First-time students of formal English classes may initially feel overwhelmed by all the “technical” terms the teacher uses.
“Which adjective best describes this noun?” the teacher might ask. Or he/she might say, “You must use the base form after a modal verb.”
Adjective? Noun? Base form? These grammar terms can be confusing at first, but they play a big role in helping you develop your skills in both speaking and writing by providing structure.
Here is a guide to some of the important grammar terms you should always remember:
Parts of speech
The English language has eight parts of speech, but the basic three to remember are: noun, adjective and verb.
Any name of a person, place or object is a noun, such as scientist, cousin, village, university, vegetable and jacket, to just name a few. Abstract nouns are ideas and concepts that you cannot touch, such as happiness, democracy and wisdom.
An adjective is a word that describes a noun, giving us more information about the person, place or thing, such as colourful, loud, sweet, confusing, peaceful, red, soft and so on.
A verb is an action word, describing things that we do, including talk, run, discuss, exercise, concentrate, understand and much more.
English verbs can take on three basic forms: the base form, past form and past participle.
The base form, sometimes called the root verb, infinite or verb 1, is the original form of a verb, like have, do, be, eat, write, drive, etc… It usually comes after “to” in a sentence (I want to go home). The base form will also appear after a modal verb (She can be difficult to understand).
The past form, or verb 2, is used when describing an action that happened in the past. The past form of regular verbs simple have -ed or -d at the end (I watched a movie yesterday), but the past form of irregular verbs will be slightly different (He ate the entire pizza).
The past participle, or verb 3, is used in the more complex verb tenses, including the present perfect (I have never been to Bali) and passive voice (He was taken to the hospital).
The To Be verb comes in three different forms – am, is, are – and can be especially confusing because the Indonesian language does not have a direct translation of it.
According to Dictionary.com, the verb To Be expresses “a state of being”, which means it is used in describing objects and people (the box is empty, I am happy), what they are (that is a computer, they are lawyers) and what they are doing (we are working, she is thinking).
Follow the To Be verb with an adjective (I am tired), a noun (he is a teacher) or an -ing verb (they are swimming).
However, never combine a To Be verb with another base form: I am read. / We are study.