Module 5. Structural and functional grammar


Lesson 20


20.1  Introduction

All sentences in English are not limited to the basic patterns. The variety and complexity of our sentences is created by the addition of modifying words and by the use of several different kinds of word groups that can themselves serve as nouns and modifiers.

20.2  Modifying Words: Adjectives and Adverbs

Modifiers are words or word groups that limit, qualify, and make more exact the other words or word groups to which they are attached. Adjectives and adverbs are the principal single-word modifiers in English.

Adjectives and Adverbs are modifying words; that is, they are words that limit or qualify the meaning of other words. Adjectives modify nouns, and they are usually placed either immediately before or immediately after the word they modify.

Adverbs normally modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They may sometimes modify whole sentences. When they modify adjectives or other adverbs, they are adjacent to the words they modify. When they modify verbs, they are frequently, but not always, adjacent to the verbs.

Adverbs qualify the meaning of the words they modify by indicating such things as when, where, how, why, in what order, or how often.

   The office closed yesterday. [Yesterday indicates when.]

   Deliver all mail here. [Here indicates where.]

   She replied quickly and angrily. [Quickly and angrily describe how she replied.]

   Consequently, I left. [Consequently describes why.]

   He seldom did any work. [Seldom indicates how often.]

20.3  Connecting Words: Prepositions and Conjunctions

Connecting words enable us to link one word or word group with another and to combine them in way that allow us not only to express our ideas more concisely, but also to express the relationships between those ideas more clearly.

    We don’t need to say:  We had tea. We had toast.

    Rather, we can say:    We had tea and toast


                                      We had tea with toast.

    We don’t need to say: We talked. We played games. We went home.

    Rather, we can say:     After we talked and played games, we went home


                                      After talking and playing games, we went home.

The kinds of words that enable us to make these connections and combinations are prepositions and conjunctions.

A Preposition links a noun or pronoun (called its object) with some other word in the sentence and shows the relationship between the object and the other word. The preposition, together with its object, almost always modifies the other word to which it is linked.

The dog walks on the grass. [On links grass to the verb walks; on grass modifies walks.]

A preposition usually comes before its object; in a few constructions it can follow its object.

For which company do you work?

Which company do you work for?

Table 20.1 The most common prepositions are listed below









































Some prepositions combine with other words to form phrasal prepositions, such as at the point of, by means of, down from, from above, in addition to, with regard to.

Note that some words, such as below, down, in, out, and up, occur both as prepositions and as adverbs. Used as adverbs, they never have objects.

(Note too that after, as, before, since, and until also function as subordinating conjunctions.

A Conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses. Conjunctions show the relationship between the sentence elements that they connect.

Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, not, for, so, yet) join words, phrases, or clauses of equal grammatical rank.

WORDS JOINED         We ate bread and butter.

PHRASES JOINED       Look in the almirah or under the table.

CLAUSES JOINED       We wanted to play, but we were too busy.

Correlative conjunctions are coordinating words that work in pairs to join words, phrases, clauses, or whole sentences. The most common correlative pairs are both……and, either…..or, neither……nor, not…..but, and not only…….but also.

both honest and candid

either before you go or after you get back

not only as a father but also as a teacher

Subordinating Conjunctions join clauses that are not equal in rank. A clause introduced by a subordinating conjunction is called a dependent or subordinate clauses and cannot stand by itself as a sentences; it must be joined to a main, or independent, clause.

We left the office early because we were tired.

If the weather is bad, we will have to call off the match.

Whether you like it or not, you will have to take the medicine.

Table 20.2 The following are the most common subordinating conjunctions:


even though




even if







as if

in order that



as though





rather than




so that



20.4  Verbals

Verbals are special verb forms that have some of the characteristics and abilities of verbs but cannot function as verbs by themselves. Verbs make an assertion. Verbals do not; they function as nouns and modifiers. They are three kinds of verbals: infinitives, participles, and gerunds.

Infinitives are usually marked by a to before the actual verb (to eat, to describe). They are used as noun, adjectives, or adverbs.

To see is to believe. [Both used as nouns]

It was time to play. [Used as adjective]

I was ready to leave. [Used as adverb]

Participles may be either present or past. The present form ends in –ing (eating, running, describing). The past form usually ends in –ed (described). But note that some end in –en (eaten), and as few make an internal change (begun, flown). Participles are always used as adjectives.

Crying, the child left the room in a huff. [Present participle]

Divided, the members adjourned the proceedings of the house.  [Past participle]

Gerunds have the same –ing from as the present participle. The distinctive name gerund is given to -ing forms only when they function as nouns.

Running a marathon requires stamina. [Subject of requires]

You should try singing. [Object of try]

20.5  Recognizing Phrases

A phrase is a group of related words that has no subject or predicate and is used as a single part of speech. Typical phrases are a preposition and its object (I fell on the floor), or a verbal and its object (I wanted to take a cup of coffee).

Phrases are usually classified as prepositional, infinitive, participial, or gerund phrases.

20.5.1  Prepositional phrases

Preposition phrases consist of a preposition, its object, and any modifiers of the object (under the ground, without thinking, in the blue car). Prepositional phrases function as adjective or adverbs and occasionally as nouns

           He is a man of principles [Adjective modifying man]

The train arrived on time. [Adverb modifying arrived]

We will be ready in an hour. [Adverb modifying ready]

She came early before sunset. [Adverb modifying early]

20.5.2     Infinitive phrases

Infinitive phrases consist of an infinitive, its modifiers, and/or its object (to play the game, to dance swiftly, to earn profit quickly). Infinitive phrases function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

           I wish to sing a song. [Noun, object of verb]

It is time to go to bed. [Adverb modifying time]

We were hungry to eat the food. [Adverb modifying hungry]

20.5.3     Participial phrases

Participial phrases consist of a present or past participle, its modifiers, and/or its object (lying on the bed, seen in the theatre, running a race). Participial phrases always function as adjectives.

The man running in the street is my brother.

Covered with snow, the path was slippery.

Harassed by the principal, Mohan quit the job.

20.5.4     Gerund phrases

Gerund phrases consist of a gerund, its modifiers, and/or its object (working overtime, knowing the rules, acting swiftly). Gerund phrases always function as nouns.

Teaching English is my pastime. [Subject]

They got success by working hard. [Objective of preposition]

He hated smoking alone. [Object of verb]

 Note that since both the gerund and the present participle end in –ing, they    can be distinguished only by their separate functions as noun or adjectives.

20.6  Recognizing Clauses

A clause is a group of words which forms part of a sentence, and contains a subject and a predicate. There are two kinds of clauses: (1) main, or independent, clause and (2) subordinate, or dependent, clause.

20.6.1     Main clause

A main clause has both subject and verb. But it is not introduced by a subordinating word. A main clause makes an independent statement. The main clause can stand on its own.

20.6.2   Subordinate clause

Subordinate clauses are usually introduced by a subordinate conjunction (as, such because, etc.) or by a relative pronoun (who, which, that). Subordinate clauses function as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns. They express ideas that are less important than the idea expressed in the main clause. The exact relationship between the two ideas is indicated by the subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun that joins the subordinate and the main clause. The subordinate clause cannot stand on its own.

a)    An Adjective Clause modifies a noun or pronoun.

               This is the athlete that broke the world record. [The subordinate clause modifies the noun athlete]

b)    An Adverb Clause modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb.

               The thief escaped when the police arrived. [The subordinate clause modifies the verb escaped]

               I am sorry he is not well. [The subordinate clause modifies the adjectives sorry, with the subordinate conjunction that understood]

               He does the job more quickly than you do. [The subordinate clause modifies the   adverb quickly]

c)     A Noun Clause functions as a noun. It may serve as subject, predicate noun, object as a verb, or object as a preposition.

               What Ram wants is a better position. [The subordinate clause is the subject of the verb is.]

               This is what we are looking for. [The subordinate clause is a predicate noun.]

               Please inform them I will be late for the meeting. [The subordinate clause is the object of the verb inform.]

               He has no interest in what he is doing. [The subordinate clause is the object of the preposition in.]