Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Basic Principles of Grammar for Language Students

By Neal Walters

Learning a second language like Spanish often requires a review of some basic grammatical terms. Every language has ways of dealing with the parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjective, adverbs, direct objects and prepositions. If you've been out of school for a few years, you might need to review these terms.

A noun is word that names a person, place, thing, animal or idea, such as CAT, JOHN, DALLAS, FLORIDA. Nouns come in number, either singular (one) or plural (multiples). CAT is singular, but CATS is plural.

Almost every world language, except English, has two or three genders for nouns: masculine, feminine, and occassionally neteur. For example, in Spanish one root word can represent two different English words. For example, CHICO menas boy, and CHICA means girl. Another way to look at this word is that it means child, where a male-child is obviously a boy, and female-child is obviously a girl.

An adjective is a word that qualifies a noun, for example, not just the noun CAT, but the BIG Cat, not just BOY, but the SMART BOY. In languagess where nouns have gender, the noun and adjective have to agree in number and gender. For example, in Spanish: EL CHICO ALTO (the tall boy) and LOS CHICOS ALTOS (the tall boys).

Verbs are a class of words used to show the performance of an action (do, throw, run), existence (be), possession (have), or state (know, love) of a subject. To put it simply a verb shows what something or someone does; for example: The boy THROWS the ball. The tiger EATS the food. Verbs can further be qualified by adverbs: The boy SKILFULLY throws the ball. The tiger QUICKLY eats the food. Verbs are "conjugated", often with suffixes and sometimes with prefixes. For example, in English, we say "I eat" but in the past tense "I ate" or "I have eaten".

The subject of the sentence is the item doing the action. The DOG bit me. The MAN dropped the ball. The direct object is the action that receives the action of the verb: He lectured US on the values of studying. The dog bit THE CHILD. He dropped THE CHAIR. A transitive verbs usually require a direct object, and an intranstive verb cannot. "The plant thrived" is intransitive. "The child broke" sounds like an incomplete sentence because the word "Broke" is transitive. Usually, you would say "The child broke the glass" (adding a direct object to complete the thought).

A preposition introduces a prepositional clause. Common prepositions include: in, on, over, under, with, for, against. Example: I put the chair ON THE FLOOR. He put the ball IN THE HOUSE. I went WITH THE CHILDREN. It often adds the flavor to where or with whom the verb happens.

A sentence can be a declarative (tells you something), an interrogative (a question), or an imperative (an order). An interrogative is just another word for a question, and an imperative means a command or an order. An example imperative is: TAKE out the trash. PUT on your clothes.

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