Update: 2016-09-20 12:07 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

Linking Words
01. Linking Word or copula
01.01. Descriptive word or Adverb/Adverbial
     Exercise 0101
01.02. Subject-Copula-Adverbial
02. Agreement in number between Subject and Copula
03. Verb "to be" or copula "be, is (am), are, was, wear"
04. Contraction -- copula combined with another word
05. Copula deletion -- in other languages

UKT notes
Alaska Collie copula Gerald Ford  

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01. Linking Word or copula

copula n. 1. Grammar A verb, such as a form of be or seem, that identifies the predicate of a sentence with the subject. Also Called linking verb . -- AHTD

You have been working with the simplest complete thought: a performer (S, N) and an action (V). For example:

The dog barks.
{hkw: haung }

The syntax is SV. This syntax is common to both Burmese and English. Let's take the example given in the book:

The performer, (S, N), is dog in the first case, and Boeing in the second. The actions (V) are barks and swerved.

Another simple, complete thought in English language as well as Burmese is one in which a person or thing is being ({hpric hkring:) something rather than doing ({pru.loap hking:}) something. For examples:

The dog is an animal.
{hkw: th ti.ric~hsaan hpric th//}

As you see, the words dog and Boeing 747 in these sentences cannot be called the performers since they are not doing anything. However, they are still the subjects (S, N). S is actually being described as (animal) in the first case and (huge) in the second. The word is links the descriptive word animal or huge to the subject S which is an noun, N. The subject S is the word which the sentence is about.

The word is is not an action word; it is a linking word. The word is is a verb to be which is described in my notes in ch01.htm as:

"the most protean of the English language, constantly changing form, sometimes without much of a discernible pattern. Considering that we use it so often, it is really too bad that the verb To be has to be the most irregular, slippery verb in the language. "

However, there are linking words which are not verbs to be, e.g.

The apple tastes rotten.

The subject is apple. The descriptive word is rotten. And the linking word is tastes.

Alaskan oil seems abundant.

The subject (S, N) is oil. The descriptive word (Adv.) is abundant. And the linking word (V) is seems.

Let's take an where the linking word is a verb to be, e.g.

UKT note: Columbo is the name of the principal character in a TV soap-opera.

It is interesting to note that whenever linking word is a verb-to-be and the adv. is noun, the sentence can be reversed without changing its meaning. The reversed sentences may sound awkward; however, the meaning remains clear. For example:


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01.01. Descriptive word or Adverb/Adverbial

In the above sentences involving the linking word is , the descriptive word becomes the subject when the sentence is reversed. Such a descriptive word belongs to the class of adverbs and are sometimes called adverbials. See my notes in ch05.htm on adverbials and adverbs.

Adverbial: A term sometimes used to describe any word or word group, other than an adverb, that is used to modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a whole sentence. -- LBH
Adverbial: An adverbial is a group of words that functions in the same way as an Adverb. -- UseE

The Adverbs and Adverbials (both abbreviated to Adv.) are explained further (adverbs usually ends in -ly.):

From UseE:
Adverbs are classified into:
1. adverbs of manner, place or location, time, degree, and
2. adverbs modifying adjectives, adverbs, nouns, noun phrases, determiners, numerals and pronouns.

From UVic:
Adverbs are explained in other words. "An adverb may be a single word, such as quickly, here or yesterday. However, adverbs can also be phrases, some made with prepositions, others made with infinitives. This page will explain the basic types of adverb phrases (sometimes called "adverbial phrases") and how to recognize them."

Our particular interest at this point is on noun-phrase. See noun-phrase in my collection of grammatical terms in TIL Grammar Glossary ,  where is stated (ref.  :

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_phrase 080524
Grammatical function

Noun phrases are prototypically used for acts of reference as in "The blonde girl shouts" or "She kissed the man". Also possible, but found less often, is the use of noun phrases for predication, as in "Suzy is a blonde girl". Note that in English the use of the copula is indicates the use of a noun phrase as predicate, but other languages may not require the use of the copula. Finally, noun phrases are used for identifications like "The murderer was the butler", where no ascription is talking place. The possibility for a noun phrase to play the role of subject and predicate leads to the constructions of syllogisms.

Other examples are:

Gerald Ford was the United States first non-elected president.

The United States first non-elected president was Gerald Ford.

The subject is Gerald Ford. The adv. is not a single word president, but a phrase which acts as a noun. And the linking word is was.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a remarkable sight.

A remarkable sight is the Shwedagon Pagoda.

The subject is Shwedagon Pagoda. The other subject is sight. And the linking word is is.

UKT: In the original book p.56, the example read:

The Statue of Liberty is a remarkable sight.

A remarkable sight is the Statue of Liberty.


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Exercise 0101

Complete each sentence using the correct form of a linking word from the list: 
   Given: am appear are be become feel grow is look remain seem smell sound taste was were
Several words may be appropriate. Choose one.

01. After the Knick game, the players _____ tired.

Ans.: appeared, felt, looked

02. The labor representative _____ angry during the extensive negotiations.

Ans.: seemed, became, grew

03. The late Dwight Eisenhower _____ once a general.

Ans.: was

04. The watchman _____ restless.

Ans.: became, grew, is, was

05. During the tennis match, the women never _____ exhausted.

Ans.: were, seemed

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01.02. Subject-Copula-Adverbial pattern
or Subject Linking-word Descriptive-word pattern

Use the descriptive word correctly in the Subject - Linking Word - Descriptive Word pattern. Remember never to use a descriptive word which ends in -ly to describe the subject of the sentence. Descriptive words which end in -ly are reserved for describing actions.

We will now give examples of correct and incorrect (though commonly used) sentences.

The child is adorable. a
* The child is adorably.
Here is is the linking word or copula.


She speaks too softly.
* She speaks too soft.
Here speaks is the action word.


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02. Agreement in number between Subject and Copula (linking word)

A singular subject needs a singular copula (linking word), and a plural subject needs a plural copula. For example:

1. All of our relatives are coming to dinner.
   All agrees in number with are.

2. Those cars appear fast.
   Cars agrees in number with appear.

3. The house is on a hill.
   House agrees in number with is.

In addition to the agreement in number, every copula must agree with its subject in time or tense. See tense in my notes in ch01.htm.

 Agreement in the past tense is easier to achieve than agreement in the present. As an example consider the linking word appear, and consider using it in different time situations:

1. Present Time, Singular and Plural

I appear nervous.
You appear nervous.
He appears nervous.
She appears nervous.

It appears ill.

Who appears contented?

We appear relaxed.

You and Marcel appear tired.

They appear friendly.

2. Past Time, Singular and Plural

I appeared nervous.
You appeared nervous.
He appeared nervous.
She appeared nervous.
It appeared ill.

Who appeared contented?

We appeared relaxed.

You and Marcel appeared tired.

They appeared friendly.


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03. Verb "to be"
or a special case of copula "be, is (am), are, was, wear"

See my notes in ch01.htm on verb "to be".

Be is a difficult word to understand. Be is used when preceded by to, will, can, could, would, or should. Examples:

The policeman wants to be helpful.

Next time, I will be more thoughtful.

Crowded supermarkets can be annoying.

This could be one chance in a lifetime.

The supervisor would be grateful if you could work late.

World peace should be everyones goal.

Other forms of be are used in sentences which do not have the helping words to, will, can, could, would, or should. You already are familiar with these forms of be: am, is, are, was, were. The following lists show you the proper use of these words.

1. Present Time, Singular and Plural

I am a nurse.
are a policeman.
is a crossing guard.
is a teacher.
It (the dog)
is a Collie.
is that lady?
are co-chairmen.
You and your brother
are partners.
are those ladies?
are sisters.

2. Past Time, Singular and Plural

I was a nurse.
were a policeman.
was a crossing guard.
was a teacher.
It (the dog)
was a Collie.
was that lady?
were co-chairmen.
You and your brother
were partners.
were those ladies?
were sisters.


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04. Contraction (copula combined with another word)

Often, a linking word is combined with another word. In combining, the initial letters of the linking word are dropped and replaced by an apostrophe. For example:

here is --> here's
there is --> there's
I am --> I'm
you are --> you're
he is --> he's
it is --> it's (Note: Its without the apostrophe means possession)
we are --> we're
they are --> they're

Heres your hat.
Theres one answer to that question.

Youre one of the few people I trust.

Hes the most forward-looking senator.
Shes the strongest voice in Congress.
Its an active committee.

Were eager to hear your proposal.
Theyre determined to interfere.

Contractions can also take place with not .

is not --> isn't
are not --> aren't
was not --> wasn't
were not --> weren't

Destruction isnt  my idea of fun.
They arent the only people coming today.

I wasnt  prepared for the crowd at the bus stop.
We werent on the train.

It is perfectly correct not to use contractions. In fact in formal letters and documents, contractions are not allowed. Thus, for a Myanmar student, if you find that you cannot pronounce the contraction, dont use it.

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05. Copula deletion in other languages

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copula 0805224

In informal speech, the copula may be dropped. This is a feature of African American Vernacular English but is also used by a variety of English speakers in informal contexts. Ex. "Where you at?" "We at the store." E-Prime is a variant of the English language that prohibits the use of the copula in all its forms.

UKT: Myanmars are urged not to emulate the speakers of these languages. It should be noted that many movies (especially the modern American for general public) are not suitable for watching to improve your English.

Zero copula
While copula deletion commonly occurs in various languages within a particular grammatical context, there are some languages where such usage is formalized. In Russian, Hungarian, and Hebrew, the copula in present tense is implied rather than spoken: Russian: я  человек, ya  chelovek "I (am) a human"; Hungarian: ő ember, "he (is) a human"; Hebrew: אני בן-אדם "I (am a) human". This usage is known generically as the zero copula. Note that in other tenses (sometimes in other persons besides third singular) the copula usually reappears.

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UKT notes


Alaska was bought by the U.S.A. from Russia in 1867. It became a state in 1959. Geographically, it is not connected to the rest of the U.S.A., being separated by Canada (a sovereign country). However, the Americans built a highway to link up Alaska to Washington State (some say without prior agreement by the Canadian government) at the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-45) through the Canadian province of British Columbia. Alaska is rich in mineral resources: oil being one. -- UKT

Go back alaska-note-b

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From Microsoft Encarta 2000
Kinds of domestic dogs: Afghan Hound, Alsatian (German Shepherd), Beagle, Bloodhound, Boxer, Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, Norweigen Elkhound, Old English Sheepdog, Pekingnese, Pegu Hound ({ing: hkw:}), Pug, Rough Collie, Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky, Terrier (Microsoft Encarta 2000 lists 66 kinds).

Go back Collie-note-b

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From AHTD:
n. 1. Grammar A verb, such as a form of be or seem, that identifies the predicate of a sentence with the subject. Also Called linking verb . -- AHTD


From Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copula 0805224

In linguistics, a copula is a word used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate (a subject complement or an adverbial). Although it might not itself express an action or condition, it serves to equate (or associate) the subject with the predicate. The word 'copula' originates from the Latin noun for a "link or tie" that connects two different things (for a short history of the copula see the appendix to Moro 1997 and references cited there).

A copula is sometimes (though not always) a verb or a verb-like part of speech. In English primary education grammar courses, a copula is often called a linking verb.

The term is generally used to refer to the main copular verb in the language: in the case of English, this is "to be". It can also be used to refer to all such verbs in the language: in that case, English copulas include "to be", "to become", "to get", "to feel", and "to seem". Other verbs have secondary uses as copulative verbs, as fall  in "The zebra fell victim to the lion."

For a complete list see: List of English copulae.

Several sub-uses of the copula can be identified:

Identity: "I only want to be myself." "When the area behind the dam fills, it will be a lake." "The Morning Star is the Evening Star." "Boys will be boys."
Class membership. To belong to a set or class: "She could be married." "Dogs are canines." "Moscow is a large city." Depending on one's point of view, all other uses can be considered derivatives of this use, including the following non-copular uses in English, as they all express a subset relationship.
Predication (property and relation attribution): "It hurts to be blue." "Will that house be big enough?" "The hen is next to the cockerel." "I am confused." Such attributes may also relate to temporary conditions as well as inherent qualities: "I will be tired after running." "Will you be going to the play tomorrow?" but please note that a linking verb has nothing to do with these so called "Be"- verbs. (see below)

Non-copular uses

As an auxiliary verb:
-- To form the passive voice: "I was told that you wanted to see me"
-- To add continuous aspect to tenses: "It is raining"
Meaning "to exist": "I want only to be , and that is enough." "There's no sense in making a scientific inquiry about what species the Loch Ness Monster is, without first establishing that the Loch Ness Monster indeed is." "To be or not to be, that is the question." "I think therefore I am."

Note that the auxiliary verb function derives from the copular function; and, depending on one's point of view, one can still interpret the verb as a copula and the following verbal form as being adjectival. Abelard in his Dialectica made an argument against the idea that the copula can express existence based on a reductio ad absurdum (Kneale - Kneale 1962 and Moro 1997).

Unified theory of copular sentences
Along with copular sentences where the canonical order of predication is displayed - that is, the subject precedes the predicate - as in "a picture of the wall is the cause of the riot" there can also be "inverse copular sentences" where this order is mirrored as in "the cause of the riot is a picture of the wall" (cf. Everaert et al 2006). Although these two sentences are superficially very similar it can be shown that they embody very different properties. So, for example it is possible to form a sentence like "which riot do you think that a picture of the wall is the cause of" but not "which wall do you think that the cause of the riot was a picture of". The distinction between these two types of sentences, technically referred to as "canonical" vs. inverse copular sentences, respectively - and the unified theory of copular sentences associated to it - has been proved to be valid across-languages and has led to some refinement of the theory of clause structure. In particular it challenges one of the major dogmas of the theory of clause structure, i.e. that the two basic constituents of a sentence Noun Phrase and Verb Phrase are associated to the logical/grammatical functions of subject and predicate (cf. phrase structure rules and sentence (linguistics)).

In fact, copular sentences show that this axiom is not adequate on empirical grounds since the Noun Phrase that cooccurs with the Verb Phrase in a copular sentence can be the predicate and the subject be contained in the Verb Phrase. Interestingly, it has been suggested that inverse copular sentences appear to play a sharp role in setting the pro-drop parameter. In Italian, for example in sentences of the type Noun Phrase verb Noun Phrase, the verb generally agrees with the Noun Phrase on the left with one exception: inverse copular sentences. One can construe minimal pairs like the cause of the riot is/*are these pictures of the wall vs. la causa della rivolta sono/* queste foto del muro: the two sentences are one the gloss of the other with only one difference: the copula is singular in Italian and plural in English. If one does not want to give up the idea that agreement is on the left, then the only option is to assume that pro occurs between the copula and the Noun Phrase on the left. That pro can occur as a predicate must be in fact independently assumed to assign a proper structure to sentences like sono io (is me: "it's me") which can by no means be considered a transformation of *io sono, which has no meaning.

Copula deletion
In informal speech, the copula may be dropped. This is a feature of African American Vernacular English but is also used by a variety of English speakers in informal contexts. Ex. "Where you at?" "We at the store." E-Prime is a variant of the English language that prohibits the use of the copula in all its forms.

As in most Indo-European languages (UKT: are Pali and Sanskrit included?), the English copula is the most irregular verb, due to constant use. Most English verbs (traditionally known as "weak verbs") have just four separate forms, e.g. "start", "starts", "starting", "started". A large minority (traditionally known as "strong verbs") have five separate forms, e.g. "begin", "begins", "beginning", "began", "begun". "To be" is a very special case in having eight forms: "be", "am", "is", "are", "being", "was", "were", "been". Historically it had even more, including "art", "wast", "wert", and, occasionally, "best" as a subjunctive.

Subset relator
From one perspective, the copula always relates two things as subsets. Take the following examples:

1. John is a doctor.
2. John and Mary are doctors.
3. Doctors are educated.
4. Mary is running.
5. Running is fun.

Example 1 includes John in the set of all doctors. Example 2 includes John and Mary both in the set of all doctors. Example 3 includes the set of doctors in the set of those who are educated.

Example 4 is different. Example 4 includes Mary's state at the time of utterance in the set of states consistent with running. Example 5 then includes the set of states consistent with running in the set of states consistent with fun.

Distinguishing between a copula and an action verb
You can generally tell between a copula and an action verb by adding the verb "to seem" or "to be" in its place.

Example of an Action Verb : Sam looks at lettuce. Sam seems at lettuce? Sam is at lettuce?
The latter two don't make sense, so "looks" in this case is being used as an action verb.

Example of a Copula : Sam looks happy. Sam seems happy? Sam is happy?
The latter two make sense; "looks" is used as a copula in this case.

Copula in other languages
In Indo-European languages, the words meaning "to be" often sound similar to each other. Due to the high frequency of their use, their inflection retains a considerable degree of similarity in some cases. Thus, for example, the English form is is an apparent cognate of German ist , Latin est  and Russian jest' , even though the Germanic, Italic, and Slavic language groups split at least three thousand years ago. The origins of the Indo-European copulae can be traced back to four different stems *es- (*h1es-), *sta- (*steh2-), *wes- and *bhu- (*bhuH-) in most Indo-European languages.

Georgian and German
Just like in English, the verb "to be" (qopna ) is irregular in Georgian (a Kartvelian non-Indo-European language); different verb roots are employed in different tenses. The roots -ar-, -kn-, -qav-, and -qop- (past participle) are used in the present tense, future tense, past tense and the perfective tenses respectively. Examples:

Masc'avlebeli var. -- "I am a teacher."
Masc'avlebeli viknebi. -- "I will be a teacher."
Masc'avlebeli viqavi. -- "I was a teacher."
Masc'avlebeli vqopilvar. -- "I have been a teacher."
Masc'avlebeli vqopiliqavi. -- "I had been a teacher."

Note that in the last two examples (perfect and pluperfect) two roots are used in one verb compound. In the perfective tense, the root qop (which is the expected root for the perfective tense) is followed by the root ar, which is the root for the present tense. In the pluperfective tense, again, the root qop is followed by the past tense root qav. This formation is very similar to German. In German, the perfective and the pluperfective are expressed in the following way:

Ich bin Lehrer gewesen. -- "I have been a teacher", literally "I am a teacher been."
Ich war Lehrer gewesen. -- "I had been a teacher", literally "I was a teacher been."

Here, gewesen is the past participle of sein ("to be") in German. In both examples, just like in Georgian, this participle is used together with the present and the past forms of the verb in order to conjugate for the perfect and the pluperfect aspects.

Zero copula
While copula deletion commonly occurs in various languages within a particular grammatical context, there are some languages where such usage is formalized. In Russian, Hungarian, and Hebrew, the copula in present tense is implied rather than spoken: Russian: я  человек, ya  chelovek "I (am) a human"; Hungarian: ő ember, "he (is) a human"; Hebrew: אני בן-אדם "I (am a) human". This usage is known generically as the zero copula. Note that in other tenses (sometimes in other persons besides third singular) the copula usually reappears.

In Hungarian, zero copula is restricted to present tense in 3rd person singular and plural: Ő ember/Ők emberek  "s/he is a human"/"they are humans"; but: (n) ember vagyok "I am a human", (te) ember vagy "you are a human", mi emberek vagyunk "we are humans", (ti) emberek vagytok "you (all) are humans". The copula also reappears for stating locations: az emberek a hzban vannak, "the people are in the house".

Hungarian uses a copula to say Itt van Rbert "Bob is here" (and this not only with regard to third person singular/plural), but not to say Rbert reg "Bob is old". This is to relate a subject to a more temporary condition/state taking place in space (very often in the sense of Lojban zvati: la rabyrt. zvati ne'i le zdani "Robert is in the house").

Further restrictions may apply before omission is permitted. For example in the Irish language, is, the present tense of the copula, may be omitted when the predicate is a noun. Ba the past/conditional cannot be deleted. If the present copula is omitted, the following pronoun , , iad preceding the noun is omitted as well.

Essence versus state
Romance copulae usually consist of two different verbs meaning "to be", the main one from the Latin sum (derived from *es-), and a secondary one from sto (derived from *sta-) . The difference is that the former usually refers to essential characteristics, whilst the latter refers to states and situations, e.g. "Bob is old" versus "Bob is well". (Note that the English words just used, "essential" and "state", are also cognate with the Latin infinitives esse and stare.) In Spanish, the quite high degree of verbal inflection, plus the existence of two copulae (ser and estar), means that there are 105 separate forms to express the eight in English, and the one in Chinese.

In certain languages there are not only two copulae but the syntax is also changed when one is distinguishing between states or situation and essential characteristics. For example, in Irish, describing the subject's state or situation typically uses the normal VSO ordering with the verb b. The copula is, which is used to state essential characteristics or equivalences, requires a change in word order so that the subject does not immediately follow the copula (see Irish syntax).

In Slavic languages, a similar distinction is made by putting a state in the instrumental case, while characteristics are in the nominative. This is used with all the copulas (e.g. "become" is normally used with the instrumental). It also allows the distinction to be made when the copula is omitted (zero copula) in East Slavic languages (in other Slavic languages the copula is not omitted).

Haitian Creole
Haitian Creole, a French-based creole language, has a reputation as being rather exotic linguistically when compared to French and the other Romance languages; and it lives up to this reputation with its copula system. It has three forms of the copula: se, ye, and the zero copula, no word at all (whose position we will indicate with "", just for purposes of illustration).

Although no textual record exists of Haitian at its earliest stages of development from French, se is obviously derived from French c'est (IPA:  [sɛ]), which is the normal French contraction of ce (that) and the copula est (third-person singular of the present indicative of the verb tre, ultimately from Latin sum). There appears to be no trace of Latin sto.

The derivation of ye is less obvious; but we can assume that the French source was il est ("he/it is"), which, in rapidly spoken French, is very commonly pronounced as y est  (IPA: [jɛ]).

The use of a zero copula is unknown in French, and it is thought to be an innovation from the early days when Haitian was first developing as a Romance-based pidgin. Coincidentally, Latin also sometimes used a zero copula.

Which of se/ye/ is used in any given copula clause depends on complex syntactic factors that we can superficially summarize in the following four rules:

1. Use (i.e., no word at all) in declarative sentences where the complement is an adjective phrase, prepositional phrase, or adverb phrase:

Li te an Ayiti. -- "She was in Haiti." (she past-tense in Haiti)
Liv-la jon. --  "The book is yellow." (book-the yellow)
Timoun-yo lakay. -- "The kids are [at] home." (kids-the home)

2. Use se when the complement is a noun phrase. But note that whereas other verbs come after any tense/mood/aspect particles (like pa to mark negation, or te to explicitly mark past tense, or ap to mark progressive aspect), se comes before any such particles:

Chal se ekriven. -- "Charles is writer."
Chal se pa ekriven. -- "Charles is not writer." cf. with the verb kouri ("run"): Chal pa kouri, not Chal kouri pa.
Chal, ki se ekriven, pa vini. -- "Charles, who is writer, not come."

3. Use se where French and English have a dummy "it" subject:

Se mwen! -- "It's me!", French C'est moi!
Se pa fasil. -- "It's not easy", colloquial French C'est pas facile.

4. Finally, use the other copula form, ye, in situations where the sentence's syntax leaves the copula at the end of a phrase:

Kijan ou ye? -- "How you are?"
Pou kimoun liv-la te ye? -- "Whose book was it?" (of who book-the past-tense is?)
M pa konnen kimoun li ye. -- "I don't know who he is." (I not know who he is)
Se yon ekriven Chal ye. -- "Charles is a writer !" (it's a writer Charles is; cf. French C'est un crivain qu'il est.)

The above is, however, only a simplified analysis.[1]

Japanese has copulas which would most often be translated as one of the so-called be-verbs of English. The Japanese copula has many forms. The words da  and desu are used to predicate sentences, while na and de are particles used within sentences to modify or connect.

Japanese sentences with copulas most often equate one thing with another, that is, they are of the form "A is B." Examples:

私は学生だ。Watashi wa gakusei da. -- "I'm a student." (lit., I TOPIC student COPULA)
これはペンです。Kore wa pen desu. -- "This is a pen." (lit., this TOPIC pen COPULA-POLITE)

The difference between da and desu appears simple. For instance desu is more formal and polite than da. Thus, many sentences such as the ones below are almost identical in meaning and differ in the speaker's politeness to the addressee and in nuance of how assured the person is of their statement. However, desu may never come before the end of a sentence, and da is used exclusively to delineate subordinate clauses. Additionally, da is always declarative, never interrogative.

あれはホテルだ。Are wa hoteru da. -- "That's a hotel." (lit., that TOPIC hotel COPULA)
あれはホテルです。Are wa hoteru desu. -- "That is a hotel." (lit., that TOPIC hotel COPULA-POLITE)

Japanese sentences may be predicated with copulas or with verbs. However, desu may not always be a predicate. In some cases, its only function is to  make a sentence predicated with a stative verb more polite. However, da always functions as a predicate, so it cannot be combined with a stative verb, because sentences need only one predicate. See the examples below.

このビールはうまい。Kono bīru wa umai. -- "This beer is good." (lit., this beer TOPIC be-tasty)
このビールはうまいです。Kono bīru wa umai desu. -- "This beer is good." (lit., this beer TOPIC be-tasty POLITE)
*このビールはうまいだ。*Kono bīru wa umai da. -- This is unacceptable because da may only serve as a predicate.

There are several theories as to the origin of desu; one is that it is a shortened form of であります de arimasu, which is a polite form of である de aru. Both forms are generally used only in writing and more formal situations. Another form, でございます de gozaimasu, which is the more formal version of de arimasu, etimologically a conjugation of でござる de gozaru and a honorific suffix -ます -masu, is also used in some situations and is very polite. Note that de aru and de gozaru are considered to be compounds of a particle で de, and existential verbs aru and gozaru. です desu may be pronounced っす ssu in colloquial speech. The copula is subject to dialectal variation throughout Japan, resulting in forms such as や ya (in Kansai) and じゃ ja (in Hiroshima).

Japanese also has two verbs corresponding to English "to be": aru and iru. They are not copulae but existential verbs. Aru is used for inanimate objects, including plants, while iru is used for people and animals, though there are exceptions to this generalization.

本はテーブルにある。Hon wa tēburu ni aru. -- "The book is on a table."
キムさんはここにいる。Kimu-san wa koko ni iru. -- "Kim is here."



N.B. The characters used are simplified ones, and the transcriptions given in italics reflect standard Mandarin pronunciation, using the Pinyin system.

In Chinese languages, both states and qualities are generally expressed with stative verbs with no need for a copula, e.g. in Mandarin, "to be tired" (累 li), "to be hungry" (饿 ), "to be located at" (在 zi), "to be stupid" (笨 bn) and so forth. These verbs are usually preceded by an adverb such as 很 hěn ("very") or 不 b ("not").

Only sentences with a noun as the complement (e.g. "this is my sister") use the verb "to be": 是 sh. This is used frequently: for example, instead of having a verb meaning "to be Chinese", the usual expression is "to be a Chinese person", using 是 sh. Other sentences use adjectives plus the nominaliser 的 de, e.g. 这是红的 zh sh hng de "this is [a] red [one]".

The history of the Chinese copula 是 is a controversial subject. (citation needed) Before the Han Dynasty, the character served as a demonstrative pronoun meaning "this" (this usage survives in some idioms and proverbs, as well as in Japanese). Some linguists argue that 是 developed into a copula because it often appeared, as a repetitive subject, after the subject of a sentence (in classical Chinese we can say, for example: "George W. Bush, this president of the United States" meaning "George W. Bush is the president of the United States).[2] Other scholars cannot completely accept the explanation, proposing that 是 served as a demonstrative pronoun and a copula at the same time in ancient Chinese. (citation needed) Etymologically, 是 developed from the meaning of "straight"; in modern Chinese, 是 means "yes" as an interjection, and "correct", "right" as an adjective, implying a sense of judgment.


Siouan languages (UKT: North American native languages of Sioux tribes)
In Siouan languages like Lakota, in principle almost all wordsaccording to their structureare verbs. So, not very unlike in Lojban (see below), not only (transitive, intransitive and so-called 'stative') verbs but even nouns often behave like verbs and do not need to have copulas.

For example, the word wicasa [wicha's^a] refers to a man, and the verb "to-be-a-man" is expressed as wimacasa/winicasa/he wicasa (I am/you are/he is a man). Yet there also is a copula heca [he'cha] (to be a ...) that in most cases is used: wicasa hemaca/henica/heca (I am/you are/he is a man).

In order to express the statement "I am a doctor of profession," one has to say pezuta wicasa hemaca [phez^u'ta wicha's^a hema'cha]. But in order to express that that person is THE doctor (say, that had been phoned to help), one would have to use another copula (i)ye (to be the one): pezuta wicasa (kin) miye lo (medicine-man DEF ART I-am-the-one MALE ASSERT).

In order to refer to space (e.g. Robert is in the house), various verbs are used as copula, e.g. yankA [yaNka'] (lit.: to sit) for humans, or han/he [haN'/he'] (to stand upright) for inanimate objects of a certain shape. "Robert is in the house" could be translated as Robert timahel yanke (yelo), whereas "there's one restaurant next to the gas station" translates as "owotetipi wigli-oinazin kin hel isakib wanzi he".

Constructed languages
The constructed language Lojban has copulae, but they are rarely used, and are sometimes viewed with distaste in the Lojban community, because all words that express a predicate can be used as verbs. The three sentences "Bob runs", "Bob is old", and "Bob is a fireman", for instance, would all have the same form in Lojban: la bob. bajra, la bob. tolcitno, and la bob. fagdirpre. There are several different copulae: me turns whatever follows the word me into a verb that means to be what it follows. For example, me la bob. means to be Bob. Another copula is du, which is a verb that means all its arguments are the same thing (equal).[3]

The E-Prime language, based on English, simply avoids the issue by not having a generic copula. It requires instead a specific form such as "remains", "becomes", "lies", or "equals".

Esperanto uses the copula much as English. The infinitive is esti, and the whole conjugation is regular (as with all Esperanto verbs). Additionally, adjectival roots can be turned into stative verbs: La ĉielo bluas. "The sky is blue."

Similarly, Ido has a copula that works as English "to be". Its infinitive is esar, and, as is the case in Esperanto, all of its forms are regular: the simple present is esas for all persons; the simple past is esis, the simple future is esos, and the imperative is esez, among a few more forms. However, Ido also has an alternative irregular form for the simple present ("es"), which some Idists frown upon. The possibility to turn adjectives and even nouns into verbs also exist, although this is mostly done by means of an affix, on top of the verbal endings. The affix is "-es-". So, "The sky is blue." can be said as "La cielo bluesas". As can be seen, the suffix "-es-" plus the verbal desinence "-as" are simply the verb "to be" annexed to the adjectival or nominal root.

Interlingua speakers use copulae with the same freedom as speakers of Slavic, Germanic, and Romance languages. In addition to combinations with esser ('to be'), expressions such as cader prede ('to fall prey') are common. Esser is stated, rather than omitted as in Russian.

Existential usage
The existential usage of "to be" is distinct from and yet, in some languages, intimately related to its copulative usage. In language as opposed to formal logic, existence is a predicate rather than a quantifier, and the passage from copulative to existential usage can be subtle. In modern linguistics one commonly speaks of existential constructions - prototypically involving an expletive like there - rather than existential use of the verb itself. So for example in English a sentence like "there is a problem" would be considered an instance of existential construction. Relying on unified theory of copular sentences, it has been proposed that there-sentences are subtypes of inverse copular sentences (see Moro 1997 and "existential sentences and expletive there" in Everaert et al. 2006 for a detailed discussion of this issue and a historical survery of the major proposals).

For example:

Other languages prefer to keep the existential usage entirely separate from the copula. Swedish, for example, reserves vara (to be) for the copula, keeping bli (to become) and finnas (to exist, lit. to be found) for becoming and existing, respectively.

In ontology, philosophical discussions of the word "be" and its conjugations takes place over the meaning of the word is, the third person singular form of 'be', and whether the other senses can be reduced to one sense. For example, it is sometimes suggested that the "is" of existence is reducible to the "is" of property attribution or class membership; to be, Aristotle held, is to be something. Of course, the gerund form of "be", being, is its own (vexed) topic: see being and existence.

Wikipedia notes :
1.^ For more details on the syntactic conditions as well as on Haitian-specific copula constructions such as se kouri m ap kouri (It's run I progressive run; "I'm really running!"), see the grammar sketch in Catherine Howe's Haitian Creole Newspaper Reader (which is the source for most of the Haitian data in this article), and see also Valdman & Philippe's textbook Ann Pale Kreyol: An Introductory Course in Haitian Creole.
2.^ Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1995). Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar. Vancouver: UBC Press. 
3.^ Lojban For Beginners

Wikepedia references :
Everaert, M. - van Riemsdijk, H - Goedemans, R. (eds) 2006 The Blackwell Companion to Syntax, Volumes I-V, Blackwell, London: see "copular sentences" and "existential sentences and expletive there" in Volume II.
Kneale, W. - Kneale, M. 1962 The Development of Logic, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Valdman & Philippe Ann Pale Kreyol: An Introductory Course in Haitian Creole.
Essay on Lakota syntax
Moro, A. 1997 The raising of predicates. Predicative noun phrases and the theory of clause structure, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

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Crossing guard

A person who helps children cross the road at places near a school.

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Gerald Ford

UKT: All the presidents of the U.S.A. are supposed to be elected by the people of the U.S. This was not so in the case of Gerald R. Ford, Jr., the 38th president (1974-77). Ford, the House (House of Representatives) minority leader was APPOINTED Vice president of the U.S. in 1973 after Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned rather than face a criminal trial on charges of bribery and tax-evasion. In 1974, Ford, now the Vice president was APPOINTED President after President Richard R. Nixon resigned rather than face a possible impeachment (or a trial).

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