grammar exercises

Nouns Verbs and Modifiers

Tweet Nouns, verbs, and modifiers are at the heart of sentence creation. The previous post suggested exercises in which students formed three-word sentences, but without a Direct Object, such as Mary yawned loudly, The cat sat quietly, John ran away, and further suggested that the students change the adverbs (loudly, quietly, and away) to prepositional phrases. […]

Verbs Nouns and Modifiers

Tweet The heart of language is verbs, nouns, and modifiers. I gave a simple verb exercise last time, in which students wrote a three-element sentence, Subject/Verb/Object; for example, John plays basketball. If you are teaching a formal linguistics class, there are many terms and concepts that would be introduced at this point, but for purposes […]

Nouns, Verbs, Modifiers

Tweet The vast majority of language is made up of nouns, verbs, and modifiers. The use of each has its peculiarities, and every language handles them differently. Nouns are or are not accompanied by articles, there is no universal set of verb tenses, and modifiers are usually placed flexibly. I write “usually” because I don’t […]

Teaching linguistics in U.S. high school

Tweet Teacher Suzi Loosen taught linguistics in her high school last year, and has provided a full, detailed report to the Linguistlist.  She gives not only exercises and activities, but also reports on their success, and the student reaction.  The top rated activity was a “pidgin dinner” during which it was forbidden to speak English. […]

The vocative case

Tweet In proto-Indo-European, Sanskrit, and Latin, nouns were divided into declensions, each having a distinctive set of endings indicating whether the noun was the subject, direct object, indirect object, or possessive, and also had a case that was used only when speaking to someone.  Poetically, one could also address the sun, or Love, a “little […]

Noun declensions

Tweet In many languages, nouns have endings to indicate whether the noun is the subject, object, indirect object, or possessive — these categories are called “cases.”  In Latin, there are three separate sets of declensions to which a noun can belong, each with different endings. In German, nouns are declined differently according to their gender, […]

Ambiguous modifiers

Tweet Here are some examples of sentences where a better placed prepositional phrase would lead to clarity, but a misplaced one leads to humor. They come from The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, by Steven Pinker. “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know,” […]

SVO-VSO-SOV sentences

Tweet Here is a sampler of sentences in different syntactical configurations, using English as the neutral language to follow the patterns.  English is an S(ubject)-V(erb)-O(bject) language. I am striving to get at the general principle here.  A true linguistic analysis would be more detailed. 1.  English (SVO):   I saw Megan. Welsh (VSO):     […]

Is proofreading important?

Tweet Spellcheck is only human, after all.  It can’t catch everything.  Here are some errors that Spellcheck will not catch, and, by the way, one more reason why writers should read their work aloud. You are all welcome at the Christmas concert.  The choir is not rehearsing. (instead of now rehearsing) Pubic relations director instead […]

Pidgins and Creoles

Tweet When groups speaking different languages gathered to accomplish something (for example, trading in ports, or running a plantation when slave and owner speak different languages), they had to communicate.  Either they agreed to speak a common language (French, Russian, Chinese, Latin, English and many others have historically been that common language), or they scrambled […]