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Module One | Describing language and language skills

Parts of speech and grammar rules

to name people, places, things, qualities, ideas or activities

to act as the subject / object of the verb

to describe or give more information about a noun, pronoun of part of a sentence

to show an action, state or experience


to describe or to give more information about how, when or where something happens

to add information to adjectives, verbs, other adverbs or sentences

to replace or refer to a noun or noun phrase just mentioned

to join words, sentences or parts of sentences

to connect a noun, noun phrase or pronoun to another word or phrase

to show a (strong) feeling – especially in informal spoken language


Match the words that have been underlined in the text with the parts of speech given in the box below. Use your answers to answer questions 1-6. 

Parts of Speech

A.      Verb

B.      Conjunction

C.      Adjective

D.      Preposition

E.       Adverb

F.       Noun

G.     Pronoun

I need you to finish your (1) homework as soon as (2) you can. Do it (3) well. Try not to be distracted by anything. If you need any help, just (4) ask me. It may be a bit (5) hard, but you can do it. (6) When you complete your homework, you can give it to me to check it.  

  1. ___________
  2. ___________
  3. ___________
  4. ___________
  5. ___________
  6. ___________

Grammar rules are a set of rules which control the composition of clauses, phrases and words. When words are arranged in a certain way and given meaning, the arrangement is called grammatical structures. The grammar rules are used to describe these structures.

Grammatical structures have their own rules, which use grammatical terms to explain ‘forms’ and ‘uses’. Forms are the pieces of grammar that are put together and they build the structure and the order in which they happen. The structure is used to convey meaning which is known as ‘use’. Examples are given in the table below.




Past continuous tense

subject + past tense of verb to be + ing form of verb

e.g. She was dancing

to describe a temporary or background situation or action in the past

Passive voice

subject + to be + past participle (+ by + agent)

e.g. The yard was swept by the lady

to show what happens to people or things

Comparative of ‘long’ adjectives

more + long adjective (+ than)

e.g. She was more interested than her sister

generally used with adjectives of two syllables or more to compare separate things or people

Prefixes and suffixes

Grammar is used to describe the formation of words. Prefixes (letters placed in front of base words, e.g. im-, un-, re, -ad, -pre) and suffixes (letters placed at the end of base words, e.g. –ed, -er, -ly, -ter) are used to change or make up new words. When we add them to ‘base’ words, they make up new grammatical units like tenses, plural of nouns, possessives, e.g. girl’s, walked, doing. There are a great deal of others that are used to make new words. Here are some more examples: disappear, illegal, careful, unfriendly.

In some languages, prefixes and suffixes are used to a great extent whereas in others they are used very little or not at all. Grammar consists of a lot of terms, grammatical structures, forms and uses.


Nerd baby says ...​

Grammar rules are used to explain how language works. However, since language is always changing, the rules tend to change as well. The result is that we usually find grammar books and rules outdated because they do not change as fast as the language does and therefore are outdated. As an example, according to certain grammar books, the word ‘whom’ should be used after a preposition instead of ‘who’ though nowadays, ‘who’ is mostly used with an alternate word order e.g. ‘I just gave a book to the same lady who I saw last week’ is more in use than ‘just saw the lady to whom I gave a book last week’. It is the teacher’s duty to keep his/herself updated always with language changes and how they change.

Spoken language and written language are different from each other and grammar rules are used to explain written language, e.g. repetition and exclamations are common parts of spoken language. Most of the time, grammar books do not explain about spoken language. However, now some books do.

It is quite common to find speakers who can speak and write the language well without however, knowing any of the grammatical rules and terms.

For some students, it is easier to learn the language if they study the grammatical rules and terms. Others would find it useless or confusing to learn them.

Learning only the grammatical rules and structures does not give sufficient aid to students to learn good communication. Good communication is the main aim of studying a language. Therefore, now teachers focus on teaching, e.g. functions, fluency and language skills along with grammar instead of teaching only grammar.

Test Your Knowledge

To which parts of speech do these words come from? Some words belong to more than one part of speech.

ball      while    run       since    older    fine      oops    

some    choose oil        they     smart    himself            although

Add prefixes or suffixes to these words and make as many new words as you can.

old       stand    able      take      run       mix      read

The comments given below were given by learners. What in your opinion do they mean? Do you concur with them? Explain why or why not.

  1. Studying grammar does not assist me to speak English with native speakers.
  2. Grammar rules are worth learning because they are useful. Grammar terms on the other hand, are not.
  3. When I was learning my first language, grammar was not necessary or useful to me at all.

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