Grammar as a guiding rule

Knowing formal categories such as the Classes and Parts of Speech will give learners clues as to how words are used correctly.

FOR years, words and word groups that perform a similar function or role in the English language have been placed together into distinct categories that are often referred to as Classes of Speech. While this has also been an academic pursuit, the outcome has been that people have been able to communicate with greater accuracy and understanding.

The most important categories or classes are called Parts of Speech. In English, there are eight traditional Parts of Speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction and interjection.

Words belonging to these different Parts of Speech categories all perform the same, distinct role that usually can be readily distinguished. For example, when a word is the name of someone or something, it is easily recognised as a noun. Other words that depict an action are classed as verbs.

Other Classes of Speech and grammatical terminology that will be encountered in this column series include: affix, anagram, antonym, article, auxiliary, case, clause, connective, demonstrative, descriptive, determiner, exclamation, gerund, infix, mood, particle, participle, phrase, prefix, proverb, punctuation, suffix, synonym, tense and voice.

Consideration is also given to the fact that many of the various Classes of Speech can be further defined into sub-categories that are more specific and exacting in grouping words according to their special characteristics or more precise purpose.

For example, nouns can be put into the sub-categories of proper nouns, common nouns, collective nouns and abstract nouns. They can also be distinguished according to their gender and number.

A general characteristic of the English language is that words can be related. From a grammatical aspect, this “relationship” pertains mainly to their function and their meaning.

Having a detailed, practical knowledge of the Classes of Speech – especially the eight traditional Parts of Speech – is advantageous particularly when one is endeavouring to use alternative words and phrases to raise the quality or significance of a comment.

by Keith Wright, author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S)

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