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COMMUNICATION &

PRESENTATION SKILLS
Grammatical Pitfalls

OUTLINE

I. WHAT IS GRAMMAR?

II. THE FOUR SKILLS & THE KNOWLEDGE


BASE

III. SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION : BASIC


SYNTACTIC PATTERNS

IV. GRAMMATICAL PITFALLS

I. WHAT IS GRAMMAR?
1.Grammar as a book of rules: formal;
explicit; external; pedagogical; prescriptive
2. Grammar as a system of rules which
speakers use: informal; tacit; internalized;
human child as a grammarian
3. Linguists Grammar: explicit & formal
description of how people use language

Traditionally, grammar = syntax


In Modern Linguistics,
Grammar = system of language
Language is structured at different levels:
Sounds -- Phonology
Words -- Morphology
Sentences Syntax
Meanings -- Semantics

II. THE FOUR SKILLS &


THE KNOWLEDGE BASE

SENDING: SPEAKING & WRITING


RECEIVING: LISTENING & READING

The required KNOWLEDGE BASE consists of


(a) Lexical knowledge
(b) Grammatical/Syntactic knowledge
(c) Rules of Discourse (linkining sentences) &
(d) Rules of Pragmatics (social context: when
to say, what, where, when, etc.)

Lexical Knowledge

Knowledge of words:
Pronunciation (speaking): phonology
Spelling (writing): orthography
Word-formation: morphology (prefix, suffix)
Part of Speech: grammar/syntax
Meaning: semanitcs

Lexical Knowledge:
Parts of Speech

Nouns
Pronouns
Adjectives
Verbs
Adverbs
Prepositions
Conjunctions
Interjections

Parts of Speech: Nouns


Nouns: What is the grammatical difference
between these two columns?
biscuit
sugar
chair
space
year
time
table
furniture
rupee
money

Nouns

Which phrase will you use before them?


Too much
or
too many?
Will you say the following:
*I ate too much biscuits.
*I ate too many sugars.

Nouns are COUNTABLE or

UNCOUNTABLE

Nouns: plural nouns


But what about the following nouns?
jeans, trousers, scissors, glasses
Do they have a singular form?
Can you use a before them?
Notice that in English, you have to use
a pair of before them

plural nouns
What about the following nouns?
police, cattle, people, personnel
(a) Do they have plural forms?
(b) Can we use the singular form of the verb?
The police are/is investigating the matter.
Skilled personnel are/is not available.

singular nouns
Do nouns like babble (a confused
sound), fillip (a push) have plural forms
or are necessarily singular?
There was a babble of voices
A drop in the interest rates gave a
welcome fillip to the housing market.

Adjectives
Most adjectives can be used before a
noun:
The tall person
And also in the predicate of a sentence:
The person is tall.

Attributive adjectives

But what about adjecitves such as


main, indoor, sunken
a main road
an indoor stadium
a sunken ship
Now, try to use them in a predicate, and
you will get ungrammatical sentences.
Such adjectives are called attributive.

Predicative adjectives
Now, look at adjectives such as asleep,
rife
Children are asleep.
Corruption is rife (=widespread) in this
country.
try to use them before a noun, and you get
ungrammatical sentences.

Verbs:
transitive & intransitive

Compare:
She drives fast. INTRANSITIVE
She drives a fast car. TRANSITIVE
She gave me a book. DITRANSITIVE
(INDIRECT & DIRECT OBJECTS)

Note that passive constructions are not


possible with intransitive.

Verbs:
stative & dynamic
Most verbs in English can be used in the
progressive/continuous tenses:
I listen to music.
Im listening to music.
But, can we use the verb hear in the
continuous tenses?
I hear a sound.

stative & dynamic verbs


Continuous tenses are NOT possible with
(a) verbs of perception and appearance:
notice, perceive, see, hear, taste, seem,
appear, resemble
(b) verbs of belief and knowledge: believe,
regard, suppose
(c) verbs of emotion and desire: like,
love,respect, dislike, fear
(d) modal auxiliaries: can, may, shall, will

III. SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION


SIMPLE: one main clause: The lecture is boring.
COMPLEX: one main clause and one or many
subordinate clauses connected by subordinating
conjunctions like when, since, because:
The lecture is boring because it is very slow.
COMPOUND: more than one main clause, linked
by the coordinating conjunctions and, or, but :
The lecture is boring but we have to attend it.

Basic Patterns of the


Simple Sentence

Subj Vb : Mohan laughed.


S V Adjunct : Mohan laughed loudly.
S V Complement : Mohan is a teacher.
S V Complement A: Mohan is a teacher in
a municipal school.
S V Obj : Mohan wrote a letter.
S V Objindir Objdir : Mohan wrote Meena a
letter.
S V O A : Mohan wrote a letter in the morning.

ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VOICE


CONSTRUCTIONS
Applies only to TRANSITIVE VERBS i.e. verbs
which demand an object
Active: A rich family built this house.
A rich family built
this house.
S
MV-tensepast
O

=>
Passive: The house was built by a rich family.
The house was
built
by a rich family.
S
be-tensepast MV-en
by-NP

When to use the passive


1. when the ACTION is more important than the
doer/agent/subject: The house was built in 2000 (by a
rich family);

2. the doer/agent may be unimportant or may be


unknown or may be too well-known;
3. more often used in academic and scientific
writing because it produces an impersonal and
formal effect: This was done. (rather than) I/we
did it.

When NOT to use the passive


1. when the agent/doer has to be
emphasized;
2. certain verbs appear to be transitive but
are actually verbs of incomplete
predication: become, resemble, lack, have
He became a teacher.
She resembles her mother.
He lacks politeness.
They have a nice house.

IV. Grammatical Pitfalls


1. incomplete/fragmentary sentences
2. no agreement between subject and verb
3. problems with the forms of the verb
to be
4. errors in parallel constructions
5. use of pronouns
6. use of collective nouns

Grammatical pitfalls
1. incomplete/fragmentary sentences
(a)All sentences must have
SUBJECT & VERB
(Imperative sentences have an implied
subject.)
(b) Sentences with transitive verbs must have
SUBJECT, VERB & OBJECT
(c) Sentences with verbs of incomplete
predication must have
SUBJECT, VERB & COMPLEMENT
(d) Complex sentences must have a main clause

1.

incomplete/fragmentary sentences:
examples

*At the beginning of the process. (no subj,


n verb)
*May be carefully examined. (no subj)
*The calculations, for the most part. (no
verb)
*They sent. (trans verb without an obj)
*They are. (no complement)
*When we started. (no main clause)

Grammatical pitfalls
2. no agreement between subject and verb
NOTICE that in English particular attention
needs to be given to the verb forms only in
the PRESENT TENSE and in the THIRD
PERSON SINGULAR (gender does not
play a role in English syntax):
I/We/You/They conduct an experiment.
He/She/It conducts and experiment.

In the Past Tense there is only one form (ed) conducted for all the persons and
numbers.
The only exceptional verb is to be.

2. no agreement between subject and verb:


examples
One of the books *were (=> was) lost.
Neither Mohan nor Raja *are (=> is) able to do
the job.
The information and the picture*is (=>are)
interesting.
[Note the following pairs of sing & pl forms:
datum-data
alumnus-alumni,
criterion-criteria
medium-media
memorandum-memoranda]

Grammatical pitfalls
3. Problems with the verb to be

finite forms: am, is, are, were


non-finite forms: be/to be, being, been
SINGULAR
PRESENT
PAST

PLURAL
PRESENT
PAST

I am
I was
We are We were
You are You are You were You were
He
He
She is They are... She was They were...
It
It

Grammatical pitfalls
4. errors in parallel constructions
*We made two suggestions: a. the
purchase of laptops and b. add a scanner.
What is wrong with this sentence?

Correction:
=> We made two suggestions: a. the
purchase of laptops and b. the addition of
a scanner.
OR
=> We made two suggestions: a.
purchase laptops and b. add a scanner.

Grammatical pitfalls
5. use of pronouns
The members of the committee informed
all the organizations that they had did not
have time to consider the matter
thoroughly.
What does the pronoun they refer to? the
members or the organizations?

Note that indefinite pronouns such as


each, either, everyone, anyone are treated
as singular:
Neither of them is correct.
Everyone is coming.
Is anyone absent?

Grammatical pitfalls
6. use of collective nouns
Nouns like series, variety, combination,
couple are mostly viewed as a single unit
and therefore a single form of the verb is
used (collective singular):
The series demonstrates that

Note that generally, plurals of quantity take


a singular form of the verb:
Twenty percent is not a good response.
Five hundred rupees is a high price.