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© Oxford University Press 1994
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Key to symbols IX
Sentence and text
1 English grammar 1
2 The simple sentence 6
3 Statements, questions, imperatives and exclamations 15
4 Questions and answers 25
5 Leaving out and replacing words 42
6 Information and emphasis 52
7 Spoken English and written English 64
8 The verb phrase 75
9 Verb tenses and aspects 82
10 The future 95
1 1 Be, have and do 104
12 Modal verbs 113
13 The passive 130
Infinitive, gerund and participles
14 The infinitive 144
15 The gerund 159
16 Participles 167
The noun phrase
17 Nouns and noun phrases 175
18 Agreement 191
19 The articles: a/an and the 198
20 Possessives and demonstratives 213
21 Quantifiers 219
22 Pronouns 233
23 Numbers and measurements 245
Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions
24 Adjectives 251
25 Adverbials 260
26 Comparison 278
27 Prepositions 286
28 Phrasal verbs and patterns with prepositions 302
Main clauses and sub clauses
29 Sentences with more than one clause 317
30 And, or, but, so etc 323
31 Adverbial clauses
32 Conditional clauses
33 Noun clauses
34 Direct and indirect speech
35 Relative clauses
36 Word -building
37 Word endings: pronunciation and spelling
38 Irregular noun plurals
39 Irregular verb forms
40 American English
The Oxford Guide to English Grammar is a systematic account of grammatical
forms and the way they are used in standard British English today. The emphasis is
on meanings and how they govern the choice of grammatical pattern.
The book is thorough in its coverage but pays most attention to points that are of
importance to intermediate and advanced learners of English, and to their
teachers. It will be found equally suitable for quick reference to details and for the
more leisured study ofbroad grammar topics.
A useful feature of the book is the inclusion of example texts and conversations,
many of them authentic, to show how grammar is used in connected writing and
Language changes all the time. Even though grammar changes more slowly than
vocabulary, it is not a set of unalterable rules. There are sometimes disagreements
about what is correct English and what is incorrect. 'Incorrect' grammar is often
used in informal speech. Does that make it acceptable? Where there is a difference
between common usage and opinions about correctness, I have pointed this out.
This information is important for learners. In some situations it may be safer for
them to use the form which is traditionally seen as correct. The use of a correct
form in an unsuitable context, however, can interfere with understanding just as
much as a mistake. To help learners to use language which is appropriate for a
given occasion, I have frequently marked usages as formal, informal, literary
and so on.
How to use this book
Any user of a reference book of this kind will rely on a full and efficient index, as is
provided in the Oxford Guide (pages 404 to 446). In addition, there is a summary at
the beginning of each chapter which gives a bird's eye view, with examples, of the
grammar covered in the chapter as a whole and gives references to the individual
sections which follow.
The author and publisher would like to thank all the teachers in the United
Kingdom and Italy who discussed this book in the early stages of its development.
We are also grateful to John Algeo, Sharon Hilles and Thomas Lavelle for their
contributions to the chapter on American English and to Rod Bolitho, Sheila
Eastwood and Henry Widdowson for their help and advice.
In addition, we would like to thank the following, who have kindly given their
permission for the use of copyright material: Bridgwater Mercury; Cambridge
University Press; Consumers' Association, London, UK; Fodor; Ladybird Books;
The Mail on Sunday; Nicholson; Octopus Books; Rogers, Coleridge and White;
Mary Underwood and Pauline Barr.
There are instances where we have been unable to trace or contact copyright
holders before our printing deadline. If notified, the publisher will be pleased to
acknowledge the use of copyright material.
Key to symbols
(r) four linking r, pronounced before a vowel but (in British English) not
pronounced before a consonant
four apples /fo:r 'aeplz /
four bananas /fo: ba'na:naz/
'= stress follows, e.g. about /8 'baut/
\ = falling intonation Z 1 = rising intonation
The symbol / (oblique stroke) between two words or phrases means that either is
possible. I will be/shall be at home tomorrow means that two sentences are
possible: I will be at home tomorrow and I shall be at home tomorrow.
We also use an oblique stroke around phonetic symbols, e.g. tea / ti: / .
Brackets ( ) around a word or phrase in an example mean that it can be left out.
I've been here (for) ten minutes means that two sentences are possible: I've been
herefor ten minutes and I’ve been here ten minutes.
The symbol — » means that two things are related. Discuss — ► discussion means
that there is a relationship between the verb discuss and the noun discussion.
The symbol ~ means that there is a change of speaker.
The symbol O is a reference to another section and/or part of a section where
there is more information. For example, t> (2) means part 2 of the same section;
l> 65 means section 65; and > 229(3) means part 3 of section 229.
Grammatical units • 2
The grammatical units of English are these: word, phrase, clause and sentence.
Word classes • 3
The main word classes are these: verb, noun, adjective, adverb, preposition,
determiner, pronoun and conjunction.
Phrases • 4
There are these kinds of phrase: verb phrase, noun phrase, adjective phrase,
adverb phrase and prepositional phrase.
Sentence elements • 5
The sentence elements are these: subject, verb, object, complement and adverbial.
English compared with other languages • 6
English words do nor have a lot of different endings for number and gender.
Word order is very important in English.
The verb phrase can have a complex structure.
There are many idioms with prepositions.
2 Grammatical units
A FLIGHT ANNOUNCEMENT
'Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of British Island Airways, Captain
Massey and his crew welcome you on board the Start Herald Flight to
Southampton. Our flight time will be approximately forty-five minutes, and we
shall be climbing to an altitude of eight thousand feet and cruising at a speed of
two hundred and fifty miles per hour. '
(from M. Underwood and P. Ban Listeners)
The grammatical units ofEnglish are words, phrases, clauses and sentences.
The words in the announcement are good, evening, ladies, and, gentlemen, on etc.
NOTE For word-building, e.g. air + ways= airways, • 282.
1 ENGLISH GRAMMAR
Phrases and clauses
We use phrases to build a clause. Here is an example.
Subject Verb Complement
(noun phrase) (verb phrase) (noun phrase)
Our flight time will be approximately forty-five minutes.
Here the noun phrase ourflight time is the subject of the clause. A clause has a
subject and a verb. There can be other phrases, too. In this next example we use a
prepositional phrase as an adverbial.
Adverbial Subject Verb Object Object
(prepositional phrase) (noun phrase) (verb phrase) (noun phrase) (noun phrase)
On behalf of the airline we wish you a pleasant flight.
For more about the different kinds of phrases, • 4.
For subject, object, complement and adverbial, • 5.
For finite and non-finite clauses, • 239 (3).
A sentence can be a single clause.
On behalfofBritish Island Airways, Captain Massey and his crew welcomeyou on
board the Start Heraldflight to Southampton.
A written sentence begins with a capital letter ( On) and ends with a mark such as a
We can also combine two or more clauses in one sentence. For example, we can
use and to link the clauses.
Ourflight time will be approximately forty-five minutes, and we shall be climbing
to an altitude of eight thousandfeet and cruising at a speed of two hundred and
fifty miles an hour.
For details about sentences with more than one clause, • 238.
There are different classes of word, sometimes called 'parts of speech'. The word
come is a verb, letter is a noun and great is an adjective.
Some words belong to more than one word class. For example, test can be a noun or a verb.
He passed the test, (noun)
He had to test the machine, (verb)
2 There are eight main word classes in English.
Verb: climb, eat, welcome, be
Noun: aircraft, country, lady, hour
Adjective: good, British, cold, quick
Adverb: quickly, always, approximately
Preposition: to, of, at, on
Determiner: the, his, some, forty -five
Pronoun: we, you, them, myself
Conjunction: and, but, so
NOTE There is also a small class of words called 'interjections'. They include oh, ah and mhm.
3 Verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs are 'vocabulary words'. Learning vocabulary
means learning verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs.
Prepositions, determiners, pronouns and conjunctions belong to much smaller
classes. These words are sometimes called 'grammatical words'.
4 Most word classes can be divided into sub-classes. For example:
Verb Ordinary verb: go, like, think, apply
Auxiliary verb: is, had, can, must
Adverb Adverb of manner: suddenly, quickly
Adverb of frequency: always, often
Adverb ofplace: there, nearby
Linking adverb: too, also
Determiner Article: a, the
Possessive: my, his
Demonstrative: this, that
Quantifier: all, three
There are five kinds of phrase.
1 Verb phrase: come, had thought, was left, will be climbing
A verb phrase has an ordinary verb (come, thought, left, climbing ) and may also
have an auxiliary (had, was, will).
2 Noun phrase: a goodflight, his crew, we
A noun phrase has a noun (flight), which usually has a determiner (a) and/or
adjective (good) in front of it. A noun phrase can also be a pronoun (we).
3 Adjective phrase: pleasant, very late
An adjective phrase has an adjective, sometimes with an adverb of degree (very).
4 Adverb phrase: quickly, almost certainly
An adverb phrase has an adverb, sometimes with an adverb of degree (almost).
5 Prepositional phrase: after lunch, on the aircraft
A prepositional phrase is a preposition + noun phrase.
1 ENGLISH GRAMMAR
Each phrase plays a part in the clause or sentence. Here are some examples.
at three o'clock.
These are the elements of an English sentence and the kinds of phrase that we can
use for each element.
Noun phrase: the flight, I, two stewards
Verb phrase: is, served, must book
Noun phrase: a newspaper, lunch
Adjective phrase: very good
Noun phrase: a pilot
Adverb phrase: shortly
Prepositional phrase: at three o'clock
Noun phrase: next week
a The verb is central to the sentence and we use the word 'verb' for both the sentence
element - 'The verb follows the subject' - and for the word class - 'Leave is a verb.'
For more details about sentence patterns, • 7.
b The word there can be the subject. • 50
There was a letterforyou.
English compared with other languages
Unlike words in some other languages, English words do not have a lot of different
endings. Nouns take s in the plural (miles), but they do not have endings to show
whether they are subject or object.
6 English compared with other languages
Verbs take a few endings such as ed for the past (started), but they do not take
endings for person, except in the third person singular of the present tense
Articles (e.g. the), Possessives (e.g. my) and adjectives (e.g. good) do not have
endings for number or gender. Pronouns (e.g. lime) have fewer forms than in
Word order is very important in English. As nouns do not have endings for subject
or object, it is the word order that shows which is which.
Subject Verb Object
The woman loved the man. (She loved him.)
The man loved the woman. (He loved her.)
The subject- verb order is fixed, and we can change it only if there is a special
A verb phrase can have a complex structure. There can be auxiliary verbs as well as
the ordinary verb.
1 climbed up the ladder.
I was climbing the mountain.
We shall be climbing to an altitude of eight thousandfeet.
The use of tenses and auxiliary verbs can be difficult for speakers of other
The use ofprepositions in English can be a problem.
We flew here on Friday. We left at two o 'clock.
Both prepositions and adverbs combine with verbs in an idiomatic way.
They were waiting for the flight. The plane took off.
There are many expressions involving prepositions that you need to leam as items
The simple sentence
This story contains examples of different clause patterns.
AN UNLUCKY THIEF
A man walked into a hotel, saw a nice coat, put it over his arm and walked out
again. Then he tried to hitch a lift out of town. While he was waiting, he put the
coat on. At last a coach stopped and gave him a lift. It was carryingforty detectives
on their way home from a conference on crime. One of them had recently become
a detective inspector. He recognized the coat. It was his. He had left it in the hotel,
and it had gone missing. The thief gave the inspector his coat. The inspector
arrested him. 'It seemed a good idea at the time, ' the man said. He thought himself
There are five elements that can be part of a clause. They are subject, verb, object,
complement and adverbial.
Basic clause patterns
Intransitive and transitive verbs • 8
over his arm.
page 7 8 Intransitive and transitive verbs
Give, send etc
Call, put etc •
over his arm.
All these seven clause patterns contain a subject and verb in that order. The
elements that come after the verb depend on the type of verb: for example,
whether it is transitive or not. Some verbs belong to more than one type. For
example, think can come in these three patterns.
Intransitive (without an object): I'm thinking.
Transitive (with an object): Yes, I thought the same.
With object and complement: People will think me stupid.
Extra adverbials • 12
We can always add an extra adverbial to a clause.
A man walked into a hotel.
One day a man walked casually into a hotel.
And and or • 13
We can join two phrases with and or or.
The inspector and the thief got out of the coach.
Phrases in apposition • 14
We can put one noun phrase after another.
Our neighbour Mr Bradshaw is a policeman.
8 Intransitive and transitive verbs
1 An intransitive verb cannot take an object, although there can be a prepositional
phrase after it.
The man was waiting at the side of the road.
Something unfortunate happened.
The man runs along the beach every morning.
Intransitive verbs usually express actions (people doing things) and events (things
A verb can be intransitive in one meaning and transitive in another. For example,
run is transitive when it means 'manage.
He runs his own business.
2 THE SIMPLE SENTENCE
2 A transitive verb takes an object.
The man stole a coat.
Everyone enjoyed the conference.
The driver saw the hitch-hiker at the side of the road.
The man had no money.
Transitive verbs can express not only actions (stole) but also feelings (enjoyed),
perception (saw) and possession (had).
After some transitive verbs we can leave out the object when it would add little or
nothing to the meaning.
The man opposite was reading ( a book). We 're going to eat ( a meal ).
A woman was driving ( the coach ).
We can also leave out the object after these verbs:
ask/answer (a question), draw/paint (a picture), enter/leave (a room/building),
pass/fail (a test/exam), play/win/lose (a game), practise (a skill), sing (a song),
speak (afew words), study (a subject).
The following verbs can also be without an object if the context is clear: begin,
choose, decide, hear, help, know, notice, see, start.
There must be an object after discuss and deny.
The committee discussed the problem. He denied the accusation.
3 Many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.
The driver stopped the coach. The coach stopped.
He opened the door. The door opened.
I broke a cup. The cup broke.
Someone rang the bell. The bell rang.
The two sentences can describe the same event. The transitive sentence has as its
subject the agent, the person who made the event happen (the driver). The
intransitive sentence describes the event but does not mention the agent.
Here are some common verbs that can be transitive or intransitive:
Raise is transitive, and rise is intransitive.
The oil companies will raise their prices.
The price of oil will rise.
For lay and lie, *11 (2) Note b.
9 Linking verbs
9 Linking verbs
1 Linking verb + complement
A complement is an adjective phrase or a noun phrase. A complement relates to
the subject: it describes the subject or identifies it (says who or what it is). Between
the subject and complement is a linking verb, e.g. be.
The hotel was quiet. The thiefseemed depressed.
The book has become a best-seller. It's getting dark.
A week in the Lake District would make a nice break.
These are the most common verbs in this pattern.
+ adjective or noun phrase: appear , be, become, look, prove, remain, seem,
+ adjecti ve:feel, get, go, grow, smell, taste, turn
+ noun phrase: make
There are also some idiomatic expressions which are a linking verb + complement,
e.g. burn low, come good, come true, fall asleep, fall ill, fall silent, ring true, run dry,
run wild, wear thin.
We can use some linking verbs in other patterns.
Linking: Your garden looks nice.
Intransitive: We looked at the exhibition.
a Alter seem, appear, look and sound, we use to be when the complement is a noun phrase
identifying the subject.
The woman seemed to be Lord Melbury's secretary.
NOT The woman seemed Lord Melbury 's secretary.
But we can leave out to be when the noun phrase gives other kinds of information.
The woman seemed (to be) a real expert.
For American usage, • 303(1).
b There is a special pattern where a complement occurs with an action verb, not
a linking verb.
We arrived exhausted.
He walked away a free man.
I came home really tired one evening.
We use this pattern in a very small number of contexts. We can express the same meaning
in two clauses: We were exhausted when we arrived.
2 Linking verb + adverbial
An adverbial can be an adverb phrase, prepositional phrase or noun phrase. An
adverbial after a linking verb relates to the subject. It often expresses place or time,
but it can have other meanings.
The coat was here. The conference is every year.
The drawings lay on the table. I'm on a diet.
Joan Collins lives in style. The parcel went by air.
Linking verbs with adverbials are be, go, lie, live, sit, stand and stay.
2 THE SIMPLE SENTENCE
Give , send etc
Verbs like give and send can have two objects, or they can have an object and an
adverbial. There are some examples in this conversation, which takes place in a
CLAIMING BACK TAX
Customer: I've bought these sweaters, and I'm taking them home to Brazil
I understand I can claim back the taxi pay.
Clerk: That's right. Have you filled in afonn?
Customer: Yes, and I've got the receipts here.
Clerk: Right, Now, when you go through British Customs, you give the customs
officer the form with the receipts.
Customer: I give the form to the Customs when I leave Britain?
Clerk: That's right. They'll give you one copy back and keep one themselves.
Clerk: Now I'll give you this envelope. You send the copy back to us in the
Customer: I post it to you.
Clerk: That's right.
Customer: And how do I get the money?
Clerk: Oh, we sendyou a cheque. We'll send it offto you straight away.
When the verb has two objects, the first is the indirect object and the second is the
Indirect object Direct object
You give the customs officer the form.
We send you a cheque.
The man bought the woman a diamond ring,
lean resen’e you a seat.
Here the indirect object refers to the person receiving something, and the direct
object refers to the thing that is given.
Object + adverbial
Instead of an indirect object, we can use a prepositional phrase with to ox for.
The man bought
a diamond ring
to the Customs,
for the woman,
The adverbial comes after the object.
10 Give, send etc
3 Which pattern?
In a clause with give, send etc, there is a choice of pattern between give the customs
officer theform and give theform to the customs officer. The choice depends on
what information is new. The new information goes at the end of the clause.
l'llgiveyou this envelope.
In the conversation Claiming back tax, this envelope is the point of interest, the
new information, so it comes at the end.
Compare the patterns in these sentences.
He left his children five million pounds.
(The amount of money is the point of interest.)
He left all his money to a dog's home.
(Who receives the money is the point of interest.)
a The adverbial or indirect object is often necessary to complete the meaning.
But sometimes it is not necessary to mention the person receiving something.
You 'llhave toshowyourticketon the train.
(It is obvious that you show it to the ticket inspector.)
I'm writing aletter.
(You don't want to say who you are writing to.)
b Most verbs of speech cannot take an indirect object, but we can use a phrase with to.
The man said nothing (to the police ).
But tell almost always has an indirect object. • 266
4 Pronouns after give, send etc
When there is a pronoun, it usually comes before a phrase with a noun.
We sendyou a cheque.
He had lots of money, but he left it to a dogs' home.
When there are two pronouns after the verb, we normally use to or for.
We'll send it off to you straight away.
I've got a ticketfor Wimbledon. Norman bought itfor me.
5 To or for?
Some verbs go with to and some with/or.
He handed the receipt to the customer.
Tom got drinksfor everyone.
With to: award, bring, feed, give, grant, hand, leave (in a will), lend, offer, owe, pass,
pay, post, promise, read, sell, send, show, take, teach, tell, throw, write.
With/or: bring, buy, cook, fetch, find, get, keep, leave, make, order, pick, resen’e,
a Bring goes with either to or for.
b Formeaning 'to help someone' can go with very many verbs.
Tmwritingaletterformy sister. ( She can 'twrite.)
2 THE SIMPLE SENTENCE
11 Call,pute tc
1 Verb + object + complement
Compare these two kinds of complement.
Subject Subject Object Object
The driver was tired. Thejourney made the driver tired.
He became president. They elected him president.
The subject complement relates to the subject of the clause; • 9. The object
complement relates to the object of the clause. In both patterns tired relates to
the driver, and president relates to he/him.
Here are some more sentences with an object complement.
The thiefthought himselfrather unlucky. They called the dog Sasha.
The court found him guilty of robbery. We painted the walls bright yellow.
I prefer my soup hot.
Here are some verbs in this pattern.
With adjective or noun phrase: believe, call, consider, declare, find, keep, leave, like,
make, paint, prefer, prove, think, want
With adjective: drive, get, hold, pull, push, send, turn
With noun phrase: appoint, elect, name, vote
2 Verb + object + adverbial
The adverbial in this pattern typically expresses place.
The man put the coat over his arm. We keep the car in the garage.
He got the screw into the hole. The path led us through trees.
a Leave can come in this pattern, butforget cannot.
I left my umbrella at home. But NOT 1 forgot my umbrella at home.
b Lay (past: laid) comes in the same pattern as put.
The woman laid a blanket on the ground.
Lie (past: lay) is a linking verb which takes an adverbial. • 9(2)
The woman lay in the sunshine.
12 Extra adverbials
1 Look at these clause patterns.
Subject Verb Adverbial
The conference is every year.
Subject Verb Object Adverbial
He put the coat over his arm.
These adverbials cannot be left out. They are necessary to complete the sentence.
13 And and or
2 We can add extra adverbials to any of the clause patterns.
At last a coach stopped.
The coach was carrying detectives on their way home from a conference on crime.
He had recently become a detective inspector.
The conference is everyyear, presumably.
At once the thief gave the inspector his coat.
He probably considered himself rather unlucky.
He casually put the coat over his arm.
These extra adverbials can be left out. They are not necessary to complete the
For details about the position of adverbials, • 208. An extra adverbial does not
affect the word order in the rest of the sentence, and the subject-verb order stays
At last a coach stopped.
Another extra element is the name or description of the person spoken to. As well as in
statements, it can come in questions and imperatives.
You're in trouble, my friend. Sarah, what are you doing?
Come on everybody, let's go!
13 And and or
1 We can link two or more phrases with and or or. Here are some examples with
The man and the woman were waiting.
The man, the woman and the child were waiting.
Wednesday or Thursday would be all right.
Wednesday, Thursday or Friday would be all right.
And or or usually comes only once, before the last item.
2 We can use and and or with other kinds of words and phrases.
It was a cold and windy day. (adjective)
He waited fifteen or twenty minutes, (number)
The work went smoothly, quietly and very efficiently, (adverb phrase)
a We can use two adjectives together without a linking word, e.g. a cold, windy day. • 202
b We can use two complements or two adverbials with and or or even if they are different
kinds of phrase, such as an adjective and noun phrase.
The book has becomefamous and a best-seller. We can meet here or in town.
The hotel was quiet and well back from the road.
3 Compare these two sentences.
He stole a hat and a coat.
He stole a hat and coat.
In the first sentence and links two noun phrases (a hat, a coat); in the second it
links two nouns (hat, coat). The second sentence suggests that there is a link
between the two items, that they belong together.
He stole a hat and a typewriter, (not linked)
He stole a cup and saucer, (belonging together)
a And, or (and but) can link verb phrases and also whole clauses. • 243
b For or in questions, • 31.
2 THE SIMPLE SENTENCE
14 Phrases in apposition
Two noun phrases are in apposition when one comes after the other and both
refer to the same thing.
Everyone visits the White House, the home of the President.
Joseph Conrad, the famous English novelist, couldn't speak English until
he was 47.
When the second phrase adds extra information, we use a comma.
When the second phrase identifies the first one, we do not use a comma.
The novelist Joseph Conrad couldn't speak English until he was 4 7.
Pretty 25-year-old secretary Linda Pilkington has shocked her friends and
The sentence about Linda is typical of newspaper style.
We can also use apposition to add emphasis. This happens in speech, too.
The man is a fool, a complete idiot.
Other kinds of phrases can be in apposition.
The place is miles away, much too far to walk.
The experts say the painting is quite valuable, worth a lot of money.
Statements, questions, imperatives
There are four sentence types: statement, question, imperative and exclamation.
Sentences can be positive or negative.
Statements • 16
Questions • 18
The imperative • 19
Exclamations • 20
You took a photo.
17 You did not take a photo.
Didyou take a photo?
Take a photo.
What a nice photo!
to give information
to give information
to ask for information
to give orders
to express feeling
Besides the basic use, each sentence type has other uses. For example, we can use
a statement to ask for information ( I'd like to know all the details); a question form
can be an order or request (Canyon post this letter, please?); an imperative can
express good wishes (Have a nice time).
For clause patterns in a statement, • 7.
This conversation contains a number of statements.
A PROGRAMME ABOUT WILDLIFE
Stella: There's a programme about wildlife on the telly tonight.
Adrian: Uh-huh. Well, I might watch it.
Stella: I've got to go out tonight. It's my evening class.
Adrian: Well, I'll video the programmeforyou.
Stella: Oh, thanks. It's at eight o'clock. BBC2.
Adrian: We can watch it together when you get back.
Stella: OK, I should be back around ten.
3 STATEMENTS, QUESTIONS, IMPERATIVES ETC
The basic use of a statement is to give information: There's a programme about
wildlife on the telly tonight. But some statements do more than give information.
When Adrian says I'll video the programme for you, he is offering to video it. His
statement is an offer to do something, which Stella accepts by thanking him. And
We can watch it togetheris a suggestion to which Stella agrees.
There are many different uses of statements. Here are some examples.
Expressing approval: You're doing the right thing.
Expressing sympathy: It was bad luck you didn't pass the exam.
Thanking someone: I'm very grateful.
Asking for information: I need to know your plans.
Giving orders: I want you to try harder.
In some situations we can use either a statement or another sentence type.
Compare the statement I need to know your plans, the question What are your
plans? and the imperative Tell me about y our plans. All these are used to ask for
3 Performative verbs
Some present-simple verbs express the use of the statement, the action it
Promising: I promise to be good.
Apologizing: It was my fault, I apologize.
Predicting: I predict a close game.
Requesting: You are requested to vacate your room by 1 0.00 am.
These are performative verbs: accept, admit, advise, agree, apologize, blame,
confess, congratulate, declare, demand, deny, disagree, forbid, forgive, guarantee,
insist, object, order, predict, promise, propose, protest, recommend, refuse, request,
suggest, thank, warn.
Sometimes we use a modal verb or similar expression. This usually makes the
statement less direct and so more tentative, more polite.
Advising: I'd advise you to see a solicitor.
Insisting: I must insist we keep to the rules.
Informing: I have to inform you thatyou have been unsuccessful.
Some typical examples are: must admit, would advise, would agree, must
apologize, must confess, must disagree, can guarantee, have to inform you, must
insist, must object, can promise, must protest, would suggest, must warn.
a In general, performative verbs are fairly emphatic. I promise to be good is a more emphatic
promise than I'll be good, and 7 suggest we watch it together is more emphatic than We can
watch it together.
b Some performative verbs are formal.
I order/request you to leave the building. / declare this supermarket open.
c With a few verbs we can use the present continuous.
Don't come too close, I warn you/I'm warning you.
We propose/We are proposing a compromise.
17 Negative statements
17 Negative statements
This text contains some negative statements.
In 1818 Mary Shelley wrote a famous book called 'Frankenstein But there was no
monster called Frankenstein, as is popularly believed. Frankenstein was not the
name of the monster but the name of the person who created the monster. The
word 'Frankenstein' is often used to mean 'monster' by people who have not read
Another mistake is to talk of 'Doctor Frankenstein'. Frankenstein was never a
doctor. Mary Shelley's hero did not study medicine - he studied science and
mathematics at the university oflngolstadt in Bavaria. There really is a place
called Ingolstadt. There is also a place called Frankenstein, which might or might
not have given the author the idea for the name.
The negative statements correct a mistaken idea, such as the idea that the monster
was called Frankenstein. In general, we use negative statements to inform
someone that what they might think or expect is not so.
2 Not with a verb
a In the most basic kind of negative statement, not or n't comes after the (first)
auxiliary. We write the auxiliary and n't together as one word.
Some people have not read the book.
The monster wasn 't called Frankenstein.
That might or might not have given the author the idea for the name.
b There must be an auxiliary before not. In simple tenses we use the auxiliary
I don't like horror films. NOT / like not horrorfilms.
The hero did not study medicine. NOT The hero studied not medicine.
Be on its own also has not/n't after it.
East London is not on most tourist maps.
These shoes aren 't very comfortable.
c Look at these forms.
might have given
was not called
have not read
might not have given
do not like
did not study
haven 't read
mightn't have given
We cannot use no to make a negative verb form.
The bus didn 't come. NOT The bus no came.
3 STATEMENTS, QUESTIONS, IMPERATIVES ETC
Not in other positions
Not can come before a word or phrase when the speaker is correcting it.
I ordered tea, not coffee.
That's a nice green. - It's blue, not green.
Is there a meeting today?- Not today - tomorrow.
Not can also come before a noun phrase with an expression of quantity (many) or
before a phrase of distance or time.
Not many people have their own aeroplane.
There's a cinema not far from here.
The business was explained to me not long afterwards.
a Instead of(= in place of) and rather than have a negative meaning. Compare:
They should build houses instead of office blocks.
They should build houses, not office blocks.
I drink tea rather than coffee.
I drink tea, not coffee.
b Not can come before a negative prefix, e.g. un, in or dis.
Beggars are a not unusual sight on the streets of London.
Not unusual = fairly usual.
c For not standing for a whole clause, e.g. 7 hope not, • 43(3).
Other negative words
There are other words besides not which have a negative meaning.
There's no change.
not a/not any
The patient is no better.
No, she isn 't.
(opposite of yes)
We wanted tickets, but there were
no one, nobody
I saw no one/nobody acting strangely.
I saw nothing suspicious.
There was nowhere to park.
Few people were interested.
There was little enthusiasm.
He was never a doctor.
We seldom/rarely eat out.
Mrs Adams no longer lives here.
not any longer
We haven't finished. In fact, we've
not really, only just
I can't understand this.
- Neither/Nor can I. (= 1 can't either.)
17 Negative statements
a The verbs/a//, avoid, stop, prevent and deny have a negative meaning.
You have failed to reach the necessary standard.
(= You have not reached the necessary standard.)
I want to avoid getting caught in the rush hour.
A lock could stop/prevent others from using the telephone.
The player denied having broken the rules.
(= The player said he/she had not broken the rules.)
b Without has a negative meaning.
Lots of people were without a ticket.
(= Lots of people did not have a ticket.)
c For negative prefixes, e.g. unusual, disagree, • 284(2).
We do not normally use not/n't or never with another negative word.
I didn't see anyone. NOT I didn't see no one.
That will never happen. NOT That won 't never happen.
We've hardly started. NOT We haven't hardly started.
In non-standard English, a double negative means the same as a single negative.
I didn't see no one. (non-standard)
( = I didn't see anyone. /I saw no one.)
In standard English a double negative has a different meaning.
Ididn 'tsee no one. I saw one of my friends. (= I saw someone.)
We can't do nothing. (= We must do something.)
We sometimes use a negative after I wouldn't be surprised if/it wouldn't surprise me if...
I wouldn 't be surprised if it rained/if it didn 't rain.
The speaker expects that it will rain.
The emphatic negative
We can stress not.
Frankenstein did not study medicine.
If we use the short form n't, then we can stress the auxiliary (e.g. did).
Frankenstein didn 't study medic
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