description, when it is introduced in close dependence on a verb, (as, say, reply, cry, or the like,) is generally separated from the rest of the sentence by the comma: as,

  • "'The book of nature,' said he, 'is before you.'"—Hawkesworth.
  • "I say to all, watch."—Mark.
  • "'The boy has become a man,' means, 'He has grown to be a man.' 'Such conduct becomes a man,' means, 'Such conduct befits him.'"—Hart's Gram., p. 116.
  • "While man exclaims, 'See all things for my use!' 'See man for mine!' replies a pampered goose."—Pope.

Words put absolute

Nouns or pronouns put absolute, should, with their adjuncts, be set off by the comma: as,

  • "The prince, his father being dead, succeeded."
  • "This done, we parted."
  • "Zaccheus, make haste and come down."
  • "His proctorship in Sicily, what did it produce?"—Cicero.
  • "Winged with his fears, on foot he strove to fly, his steeds too distant, and the foe too nigh."—Pope, Iliad, xi, 440.


More than two words

When more than two words or terms are connected in the same construction, or in a joint dependence on some other term, by conjunctions expressed or understood, the comma should be inserted after every one of them but the last; and, if they are nominatives before a verb, the comma should follow the last also: as,

  • "Who, to the enraptured heart, and ear, and eye, teach beauty, virtue, truth, and love, and melody."—Beattie.
  • "Ah! what avails... all that art, fortune, enterprise, can bring, if envy, scorn, remorse, or pride, the bosom wring?"—Id.
  • "Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible; you, stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless."—Shak.
  • "She plans, provides, expatiates, triumphs there."—Young.
  • "So eagerly the fiend over bog, or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare, with head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way, and swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies."—Milton.

Only two words

When only two words or terms are connected by a conjunction, they should not be separated by the comma: as,

  • "It is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms; for true power is to be got by arts and industry"—Spectator, No. 2.
  • "Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul."—Goldsmith.

Two words with several adjuncts

When the two words connected have several adjuncts, or when one of them has an adjunct that relates not to both, the comma is inserted: as,

  • "I shall spare no pains to make their instruction agreeable, and their diversion useful."—Spectator, No. 10.
  • "Who is applied to persons, or things personified."—Bullions.
  • "With listless eyes the dotard views the store, he views, and wonders that they please no more."—Johnson.

Contrasted words or phrases

When two connected words or phrases are contrasted, or emphatically distinguished, the comma is inserted: as,

  • "The vain are easily obliged, and easily disobliged."—Kames.
  • "Liberal, not lavish, is kind nature's hand."—Beattie.
  • "It is certain he could write, and cipher too."—Goldsmith.

Alternative of names

When there is merely an alternative of names, or an explanatory change of terms, the comma is usually inserted: as,

  • "We saw a large opening, or inlet."—W. Allen.
  • "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles?"—Cor., ix, 5.

Understood conjunction

When the conjunction is understood, the comma is inserted; and, if two separated words or terms refer alike to a third term, the second requires a second comma: as,

  • "Reason, virtue, answer one great aim."—L. Murray, Gram., p. 269.
  • "To him the church, the realm, their powers consign."—Johnson.
  • "She thought the isle that gave her birth. The sweetest, wildest land on earth."—Hogg.

Words in pairs

When successive words are joined in pairs by conjunctions, they should be separated in pairs by the comma: as,

  • "Interest and ambition, honour and shame, friendship and enmity, gratitude and revenge, are the prime movers in public transactions."—W. Allen.
  • "But, whether ingenious or dull, learned or ignorant, clownish or polite, every innocent man, without exception, has as good a right to liberty as to life."—Beattie's Moral Science, p. 313.
  • "Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate, overspread with snares the crowded maze of fate."—Dr. Johnson.

A compound name

When several words, in their common order, are used as one compound name, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "Dr. Samuel Johnson,"
  • "Publius Gavius Cosanus."

United common and proper name

When a common and a proper name are closely united, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "The brook Kidron,"
  • "The river Don,"
  • "The empress Catharine,"
  • "Paul the Apostle."

A mere emphasis and distinction

When a pronoun is added to an other word merely for emphasis and distinction, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "You men of Athens,"
  • "I myself,"
  • "You flaming minister,"
  • "You princes."

Name acquired by action or relation

When a name acquired by some action or relation, is put in apposition with a preceding noun or pronoun, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "I made the ground my bed;"
  • "To make him king;"
  • "Whom they revered as God;"
  • "With modesty your guide."—Pope.


Simple sentences

A simple sentence does not, in general, admit the comma: as,

  • "The weakest reasoners are the most positive."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 202.
  • "Theology has not hesitated to make or support a doctrine by the position of a comma."—Tract on Tone, p. 4.
  • "Then pain compels the impatient soul to seize on promised hopes of instantaneous ease."—Crabbe.

Nominative accompanied by adjuncts

When the nominative in a long simple sentence is accompanied by inseparable adjuncts, or when several words together are used instead of a nominative, a comma should be placed immediately before the verb: as,

  • "Confession of sin without amendment, obtains no pardon."—Dillwyn's Reflections, p. 6.
  • "To be totally indifferent to praise or censure, is a real defect in character."—Murray's Gram., p. 268.
  • "O that the tenor of my just complaint, were sculpt with steel in rocks of adamant!"—Sandys.

Simple members

The simple members of a compound sentence, whether successive or involved, elliptical or complete, are generally divided by the comma: as,

  • "Here stand we both, and aim we at the best."—Shak.
  • "I, that did never weep, now melt in woe."—Id.
  • "Tide life, tide death, I come without delay."—Id.
  • "I am their mother, who shall bar me from them?"—Id.
  • "How wretched, were I mortal, were my state!"—Pope.
  • "Go; while you may, avoid the dreadful fate."—Id.
  • "Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings, and his last sighs reproach the faith of kings."—Johnson.

Relative that follows its antecedent

When a relative immediately follows its antecedent, and is taken in a restrictive sense, the comma should not be introduced before it: as,

  • "For the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal."—2 Cor., iv, 18.
  • "A letter is a character that expresses a sound without any meaning."—St. Quentin's General Gram., p. 3.

Closely connected simple members

When the simple members are short, and closely connected by a conjunction or a conjunctive adverb, the comma is generally omitted: as,

  • "Honest poverty is better than wealthy fraud."—Dillwyn's Ref., p. 11.
  • "Let him tell me whether the number of the stars be even or odd."—Taylor: Joh. Dict., w.
  • "It is impossible that our knowledge of words should outstrip our knowledge of things."—Campbell: Murray's Gram., p 359.


Simple immediately united members

When two simple members are immediately united, through ellipsis of the relative, the antecedent, or the conjunction that, the comma is not inserted: as,

  • "Make an experiment on the first man you meet."—Berkley's Alciphron, p. 125.
  • "Our philosophers do infinitely despise and pity whoever shall propose or accept any other motive to virtue."—Ib., p. 126.
  • "It is certain we imagine before we reflect."—Ib., p. 359.
  • "The same good sense that makes a man excel, still makes him doubt he never has written well."—Young.


  • The organization of this chapter was adapted from the 1977 edition of Building English Skills Handbook by McDougal, Litell & Company.
  • A part of the text in this article, was taken from the public domain English grammar "The Grammar of English Grammars" by Goold Brown, 1851.


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An apostrophe can be used to form possessives for nouns, indicate the omission of letters in a word for stylistic purposes or as a colloquial form of a word, and be used to indicate plurality.

The term is derived from the Latin word apostrophus itself derived from the Greek words αποστροφος meaning accident of elision αποστρεφειν meaning a turning away.

The apostrophe usually denotes either the possessive case of a noun, or the elision of one or more letters of a word: as,

  • "The girl's regard to her parents' advice;"

'Gan, lov'd, e'en, thro'; for began, loved, even, through.

It is sometimes used in pluralizing a mere letter or sign: as,

  • "Two a's—three 6's."

Apostrophe is also a figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified inanimate being, or an abstraction, is addressed as though present.

This sense is maintained when a narrative or dramatic thread is broken in order to digress by speaking directly to someone not there, e.g.,

  • “Envy, be silent and attend!”—Alexander Pope.
  • “On a Certain Lady at Court.”


The quotation points distinguish words that are exhibited as those of an other author or speaker. A quotation within a quotation, is usually marked with single points; which, when both are employed, are placed within the others: as,

  • "And again he said, 'Rejoice, you gentiles, with his people.'"—Rom., xv, 10.

English Quotations

In English quotations and direct speech is donated using quotation marks:

  • " is used as an opening quotation mark,
  • " is also used as a closing quotation mark.

Converting direct speech follows a pattern in English which may differ to reported speech in other languages. This pattern concerns statements (there are different rules for imperatives and questions).

Tense Changes
Direct Speech Reported Speech
"I am from England" He said he was from England
"I am going to Italy" He said he was going to Italy
"I have read it" He said he had read it.

Note that when converting from direct speech to indirect speech you usually have to move the tense backwards:

Tense Changes
Direct Speech Reported Speech
Present Simple Past Simple
Present Perfect Past Perfect
Past Simple Past Perfect or Past Simple
Will + Infinitive Would + Infinitive
Be + Going to Was/Were + Going to

Similarly there are some changes to be made to other words in the sentence. Because we are reporting what someone said in the past we must use other words to talk about the past, e.g. "today" becomes "that day", "here" becomes "there", "next week" becomes "the following week" and "last week" becomes "the previous week". There are other similar changes too.

"I am here" Reported Speech
"I am from England" He said he was there
"I will return next week" He said he would return the following week
"I have worked here since last week" He said he had worked there since the previous week

Other Common Punctuation Marks


The semicolon is used to separate those parts of a compound sentence, which are neither so closely connected as those which are distinguished by the comma, nor so little dependent as those which require the colon.

Complex members

When two or more complex members, or such clauses as require the comma in themselves, are constructed into a period, they are generally separated by the semicolon: as,

  • "In the regions inhabited by angelic natures, unmingled felicity forever blooms; joy flows there with a perpetual and abundant stream, nor needs any mound to check its course."—Carter.
  • "When the voice rises, the gesture naturally ascends; and when the voice makes the falling inflection, or lowers its pitch, the gesture follows it by a corresponding descent; and, in the level and monotonous pronunciation of the voice, the gesture seems to observe a similar limitation, by moving rather in the horizontal direction, without much varying its elevation."—Comstock's Elocution, p. 107.
  • "The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before me; but shadows, clouds, and darkness, rest upon it."—Addison.

Simple members

When two or more simple members, or such clauses as complete their sense without subdivision, are constructed into a period; if they require a pause greater than that of the comma, they are usually separated by the semicolon: as,

  • "Straws swim on the surface; but pearls lie at the bottom."—Murray's Gram., p. 276.
  • "Everything grows old; everything passes away; everything disappears."—Hiley's Gram., p. 115.
  • "Alexander asked them the distance of the Persian capital; what forces the king of Persia could bring into the field; what the Persian government was; what was the character of the king; how he treated his enemies; what were the most direct ways into Persia."—Whelpley's Lectures, p. 175.
  • "A longer care man's helpless kind demands; that longer care contracts more lasting bands."—Pope.


Words in apposition, in disjunct pairs, or in any other construction, if they require a pause greater than that of the comma, and less than that of the colon, may be separated by the semicolon: as,

  • "Pronouns have three cases; the nominative, the possessive, and the objective."—Murray's Gram., p. 51.
  • "Judge, judgement; lodge, lodgement; acknowledge, acknowledgement."—Butler's Gram., p. 11.
  • "Do not the eyes discover humility, pride; cruelty, compassion; reflection, dissipation; kindness, resentment?"—Sheridan's Elocution, p. 159.
  • "This rule forbids parents to lie to children, and children to parents; instructors to pupils, and pupils to instructors; the old to the young, and the young to the old; attorneys to jurors, and jurors to attorneys; buyers to sellers, and sellers to buyers."—Wayland's Moral Science, p. 304.
  • "Make, made; have, had; pay, paid; say, said; leave, left; dream, dreamt; mean, meant; reave and bereave have reft." —Ward's Gr., p. 66.


The colon is used to separate those parts of a compound sentence, which are neither so closely connected as those which are distinguished by the semicolon, nor so little dependent as those which require the period.

Additional remarks

When the preceding clause is complete in itself, but is followed by some additional remark or illustration, especially if no conjunction is used, the colon is generally and properly inserted: as,

  • "Avoid evil doers: in such society, an honest man may become ashamed of himself."
  • "See that moth fluttering incessantly round the candle: man of pleasure, behold your image!"—Art of Thinking, p. 94.
  • "Some things we can, and others we cannot do: we can walk, but we cannot fly."—Beanie's Moral Science, p. 112.
  • "Remember heaven has an avenging rod: to smite the poor, is treason against God."—Cowper.

Greater pauses

When the semicolon has been introduced, or when it must be used in a subsequent member, and a still greater pause is required within the period, the colon should be employed: as,

  • "Princes have courtiers, and merchants have partners; the voluptuous have companions, and the wicked have accomplices: none but the virtuous can have friends."
  • "Unless the truth of our religion be granted, a christian must be the greatest monster in nature: he must at the same time be eminently wise, and notoriously foolish; a wise man in his practice, and a fool in his belief: his reasoning powers must be deranged by a constant delirium, while his conduct never swerves from the path of propriety."—Principles of Eloquence, p. 80
  • "A decent competence we fully taste; it strikes our sense, and gives a constant feast: more we perceive by dint of thought alone; the rich must labour to possess their own."—Young.

Independent quotations

A quotation introduced without a close dependence on a verb or a conjunction, is generally preceded by the colon: as,

  • "In his last moments, he uttered these words: 'I fall a sacrifice to sloth and luxury.'"
  • "At this the king hastily retorted: 'No put-offs, my lord; answer me presently.'"—Churchill's Gram., p. 367.
  • "The father addressed himself to them to this effect: 'O my sons, behold the power of unity!'"— Rippingham's Art of Speaking, p. 85.


The dash is mostly used to denote an unexpected or emphatic pause, of variable length; but sometimes it is a sign of faltering, or of the irregular stops of one who hesitates in speaking: as,

  • "Then, after many pauses, and inarticulate sounds, he said: 'He was very sorry for it, was extremely concerned it should happen so—but—a—it was necessary—a—' Here lord E— stopped him short, and bluntly demanded, if his post were destined for another."—Churchill's Gram., p. 170.

Abrupt pauses

A sudden interruption, break, or transition, should be marked with the dash: as,

  • "'I must inquire into the affair; and if'—'And if!' interrupted the farmer."
  • "Whom I—But first it is fit the billows to restrain."—Dryd. Virg. 3.
  • "Here lies the great—False marble! where? Nothing but sordid dust lies here."—Young.

Emphatic pauses

To mark a considerable pause, greater than the structure or the sentence or the points inserted would seem to require, the dash may be employed: as,

  • "I pause for a reply.—None?—Then none have I offended.—I have done no more to Caesar, than you should do to Brutus."—Shakspeare: Enfields Speaker, p. 182.
  • "Tarry a little. There is something else.—This bond—doesn't give you here—no jot of blood." —ID.: Burgh's Sp., p. 167.
  • "It thunders;—but it thunders to preserve."—Young.
  • "Behold the picture!—Is it like?—Like whom?"—Cowper.

Faulty dashes

Dashes needlessly inserted, or substituted for other stops more definite, are in general to be treated as errors in punctuation: as,

  • "Here Greece stands by itself as opposed to the other nations of antiquity—She was none of the other nations—She was more polished than they."—Lennie's Gram., p. 78.
  • "Here Greece stands by herself, as opposed to the other nations of antiquity. She was none of the other nations: she was more polished than they."—Bullions, E. Gram., p. 114.

If this colon is sufficient, the capital after it is needless: a period would, perhaps, be better.


The curves, or marks of parenthesis, are used to distinguish a clause or hint that is hastily thrown in between the parts of a sentence to which it does not properly belong: as,

  • "Their enemies (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for exposing their measures."—Walpole.
  • "To others do (the law is not severe) what to yourself you wish to be done."—Beattie.

The incidental clause should be uttered in a lower tone, and faster than the principal sentence. It always requires a pause as great as that of a comma, or greater.


A clause that breaks the unity of a sentence or passage too much to be incorporated with it, and only such, should be inclosed within curves, as a parenthesis: as,

  • "For I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing."—Rom., vii, 18.
  • "Know then this truth, (enough for man to know,) virtue alone is happiness below."—Pope.

Included points

The curves do not supersede other stops; and, as the parenthesis terminates with a pause equal to that which precedes it, the same point should be included, except when the sentences differ in form: as,

  • "Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as to my children,) be you also enlarged."—2 Cor., vi, 13.
  • "Man's thirst of happiness declares it is: (for nature never gravitates to nought:) that thirst unquenched, declares it is not here."—Young.
  • "Night visions may befriend: (as sung above:) our waking dreams are fatal. How I dreamt of things impossible! (could sleep do more?) of joys perpetual in perpetual change!"—Young.


The hyphen connects the parts of many compound words, especially such as have two accents: as, ever-living. It is also frequently inserted where a word is divided into syllables: as, con-tem-plate. Placed at the end of a line, it shows that one or more syllables of a word are can led forward to the next line.


Less Common Typographical Marks

  • the Acute accent [´]
  • the Asterisk [*]
  • the Asterism []
  • the Brace, or Curly Brackets [{}]
  • the Breve [˘]
  • the Caret [^]
  • the Cedilla [¸]
  • the Circumflex [ˆ]
  • the Crotchets, or Brackets [[]],
  • the Diaeresis [¨]
  • the Diesis, or Double Dagger []
  • the Ellipsis '''…'''
  • the Grave accent [`]
  • the Guillements, or Angle Quotes [«»]
  • the Index []
  • the Macron [¯]
  • the Obelisk, or Dagger []
  • the Paragraph []
  • the Quotation Marks [“”]
  • the Parallels [||]
  • the Section [§]

Acute accent [ ´ ]

The acute accent marks the syllable which requires the principal stress in pronunciation: as, e'qual, equal'ity. It is sometimes used in opposition to the grave accent, to distinguish a close or short vowel: as, Fancy; or to denote the rising inflection of the voice: as,

  • "Is it he?"

Asterisk ( * )

The asterisk, or star, the obelisk, or dagger, the diesis, or double dagger, the section, the parallels, and the paragraph, refer to marginal notes. Where many references are to be made, the small letters of the alphabet, or the numerical figures, in their order, may be conveniently used for the same purpose.

Asterism []

The asterism, or three stars, a sign not very often used, is placed before a long or general note, to mark it as a note, without giving it a particular reference.

At sign at sign ( @ )

The at sign is variously used in various conventions. Originally it was an accountancy abbreviation for "at", as:

  • "One load of erunam @ $7.50 per bucket"

and still used informally to represent 'at'
On the Internet it commomly indicates the start of an email address

Brace or Curly Brackets [{}]

The brace serves to unite a triplet; or, more frequently, to connect several terms with something to which they are all related.

Brackets of various types ( ( ) [ ] { }〈 〉)

The crotchets, parentheses or brackets generally enclose a parenthetic correction or remark, but sometimes the sign or subject to be explained: as,

  • "He [Mr. Maurice] was of a different opinion."—Allen's Gram., p. 213.

In formal notation it can delimit an expression to be used as a term or logical unit in a larger expression, to be evaluated out of the lexical sequence before being included in the encompassing expression. eg, in the following expression, the addition must be performed before the multiplication or division:

  • "The assessment is to be calculated as: Contribution * (age + diameter) / mean weighting"

Breve [ ˘ ]

The breve, or stenotone, is used to denote either the close, short, shut sound of a vowel, or a syllable of short quantity: as, l˘ive, to have life; r˘av'en, to devour; c˘al˘am˘us, a reed.

Caret [^]

The caret, used only in writing, shows where to insert words or letters that have been accidentally omitted.

Cedilla [¸]

The cedilla is borrowed from the French. It is placed under the letter c, to give it the sound of s, before a or o: as, Façade, Alençon. It is sometimes attached to other letters, to denote their soft sounds: Ģ as J; Ş as Z.


The circumflex generally denotes either the broad sound of a or an unusual sound given to some other vowel: as in all, heir, machine. Some use it to mark a peculiar wave of the voice, and when occasion requires, reverse it: as,

  • "If you said s^o, then I said so."

Degree sign

The degree sign ( ° ) : marks several different units: arc degrees, temperature degrees, and (rarely) hours of time. Different from the masculine ordinal indicator, used to abbreviate ordinal numbers in some languages

Diaeresis [¨]

The diaeresis, or dialysis, placed over either of two contiguous vowels, shows that they are not a diphthong: as, Danaee, aerial.

Ellipsis ()

The ellipsis, or suppression, denotes the omission of some letters or words: as, K…g, for King; c…d, for coward; d…d, for damned.

Grave accent [`]

The grave accent is used in opposition to the acute, to distinguish an open or long vowel: as, Favour; or to denote the falling inflection of the voice: as,

  • "Yes; it is he."

It is sometimes placed over a vowel to show that it is not to be suppressed in pronunciation: as,

  • "Let me, though in humble speech, your refined maxims teach."—Amer. Review, May, 1848.

Index []

The index, or hand, points out something remarkable, or what the reader should particularly observe: as,

  • " On odd dates it is a criminal offence to bring a wheeled vehicle into the controlled area

Macron [¯]

The macron, or macrotone, is used to denote either the open, long, primal sound of a vowel, or a syllable of long quantity: as, l¯ive, having life; r¯a'ven, a bird; ¯e'qu¯ine, of a horse.

Number sign, octothorpe, pound sign, or hash ( # )

The number sign is variously used in different conventions. Commonly means "number" when preceding ordinal numbers, but weight when following numbers

Paragraph mark or pilcrow []

The paragraph denotes the commencement of a new subject. Those parts of discourse that usually are called paragraphs, generally are sufficiently distinguished by beginning a new line, often with the first word or the body text indented. However, when referring to numbered paragraphs in books, the pilcrow may be used as an abbreviation for the word "paragraph".

Section [§]

The section marks the smaller divisions of a book or chapter; and, with the help of numbers, serves to abridge references.

Slash/Solidus (/) and backslash (\)

Forward slashes are used to indicate alternatives, connect words, and form abbreviations. For example, black/white, either/or, w/o (without).
Slashes also are used variously in technical notation, for example to denote division, rates or fractions, or to denote files within different folders on an Internet server.

Other marks

ampersand ( & )
a substitute for the word 'and'. Most common in signs, titles, and informal writing.
bullet ( •, more )
used to mark items in lists
currency ( ¤ )
dagger ( † ‡ )
commonly used to mark footnotes (along with the asterisk)
interrobang ( ‽ )
A superimposed exclamation point and question mark, sometimes used in place of !? to denote a surprised question.
percent and related signs ( % ) ( ‰ ) ( ‱ )
prime ( ′ )
spaces ( ) (   ) (   )
tilde ( ~ )
umlaut/diaresis ( ¨ )
underscore/understrike ( _ )
vertical line/pipe/broken bar ( | ) ( ¦ )


Unit V: Other key topics


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

The use of capital letters in English is generally similar to in other Germanic and Romance languages with a few exceptions. The following list shows when you should use a capital letter:


Capitalize the first word in every sentence.
EXAMPLE: She said, "It will be hard to go home after this fun vacation."

Capitalize the pronoun I.
EXAMPLE: Ira said that I was the best dancer in the show.

Capitalize the interjection O.
EXAMPLE: Guide and direct us,O Lord.

Capitalize the first word in both the salutation and the closing of a letter.
EXAMPLES: Dear Mr. Novato: Sincerely

Capitalize the names of persons and animals.
EXAMPLES: Franklin D. Roosevelt Willem de Kooning

Capitalize geographical names

EXAMPLES: the Gulf of Mexico the Southwest Prince William Forest

Capitalize the names of planets, stars, constellations, and other heavenly bodies.

EXAMPLES: Neptune Polaris Great Nebula

Capitalize the names of teams, organizations, institutions, and government bodies.

EXAMPLES: Kansas City Chiefs Future Teachers of America

Capitalize the names of historical events and periods, special events, holidays, and other calendar items.

EXAMPLES: the Eighties the Civil War Hannukah my Birthday

Capitalize the names of nationalities, races, and peoples

EXAMPLES: Indian Chinese Bedouin

Capitalize the names of religions and their followers, holy days and celebrations, sacred writings, and specific deities.

EXAMPLES: Allah Hindus Christmas Koran

Capitalize the names of buildings and other structures.

EXAMPLES: Colleyville Heritage High School World Trade Center

Capitalize the names of monuments, memorials, and awards

EXAMPLES: Lincoln Memorial Nobel Peace Prize

Capitalize the names of trains, ships, aircraft, and spacecraft

EXAMPLES: Enola Gay U.S.S. Enterprise Challenger

Capitalize the names of businesses and the brand names of business products

EXAMPLES: Continental Airlines Microsoft Windows


The use of medial capitals (those in the middle of words)is generally considered poor English, although this is quite common on the Internet and in advertisements. It's not necessary to capitalize styles of music (e.g. "indie"), adjectives, or the name of companies if they themselves don't use a capital letter (e.g. eBay) although the first letter will sometimes be capitalized on the Internet due to technical reasons.


Sound to spelling correspondences

The following table shows for each sound, the various spelling patterns used to denote it. The symbol "•" stands for an intervening consonant. The letter sequences are in order of frequency with the most common first. Some of these patterns are very rare or unique, such as 'au' for the ah sound in laugh.

IPA spelling example
/p/ p, pp, ph, pe, gh pill, happy, Phuket, tape, hiccough
/b/ b, bb, bh, be, p (in some dialects) bit, rabbit, Bhutan, tribe, thespian
/t/ t, tt, ed, pt, th, ct, te ten, bitter, topped, ptomaine, thyme, ctenoid, hate
/d/ d, dd, ed, dh, de, th (in some dialects) dive, ladder, failed, dharma, made, them
/g/ g, gg, gue, gh, gu go, stagger, catalogue, ghost, guilt
/k/ c, k, ck, ch, cc, qu, q, cq, cu, que, kk, kh, ke cat, key, tack, chord, account, liquor, Iraq, acquaint, biscuit, mosque, trekker, khan, make
/m/ m, mm, mb, mn, mh, me mine, hammer, climb, hymn, mho, lame
/n/ n, nn, kn, gn, pn, nh, cn, ne, mn, ng (in some dialects) nice, funny, knee, gnome, pneumonia, piranha, cnidarian, vane, mnemonic, fighting
/ŋ/ ng, n, ngue, ngh sing, link, tongue, Singh
/ɹ/ r, rr, wr, rh, rrh, re ray, parrot, wrong, rhyme, diarrhea, more
/f/ f, ph, ff, gh, pph, u, th (in some dialects) fine, physical, off, laugh, sapphire, BR lieutenant, thin
/v/ v, vv, f, ve vine, savvy, of, have
/θ/ th, chth, phth, tth thin, chthonic, phthisis, Matthew
/ð/ th, the them, breathe
/s/ s, c, ss, sc, st, ps, sch, cc, se, ce, z (in some dialects) song, city, mess, scene, listen, psychology, schism, flaccid, horse, juice, citizen
/z/ s, z, x, zz, ss, ze, c (in some dialects) has, zoo, xylophone, fuzz, scissors, breeze, electricity
/ʃ/ sh, ti, ci, ssi, si, ss, ch, s, sci, ce, sch, sc shin, nation, special, mission, expansion, tissue, machine, sugar, conscience, ocean, schist, crescendo
/ʒ/ si, s, g, z, j, zh, ti, sh (in some dialects) division, leisure, genre, seizure, jeté, Zhytomyr, equation, Pershmg
/tʃ/ ch, t, tch, ti, c, cz, tsch chin, nature, batch, mention, cello, Czech, Deutschmark
/dʒ/ g, j, dg, d, di, gi, ge, dj, gg magic, jump, ledger, graduate, soldier, Belgian, dungeon, Djibouti, suggest
/h/ h, wh, j, ch he, whom, fajita, chutzpah
/j/ y, i, j, ll yes, onion, hallelujah, tortilla
/l/ l, ll, lh, le line, hall, Lhasa, rule
/w/ w, u, o, ou, wh (in most dialects) we, queen, choir, Ouija board, what
/ʍ/ wh (in some dialects) wheel
IPA spelling example
/i/ e, y, ee, ea, e•e, i•e, ie, ei, ei•e, ey, ae, ay, oe, eo, is, eip, ie▪e, i, ea▪e, it, eigh, ois be, city, bee, beach, cede, machine, field, deceit, deceive, key, Caesar, quay, amoeba, people, debris, receipt, believe, ski, leave, esprit, Raleigh, chamois
/ɪ/ i, i•e, a•e, y, ie, ui, ei, ee, e, ia, u, o, u▪e, eig, ie•e bit, give, damage, myth, mischief, build, counterfeit, been, pretty, carriage, busy, women, minute, sovereign, sieve
/u/ oo, u, o, u•e, ou, ew, ue, o•e, ui, eu, oe, ough, wo, ioux, ieu, ault, oup tool, luminous, who, flute, soup, jewel, true, lose, fruit, maneuver, canoe, through, two, Sioux, US lieutenant, Sault Sainte Marie, coup
/ʊ/ u, oo, ou, o, w full, look, should, wolf, cwm
/ei/ a, a•e, ai, ay, eigh, ea, ei, ey, au, et, er, ee, aigh, ie, eig, eg paper, rate, rain, pay, eight, steak, veil, obey, gauge, ballet, dossier, matinee, straight, US lingerie, reign, thegn
/ə/ a, e, o, u, ai, ou, eig, y, ah, ough, gh another, anthem, awesome, atrium, mountain, callous, foreign, beryl, Messiah, BR borough, Edinburgh
/o(u)/ o, o•e, oa, ow, ou, oe, oo, eau, oh, ew, au, aoh, ough so, bone, boat, know, soul, foe, brooch, beau, oh, sew, mauve, pharoah, furlough
/ɛ/ e, ea, a, ai, ie, eo, u, ae, ay, ei, ue, eb, eg met, weather, many, said, friend, jeopardy, bury, aesthetic, says, heifer, guess, debt, phlegm
/æ/ a, au, ai, a▪e, al, ag, ach hand, laugh, plaid, have, salmon, diaphragm, drachm
/ʌ/ u, o, ou, o•e, oo, oe sun, son, touch, come, flood, does
/ɔ/ a, au, aw, ough, augh, oa, al, uo fall, author, jaw, bought, caught, broad, walk, BR fluorine
/ɑ/ o, a, eau, ach lock, watch, bureaucracy, yacht
/ai/ i•e, i, y, igh, ie, ei, eigh, uy, ai, ey, ye, eye, y▪e, ae, ais, is, ig, ic, ay fine, Christ, try, high, tie, eidos, height, buy, ailurophobia, geyser, dye, eye, type, maestro, aisle, isle, sign, indict, tayra
/ɑr/ ar, er, ear, a•e, aa car, sergeant, heart, are, bazaar
/εr/ er, ar, ere, are, aire, eir, air, aa stationery, stationary, where, ware, millionaire, heir, hair, Aaron
/ɔɪ/ oi, oy, aw, uoy oy•e foil, toy, lawyer, buoy, gargoyle
/aʊ/ ou, ow, ough, au out, now, bough, tau
/ɚ/ er, or, ur, ir, yr, our, ear, err, eur, yrrh, ar, oeu, olo fern, worst, turn, thirst, myrtle, courage, earth, err, amateur, myrrh, grammar, hors d'oeuvre, colonel
/yu/ u, u•e, eu, ue, iew, eau, ieu, ueue, ui, ewe, ew music*, use, feud, cue, view, beautiful*, adieu*, queue, nuisance*, ewe, few, * in some dialects


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

Syntax treats of the relation, agreement, government, and arrangement, of words in sentences.

The relation of words is their reference to other words, or their dependence according to the sense.

The agreement of words is their similarity in person, number, gender, case, mood, tense, or form.

The government of words is that power which one word has over another, to cause it to assume some particular modification.

The arrangement of words is their collocation, or relative position, in a sentence.

A sentence is an assemblage of words, making complete sense, and always containing a nominative and a verb: as,

  • "Reward sweetens labour."

The principal parts of a sentence are usually three; namely, the subject, or nominative; the finite verb; and the object governed by the verb: as,

  • "Crimes deserve punishment."

A predicate is the part of the sentence (or clause) which states something about the subject.

The other or subordinate parts depend on these, either as primary or as secondary adjuncts: as,

  • "High crimes justly deserve very severe punishments."

Sentences are usually said to be of two kinds, simple and compound.

A simple sentence is a sentence which consists of one single assertion, supposition, command, question, or exclamation: as,

  • "David and Jonathan loved each other."
  • "If your enemy hunger."
  • "Do violence to no man."
  • "Am I not an apostle?"—1 Cor., ix, 1.
  • "What immortal glory shall I have acquired!"—Hooke: Mur. Seq., p. 71.

A compound sentence is a sentence which consists of two or more simple ones either expressly or tacitly connected: as,

  • "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell you words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved."—Acts, xi, 13.
  • "The more the works of Cowper are read, the more his readers will find reason to admire the variety and the extent, the graces and the energy, of his literary talents."—Hayley: Mur. Seq., p. 250.

A clause, or member, is a subdivision of a compound sentence; and is itself a sentence, either simple or compound: as,

  • "If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; if he be thirsty, give him water to drink."—Prov., xxv, 21.

A phrase is two or more words which express some relation of different ideas, but no entire proposition: as,

  • "By the means appointed."
  • "To be plain with you."
  • "Having loved his own."

Words that are omitted by ellipsis, and that are necessarily understood in order to complete the construction, must be supplied in parsing.

The leading principles to be observed in the construction of sentences, are embraced in the following rules, which are arranged, as nearly as possible, in the order of the parts of speech.


Articles relate to the nouns which they limit: as,

  • "At a little distance from the ruins of the abbey, stands an aged elm."
  • "See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing, the sot a hero, lunatic a king."—Pope's Essay, Ep. ii, l. 268.

The comparative or superlative degree

The definite article may relate to an adjective or adverb of the comparative or the superlative degree: as,

  • "A land which was the mightiest."—Byron.
  • "The farther they proceeded, the greater appeared their alacrity."—Dr. Johnson.
  • "He chooses it the rather."—Cowper.

An unstressed numeral

The indefinite article is sometimes used to give a collective meaning to an unstressed numeral (a plural adjective of number): as,

  • "You have a few names even in Sardis."—Rev., iii, 4.
  • "There are a thousand things which crowd into my memory."—Spectator, No. 468.
  • "The centurion commanded a hundred men."—Webster.


The subject or nominative

A noun or a pronoun which is the subject of a finite verb, must be in the nominative case: as,

  • "The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things; and they derided him."—Luke, xvi, 14.
  • "But where the meekness of self-knowledge veils the front of self-respect, there look you for the man whom none can know but they will honour."—Book of Thoughts, p. 66.
  • "Do you mourn Philander's fate? I know you say it: says your life the same?"—Young, N. ii, l. 22.

The subject, or nominative, is generally placed before the verb: as,

  • "Peace dawned on his mind."—Johnson.
  • "What is written in the law?"—Bible.

But, in the following nine cases, the subject of the verb is usually placed after it, or after the first auxiliary:

A question

When a question is asked without an interrogative pronoun in the nominative case: as,

  • "Shall mortals be implacable?"—Hooke.
  • "What are you doing?"—Id.
  • "How many loaves have you?"—Bible.
  • "Are they Israelites? So am I."—Ib.

The imperative mood

When the verb is in the imperative mood: as,

  • "Go you,"
  • "Come you."

But, with this mood, the pronoun is very often omitted and understood: as,

  • "Philip said to him, Come and see."—John, i, 46.
  • "And he said to them, Be not afraid."—Mark, xvi, 5.

An earnest wish or strong feeling

When an earnest wish, or other strong feeling, is expressed: as,

  • "May she be happy!"
  • "How were we struck!"—Young.
  • "Not as the world gives, give I to you."—Bible.

A supposition without if

When a supposition is made without the conjunction if: as,

  • "Had they known it;" for, "If they had known it."
  • "Were it true;" for, "If it were true."
  • "Could we draw by the covering of the grave;" for, "If we could draw," etc.

Neither or nor

When neither or nor, signifying and not, precedes the verb: as,

  • "This was his fear; nor was his apprehension groundless."
  • "You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it."—Gen., iii, 3.


When, for the sake of emphasis, some word or words are placed before the verb, which more naturally come after it: as,

  • "Here am I,"
  • "Narrow is the way,"
  • "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I you."—Bible.

No regimen

When the verb has no regimen, and is itself emphatical: as,

  • "Echo the mountains round."—Thomson.
  • "After the light infantry marched the grenadiers, then followed the horse."—Buchanan's Syntax, p. 71.

A dialogue

When the verbs, say, answer, reply, and the like, introduce the parts of a dialogue: as,

  • "'Son of affliction,' said Omar, 'who are you?' 'My name,' replied the stranger, 'is Hassan.'"—Dr. Johnson.

The adverb there

When the adverb there precedes the verb: as,

  • "There lived a man."—Montgomery.
  • "In all worldly joys, there is a secret wound."—Owen.

This use of there, is idiomatic, and somewhat different from the use of the same word in reference to a particular locality: as,

  • "Because there was not much water there."—John, iii, 23.

Apposition or appositive

A noun or a personal pronoun used to explain a preceding noun or pronoun, is put, by apposition, in the same case: as,

  • "But it is really I, your old friend and neighbour, Piso, late a dweller on the Coelian hill, who am now basking in the warm skies of Palmyra."—Zenobia.
  • "But he, our gracious Master, kind as just, knowing our frame, remembers we are dust."—Barbauld.

An apposition or appositive is an interjection into a sentence. Appositive renames, or adds to the description of another noun. The thought expressed by the sentence will stand fully on its own without the appositive. In the following sentence, "My best friend's collie" is an appositive:

  • "The dog, my best friend's collie, caught the frisbee every time."

A possessive noun

A noun or a pronoun in the possessive case, is governed by the name of the thing possessed: as,

  • "God's mercy prolongs man's life."—Allen.
  • "Theirs is the vanity, the learning yours; touched by your hand, again Rome's glories shine."—Pope.

The possessive case generally comes immediately before the governing noun, expressed or understood: as,

  • "All nature's difference keeps all nature's peace."—Pope.
  • "Lady! be yours (i. e., your walk) the Christian's walk."—Chr. Observer.
  • "Some of Aeschylus's [plays] and Euripides's plays are opened in this manner."—Blair's Rhet., p. 459.

And in this order one possessive sometimes governs another: as,

  • "Peter's wife's mother,"
  • "Paul's sister's son."—Bible.

But, to this general principle of arrangement, there are some exceptions: as,

An adjective

When the governing noun has an adjective, this may intervene: as,

  • "Flora's earliest smells."—Milton.
  • "Of man's first disobedience."—Id.

In the following phrase from the Spectator,

  • "Of Will's last night's lecture,"

it is not very clear, whether Will's is governed by night's or by lecture; yet it violates a general principle of our grammar, to suppose the latter; because, on this supposition, two possessives, each having the sign, will be governed by one noun.

The affirmed or denied possessive

When the possessive is affirmed or denied: as,

  • "The book is mine, and not John's."

But here the governing noun may be supplied in its proper place; else a pronoun or the verb will be the only governing word: as,

  • "You are Christ's [disciples, or people]; and Christ is God's [son]."—St. Paul.

Whether this phraseology is thus elliptical or not, is questionable.

The case without the sign

When the case occurs without the sign, either by apposition or by connection: as,

  • "In her brother Absalom's house."—Bible.
  • "David and Jonathan's friendship."—Allen.
  • "Adam and Eve's morning hymn."—Dr. Ash.
  • "Behold the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, is the Lord's your God."—Deut., x, 14.
  • "For peace and quiet's sake."—Cowper.
  • "To the beginning of King James the First's reign."—Bolingbroke, on Hist., p. 32.

The object of predicate

A noun or a pronoun made the object of an active transitive verb or participle, is governed by it in the objective case: as,

  • "I found her assisting him,"
  • "Having finished the work, I submit it,"
  • "Preventing fame, misfortune lends him wings, and Pompey's self his own sad story brings." —Rowe's Lucan, B. viii, l. 66.

An intransitive verb

A noun or a pronoun put after an intransitive verb or participle, agrees in case with a preceding noun or pronoun referring to the same thing: as,

  • "It is I,"
  • "These are they,"
  • "The child was named John,"
  • "It could not be he,"
  • "The Lord sits King forever."—Psalms, xxix, 10.
  • "What war could ravish, commerce could bestow, and he returned a friend, who came a foe."—Pope, Ep. iii, l. 206.

An absolute noun

A noun or a pronoun is put absolute in the nominative, when its case depends on no other word: as,

  • "He failing, who shall meet success?"
  • "Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever?"—Zech., i, 5.
  • "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?"—1 Cor., ix, 6.
  • "Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God?"—Rom., ix, 20.
  • "O rare we!"—Cowper.
  • "Miserable they!"—Thomson.


An adjective relates to nouns

Adjectives relate to nouns or pronouns: as,

  • "Miserable comforters are you all."—Job, xvi, 2.
  • "No worldly enjoyments are adequate to the high desires and powers of an immortal spirit."—Blair.
  • "Whatever faction's partial notions are, no hand is wholly innocent in war."—Rowe's Lucan, B. vii, l. 191.

An intervening verb

An adjective sometimes relates to a phrase or sentence which is made the subject of an intervening verb: as,

  • "To insult the afflicted, is impious."—Dillwyn.
  • "That he should refuse, is not strange."
  • "To err is human."

Combined arithmetical numbers

In combined arithmetical numbers, one adjective often relates to another, and the whole phrase, to a subsequent noun: as,

  • "One thousand four hundred and fifty-six men,"
  • "Six dollars and eighty-seven and a half cents for every five days' service,"
  • "In the one hundred and twenty-second year,"
  • "One seven times more than it was wont to be heated."—Daniel, iii, 19.

A being or action in the abstract

With an infinitive or a participle denoting being or action in the abstract, an adjective is sometimes also taken abstractly; that is, without reference to any particular noun, pronoun, or other subject: as,

  • "To be sincere, is to be wise, innocent, and safe."—Hawkesworth.
  • "Capacity marks the abstract quality of being able to receive or hold."—Crabb's Synonymes.
  • "Indeed, the main secret of being sublime, is to say great things in few and plain words."—Hiley's Gram., p. 215.
  • "Concerning being free from sin in heaven, there is no question."—Barclay's Works, iii, 437.
  • Better, "Concerning freedom from sin," etc.

Abstract nouns

Adjectives are sometimes substituted for their corresponding abstract nouns; perhaps, in most instances, elliptically: as,

  • "The sensations of sublime and beautiful are not always distinguished by very distant boundaries."—Blair's Rhet., p. 47.
  • "The faults opposite to the sublime are chiefly two: the frigid, and the bombast."—Ib., p. 44.
  • Better, "The faults opposite to sublimity, are chiefly two; frigidity and bombast."
  • "Yet the ruling character of the nation was that of barbarous and cruel."—Brown's Estimate, ii, 26.
  • "In a word, agreeable and disagreeable are qualities of the objects we perceive."—Kames, El. of Crit., i, 99.
  • "Polished, or refined, was the idea which the author had in view."—Blair's Rhet., p. 219.

An adjective placed before noun

The adjective is generally placed immediately before its noun: as,

  • "Vain man! is grandeur given to gay attire?"—Beattie.

Adjectives can also come before the subject:

  • "The red dog likes chocolate."
  • "The tiny man had a height problem."

In the following instances the adjective is placed after the word to which it relates:


Those adjectives which relate to pronouns, most commonly follow them: as,

  • "They left me weary on a grassy turf."—Milton.

But to both these general rules there are many exceptions; for the position of an adjective may be varied by a variety of circumstances, not excepting the mere convenience of emphasis: as,

  • "And Jehu said, to which of all us?"—2 Kings, ix, 5.

Words which depend on the adjective

When other words depend on the adjective, or stand before it to qualify it: as,

  • "A mind conscious of right,"
  • "A wall three feet thick,"
  • "A body of troops fifty thousand strong."

The quality which results from action

When the quality results from an action, or receives its application through a verb or participle: as,

  • "Virtue renders life happy."
  • "He was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza."—1 Kings, xvi, 9.
  • "All men agree to call vinegar sour, honey sweet, and aloes bitter."—Burke, on Taste, p. 38.
  • "God made you perfect, not immutable."—Milton.

The quality which excites admiration

When the quality excites admiration, and the adjective would thus be more clearly distinctive: as,

  • "Goodness infinite,"
  • "Wisdom unsearchable."—Murray.

A verb

When a verb comes between the adjective and the noun: as,

  • "Truth stands independent of all external things."—Burgh.
  • "Honour is not seemly for a fool."—Solomon.

The adjective formed by prefix

When the adjective is formed by means of the prefix a: as, afraid, alert, alike, alive, alone, asleep, awake, aware, averse, ashamed, askew. To these may be added a few other words: as, else, enough, extant, extinct, fraught, pursuant.

The nature of a participle

When the adjective has the nature, but not the form, of a participle: as,

  • "A queen regnant,"
  • "The prince regent,"
  • "The heir apparent,"
  • "A lion, not rampant, but couchant or dormant,"
  • "For the time then present."


In some instances, the adjective may either precede or follow its noun; as, in poetry, provided the sense be obvious: as,

  • "Will you to the isles atlantic, to the rich hesperian clime, fly in the train of Autumn?"—Akenside, P. of I., Book i, p. 27.
  • "Will you fly with laughing Autumn to the atlantic isles, and range with him the hesperian field?"—Id. Bucke's Gram., p. 120.

Technical usage

When technical usage favours one order, and common usage another: as,

  • "A notary public," or, "A public notary;"
  • "The heir presumptive," or, "The presumptive heir."

An adverb

When an adverb precedes the adjective: as,

  • "A Being infinitely wise," or,
  • "An infinitely wise Being."

Murray, Comly, and others, here approve only the former order; but the latter is certainly not ungrammatical.

Belonging to the same noun

When several adjectives belong to the same noun: as,

  • "The red, hungry dog ate the chocolate."
  • "The car is red, slow and very old."
  • "A woman, modest, sensible, and virtuous," or, "A modest, sensible, and virtuous woman."

An emphatic adjective

When the adjective is emphatic, it may be foremost in the sentence, though the natural order of the words would bring it last: as,

  • "Weighty is the anger of the righteous."—Bible.
  • "Blessed are the pure in heart."—Ib.
  • "Great is the earth, high is the heaven, swift is the sun in his course."—1 Esdras, iv, 34.
  • "The more laborious the life is, the less populous is the country."—Goldsmith's Essays, p. 151.

A part of the object or predicate

When the adjective and its noun both follow a verb as parts of the predicate, either may possibly come before the other, yet the arrangement is fixed by the sense intended. Thus, there is a great difference between the following assertions:

  • "We call the boy good,"
  • "We call the good boy."

An equivalent to an adverb

By an ellipsis of the noun, an adjective with a preposition before it, is sometimes equivalent to an adverb: as,

  • "In particular;" that is, "In a particular manner;" equivalent to "Particularly".
  • So "In general" is equivalent to "Generally".

Pronoun antecedents

A pronoun must agree with its antecedent, or the noun or pronoun which it represents, in person, number, and gender: as,

  • "This is the friend of whom I spoke; he has just arrived."
  • "This is the book which I bought; it is an excellent work."
  • "You, therefore, who love mercy, teach your sons to love it too."—Cowper.
  • "Speak you, whose thoughts at humble peace repine, shall Wolsey's wealth with Wolsey's end be yours?"—Dr. Johnson.

Something indefinite

When a pronoun stands for some person or thing indefinite, or unknown to the speaker, the person, number, and gender, are rather assumed in the pronoun, than regulated by an antecedent: as,

  • "I do not care who knows it."—Steele.
  • "Who touched me? Tell me who it was."
  • "We have no knowledge how, or by whom, it is inhabited."—Abbot: Joh. Dict.

The neuter pronoun

The neuter pronoun may be applied to a young child, or to other creatures masculine or feminine by nature, when they are not obviously distinguishable with regard to sex: as,

  • "Which is the real friend to the child, the person who gives it the sweetmeats, or the person who, considering only its health, resists its importunities?"—Opis.
  • "He loads the animal he is showing me, with so many trappings and collars, that I cannot distinctly view it."—Murray's Gram., p. 301.
  • "The nightingale sings most sweetly when it sings in the night."—Bucke's Gram., p. 52.

The pronoun it

The pronoun it is often used without a definite reference to any antecedent, and is sometimes a mere expletive, and sometimes the representative of an action expressed afterwards by a verb: as,

  • "Whether she grapple it with the pride of philosophy."—Chalmers.
  • "Seeking to lord it over God's heritage."—The Friend, vii, 253.
  • "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink."—Prov., xxxi, 4.
  • "Having no temptation to it, God cannot act unjustly without defiling his nature."—Brown's Divinity, p. 11.
  • "Come, and trip it as you go, on the light fantastic toe."—Milton.

The adjective many

A singular antecedent with the adjective many, sometimes admits a plural pronoun, but never in the same clause: as,

  • "Hard has been the fate of many a great genius, that while they have conferred immortality on others, they have wanted themselves some friend to embalm their names to posterity."—Welwood's Pref. to Rowe's Lucan.
  • "In Hawick twinkled many a light, behind him soon they set in night."—W. Scott.


When a plural pronoun is put by enallage for the singular, it does not agree with its noun in number, because it still requires a plural verb: as,

  • "We [Lindley Murray] have followed those authors, who appear to have given them the most natural and intelligible distribution."—Murray's Gram., 8vo, p. 29.
  • "We shall close our remarks on this subject, by introducing the sentiments of Dr. Johnson respecting it."—Ib.
  • "My lord, you know I love you."—Shakespeare.

The antecedent taken in another sense

The pronoun sometimes disagrees with its antecedent in one sense, because it takes it in another: as,

  • "I have perused Mr. Johnson's Grammatical Commentaries, and find it a very laborious, learned, and useful work."—Tho. Knipe, D. D.
  • "Lamps is of the plural number, because it means more than one."—Smith's New Gram., p. 8.
  • "Man is of the masculine gender, because it is the name of a male."—Ib.
  • "The Utica Sentinel says it has not heard whether the wounds are dangerous."—Evening Post.
  • Better, "The editor of the Utica Sentinel says, he has not heard," etc.
  • "There is little Benjamin with their ruler."—Psalms, lxviii, 27.
  • "Her end when emulation misses, she turns to envy, stings, and hisses."—Swift's Poems, p. 415.


Nominatives: (i.e., words parsed as nominatives after the verbs, though mostly transposed:)

  • "Who are you?"—Bible.
  • "What were we?"—Ib.
  • "Do not tell them who I am."
  • "Let him be who he may, he is not the honest fellow that he seemed."
  • "The general conduct of mankind is neither what it was designed, nor what it ought to be."

Absolute nominatives

This construction of the relative is a latinism, and very seldom used by the best writers.

  • "There are certain bounds to imprudence, which being transgressed, there remains no place for repentance in the natural course of things."—Bp. Butler.
  • "Which being so, it need not be any wonder, why I should."—Walker's Particles, Pref., p. xiv.
  • "He offered an apology, which not being admitted, he became submissive."—Murray's Key, p. 202.


  • "The chief man of the island, whose name was Publius."—Acts.
  • "Despair, a cruel tyrant, from whose prisons none can escape."—Dr. Johnson.
  • "To contemplate on Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light."—Steele.


  • "Those whom she persuaded."—Dr. Johnson.
  • "The cloak that I left at Troas."—St. Paul.
  • "By the things which he suffered."—Id.
  • "A man whom there is reason to suspect."
  • "What are we to do?"—Burke.
  • "Love refuses nothing that love sends."—Gurnall.
  • "The first thing, says he, is, to choose some maxim or point of morality; to inculcate which, is to be the design of his work."—Blair's Rhet., p. 421.
  • "Whomsoever you please to appoint."—Lowth.
  • "Whatsoever he does, shall prosper."—Bible.
  • "What we are afraid to do before men, we should be afraid to think before God."—Sibs.
  • "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"—Gen., xviii, 32.
  • "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?"
  • "Call imperfection what you fancy such."—Pope.

Neuter verbs

Pronouns parsed as objectives after neuter verbs, though they stand before them:

  • "He is not the man that I took him to be."
  • "Whom did you suppose me to be?"
  • "If the lad ever become what you wish him to be."
  • "To whom shall we go?"—Bible.
  • "The laws by which the world is governed, are general."—Bp. Butler.
  • "Whom he looks on as his defender."—Addison.
  • "That secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to."—Id.
  • "I cannot but think the loss of such talents as the man of whom I am speaking was master of, a more melancholy instance."—Steele.
  • "Grammar is the solid foundation on which all other science rests."—Buchanan's Eng. Synt., p. xx.

Familiar language

In familiar language, the relative of the objective case is frequently understood: as,

  • "The man [whom] I trust."—Cowper.
  • "Here is the letter [which] I received."
  • "This is the man they hate. These are the goods they bought. Are these the Gods they worship? Is this the woman you saw?"—Ash's Gram., p. 96.

In grave writing, or deliberate discourse, it is much better to express the relative. The omission of it is often attended with some obscurity: as,

  • "The next error [that] I shall mention [,] is a capital one."—Kames, El. of Crit., ii, 157.
  • "It is little [that] we know of the divine perfections."—Scougal, p. 94.
  • "The faith [which] we give to memory, may be thought, on a superficial view, to be resolvable into consciousness, as well as that [which] we give to the immediate impressions of sense."—Campbell's Rhet., p. 53.
  • "We speak that [which] we do know, and testify that [which] we have seen."—John, iii, 11.

A relative in the nominative case

The omission of a relative in the nominative case, is almost always inelegant: as,

  • "This is the worst thing [that] could happen."
  • "There were several things [which] brought it on me."—Pilgrim's Progress, p. 162.

This ellipsis may occur after but or than, and it is sometimes allowed in poetry: as,

  • "[There is] No person of reflection but [who] must be sensible, that an incident makes a stronger impression on an eyewitness, than when heard at second hand."—Kames, El. of Crit., ii, 257.
  • "In this it is God directs, in that it is man."—Pope, on Man.
  • "Abuse on all he loved, or loved him, spread."—Id., to Arbuthnot.
  • "There's nothing blackens like the ink of fools."—Id., to Augustus.

A collective noun

When the antecedent is a collective noun conveying the idea of plurality, the pronoun must agree with it in the plural number: as,

  • "The council were divided in their sentiments."
  • "The Christian world are beginning to awake out of their slumber."—C. Simeon.
  • "Whatever Adam's posterity lost through him, that and more they gain in Christ."—J. Phipps.
  • "To this, one pathway gently-winding leads, where march a train with baskets on their heads."—Pope, Iliad, B. xviii, l. 657.

Antecedents connected by or

When a pronoun has two or more antecedents connected by or or nor, it must agree with them singly, and not as if taken together: as,

  • "James or John will favour us with his company."
  • "Neither wealth nor honour can secure the happiness of its votaries."
  • "What virtue or what mental grace, but men unqualified and base will boast it their possession?"—Cowper, on Friendship.

Antecedents connected by and

When a pronoun has two or more antecedents connected by and, it must agree with them jointly in the plural, because they are taken together: as,

  • "Minos and Thales sung to the lyre the laws which they composed."—Strabo: Blair's Rhet., p. 379.
  • "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided."—2 Sam., i, 23.
  • "Rhesus and Rhodius then unite their rills, Caresus roaring down the stony hills."—Pope, Il., B. xii, l. 17.

One person or thing

When two or more antecedents connected by and serve merely to describe one person or thing, they are either in apposition or equivalent to one name, and do not require a plural pronoun: as,

  • "This great philosopher and statesman continued in public life till his eighty-second year."
  • "The same Spirit, light, and life, which enlightens, also sanctifies, and there is not another."—Penington.
  • "My Constantius and Philetus confesses me two years older when I wrote it."—Cowley's Preface.
  • "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel! for you are my servant."—Isaiah, xliv, 21.
  • "In that strength and cogency which renders eloquence powerful."—Blair's Rhet., p. 252.

Emphatically distinguished

When two antecedents connected by and are emphatically distinguished, they belong to different propositions, and, if singular, do not require a plural pronoun: as,

  • "The butler, and not the baker, was restored to his office."
  • "The good man, and the sinner too, shall have his reward."
  • "Truth, and truth only, is worth seeking for its own sake."
  • "It is the sense in which the word is used, and not the letters of which it is composed, that determines what is the part of speech to which it belongs."—Cobbett's Gram., 130.

Each, every, or no

When two or more antecedents connected by and are preceded by the adjective each, every, or no, they are taken separately, and do not require a plural pronoun: as,

  • "Every plant and every tree produces others after its own kind."
  • "It is the cause of every reproach and distress which has attended your government."—Junius, Let. xxxv.

But if the latter be a collective noun, the pronoun may be plural: as,

  • "Each minister and each church act according to their own impressions."—Dr. M'Cartee.

The finite verb

Every finite verb must agree with its subject, or nominative, in person and number: as,

  • "I know; You know; He knows;"
  • "The bird flies; The birds fly."
  • "Our fathers' fertile fields by slaves are tilled, and Rome with dregs of foreign lands is filled."—Rowe's Lucan, B. vii, l. 600.

When the nominative is a collective noun conveying the idea of plurality, the verb must agree with it in the plural number: as,

  • "The council were divided."
  • "The college of cardinals are the electors of the pope."—Murray's Key, p. 176.
  • "Quintus Curtius relates, that a number of them were drowned in the river Lycus."—Home's Art of Thinking, p. 125.
  • "Yon host come learned in academic rules."—Rowe's Lucan, vii, 401.
  • "While heaven's high host on hallelujahs live."—Young's N. Th., iv, 378.

Nominatives connected by and

When a verb has two or more nominatives connected by and, it must agree with them jointly in the plural, because they are taken together: as,

  • "True rhetoric and sound logic are very nearly allied."—Blair's Rhet., p. 11.
  • "Aggression and injury in no case justify retaliation."—Wayland's Moral Science, p. 406.
  • "Judges and senates have been bought for gold, esteem and love were never to be sold."—Pope.

One person or thing

When two nominatives connected by and serve merely to describe one person or thing, they are either in apposition or equivalent to one name, and do not require a plural verb: as,

  • "Immediately comes a hue and cry after a gang of thieves."—L'Estrange.
  • "The hue and cry of the country pursues him."—Junius, Letter xxiii.
  • "Flesh and blood [i.e. man, or man's nature,] has not revealed it to you."—Matt., xvi, 17.
  • "Descent and fall to us is adverse."—Milton, P. L., ii, 76.
  • "This philosopher and poet was banished from his country."
  • "Such a Saviour and Redeemer is actually provided for us."—Gurney's Essays, p. 386.
  • "Let us then declare what great things our God and Saviour has done for us."—Dr. Scott, on Luke viii.
  • "Toll, tribute, and custom, was paid to them."—Ezra, iv, 20.
  • "Whose icy current and compulsive course never feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on."—Shakespeare.

Emphatically distinguished

When two nominatives connected by and, are emphatically distinguished, they belong to different propositions, and, if singular, do not require a plural verb: as,

  • "Ambition, and not the safety of the state, was concerned."—Goldsmith.
  • "Consanguinity, and not affinity, is the ground of the prohibition."—Webster's Essays, p. 324.
  • "But a modification, and oftentimes a total change, takes place."—Maunder.
  • "Somewhat, and, in many circumstances, a great deal too, is put on us."—Butler's Analogy, p. 108.
  • "Disgrace, and perhaps ruin, was the certain consequence of attempting the latter."—Robertson's America, i, 434.
  • "Ay, and no too, was no good divinity."—Shakespeare.
  • "Love, and love only, is the loan for love."—Young.

Each, every, or no

When two or more nominatives connected by and are preceded by the adjective each, every, or no, they are taken separately, and do not require a plural verb: as,

  • "When no part of their substance, and no one of their properties, is the same."—Bp. Butler.
  • "Every limb and feature appears with its respective grace."—Steele.
  • "Every person, and every occurrence, is beheld in the most favourable light."—Murray's Key, p. 190.
  • "Each worm, and each insect, is a marvel of creative power."
  • "Whose every look and gesture was a joke to clapping theatres and shouting crowds."—Young.

When the verb separates its nominatives, it agrees with that which precedes it, and is understood to the rest: as,

  • "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."—Murray's Exercises, p. 36.
  • "Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame."—Milton.
  • "Forth in the pleasing spring, your beauty walks, your tenderness, and love."—Thomson.

Nominatives connected by or

When a verb has two or more nominatives connected by or or nor, it must agree with them singly, and not as if taken together: as,

  • "Fear or jealousy affects him."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 133.
  • "Nor eye, nor listening ear, an object finds: creation sleeps."—Young.
  • "Neither character nor dialogue was yet understood."—L. Murray's Gram., p. 151.
  • "The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks, safest and seemliest by her husband stays."—Milton, P. L., ix, 267.


The infinitive mood

The infinitive mood is governed in general by the preposition to, which commonly connects it to a finite verb: as,

  • "I desire to learn."—Dr. Adam.
  • "Of me the Roman people have many pledges, which I must strive, with my utmost endeavours, to preserve, to defend, to confirm, and to redeem."—Duncan's Cicero, p. 41.
  • "What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread, or hand to toil, aspired to be the head?"—Pope.

The active verbs, bid, dare, feel, hear, let, make, need, see, and their participles, usually take the infinitive after them without the preposition to: as,

  • "If he bade you depart, how dare you stay?"
  • "I dare not let my mind be idle as I walk in the streets."—Cotton Mather.
  • "Your Hector, wrapt in everlasting sleep, shall neither hear you sigh, nor see you weep." —Pope's Homer.

Though the infinitive is commonly made an adjunct to some finite verb, yet it may be connected to almost all the other parts of speech. The preposition to being its only and almost universal index; unless the word about, in such a situation, is a preposition.

Anciently, the infinitive was sometimes preceded by for as well as to: as,

  • "I went up to Jerusalem for to worship."—Acts, xxiv, 11.
  • "What went you out for to see?"—Luke, vii, 26.
  • "And stood up for to read."—Luke, iv, 16.

It seems practicable to subjoin the infinitive to every one of the ten parts of speech, except the article: as,


  • "If there is any precept to obtain felicity."—Hawkesworth.
  • "It is high time to awake out of sleep."—Rom., xiii, 11.
  • "To flee from the wrath to come."—Matt., iii, 7.


  • "He seemed desirous to speak, yet unwilling to offend."—Hawkesworth.
  • "He who is the slowest to promise, is the quickest to perform."—Art of Thinking, p. 35.


  • "I discovered him to be a scholar."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 166.
  • "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar?"—Luke, xx, 22.
  • "Let me desire you to reflect impartially."—Blair: Murray's Eng. Reader, p. 77.
  • "Whom have you then or what to accuse?"—Milton, P. L., iv, 67.

Finite verb

  • "Then Peter began to rebuke him."—Matt., xvi, 22.
  • "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."—Luke, xix, 10.

Another infinitive

  • "To go to enter into Egypt."—Jer., xli, 17.
  • "We are not often willing to wait to consider."—J. Abbott.
  • "For what had he to do to chide at me?"—Shak.


  • "Still threatening to devour me."—Milton.
  • "Or as a thief bent to unhoard the cash of some rich burgher."—Id.


  • "She is old enough to go to school."
  • "I know not how to act."—Nutting's Gram., p. 106.
  • "Tell me when to come, and where to meet you."
  • "He has not where to lay his head."


  • "He knows better than to trust you."
  • "It was so hot as to melt these ornaments."
  • "Many who praise virtue, do no more than praise it."—Dr. Johnson.


  • "I was about to write."—Rev., x, 4.
  • "Not for to hide it in a hedge."—Burns's Poems, p. 42.
  • "Amatum iri, to be about to be loved."—Adam's Gram., p. 95.


  • "O to forget her!"—Young's Night Thoughts.

The uses of the infinitive

The infinitive is a verb, without affirmation, without person or number, and therefore without the agreement peculiar to a finite verb. But, in most instances, it is not without limitation of the being, action, or passion, to some persons or things, that are said, supposed, or denied, to be, to act, or to be acted on. Whenever it is not thus limited, it is taken abstractly, and has some resemblance to a noun. Even then, the active infinitive may govern the objective case. The uses of the infinitive are many and various. The following are the chief of the things for which it may stand:

Supplement to another verb

For the supplement to another verb, to complete the sense: as,

  • "Loose him, and let him go."—John, xi, 44.
  • "They that go to seek mixed wine."—Prov., xxiii, 30.
  • "His hands refuse to labour."—Ib., xxi, 25.
  • "If you choose to have those terms."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 374.
  • "How our old translators first struggled to express this."—Ib., ii, 456.
  • "To any one who will please to examine our language."—Ib., ii, 444.
  • "They are forced to give up at last."—Ib., ii, 375.
  • "Which ought to be done."—Ib., ii, 451.
  • "Which came to pass."—Acts, xi, 28.
  • "I dare engage to make it out."—Swift.

A purpose

For the purpose, or end, of that to which it is added: as,

  • "Each has employed his time and pains to establish a criterion."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 374.
  • "I shall not stop now, to assist in their elucidation."—Ib., ii, 75.
  • "Our purposes are not endowed with words to make them known."—Ib., ii, 74.
  • "A tool is some instrument taken up to work with."—Ib., ii, 145.
  • "Labour not to be rich."—Prov., xxiii, 4.
  • "I flee to you to hide me."—Ps., cxliii, 9.
  • "Evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him."—Ib., cxl, 11.

Object of an affection or passion

For the object of an affection or passion: as,

  • "He loves to ride."
  • "I desire to hear her speak again."—Shale.
  • "If we wish to avoid important error."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 3.
  • "Who rejoice to do evil."—Prov., ii, 14.
  • "All agreeing in earnestness to see him."—Shak.
  • "Our curiosity is raised to know what lies beyond."—Kames, El. of Crit., ii, 335.

Cause of an affection or passion

For the cause of an affection or passion: as,

  • "I rejoice to hear it."
  • "By which I hope to have laid a foundation."—Blair's Rhet., p. 34.
  • "For he made me mad, to see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet."—Beauties of Shak., p. 118.
  • "You did eat strange flesh, which some did die to look on."—Ib., p. 182.
  • "They grieved to see their best allies at variance."—Rev. W. Allen's Gram., p. 165.

Subject of a proposition

For the subject of a proposition, or the chief term in such subject: as,

  • "To steal is sinful."
  • "To do justice and judgement, is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."—Prov., xxi, 3.
  • "To do right, is, to do that which is ordered to be done."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 7.
  • "To go to law to plague a neighbour, has in it more of malice, than of love to justice."—Seattle's Mor. Sci., i, 177.

Predicate or object of a proposition

For the predicate of a proposition, or the chief term in such predicate: as,

  • "To enjoy is to obey."—Pope.
  • "The property of rain is to wet, and fire, to burn."—Beauties of Shak., p. 15.
  • "To die is to be banished from myself."—Ib., p. 82.
  • "The best way is, to slander Valentine."—Ib., p. 83.
  • "The highway of the upright is to depart from evil."—Prov., xvi, 17.

A coming event

For a coming event, or what will be: as,

  • "A mutilated structure soon to fall."—Cowper.
  • "He being dead, and I speedily to follow him."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 111.
  • "She shall rejoice in time to come."—Prov., xxxi, 25.
  • "Things present, or things to come."—1 Cor., iii, 22.

A necessary event

For a necessary event, or what ought to be: as,

  • "It is to be remembered."
  • "It is never to be forgotten."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 2.
  • "An oversight much to be deplored."—Ib., ii, 460.
  • "The sign is not to be used by itself, or to stand alone; but is to be joined to some other term."—Ib., ii, 372.
  • "The Lord's name is to be praised."—Ps., cxiii, 3.

Something previously suggested

For what is previously suggested by another word: as,

  • "I have faith to believe."
  • "The glossarist did well here not to yield to his inclination."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 329.
  • "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord."—Ps., xcii, 1.
  • "It is as sport to a fool to do mischief."—Prov., x, 23.
  • "They have the gift to know it."—Shak.
  • "We have no remaining occupation but to take care of the public."—Art of Thinking, p. 52.

Term of comparison or measure

For a term of comparison or measure: as,

  • "He was so much affected as to weep."
  • "Who could do no less than furnish him."—Tooke's D. P., ii, 408.
  • "I shall venture no farther than to explain the nature and convenience of these abbreviations."—Ib., ii, 439.
  • "I have already said enough to show what sort of operation that is."—Ib., ii, 358.


The regular syntax of the participle, is twofold; being sometimes that of simple relation to a noun or a pronoun that precedes it, and sometimes that of government, or the state of being governed by a preposition. In the former construction, the participle resembles an adjective; in the latter, it is more like a noun, or like the infinitive mood. To these constructions, some add others less regular: using the participle as the subject of a finite verb, as the object of a transitive verb, or as a nominative after a neuter verb.

Participles relate to nouns or pronouns, or else are governed by prepositions: as,

  • "Elizabeth's tutor, at one time paying her a visit, found her employed in reading Plato."—Hume.
  • "I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it."—Dr. Johnson.
  • "Now, raised on Tyre's sad ruins, Pharaoh's pride soared high, his legions threatening far and wide."—Dryden.

A preceding phrase

A participle sometimes relates to a preceding phrase or sentence, of which it forms no part: as,

  • "I then quit the society; to withdraw and leave them to themselves, appearing to me a duty."
  • "It is almost exclusively on the ground we have mentioned, that we have heard his being continued in office defended."—Professors' Reasons, p. 23.
  • Better, "His continuance in office," or, "The continuing of him in office."
  • "But ever to do ill our sole delight, as being the contrary to his high will."—Milton.

A being or action in the abstract

With an infinitive denoting being or action in the abstract, a participle is sometimes also taken abstractly; that is, without reference to any particular noun, pronoun, or other subject: as,

  • "To seem compelled, is disagreeable."
  • "To keep always praying aloud, is plainly impossible."
  • "It must be disagreeable to be left pausing on a word which does not, by itself, produce any idea."—Murray's Gram., 8vo, p. 323.
  • "To praise him is to serve him, and fulfill, doing and suffering, his unquestioned will."—Cowper, Vol. i, p. 88.

Substitute for the infinitive mood

The participle is often used irregularly, as a substitute for the infinitive mood, to which it is sometimes equivalent without irregularity: as,

  • "I saw him enter, or entering."—Grant's Lat. Gram., p. 230.
  • "He is afraid of trying, or to try."—Ibid.
  • "Sir, said I, if the case stands thus, it is dangerous drinking."—Collier's Tablet of Cebes.
  • "It will be but ill venturing your soul on that."—Bunyan's Law and Grace, p. 27.
  • "Describing a past event as present, has a fine effect in language."—Kames, El. of Crit., i, 93.
  • "In English likewise it deserves remarking."—Harris's Hermes, p. 232.
  • "Bishop Atterbury deserves being particularly mentioned."—Blair's Rhet., p. 291.
  • "This, however, is in effect no more than enjoying the sweet that predominates."—Campbell's Rhet., p. 43.
  • "Habits are soon assumed; but when we strive to strip them off, it is being flayed alive."—Cowper, Vol. i, p. 44

A participle which is treated as a noun

Another frequent irregularity in the construction of participles, is the practice of treating them essentially as nouns, without taking from them the regimen and adjuncts of participles: as,

  • "Your having been well educated will be a great recommendation."—W. Allen's Gram., p. 171.
  • Better, "Your excellent education," or "That you have been well educated, will be," etc.
  • "It arises from sublimity's expressing grandeur in its highest degree."—Blair's Rhet., p. 29.
  • "Concerning the separating by a circumstance, words intimately connected."—Kames, El. of Crit., Vol. ii, p. 104.
  • "As long as there is any hope of their keeping pace with them."—Literary Convention, p. 114.
  • "Which could only arise from his knowing the secrets of all hearts."—West's Letters to a Young Lady, p. 180.
  • "But this again is talking quite at random."—Butler's Analogy, p. 146.
  • "My being here it is, that holds you hence."—Shak.
  • "Such, but by foils, the clearest lustre see, and deem aspersing others, praising you."—Savage, to Walpole.


The syntax of an adverb consists in its simple relation to a verb, a participle, an adjective, or whatever else it qualifies.

Adverbs relate to verbs, participles, adjectives, or other adverbs: as,

  • "Any passion that habitually discomposes our temper, or unfits us for properly discharging the duties of life, has most certainly gained a very dangerous ascendency."—Blair.
  • "How blessed this happy hour, should he appear, dear to us all, to me supremely dear!"—Pope's Homer.

Independent adverbs

The adverbs yes, ay, and yea, expressing a simple affirmation, and the adverbs no and nay, expressing a simple negation, are always independent. They generally answer a question, and are equivalent to a whole sentence. Is it clear, that they ought to be called adverbs? No.

  • "Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour has no skill in surgery then? No."—Shak.: First Part of Hen. IV, Act v, 1.

The word amen

The word amen, which is commonly called an adverb, is often used independently at the beginning or end of a declaration or a prayer: as,

  • "Surely, I come quickly. Amen: even so, come Lord Jesus."—Rev., xxii, 20.

When it does not stand thus alone, it seems in general to be used substantively: as,

  • "The strangers among them stood on Gerizim, and echoed amen to the blessings."—Wood's Dict.
  • "These things say the amen."—Rev., iii, 14

An adverb before a preposition

An adverb before a preposition seems sometimes to relate to the latter, rather than to the verb or participle to which the preposition connects its object: as,

  • "This mode of pronunciation runs considerably beyond ordinary discourse."—Blair's Rhet., p. 334.
  • "Yea, all along the times of the apostasy, this was the thing that preserved the witnesses."—Penington's Works, Vol. iv, p. 12.
  • "Right against the eastern gate, where the great sun begins his state."—Milton, L'Allegro.

Much, little, far, and all

The words much, little, far, and all, being originally adjectives, are sometimes preceded by the negative not, or (except the last) by such an adverb as too, how, thus, so, or as, when they are taken substantively: as,

  • "Not all that glitters, is gold."
  • "Too much should not be offered at once."—Murray's Gram., p. 140.
  • "Thus far is consistent."—Ib., p. 161.
  • "Thus far is right."—Lowth's Gram., p. 101.


The syntax of conjunctions consists in the simple fact, that they link together such and such terms, and thus "Mark the connections of human thought."—Beattie.

Conjunctions connect words, sentences, or parts of sentences: as,

  • "Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdmen and your herdmen; for we are brethren."—Gen., xiii, 8.
  • "Ah! if she lend not arms as well as rules. What can she more than tell us we are fools?"—Pope.

Introducing a sentence

The conjunction that sometimes serves merely to introduce a sentence which is made the subject or the object of a finite verb: as,

  • "That mind is not matter, is certain."
  • "That you have wronged me, does appear in this."—Shak.
  • "That time is mine, O Mead! to you, I owe."—Young.

Two corresponding conjunctions

When two corresponding conjunctions occur, in their usual order, the former should generally be parsed as referring to the latter, which is more properly the connecting word: as,

  • "Neither sun nor stars in many days appeared."—Acts, xxvii, 20.
  • "Whether that evidence has been afforded [or not,] is a matter of investigation."—Keith's Evidences, p. 18.

Either and neither

Either, corresponding to or, and neither, corresponding to nor or not, are sometimes transposed, so as to repeat the disjunction or negation at the end of the sentence: as,

  • "Where then was their capacity of standing, or his either?"—Barclay's Works, iii, 359.
  • "It is not dangerous neither."—Bolingbroke, on Hist., p. 135.
  • "He is very tall, but not too tall neither."—Spect., No. 475.


The syntax of prepositions consists, not solely or mainly in their power of governing the objective case, but in their adaptation to the other terms between which they express certain relations.

Prepositions show the relations of words, and of the things or thoughts expressed by them: as,

  • "He came from Rome to Paris, in the company of many eminent men, and passed with them through many cities."—Analectic Magazine.
  • "Ah! who can tell the triumphs of the mind, by truth illumined, and by taste refined?"—Rogers.

The object

A noun or a pronoun made the object of a preposition, is governed by it in the objective case: as,

  • "The temple of fame stands on the grave: the flame that burns on its altars, is kindled from the ashes of great men."—Hazlitt.
  • "Life is his gift, from whom whatever life needs, with every good and perfect gift, proceeds."—Cowper, Vol. i, p. 95.

The preposition to

The preposition to, before an abstract infinitive, and at the head of a phrase which is made the subject of a verb, has no proper antecedent term of relation: as,

  • "To learn to die, is the great business of life."—Dillwyn.
  • "Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh, is more needful for you."—St. Paul: Phil., i, 24.
  • "To be reduced to poverty, is a great affliction."
  • "Too much to know, is, to know nought but fame; and every godfather can give a name."—Shakespeare.

The preposition for

The preposition for, when it introduces its object before an infinitive, and the whole phrase is made the subject of a verb, has properly no antecedent term of relation: as,

  • "For us to learn to die, is the great business of life."
  • "Nevertheless, for me to abide in the flesh, is more needful for you."
  • "For an old man to be reduced to poverty is a very great affliction."
  • "For man to tell how human life began, is hard; for who himself beginning knew?"—Milton.


Interjections have no dependent construction; they are put absolute, either alone, or with other words: as,

  • "O! let not your heart despise me."—Dr. Johnson.
  • "O cruel you!"—Pope, Odys., B. xii, l. 333.
  • "Ah wretched we, poets of earth!"—Cowley,
  • "Ah Dennis! Gildon ah! what ill-starred rage divides a friendship long confirmed by age?"—Pope, Dunciad, B. iii,

General rules

In the formation of sentences, the consistency and adaptation of all the words should be observed; and a regular, clear, and correspondent construction should be preserved throughout.

Words that may constitute different parts of speech, must not be left doubtful as to their classification.

The reference of words to other words, or their syntactical relation according to the sense, should never be left doubtful.

A definition must include the whole class of things, which it pretends to define, and exclude everything which comes not under the name.

A comparison is a form of speech which requires some similarity or common property in the things compared; without which, it becomes a solecism.

Sentences that convey a meaning manifestly false, should be changed, rejected, or contradicted. They distort language from its only worthy use; which is, to state facts, and to tell the truth.

Every writer should be careful not to contradict himself; for what is self-contradictory, is both null in argument, and bad in style.

Words that are entirely needless, and especially such as encumber the expression, ought in general to be omitted.

Words necessary to the sense, or even to the melody or beauty of a sentence, ought seldom, if ever, to be omitted.


Figures of syntax

English in Use
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A figure of syntax is an intentional deviation from the ordinary construction of words. The principal figures of syntax are five; namely, el-lip'-sis, ple'-o-nasm, syl-lep'-sis, en-al'-la-ge, and hy-per'-ba-ton.


Ellipsis is the omission of some word or words which are necessary to complete the construction, but not necessary to convey the meaning. Such words are said, in technical phrase, to be understood.

Of compound sentences, a vast many are more or less elliptical. Sometimes, for brevity's sake, even the most essential parts of a simple sentence, are suppressed: as,

  • "But more of this hereafter."—Harris's Hermes, p. 77.
  • This means, "But I shall say more of this hereafter."
  • "Prythee, peace."—Shak.
  • That is, "I pray you, hold you your peace."

There may be an omission of any of the parts of speech, or even of a whole clause, when this repeats what precedes. But the omission of mere articles or interjections can scarcely constitute a proper ellipsis, because these parts of speech ought to be expressed.

Of the article

  • "A man and [a] woman."
  • "The day, [the] month, and [the] year."
  • "She gave me an apple and [a] pear, for a fig and [an] orange."—Jaudon's Gram., p. 170.

Of the noun

  • "The common [law] and the statute law."
  • "The twelve [apostles]."
  • "The same [man] is he."
  • "One [book] of my books."
  • "A dozen [bottles] of wine."
  • "Conscience, I say; not your own [conscience], but [the conscience] of the other."—1 Cor., x, 29.
  • "Every moment subtracts from [our lives] what it adds to our lives."—Dillwyn's Ref., p. 8.
  • "Bad actions mostly lead to worse" [actions].—Ib., p. 5.

Of the adjective

  • "There are subjects proper for the one, and not [proper] for the other."—Kames.
  • "A just weight and [a just] balance are the Lord's."—Prov., xvi, 11.

True ellipses of the adjective alone, are but seldom met with.

Of the pronoun

  • "Leave [you] there your gift before the altar, and go [you] your way; first be [you] reconciled to your brother, and then come [you] and offer [you] your gift,"—Matt., v, 24.
  • "Love [you] your enemies, bless [you] them that curse you, do [you] good to them that hate you."—Ib., v. 44.
  • "Chastisement does not always immediately follow error, but [it] sometimes comes when [it is] least expected."— Dillwyn, Ref., p. 31.
  • "Men generally put a greater value upon the favours [which] they bestow, than upon those [which] they receive."—Art of Thinking, p. 48.
  • "Wisdom and worth were all [that] he had."—Allen's Gram., p. 294.

Of the verb

  • "The world is crucified to me, and I [am crucified] to the world."—Gal., vi, 14.
  • "Hearts should not [differ], though heads may, differ."—Dillwyn, p. 11.
  • "Are you not much better than they" [are]?—Matt., vi, 26.
  • "Tribulation works patience; and patience [works] experience; and experience [works] hope."—Romans, v, 4.
  • "Wrongs are engraved on marble; benefits [are engraved] on sand."—Art of Thinking, p. 41.
  • "To whom thus Eve, yet sinless" [spoke].—Milton.

Of the participle

  • "That [being] over, they part."
  • "Animals of various natures, some adapted to the wood, and some [adapted] to the wave."—Melmoth, on Scripture, p. 13.
  • "His knowledge [being] measured to his state and place, His time [being] a moment, and a point [being] his space."—Pope.

Of the adverb

  • "He can do this independently of me, if not [independently] of you."
  • "She shows a body rather than a life; a statue, [rather] than a breather."—Shak., Ant. and Cleo., iii, 3.

Of the conjunction

  • "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, [and] joy, [and] peace, [and] long suffering, [and] gentleness, [and] goodness, [and] faith, [and] meekness, [and] temperance."—Gal., v, 22.

The repetition of the conjunction is called polysyndeton; and the omission of it, asyndeton.

Of the preposition

  • "It shall be done [on] this very day."
  • "We shall set off [at] some time [in] next month."
  • "He departed [from] this life."
  • "He gave [to] me a book."
  • "We walked [through] a mile."
  • "He was banished [from] the kingdom."—W. Allen.
  • "He lived like [to] a prince."—Wells.

Of the interjection

  • "Oh! the frailty, [oh!] the wickedness of men."
  • "Alas for Mexico! and [alas] for many of her invaders!"

Of phrases or clauses

  • "The active commonly do more than they are bound to do; the indolent [commonly do] less" [than they are bound to do].
  • "Young men, angry, mean less than they say; old men, [angry, mean] more" [than they say].
  • "It is the duty of justice, not to injure men; [it is the duty] of modesty, not to offend them."—W. Allen.


Pleonasm is the introduction of superfluous words: as,

  • "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it."—Gen., ii, 17.

This figure is allowable only, when it abruptly introduces an emphatic word, or repeats an idea to impress it more strongly: as,

  • "He that has ears to hear, let him hear."—Bible.
  • "All you inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth."—Id.
  • "There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down."—Id.
  • "I know you who you are."—Id.

A pleonasm is sometimes impressive and elegant; but an unemphatic repetition of the same idea, is one of the worst faults of bad writing.


Syllepsis is agreement formed according to the figurative sense of a word, or the mental conception of the thing spoken of, and not according to the literal or common use of the term: as,

  • "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us, and we beheld his glory."—John, i, 14.
  • "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them."—Acts, viii, 5.
  • "The city of London have expressed their sentiments with freedom and firmness."—Junius, p. 159.
  • "And I said [to backsliding Israel,] after she had done all these things, turn you to me; but she returned not: and her treacherous sister Judah saw it."—Jer., iii, 7.
  • "And he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder."—Mark, iii, 17.
  • "While Evening draws her crimson curtains round."—Thomson, p. 63.
  • "The Thunder raises his tremendous voice."—Id., p. 113.


Enallage is the use of one part of speech, or of one modification, for another. This figure borders closely on solecism. There are, however, several forms of it which can appeal to good authority: as,

  • "You know that you are Brutus, that say this."—Shak.
  • "They fall successive[ly], and successive[ly] rise."—Pope.
  • "Than whom [who] a fiend more fell is nowhere found."—Thomson.
  • "Sure some disaster has befell" [befallen].—Gay.
  • "So furious was that onset's shock, destruction's gates at once unlock" [unlocked].—Hogg.


Hyperbaton is the transposition of words: as,

  • "He wanders earth around."—Cowper
  • "Rings the world with the vain stir."—Id.
  • "Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, him declare I to you."—Acts, xvii, 23.
  • "'Happy', says Montesquieu, 'is that nation whose annals are tiresome.'"—Corwin, in Congress, 1847.

This figure is much employed in poetry, but care should be taken lest it produce ambiguity or solecism.


Recent grammar restructure attempts

English in Use/Recent grammar restructure attempts

Unit VI: Appendices


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

Absolute — Not immediately dependent on the other parts of the sentence in government.

Abstract — Considered apart from any application to a particular object.

Abstract noun — A noun that denotes an idea, emotion, feeling, quality or other abstract or intangible concept.

Active verb — A verb that expresses action as distinct from mere existence or state.

Adjective — A word that modifies a noun or describes a noun’s referent.

Adjunct — A clause in a sentence that amplifies its meaning.

Adverb — A word that modifies a verb, adjective, or various other types of words, phrases, and clauses.

Adverb of cause — Adverbs of cause are why, wherefore and therefore.

Adverb of degree — Adverbs of degree are those which answer to the question, how much? how little? or to the idea of more or less.

Adverb of manner — Adverbs of manner are those which answer to the question, how? or, by affirming, denying, or doubting, show how a subject is regarded.

Adverb of place — Adverbs of place indicate where something happens.

Adverb of time — Adverbs of time are those which answer to the question, when? how long? how soon? or how often?

Affirmative — An answer that shows agreement or acceptance.

Agreement — Rules that exist in many languages that force some parts of a sentence to be used or inflected differently depending on certain attributes of other parts.

Antecedent — A word, phrase or clause referred to by a pronoun.

Aorist — A temporal feature of the verb which denotes the speaker's standpoint of the event described by the verb, as from outside of the event and seeing it as a completed whole.

Aphaeresis — The loss of letters or sounds from the beginning of a word, such as the development of special from especial.

Apocope — The loss or omission of a sound or syllable from the end of a word.

Apposition — A construction in which one noun or noun phrase is placed with another as an explanatory equivalent, both having the same syntactic function in the sentence.

Appositive — Of or being in apposition.

Archaism — The adoption or imitation of archaic words or style.

Arrangement — Relative position of words in a sentence.

Article — A part of speech that indicates, specifies and limits a noun (a, an, or the in English).

Attribute — A word that qualifies a noun.

Auxiliary — A verb that accompanies the main verb in a clause in order to make distinctions in tense, mood, voice or aspect.

Capital — An uppercase letter.

Cardinal adjective — A cardinal number used as an adjective.

Case — A category of nouns, pronouns, or adjectives, specialized (usually by inflection) to indicate a particular syntactic relation to other words in a sentence.

Clause — A word or group of words ordinarily consisting of a subject and a predicate.

Collective noun — A noun which, though singular, refers to a group of things or animals.

Common adjective — A common adjective is any ordinary epithet, or adjective denoting quality or situation: as, good, bad, peaceful, warlike, eastern, western, outer, inner.

Common noun — A noun that can be preceded by an indefinite article, and denotes any member, or all members of a class; an ordinary noun such as dog or city.

Comparative degree — Adverbial or adjectival forms modified by more or ending in er, used when comparing two things.

Comparison — The ability of adjectives and adverbs to form three degrees.

Compound — A lexeme that consists of more than one stem; for example laptop, formed from lap and top.

Compound adjective — A compound adjective is one that consists of two or more words joined together, either by the hyphen or solidly: as, nut-brown, laughter-loving, four-footed; threefold, lordlike, lovesick.

Compound personal — A compound personal pronoun. compound personal pronouns are myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself.

Compound relative — Compound relatives are whoever, whosoever, whichever, whichsoever, whatever, whatsoever.

Compound sentence — A compound sentence is a sentence which is composed of at least two independent clauses.

Conjugation — In some languages, one of several classifications of verbs according to what inflections they take.

Conjunction — A word used to join other words or phrases together into sentences.

Conjunctive adverb — An adverb that connects two clauses.

Consonant — A sound that results from the passage of air through restrictions of the oral cavity; any sound that is not the dominant sound of a syllable, the dominant sound generally being a vowel.

Continuous tense — Expressing an ongoing action or state.

Declension — A way of categorizing nouns, pronouns, or adjectives according to the inflections they receive.

Defective verb — A verb with an incomplete conjugation; for example, one that can only be conjugated in certain persons and numbers.

Definite article — An article that introduces a noun and specifies it as the particular noun that is being considered; in English, the only definite article is the.

Diaeresis — A diacritic placed over a vowel letter indicating that it is sounded separately, usually forming a distinct syllable, as in naïve, Noël, Brontë.

Ellipsis — The omission of a grammatically required word or phrase that can be implied.

Enallage — The substitution of one grammatical form for another one.

Finite verb — A verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs.

First-future tense — The first-future tense is that which expresses what will take place hereafter.

Gender — A division of nouns and pronouns (and sometimes of other parts of speech), such as masculine, feminine, neuter or common.

Gerund — A verbal form that functions as a verbal noun. In English, a gerund has the same spelling as a present participle, but functions differently.

Government — That power which one word has over another, to cause it to assume some particular modification.

Grammar — A system of rules and principles for speaking and writing a language.

Hyperbaton — An inversion of the usual or logical order of words or phrases, for emphasis or poetic effect.

Imperative mood — The grammatical mood expressing an order.

Indefinite article — A word preceding a noun to indicate that the noun is new or unknown. In English it can be a (before a consonant sound) or an (before a vowel sound) in the singular; in the plural an article isn't used at all, or the pronoun some is used instead.

Independent clause — A clause that can stand by itself as a grammatically viable simple sentence.

Indicative mood — The mood of a verb used in ordinary factual or objective statements.

Infinitive — The uninflected form of a verb. In English, this is usually formed with the verb stem preceded by 'to'.

Infinitive mood — The infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to.

Inflection — A change in the form of a word that reflects a change in grammatical function.

Interjection — An exclamation or filled pause; a word or phrase with no particular grammatical relation to a sentence, often an expression of emotion.

Interrogative — A word (pronoun, pronominal adjective, or adverb) implying interrogation, or used for asking a question: why, who, when, etc.

Introductory phrase — A phrase or clause that introduces a sentence.

Irregular comparison — Comparison of adjectives which cannot be compared regularly.

Irregular verb — A verb that does not follow the normal rules for its conjugation.

Italic characters — A typeface in which the letters slant to the right.

Letter — A symbol in an alphabet.

Liquid — An l or r sound.

Mimesis — The representation of aspects of the real world, especially human actions, in literature and art.

Mood — A verb form that depends on how its containing clause relates to the speaker’s or writer’s wish, intent, or assertion about reality.

Morphology — The forms of word formation.

Multiplicative adjective — An adjective which expresses the multiplicity.

Mute — A letter that, in a particular word, does not correspond to any sound in the word's pronunciation.

Neuter verb — A verb that expresses neither action nor passion, but simply being, or a state of being.

Nominative — Giving a name; naming; designating; said of that case or form of a noun which stands as the subject of a finite verb.

Non-finite verb — A verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person.

Note of exclamation — Punctuation used to denote excitement, surprise or shock; exclamation point.

Note of interrogation — The punctuation mark "?", used at the end of a sentence to indicate a question.

Noun — A word that can be used to refer to a person, place, thing, quality, or idea; one of the basic parts of speech in many languages, including English.

Number — Of a word or phrase, the state of being singular, dual or plural, shown by inflection.

Numeral — A numeral adjective.

Numeral adjective — An adjective that expresses a definite number: as, one, two, three, four, five, six.

Object — The noun phrase which is an internal complement of a verb phrase or a prepositional phrase. In a verb phrase with a transitive action verb, it is typically the receiver of the action.

Objective — Of, or relating to a noun or pronoun used as the object of a verb.

Ordinal adjective — An ordinal number used as an adjective.

Paragoge — The addition of a sound, syllable or letter to the end of a word, either through natural development or as a grammatical function.

Parenthetical phrase — A phrase in the sentence which is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Parsing — To resolve into its elements, as a sentence, pointing out the several parts of speech, and their relation to each other by government or agreement; to analyze and describe grammatically.

Participial adjective — A participle used as an adjective, such as drowning in the drowning man and drowned in the drowned man.

Participle — A form of a verb that may function as an adjective or noun.

Part of speech — The function a word or phrase performs in a sentence or phrase.

Passive voice — A grammatical voice in which the subject receives the action of a transitive verb.

Past participle — A past participle is usually identical to the verb's past tense form, though in irregular verbs the two usually differ.

Past perfect tense — Tense of verb conjugated by adding had before the past participle of a verb.

Perfect tense — A tense that expresses action completed at the present time; in English it is formed by using the present tense of have with a past participle.

Period — The punctuation mark (“.”) indicating the end of a sentence or marking an abbreviation.

Person — A linguistic category used to distinguish between the speaker of an utterance and those to whom or about whom he is referring; implemented in most languages by a variety of pronouns.

Personal — Denoting person; as, a personal pronoun.

Personification — A figure of speech, prosopopeia, in which an inanimate object or an abstraction is given human qualities.

Phrase — A word or group of words that functions as a single unit in the syntax of a sentence, usually consisting of a head, or central word, and elaborating words.

Pleonasm — A phrase in which one or more words are redundant as their meaning is expressed elsewhere in the phrase.

Plural — A word in the form in which it potentially refers to something other than one person or thing; and other than two things if the language has a dual form.

Possessive — A pronoun in the possessive case.

Potential mood — A verbal construction or form stating something is possible or probable.

Predicate — The part of the sentence (or clause) which states something about the subject.

Prefix — That which is prefixed; especially one or more letters or syllables added to the beginning of a word to modify its meaning; as, pre in prefix, con in conjure.

Preposition — A closed class of non-inflecting words typically employed to connect a noun or a pronoun, in an adjectival or adverbial sense, with some other word.

Propositional phrase — A phrase that has both a preposition and its object or complement; may be used as an adjunct or a modifier.

Present participle — The present participle is identical in form to the gerund.

Present tense — The form of language used to refer to an event, transaction, or occurrence which is happening now (or at the present time), or an object that currently exists.

Preterit — The preterite tense, simple past tense: the grammatical tense that determines the specific initiation or termination of an action in the past.

Progressive form — A form of a verb in which its gerund (or present participle) is used with any form of the verb to be. Examples: I am defining. It had been snowing.

Pronominal — Of, pertaining to, resembling, or functioning as a pronoun.

Pronominal compound — An adjective herein, therein, wherein.

Pronoun — A type of noun that refers anaphorically to another noun or noun phrase, but which cannot ordinarily be preceded by a determiner and rarely takes an attributive adjective.

Proper adjective — An adjective derived from a proper noun, such as British derived from Britain.

Proper noun — The name of a particular person, place, organization or other individual entity.

Prosthesis — The prepending of phonemes at the beginning of a word without changing its morphological structure, as in nother from other.

Quotation — A fragment of a human expression that is being referred to by somebody else.

Radical — Of or pertaining to the root of a word.

Redundant verb — A verb which has two forms for past tense.

Regimen — A syntactical relation between words, as when one depends on another and is regulated by it in respect to case or mood; government.

Regular comparison — Adjectives are regularly compared, when the comparative degree is expressed by adding er, and the superlative, by adding est to them.

Regular verb — A verb which conjugates regularly. In English, a verb which uses an ed suffix to form its past participle.

Relation — Reference of word to other words.

Relative — A relative pronoun. Relative pronouns are who, which, what, that, whoever, whosoever, whichever, whichsoever, whatever, whatsoever.

Remote — Not directly related.

Roman characters — A serifed style of typeface. Upright, as opposed to italic.

Second-future tense — The second-future tense is that which expresses what will have taken place at some future time mentioned.

Semivowel — A sound in speech which has some qualities of a consonant and some qualities of a vowel. A letter which represents a semivowel sound, such as w or y in English.

Sentence — A grammatically complete series of words consisting of a subject and predicate, even if one or the other is implied, and typically beginning with a capital letter and ending with a full stop.

Sign — An auxiliary, suffix, etc. that modifies a word.

Small letters — The minuscule or small letters (a, b, c, as opposed to the uppercase or capital letters, A, B, C).

Subject — The word or word group (usually a noun phrase) that is dealt with. In active clauses with verbs denoting an action, the subject and the actor are usually the same.

Subjunctive mood — A verb inflected to indicate that an act or state of being is possible, contingent or hypothetical, and not a fact.

Superlative degree — The form of an adjective that expresses which of more than two items has the highest degree of the quality expressed by the adjective; in English, formed by appending est to the end of the adjective (for some short adjectives only) or putting most before it.

Supposition — An assumption, conjecture, speculation or something supposed.

Syllepsis — A figure of speech in which one word simultaneously modifies two or more other words such that the modification must be understood differently with respect to each modified word; often causing humorous incongruity.

Synaeresis — The contraction of two vowels into a diphthong or a long vowel.

Syncope — A missing sound from the interior of a word, for example by changing cannot to can't or Hawai'i from the root name Hawaiki.

Syntax — A set of rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences.

Tense — Any of the forms of a verb which distinguish when an action or state of being occurs or exists.

Thing sui generis — In a class of its own; one of a kind.

Tmesis — The insertion of one or more words between the components of a compound word.

Understood words — Words that are omitted by ellipsis.

Unstressed numeral — A numeral in which one is replaced with indefinite article.

Verb — A word that indicates an action, an event, or a state.

Verbal — A verb form which does not function as a predicate, or a word derived from a verb.

Voice — A particular mode of inflecting or conjugating verbs, or a particular form of a verb, by means of which is indicated the relation of the subject of the verb to the action which the verb expresses.

Vowel — A sound produced by the vocal cords with relatively little restriction of the oral cavity, forming the prominent sound of a syllable. A letter representing the sound of vowel; in English, the vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y.


External Resources

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

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User:Xania - I've edited and created sections for phrasal verbs, articles, capitalization and adjectives

User:Tkorrovi - I copied the initial text here from Goold Brown's public domain grammar


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