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Basic English Grammar – Words: The Building Blocks
Classifications of words
The eight categories in English are: Noun, Pronoun, Adjective, Adverb, Verb, Preposition, Conjunction, and Interjection. They could have been listed as numbers, letters, fruits or vegetables, or named after planets, stars, or famous people. But, they weren’t. They have such names for a reason to be explained and rationalized in the next sections.
Parts of speech are determined by their usage in the sentence in which they occur. What appears to be inherently one part of speech can be another dependent upon its usage in the sentence. For example, the word is is generally regarded to be a verb, present tense, third person, singular. But, in the sentence before this one (as well as this one), the highlighted (bold and italicized) word, is, is a noun, singular, common, and abstract. For another example, look at the sentence following the scenario.
Scenario: The owner of an A and P supermarket was having a new sign painted over the doorway of his store. The painter, having just finished outlining the positions of the letters A and P, was on the ladder awaiting final approval of the owner. After close scrutiny, the owner made the following observation with this sentence:
“There is not as much room between the A and and and and and P as there should be.”
At first glance, the sentence seems to relate the babblings of a stutterer. It doesn’t. The sentence is perfectly correct, grammatically. Spoken, with the intonations that in themselves give meaning, the sentence conveys the message that the space between the letter A and the word AND and the space between the word AND and the letter P is not as they were supposed to be. Place emphasis on the second and fourth AND’s as you say the sentence. The emphasis makes all the difference in the world.
Grammar oversees the arrangement of meaningful sounds so that the intended message is clear and unmistakable. The following are all legitimate words which by themselves make perfect sense. But, when they are arranged in the order in which they appear below, meaning is lost, totally.
Pain not I the life dog feel, since want I great to did my for ran when barked.
By rearranging the words as the meaning was intended, the message is clear.
When the dog barked, I ran for my life since I did not want to feel great pain.
The English language has only twenty-six letters to combine is such a way to keep the nearly million words in current use under control. But the meanings that can be associated with these limited combinations are so great that many of the WORDS have a multiplicity of meanings.
[Note 1 demonstrates this point with the definitions of four (4) common words: bat, run, set, and that.]
NOTES: The four words referred to in the text are defined according to The American Heritage Dictionary.
What determines the meaning of the word is its context in the sentence, the way it functions among the words that are before or after it. New words (neologisms) are created continuously just as older words (archaisms) are dropped from disuse. The number of words necessary to get a point across is determined by the complexity of the sentence, the choice of diction (which word to use), and the skills and abilities of the listener or reader. The graduation address at an elementary school would be far less complex than that of one for the students at MIT or Harvard.
The first one just has a few variations and applications. The word BAT can be a noun (a naming word) or a verb (an action word).
A. Bat: n.
1. A stout wooden stick; a cudgel.
2. A blow, such as one delivered with a stick.
3. Baseball. A rounded, often wooden club, wider and heavier at the hitting end and tapering at the handle, used to strike the ball.
4. Other Sports.
a. A club used in cricket, having a broad, flat-surfaced hitting end and a distinct, narrow handle.
b. The racket used in various games, such as table tennis or racquets.
B. Bat: n.
1. Any of various nocturnal flying mammals of the order Chiroptera having membranous wings that extend from the forelimbs to the hind limbs or tail and anatomical adaptations for echolocation, by which they navigate and hunt prey.
–idiom: to have bats in (one’s) belfry; to behave in an eccentric, bizarre manner.
2. Slang. A binge; a spree.
C. Bat: v. (batted, batting) To hit with or as if with a bat.
1. To cause (a run) to be scored while at bat.
2. To have (a certain percentage) as a batting average.
3. To use a bat.
4. To have a turn at bat
1. Bat: transitive verb. (batted, batting) To wink or flutter; to produce in a hurried or an informal manner, as in not to bat so much as an eyelash.
2. To discuss or consider at length. –intr. To bat a subject around at a meeting means to discuss, even at length.
C. Slang. To wander about aimlessly.
1. At bat: Sports. Taking one’s turn to bat, as in baseball or cricket.
2. Go to bat for: To give assistance to; defend.
3. Off the bat: Without hesitation; immediately.
This word run is one of the most prolific ones with more meanings than any one word deserves to have or, for that matter, needs to have.
Run: verb, transitive and intransitive, (run, ran, running)
1. a. To move swiftly on foot so that both feet leave the ground during each stride.
b. To move at a fast gallop. Used of a horse.
2. To retreat rapidly; flee.
3. a. To move without hindrance or restraint.
b. To keep company.
c. To go or move about from place to place; roam.
4. To migrate, especially to move in a shoal in order to spawn. Used of fish.
5. a. To move or go quickly; hurry.
b. To go when in trouble or distress.
c. To make a short, quick trip or visit.
6. a. To take part in a race or contest.
b. To compete in a race for elected office.
c. To finish a race or contest in a specified position.
7. To move freely, on or as if on wheels.
8. To be in operation.
9. To go back and forth especially on a regular basis; ply.
10. Nautical. To sail or steer before the wind or on an indicated course.
11. a. To flow, especially in a steady stream.
b. To emit pus, mucus, or serous fluid.
12. To melt and flow.
13. To spread or dissolve, as dyes in fabric.
14. To extend, stretch, or reach in a certain direction or to a particular point.
15. To extend, spread, or climb as a result of growing.
16. To spread rapidly.
17. a. To be valid in a given area.
b. To be present as a valid accompaniment.
18. To unravel along a line.
19. To continue in effect or operation.
20. To pass.
21. To tend to persist or recur.
22. a. To accumulate or accrue.
b. To become payable.
23. To take a particular form, order, or expression.
24. To tend or incline.
25. To occupy or exist in a certain range.
26. To be presented or performed for a continuous period of time.
27. To pass into a specified condition.
a. To travel over on foot at a pace faster than a walk.
b. To cause (an animal) to move quickly or rapidly.
28. To allow to move without restraint.
29. To do or accomplish by or as if by running.
30. To hunt or pursue; chase.
31. To bring to a given condition by or as if by running.
32. To cause to move quickly.
33. a. To cause to compete in or as if in a race.
b. To present or nominate for elective office.
34. To cause to move or progress freely.
35. To cause to function; operate.
36. To convey or transport.
37. Nautical. To cause to move on a course.
38. a. To smuggle.
b. To evade and pass through.
39. To pass over or through.
40. To cause to flow.
41. To stream with.
a. To melt, fuse, or smelt (metal).
b. To mold or cast (molten metal).
43. To cause to extend or pass.
44. To mark or trace on a surface.
45. To sew with a continuous line of stitches.
46. To cause to unravel along a line.
47. a. To cause to crash or collide.
b. To cause to penetrate.
48. To continue to present or perform.
49. To publish in a periodical.
50. To subject or be subjected to.
a. To score (balls or points) consecutively in billiards.
b. To clear (the table) in pool by consecutive scores.
52. To conduct or perform.
53. Computer Science. To process or execute (a program or an instruction).
28. To control, manage, or direct.
1. a. A pace faster than a walk.
b. A fast gallop. Used of a horse.
2. An act of running.
3. a. A distance covered by or as if by running.
b. The time taken to cover such a distance.
4. A quick trip or visit.
5. a. Sports. A running race.
b. A campaign for public office.
6. Abbr. (r, r.) Baseball. A point scored by advancing around the bases and reaching home plate safely.
7. Football. A player’s attempt to carry the ball past or through the opposing team, usually for a specified distance.
8. a. The migration of fish, especially in order to spawn.
b. A group or school of fish ascending a river in order to spawn.
9. Unrestricted freedom or use.
10. A stretch or period of riding, as in a race or to the hounds.
11. a. A track or slope along or down which something can travel.
b. Sports. A particular type of passage down a hill or across country experienced by an athlete, especially a skier or bobsledder.
12. Sports. The distance a golf ball rolls after hitting the ground.
13. a. A scheduled or regular route.
b. The territory of a news reporter.
14. a. A continuous period of operation, especially of a machine or factory.
b. The production achieved during such a period.
15. a. A movement or flow.
b. The duration of such a flow.
c. The amount of such a flow.
16. A pipe or channel through which something flows.
17. Eastern Lower Northern U.S. a synonym for creek.
18. A fall or slide, as of sand or mud.
19. Continuous length or extent.
20. Geology. A vein or seam, as of ore or rock.
21. The direction, configuration, or lie.
22. a. A trail or way made or frequented by animals.
b. An outdoor enclosure for domestic animals or poultry.
23. a. A length of torn or unraveled stitches in a knitted fabric.
b. A blemish caused by excessive paint flow.
24. An unbroken series or sequence.
25. An unbroken sequence of theatrical performances.
26. Music. A rapid sequence of notes; a roulade.
27. A series of unexpected and urgent demands, as by depositors or customers.
28. a. A continuous set or sequence, as of playing cards in one suit.
b. A successful sequence of shots or points.
29. A sustained state or condition.
30. A trend or tendency.
31. The average type, group, or category.
32. Computer Science. An execution of a specific program or instruction.
33. runs. Slang. Diarrhea. Often used with the.
1. Being in a melted or molten state.
The third word of the four is the word set, also used as a verb, noun, or adjective. Its specific quirk is that it has the same spelling in the present tense as it does in the past tense and past participle.
Set: transitive verb. (set, setting)
1. To put in a specified position; place.
2. To put into a specified state.
3. a. To put into a stable position.
b. To fix firmly or in an immobile manner.
4. To restore to a proper and normal state when dislocated or broken.
5. a. To adjust for proper functioning.
b. To adjust (a saw) by deflecting the teeth.
c. Nautical. To spread open to the wind.
6. To adjust according to a standard.
7. To adjust (an instrument) to a specific point or calibration.
8. To arrange properly for use.
9. To apply equipment, such as curlers and clips, to (hair) in order to style.
10. Printing. a. To arrange (type) into words and sentences preparatory to printing; compose.
b. To transpose into type.
11. Music. a. To compose (music) to fit a given text.
b. To write (words) to fit a given melodic line.
12. To arrange scenery on (a theater stage).
13. To prescribe the unfolding of (a scene) in a specific place.
14. To prescribe or establish.
15. To prescribe as a time for.
16. To detail or assign (someone) to a particular duty, service, or station.
17. To incite to hostile action.
18. a. To establish as the highest level of performance.
b. To establish as a model.
19. a. To put in a mounting; mount.
b. To apply jewels to; stud.
20. To cause to sit.
21. a. To put (a hen) on eggs for the purpose of hatching them.
b. To put (eggs) beneath a hen or in an incubator.
22. Sports. To position (oneself) in such a way as to be ready to start running a race.
23. a. To value or regard something at the rate of.
b. To fix at a given amount.
c. To make as an estimate of worth.
24. To point to the location of (game) by holding a fixed attitude. Used of a hunting dog.
25. Botany. To produce, as after pollination.
26. a. To prepare (a trap) for catching prey.
b. To fix (a hook) firmly into a fish’s jaw.
Set: intransitive verb. [no direct object]
1. To disappear below the horizon.
2. To diminish or decline; wane.
3. To sit on eggs. Used of fowl.
4. a. To become fixed; harden.
b. To become permanent. (Used of dye.)
5. To become whole; knit. (Used of a broken bone.)
6. Botany. To mature or develop, as after pollination.
7. Non-Standard. To sit.
8. To position oneself preparatory to an action, such as running a race.
1. Fixed or established by agreement.
2. Established by convention.
3. Established deliberately; intentional.
4. Fixed and rigid.
5. Unwilling or very reluctant to change.
6. a. Intent and determined.
1. a. The act or process of setting.
b. The condition resulting from setting.
2. The manner in which something is positioned.
3. A permanent firming or hardening of a substance, as by cooling.
4. The deflection of the teeth of a saw.
5. a. The carriage or bearing of a part of the body.
b. A particular psychological state, usually that of anticipation or preparedness.
6. A descent below the horizon.
7. The direction or course of wind or water.
8. A seedling, slip, or cutting that is ready for planting.
9. The act of arranging hair by waving and curling it.
Set about: To begin or start.
1. To reserve for a specific use.
2. To make noticeable.
1. To separate and reserve for a special purpose.
2. To discard or reject.
3. To declare invalid; annul or overrule.
Set at: To attack or assail.
1. To slow down the progress of; hinder.
2. Informal. To cost. set by. To reserve for future use.
1. To cause to sit; seat.
2. To put in writing; record.
3. a. To regard; consider.
b. To assign to a cause; attribute.
4. To land (an aircraft).
1. To present for consideration; propose.
2. To express in words.
Set forward: To begin a journey.
1. To insert.
2. To begin to happen or be apparent.
3. To move toward the shore. Used of wind or water.
1. a. To give rise to; cause to occur.
b. To cause to explode.
2. To indicate as being different; distinguish.
3. To direct attention to by contrast; accentuate.
4. To start on a journey.
1. To begin an earnest attempt; undertake.
2. To lay out systematically and graphically.
3. To display for exhibition or sale.
4. To plant.
5. To start a journey.
1. To begin working energetically; start in.
2. To begin fighting.
1. To place in an upright position.
2. a. To elevate; raise.
b. To raise in authority or power; invest with power.
c. To put (oneself) forward as; claim to be.
d. To assemble and erect.
3. To establish; found.
4. To cause.
5. To establish in business by providing capital, equipment, or other backing.
a. To treat (someone) to drinks.
b. To pay for (drinks).
7. Informal. To stimulate or exhilarate.
8. To lay plans for.
9. Informal. To put (someone else) into a compromising situation by deceit or trickery.
Set upon: To attack violently.
Set fire to: To cause to ignite and burn.
Set foot in: To enter.
Set foot on: To step on.
Set in motion: To give impetus to.
Set (one’s) heart on: To be determined to do something.
Set (one’s) sights on: To have as a goal.
Set on fire:
1. To cause to ignite and burn.
2. To cause to become excited.
Set sail: Nautical. To begin a voyage on water.
Set (someone) straight: To correct (someone) by providing full and accurate information.
Set store by: To regard as valuable or worthwhile.
Set the pace:
1. To go at a speed that other competitors attempt to match or surpass.
2. To behave or perform in a way that others try to
The last word of the select group is that, unique in its functions as pronoun, adjective, adverb, or conjunction. Its versatility has caused confusion in its application and, therefore, its identity.
That: pronoun. (pl. those)
1. a. Used to refer to the one designated, implied, mentioned, or understood.
b. Used to refer to the one, thing, or type specified as follows.
c. Used to refer to the event, action, or time just mentioned.
2. Used to indicate the farther or less immediate one.
3. Used to emphasize the idea of a previously expressed word or phrase.
4. The one, kind, or thing; something.
5. those: Used to indicate an unspecified number of people.
6. Used as a relative pronoun to introduce a clause, especially a restrictive clause.
7. a. In, on, by, or with which.
b. According to what; insofar as.
That: adjestive. (pl. those)
1. Being the one singled out, implied, or understood.
2. Being the one further removed or less obvious.
1. To such an extent or degree.
2. To a high degree; very.
1. Used to introduce a noun clause that is usually the subject or object of a verb or a predicate nominative.
2. Used to introduce a subordinate clause stating a result, wish, purpose, reason, or cause.
3. a. Used to introduce an anticipated subordinate clause following the expletive it occurring as subject of the verb.
b. Used to introduce a subordinate clause modifying an adverb or adverbial expression.
c. Used to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined to an adjective or noun as a complement.
4. Used to introduce an elliptical exclamation of desire.
1. In addition; besides.
2. Regardless of what has been said or implied.
That is: To explain more clearly; in other words. [often, Latin abbreviation for id est: i.e.]
Is it a wonder then why the English language with its nearly a million words in current or expired use is so difficult for non-native speakers to understand?
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