Update: 2016-09-20 12:04 AM -0400


English Grammar in Plain Language


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT), M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.), and staff of TIL (Tun Institute of Learning).
Based on Barrons Educational Series, Grammar In Plain English, by Diamond, H. and Dutwin, P., Barrons Educational Series, Inc., Woodbury, New York. Copyright 1977. Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR : 
http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm |Top

Contents of this page

Adding Descriptive Words
01. Descriptive Words: Adding Meaning
     Exercise 0101
     Exercise 0102
02. Descriptive Words: Special Problems
     Exercise 0201

UKT notes

Contents of this page

Adding Descriptive Words

01. Descriptive Words: Adding Meaning

You know that an English sentence must have a person or thing (performer = subject S, noun) performing an action (verb V). You might say that these words are the core of every sentence. But, we dont speak in such simple sentences: He ran. She jumped.

{n~ga.laip sa.ka:su. mya: twing l-kaung: / sa twing l-kaung: <S> nhing. <V> pa wing kra. t// hto. a.pring po-mo hti. rauk s ran a.htu: pru. au: sa.ka: mya: sa-mya: ht. wing: prau: kra. r: kra. t// <noun> hpric au: <S> ko a.htu:pru.. sa.ka: ko <adjective> lo. hkau t// <V> ko a. htu:pru.au: sa.ka. ko <adverb> lo. hkau t//

Other words are added to the core to make a sentence more meaningful and interesting. These words may tell you more about the performer (S), or they may tell you more about the action (V). Look at the following example:

Again, look at the following:

The beautiful swan swam quickly.

Here swan is the performer (S), and swam is the action word (V). The descriptive words (adj./adv.) are: beautiful, and quickly.
<beautiful> ha <adjective, adj.>/ <quickly> ha <adverb, adv.> hpric kra. t// <adverb> a.mya: twing <-ly> sa-tw pa tt ta ko tha.ti. pru. pa//

Let's compare the above to Burmese-Myanmar>:

{ngn: hpru-kri: ha lying mran-swa r-ku: thwa: t}
literal: (swan white-big-{ha} quickly water-swim proceed-{t})

Note: {t} in colloquial usage and {th} in formal usage are known as a nominalizers. See TIL Grammar Glossary on 'The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese' by Andrew Simpson, Professor of Linguistics & East Asian Languages and Cultures, Univ. of Southern California, http://victoria.linguistlist.org/~lapolla/nw/Simpson.doc.

Note the difference in structure of Burmese and English sentences. In Bur-Myan, the adjective follows the noun whereas in English it is the opposite. Similarly the position of verb and adverb is reversed.

Contents of this page

Exercise 0101

Study the two sentences given. Label the performer (S), action (V), and descriptive words (adjective - Adj. ; adverb - Adv.) in each sentence. Remember that the performer (S) is also a noun (N).

1. A large apple fell suddenly.

S, N -- (apple)
V -- (fell)
Adj. -- (A) (large)
Adv. -- (suddenly)

2. The decaying tooth throbbed painfully.

S, N -- (tooth)
V -- (throbbed)
Adj. -- (The) (decaying)
Adv. -- (painfully)


Contents of this page

Exercise 0102

The descriptive words in the following sentences have been underlined. What is the descriptive word:  adj. or adv.? Which is the word it describes?

1. The telephone rang unexpectedly.

Underlined word (unexpectedly): adv.
  Word being described: (rang)

2. A heavy rain ruined our picnic.

Underlined word (heavy): adj.
  Word being described: (rain)

3. The talented fingers knit the sweater.

Underlined word (talented): adj.
  Word being described: (fingers)

4. The speeding truck swerved abruptly.

Underlined word (abruptly): adv.
  Word being described: (swerved)

5. The soft snow fell gently.

Underlined word (soft): adj.
  Word being described: (snow)
Underlined word (gently): adv.
  Word being described: (fell)


Contents of this page

02. Descriptive Words: Special Problems

Many words which are used to describe S (performer) must add -ly in order to describe V (action). For example:

The nice woman spoke at the meeting.

The woman spoke nicely at the meeting.

In the above two sentences (nice) and (nicely) do very different jobs:
Nice describes S (woman).
Nicely describes V (spoke).

A common error is to write: *The woman spoke nice.

Many people make the mistake of using nice to describe V (spoke). However, you can avoid that error if you can remember that most words which describe actions end in -ly.

Contents of this page

Exercise 0201

What is the descriptive word in each of the following sentences? Which is the word it describes?

1. My brother adds (quick, quickly).

Correct word: (quickly) -- Adv.
Word it describes: (adds) -- V

2. That neighbors (loud, loudly) radio annoys me.

Correct word: (loud) -- Adj.
Word it describes: (radio) -- N

3. He behaved (polite, politely) toward me.

Ans. :
Correct word: (politely) -- Adv.
Word it describes: (behaved) -- V

4. The old dog walked (lazy, lazily) down the street

Correct word: (lazily) -- Adv.
Word it describes: (walked) -- V

5. Ill give you a (quick, quickly) call when I need you.

Correct word: (quick) -- Adj.
Word it describes: (call) -- N

6. He plays the piano too (loud, loudly).

Correct word: (loudly) -- Adv.
Word it describes: (plays) -- V

7. I dont like (soft, softly) music.

Correct word: (soft) -- Adj.
Word it describes: (music) -- N

8. The (delicate, delicately) bird hovered in the sky.

Correct word: (delicate) -- Adj.
Word it describes: (bird) -- N

9. Maria (sincere, sincerely) apologized for her error in book keeping.

Correct word: (sincerely) -- Adv.
Word it describes: (apologized) -- V

10. The dancer balanced (delicate, delicately) on one foot.

Correct word: (delicately) -- Adv.
Word it describes: (balanced) -- V


Contents of this page

UKT notes


From: AHTD
Abbr. adj. a. 1. Grammar Any of a class of words used to modify a noun or other substantive by limiting, qualifying, or specifying and distinguished in English morphologically by one of several suffixes, such as -able, -ous, -er, and -est, or syntactically by position directly preceding a noun or nominal phrase, such as white in a white house. adj. 1. Grammar Adjectival: an adjective clause. ... [Middle English from Old French adjectif  from Late Latin adiectīvus from adiectus, past participle of adiicere to add to ad- ad- iacere to throw; See y - in Indo-European Roots.] -- AHTD

From: UseE
An adjective modifies a noun. It describes the quality, state or action that a noun refers to.

1. Adjectives can come before nouns:

a new car

2. They can come after verbs such as:
      be / become / seem / look / etc.:

that car looks fast

3. They can be modified by adverbs:

a very expensive car 

4. They can be used as complements to a noun:

the extras make the car expensive


From: LBH
adjective . A word used to modify:
   a noun : beautiful morning
a pronoun : ordinary one.

Nouns, some verb forms, phrases, and clauses may also serve as adjectives:
   book sale
   a used book
   sale of old books
   the sale, which occurs annually

Adjectives come in several classes:
A descriptive adjective names some quality of the noun:
     beautiful morning
     dark horse
A limiting adjective narrows the scope of a noun.
   a possessive
     my / their  
   a demonstrative adjective
     this train / these days  
   an interrogative adjective
     what time?
     whose body?

   a number
     two boys  
A proper adjective is derived from a proper noun:
     French language
     Machiavellian scheme
Adjectives also can be classified according to position:
An attributive adjective appears next to the noun it modifies:
      full moon
A predicate adjective is connected to its noun by a linking verb:
     The moon is full.

Go back adjective-note-b

Contents of this page


From: AHTD
n. Abbr.
adv. Grammar 1. A part of speech comprising a class of words that modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. 2. A word belonging to this class, such as rapidly in The dog runs rapidly. [Middle English adverbe from Old French from Latin adverbium ad- in relation to; See ad- verbum word; See wer- 5 in Indo-European Roots.]

From: LBH
Adverb is word used to modify:
a verb
     warmly greet
an adjective
     only three people
another adverb
     quite seriously
a whole sentence
     Fortunately, she is employed
(See Chapter 16.)
Some verb forms, phrases, and clauses may also serve as adverbs:
     easy to stop
     drove by a farm
     plowed the fields when the earth thawed

From: UseE
Most adverbs in English are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. An adverb is a word that modifies the meaning of:

a verb;
an adjective;
another adverb;
a noun or noun phrase;
a determiner;
a numeral;
a pronoun; or
a Prepositional Phrase .
It can sometimes be used as a complement of a preposition.

Adverb spelling notes:
1. Adjectives ending -l still take -ly;
     careful > carefully
2. Adjectives ending -y change to -ily;
     lucky > luckily
3. Adjectives ending -ble change to -bly;
     responsible > responsibly

UKT: Adverbs can be quite complicated as the following shows. The following is from UseE, which classifies the adverbs into:
1. adverbs of manner, place or location, time, degree, and
2. adverbs modifying adjectives, adverbs, nouns, noun phrases, determiners, numerals and pronouns.
Since, these belong to the realm of experts, which I am not, it is best to simply make the remark that "adverbs usually ends in -ly." However, for curiosity sake, I will give below what UseE has given (with remarks by a non-expert).

Adverb of manner:
Adverbs of manner modify a verb to describe the way the action is done.

She did the work carefully.
Remark: Carefully modifies the verb to describe the way the work was done, as opposed to quickly, carelessly, etc.

Adverb of place or location:
Adverbs of place show where the action is done.

They live locally.
UKT remark: Locally modifies where they live.

Adverb of time:
Adverbs of time show when an action is done, or the duration or frequency.

He did it yesterday. (When)
They are permanently busy. (Duration)
She never does it. (Frequency)

Adverb of degree:
Adverbs of degree increase or decrease the effect of the verb.

I completely agree with you.
Remark: Completely increases the effect of the verb, whereas partially would decrease it.

Adverbs modifying adjectives:
An adjective can be modified by an adverb, which precedes the adjective, except 'enough' which comes after.

That's really good.
UKT remark: In 'That's good.', good is the adjective. Really is the adverb that is modifying the adjective good.
   Again, consider the following sentences:
1. That's good.
2. That's really good.
3. That is good.
4. That is really good.
Though these sentences mean almost the same, they had different 'shades' of meanings. The difference between the first two, and the second is in the emphasis on is .

  It was a terribly difficult time for all of us.
  It wasn't good enough. ('Enough' comes after the adjective.)

Adverbs modifying adverbs:
An adverb can modify another. As with adjectives, the adverb precedes the one it is modifying with 'enough' being the exception again.

She did it really well.
UKT remark: The sentence 'She did it well.' would have shown how she had done it as opposed to 'She did it badly.' Here well and badly are adverbs. These adverbs can be further modified by really, sort of, etc.

He didn't come last night, funnily enough.

Adverbs modifying nouns:
Adverbs can modify nouns to indicate time or place.

The concert tomorrow.
The room upstairs.

Adverbs modifying noun phrases
Some adverbs of degree can modify noun phrases.

We had quite a good time.
They're such good friends.
What a day!
Remark: quite, rather, such can be used similar to what (What a day!).

Adverbs modifying determiners, numerals and pronouns:
Adverbs such as almost; nearly; hardly; about, etc., can be used:

Almost everybody came in the end.

Go back adverb-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file