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Lecture 7

5. Word Classes

All English words belong to one or another of the major or minor word classes (see 2.7.). A word is assigned to a particular class according to its role in a phrase: nouns are the heads of noun phrases, verbs of the verb phrases, adjectives of the adjective phrases, adverbs of the adverb phrases. Prepositions are obligatory constituents of prepositional phrases, determiners (including the articles “a” and “the”) are obligatory with count nouns. Pronouns stand either for single nouns or whole noun phrases. Conjunctions connect phrases, clauses, sentences or even larger units, such as paragraphs.

There is a close connection between functions and their realisations or, put differently, between the eight word classes and phrases and between phrases and the five clause elements - subjects, verbals, objects, complements and adverbials. The various types of word classes have different functions in the phrases, and, in turn, phrases function as one or another clause element. Noun phrases, for example, can function as subjects, objects, or, sometimes, adverbials; either noun phrases or adjective phrases can function as complements; (only!) verbs function as parts of the verb element of a clause (see 2 and 3).

5.1. Lexical and function words

5.1.1. Definitions and classification

Most grammars organize the lexicon - according to the grammatical behaviour and main function of its words - into lexical words and function words, but there is more than one classification of the word classes inside these two categories. This happens due to gradience 1 , an important principle in grammar that leads to boundary fuzziness, generated in morpho-syntax by the fact that word classes share characteristics among them.

Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002, 16) identify inserts as a third class (see 2.7.) whose members occur mainly in spoken language and are peripheral to grammar Inserts have the following characteristics:

They are often marked off by a break in intonation in speech, or by a punctuation mark in writing:

e.g. Well, we made it.

They generally carry emotional and discoursal meanings, such as oh, ah, wow, used to express a speaker's emotional response to a situation, or yeah, no, okay, used to signal a response to what has just been said.

Inserts are generally simple in form, though they often have an atypical pronunciation (e.g. hm, uh- huh, ugh, yeah). Example: Hm hm, very good!


Characteristics of lexical words

According to Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002, 15-6), lexical words, the main carriers of information in a text, are subdivided into the following word classes (or parts of speech): nouns, lexical verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

They share the following characteristics:

Lexical words are members of open classes.

Lexical words are the most numerous, and their number is growing continuously.

1 Gradience [mass noun] Linguistics = the absence of a clear-cut boundary between one category and another, for example between cup and mug in semantics (Oxford Dictionaries n.d.).

They often have a complex internal structure and can be composed of several parts: e.g. unfriendliness = un +friend + li + ness.

Lexical words can be heads of phrases.

They are generally the words that are stressed most in speech.

They are generally the words that remain if a sentence is compressed in a newspaper headline: e.g. Elderly care crisis warning.

Nouns typically refer to concrete people and things as well as to abstract ideas and phenomena (John, teacher, book, land, peace, rain).

Lexical/main verbs typically denote actions (work, write, play), processes (change, develop, increase) or states (sleep, fear, amaze).

Adjectives typically describe qualities, characteristics, and properties of objects, people and phenomena expressed by nouns. (nice, difficult, easy)

Adverbs specify the circumstances (place, time, manner) in which an action takes place (here, now, slowly).

5.1.3. Characteristics of function words

Function words have little or no lexical meaning. The same Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002, 16) note that there are seven classes of function words: determiners, pronouns, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, adverbial particles, coordinators, and subordinators.

The major classes in this category are prepositions, coordinators, auxiliary verbs, and pronouns. Their main role is to indicate meaning relationships and to facilitate the interpretation of units containing lexical words, by showing how the units are related to each other.

They share the following characteristics:

Function words belong to closed classes, which have a very limited and fixed membership. For example, English has only four coordinators: and, or, but and (rarely) nor.

Individual function words tend to occur frequently, and in almost any type of text.

Function words can be conveniently grouped according to the lexical word to which they are associated:

grammatical unit

function words


subordinators, wh-words, the negator not, the infinitive marker to

clause/ phrase


verb phrase

auxiliaries, modals, adverbial particles

noun phrase

determiners, pronouns, numerals, prepositions

5.1.4. Word-class ambiguities

In English there are many words with multiple memberships, that is, they belong to more than one class. For instance, without a context, progress may be either a noun or a verb and that - a pronoun, a determiner, or a conjunction. Unlike such words, homonyms share the same form, but they are not related in meaning at all.

As Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002, 35) note, some word-class ambiguities are systematic (see 5.1.1., gradience). They give the example of the class of quantifiers (e.g. all, some, any, much), which can function with similar meanings as determiners, pronouns or adverbs:

as determiners:

He kept whistling at all the girls.

as pronouns:

Is that all I've got dad?

as adverbs:

Don't get all mucky.

They also provide a table of words with multiple memberships.












She had never asked him that before.



He was there before her.


They'd started leaving before I arrived.




Steele kicked an early penalty goal.



He has also kicked a penalty goal early in the match.



There was a hell of a fight.



They're too big to fight.




He plans to narrow his focus to certain markets.







This was the beginning of his life as a cultivator.


As they watched, a flash of fire appeared.




You can open the outside window.







Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002, 35) enumerate the word classes which are not easily classified or which cut across other categories: wh-words, existential there, the negator not, the infinitive marker to, and numerals.

5.2. Grammatical categories of word classes

According to Stekauer (1993, 48), the term grammatical category refers to a group of elements recognized in the description of particular languages. There are authors who refer to the parts of speech as categories, but others, who follow a more traditional usage, restrict the application of the term to features associated with the parts of speech such as person, tense, mood, number, case, etc.

A grammatical category is defined in English linguistics as a property of items within the grammar of a language. It has a number of possible values (called exponents/grammemes), which are normally mutually exclusive within a given category. Examples of frequently encountered grammatical categories include tense (which may take values such as present, past), number (with values such as singular and plural), and gender (with values such as masculine, feminine and neuter). (Grammatical category n.d.)

The definition in Romanian 2 is much fuzzier, which makes it quite useless for the current discussion, though, paradoxically, the grammatical categories of all the ten parts of speech recognized by Romanian mainstream grammar are widely present even in school textbooks.

Inflectional/grammatical morphemes (see 2.1.) express grammatical meaning such as number or tense, traditionally called grammatical categories. They may be either free morphemes (function words) or bound

2 Categorie gramaticală = noțiune gramaticală fundamentală care exprimă relații stabilite de vorbitorii unei limbi între elemente ale limbii obiective (ex. gen, număr, persoană, comparație) sau între ei și lumea obiectivă (ex. timp, mod). C.g. reprezintă modul de organizare internă a materialului de forme ale unei limbi.

affixes (inflectional suffixes). In synthetic languages 3 , such as Romanian, the grammatical categories are expressed almost exclusively by inflectional endings, whereas in analytic languages, such as Modern English 4 , the grammatical categories are expressed primarily by function words and only infrequently by a few inflections.

Brinton and Brinton note that the grammatical category is a linguistic, not a real-world category, and that there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between the two types of categories, though they are usually closely related. They illustrate this observation with “tense” - which is a linguistic category, versus “time” – which is a category of the world. (2010, 114)

The authors also point to the fact that grammatical categories can be identified either by formal or by notional means. If the formal distinctions are exclusively made by means of inflection, English has only two tense distinctions - past and present, as in work/worked. By notional means, the existence of a universal set of grammatical categories and terms is assumed, which for tense are past, present, and future. These are expressed in English by means of inflection and, in the case of the future, by periphrasis 5 (as in will work). The same observations are true about Romanian, even though the range of past tense inflections is much wider. The authors also differentiate between overt and covert categories. Overt categories have explicit or formal realization on the relevant part of speech, such as past tense in English (the -ed inflection on the verb), while covert categories are expressed only implicitly by the co-occurrence of particular function words, such as the future tense in English (the will auxiliary occurring with the verb) (2010, 114-5). Again, the remarks apply to the Romanian verb as well.

Because terminology is not always consistent, we should not mistake grammatical categories (tense, number, case, etc.) for lexical categories, which are closely synonymous with word classes/parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.).

In The Linguistic Structure of Modern English, Brinton and Brinton group the grammatical categories into two classes: number, gender, person, case, degree and definiteness are recognized as nominal categories, while tense, aspect, mood and voice are verbal categories (2010, 115-32). They also note which different word classes each of the grammatical categories is relevant to:


number, gender, case, (person), and definiteness;


number, gender, case, and person;

adjectives and some adverbs:



number, person, tense, aspect, mood, and voice.

prepositions and conjunctions:

no grammatical categories are relevant to prepositions and conjunctions, which are invariable.

The subsequent discussion in 5.2.1. and 5.2.2. is mainly based on their observations.

5.2.1. Nominal grammatical categories Number

There are two terms of the category of number in both English and Romanian: singular (the concept of „one‟) and plural (the concept of „more than one‟). In English, number is expressed by inflection in:

count nouns, generally by -s (dog/dogs)

demonstratives (this/these, that/those)

3 In linguistic typology, a synthetic language is a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio, as opposed to a low morpheme- per-word ratio in what is described as an isolating language. (Synthetic language n.d.) 4 An analytic language is a language that conveys grammatical relationships without using inflectional morphemes. A grammatical construction can similarly be called analytic if it uses unbound morphemes, which are separate words, and/or word order. Analytic languages are in contrast to synthetic languages. However, English is also not totally analytic in its nouns as it does use inflections for number, e.g. "one day, three days; one boy, four boys". (Analytic language n.d.) 5 A phrase containing a function word which is functionally equivalent to an inflection is called a periphrasis, or periphrastic form. (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 114)

the 1st and 3rd p (but not in the 2nd p) of pronouns

personal pronouns (I/we)

possessive determiners (my/our)

possessive pronouns (mine/ours)

reflexive pronouns (myself/ourselves)

certain pronouns and adjectives:

singular: every, each, someone, anybody, a/an

plural: all, many, few, several, most

in verbs, indicated by the singular -s of the 3rd pers., which occurs in the present but not in the past

tense (he writes versus they write, he wrote). Number is expressed more fully in the inflected forms of the verb be (singular am, is, was, plural are, were), which because of its high frequency, tends to preserve inflections more fully than do other verbs. In Romanian, number is marked in all the situations above, plus several others (such as in the large majority of adjectives, more extensively in verbs etc.).

The concept of generic number incorporates singular and plural and is used when the speaker does not want to specify number. It is expressed in English in three ways 6 :

1. the definite article + singular noun (The tiger may be dangerous)

2. the indefinite article + singular noun (A tiger may be dangerous)

3. Ø article + plural of count nouns or singular of mass nouns (Tigers may be dangerous or Gold is


In both English and Romanian, 1 st person personal pronouns present a usage peculiarity which has become outdated: the so-called “royal we” or “editorial we” (pluralul de majestate in Romanian) which is a situation of the utilization of the plural when singular is denoted. Another situation when the plural replaces the singular occurs in Romanian with the politeness plural, used with the personal pronouns for social purposes, to signal the relations between people (acquaintance vs. stranger, superior vs. inferior, etc.). Gender

English has a rather straightforward system of gender called natural gender 7 , in which gender distinctions made in language depend upon the sex of the object in the real world. English distinguishes masculine, feminine, common gender (masc. or fem.), and neuter (sexless) genders.

At first sight, this is an odd perspective for a Romanian, in whose native language gender appears to be a central grammatical category, important for noun declension 8 and for the noun‟s agreement with pronouns, adjectives and articles. The relation between natural gender and grammatical gender 9 is obvious in many of the animate nouns in Romanian, as there is a certain correlation between their grammatical gender and the gender of the being they denote (o vacă albă (fem.) vs. un bou alb (masc.), o fată harnică (fem.) vs. un băiat harnic (masc.), etc.) 10 . Gender appears to be arbitrary - not related to the sex of the object denoted - for the inanimate nouns (o zi (fem.), un pat (masc.), etc.). Actually, Romanian grammars distinguish between two classes of nouns:

nouns with motivated gender animate nouns for which there is a correspondence between the grammatical gender and the natural gender of the being denoted by the noun

nouns with unmotivated gender, that include all inanimate nouns, but also animate nouns that

6 The same ways are possible in Romanian, as well.

7 natural gender = grammatical gender that reflects, as in English, the sex or animacy of the referent of a noun rather than the form or any other feature of the word. (Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. gender)

8 declension = the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles that indicates number, gender and case.

9 In the system of grammatical gender, every noun (either animate or inanimate) is treated as masculine, feminine or neuter. 10 Gender distinctions are normally expressed in such pairs that contrast feminine and masculine nouns.

denote both genders with only one form, either masculine (elefant, șoarece, tânțar, etc.) or feminine (balenă, furnică, rândunică, rudă, etc.) Unlike Romanian, modern English no longer distinguishes nouns and determinatives on the basis of grammatical gender. The effect of this development is the lessened place of gender in English nouns. According to Close, ”cow is not „feminine gender‟ as opposed to the „masculine‟ bull. Cow and bull are two separate words, one referring to a female of a species of animal, the other to the male. Both words can be preceded by a set of determiners, such as a, any, each, either, every, my, the, this, that, each of which has one form only (Close 1992: 1).

Old English had grammatical gender, but by the 11 th century, during the Middle English period its use started to decline. Towards the end of the 14 th century some English dialects had almost completely lost grammatical gender, and in Modern English words are not normally assigned gender according to their inflectional class. The features that have survived into Modern English are related to natural gender, such as the use of certain nouns and pronouns (such as queen, knight, he, she, etc.) to refer specifically to persons or animals of one sex.

Thus, gender is expressed by inflection only in the 3 rd person personal pronouns, singular he, she, it. According to Brinton and Brinton (2010, 116-7), nothing about the morphological form of nouns such as boy and girl indicate that they are masculine or feminine gender, and gender is shown only by the co-occurrence of relevant pronouns, he and she, which refer back to the noun: the boy … he, the girl … she. The authors note that this makes gender a covert 11 category of the noun; they also observe that there are limited ways in which gender may be expressed overtly on the English noun:

by derivational suffixes, such as the feminine suffixes -ine (hero/heroine), -ess (god/goddess), -rix (aviator/aviatrix), and -ette (suffragist/suffragette) or the common gender suffixes -er (baker), -ist (artist), - ian (librarian), -ster (prankster), and -ard (drunkard);

by compounds, such as lady-, woman-, girl-, female-, -woman (lady friend, woman doctor, girl friend, female fire fighter, chairwoman) or boy-, male-, gentleman-, -man (boy friend, male nurse, gentleman caller, chairman);


by separate








such as



by separate forms for masculine and feminine genders, such as uncle/aunt, stallion/mare, bachelor/spinster and proper names such as Joseph/Josephine, Henry/Henrietta.

None of these means is systematic and the feminine is always derived from the masculine 12 . Also, the masculine form typically doubles as the common gender form 13 , as with dog (feminine bitch).

A source of difficulty is the fact that a common gender for the 3rd person singular to be used after a singular indefinite pronoun such as each or every does not exist in English. The traditional use of the masculine form

11 Whorf (1956) draws the important distinction between overt and covert grammatical categories: an overt category is one having a formal mark that is present in every sentence containing a member of the category (e.g., English plural); a covert category includes members that are marked only in certain types of sentences. (Whorf labels the distinctive treatment required in such environments “reactance.”) In English, gender is a covert category marked only by the reactance of singular third- person pronouns and the relative pronouns who/what/which (which indicate animacy). Despite this limited presence in the surface structure of English syntax, gender is nonetheless a grammatical category and requires a systematic analysis of the patterns of anaphoric pronoun use for clues about the structure of the categories within the system. Intuitive assumptions about the relationship between sex and gender are not sufficient, for while biological sex is a good indicator of gender class, it is not absolutely predictive. (Curzan n.d.) 12 The case of widow (fem.)/widower (masc.) is an exception, explained by Brinton and Brinton (2010, 117) as the result of the fact that women generally outlive men. Another exception is the pair ballerina/ballet dancer, but here the masculine is a compound, not a simple form. 13 In the case of cow/bull, goose/gander or drake/duck, the feminine form is the common gender form, presumably because the female is more important in the barnyard economy (Brinton and Brinton, 2010, 117).

for the generic (e.g. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs 14 ), tends to be currently replaced by the use of the plural their, which is gender-neutral but which violates number agreement (e.g. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs). Brinton note that forms like his or her, his/her, s/he (e.g. From each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs) are newer attempts to correct this deficiency. Person

Person can be defined as the relationship between a subject and its verbal, showing whether the subject is speaking about itself (1 st person - I and we); being spoken to (2 nd person you singular and plural); or being spoken of (3 rd person - he, she, it, and they).

In both Romanian and English there are three persons: 1st person (the speaker), 2nd person (the person spoken to) and 3rd person (the person or thing spoken about).

The pronouns to which the grammatical system of person applies are called personal pronouns, and as Brinton & Brinton (118) observe, person distinctions are expressed by the inflected forms of the pronouns:


personal possessivedeterminers:



1 st pers.





2 nd pers. you your yours yourself

3 rd


he, they

his, their

his, theirs

himself, themselves

The same authors (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 118) note that nouns are all 3rd person, and this is shown only covertly by the co-occurrence of pronouns: the house … it (I, you), the houses … they (we, you).

They also enumerate other forms that express generic besides the use of the rather formal one that expresses generic person (all persons) and note that the generic you is the most common in informal usage.

1 st pers. 2 nd pers.



3 rd

3 rd

pl sg and pl sg pl





We're often misinformed by the media. You never can tell. One doesn’t do that in polite company. They’ll find a cure for cancer soon.

In both English and Romanian another person than the expected one may be used in certain situations:

3 rd pers. for 1 st pers. in very young children (Mary wants cake where Mary is the speaker), in official statements (Your boss clearly forbids such behaviour where the boss is the speaker), in academic style (This author aims at …. written by the author himself/herself), etc.

1 st pers. for 2 nd pers. - spoken by a parent to a young child (We’ll stop that now, will we?).

The grammatical category of person is also marked inflectionally, by the -s affix added on the verb. Note that this happens exclusively with the verbs in the present indicative, singular, 3 rd person. Be is an exception as it preserves inflections in other persons (1 st pers. am, 2 nd and 3 rd pers. are, 3 rd pers. is), and with the past tense as well (was, were).

As O‟Grady et al note, “a widely attested type of verbal inflection in human language involves person--a category that typically distinguishes among the first person (the speaker), the second person (the addressee), and the third person (anyone else). In many languages, the verb is marked for both person and number (singular or plural) of the subject. When one category is inflected for properties (such as person and number)

of another, the first category is said to agree with the second. [

impoverished system of person and number agreement in the verb, and an inflectional affix is used only for the third person singular in the non-past tense” (2001, 168-9). Case


Modern English has a [comparatively]

14 A slogan popularised by Karl Marx in Critique of the Gotha Program (1875).

In many languages, Romanian included, case is another type of inflectional contrast associated with nouns. O‟Grady et al describe it as “a category that encodes information about an element‟s grammatical role (subject, direct object, and so on). In Modern English, this information is expressed largely through word order and the use of prepositions” (2001, 166).

According to Brinton and Brinton (2010, 119), case is an indication of the function of a noun phrase, or the relationship of a noun phrase to a verb or to other noun phrases in the sentence. Case is most fully expressed in the personal and interrogative/relative pronouns, which distinguish nominative case (the function of subject), genitive case (the function of possessor), and objective case (the function of object) by different inflected forms:

nominative: I



he, she, it




my/mine our/ours his, her/hers, its







him, her, it



The genitive includes forms which function as predeterminers, such as my and our, as well as forms which function as pronouns, such as mine or ours.

Crystal (1996, 74) maintains that there are only two cases in contemporary English: the common case, where the noun has no ending, and the genitive case formed by adding an „s to the singular form of the noun and an apostrophe only for the plural form. One reason for this terminological simplification is that there is no inflectional mark that distinguishes, for example, a noun in the nominative case from one in the accusative case.




common case



genitive case



Brinton and Brinton (2010, 119) note that, though orthographically there are four distinct forms of nouns when singular and plural, common and genitive case are considered, the apostrophe is merely orthographic so that the forms cats, cat’s, and cats’ are phonologically indistinguishable. Only irregular plurals such as the noun man actually distinguish four forms both orthographically and phonologically.




common case



genitive case



Even on certain pronouns the distinction between the nominative and objective forms has disappeared, as with it and you:










The two authors (2010, 120) point to other case distinctions which can be made, such as the dative case (the function of indirect object), but consider it a subcategory of the objective case, shown by periphrasis with to or for or by word order (V iO dO):

He gave Jane the book. He gave the book to Jane.

Other traditional cases, such as the “instrumental” case, are expressed only periphrastically in English nowadays, for example, with the prepositions with or from (I broke the glass with a rock).

In order to account for the case contrasts found in English nouns and pronouns, O‟Grady et al (2001, 261) propose a set of rules that associate case with specific syntactic positions. The case rules for English NPs:

a. The complement of V receives accusative case.

b. The complement of P receives accusative case.

c. The specifier of N receives genitive case.

d. The subject receives nominative case.

According to the rules, a sentence such as Mary saw him is well-formed, since the pronoun in the complement NP is accusative, as required by rule a. In contrast, Mary saw he is ungrammatical, since the pronoun in the complement NP has the nominative form, in violation of the same rule.

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 120) illustrate the conventional uses of cases with the use of the nominative case after the verb be (e.g. It is I) and maintain that the same function can be expressed by different cases, as in instances where the concept of possession is expressed by either the genitive or dative case (e.g. The book is mine, The book belongs to me).

The same case can express different functions or meanings, and this is obvious in the behaviour of the genitive case, which does not simply express possession. The following types of genitives have been identified (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 120-1), based on the meaning relationship between the noun in the genitive and the head noun:

possessive genitive: Felix’s car (Felix owns his car)

subjective genitive: the movie star’s entrance (the movie star enters - the same relation as a subject does to a verb)

objective genitive: the city’s reconstruction (X reconstructs the city - the same relation as a direct object does to a verb)

genitive of origin: Shakespeare’s plays, the baker’s cakes (expresses the source, person, or place from which something originates)

descriptive genitive: man of wisdom, a woman of courage (usually expressed periphrastically, it is often equivalent to a descriptive adjective, as in man of wisdom = „wise man‟)

genitive of measure: an hour’s time, a stone’s throw (expresses an extent of time or space)

partitive genitive: a member of the crowd, a spoke of the wheel (expresses the whole in relation to a part)

appositive genitive: the city of Vancouver, the state of California (renames the head noun)

Quite often the of-genitive/ prepositional genitive can replace the ‘s genitive in many usages, or at least double it. Leech (2006, 47) notes the speakers‟ tendency to use the of-construction where the genitive would cause too much complexity in front of the head noun, and illustrates it with the following illustration: the night train to Edinburgh’s departure is less likely to occur than the departure of the night train to Edinburgh. He also points to the fact that the placing of the ’s at the end of Edinburgh is perfectly acceptable, even though the genitive indicates the departure of the train, rather than the departure of Edinburgh, and labels it as an example of the so-called group genitive, where the genitive phrase contains postmodification. Other examples are: [the mayor of Chicago’s] re-election campaign, [someone else’s] fault. (Leech 2006: 47).

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 121) suggest that, though the inflectional genitive (with ‘s) and the periphrastic form (with of + NP) are normally interchangeable, it is not always possible to substitute one means of expression for the other. “For example, while the Queen’s arrival is interchangeable with the arrival of the Queen, a person of integrity is not interchangeable with an integrity’s person nor is a stone’s throw interchangeable with a throw of a stone. Certain types of genitives, such as the partitive, descriptive, or appositive, are typically expressed only periphrastically”.

The authors (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 121) also point to various types of ambiguities that appear in the genitive structures, such as the phrase the shooting of the hunters, which is ambiguous between subjective and objective genitive readings because it can mean either „the hunters shoot X‟ or „X shoots the hunters‟.

The child’s picture is also ambiguous, since we do not understand whether the child has drawn the picture or someone else has taken the picture of the child. The same applies for the woman’s book - ambiguous between the possessive genitive and the genitive of origin as the woman may either own the book or she may have written it.

The double genitive is another complex aspect of the genitive mentioned by Brinton and Brinton (2010, 121), in which periphrastic and inflectional forms co-occur: a friend of Rosa’s, no fault of his. The double genitive is always indefinite (the friend of Rosa’s) and a human inflected genitive (a leg of the table’s). It normally has a partitive sense (‟one friend among all of Rosa‟s friends), though it is also possible to use it when Rosa has only one friend. A portrait of the king’s („one among all the portraits (of others) that the king owns‟) can be contrasted with a portrait of the king („a portrait which depicts the king‟).

Leech sees the genitive as “the only remnant in modern English of the case system of nouns, prevalent in Old English, and also in classical Greek, Latin and many modern European languages. […] The genitive form of a noun typically comes before another noun, the head of the noun phrase of which the genitive is part, for example Robert’s desk (2006, 46). He also notes that, strictly speaking, this mark is no longer a case-ending in modern English, but an ending added to noun phrases, such as [the bride’s] in [the bride’s] arrival, or [my father’s] in [my father’s] favourite breakfast. In his view, because the genitive fills a determiner slot in the larger noun phrase of which it is part, the function of the bride’s above is similar to that of her in her arrival or the in the arrival”. The same author remarks the occurrence of what he calls group genitive 15 :

The ‘s genitive is normally used when the possessor is a proper noun, preferably the name of a person: Mary’s house, John’s job, etc. However, it is possible with other animate noun classes:

nouns denoting humans: the boy’s aunt

collective nouns: the government’s announcement

higher animals: the horse’s neck

The of-genitive is normally used with inanimate nouns and with lower animals, but many of the inanimate nouns also take the ‟s genitive as well: the car’s maker/the maker of the car, the novel’s title/the title of the novel, etc.

The following inanimate noun classes commonly take the ‟s genitive:

geographical names (proper names):

continents: Europe’s population

countries: Romania’s politicians

cities/towns: Bucharest’s transportation system

universities: Cuza’s Language center

nouns denoting space or locations (regions, institutions, etc.: the world’s most famous writer, the

Church’s finances, the country’s policy, etc.

nouns denoting time: yesterday’s newspaper, this year’s events, etc.

nouns denoting weight or value: a pound’s weight, two euros’ worth of coffee, etc. Degree

Degree is a nominal category that relates to adjectives and adverbs and has three terms:

positive degree (expressing a quality)

comparative degree (expressing a greater degree or intensity of the quality in one of two items)

superlative degree (expressing the greatest degree or intensity of the quality in one of three or more items)

15 1 A phrase containing a function word which is functionally equivalent to an inflection is called a periphrasis, or periphrastic form. For example, in English, we can express the possessive either by an inflection -s (as in Alicia’s cat) or by a periphrasis with of (as in the leg of the table). (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 114)

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 121-2) note that the positive degree is expressed by the root of the adjective (e.g. big, beautiful) or adverb (e.g. fast, quickly) that is, it is null-realized while the comparative and superlative degrees are expressed either by inflection (by means of -er, -est) or by periphrasis (using more, most):







comparative -er, more



more beautiful

more quickly


-est, most



most beautiful

most quickly

The inflection is used with:

monosyllabic forms neater, thinner, wider

certain disyllabic forms adjectives ending in y: holy →holier; -le: little → littler; -er: bitter → bitterer; -ow: narrow → narrower; -some: handsome → handsomer.

The periphrasis occurs in all other forms, including adverbs ending in -ly (e.g. quicklier).

Lesser degree can be expressed periphrastically with less and least, as in less big, least beautiful.

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 122) explain that, for semantic reasons, some adjectives cannot be inflected for degree. Thus, adjectives such as perfect, unique, round, full, empty, married, and dead are incomparable because they express absolute qualities. The authors illustrate such qualities with a two examples dead and unique. About the former, they comment that something is either „dead‟ or not; it cannot be more or less dead. As for superlatives such as most unique, they are logically impossible, though one frequently hears such forms. The explanation is that either most can be understood as an emphatic element or unique can be understood as meaning „unusual‟.

The concept of superlative is rather easy to comprehend for the Romanian speaker since the rules are identical, even stricter, in Romanian grammar. That is, an example like the most perfect day, as well as the second proposed above, would be totally unacceptable in Romanian (cea mai perfectă zi, cel mai unic). Forăscu (Forăscu n.d.) identifies two classes of incomparable adjectives in Romanian:

1. adjectives that originally were old comparative and superlative forms (exterior, interior, superior, inferior, optim, excelent, etc.) or those in the positive form with a superlative meaning (supraaglomerat, ultrasensibil, excelent, admirabil, splendid, perfect, etc.).

Some speakers no longer perceive such adjectives as comparatives or superlatives and tend to use them with the comparative or superlative degrees (cel mai superior, foarte inferior, condiţiile cele mai optime, etc.). Such forms must be avoided.

2. adjectives that express an absolute quality which cannot be compared (complet, mort, viu, pulmonar, principal, perfect, etc.). It is thus wrong to say cel mai principal lucru, o listă foarte completă.

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 122) point to another peculiarity of English adjectives: forms such as best time, rudest remark, or closest of friends often express a high degree rather than a true comparison, with the superlative equivalent to „very‟. Finally, it is also common to hear the superlative used in the comparison of two items, as in put your best foot forward, the most advantageous of two alternatives, even though the rule imposes the structure the + comparative (put your better foot forward, the more advantageous of two alternatives). Definiteness

The concepts of definiteness and indefiniteness are seen by Brinton and Brinton (122-3) as intuitively quite simple: definite denotes a referent (a thing in the real world denoted by a noun) which is known, familiar, or identified to the speaker and hearer, while indefinite denotes a referent which is unfamiliar or not known.

These concepts have been adopted by some Romanian grammars as well, especially due to the linguistic school of Bucharest (Diaconescu, Manoliu Manea, Guţu Romalo, Coteanu, Coja, etc.). They view definiteness

(determinarea) as the fourth grammatical category of the noun.

If nouns are considered on their own, definiteness is a covert category, because it is obvious only in the co- occurrence of either the definite article the or the indefinite article a/an with a noun, though all proper nouns and most pronouns are intrinsically definite.

However, definiteness can be quite confusing in actual practice, because, on the one hand, it intersects with the category of specificity 16 and, on the other hand, article usage in English is complex and in many instances arbitrary. Thus, each article has several different uses (some of which are dialectal) and articles are often omitted, which makes article usage a difficult area of grammar for non-native speakers.

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 123) identify the following major uses of the:

1. for something previously mentioned: yesterday I read a book … the book was about space travel (This is

the anaphoric, or „pointing back‟, function of the definite article);

2. for a unique or fixed referent: the Prime Minister, the Lord, the Times, the Suez Canal;

3. for a generic referent: (I love) the piano, (We are concerned about) the unemployed;

4. for something which is part of the immediate socio-physical context or generally known: the doorbell, the

kettle, the sun, the weather;

5. for something identified by a modifying expression either preceding or following the noun: the gray horse, the

house at the end of the block;

6. for converting a proper noun to a common noun: the England he knew, the Shakespeare of our times, the

Hell I suffered.

The two authors point to the fact that article usage with proper nouns often depends on the category of proper nouns (e.g. Lake Superior vs. The Red Sea; The Mississippi River vs. Cache Creek) or even on the specific example within a category (e.g. The Sudan vs. Ethiopia; Sears Tower vs. The Eiffel Tower; Washington Monument vs. The Lincoln Memorial). They propose a very useful rule of thumb: proper nouns with -s (in the plural form) generally take the definite article: The Everglades, The Great Plains, The Rocky Mountains, The Seychelles.

Brinton and Brinton also list a number of instances in actual usage where the definite article is omitted when it would be expected:

with institutions (e.g. at school)

with means of transportation (e.g. by car)

with times of day (e.g. at noon)

with meals (e.g. at breakfast)

with illnesses (e.g. have malaria).

The major uses of a/an identified by the same authors (2010, 123-4) are the following:


for something mentioned for the first time;


for something which cannot or need not be identified: (I want) a friend;


for a generic referent: (He is) a teacher;


equivalent to „any‟ : a (any) good book;


equivalent to „one‟ : a week or two; and

16 Specific, nonspecific, and generic. Information is specific if it denotes a particular entity in the real world, while it is nonspecific if it denotes no particular entity in the real world. HINT: Pronouns and proper nouns are usually specific, though some pronouns, such as general you, one, or they, are nonspecific, as in You never can tell, One must consider all options, They never tell you anything, where no person is being referred to.(Brinton and Brinton, 328).

6. for converting a proper noun to a common noun: a virtual Mozart, a real Einstein.

Lecture 8

5.2.2. Verbal grammatical categories Tense

Tense is defined by Brinton and Brinton (2010, 124) as the linguistic indication of the time of an action/event in respect to the moment of speaking (or some other reference point).

Time is a nonlinguistic concept that exists independently of human language, while tense is the linguistic expression of time relations realized by verb forms.

According to Downing and Locke (2006, 352), tense is the grammatical expression of the location of events

in time, which anchors an event to the speaker‟s experience of the world by relating the event time to a point

of reference. They call the universal, unmarked reference point the moment of speaking - speech time. In

narrative, a point in past time is usually taken as the reference point.

This point of reference is the point versus which some events are anterior (i.e. they take place before it), posterior (i.e. they will take place after the moment of speaking), or simultaneous with the moment of speech (i.e. they happen at the same time)

In English there are only two inflectional tense distinctions, that is only two tenses - present and past - have

marked rather than combined (with auxiliaries) forms). Compare call (present tense), called (past tense) and will call (future tense). The only tense distinction expressed inflectionally is that between call and called, while will call is a periphrastic structure.

On a time line like the one below, for example, a past time statement, such as It rained, or a future-time statement, such as It will rain, denotes a situation held before the present moment or that will hold after the present moment, respectively:


past time



speech time

present moment

Thus, verbs in the present tense normally refer to 'now' (indicated above by the x), while verbs in the past tense normally refer to 'before now'.

According to Hasselgård, Lysvåg and Johansson (Hasselgård, Lysvåg and Johansson n.d.), the present tense can alternatively express directness or closeness in time and/or reality (Since you are rich, you can buy that house), while the past tense expresses distance (If you were rich, you could buy that house).

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 124-6) argue that, in fact, the present progressive is used to denote actions going on at the present time (as in I am reading at this moment, not I read at this moment). They list a number of uses of the PRESENT TENSE form in English which are actually employed for the expression of other types of temporal as well as nontemporal situations 17 .

1. habits: I walk to work everyday. She smokes. We eat dinner at 6:00.

A habit such as the one expressed in She smokes can be figured as a series of separate events that are

characteristic of a period and that together constitute a whole.


Habits exist even if the event is not actually going on at the present moment; that is to say, the fact that she smokes ( = she is a smoker) is true even if she is not actually smoking a cigarette at the present moment.)

17 For such uses, the term nonpast is preferred to present.


states: She lives at home. I like chocolate. I believe you. I have lots of work to do. The dog sees well. I feel

sick. States include nondynamic situations such as:

emotional states (love)

cognitive states (understand)

perceptual states (feel)

bodily sensations (ache)

expressions of having and being (own, resemble).

3. generic statements: Beavers build dams. Tigers are ferocious.

„tigers are ferocious‟). Brinton and

Brinton point to the difference between a state such as I am happy and a generic statement such as Tigers are ferocious, in addition to the nongeneric (I) vs. generic (tigers) subject. This means that the state refers to a specific situation and can occur with adverbs such as still, already, not yet (e.g. I am still happy/Tigers are still ferocious).

A generic statement says something about a class of things („beavers build


4. timeless statements: The sun sets in the west. Summer begins on June 21 st . Two plus two is four.

Timeless statements express eternal truths and laws of nature.

5. gnomic (proverbial) statements: A stitch in time saves nine. Haste makes waste.

Gnomic statements express proverbs, which are not necessarily timeless.

6. future statements: We leave tomorrow. I see the doctor this afternoon.

Future expressed with the simple present generally refers to situations predetermined and fixed, such as flight timetables, schedule appointments, etc.

7. instantaneous commentary: He shoots; he scores. Now I beat in two eggs. He pulls a rabbit out of the


Instantaneous commentary occurs in sports reporting, cooking demonstrations, magic shows, etc. This is the only use of the nonpast form for actions actually going on at the current moment.)

8. plot summary: Hamlet dies at the end of the play. Emma marries Mr. Knightley.

The present is used in summarizing works of literature and in talking about artists as artistic figures.

9. narration in the present (the “historical present”): Then he says

The historical present is the use of present tense for narrating informal stories and jokes, though it is used increasingly frequently in serious literature.

10. information present: I hear/see that Manfred has been promoted.

The information present is the use of present tense with verbs of hearing or seeing where one might expect the past tense.

Conveniently enough, all the ten uses of the English present tense above have corresponding counterparts in the use of the Romanian timpul prezent.

The uses of the PAST TENSE:

1. an event or a state in past time: Haydn composed the symphony in 1758 or Handel lived in England for

a number of years;

2. narration: Two days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge (Atwood, 2000, p. 1)

The past tense is the tense of narration, but if the simple past denotes a past habit, an appropriate time adverbial is required. However, there is a special past habitual form - used to, as in I used to drive to work, which does not normally require a time adverbial.

4. politeness: I was hoping you would help. Did you want to talk to me?

The past tense may also be used nontemporally, as a means to express politeness or to denote the unreal:

present hope; future help.

5. hypothetical: If you studied more, you would do better.

These are “modal” uses of the past, where the subjunctive mood replaces the indicative.

There are several Romanian corresponding past forms for each of the uses above are:

1. perfect compus for an event or a state in past time: Haydn a compus

2. perfect simplu or perfect compus for narration: Două zile după ce se sfârși războiul, sora mea

3. imperfect for past habit: Anul trecut mergeam cu mașina la serviciu.

4. imperfect for politeness: Speram că mă vei ajuta.

FUTURE TIME is usually marked in English with modals or semi-modals in a variety of periphrases (see 5.4.), as well as by the inflected simple tense.

1. will/shall + infinitive: I will help you tomorrow.

2. the simple present: The party begins at 4:00.

3. the present progressive: We’re having guests for dinner.

4. be going to, be about to + infinitive: The child is going to be sick. The boat is about to leave.

5. shall/will + the progressive: I will be moving next week.

Brinton and Brinton remark (2010, 126) that the forms of the future are subtly different in meaning, and illustrate this with the following examples:

- It’s going to rain today or It’s about to rain might be uttered while looking up at a threatening rain cloud, while It will rain today could only be the prediction of the meteorologist or a report of this person‟s prediction.

- It rains today is distinctly odd because it denotes the future as fact, or predetermined, and as punctual.

- the progressive It’s raining today could not function as a future in this instance either.

- It will be raining today (when you want to mow the lawn) is possible if it denotes a situation surrounding another event. They argue that commands (e.g. Wash the dishes!) always carry a future meaning, as one cannot command someone else to perform an action in the past nor to be performing it at the present moment. Thus, the imperative places the action at a future moment/time and it has a closer relation to modality than to tense, since it expresses something that is not (yet) fact.

Tense in reported speech

Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002: 152-3) highlight the special use simple past tense has in reported speech or thought. In reports, even if the original speech or thoughts were in present tense, past tense is usually used.

1. Then the next day he said he no longer loved me. (direct speech: 'I no longer love you.')

2. And I thought I was going to go home early. (direct thought: 'I am going to go home early.')

3. Abbey said there was a meeting planned to discuss the contract this week. (direct speech: 'There is a


The tense of the verb in the subordinate that-clause agrees with the past tense of the reporting verb (e.g. said- loved in 1.). If a speaker is reporting the speech of someone else, there is also a corresponding shift in pronouns, for example from I to he in 1.

The authors also point to the fact that the circumstances may still be continuing even though past tense is used (as in 3, for example, where the meeting may still be planned).

An additional variation in tense in reported speech, used mainly in conversation, is the situation in which present tense is used for the reporting verb and past tense for the indirect quote:

He says he bought another Amiga. Aspect

Brinton and Brinton define aspect as the view taken of an event, or the “aspect” under which it is considered, basically whether it is seen as complete and whole (perfective aspect) or as incomplete and ongoing (imperfective aspect).

Downing and Locke (2006, 370) contrast the categories of tense and aspect and maintain that, while tense is used to locate events in time, aspect is concerned with the way in which the event is viewed with regard to duration and completion. They compare the two examples below and observe that both are in the past tense and both locate the situation in past time. The difference is in aspect, expressed by the verbal form was locking as opposed to the ordinary past locked.

1. He locked the safe.

2. He was locking the safe.

They point to the basic aspectual distinction of perfectivity vs imperfectivity:

Perfective: the situation is presented as a complete whole, as if viewed externally, with sharp boundaries, as in 1. (Note that perfectivity is not the Perfect aspect!)

Imperfective: the situation is viewed as an internal stage, without boundaries and is conceptualised as ongoing and incomplete; the beginning and end are not included in this viewpoint we see only the internal part, as in 2. The Progressive is thus a kind of imperfectivity. Especially for the Romanian speakers of English, aspect can be a difficult concept, which poses comprehension and usage difficulties, since traditional Romanian grammars do not recognize this verbal grammatical category 18 . However, Irimia (1997, 118-20) notes that in Romanian as well, the grammatical category of aspect develops in the opposition perfective- imperfective 19 , an opposition best represented in the Romanian past tenses:



perfectul compus perfectul simplu mai mult ca perfectul


Irimia maintains that aspect is marked inflectionally in the Romanian verbs, and proposes the verb a coborî as an illustration.



coborî + t coborî + Ø + i coborî + se + m

perfectul compus perfectul simplu mai mult ca perfectul

cobora + m


Confusion between the categories of tense and aspect arises because they both are related to time. However, “while tense relates the time of a situation to some other time, commonly the time of speaking, aspect conveys other temporal information, such as duration, completion, or frequency, as it relates to the time of

18 Aspect is not marked through auxiliary verbs in Romanian. 19 Irimia corelează opoziția perfectiv- imperfectiv cu opoziția împlinit neîmplinit.

action. Thus tense refers to temporally when while aspect refers to temporally how. Aspect can be said to describe the texture of the time in which a situation occurs, such as a single point of time, a continuous range of time, a sequence of discrete points in time, etc, whereas tense indicates its location in time. (Grammatical aspect n.d.)

In a series of examples such as I read, I am reading, I have read, and I have been reading, all the verbals are somehow related to the present time. The difference is that, even if they all describe the present situation, each conveys its own information about or points of view on the way the action relates to present time. This is to say, they differ in aspect.

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 127) find it useful to treat the so-called “compound tenses” – the perfect and the progressive as expressions of the category of aspect. They explain that simple past tense in English is perfective in aspect since it views events as complete and whole, e.g. Yesterday, I drove to town, ran some errands, and visited with my friends. on The progressive periphrasis (be + the present participle) expresses imperfective aspect, because it renders actions in progress, ongoing, and incomplete (not yet ended). This is the usual way to denote a situation happening at the very moment of speaking, which by definition is incomplete.

Depending on the temporal nature of the situation expressed by the verb punctual or durative the authors above (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 127) identify the following situations in which the progressive is used:

a continuous activity: She is reading. He was having a bath when I called.

a repeated activity (“iterative aspect”): He was kicking the ball against the wall.

a process leading up to an endpoint: He is walking her home.

An important observation is that the progressive is generally incompatible with static situations. This is due to the fact that nondynamic situations cannot be seen as ongoing or in progress (I am liking music, I am having a car.).

There are however some special uses of the progressive with state verbs:

to change a state verb into a dynamic one (You are being naughty = behaving badly).

to indicate a temporary state (He is teaching French this year = he normally teaches another subject).

to refer to an increasing or decreasing trend (Gas is costing a lot these days = it costs more than it used to cost).

to say something politely (I’m not recalling your name, can you give me a clue?).

According to Brinton and Brinton (2010, 127-8), both the meaning and categorization of the perfect (the other periphrasis in English, consisting of have + the past participle) pose difficulties for linguists, but it is widely agreed that the perfect is an aspect category rather than a tense category. It presents the “current relevance” of a past event which is relevant either by its continuation into the present or by its results in the present.

When a state or event that has duration (i.e. that extends over a period of time) is expressed in the perfect, it denotes a situation that began in the past but continues to the present and possibly beyond (e.g. she has stayed for a week). This is called a continuative perfect.

Continuative perfect state habit activity (continuous) activity (iterative)

When an event that is punctual or has a necessary endpoint is expressed in the perfect, it denotes a situation that is completed but has results in the present (e.g. she has opened the door). This is called the resultative perfect.

I have lived here since childhood. She has sung in the choir for ten years. The preacher has talked for the last hour. The child has coughed all night.

Resultative perfect activity with a necessary endpoint punctual event

The table below shows the major ways in which the Present Perfect differs from the Past Tense (Downing and Locke 2006, 362).

I have read the novel. I have lost my keys.

Present Perfect

Past Tense

a. The activity/state is placed in the extended now (a period of time which extends up to speech time.)

Its time-frame is the past, which is viewed as a separate time-frame from that of the present.

b. The event occurs at some indefinite and unspecified time within the extended now. The Present Perfect does not point to a specific time, but relates to a relevant time.

The event is located at a specific and definite time in the past. The Past tense points to a specific time in the past.

As we have seen in 4.4., tense is expressed on the auxiliary verb be or have, thus resulting the following forms:





present progressive








I am reading a novel.



present perfect

past action with results in the present


I have read this novel.

present perfect progressive

action which has been in progress from some moment in the past up to speech time (and possibly beyond).

have been reading a novel for the last hour.


past progressive

action in progress at some moment in the past


was reading a novel at that time.

past perfect

past action with results at some past moment or completed before some past moment

had read that novel before I bought it .


past perfect progressive

action which had been in progress from some moment in the past up to some other past moment closer to speech time

had been reading the novel for an hour before calling her.


future progressive

action in progress at some future moment



will be reading a novel by then.

future perfect

future action with results at some future moment or completed before some future moment

will have read a novel for an hour by then.


future perfect progressive

future action in progress up to a particular event or time in the future; the duration stops at or before a reference point in the future


will have been reading a novel

for an hour by the time she arrives.

Finite verbs, and therefore also finite clauses, are marked for tense. Tensed forms distinguish the present tense (walk, walks) from the past tense (walked); the same applies to the distinction regular verbs - irregular verbs, as in begin - began, go went, etc. There are, nevertheless, irregular verbs which have the same form for the present and past tenses, such as cost, cut, etc. Person and number are marked only on the 3 rd person singular of the present tense indicative (walks, begins) except for the verb be, which has more forms. Tense is also carried by the finite operators. (see 2.4.2.) Mood

Mood is the verbal grammatical category that indicates the way in which the speaker regards his/her message, i.e. whether he/she considers the event fact or nonfact (for example, whether it is intended as a statement of fact, of desire, of command, etc.). This indication is normally realised by verbal inflections.

In both English and Romanian mood is closely related to tense and aspect and the same word patterns are used to express the three grammatical categories at the same time.

If we accept the definition above, then we also have to accept the view that, because mood involves the verbal expression of the speaker‟s attitude, only finite verbs can be assigned to a certain mood. This description is actually very similar to the definition for mood in Romanian grammar provided by Irimia 20 , who argues that the traditional distinction between finite moods non-finite moods 21 is unfounded, as the non-finite forms 22 (the infinitive, gerund, participle, supine) are actually either nonverbal or not exclusively verbal (Irimia 1997, 123).

Akmajian et al. note that “traditional grammars say that a verb is in, for example, the subjunctive mood if it has a certain inflection (verbal morphology) and a sentence is in that mood if its main verb is in that mood;” however, they suggest that moods are best analyzed sententially 23 , as forms with certain conventional communicative functions (2001, 249).

The same authors distinguish between major moods (1. the indicative mood, 2. the imperative mood, 3. the subjunctive mood) and minor moods (1. tag declarative, 2. tag imperative, 3. pseudo-imperative, 4. alternative questions, 5. exclamative, 6. optative, 7. "one more" sentence) 24 .

According to them, there are three major moods in English:

realis/fact mood

the indicative mood

is used to make factual statements or pose questions

irrealis/ nonfact moods



to express a request or command




to show a wish, doubt, or anything else contrary to fact


Minor moods are illustrated by the following examples:

Tag declarative

You've been drinking again, haven't you.

Tag imperative

Leave the room, will you!


Move and/or I'll shoot!

Alternative questions

Does John resemble his father or his mother? (with rising intonation on father and falling intonation on mother)


What a nice day!


May he rest in peace.

"One more" sentence

One more beer and I'll leave.


You pig, bag of wind,


Akmajian et al. point to the fact that the distinction between major and minor mood is not clear-cut; they identify the following features that intuitively characterize minor moods:

are highly restricted in their productivity

are peripheral to communication

are probably low in their relative frequency of occurrence

vary widely across languages." (2001, 249-50)

1. The indicative is the mood of fact, of real situations, that indicates that something is actually the case or actually not the case. It is expressed by the simple and compound tenses of the verb.

20 Modul este o categorie gramaticală prin care se exprimă implicarea subiectului vorbitor în desfășurarea raportului semantic dintre verb (realitate lingvistică) și o acțiune (stare etc.) (realitate extralingvistică), interpretată prin enunțul sintactic obiect al procesului de comunicare(Irimia 1997, 122).

21 În gramatica română se modurile predicative se mai numesc și personale, iar cele nepredicative se numesc și nepersonale.

22 nonfinite verb = a verb form that is not restricted for person, number, and tense, including infinitives, gerunds, and participles (Brinton and Brinton 2010, 406)

23 sentential (adj.) = pertaining to or of the nature of a sentence.

24 The conditional is not normally distinguished as a mood because it does not appear as a morphologically distinct form.

The indicative is the most common mood and is used in factual, objective statements. A verb in the indicative is marked for tense and aspect and in the present tense shows grammatical concord with the subject:

The major nonfact moods - the imperative and the subjunctive - indicate that something is not actually the case or a certain situation or action is not known to have happened.

2. In both English and Romanian, the imperative mood is used to express direct commands. It has a special

syntactic form - it is a subjectless sentence - because a direct command can only occur between the speaker (the 1 st person) and the hearer (the 2 nd person) - see 2.4. and 3.2.

The imperative consists of the bare form of the verb, as in Shut up!, Keep quiet!, Don’t look at me like that!.

In English, there is another imperative with let’s addressed either to the 1 st person plural, to the 1 st person singular and to the 3 rd person, as a kind of suggestion and an imperative with let addressed to the 3rd person.



1 st person


3 rd person





Let me see.

Let’s keep calm.

Let him wait.

Let them see to that.

The Romanian correspondent for this form of the imperative is normally the conjunctive mood.




persoana I

persoana a III-a





(Stai) să văd.

(Hai) să ne păstrăm calmul.

Să aștepte.

(Lasă) să se ocupe el de asta.

Two more forms of the English imperative can be mentioned (2005, 268-9):

Emphatic imperative (Do sit down!)

Passive imperative (Get vaccinated!)

3. The subjunctive expresses wishes, desires, requests, warnings, prohibitions, predictions, possibilities, and

contrary-to-fact occurrences. It occurs only rarely in main clauses in English today, especially in the form of set formulas such as far be it from me, so be it, suffice it to say, come what may , be that as it may, Long live the Queen! God forgive you! Curse this day! etc.

The subjunctive is includes verb forms that are mainly used in dependent clauses (conditional clauses, that- clauses, etc.). The subjunctive form of a verb often coincides with a corresponding indicative form, such as bare infinitive, present tense, past tense and past perfect indicative.

Subjunctive forms

English has synthetic and analytical subjunctive forms. The synthetic subjunctive is identical in form with the past simple and the past perfect of the indicative, and the difference between these two forms lies in their time reference:



time reference

present subjunctive

I wish you told me the truth.

present or future

past subjunctive

I wish you had told me the truth.


Be is the only verb which has a special present subjunctive form were, which is used for all persons:

If I were you, I wouldn’t go in there.

The present subjunctive expresses wishes, possibility, uncertainty present unreality, i.e. actions contrary to present fact:

after it’s time

It’s time we went back.

after the verb wish

I wish you were here.

in conditional clauses

If he had been asked, he would have come.

in concessive clauses

Even though she apologized, I would not forgive her.

in comparative clauses

He treats her as if she were a child.

The analytical/periphrastic subjunctive expresses unreality by means of a variety of modal auxiliaries + infinitive:

shall/should + infinitive

They decided that we should be there before 9.


may/might + infinitive

We stepped carefully for fear we might slip and fall.


would + infinitive

I wish it would get warmer.


could + infinitive












The analytical subjunctive should + infinitive is used after adjectives, verbs and nouns that express a wish, a suggestion, a desire, etc.:

after it is/was + adjective (crucial, necessary, essential, natural, surprising, odd, absurd, strange, urgent)

It is crucial that they should finish the project.








He suggested that we should call her without delay.

propose, recommend, require, suggest:

after the nouns suggestion, proposal, idea, wish, recommendation, desire:

My proposal is was that she should vote today.

in purpose clauses


I finished the presentation earlier so that everybody should get to the meeting in time.

in negative purpose clauses after lest in expressions of fear

She was moving carefully lest they should wake up.



(the action is unlikely to

If Jack should call, tell him I’ll get back to him.


The analytical subjunctive may/might + infinitive is used in the following contexts:

after the verbs order, request, desire:

He ordered that they might be ready at once.

after expressions of fear

I’m afraid he may sack me.

in clauses of purpose

She gave me his number so that I might call him.

in clauses of concession

No matter how hard he may try, he’ll never win their trust back.

More traditional grammars recognize a fourth major mood, the conditional which occurs in independent clauses by means of the modal auxiliary would + the bare infinitive of the main verb, as in I would come, but I'm very busy.

The conditional mood is more frequently used in the main clause of conditional sentences to render open and closed conditions.


main clause

if-clause (introduced by if, unless, in case)


present conditional (would + verb)

present synthetic subjunctive


I would join you on the trip

if I had time.


past conditional

past synthetic subjunctive



would+have+past participle 25 )

I would have joined you on the trip

if I had had time. Voice

25 would + have + past participle is the structure of the bare perfect infinitive.

Voice is traditionally considered a grammatical category of the verb, but it is actually relevant to the entire sentence, because it indicates the semantic role of the subject. Thus, the subject is an agent (the doer of the action) in active voice and a patient (the person or thing acted upon) in the passive voice.

In both English and Romanian, the passive voice is expressed periphrastically.

English: A wonderful message was sent to her (by John).

Romanian: Un mesaj minunat i-a fost trimis (de către John) 26 .

The English canonical passive voice the be-passive - has the following structure:



past participle of verb

(by-PpP containing the agent)



A wonderful message was sent to her (by John).

Another passive form in English is the get-passive (get + past participle of verb), as in He gets paid every two weeks (by his employers).

The difference between the be-passive and the get-passive is that the former focuses on the result, while the latter focuses on the action bringing about the result.

A construction which is passive in meaning is get/have something done. It describes two types of situations:

1. when we want someone else to do something for us, as in I must get/have my hair cut. (= my hair must be

cut by somebody)

2. when the verb refers to something negative/unwanted, as in She had his flat broken into last night. (= her

flat was broken into)

With this construction, the focus is on the result of the activity, not on the person or object that performs the activity.

In the same way, the construction something/somebody needs doing has a passive meaning, as in The walls need

painting (= the walls need to be painted).

The focus here is on the person or thing that will experience the action.

In the passive, the logical subject/ the agent moves out of the position of grammatical subject and goes to the

by-PpP. Nonetheless, the by-PpP is commonly omitted in the passive, especially when it brings no relevant information or when the doer of the action is unknown or unimportant.

Brinton and Brinton (2010, 321) notice a form which is called notional passive (a sentence which is active

in form but passive in meaning) and exemplify it with sentences such as:

The shirt washes easily. = „the shirt is easily washed‟

These oranges peel easily. = „these oranges are easily peeled‟

The cake should cook slowly. = „the cake should be slowly cooked‟

Notional passives usually contain a manner adverb and differ from regular passives in that they occur without explicit agents and, moreover, there is never even an implicit agent (these oranges peel easily by you).

26 The Romanian word order is much freer, so that the version I-a fost trimis un mesaj minunat (de către John) is not only possible, but even more probable.


Exercise 5.1 Noun suffixes

Convert the following words into nouns by adding noun suffixes and making any other consequent changes. Some words may take more than one noun suffix.











*Exercise 5.2 Noun classes Construct two sentences for each of the following nouns. Use the noun in the (a) sentence as a count noun and the noun in the (b) sentence as a non-count noun.

1. beer

3. sound



2. beauty

4. sugar

Exercise 5.3 Number

Supply the plural form for each of the singular nouns listed below.


1. analysis

3. criterion



2. thief

4. deer

Exercise 5.4 Dependent and independent genitives

Specify whether the underlined genitives are dependent or independent by putting „D‟ or „I‟ in the brackets that follow each genitive.

1. In a recent poll 48 per cent of Americans thought that Japan‟s ( ) economy is bigger than America‟s ( ).

2. The British government‟s ( ) £50 billion sale of state-owned housing is going at a snail‟s ( ) pace.

*Exercise 5.5 Dependent and independent genitives Construct two sentences for each of the following genitives. Use the genitive in the (a) sentence as a dependent genitive and in the (b) sentence as an independent genitive.

1. the neighbours‟

2. Russia‟s

Exercise 5.6 Verb suffixes

Convert the following words into verbs by adding verb suffixes and making any consequent changes. Some words may take more than one verb suffix.









Exercise 5.7 Classes of irregular verbs

Give the three principal parts for each of these irregular verbs.











Exercise 5.8 Adjective suffixes

Convert the following words into adjectives by adding adjective suffixes and making any consequent changes. Some words may have more than one adjective suffix.

1. style

2. cycle

3. wish

4. allergy

*Exercise 5.9 Adjective classes Construct three sentences for each of the following central adjectives. Use the adjective in

the (a) sentence as a pre-modifier of a noun, in the (b) sentence as a subject complement, and in the (c) sentence as an object complement.

1. useful

2. foolish

3. difficult

Exercise 5.10 Gradability and comparison

Give the inflected comparative and superlative of each of these adjectives.

1. pure

2. cruel

3. easy

4. narrow

5. happy

5.13 Adverb suffixes

Convert the following words into adverbs by adding - ly or - ically and making any consequent changes.

1. genetic

2. realistic

3. lazy

4. specific

Exercise 5.14 Pronoun classes Circle the antecedents of the underlined pronouns and possessive determiners.

1. Scientists have discovered that pets have a therapeutic effect on their owners.

2. A dog, for instance, can improve the health of the people it comes in contact with.

3. In a recent study, the blood pressure of subjects was measured while they were petting their


4. In general, an individual‟s blood pressure decreased while he was in the act of petting his pet.

Exercise 5.15 Personal pronouns Specify the person (first, second, or third), number (singular or plural), and case (subjective or objective) of the underlined personal pronouns. If the pronoun has a form that neutralizes the

distinction in number or case, state the alternatives, and if only one of the alternatives fits the context underline that alternative.

1. Most of us don‟t have the time to exercise for an hour each day.

2. We have our hearts in the right place, though.

3. I think „diet‟ is a sinister word.

4. It sounds like deprivation.

5. But people who need to lose weight find that they need to lose only half the weight if they

exercise regularly.

Exercise 5.16 Possessives

Indicate whether the underlined words are possessive determiners or possessive pronouns.

1. Can you tell me your address?


This is Doris and this is her husband David.

4. Justin borrowed one of my videos, but I can‟t remember its title.

Exercise 5.17 Reflexive pronouns Fill in each blank with the appropriate reflexive pronoun.


We congratulated

on completing the job in good time.



have arranged the meeting.


I wonder, Tom, whether you wouldn‟t mind helping


I hope that you all enjoy

Exercise 5.18 Demonstrative pronouns

Specify whether the underlined word is a demonstrative pronoun or a demonstrative determiner.


This happens to be the best meal I‟ve eaten in quite a long time.


Put away those papers.


That is not the way to do it.


You‟ll have to manage with these for the time being.

Exercise 5.19 Relative pronouns Indicate whether the underlined clause is a relative clause or a nominal relative clause.

1. We could see whoever we wanted.

2. They spoke to the official who was working on their case.

3. This is the bank I‟m hoping to borrow some money from.

4. You can pay what you think is appropriate.

Exercise 5.20 Pronouns Indicate whether the underlined pronouns are personal, possessive, reflexive, demonstrative, reciprocal, interrogative, relative, or indefinite.

1. Nobody has ever seen a unicorn.

2. I intend to collect beetles.

3. What do you want me to do?

4. He can resist everything except temptation.

5. She did it all by herself.

Exercise 5.21 Indefinite pronouns

Indicate whether the underlined determiners are definite articles, indefinite articles, demonstratives, possessives, interrogatives, relatives, or indefinites.

1. His parents would not let him see the video.

2. Many applicants were given an interview.

3. Whose shoes are those?

4. What plans have you made for the weekend?

Exercise 5.22 The articles and reference

Indicate whether the underlined phrases are generic or non-generic.

1. There is no such beast as a unicorn.

2. The train is late again.


Teachers are poorly paid in this country.

5. He came on a small market where women were selling dried beans.

Exercise 5.23 The articles and reference Indicate whether the underlined phrases are specific or non-specific.


Can you find me a book on English grammar?


Here is a book on English grammar.


I‟d like a strawberry ice cream.


He says he hasn‟t any stamps.


Who is the woman you were talking to at lunch?

Exercise 5.24 Meanings of the modals Paraphrase the meanings of the underlined modals in the sentences below.

1. If you hit volleys like this you will have lots of success.

2. In addition to the basic volley, you may have to play half-volleys.

3. If played badly, a half-volley can have drastic consequences.

4. The grip must be firm on impact.

5. Although you can use a two-handed volley, the major disadvantage is one of reach.

*Exercise 5.25 Meanings of the modals Explain the ambiguity of the underlined modals in the following sentences by paraphrasing the different meanings.

1. They may not smoke during the meal.

2. Could you explain these figures to the tax inspector?

*Exercise 5.26 Conjunctions Examine the sentences below. Then explain the differences in the uses of the coordinators (and and or) and the subordinator when

1. The election was held last month, and the government was decisively defeated.

2. The election will be held in June or in July.

3. I intend to travel where I like and when I like.

Exercise 5.26 Prepositions Indicate whether the underlined words are subordinators or prepositions by putting „S‟ or „P‟ in the brackets that follow each word. While ( ) he developed the theory of special relativity in ( ) about 1905, Albert Einstein lived with ( ) a fellow student of physics who became his first wife. Some researchers believe that ( ) his wife Mileva should get at least some of the credit for ( ) the theory, since ( ) there are letters from ( ) Einstein to her that refer to „our work‟ and „our theory‟.

Exercise 5.27 Word classes

At the end of each sentence you will find a label for a word class. Underline all the words in the sentence that belong to that word class.

1. It is remarkably difficult to define what literature is. main verb


Other definitions say that it is language used for the purpose of pleasing aesthetically.


4. However, some critics have shown convincingly that the two definitions are necessarily

connected. adverbs