Basic English grammar components

When you’re learning the English language, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to all the different grammar components.  There are so many variables that affect the choice of words, even in everyday conversations.  In order to get the most from your English lessons, you’ll need to understand all the different grammatical elements that are used.  The following is a listing of some of the most commonly used English grammar components and what each one means.

Pronouns:  Personal pronouns will often take the place of a person’s name.  There are four different cases of personal pronouns: subjective, objective, genitive, and possessive.  Pronouns may also have number, person, or gender attributes.  Here are some examples:

Subjective: These are pronouns that are used in the subject of the sentence and include “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” “you,” and “they.”  An example of a subjective pronoun used in a sentence is, “I have a book.”  In this case, “I” is the subject of the sentence and has taken the place of the speaker’s name.

Objective:  These are words that are used as the object of the sentence and include “me,” “you,” “him,” “her,” “us,” “you,” and “them.”  An example of an objective pronoun used in a sentence is, “Give her the book.”  In this case, “her” is the object of the sentence.

Genitive:  These are words that generally used to modify noun phrases.  This type of pronoun is also called an “attributive possessive pronoun.”  These pronouns include “my,” “your,” “his,” “her,” “our,” and “their.”  An example of a possessive adjective is, “This is your book.”  In this case, “your” demonstrates ownership of the book without actually giving the name of the owner.

Possessive:  These pronouns occur in the object of the sentence and include “mine,” “yours,” “his,” and “hers.”  An example of a possessive pronoun is, “This book is ours.”  In this case, “ours” shows a more detailed point of ownership of the book.

Participles:  Participles are verbs that are used as adjectives and commonly end in “–ed” or “–ing.”  A participle expresses a deed or state of action.  Since participles are used as verbs, they usually end up modifying nouns and pronouns.  The following are two examples of participles in action:

“The crying baby woke up.”
“The burning wood smells good.”

Past participles usually end in “–en,” “-ed,” “-d,” “-t,” and “-n.”

Prepositions: These are words that are used to link one part of a sentence to another.  Here’s an example:  “The dog slept on the floor.”  The preposition in the sentence is the word “on,” which connects the dog to the floor.

Verbs: Verbs are action words.  In the sentence, “I caught the ball,” the verb is the word “caught.”  Many of these verbs will be spoken, written, and read differently, depending on the choice of nouns or pronouns.  If you’re ever stumped, try speaking with someone who is fluent in English.  While they may not be able to tell you “why” something is wrong, they can tell you the correct way to conjugate different verb tenses.

It’s not as difficult as you may think to learn English grammar; however, it will take dedication and patience.  It’s best to set aside a specific time each day to study – if not, it’s easy to become frustrated and quit.


What is grammar?

Language consists of words – spoken or written – which we use to communicate with other people. Grammar is the structure of that language: the way it’s used, and the conventions that help us understand what is meant from the context.  We learn grammar as toddlers when we learn to speak, so if you speak correctly it’s likely that your children will too, without ever having been taught formally. Continue reading “Grammar”

Transitive and Intransitive verbs

Most verbs in English belong to either of two types: intransitive verbs or transitive verbs.


An intransitive verb does not have an object. You can use it without having to add any more words to the sentence. Here are some examples of intransitive verbs:

Something’s happening.

I’ll wait.

It doesn’t matter.

You can add other words to these sentences in order to show meanings such as time, place, or manner, but these words do not have to be there for the sentence to make sense.

Something’s happening in the street.

I’ll wait for a few minutes.
It doesn’t matter at all.

Other intransitive verbs include appear, come, go, smile, lie, and rise.

Intransitive verbs cannot be used in the passive.

Don’t say “it was happened” or “they were died”. Say it happened or they died.


A transitive verb must have an object. Without the object, the sentence does not make sense. The object of the verb is usually a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun. Here are some examples of transitive verbs:

She bought that dress in Tokyo. NOT She bought in Tokyo.
Did you find the key? NOT Did you find?
I really like him. NOT I really like.

Sometimes the object is a clause which begins + (that). For example:

I wish she would stop smoking.  OR I wish  that she would stop smoking.

Sometimes the object is a whole sentence. For example:

It’s time to go home, he said.

Other transitive verbs include make, use, need, thank, enjoy, keep, and carry.


Several verbs can be used in a transitive or intransitive way. Here are some examples of verbs that can be transitive or intransitive:

There’s no need to shout. [Intransitive]
Someone shouted my name. [Transitive]
Where do you want to meet? [Intransitive]
I’ll meet you outside the school. [Transitive]
I’m sorry. I don’t understand. [Intransitive]
She didn’t understand his explanation. [Transitive]

The intransitive uses are very similar to the transitive ones, except that the object is left out.


Some verbs can be followed by an adjective or adjective phrase. Here are some examples of these verbs:
You seem tired.
It all sounds very interesting.
Was he angry?

English Verbs Tenses and Forms

THE THIRD PERSON SINGULAR of the simple present.
The basic rule is that you add “-s” to the infinitive form.

  1. to run – he runs
  2. to eat – she eats
  3. to rain – it rains

After certain infinitive endings you must add “-es.”

  1. to go – he goes
  2. to kiss – he kisses
  3. to push – he pushes
  4. to touch – he touches
  5. to box – he boxes
  6. to buzz – it buzzes

If you have a consonant plus “y,” the third person ending is “-ies.”

  1. to try – she tries
  2. to fly – it flies

Note that this is not the case if the “y” is preceded by a vowel.

  1. to play – he plays
  2. to stay – she stays

Remember that the modal auxiliaries have no “s” in the third person singular.

  1. can – he can
  2. may – she may
  3. must – it must

The general rule is to add “-ed” to the infinitive.

  1. to work – I worked – you have worked
  2. to pass – she passed – they have passed
  3. to land – we landed – they have landed

After “e” just add “-d.”

  1. to reduce – they (have) reduced
  2. to receive – we (have) received

A consonant plus “y” becomes “-ied.”

  1. to cry – she (has) cried
  2. to try – I (have) tried
  3. to reply – you (have) replied

Note that, as before, a “y” preceded by a vowel is not modified.

  1. to stay – you (have) stayed
  2. to display – they (have) displayed

After a simple, accentuated vowel followed by a single consonant, the consonant is doubled before we add “-ed.”

  1. to stop – they (have) stopped

The basic rule is to add “-ing” to the infinitive.

  1. to work – working
  2. to stand – standing
  3. to play – playing
  4. to try – trying

If the infinitive ends in a consonant plus “e,” we normally drop the “e” before adding “-ing.”

  1. to smile – smiling
  2. to hope – hoping

But don’t forget the following cases.

  1. to be – being
  2. to die – dying
  3. to lie – lying
  4. to see – seeing

As before, the consonant is doubled after a simple, accentuated vowel followed by a single consonant:

  • to stop – stopping

Phrasal verbs


A phrasal verb is a verb which consists of more than one word. Most phrasal verbs consist of two words: the first word is a verb, the second word is a preposition or an adverb. Examples of common phrasal verbs are get up, put off, turn on, object to, and apply for. There are also some three-word phrasal verbs, such as look forward to and get away with.

You can sometimes guess the meaning of a phrasal verb from the meaning of the words it contains, for example come in = come + in. More often, the meaning of the phrasal verb is different  often very different  from the meaning of the verb which forms its first part.

For example put off (=”arrange” to do something at a later time) has a very different meaning from put (=”put” something somewhere), and look forward to (=”when” you feel happy because something is going to happen soon) has a very different meaning from look (=”look” at something).

Like single-word verbs, some phrasal verbs are transitive (they must have an object), and some phrasal verbs are intransitive (they do not have an object). For example:

take off [phrasal verb, Transitive] (=”remove” your shirt, coat etc)
She took off her coat and sat down.
get up [phrasal verb, Intransitive] (=”leave” your bed in the morning)
I usually get up very early.

Some phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive. For example:
join in [phrasal verb, Intransitive/Transitive] (=”start” taking part in something that other people are already doing, for example a game or song)
We all joined in the game.
I want you all to join in.


With transitive phrasal verbs, you have to decide where to put the object.

If the phrasal verb ends with a preposition, the preposition must come after the verb, and you cannot split up the phrasal verb. For example:

apply for sth (=”ask” to be considered for a job)
I’ve applied for a job at the university.
object to sth (=”say” that you do not agree with something)
Local people are objecting to the plan.

If the phrasal verb ends with an adverb, there are three possibilities.

1. If you choose a noun phrase as the object, you can put it either before or after the adverb. For example:

call off (=”decide” that a meeting, party, strike etc should not happen)

They’ve called off the strike. OR They’ve called the strike off.
turn on (=”make” a light, television, radio etc start working)
Will you turn on the light? OR Will you turn the light on?

2. If you choose a pronoun (him, her, it, them etc) as the object, you have to put it before the adverb. For example:
turn down (=”make” a television, radio etc less loud)
Can you turn it down? NOT Can you turn down it?

3. If the object is a long phrase, you usually put it at the end after the phrasal verb. For example:

They’ve called off the strike that was planned for next week.
Can you turn down the television in the front room?