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

Saturday, 22 November 2014

spelled or spelt? Which past participle should I use?

For those teachers who asked me this on the verb course last week, I have now done a little research around the subject.

In British English, you can use either 'spelled' or 'spelt' as the past participle.  As we thought, this is the same as the 'burned/burnt' and 'learned/learnt' participles that were on the Irregular English Verbs sheet. 

American English uses 'spelled' as the past participle because, in America, 'spelt' is more commonly used to refer to a type of wheat.

Hope that helps!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Transitive and intransitive verbs


We have considered different sentence constructions using the five sentence elements S,V,O,C,A but, if you try to create some of these constructions using any verb, you will find that sometimes it can't be done.

For example, if you try to use the verb 'take' in a SV sentence, it will not make sense: He takes.  This sentence requires an object, informing the reader what has been taken.

Similarly, if you try to use the verb 'arrive' in a SVO sentence, it will not work:  The train arrives ...  If we want to add more information, we have to use an adverbial after this verb, e.g. at the station, on time, but cannot add another noun or noun phrase as an object.

Why is this?

When only one person or thing is involved in a sentence, this person/thing fills the subject position and is followed by an intransitive verb. 

When a second person or thing is affected by the action of the subject, this person/thing fills the object position in the sentence and a transitive verb is required.

There are some verbs which are normally used intransitively and some normally used transitively; however many verbs can be used in both ways.  For example, the verb 'pass can be used intransitively in the sentence 'Ships pass in the night.' and transitively in 'She passed the salt.'

The following table provides some examples of each.



Examples of verbs used intransitively and transitively
Intransitive verbs
Transitive verbs
Verbs which can be used intransitively and transitively
ache
avoid
blow
arrive
blame
call
bleed
carry
change
blush
cut
drive
die
damage
fly
disappear
design
follow
faint
discover
hurt
fidget
enjoy
lose
fall
fill
manage
happen
get
miss
kneel
give
move
quiver
make
pass
sleep
need
play
sneeze
put
run
throb
remove
stand
wait
take
study
weep
want
win
 

Sentence elements in English word order

We often think of English as having a Subject (S), Verb (V), Object (O) word order and this is frequently the order that children start off with in early writing.

The boy kicked the ball.      The dog chased the cat.       Daddy drove the car.

However, there are five sentence/clause elements in our language: 

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

Most usual sentence constructions are:
SV             The sword vanished.
SVO           The sword cut the tree.
SVC           The sword was heavy. 
SVOC        The sword cut the tree open.
SVOO        The sword gave the knight a nasty gash.  ('the knight' is the indirect object, 'a nasty gash' is the direct object)

As a very flexible sentence element, adverbials can be added in various positions in these constructions. Try adding one of these adverbials to the sentences in different positions to explore how these can be used.  'in a flash'       'unfortunately'     'with one strike'

In particular, using adverbials in different positions can create different effects for the reader by emphasizing certain information in the sentence.  When using adverbials in different positions, punctuation should also be considered.  Commas will be needed to make sure meaning is clear.

With one strike, the sword cut the tree open.     (A,S,V,O,C)
The sword, with one strike, cut the tree open.    (S,A,V,O,C)
The sword cut the tree open with one strike.      (S,V.O,C,A)