Following many requests for help, Grammar Puss has decided to start a new blog for parents. Grammar Puss for parents

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Using adverbs to premodify adjectives and other adverbs

During Sentence Toolkit training last week some questions arose about using adverbs to modify adjectives and other adverbs.

With primary children, we usually introduce adverbs/adverbial phrases as describing where, how or when the action has taken place in a sentence.  We explain how these words can provide our reader with more information and also create different effects, depending on where in the sentence they are positioned. 

We also show children how adverbs and adverbial phrases can be used cohesively, to link to prior information in the text.  These connecting adverbials can be used to structure/sequence the text (as 'in addition', 'moreover', 'furthermore' do when we are structuring paragraphs in a persuasive piece or writing) or they can add writer opinion (for example, 'obviously', 'certainly', 'surely').

However, there are some adverbs that can be placed in front of an adjective or another adverb to provide the reader with more information about 'how much' of the adjective is applicable in the sentence, or 'to what degree' the adverb describes the verb.  Being used in these ways, adverbs can be incorporated into noun phrases, adjective phrases or adverbial phrases.  In the following three sentences, I've highlighted the premodifying adverb.
  • The rather quiet child sat in the corner.
  • The princess was very beautiful.
  • He ate his meal extremely quickly.
There is a confusing terminology around the groups of adverbs that can act in this way.  Depending on the grammar book you look in, this group of adverbs may be referred to as modifiers, sub-modifiers, intensifiers, emphasizing adverbs, or adverbs of degree.  I wouldn't worry too much about these terms/sub-categories, especially not with the children; just model how useful they are in writing!

Once children understand how this special group of adverbs behave, it might be a good idea to collect them on your working wall, so there are a range of words to choose from.  This will avoid over use of 'very' and 'extremely'.

I promised the delegates on the course that I would provide a list of some of these adverbs.  Below are two charts which may be useful for activities, especially in guided work.  Children can experiment with slotting them into noun phrases before the adjective, or in front of other adverbs, to see whether they make sense and add relevant information for the reader.  However, do explore texts and discover more examples with the children to add to your own collections!



Some adverbs which can be used to premodify adjectives
absolutely
almost
awfully
badly
completely
considerably
dearly
deeply
drastically
dreadfully
enormously
entirely
exceedingly
extraordinarily
extremely
fairly
fully
greatly
hard
hugely
immensely
incredibly
just
largely
moderately
nearly
noticeably
partly
perfectly
poorly
positively
powerfully
practically
pretty
purely
quite
rather
really
reasonably
remarkably
significantly
simply
slightly
strongly
sufficiently
surprisingly
terribly
totally
tremendously
truly
unbelievably
utterly
very
wonderfully




The most common adverbs which can be used to premodify other adverbs
awfully
exceedingly
extraordinarily
extremely
fairly
incredibly
moderately
noticeably
pretty
quite
rather
really
reasonably
remarkably
sufficiently
surprisingly
terribly
tremendously
unbelievably
very
wonderfully

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Adjective phrases and complementation



I’ve been asked a few times recently about adjective phrases and feel it’s about time I tried to unpick the subject knowledge surrounding these.

We are very familiar with using adjectives or strings of adjectives in front of a noun to create a noun phrase and, in this type of phrase, the noun is the head word.  For example, ‘the lazy, luminous, long-tailed lizard’ contains the adjectives ‘lazy’, ‘luminous’ and ‘long-tailed’ and these are pre-modifying the head word in the phrase which is the noun ‘lizard’. 

Adjective phrases are phrases where the adjective is the head of the phrase, as in the following examples:

The princess was very beautiful.

The policeman’s hunch proved entirely correct.

The decorators painted the room bright pink.

The strong wind made the children quite crazy.

These phrases fill the complement ‘slots’ in a sentence and provide information about the subject or object in the sentence.  Of course, this complement slot can also be filled by a single adjective: The princess was beautiful
Complements are one of the five sentence/clause elements in our language and are probably the least familiar to primary teachers.  The sentence elements are as follows:

S – subject
V – verb
O – object (which can be direct or indirect)
A – adverbial
C – complement

Complements do not have to be filled by adjectives/adjective phrases; they can also be nouns/noun phrases.  In the sentence ‘He became a doctor.’ the noun phrase highlighted is a subject complement as it is completing the information about the subject ‘he’.  This gives the structure S V C.

However complements do need to be used with a particular group of verbs, which are often referred to as ‘link’ verbs or copulas.  The verbs which can most commonly be used as link verbs are be, seem appear (look), feel, get, keep, become, turn.  Often the verbs which describe our senses (look, smell, sound, taste, feel) can be used as link verbs. 

If children know verbs as ‘doing words’, these link verbs are often the ones they have difficulty with, as it is harder to understand that they ‘do’ anything.  They more commonly express a state of being.  So really, it’s best to be clear with children and use the correct terminology ‘verb’ – it’s shorter than ‘doing word’ in any event!