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English morphology and syntax

Main terms

§ Grammar – the set of rules that describe the structure of a language and control the way that sentences are formed
§ Morphology – the study of how words are formed in a language
§ Syntax – the rules about how words are arranged and connected to make phrases and sentences

Units of speech

Speech consists of continuous sounds. All speech consists of meaningful units that are created by regular, always valid, rules:

§ Discourse (context) – everything what influences the meaning of a sentence (situation changes the meaning of a entence)
§ Sentence and clause
§ Phrase – 4 basic types: noun, verb, adverb, adjective and prepositional phrase
§ Words
§ Morpheme – the smallest meaningful unit which can be one word or a part of a word, which can not be further divided into smaller units (flower/s)









Noun phrase

Verb phrase

Adjective phrase

Adverbial phrase



primary v.

lexical v.








2 turn/ed




2 recent/ly

Word classes

§ closed – the number of words is stable, no new members are accepted, they function as grammatical words (pronouns, prepositions, determiners, conjunctions, numerals (they stand separately))
§ opened – new words are coined, what means, that this category accepts new members (items) and their number is changeable and they reflect whole society ( nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs)

Sentence elements

Sentence elements are:

Adverbials of manner, place & time,
Subject or Object complement.

Object is either direct (accusative) or indirect.

“I gave him flowers.” - HIM is an indirect object (dative) and FLOWERS is a direct object
“I gave flowers to him. “ - TO is a preposition of dative

When there is only one object in a sentence, it is always direct! Indirect object can not stand without direct object in a sentence!

Subject always stands in front of a finite verb form. Object stands after a finite verb form.

Subject complement – adds additional information to the subject, can be a noun (“I am a man.” - A MAN is additional information to the subject) or an adjective (“I am happy.”).

Object complement – adds additional information to the object, can be a noun or an adjective as well (“I consider you a genius.” - A GENIUS is an object complement as it adds additional information to YOU).

“I gave you flowers.” - “Flowers were given to you.” 
“You were given the flowers.” Here we have two objects (you and flowers), so we can make two passive sentences.
“I consider you a genius.” - “You are considered to be a genius.” - “impossible ! “ In this sentence there is only one object (you), (a genius) is not an object, it is object complement, and so only one passive sentence can be made.Verbs

A verb is a single word or a phrase word (phrasal verbs), which expresses the existence of a state, the happening of an action or it can signify a change of a state of affairs.

Verbs are divided into 3 categories:

opened      1. lexical (full, main) verbs – they carry full lexical meaning, they usually are the main words in sentence (run, love, work)

a) transitive – they need an object, otherwise they have no meaning (“He   gave. He collected.”)
b) intransitive – the do not need an object (“It's raining. He stopped.”)

closed      2. primary verbs – they function as main or auxiliary verbs in the sentence, when there is just one-word form, it always functions as a main verb (if carries
meaning), when primary verb functions as the auxiliary verb, it just creates tenses, negatives, passives etc.
               3. modal, auxiliary verbs (grammatical, structure or function verbs) –     they function grammatically and do not carry lexical meaning

“We don't do it.”           DON'T is an auxiliary verb and the main verb is DO
“I have had coffee.”     HAVE is an auxiliary verb and the main verb is HAD
“What do you do?”        the first DO (interrogative) is auxiliary and the second is main
“It has just been done.”   HAS BEEN is auxiliary and DONE is main
“I am fifteen.”             AM (be), the primary verb, functions as main

All modal verbs function as auxiliary, they never function as main verbs! When verb phrase consists of one verb form, the verb form functions as main verb. When a verb phrase consists of more than one verb forms, the last one is always main and a previous one(s) functions as auxiliary!

“I must go.”
“I can go.”
“I may go.”

Modals are always first, but comparing with primary verbs, which function as auxiliaries, modals behave differently: they carry some meaning and add some meaning to a lexical verb. At the same time they function grammatically, because through them we can make interrogatives, negatives, etc...

Determiners signify the beginning of a noun phrase, prepositions of prepositional phrase, and conjunctions of a new clause. Interjections stand separately, because they are not tide with a sentence or clause.

Sentences are Compound (priraďovacie) or Complex (podraďovacie).

Form and function

When verb stands outside of the context (isolated), it can not always be recognized that it is a verb. Verbs not always differ in forms and we can not always say, when we see a word at the first sight, that it is a verb.

1. work, run, play, break – verb and noun have the same spelling and pronunciation
2. use – (ju:s – noun, ju:z – verb) 
permit – (permit – noun, permit – verb (stress)), export, import, progress
advice (noun) – advise (verb), device (noun) – devise (verb)
half (noun) – halve (verb), calf (noun) – calve (verb)

Other division of verb is to:

Dynamic verbs – which express action
Stative verbs – express states and can not be used in a progressive aspect

State usually lasts longer than action.
Some verbs (get, go, grow, turn, become) signify changes.

Full (lexical) verbs

These can be divided from different points of view:

1) according to how they make past tense to:

a) regular (-ed form)
b) irregular (irregular verbs)


a) stative (express states – groups of liking, disliking, hating, knowing, owning  and verbs that express senses)
b) dynamic (express action)

“It smells bad.”     “I’m smelling roses. “
“Soup tastes good.“  “I’m tasting soup.”
“You look good.”     “You are looking lovely.”

! We use adjectives after the verbs of sense.

For verb TO BE, HEAR, SEE we use can to express progressive aspect.

TO BE is considered to be a stative verbs, not normally used in progressive aspect, but there is one situation where is used in progressive aspect:

“You are selfish.” (a permanent feature of a human character)
“You are being selfish.” (just at this moment)

TO HAVE (to posess, own) – verbs of owning are stative verbs (“I have a house.”, “I have a headache.”), but in some cases you can say “I am having shower.”, “I am having fun.”, so except primary meaning, it can be used dynamically.

Some verbs are pure stative (have to used only in perfective aspect (know)).

Some can be both, but the meaning can be different:

(think (to express opinion) – thinking (the action of mind)),
consider (považovať (“I consider you a genius.”)) – considering (“I am considering selling a house.”), measure (state of body (“I measure 1,55 m.”) – measuring (“I am measuring the room”), weigh – weighing).

a) transitive – verbs which have to be completed by an object
b) intransitive – verbs which do not need an object to be completed intensive – be (linking verb)
c) verbs that can function as both transitive and intransitive (read, write, leave)

“I collect stamps.” – tran.
“I give you money.” – tran.
“I slept only two hours yesterday.” – intran. (“two hours” is adverbial of time)
“I went to the town.” – intran. (“to the town” is adverbial of place)
“I left.” – intran.
“I left my girlfriend.” – tran.

! We can find the object by asking whom or what. Otherwise it is not an object!

Categories of the verb

Each word class has certain categories, they define word class deeply.

These categories are:

1. person - they reflect the relationship between speaker and other people or things
2. number – it expresses the contrast between singular and plural, between one and more than one
3. mood  

a) indicative – speaker considers something a real fact
b) imperative – speaker urges something
c) subjunctive – “They demanded that he wear a tie.” (in 1st clause we use the verb of demanding (insist, require, demand…) or a demanding phrase (it is essential, vital, necessary…) and the meaning is that somebody requires someone to do something, in the second clause we always have the base form of the verb and it does not change (should can be used here, but usually it is omitted))

Finite vs. non-finite verb form

Finite verb form (určitý slovesný tvar) is capable of showing tense, mood, person and number (it does not have to show all these).
Non-finite verb form (neurčitý slovesný tvar – nič neukazuje (chodiť)) is capable of showing aspect and voice, but does not show tense, mood, person or number.
Finiteness is always connected with concord (the agreement between the subject and the verb in the sentence).

“Oni idú. Ja idem. Ja chcem ísť.” – subject requires a certain type of verb

A finite verb form immediately follows the subject. (môže tam byť iný slovný druh, nie sloveso (e.g. adverbials))

Morphological forms of the verb

Full regular verbs can have four morphological forms:

1. base form (work – write - set) - base form can function in five ways. It is uninflectional form that can be found in the dictionary.

a) I (You, We, They) listen to you. – functions as indicative mood present      tense (finite)
b) Listen to me! – imperative (finite)
c) I require that he listen to me. – subjunctive mood form (finite)
d) I want you to listen to me. – infinitive form (non-finite)
e) You must listen to me. – bare infinitive (must is finite, listen is non-finite)

2. -s form (works – writes - sets) – shows person, number, tense (finite)

3. –ed past tense form (worked – wrote - set) – “I worked here.”

-ed past participle form (-written – set) – “I have worked here.” have is finite,   worked is non-finite
- how to distinguish the past tense and past participle form: past tense form immediately follows the subject!

4. –ing present participle form (working – writing – setting)

! Irregular verb forms vary in number of these morphological forms (BE has 8 m.f.).

ING form of the verb

The –ing form functions as:

1. participle – the form of a verb used in compound tenses where it functions as a verb that will always be in a verbal phrase (“I am working.”, “I was working.”) or as adjective (“surprising news“).
2. gerund – this is not a verb, it is a verbal noun (slovesné podstatné meno) that is derived from the verb, but functions as a noun, what means, that these gerunds denote actions, whereas nouns denote things, objects, etc.

“WALKING” – can be a participle (-úci, júci, aci, jaci, úc, júc, ac, jac) or gerund (anie, nie, enie).

Mostly gerunds function as nouns (as subject, subject complement or object), but they can be adjective as well.

When participle functions as adjective, it expresses that noun is doing the action expressed by the participle. When a gerund functions as adjective, it expresses the purpose.

“a dancing couple” – part.
“dancing shoes” – ger.
“sleeping bag” – ger.
“a sleeping pill” – ger.
“a sleeping man” – part.
“walking is healthy” – ger. (walking is a noun)

Formation of the ING form

1. work +ing -working
2. play, study +ing - playing
3. hope – hoping
4. die, lie – dying, lying
5. dye +ing - dyeing
6. sit (1 syllable) - +ting – sitting
7. two syllable words:

a. offer, vomit (stress on the beginning) +ing – offering, vomiting
b. refer, begin (stress on the end) +ring, +ning – referring, beginning
8. sue – suing, sueing
9. –l, -m, worship (in eng. 2 ps, in ame. 1 p)

Gerunds and infinitives

After verb we can put a noun (“I need money.”, “I like walking.”) or another verb (“I need to buy some clothes.”, “I saw him crossing/cross the street.” (the meaning decides)).

1. verbs that are followed by both infinitive or gerund and the meaning stays the same:

a) like, love, prefer
b) hate, can’t stand, can’t bare
c) begin, start, continue

“It begins to rain.”, “It begins raining.”

We have to use infinitive when the verb is in progressive aspect: “It is starting to rain.”.

2. verbs that can be followed either by gerund or infinitive, but there is a difference in meaning:


“I always remember to lock the door.”    duty
“I remember locking the door.”           expresses past


“She forgets to lock the door.”          duty
“I can’t forget visiting Moscow.”        past


“I regret to tell you that I can’t come.”       you have to do it now
"I regret telling him that.”             past (you already did it)


“I tried cooking and baking.”            skúšať (tried several appr.)
“I tried to park the car there.”         snažiť sa (effort)


“I did not mean to hurt you.”            to intend (mať úmysel)
“To catch the six o’clock train would mean getting up at four.”   znamenať


“He stopped to smoke.”              zastaviť sa (inf of purpose)
“He stopped smoking.”                    Prestať

Gerund has incommon with the verb that it describes an action!

The main difference between participle and gerund:

Participle    functions as a noun  -
Gerund functions as a verb + BOTH function as adjective
When a gerund premodifies the noun, it is used for a purpose.

3. verbs that are followed by gerund
4. verbs that are followed by infinitive
5. verbs that are followed by pronoun + infinitiveInfinitives

We have 6 types of infinitive (non-finite verb form that shows time or voice):







(to) invite

(to) have invited


(to) be inviting

(to) have been inviting


(to) be invited

(to) have been invited

You can not find any HAS or HAD forms! It does not change!

1. active inf.  - express that the subject of the sentence is the agent of the action
2. passive inf. – express that the subject of the sentence is not the agent of the action denoted by the infinitive
3. present inf. – can have 2 functions:

a) modal + infinitive – they refer to the present or to the future
b) the finite form of a lexical verb + infinitive – show that the action denoted by the finite form of a lexical verb was done at the same time as the action denoted by the infinitive, these two actions ovelap

4. past inf. – have also 2 functions:

a) modal + infinitive – they refer to the past
b) finite verb form of a lexical verb + infinitive – they show that the action denoted by a past infinitive was done earlier than the action denoted by a finite form of a lexical verb, they show anteriority (=predčasnosť)

5. active progressive present inf. – the action denoted by it is at the progress now, at the moment of speaking
6. active progressive past inf. – action denoted by it was in progress at the certain concrete point of time in the past

“He must MAux invite InfPrAct her.”

– whatever will be after a modal verb is the infinitive!!!
- the inf. is active and has two meanings: “Musí ju pozvať.”(obligation, necessity) a    “Určite ju pozve.” (certainty) and refers to present of future

“He must MAux have invited InfPaAct her.” refers to the past, expresses certainty ( necessity will be “He had to invite…”)
“She must MAux be invited InfPrPas.”
"She must MAux have been invited InfPaPas.”
“He must MAux be inviting InfPrActProg her.”

- now, at the moment the action is happening

“He must MAux have been inviting InfPaActProg her.”

Causative verbs – MAKE, HAVE, GET – can function with their primary meaning or they can be causative verbs when they lose their primary meaning and get the meaning of persuading or the meaning to do somebody do something:

“I made/had him write a letter for me.” act.    MAKE/HAVE + OBJECT + BARE INF.
“He was made to write a letter for me.” pas.
“I got him to carry my bag.”             GET + OBJECT + TO INF.











been written

“I appreciate giving the chance.” – I am giving it
“I appreciate being given the chance.” – I am or will be given
“I appreciate having been given the chance.” – refers to the past
“He seems to have recovered.”

-when we use past infinitive, it expresses that the action happened earlier than the action expressed by the first verb (it does not refer to past)

“Where did he go to school before he came here?”
“I am not sure, but I think he mentioned something about having gone to the USA.”
“Last year I studied abroad. I appreciate having had the opportunity.” – anteriority

Examples to distinguish whether an infinitive or a gerund is used

“Don’t pretend to be what you are not.” (be)
“I persuaded my brother-in-law not to buy that old car.” (buy)- inf. after object
“Anne denied throwing the brick through the window.” (throw)
“Anne denied having thrown the brick through the window.” – past

After the object usually an infinitive follows, but sense verb are an exception as they can be followed by gerund.

“I saw her cross the street.” – I saw whole action
“I saw her crossing the street.” – just as she was crossing the street
“My father expect me to get high marks in the school.” (get)
“According to the signs on the restaurant door, all diners are required to wear shirts and shoes.” (wear)
“We are planning to visit several historical sites in Moscow.” (visit)
“My roommate says I have a terrible voice, so I stopped singing in the shower.” (sing)

! there is a gerund because an infinitive form (to sing) would mean to stop to sing

“I appreciate your paying for my dinner.” (pay) – your needs a noun after itself
“They were fortuned to have been rescued from the fire before the building collapsed.” (rescue) – adjectives (fortuned) are followed by an infinitive
“They were shocked to hear the news of your having been fired.” (fire)
“Marge’s children are used to being picked up after school everyday. They do not have to walk home.” (pick up) – after be used to a gerund follows
“I don’t recall ever having heard you mention his name before.” (hear)
“After a brief interruption, the professor continued lecturing/to lecture.” (lecture)
“I regret not listening to my father’s advice. He was right. (not listen) – present gerund expresses the past after regret, but we can use past gerund as well
“What do you remember to do before you leave the class every day?” (do)
“Ms. Walters complained about having been told about the meeting. In the future, she expects to be informed of any and all meetings.” (not tell, inform) – prepositions are followed by a gerund
“I prefer to drive rather than to take a plane.” (drive, take) – if prefer is used with rather than conjunction, it is used with infinitives; compare: “I prefer driving to walking.”
“I need to take a break.” (take) – personal object
“My shirt needs ironing.” (iron) – impersonal object
“Did you remember to give Jack my message?” – duty is expressed
“He advised buying a new car.”
“He advised me to buy a new car.”

After avoid we always use present gerund.

Adjectival structure I am very pleased is followed by to infinitive.

Conjunction and connects two same verb clauses (quitting and opening (not quitting and to open)).

The passive voice

Voice is one of the categories of the verb. Sentences in the active voice are those, where subject is the agent of the action, whereas sentences in the passive voice are those, where subject is not the agent of the action and the real agent is introduced by by phrase (“The book is written by Shakespeare.”).

We use the passives when speaking about fact and not about the agent or the agent is unimportant. If an active sentence contains intransitive verb, it can not be transformed to the passive voice, because the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence. If a sentence has two objects, both of them can become the subject of the passive.

“She announced a date to me.”
“I was announced a date.”
“A date was announced to me.”

1. sentences without a modal verb

"Mary had kissed John.”                “John had been kissed by Mary.”
“Mary had been kissing John.”          “John had been being kissed my Mary.”*
“Mary kissed John.”                    “John was kissed by Mary.”
“Mary was kissing John.”               “John was being kissed by Mary.”
“Mary has kissed John.”                “John has been kissed by Mary.”
“Mary has been kissing John.”          “John has been being kissed by Mary.”*
“Mary kisses John.”                    “John is kissed by Mary.”
“Mary is kissing John.”                “John is being kissed by Mary.”
“Mary will have kissed John.”          “John will have been kissed by Mary.”
“Mary will have been kissing John.”    “John will have been being kissed by Mary.”*
“Mary will kiss John.”                 “John will be kissed by Mary.”
“Mary will be kissing John.”           “John will be being kissed by Mary.”

*technically possible but not used

2. sentences with modal verbs

“They may interview her tomorrow.” – modals (may) always function as finite verb form  and whatever will continue will be an infinitive

!Personal pronouns are subjective (I, You, He, We) or objective (Me, You, Him, Us) and when transforming the sentence to passive, the objective pronoun that is becoming a subject of the passive must be transformed to the subjective pronoun. (her – she)

“She may be interviewed tomorrow.”

Modal verbs have just one form and do not change.

3. to have something done or to get something done (usually stronger)

This form of passive is used in two situations:

a) to express that some service is/was done for somebody:

“I have my car repaired last week.”

b) to express that something unpleasant happened to somebody: 

“I have my car stolen last week.”

!TO HAVE SOMETHING DONE – have shows the tense (have had, will have), done is a non-finite form and can not be changed

“We will have a new radiator installed next week.”
“We are going to have a new radiator installed next week.”
“Someone had even pulled her hair.” *even stands before lexical verb or after a modal
“She had even had her hair pulled.”

– had even had shows the past perfect tense

TO   HAVE          STH.   DONE

She    had even had  her hair      pulled.
She    had had been  --------      insulted. – we have to have an inaminate noun to make the passive of the 3rd group

“Someone should have explained it to her already.”
“She should have been explained already.”
“They made her look pretty foolish.”
“She was made to look pretty foolish.”
“They saw her running out of the room.”
“She was seen running out of the room.”
“They are not likely to give her the job.”
“She is not likely to be given the job.”
“They have cancelled her sabbatical leave.”
“She has had her sabbatical leave cancelled.”
“They are going to make her apologize to the Principal.”
“She is going to be made to apologize to the Principal.”

4. sentence consisting of two clauses

First we divide the sentence into two clauses and then we compare the verb phrases.

“They say she did her work carelessly.”
“She is said to have done her work carelessly.”

A present – past = past inf. (anteriority)
present – present perf. = --||--
past – past perf. = --||--
present – present = present inf. (overlapping)
past – past = --||--


we use active infinitive if the 2nd verb did the action 
we use passive infinitive if the 2nd verb did not do the action

Sometimes we can transform a sentence containing a transitive verb with a preposition into the passive form:

“We are looking into this allegation.”
“This allegation is being looked into.”
“We are dealing with your complaint.”
“Your complaint is being dealt with.”Nouns

Nouns serve from the syntactic point of view as subject and object. They name living creatures, animals or non-living creatures. Nouns are words that are used to refer to people, objects, creatures, places, qualities, phenomena and abstract ideas.

Classes of nouns

1. common,
2. proper.

We use articles to express reference (a for unspecified and the for specified). Proper nouns are always capitalized (unique), so no definite article is in front of them. They begin with a capital letter. But sometimes it is possible to use an article:

“Picasso (painter)   - a Picasso (painting)”
“He’s a Picasso.     - he resembles Picasso in some way.”
“Are you Mrs. Dlhá?  - Yes, but I am not the Dlhá you are looking for.”
A Lenka phoned you. - don’t know who she is (made indefinite)”.
“president (common); the president = President”

Common nouns in specific reference are treated as proper nouns.

The noun categories

1. number:           singular or plural (a noun shows a contrast between one and more than one)
2. countability:        shows the contrast between countable and uncountable nouns (shows the capability of nouns of being countable or uncountable)
3. determination:       signifies the contrast between determent and undeterment nouns (definiteness and indefinitness)
4. gender:           masculine, feminine and neuter
5. case:               the contrast between two cases in English is shown by the common case or genitive

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