Module 1 | Describing language and language skills | Grammar

Parts of speech

There are nine parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, determiners, prepositions, conjunctions and exclamations. A part of speech is also known as word class and it describes the way a word or phrase functions in a sentence. 
  • To name pople, places, things, qualities, ideas or activities
  • To act as the subject/object of the verb in a sentence
  • To show an action, state, or an experience
  • To replace or refer to a noun or a noun phrase just mentioned
  • to describe or give more information about a noun, pronoun of part of a sentence
  • to describe or give more information about how, when or where something happens
  • to add information to adjectives, verbs, other adverbs or sentences
  • to make clear which noun is referred to or to give information about quantity
  • to connect a noun, noun phrase or pronoun to another word or phrase
  • to join words, sentences or parts of sentences
  • to show a (strong) feeling – especially in informal spoken language
The parts of speech can be separated into more categories, eg. interjections, articles and countable and uncountable nouns.
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’.
Let’s try to understand this with an example. Look at the following example.
The people were cleaning the garden.
Now let’s dissect the above sentence.
1. The people= the subject 
2. were = the plural form of past tense of verb to be = the ‘-ing’ form of the verb ‘clean’
4. the garden = the object
Therefore, the above sentence is built up of 4 pieces of grammar (forms); the subject, past tense of verb to be, ‘-ing’ form of ‘clean’ and the object.  
Each of the above forms conveys a meaning and it is known as ‘use’.
  1. the subject = to describe the doer of the action
  2.  were cleaning = to describe a temporary background situation or action in the past
  3. the object = to describe the receiver of the action


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. See below how the structure of the Passive Voice is constructed.

The Structure of the Passive Voice

The passive voice in English is formed by combining a form of the verb to be with the past participle of a transitive verb. See below how the contruction for Simple Tenses takes place in Active Voice and Passive Voice.
Simple Tenses
Active Voice, Passive Voice
to call, to be called
I call, I am called
I called, I was called
I will call, I will be called
I would call, I would be called
to have called, to have been called
I have called, I have been called
I had called, I had been called
I will have called, I will have been called
I would have called, I would have been called

The 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.
  1. 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.
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. ___________