ENGLISH IS A GERMANIC LANGUAGE OF THE INDO-EUROPEAN FAMILY. It is the language of the Anglo-Saxon world, as well as the lingua franca of the globalized age.
A COMPLETE SENTENCE contains the subject (S) plus a predicate (P) containing a verb (V). Sometimes, a linking verb connects the subject with a predicate adjective, for example:
S + P
I feel hot.
Quite often, however, the predicate contains an object (O):
S + V + O
I like you
You like me
Every sentence must have a verb connected to the subject, as well as a sense of time... (For more details on verbs, )
An interesting feature of English is the dummy subject. It is possible to have multiple subjects ("Seals and walruses live near the North Pole"), and it is possible to have multiple objects too.
Thanks to the principle of recursion, clauses inside a sentence can have their own subjects and objects, and can function as adjectives, adverbs, and nouns.
Nouns are one of the building blocks of the sentence. They refer to people, places, and things (including ideas). The noun could be the subject of the sentence (such as "I"), the object of the sentence ("me") or an abstract concept such as "happiness". English seems to have adopted the French style of inflecting nouns for number (by adding the morpheme "s" to the end), although there are also a large number of irregular nouns dating from the Germanic era... (For more details on nouns, )
Adjectives are modifiers, and they modify the noun. Adjectives usually occur before the noun that they modify. Unlike French, adjectives do not need to agree with the noun in number. A special type of adjective used extensively in English is the article, which determines whether a noun is specific or general. Articles are a feature of Romance and Germanic languages, but are seldom used elsewhere. Along with prepositions, they are one of the most difficult aspects of English for my students to master... (For more details on adjectives, )
Participles are verbs which act as adjectives, and thus can modify the subject or object of a sentence (for example, "burnt toast", "broken window".) Furthermore, past participles are used to describe how people feel ("broken-hearted"), while present participles are used to describe the actions which make them feel that way ("heart-breaking news").
While English started as an inflectional language, inflections are not widely used today. Gender fell out of use in the Middle English period. Pronouns maintain inflection depending on case ("I" and "me", for example), but most nouns (such as "happiness") do not. Furthermore, English has only one definite article ("the") unlike the three that exist in German and French. Nonetheless, the definite article still manages to cause a lot of trouble for language learners!
Due to the lack of inflections, prepositions are widely used in English to show the relationship between parts of a sentence, and go before nouns. While they may trouble English learners, they play a crucial role in showing who does what in a sentence. If you want to sound natural, get used to thinking in terms of up, down, across, and so on... (For more details, )
To make a question, the usual sentence order is inverted somewhat. Usually the question starts with a interrogative word like "what" or "who", or a verb conjugated into the interrogative mood (such as "be" or "do"). For example:
Who do you like? ......... I like you. Do you like me? ......... Yes, I do.
The inverted structure is also used to add emphasis, especially with negative adverbials at the beginning of the sentence:
Never have I liked anyone more than you
(For more details on adverbs and adverbials, )
In the passive voice, the usual formula can be rendered: S + be/have + past participle. This type of formula is used with other passive structures, such as "Everyone likes being praised."
More Complex Sentences
MOST SENTENCES comprise of phrases or clauses of some type. The difference between a clause and a phrase is that a phrase does not contain its own subject. Thus, a fragment like "between ignorance and intelligence" is a phrase.
One could say that words are like atoms, and phrases and clauses are like molecules. That said, words can be broken down even further into morphemes, but that is another matter!
English sentences have four kinds of clauses: the main (or independent), subordinate, relative and noun clauses. Independent clauses make sense when they stand on their own. A compound sentence comprises two independent clauses, joined by a conjunction.
Conjunctions express the nature of the relationship between the clauses. "While" for example shows a contrast, whereas "because" explains the reason for something. When we use conjunctions like these in the middle of a sentence, you indicate to the reader or listener that more information is coming.
Clauses can act as adjectives, in the case of participle clauses, and relative clauses ("The town where I live is very small.") Here the words "where I live" modify the subject of the sentence. Adverb clauses modify the way something is done: "Whenever it rains", for example.
Noun clauses use one of the "question words" like "what" or "why", and modify the subject or the object (in the latter case: "Please tell me WHAT HAPPENED"). When they are objects, the noun phrase follows a verb (as in, "I know how you feel.")