Grammar – Definition & Concept
Grammar, in simple terms is defined as the rules and regulations that govern or manage the formation of words, phrases, clauses and sentences of any language. When we study these rules for the English language, it is known as English Grammar.
Grammar can also be Defined as the study of morphology, syntax, and phonology of the language. It may be also defined as the body of rules the govern the structure if a language.
Morphology studies the way in which morphemes join to form meaningful words.
Syntax studies the way the sequences of words are ordered into phrases, clauses, and sentences.
Phonology studies the elementary speech sounds.
Thus, grammar is a set of constraints on the possible sequences of symbols expressed as a system of rules and principles for speaking and writing a language. The study of the internal structure of words (morphology) and the use of words in the construction of phrases, clauses, and sentences (syntax).
Fundamental Units of Language
There are five main units of grammatical structure: morpheme, word, phrase, clause, and sentence. A morpheme is the smallest unit. It is defined as the smallest meaningful unit that can not be further broken into meaningful constituents.
Morphemes join to form a word. Phrase and clause are groups of words. While phrase does not have subject and predicate, the clause does have its own subject and predicate.The sentence is also an ordered string of words that convey some meaning. It must have subject and predicate.
In a sentence, Ali sings, Ali is subject and sings is a predicate. All these things will be discussed later as separate topics.
Note that what is described above is called traditional grammar. The subject, predicate, etc are called grammatical functions. Parts-of-speech such as verb, noun, the adjective is called grammatical categories or word classes.
A fourth aspect of language includes semantics, the study meaning of words and the combination of the words into phrases, sentences, and larger linguistic units.
While there are many variants of the language still in use, we here will discuss the grammatical aspects of the British English language, and readers should expect minor changes from one variant to another.
The study of English Grammar is broadly classified into the following major units, which we will learn separately in each section:
- Parts of Speech
- Applications of the Verb
- Articles and Determiners
Parts of Speech
The study of grammar begins with the eight different Parts of Speech, which are Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, Prepositions, Interjections and Conjunctions. They can be explained as follows:
A Noun is a Part of Speech that conveys the name of a person, place, living or nonliving thing, collection, idea, quality, etc.
- Raj is one of the studious kids of the Jadhavpur (Person, Place)
- You’ve picked the wrong horse, mate. (Living thing)
- Could you please pass the bowl? (Non-living thing)
- It was the longest flight of stairs I had ever seen. (Collection)
- The serenity of his place impressed the guest. (Intangible thing)
Any form of a name is a noun. In the subsequent sections we will study various types of nouns and their usage in sentences.
A Pronoun is a part of a speech that is used instead of a noun, to refer to that particular noun. Pronouns are primarily of three types (first, second and third person pronouns). Since pronouns refer to a noun, it is sometimes necessary for the noun to be mentioned once in the conversation or paragraph. For example:
- Raj is one of the studious kids of the Jadhavpur branch. We expect a good performance from (pronoun ‘him’ replacing noun ‘Raghav’)
- You’ve picked the wrong horse, mate. He is limping already. (pronoun ‘he’ replacing noun ‘horse’)
- Could you please pass the bowl? It’s out of my reach. (pronoun ‘it’ replacing noun ‘bowl’)
- This is the longest flight of stairs I have ever seen. (pronoun ‘I’ referring to the speaker)
We will study the different types of pronouns using these examples, and many others.
An Adjective is a part of speech that describes a noun or a pronoun. Some examples include:
- Raj is one of the studious kids of the Jadhavpur branch. We expect a good performance from him.
- This is the longest flight of stairs I have ever seen.
- We wish that your time here be
- The video footage was dismissed as circumstantial
We learn the usage of adjectives and their types in a separate section.
Unlike other parts of speech, a verb is a necessary part of every sentence. A verb is used to determine various aspects like the subject-predicate, tense, speech, voice, etc. A verb is that part of speech that describes any form of action or being of the noun. Some examples:
- We wish that your time here be
- The video footage was dismissed as circumstantial evidence.
- You’ve picked the wrong horse, mate. He is limping
- Could you please pass the bowl? It is out of my reach.
An Adverb is a part of speech that describes or provides additional information about a verb, adjective or another adverb. Some examples include:
- Please read the offer documents (Adverb ‘carefully’ of the verb ‘read’)
- He was mildly amused to hear from you. (Adverb ‘mildly’ of the adjective ‘amused’)
- She works unusually fast towards the end of the workday. (Adverb ‘unusually’ describing another adverb ‘fast’)
Adverbs are essential during casual writing, as they take up most of the description of the subject matter in that case.
A Preposition is that part of speech that connects other parts of speech, mainly a noun and a verb, two nouns/pronouns, etc.
- You may sign against your name here.
- She works unusually fast towards the end of the workday.
- He was mildly amused to hear from
A Conjunction is a part of speech joining two or more nouns, pronouns or complete sentences. Some examples include:
- A Conjunction is a part of speech joining two or more nouns, pronouns, or complete sentences.
- I request you to speed up the delivery because it will soon be peak traffic hours.
- This act is not only unconstitutional but also
An Interjection is an unusual display of emotion or remark that breaks the usual flow of written speech. Interjections are usually followed (there are exceptions) by an exclamation mark (!) and precede the rest of the sentence.
- Gee, thanks! You’ve excellent observatory skills, mister.
- Oh dear! The deadline has passed.
- Yikes, I did not see that coming.
Applications of the Verb
The rest of the study of English Grammar is based on the verb. Since they’re present in every sentence of the verb, they can be consistently used to determine various aspects of the sentence.
Tense of the Sentence
The verb(s) of the sentence can help us in determining the tense of the sentence. The verb forms are altered to adjust to the tense of the speech.
- We follow the instructions carefully. (Simple present)
- I am following the cab with the broken mirror. (Present Continuous)
- I have followed you all the way here. (Present Perfect)
- Have you been following us all the time? (Present Perfect Continuous)
There are three major tenses according to the verb of the sentence. If the verb refers to the same time as the statement is made (an activity or occurrence has happened/is happening now) (now, today, generally, as we speak, etc.) then the verb is in the present tense. If the verb refers to a time before (an activity or occurrence happened/was happening before) the statement is made (yesterday, many years ago, long back, before) then the verb is in the past tense. If the verb refers to a time after (an activity or occurrence will happen/will be happening soon/later) the statement is made (tomorrow, thereafter, upcoming, etc.) then the verb is in the future tense.
Based on the form of the verb, the tense of a sentence can be in the Past, Present or Future tense, each having four subtypes like the example above.
Voice of the Sentence
The verb(s) of a sentence determines the voice of a sentence. Here, active voice is where the subject is the executioner of the verb, while passive voice is where the subject is the recipient of the verb.
- We expect you to complete the assignments on time. (Active Voice)
- You are expected (by us) to complete the assignments on time. (Passive Voice)
The voice of a sentence is altered for smooth reading of formal conversations.
Speech of the Sentence
Though it is the punctuation that reveals us the nature of speech of a sentence, verbs are equally important.
- He said to the newcomer, “Will you be joining us?” (Direct Speech)
- He asked the newcomer if he was joining them. (Indirect Speech)
Phrases and Clauses
The presence of a verb can help us distinguish between a phrase and a clause. Phrases are those which do not have a subject and don’t have a definite predicate (unless it is a verb phrase). A clause will have a subject and a verb and can act like a standalone sentence, or may need another standalone clause.
- He performed brilliantly. (Independent clause)
- He performed so brilliantly that the audience was left dumbstruck. (Dependent clause)
- He performed at the south side auditorium. (Preposition phrase)
Subject and Object of a Verb
The verb of a sentence determines which of the other words or parts of speech of any sentence is the subject and the object. In any sentence, the part that performs the action (of the verb) or whose state of being is explained by the verb is the subject. In most of the sentences, the subject is mentioned and can be easily identified. The object of the sentence is the part that the verb refers to. The object is the recipient of the verb, and is the one the subject is mentioning about.
- Amardeep has difficulty in recognising transitive and intransitive verbs. (Subject)
- You and I have to keep completing the assignments on time. (Subject)
- I enjoyed the picnic (Object)
- You and I have to keep completing the assignments on time. (Object)
Articles and Determiners
The Parts of Speech are also known as word classes. Amongst these word classes, we have one more word class, (not mentioned above)  called Determiners. Determiners are those that help phrases refer to each other, and may occur with nouns or noun phrases.
What can a determiner be?
It can be an article. For example:
- This is a reminder for the activity needed to be submitted by Tuesday.
- We might need an umbrella today.
- Why don’t you grab that aisle seat for me? (Also called definitive article)
It can be a possessive pronoun.
- Did you throw my sandwich in the trash?
- They needed their A game to survive the knockouts.
It can be a quantifier.
- Every student of that batch had an offer by the end of the year.
- A lot of the books delivered had missing pages.
It can be an interrogative.
- Which one of you took the book from this drawer?
- Whose equipment is this?
Punctuation in Grammar
Punctuation is the set of guidelines that govern the usage of special characters like the comma (,), apostrophe (‘), single quotes (‘…’), question mark (?), exclamation mark (!), colons (:), (;) double quotes (“…”), etc.
We have already seen the double quotes being used in direct speech, and exclamation mark used in interjections. We will see more of each in the following sections.
Thus, these units together complete the study of English Grammar. We expect readers to understand the usage of these rules and regulations across various forms of writing, both casual and professional.
 Determiners, except articles are generally different parts of speech, like pronouns, prepositions etc. and thus their existence as a separate part of speech is still debated.