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An animated description of basic sentence


structure
with some notation

A collection of interesting variations


with some terminology

A grammatical treasure hunt


in seven extracts

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Grammar joke
The Owl and the Pussycat
Oliver Twist
Directgov: vehicle taxation
A grammarian's funeral (Browning)
The Sun: Blues warned off Kaka move
Northern Ireland Transcribed Corpus of
Speech

verb dependents
Has a tense

make
made
verb

subject

object

babies
noun
S

dependents
predicative
parents
noun
happy
word
O

P
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A verb with just one word as its subject and


no O or P or other dependent.
1: He arrives, and,

A sentence containing the verb BE three


times, with adjective or place adverb as P.
6: But signing Kaka is impossible, because he is
here at AC Milan and will be here until the end of
his career.

make
verb
S
noun
babies

P
parents
noun

adverb
often

word
happy
with
preposition
noun
smiles

A verb modified by a monosyllabic adverb


standing immediately before it.
4: Vehicles that are exempt from vehicle tax still
need to display a tax disc.

A verb with S, O and a following modifier,


each of which is just one word.
2: So they took it away, and were married next
day

make
verb
S

noun
babies
adjective
healthy

P
parents
noun

word
happy

preposition
with
the normal range of baby behaviour such as ..

S
P
O

Healthy babies with normal behaviour make parents happy.

S
P
O

Healthy babies with normal behaviour make parents happy.

noun phrase
clause

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Healthy babies with normal behaviour make parents happy.

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A phrase is a group of words that depend


on one word.
That word is the phrases head.

The phrase can be classified according to its head


e.g. noun phrase, preposition phrase

A phrase headed by a verb is called a


clause.

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no + adj + noun + preposition + the +


noun
3: which I need not trouble myself to repeat,
inasmuch as it can be of no possible
consequence to the reader

Nouns contrasted only by their preceding


adjectives and by this/that.
5: That low man seeks a little thing to do, /
Sees it and does it:/ This high man, with
a great thing to pursue, / Dies ere he knows it.
(x 2)
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make
verb
S
noun
babies

P
parents
noun

happy

adjective

adults

noun

into adults

preposition

cry

verb

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Predicative = a noun modified by a


preposition
3: it remained a matter of considerable doubt

Predicative = a noun modified by an


adjective
4: If youre a disabled person,

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seem

We

P
S

to have
P
been
P

trying
P
to start
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A chain of three verbs: verb + not + verb +


verb
6: Kaka will not be heading to Stamford Bridge

A chain of three verbs where the third verb


does not have the same subject as the
others
7: I know I've heard tell,

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Subject-auxiliary inversion
Auxiliary contraction
Topicalisation
Subject delay
Postposing
Extraposition

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is
S
He
Verbs like is:
But NOT:

P
he

ready.

BE, HAVE, WILL, CAN, DO, ..


GET, BECOME, TRY,

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Because it could be negative:


He

ready.
isnt
is
he ready?

Isnt
SoIs
we focus on truth.
Is he ready? = Is it true that hes ready?

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inverted aux + S = if
5: That, has the world here should he need the
next,/ Let the world mind him!

ungrammatical inverted non-aux + S


So, with the throttling hands of death at strife,/
Ground he at grammar;

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sis
S

It
Contractable:

mine.
Most finite (past/present) auxiliaries

Purpose: to show lack of formality.

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A matter of degree, not all or none.


We can contract some contractable
auxiliaries without contracting all of them.
Project: count contracted auxiliaries

as percentage of all contractables.


very good for practicing grammatical analysis!

Contraction is an issue in students own


writing.

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A text where all contractable auxils are


contracted
5: hundreds |heres |heres|heres

A text where some auxils are contracted


and some arent.

1: he cant | cabbie is | I have |jokeologists


have
4: that are |disk is |that will |youre |footways
will
6: Milan have |Scolari is |Phil has| Kaka will not
| Its |Kaka is | he is

A contracted auxiliary with an object


7: he hadnt even a bicycle

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rained

It

yesterday

topic

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A verb that has two topics


2: And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon

A topic 29 words long


3: Among other public buildings in a certain
town, which for many reasons it will be
prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to
which I will assign no fictitious name, there is

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So do I.
No way am I going to
Not only did he
Only once did he
At no point did he

formality
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so + inverted aux + S
7: the North Sea's bound to come to an end,
sooner or later, and so's the Arab places

negative topic + inverted aux + S


1: but never once have I heard it asked for

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sailed
S
aitneat little into
yacht
the harbour

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A simple adverb + subject delay

5: heres the platform, heres the proper place


heres the top-peak

A prepositional phrase + subject delay

3: in this workhouse was born; on a day and


date which I need not trouble myself to repeat,
inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence
to the reader, in this stage of the business at all
events; the item of mortality

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Here comes your bus.


There are my gloves.
In the corner is an old oak tree.
In the corner stands an old oak tree.
From this observation arises another
concern.

formality
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put
S
We

O
it into the box
a bag

of jewels that we had found up


the chimney

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A postposed O following a preposition


phrase
2: 'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one
shilling / Your ring?'

A postposed O following a simple adverb


1: you have brought home the punchline

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arrived
S
a letter
from the bank

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An extraposed preposition phrase


2: a Piggy-wig stood / With a ring at the end
of his nose

An extraposed relative clause that


4: A free tax disc is issued that will need to
be renewed each year.

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surprises
S
that he came
It so late

O
me

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Three examples of an extraposed clause


after it

3: which for many reasons it will be prudent to


refrain from mentioning
3: it remained a matter of considerable doubt
whether the child would survive
3: it is somewhat more than probable that these
memoirs would never have appeared

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Focus on finiteness and truth


subject-auxiliary inversion

Put topic early, because its already in the


hearers mind.
topicalisation

Put heavy material late, to give the hearer


time to process it.
subject delay, postposing, extraposition

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This slideshow is available at:


www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/talks.ht
m#alel
For more on grammar in teaching:

www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/education.ht
m#strategy

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