Update: 2014-12-22 09:11 PM -0500


TIL English Grammar

01. Parts of Speech aka word class aka lexical class


A compilation by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , http://www.softguide.net.mm , www.romabama.blogspot.com

In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic.
In the United Kingdom, Canada, and islands under the influence of British education, punctuation around quotation marks is more apt to follow logic. In American style, then, you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost's "Design." But in England you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost's "Design".

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Contents of this page

01.01. Eight Parts of Speech aka word class aka lexical class 
  Verb, Noun, Pronoun, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, Interjection
01.02. What is a Verb?
01.02.01. Types of Verbs

UKT notes
English verbs finite verb gerundive
markedness theory
non-finite verb (or verbal)
regular and irregular verbs
strong verbs and weak verbs

Contents of this page

01.01. Eight Parts of Speech

Verb, Noun, Pronoun, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, Interjection

Traditional grammar classifies words based on eight parts of speech: the verb, the noun, the pronoun, the adjective, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection.

Each part of speech explains not what the word is, but how the word is used. In fact, the same word can be a noun in one sentence and a verb or adjective in the next. The next few examples show how a word's part of speech can change from one sentence to the next, and following them is a series of sections on the individual parts of speech, followed by an exercise.

Books are made of ink, paper, and glue.
-- In this sentence, "books" is a noun, the subject of the sentence.

Deborah waits patiently while Bridget books the tickets.
-- Here "books" is a verb, and its subject is "Bridget".

We walk down the street.
-- In this sentence, "walk" is a verb, and its subject is the pronoun "we".

The mail carrier stood on the walk.
-- In this example, "walk" is a noun, which is part of a prepositional phrase describing where the mail carrier stood.

The town decided to build a new jail.
-- Here "jail" is a noun, which is the object of the infinitive phrase "to build".

The sheriff told us that if we did not leave town immediately he would jail us.
-- Here "jail" is part of the compound verb "would jail".

They heard high pitched cries in the middle of the night.
-- In this sentence, "cries" is a noun acting as the direct object of the verb "heard".

The baby cries all night long and all day long.
-- But here "cries" is a verb that describes the actions of the subject of the sentence, "the baby".

The next few sections explain each of the parts of speech in detail. When you have finished, you might want to test yourself by trying the exercise.

Contents of this page

01.02. What is a Verb?

UKT: Since Burmese, unlike English and Pali, is an uninflected language (see Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis by A. W. Lonsdale, Education Department, Burma, British Burma Press, Rangoon, 1899, p.roman03.), many grammatical facts you will come across in English grammar would not apply to Burmese. Because of this, Burmese-Myanmar ESL students should pay close attention to the English verbs. For a comprehensive study, see my notes on: English verb finite verb non-finite verb regular and irregular verbs strong and weak verbs  .

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and express actions, events, or states of being. The verb or compound verb is the critical element of the predicate of a sentence.

In each of the following sentences, the verb or compound verb is highlighted:

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.
-- The verb "bites" describes the action Dracula takes.

In early October, Giselle will plant twenty tulip bulbs.
-- Here the compound verb "will plant" describes an action that will take place in the future.

My first teacher was Miss Crawford, but I remember the janitor Mr. Weatherbee more vividly.
-- In this sentence, the verb "was" (the simple past tense of "is") identifies a particular person and the verb "remembered" describes a mental action.

Karl Creelman bicycled around in world in 1899, but his diaries and his bicycle were destroyed.
-- In this sentence, the compound verb "were destroyed" describes an action which took place in the past.

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01.02.01. Types of Verbs

From http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/types.html 081225

Before you begin the verb tense lessons, it is extremely important to understand that NOT all English verbs are the same. English verbs are divided into three groups: Normal Verbs, Non-Continuous Verbs, and Mixed Verbs.

Group 1 Normal verbs

Most verbs are "Normal Verbs." These verbs are usually physical actions which you can see somebody doing. These verbs can be used in all tenses.

Normal Verbs

to run, to walk, to eat, to fly, to go, to say, to touch, etc.

I eat dinner every day.
I am eating dinner now.

Group 2 Non-continuous verbs

The second group, called "Non-Continuous Verbs," is smaller. These verbs are usually things you cannot see somebody doing. These verbs are rarely used in continuous tenses. They include:

Abstract Verbs

to be, to want, to cost, to seem, to need, to care, to contain, to owe, to exist...

Possession Verbs

to possess, to own, to belong...

Emotion Verbs

to like, to love, to hate, to dislike, to fear, to envy, to mind...

He needs help now. -- correct
* He is needing help now. -- incorrect

He wants a drink now. -- correct
* He is wanting a drink now. -- incorrect

Group 3 Mixed verbs

The third group, called "Mixed Verbs," is the smallest group. These verbs have more than one meaning. In a way, each meaning is a unique verb. Some meanings behave like "Non-Continuous Verbs," while other meanings behave like "Normal Verbs."

Mixed Verbs

to appear, to feel, to have, to hear, to look, to see, to weigh...

List of Mixed Verbs with Examples and Definitions:

to appear:

Donna appears confused..
-- Donna seems confused. Non-Continuous Verb

My favorite singer is appearing at the jazz club tonight.
-- My favorite singer is giving a performance at the jazz club tonight.  Normal Verb

to have:

I have a dollar now.
-- I possess a dollar.  Non-Continuous Verb

I am having fun now.
-- I am experiencing fun now. Normal Verb

to hear:

She hears the music.
-- She hears the music with her ears. Non-Continuous Verb

She is hearing voices.
-- She hears something others cannot hear. She is hearing voices in her mind. Normal Verb

to look:

Nancy looks tired.
-- She seems tired. Non-Continuous Verb

Farah is looking at the pictures.
-- She is looking with her eyes. Normal Verb

to miss:

John misses Sally.
-- He is sad because she is not there. Non-Continuous Verb

Debbie is missing her favorite TV program.
-- She is not there to see her favorite program. Normal Verb

to see:

I see her.
-- I see her with my eyes. Non-Continuous Verb

I am seeing the doctor.
-- I am visiting or consulting with a doctor. (Also used with dentist and lawyer.) Normal Verb

I am seeing her.
-- I am having a relationship with her. Normal Verb

He is seeing ghosts at night.
-- He sees something others cannot see. For example ghosts, aura, a vision of the future, etc. Normal Verb

to smell:

The coffee smells good.
-- The coffee has a good smell. Non-Continuous Verb

I am smelling the flowers.
-- I am sniffing the flowers to see what their smell is like. Normal Verb

to taste:

The coffee tastes good.
-- The coffee has a good taste. Non-Continuous Verb

I am tasting the cake.
-- I am trying the cake to see what it tastes like. Normal Verb

to think:

He thinks the test is easy.
-- He considers the test to be easy. Non-Continuous Verb

She is thinking about the question.
-- She is pondering the question, going over it in her mind. Normal Verb

to weigh:

The table weighs a lot.
-- The table is heavy. Non-Continuous Verb  

She is weighing herself.
-- She is determining her weight. Normal Verb

Some Verbs Can Be Especially Confusing:

to be:

Joe is American.
-- Joe is an American citizen. Non-Continuous Verb

Joe is being very American.
-- Joe is behaving like a stereotypical American. Normal Verb

Joe is being very rude.
-- Joe is behaving very rudely. Usually he is not rude. Normal Verb

Joe is being very formal.
-- Joe is behaving very formally. Usually he is not formal. Normal Verb

NOTICE: Only rarely is "to be" used in a continuous form. This is most commonly done when a person is temporarily behaving badly or stereotypically. It can also be used when someone's behavior is noticeably different.

to feel:

The massage feels great.
-- The massage has a pleasing feeling. Non-Continuous Verb

I don't feel well today.
-- I am a little sick. Sometimes used as Non-Continuous Verb

I am not feeling well today.
-- I am a little sick. Sometimes used as Normal Verb

NOTICE: The second meaning of "feel" is very flexible and there is no real difference in meaning between "I don't feel well today" and "I am not feeling well today."

UKT: End of article.

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UKT notes

English verbs

- UKT 141222: In Bur-Myan grammar, you will see the terms kri.ya for "Verb" and ka-la. for "tense". Please note that my presentation of Bur-Myan grammar is in a mess because of unavailability of a Burmese font supported on the Internet.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_verbs 141222

Verbs constitute one of the main word classes in the English language. Like other types of words in the language, English verbs are not heavily inflected. Most combinations of tense, aspect, mood and voice are expressed periphrastically, using constructions with auxiliary verbs and modal verbs.

Generally, the only inflected forms of an English verb are a third person singular present tense form in -s, a past tense (also called preterite), a past participle (which may be the same as the past tense), and a form in -ing that serves as a present participle and gerund. Most verbs inflect in a simple regular fashion, although there are about 200 irregular verbs; the irregularity in nearly all cases concerns the past tense and past participle forms. The copula verb be has a larger number of different inflected forms, and is highly irregular.

For details of the uses of particular verb tenses and other forms, see the article Uses of English verb forms. For certain other specific topics, see the articles listed in the box to the right.

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_verbs 081213

Verbs in the English language are a lexically and morphologically distinct part of speech which describes an action, an event, or a state.

While English has many irregular verbs, for the regular ones the conjugation rules are quite straightforward. Being partially analytic, English regular verbs are not very much inflected; all tenses, aspects and moods [UKT: see TAM in TIL Glossary] except the simple present and the simple past are periphrastic, formed with auxiliary verbs and modals.

Principle parts

A regular English verb has only one principal part, the infinitive or dictionary form (which is identical to the simple present tense for all persons and numbers except the third person singular). All other forms of a regular verb can be derived straightforwardly from the infinitive, for a total of four forms (e.g. exist, exists, existed, existing)

English irregular verbs (except to be) have at most three principal parts:

1. infinitive , e.g., write
2. preterite , e.g., wrote
3. past participle , e.g., written

Strong verbs like write have all three distinct parts, for a total of five forms (e. g. write, writes, wrote, written, writing). The more irregular weak verbs also require up to three forms to be learned.

UKT: See my notes on strong and weak verbs.

The highly irregular copular verb to be has eight forms: be, am, is, are, being, was, were, been, of which only one is derivable from a principal part (being is derived from be). On the history of this verb, see Indo-European copula.

Verbs had more forms when the pronoun thou was still in regular use and there was a number distinction in the second person. To be, for instance, had art, wast and wert.

Most of the strong verbs that survive in modern English [different from Old English] are considered irregular. Irregular verbs in English come from several historical sources; some are technically strong verbs (i. e. their forms display specific vowel changes of the type known as ablaut in linguistics); others have had various phonetic changes or contractions added to them over the history of English.

See also: Wiktionary appendix: Irregular English verbs

Infinitive and basic form

The infinitive in English is the naked root form of the word. When it is being used as a verbal noun, the particle to is usually prefixed to it. When the infinitive stands as the predicate of an auxiliary verb, to may be omitted, depending on the requirements of the idiom.

The infinitive, in English, is one of two verbal nouns: To write is to learn.
The infinitive, either marked with to or unmarked, is used as the complement of many auxiliary verbs: I will write a novel about talking beavers; I am really going to write it.
The basic form also forms the English imperative mood: Write these words.
The basic form makes the English subjunctive mood: If you write it, they will read.

Third person singular

The third person singular in regular verbs in English is distinguished by the suffix -s. In English spelling, this -s is added to the stem of the infinitive form:

If the base ends in a sibilant sound like /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /tʃ/ (see help: Pronunciation) that is not followed by a silent-e, the suffix is written -es :

UKT: Myanmars speaking Burmese should take care of the term sibilant. It is {pwat-taik thn} which is absent as coda in most of Burmese words, but is present as onset. Remember, Burmese-Myanmar is a phonemic script whereas English-Latin is not, and the spelling of Burmese words depends on the correct pronunciation based on spelling.
   In dealing with sibilants we are in the area of phonology which is discussed in Romabama: theory and practice , particularly http://www.tuninst.net/Romabama/Human-Voice/HV4/hv4.htm#POA-sa 081214 from which the inset table IPA Dental to Palatal consonants is taken.  
   As an example of {pwat-taik thn} take the case of disyllabic Burmese-Myanmar word {thic~sa} . Here, the akshara {sa.} has two distinct sounds: a palatal [c] at the end of the first syllable (the coda, where {sa.} is killed or {sa.tht}), and [s] at the beginning of the second syllable (the onset). The <c> in English-Latin <success> /sək'ses/ (DJPD16-515) is of the same type: the first <c> is velar [k] (which I am suggesting is actually the palatal [c]) as coda of the first syllable, and is [s] as the onset of the second syllable.
   Because the Burmese has no [s] in the coda of syllables, Myanmars find it difficult to pronounce English words like <sister> /sɪs.t|əʳ/ (DJPD16-490). The usual transcription of <sister> into Burmese-Myanmar is therefore cumbersome: {sis-sa.ta}. This transcription could be made less cumbersome by following our usual way of writing Pali-derived words as .
   /tʃ/ is usually identified as Burmese-Myanmar {kya.} which is actually deplorable, because in {kya.} there is no element of the dental [t] and the implication that it is "derived" from [t] and [ ʃ ] is due to the inability of the Europeans (with the probable of exception of English) who are sibilant-speakers) to pronounce the English <th>/<> correctly. Burmese-Myanmar has the {tha.}/{a.} sound as in the English <thin> /θɪn/ (DJPD16-535) which is thibilant -- not sibilant.
   Note: Most people are not aware of the fact that <th> is a diagraph which was represented in the Old-English as the 'thorn' character // with the sound [θ]. The following is from AHTD:

thorn (thrn) n. 4. The runic letter originally representing either sound of the Modern English th, as in the and thin, used in Old English and Middle English manuscripts. [Middle English from Old English] -- AHTD

If the base ends in a consonant plus y, the y changes to an i and -es is affixed to the end :

Verbs ending in o typically add -es :

The third person singular present indicative in English is notable cross-linguistically for being a morphologically marked form for a semantically unmarked one. That is to say, the third person singular is usually taken to be the most basic form in a given verbal category and as such, according to markedness theory, should have the simplest of forms in its paradigm. This is clearly not the case with English where the other persons exhibit the bare root and nothing more.

In Early Modern English, some dialects distinguished the third person singular with the suffix -th ; after consonants this was written -eth, and some consonants were doubled when this was added:

The third person singular is used exclusively in the third person form of the English simple "present tense", which often has other uses besides the simple present: He writes airport novels about anthropomorphic rodents.

English preserves a number of preterite-present verbs, such as can and may. These verbs lack a separate form for the third person singular: she can, she may. All surviving preterite-present verbs in modern English are auxiliary verbs. The verb will , although historically not a preterite-present verb, has come to be inflected like one when used as an auxiliary; it adds -s in the third person singular only when it is a full verb:
   Whatever she wills to happen will make life annoying for everyone else

Present Participle

The present participle is formed by adding the suffix -ing to the base form:
If the base ends in silent e, the e is dropped :
If the e is not silent, the e is retained :
If the base ends in -ie, the ie is changed to y:

the base form ends in a single consonant; and
a single vowel precedes that consonant; and
the last syllable of the base form is stressed

UKT: The word 'stress' refers to pronunciation, and it is imperative for non-native English speakers (like Burmese-Myanmar) to look into the pronunciation in books like DJPD16.

then the final consonant is doubled before adding the suffix: setsetting; occuroccurring.

In British English, as an exception, the final <l> is subject to doubling even when the last syllable is not stressed:
   yodel  /jəʊ.dəl/ (DJPD16-603) → yodelling,
   travel  /'trv.əl/ (DJPD16-546) → travelling;
in American English, these follow the rule: yodeling, traveling.

UKT: Burmese-Myanmars should note that in a disyllabic English word, the syllable that has the neutral vowel Schwa /ə/ is not stressed and sometimes hardly audible when spoken by a native-English speaking person speaking British English. Such an unstressed syllable is comparable to Burmese-Myanmar {la.tht} in words like {bol} where the {la.} is not pronounced.

Irregular forms include:
singeing, where the e is (sometimes) not dropped to avoid confusion with singing;
ageing, in British English, where the expected form aging is ambiguous as to whether it has a hard or soft g;
words ending in -c, which add k before the -ing, for example, trafficking, panicking, frolicking, and bivouacking.
a number of words that are subject to the doubling rule even though they do not fall squarely within its terms, such as diagramming, kidnapping, programming, and worshipping.


Basic Use
The present participle is used to form a past, present or future tense with progressive or imperfective aspect: He is writing another long book about beavers.
It is used with quasi-auxiliaries to form verb phrases: He tried writing about opossums instead, but his muse deserted him.' 
It is modified by an adverb
It can be used as an adjective: I caught Jim reading a book
   In this use, it can govern a personal pronoun: I caught her reading a book

NB: Other words also end in -ing, notably certain nouns formed from verbs (verbal nouns) and the gerund. These are usually considered to be different entities. However, since there is a lack of consensus for this view, these are considered here.

The English gerund is that form of a verb that acts as a noun but still retains its identity as a verb. Since it has different properites to the Verbal noun in -ing (below) these two forms are usually, but not always, considered to be separate entities. The gerund has indeed been dubbed a Nounal verb to help distinguish these two uses of the -ing form, but this term is not normal.

The gerund is formed by adding -ing to the base form in the same manner as the present participle.
The gerund can often be distinguished from the present participle by inserting the words the act of before it,
  (though this is true of the verbal noun, too): I enjoy [the act of] drinking wine.
The gerund acts as a noun by standing at the head of a noun phrase: ...drinking wine (in the above context).
It can stand alone in this role: I enjoy drinking.
The gerund remains a verb because it is modified by an adverb not by an adjective: I enjoy drinking wine slowly. [Not: ...drinking wine slow].
The gerund is modified by a possessive determiner or a noun in possessive case
  not by a possessive pronoun or a personal pronoun or a simple noun:
  I don't like your/Jim's drinking wine [Not: I don't like you/Jim drinking wine] See below for an explanation of this usage.
  Note that this is a contentious issue.
The gerund can be used as:
  a subject: Drinking wine is enjoyable or Drinking is enjoyable.
  an object: I enjoy drinking wine or I enjoy drinking.
  a prepositional object: I don't believe in drinking wine for pleasure or ...drinking for pleasure.
  a predicate nominal: Jim's idea of fun is drinking large quantities of wine.
A gerund can often be replaced by an infinitive with to: I like drinking wine or I like to drink wine.

Note on possessives and personal pronouns used with the -ing form

NB: Contentious

There are several possessive forms in English: possessive pronoun, possessive determiner, and the possessive case of nouns. The first governs or is governed by a verb not a noun: This book is mine [not Mine book]. The second governs or is governed by a noun (or a word acting as a noun) not a verb: my book [not This book is my]. The last can govern or be governed by either: This is Helen's book (noun) or This book is Helen's (verb). Furthermore, there is the personal pronoun which also governs or is governed by verbs not nouns: he saw her [not he book].

Since the gerund is technically a verb not a noun it might seem reasonable to assume that it should govern or be governed by a personal pronoun or a possessive pronoun. However, this is not usually accepted as correct because the gerund is in fact acting as a noun while retaining verbal properties. Hence we have as standard English:

Jim doesn't like my reading magazines.
not: Jim doesn't like me reading magazines.

In the first construction, reading is used as a true gerund. The second construction is often disallowed by grammars and the use of the word reading is given names like fused participle and geriple since it is seen to confuse a participle with a gerund. The alternate view is to see it as a genuine particle governing a personal pronoun in the objective case (as well as a nouns as an indirect object), but this is not typical.

It is more often argued, however, that both of the following are correct but with different meanings:

Jim doesn't like me flying.
Jim doesn't like my flying.

The first example seems to imply that Jim does not like my presence in a vehicle that flies whether I am in control of that vehicle or am merely a passenger. Again this is seen as a participle but this time only governing a direct object without an indirect object. The second example seems to comment on my abilities to control the vehicle rather than my presence in the plane. The second is again a true gerund. It could be rewritten:

Jim doesn't like my act of flying or Jim does not like my attempts at flying.

The controversy extends to the use of the possessive case in nouns:

Jim doesn't like Helen flying.
Jim doesn't like Helen's flying.
Jim doesn't like Helen flying planes.
Jim doesn't like Helen's flying planes.

The use of the possessive pronoun is probably best avoided:

Jim doesn't like mine [e.g. my children] flying.
Jim doesn't like mine [e.g. my children] flying planes.

As is the use of any combination of each of these:

Jim doesn't like my children's flying planes.

Verbal nouns

The verbal noun is a noun formed from a verb: arrival, drinking, flight, decision.
   Note that many verbal nouns end in -ing, but they are actually nouns and not verbs.
It acts as a normal noun.
It can, like other nouns, act as an adjective: a writing desk, building beavers, a flight simulator, departure lounge.


In weak verbs, the preterite is formed with the suffix -ed: workworked.

If the base ends in e, -d is simply added to it: honehoned; dye > dyed.

Where the base ends in a consonant plus y, the y changes to i before the -ed is added; denydenied.

Where the base ends in a vowel plus y, the y is retained: alloyalloyed.

The rule for doubling the final consonant in regular weak verbs for the preterite is the same as the rule for doubling in the present participle; see above.

Many strong verbs and other irregular verbs form the preterite differently, for which see that article.

The preterite is used for the English simple (non-iterative or progressive) past tense. He wrote two more chapters about the dam at Kashagawigamog Lake.

Past participle

In regular weak verbs, the past participle is always the same as the preterite.

Irregular verbs may have separate preterites and past participles; see Wiktionary appendix: Irregular English verbs.

The past participle is used with the auxiliary have for the English perfect tenses: They have written about the slap of tails on water, about the scent of the lodge... (With verbs of motion, an archaic form with be may be found in older texts: he is come.)
With be, it forms the passive voice: It is written so well, you can feel what it is like to gnaw down trees!
It is used as an adjective: the written word; a broken dam.
It is used with quasi-auxiliaries to form verb phrases: five hundred thousand words were written in record time.


English verbs, like those in many other western European languages, have more tenses than forms; tenses beyond the ones possible with the five forms listed above are formed with auxiliary verbs, as are the passive voice forms of these verbs. Important auxiliary verbs in English include will, used to form the future tense; shall, formerly used mainly for the future tense, but now used mainly for commands and directives; be, have, and do, which are used to form the supplementary tenses of the English verb, to add aspect to the actions they describe, or for negation.

English verbs display complex forms of negation. While simple negation was used well into the period of early Modern English (Touch not the royal person!) in contemporary English negation usually requires that the negative particle be attached to an auxiliary verb such as do or be. I go not is archaic; I do not go or I am not going are what the contemporary idiom requires.

English exhibits similar idiomatic complexity with the interrogative mood, which in Indo-European languages is not, strictly speaking, a mood. Like many other Western European languages, English historically allowed questions to be asked by inverting the position of verb and subject: Whither goest thou? Now, in English, questions are often trickily idiomatic, and require the use of auxiliary verbs, though occasionally, the interrogative mood is still used in Modern English.

Overview of tenses 

In English grammar, tense refers to any conjugated form expressing time, aspect or mood. The large number of different composite verb forms means that English has the richest and subtlest system of tense and aspect of any Germanic language. This can be confusing for foreign learners; however, English tenses can be considered clear and systematic once one understands that, in each of the three time spheres (present, past and future), there exists a basic or simple form which can then be made either progressive (continuous), perfect, or both.

Because of the neatness of this system, modern textbooks on English generally use the terminology in this table. What was traditionally called the "perfect" is here called "present perfect" and the "pluperfect" becomes "past perfect", in order to show the relationships of the perfect forms to their respective simple forms. Whereas in other Germanic languages, or in Old English, the "perfect" is just a past tense, the English "present perfect" has a present reference; it is both a past tense and a present tense, describing the connection between a past event and a present state.

However, historical linguists sometimes prefer terminology which applies to all Germanic languages and is more helpful for comparative purposes; when describing wrote as a historical form, for example, we would say "preterite" rather than "past simple".

This table, of course, omits a number of forms which can be regarded as additional to the basic system:

the intensive present I do write
the habitual past I used to write
the "shall future" I shall write
the "going-to future" I am going to write
the "future in the past" I was going to write
the conditional I would write
the perfect conditional I would have written
the subjunctive, if I be writing, if I were writing.

Some systems of English grammar eliminate the future tense altogether, treating will/would simply as modal verbs, in the same category as other modal verbs such as can/could and may/might. See Grammatical tense for a more technical discussion of this subject.

Present simple

Or simple present.
Affirmative: I write; He writes
Negative: He does not write
Interrogative: Does he write?
Negative interrogative: Does he not write?

Note that the "simple present" in idiomatic English often identifies habitual or customary action:

He writes about beavers (understanding that he does so all of the time.)

It is used with stative verbs:

She thinks that beavers are remarkable

It can also have a future meaning (though much less commonly than in many other languages):

She goes to Milwaukee on Tuesday.

The present simple has an intensive or emphatic form with "do": He does write. In the negative and interrogative forms, of course, this is identical to the non-emphatic forms. It is typically used as a response to the question Does he write, whether that question is expressed or implied, and says that indeed, he does write.

The different syntactic behavior of the negative particle not and the negative inflectional suffix -n't in the interrogative form is also worth noting. In formal literary English of the sort in which contractions are avoided, not attaches itself to the main verb: Does he not write? When the colloquial contraction -n't is used, this attaches itself to the auxiliary do: Doesn't he write? This in fact is a contraction of a more archaic word order, still occasionally found in poetry: *Does not he write?

Present progressive

Or present continuous.
Affirmative: He is writing
Negative: He is not writing
Interrogative: Is he writing?
Negative interrogative: Is he not writing?

This form describes the simple engagement in a present activity, with the focus on action in progress "at this very moment". It too can indicate a future, particularly when discussing plans already in place: I am flying to Paris tomorrow. Used with "always" it suggests irritation; compare He always does that (neutral) with He is always doing that (and it annoys me). Word order differs here in the negative interrogative between the more formal is he not writing and the colloquial contraction isn't he writing?

Present perfect

Traditionally just called the perfect.
Affirmative: He has written
Negative: He has not written
Interrogative: Has he written?
Negative interrogative: Has he not written?

This indicates that a past event has one of a range of possible relationships to the present. This may be a focus on present result: He has written a very fine book (and look, here it is, we have it now). Alternatively, it may indicate a period which includes the present. I have lived here since my youth (and I still do). Compare: Have you written a letter this morning? (it is still morning) with Did you write a letter this morning? (it is now afternoon). The perfect tenses are frequently used with the adverbs already or recently or with since clauses. Although the label perfect tense implies a completed action, the present perfect can identify habitual (I have written letters since I was ten years old.) or continuous (I have lived here for fifteen years.) action.

In addition to these normal uses where the time frame either is the present or includes the present, the have done construct is used in temporal clauses to define a future time: When you have written it, show it to me. It also forms a perfect infinitive, used when infinitive constructions require a past perspective: Mozart is said to have written his first symphony at the age of eight. (Notice that if not for the need of an infinitive, the simple past would have been used here: He wrote it at age eight.) The past infinitive is also used in the conditional perfect.

Present perfect progressive

Or continuous.
Affirmative: He has been writing
Negative: He has not been writing
Interrogative: Has he been writing?
Negative interrogative: Has he not been writing?

Used for unbroken action in the past which continues right up to the present. I have been writing this paper all morning (and still am).

Present Perfect Continuous is used for denoting the action which was in progress and has just finished (a) or is still going on (b). For example,

a) Why are your eyes red? I have been crying since morning.
-- The action has already finished but was in progress for some time

b) She has been working here for two years already and she is happy.
-- The action is still in progress.

If we have to ask a question with How long? we should use the present perfect continuous. For example,

How long have you been working here?

However, with stative words (such as see, want, like, etc), or if the situation is considered permanent, we should use the present perfect simple. For example,

I have known her since childhood.

If we talk about the whole period, we use for and when we talk about the starting point of the action, we use since.

We should not use the present simple tense for denoting actions that began in the past and are still going on. For example,

I have been ill since Monday. (correct).
* I am ill since Monday. (not correct).

Past simple

Or preterite. In older textbooks often called the imperfect.
Affirmative: He wrote
Negative: He did not write
Interrogative: Did he write?
Negative interrogative: Did he not write?

This tense is used for a single event in the past, sometimes for past habitual action, and in chronological narration. Like the present simple, it has emphatic forms with "do": he did write.

Although it is sometimes taught that the difference between the present perfect and the past simple is negligable, the two are quite distinct:

I ate fish
-- Simple statement of event[s] occuring in the past. Nothing about present state.

I have eaten fish
-- My present status as someone who has eaten fish.

The "used to" past tense for habitual actions is probably best included under the bracket of the past simple. Compare:

When I was young I played football every Saturday.

When I was young I used to play


Past continuous

Or imperfect or past progressive.
Affirmative: He was writing
Negative: He was not writing
Interrogative: Was he writing?
Negative interrogative: Was he not writing?

This is typically used for two events in parallel:

While I was washing the dishes my wife was walking the dog.

Or for an interrupted action (the past simple being used for the interruption):

While I was washing the dishes I heard a loud noise.

Or when we are focusing on a point in the middle of a longer action:

At three o'clock yesterday I was working in the garden.
(Contrast: I worked in the garden all day yesterday.)


Past perfect

Or "pluperfect"
Affirmative: He had written
Negative: He had not written
Interrogative: Had he written?
Negative interrogative: Had he not written?

This is used to indicate that the verb refers back to a time in the past prior to another time also in the past.

This latter could be stated explicitly:

He had left when we arrived.

Or understood from previous information:

I was eating... I had invited Jim to the meal but he was unable to attend.
-- (ie I invited him before I started eating)

Or simply implied from the usage itself:

I had lost my way.
-- (ie prior to the time I am now describing)

It is sometimes possible to use the Simple Past instead of the Past Perfect, but only where there is no ambiguity in the meaning:

The second example could be written:

... I invited Jim to the meal...

Within the rest of the context, this still means that I first invited Jim then later ate the meal (without him). Consider the following, however:

He left when we arrived.

This means that he left and, at the same time, we arrived. Care is required in choosing the correct wording! The following do mean the same:

He left before we arrived.
He had left before we arrived.

The former still seems to imply a causal connection between the the two verbs, however, eg he left because he knew we were coming. The latter sentence does not have the same implication, though it also does not rule out any causal connection.

Past Perfect can also be used to express a counterfactual statement:

If you had done the washing up before we left, you would not need to do it now 

Here, the first clause refers to an unreal state in the past, and the entire construction is a conditional sentence.

Past perfect progressive

Or "pluperfect progressive" or "continuous"
Affirmative: He had been writing
Negative: He had not been writing
Interrogative: Had he been writing?
Negative interrogative: Had he not been writing?

Relates to the past perfect much as the present perfect progressive relates to the present perfect, but tends to be used with less precision.

Future simple

Affirmative: He will write
Negative: He will not write
Interrogative: Will he write?
Negative interrogative: Will he not write?

See the article Shall and Will for a discussion of the two auxiliary verbs used to form the simple future in English. There is also a future with "go" which is used especially for intended actions, and for the weather, and generally is more common in colloquial speech:

I am going to write a book some day.
I think that it is going to rain.

The will future, however, is preferred for spontaneous decisions:

Jack: "I think that we should have a barbecue!"
Jill: "Good idea! I shall go get the coal."

The will future is also used for statements about the present to indicate that they are speculative:

Jack: "I have not eaten a thing all day."
Jill: "Well, I suppose you will be hungry now."

Jack: "There is a woman coming up the drive."
Jill: "That will be my mother."

Future progressive

Affirmative: He will be writing
Negative: He will not be writing
Interrogative: Will he be writing?
Negative interrogative: Will he not be writing?

Used especially to indicate that an event will be in progress at a particular point in the future: This time tomorrow I will be taking my driving test.

Future perfect

Affirmative: He will have written
Negative: He will not have written
Interrogative: Will he have written?
Negative interrogative: Will he not have written?

Used for something which will be completed by a certain time (perfect in the literal sense) or which leads up to a point in the future which is being focused on.

I will have finished my essay by Thursday.
By then she will have been there for three weeks.


Future perfect progressive

Or future perfect continuous.
Affirmative: He will have been writing
Negative: He will not have been writing
Interrogative: Will he have been writing?
Negative interrogative: Will he not have been writing?


Or past subjunctive.
Affirmative: He would write
Negative: He would not write
Interrogative: Would he write?
Negative interrogative: Would he not write?

Used principally in a main clause accompanied by an implicit or explicit doubt or "if-clause"; may refer to conditional statements in present or future time:

I would like to pay now if it is not too much trouble. (in present time; doubt of possibility is explicit)
I would like to pay now. (in present time; doubt is implicit)
I would do it if she asked me. (in future time; doubt is explicit)
I would do it. (in future time; doubt is implicit)

(A very common error by foreign learners is to put the would into the if-clause itself. A humorous formulation of the rule for the classroom runs: "If and would you never should, if and will makes teacher ill!" Nevertheless, of course, both will and would can occur in an if-clause when expressing volition. A student of English may rarely encounter the incorrect construction as it can occur as an archaic form.)

Conditional progressive

Affirmative: He would be writing
Negative interrogative: Would he not be writing?

Used as the continuous tense of the conditional form; describes a situation that would now be prevailing had it not been for some intervening event:

Today if it were not for her injury.
He would be working today had he not been allowed time off.


Conditional perfect

Or pluperfect subjunctive/past-perfect subjunctive.
Affirmative: He would have written
Negative: He would not have written
Interrogative: Would he have written?
Negative interrogative: Would he not have written?

Used as the past tense of the conditional form; expresses thoughts which are or may be contrary to present fact:

I would have set an extra place if I had known you were coming.
-- fact that an extra place was not set is implicit; conditional statement is explicit

I would have set an extra place, but I did not because Mother said you were not coming.
-- fact that a place was not set is explicit; conditional is implicit

I would have set an extra place.
-- fact that a place was not set is implicit, conditional is implicit


Conditional perfect progressive

Affirmative: He would have been writing
Negative: He would not have been writing
Interrogative: Would he have been writing?
Negative interrogative: Would he not have been writing?

Present subjunctive

The form is always identical to the infinitive. This means that, apart from the verb "to be", it is distinct only in the third person singular and the obsolete second person singular.

Indicative: I write, he writes, I am
Subjunctive: I write, he write

Used to refer to situations which are or may be contrary to fact in the present or future; the infactuality is rarely explicit:

I insist that he come at once.
-- present time; fact that the action is not currently occurring is implicit

I insist that he come when I call.
-- future time; fact that the action may or may not occur is implicit 

(The present subjunctive is often interchangeable with the past subjunctive like so: I insist that he must come at once.)

Imperfect subjunctive

The use of the old term "imperfect" shows that this form is so rare that it has not been integrated into the modern system of English tense classification. The imperfect subjunctive is identical to the past simple in every verb except the verb "to be". With this verb, there is an option, but no longer a necessity, of using were throughout all forms (i.e., I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener, vs. I wish I was a girl).

Indicative: I was
Traditional Subjunctive: I were
Colloquial Subjunctive: I was

If I were rich, I would retire to the South of France.

UKT: End of Wikipedia article.

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finite verb

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_verb 081225

A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand by their own as complete sentences.

The finite forms of a verb are the forms where the verb shows tense, person or singular plural. Non-finite verb forms have no person, tense or number.

Finite verbs: I go, she goes, he went

Non-finite: To go, going, gone

In most Indo-European languages, every grammatically complete sentence or clause must contain a finite verb; sentence fragments not containing finite verbs are described as phrases or minor sentences. In Latin and some Romance languages, however, there are a few words that can be used to form sentences without verbs, such as Latin ecce, Portuguese eis, French voici and voil, and Italian ecco, all of these translatable as here ... is or here ... are.

UKT: What about Pali {-hi.} ?
PTS Dict162 gives {-hi.} as Ehi  [imper. of eti ] come, come here . ... In later language part. of exhortation ...

Some interjections can play the same role. Even in English, a sentence like Thanks for your help! has an interjection where it could have a subject and a finite verb form (compare I appreciate your help!).

In English, as in most related languages, only verbs in certain moods are finite. These include:

the indicative mood (expressing a state of affairs); e.g., "The bulldozer demolished the restaurant," "The leaves were yellow and stiff."
the imperative mood (giving a command).
the subjunctive mood (expressing something that might or might not be the state of affairs, depending on some other part of the sentence).

Verb forms that are not finite include:

the infinitive
participles (e.g., "The broken window...", "The wheezing gentleman...")
gerunds and gerundives

UKT: End of Wikipedia article.

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerundive 081226

In linguistics, a gerundive is a particular verb form. The term is applied very differently to different languages; depending on the language, gerundives may be verbal adjectives, verbal adverbs, or finite verbs. Not every language has gerundives; for example, English does not

In Latin

In Latin, the gerundive is a verbal adjective used to indicate that a noun needs or deserves to be the object of an action. It is sometimes known as a future passive participle. For example, if English had a Latin-style gerundive, and feed-ando were the gerundive form of the verb to feed, then "The cat is feed-ando" would mean "The cat should be fed." English sometimes uses a passive infinitive to this effect: "The cat is to be fed."

Some examples of the Latin gerundive include:

Cato the Elder, a Roman senator, frequently ended his speeches with the statement, "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse" (lit. "I also think Carthage to be "[something] that must be destroyed"" i.e. "I also think Carthage must be destroyed").

In the Harry Potter series of novels, the motto of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is "Draco dormiens numquam titillandus" (lit. "[A] dragon sleeping [is] never to be tickled," i.e. "Never tickle a sleeping dragon").

The phrase "quod erat demonstrandum" ("which was to be demonstrated"), whose abbreviated form Q.E.D. is often used after the final conclusion of a proof.

The name Amanda is a feminization of amandus, the gerundive of amare, to love. Thus, it means roughly, "worthy of being loved", "worthy of love", or simply "loveable". Similarly with the name Miranda; mirare means to admire, so the name means roughly "worthy of admiration" or "admirable".

A number of English words come directly from Latin gerundives; for example, addendum comes from the gerundive of addere, to add; referendum comes from the gerundive of referre, to bring back; and agenda comes from a plural of agendum, the gerundive of agere, to do. Additionally, some words come from Latin gerundives by an indirect route; propaganda, for example, comes from a New Latin phrase containing a feminine form of propagandum, the gerundive of propagare, to propagate.

UKT: more in the original article.

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Markedness theory

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markedness 081218

Markedness is a linguistic concept that developed out of the Prague School. A marked form is a non-basic or less natural form. An unmarked form is a basic, default form. For example, lion is the unmarked choice in English it could refer to a male or female lion. But lioness is marked because it can only refer to females. The unmarked forms serve as general terms: e.g. brotherhood of man has sometimes been used to refer all people, both men and women, while sisterhood refers only to women. The form of a word that is conventionally chosen to be the lemma form is typically the form that is the least marked.

Markedness originally developed from phonology where phonetic symbols were literally marked to indicate additional features, such as voicing, nasalization or roundedness. Markedness is still an influential concept in current phonological theory. In Optimality Theory many of the central arguments concerning constraints and ordering have to do with the markedness of a form.

The concept of markedness has been extended to other areas of grammar as well, such as morphology, syntax and semantics. Markedness is a very fuzzy notion, especially if it is not made clear whether something is marked phonetically, phonologically, morphologically, syntactically, or semantically. There are many sets of varied criteria to determine which forms are considered more marked and which are not: Some quantify markedness in terms of statistical frequency of use, others define it in psycholinguistic terms, yet others use merely their own intuitions on the subject. When correctly and stringently used the term is very effective at describing the relations of forms in a paradigm. An important fact is that what is more highly marked on one linguistic level may be less highly marked on another. For example: "ant" is less marked than "ants" on the morphological level, but on the semantic and frequency levels it may be more marked since ants are more often encountered many at once than one at a time. The latter fact is reflected in certain Frisian words' plural and singular forms : In Frisian, nouns with irregular singular-plural stem variations are undergoing regularization. Usually this means that the plural is reformed to be a regular form of the singular:

OLD PARADIGM: "koal"(coal), "kwallen"(coals) > REGULARIZED FORMS: "Koal"(coal), "Koalen"(coals).

However, a number of words instead reform the singular to be a regular form of the plural:

OLD PARADIGM: "earm"(arm), "jermen"(arms) > REGULARIZED FORMS: "jerm"(arm), "jermen"(arms)

The common demoninator of the nouns that regularize the singular to match the plural is that they are terms that more often occur in pairs or in groups; they are said to be (semantically, not morphologically) locally unmarked in the plural.

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non-finite verb (or verbal)

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-finite_verb 081225

In linguistics, a non-finite verb (or a verbal) is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person. As a result, a non-finite verb cannot generally serve as the main verb in an independent clause; rather, it heads a non-finite clause.

By some accounts, a non-finite verb acts simultaneously as a verb and as another part of speech; it can take adverbs and certain kinds of verb arguments, producing a verbal phrase (i.e., non-finite clause), and this phrase then plays a different role usually noun, adjective, or adverb in a greater clause. This is the reason for the term verbal; non-finite verbs have traditionally been classified as verbal nouns, verbal adjectives, or verbal adverbs.

English has three kinds of verbals:

1. participles, which function as adjectives;
2. gerunds, which function as nouns; and
3. infinitives, which have noun-like, adjective-like, and adverb-like functions.

Each of these kinds of verbals is also used in various common constructs; for example, the past participle is used in forming the perfect aspect (to have done).

Other kinds of verbals, such as supines and gerundives, exist in other languages.


A participle is a verbal adjective that describes a noun as being a participant in the action of the verb. English has two kinds of participles: a present participle, also called an imperfect participle, which ends in -ing and which ordinarily describes the agent of an action, and a past participle, also called a perfect participle, which typically ends in -ed (but can also end in -en, -t, or none of these), and which ordinarily describes the patient of an action.

The following sentences contain participles:

The talking children angered the teacher.
-- Here talking modifies children

Annoyed, Rita ate dinner by herself in the bedroom.
-- Here annoyed modifies Rita

In English, the present participle is used in forming the continuous aspect (to be doing); the past participle is used in forming the passive voice (to be done) and the perfect aspect (to have done).

A participial phrase is a phrase consisting of a participle and any adverbials and/or arguments; the participle is the head of such a phrase:

Gazing at the painting, she recalled the house where she was born.
-- Here gazing at the painting modifies she.


A gerund is a verbal noun that refers to the action of the verb. In English, a gerund has the same form as a present participle (see above), ending in -ing:

Fencing is good exercise.
-- Here fencing is the subject of is

Leroy expanded his skills by studying.
-- Here studying is the object of by

A gerund phrase is a phrase consisting of a gerund and any adverbials and/or arguments; the gerund is the head of such a phrase:

My evening routine features jogging slowly around the block. (Here jogging slowly around the block is the direct object of features.)


In English, the infinitive verb form is often introduced by the particle to, as in to eat or to run. The resulting phrase can then function as a subject or object, or as a modifier.

To succeed takes courage, foresight, and luck.
-- Here to succeed is the subject of takes

I don't have time to waste.
-- Here to waste modifies time

Carol was invited to speak.
-- Here to speak is the object of invited

Do not stop to chat.
-- Here to chat functions as an adverb modifying stop

An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive and any related words.

UKT: End of Wikipedia article.

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regular and irregular verb

by UKT

For a Myanmar whose language uses a different system of verbs, the English verbs are the greatest obstacles in learning the English language. The Burmese-Myanmar language -- the first language of the majority of the population of the country of Myanmar -- does not pay much attention to tenses and numbers. Thus, in teaching English to Myanmars, we should state clearly that the English verbs fall into two distinct classes: regular and irregular verbs. We should emphasize that these verbs undergo changes depending upon the time and mode of action, and the number. The regular verbs change in a simple manner but the irregular verbs change in an unpredictable manner and the students have to remember the individual cases.

Regular verbs -- addition of "-ed" with time change:
    walk (present), walked (past),
    paint (present), painted (past)

Irregular verbs -- entire change of spelling with time change:
    go (present), went (past)
    think (present), thought (past)
    grow (present), grew (past)
    sing (present), sang (past) 

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_E 081214

Silent e is a writing convention in English spelling. When reading, the silent letter e at the end of a word signals a specific pronunciation of the preceding vowel letter, as in the difference between "rid" /ɹɪd/ and "ride" /ɹaɪd/. This orthographic pattern followed the phonological changes of the Great Vowel Shift in late Middle English. Educators have erroneously described this difference with the terms "short vowel" and "long vowel," both borrowed from studies of the Great Vowel Shift, when vowel length was still a meaningful distinction. Analysis of common spellings and pronunciations shows that the "silent e" most often but not without exceptions signals a different phoneme than a word spelled without it.

UKT: Transcription of English into Burmese is not straightforward because English-Latin is not a phonemic script. Therefore, I first transcribe an English word into IPA, and then from IPA to Burmese-Myanmar.
   Even then, transliteration of English-Latin into Burmese-Myanmar has never been easy. But, the transcription of words ending in silent-e is worse because Burmese-Myanmar words must not end in a normal consonant with an inherent vowel (which is likened to <a> or <>). Thus the consonant has to be "killed" with an {a.tht} making it "vowel-less". I will attempt to transcribe the above words and wait for comments from my peers -- UKT 081215.
<mad/made> : /md/meɪd/ --> {makd} / {maitd} (killed {k} and {t} are needed because killed {d} is not used in Burmese.)
<bed/Bede> : /bɛd/biːd/ --> {bakd} / {bi:d}
<bit/bite> : /bɪt/baɪt/ --> {bist} or {bt} (after {hkt})/ {bait}
<bot/bote> : /bɒt/boʊt/ --> {baut} / {boat}
<but/butte> : /bʌt/bjuːt/ --> {bt} / {byu:t}

Effect of silent-e on simple vowels

UKT: I liken the silent-e or the "magic-e" to "split vowels" of Burmese and Bengali such as {kau:} and ো in which the consonant (e.g. {ka.}} goes into the middle of the two vowel signs.

When silent e occurs in an English word, it converts a vowel to its "long" equivalent. If English were spelled with the traditional Romance language vowel values of the Latin alphabet, often these vowels would be written with another letter entirely. Moreover, alternatives exist in English for most spellings that use silent e. Depending on dialect, English has anywhere from thirteen to more than twenty separate vowel sounds (both monophthongs and diphthongs). Silent e is one of the ways English spelling is able to use the Latin alphabet's five vowel characters to represent so many vowels.

Traditionally, the vowels /ei iː ai ou juː/ (as in bait beet bite boatb eauty) are said to be the "long" counterparts of the vowels / ɛ ɪ ɒ ʌ/ (as in bat bet bit bot but) which are said to be "short". This terminology reflects the historical pronunciation and development of those vowels; as a phonetic description of their current values, it is no longer accurate. The values of the vowels these sounds are written with used to be similar to the values those letters had in French or Italian. The traditional "long vowels" also closely correspond to the letter names those vowels bear in the English alphabet, and the letter name is usually an accurate guide to the value of the vowel that is affected by silent e.

UKT: The first sentence of the above paragraph implies that the five vowels <a, e, i, o, u> traditional English alphabet that we learn as children are "short" vowels with the pronunciation / ɛ ɪ ɒ ʌ/. However, the English vowels are always changing as shown by the change in formant values as noted by de Jong, Gea; Kirsty McDougall & Toby Hudson et al. (2007), "The speaker discriminating power of sounds undergoing historical change: A formant-based study", the Proceedings of ICPhS Saarbrcken, 1813-1816 .

This variety of vowels is due to the effects of the Great Vowel Shift that marked the end of Middle English and the beginning of Early Modern English. The vowel shift gave current English "long vowels" values that differ markedly from the "short vowels" that they relate to in writing. Since English has a literary tradition that goes back into the Middle English period, written English continues to use Middle English writing conventions to mark distinctions that had been reordered by the chain shift of the long vowels.

When final 'e' is not silent, this generally requires some sort of indication in English spelling. This is usually done via doubling (employee: this word has employe as an obsolete spelling). When the silent e becomes a part of an inflection, its non-silent status can be indicated by a number of diacritical marks, such as a grave accent (learnd) or a diaeresis (learnd, Bront). Other diacritical marks can appear in foreign words (compare rsum with nativized resume).

UKT: Refer to the vowel diagram on the right for comparing Burmese-Myanmar vowels to the IPA vowels.
    To me, a bilingual in Burmese and English, and who could understand and speak English very early in life:
{a.} and {a} generally sound /a/, //, or /ə/
{au} and {au:} generally sound /ɑ/
/ɔ/ (generally known as "Open O") sounds between {au} and {o}
Note: the English vowels given below, <a>, <e>, <i>, <o>, <u>, are the five English vowels of the traditional English alphabet, and should not be taken as IPA vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/.

The <a> group

The sounds of the <a> group are some of the more dialectically complex features of contemporary modern English; the sounds that can be represented in modern English by <a> include //, /ɑː/, and /ɔ/. See broad A and cot-caught merger for some of the cross-dialect complexities of the English 'a' group. The effect of silent e on English <a> moves it towards /eɪ/.

/eɪ/ is a diphthong which begins at /e/ {} and ends in {i}. Burmese-Myanmars cannot pronounce diphthongs in general and so they would pronounce somewhere in between {} and {i} as a monophthong.

The <e> group

Silent e typically moves <e> to /i ː/ ( {i:}). This change is generally consistent across all English dialects.

The <i> group

For the "long vowel" represented in written English by 'i', the effect of silent e is to turn it into a diphthong /aɪ/. In some dialects, this diphthong is affected by the voiced or unvoiced quality of the following consonant so that it may be closer to [əɪ]; see Canadian raising.

The <o> group

Short <o>, in contemporary English, tends to fall in with short <a> and to share some of the complexities of that group; depending on dialect, the written short <o> can represent /ɑː/, as well as /ɔ/ and /oː/. The usual effect of silent e on written <o> is to fix it as a long o song. In several dialects of English, this long /oː/ is realized as a diphthong /oʊ/; and in some forms of southern British English, the leading element is centralized further, yielding /ə ʊ/. All of the sounds in the previous sentence are in free variation with one another.

The <u> group

Silent e generally turns the sound written as <u> to its corresponding long vowel /ju ː/, although there are exceptions depending on dialect (see yod-dropping). Initial long <u> as in use in almost always subject to iotacism.

Silent e and consonants

Silent e also functions as a front vowel for purposes of representing the outcome in English of Palatalized sounds. For example;

Mac > mace (/mk/ > /meɪs/) : {mak} > {m:s}
hug > huge (/hʌg/ > hju ːdʒ/) : {hpg} > {hu:gy}

where /s/ is the expected outcome of the ce digraph, and the g in huge is pronounced /dʒ/. Silent e is used in some words with 'dg' in which it does not lengthen a vowel; ridge, sedge, hodge-podge. Spelling such words with 'j', the other letter that indicates that sound, does not occur in native or nativized English words.

Truly silent e

In some common words that historically had long vowels, silent e no longer has its usual lengthening effect; come, done. This is especially con n some words that historically had 'f' instead of 'v', such as give and love; in Old English, /f/ became /v/ when it appeared between two vowels (OE giefan, lufu) while a geminated 'ff' lost its doubling to yield /f/ in that position. This also applies to a large class of words with the adjective suffix '-ive', such as captive, that originally had '-if' in French.

Some words loaned to English from French, such as promenade, remain pronounced in an approximation of their French original. In French there is an equivalent of this type of truly silent e, called e muet or e caduc; it has many rules as to when it really is sounded.

Some English words vary their accented syllable based on whether they are used as nouns or as adjectives. In a few words such as minute, this may affect the operation of silent e: as an adjective, minte has the usual value of 'u' followed by silent e, while as a noun mnute silent e does not operate. See initialstress-derived noun for similar patterns that may give rise to exceptions.


Silent e, like many conventions of written language that no longer reflect current pronunciations, was not always silent. In Chaucer's Balade, the first line does not scan properly unless what appears to current eyes to be a silent e is pronounced:

Hyd, Absolon, thy gilt tresses cler

Gilte ends in the same sound as modern English Malta, and clere sounds like the contemporary pronunciation of Clara. In Middle English, this final schwa had some grammatical significance, although that was mostly lost by Chaucer's time. It was elided regularly when a word beginning with a vowel came next. The consequences of silent e in contemporary spelling reflect the phonology of Middle English. In Middle English, as a consequence of the lax vowel rule shared by most Germanic languages, vowels were long when they historically occurred in stressed open syllables; they were short when they occurred in "checked," or closed syllables. Thus bide /'biːdə/ had a long vowel, while bid /bid/ had a short one.

The historical sequence went something like this:

In Old English, a phonological distinction was made between long and short vowels.

In Middle English, vowel length was lost as a phonological feature, but was still phonetically present. A word like bide, syllabified bi.de and phonetically [biːdə], had one stressed, open, long syllable. On the other hand, the word bid, although stressed, had a short vowel: [bid].

At some point unknown to us, the phonetically long vowels began to diphthongize. This was the start of the Great Vowel Shift. Possibly at the same time, the short vowels were laxed. So as "bide" [biːdə] became [bɨidə], "bid" [bid] changed to [bɪd].

At a later point, all word-final schwas were lost. The phonetic motivation for lengthening the vowel -- the open syllable -- was lost, but the process of diphthongization had already begun, and the vowels which had once been identical except for length were now phonetically dissimilar and phonologically distinct.

The writing convention of silent e marks the fact that different vowel qualities had become phonemic, and were preserved even when phonemic vowel length was lost.

Long vowels could arise by other mechanisms. One of these is known as "compensatory lengthening"; this occurred when consonants formerly present were lost: maid is the modern descendant of Old English mgde. In this example, the g actually became a glide /j/, so in a sense, the length of the consonant stayed where it always had been, and there was no "compensation." The silent e rule became available to represent long vowels in writing that arose from other sources; Old English brŷd, representing *bruʒd-i-, became Modern English bride.

The rules of current English spelling were first set forth by Richard Mulcaster in his 1582 publication Elementarie. Mulcaster called silent e "qualifying e", and wrote of it:

It altereth the sound of all the vowells, euen quite thorough one or mo consonants as, mde, stme, che, knde, strpe, re, cre, tste sound sharp with the qualifying E in their end: whereas, md, stm, ch, frind, strip, or, cut, tost, contract of tossed sound flat without the same E, And therefor the same loud and sharp sound in the word, calleth still for the qualifying e, in the end, as the flat and short nedeth it not. It qualifyeth no ending vowell, bycause it followeth none in the end, sauing i. as in daie, maie, saie, trewlie, safetie, where it maketh i, either not to be heard, or verie gentlie to be heard, which otherwise wold sound loud and sharp, and must be expressed by y. as, deny, aby, ally. Which kinde of writing shalbe noted hereafter. It altereth also the force of, c, g, s, tho it sound not after them, as in hence, for that, which might sound henk, if anie word ended in c. in swinge differing from swing, in vse differing from vs.

Mulcaster also formulated the rule that a double letter, when final, indicated a short vowel in English, while the absence of doubling and the presence of silent e made the vowel long. In modern English, this rule is most prominent in its effects on the written "a" series:

gal, gall, gale (/gl, /gɔːl/, /geɪl/).

Digraphs are sometimes treated as single letters for purposes of this rule:

bath, bathe (/bθ/, /beɪ/)

UKT: It is unfortunate that Modern English is using the digraph <th> in place of the Old English 'thorn' character <>. If only Modern English had continued to use it, the above two words would be: ba, bae (/bθ/, /beɪ/). It would then be easy to transliterate into Burmese-Myanmar in which <> has an equivalent {tha.}/{a.} .

Cultural significance

Tom Lehrer wrote a song called Silent E for the children's television series The Electric Company in 1971. In it, he asks the musical questions:

Who can turn a can into a cane?
Who can turn a pan into a pane?
It's not too hard to see,
It's Silent E.

The superhero Letterman, also featured on The Electric Company, was described as being "stronger than silent e".

A series of similar songs about Magic E was featured in the British educational series Look and Read between 1974 and 1994, written by Roger Limb and Rosanna Hibbert and performed by Derek Griffiths.

In the children's show Between the Lions, there was an evil character called Silent E, who was featured in a musical animated sketch where he makes the vowel sounds say their names and changes the words without a silent e into words with a silent e. He is carted off to jail, but easily escapes by using either the policeman's pin and turning it into a pine to climb out the window or the policeman's cap and turning it into a cape to fly out the window. Either way, after that, the policeman shouted, "Well, Silent e, you may have slipped out of my grasp this time, but mark my words: I'll get you YET!"

Here Comes Silent E (ISBBN 0375812334), published by Random House Books for Young Readers in 2004, features a character named Silent E who changes words around.

End of Wikipedia article.

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From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selkie 081215

Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish mythology.

They can transform themselves from seals to humans. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney Islands, where selch or selk(ie) is the Scots word for seal (from Old English seolh ).

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strong verbs and weak verbs

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993 Columbia Univ. Press. http://www.bartleby.com/68/73/5773.html 081214
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_weak_verb 081218

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English

Jacob Grimm (17851863), one of the two fairy-talecollecting brothers from Germany who were also famous grammarians, chose the names strong verbs and weak verbs for the two dominant patterns of verbs in the Germanic languages. Those he called strong made their past tenses and past participles mainly by changing medial vowels, as do English begin, began, begun and drive, drove, driven. His weak verbs made their tense changes by adding various forms of the dental suffix, as in English study, studied, studied and bake, baked, baked. The irony of the terminology is that strong verbs, more numerous during the Old English period, have been a slowly dwindling group in English over the centuries, while the weak verbs have become the dominant pattern in English. Many verbs that were formerly strong now use the weak pattern, and many more, such as weave, wove, woven, are in the middle of change from strong to weak, currently displaying weak forms in divided usage with strong ones (weave, weaved, weaved). When we borrow or coin new verbs, we almost always put them in the weak pattern (we have recently made a new verb, to fax, and we did it on the weak pattern fax, faxed, faxed not with a vowel change for past tense and past participle), and today we have to learn the past and past participle forms of the strong verbs almost word by word (note how very young children first learn the dominant weak pattern for the past tense and say swimmed; only later do they correct to the strong swam). See also STRONG VERBS (1); WEAK VERBS.

UKT: The word "dental suffix" is perhaps not appropriate: the "dental" which probably refers to the /d/ with the POA (Point of Articulation) "dental" is the word that throws me off. In the words, study, studied, studied, the suffixes -dy, -died, -died have dental suffixes, however, in the words, bake, baked, baked, the suffixes -ke, -ked, -ked are velar suffixes.


In Germanic languages, including English, weak verbs are by far the largest group of verbs, which are therefore often regarded as the norm, though historically they are not the oldest or most original group.

General description
In Germanic languages, weak verbs are those verbs that form their preterites and past participles by means of a dental suffix, an inflection that contains a /t/ or /d/ sound or similar. In English the preterite and participle are always identical, but in most of the languages there are three principal parts. For example [see inset on right]:

For comparative purposes we may refer to this generally as a dental, although in some of the languages, including English, /t/ and /d/ are alveolar rather than dental consonants. In English, the dental is a /d/ after a voiced consonant (loved ) or vowel, and a /t/ after a voiceless consonant (laughed ), though English uses the spelling in <d> in most cases, regardless of pronunciation, with the exception of a few verbs with irregular spellings.

In German and Dutch, terminal devoicing means that final consonants are never voiced, so the pronunciation /d/ does not occur in German and the Dutch past participle (in Dutch preterite it does occur, because the suffix after a voiced consonant there is <de(n)>, in which the <d> is still followed by a vowel). Nevertheless, Dutch does distinguish the letters <d> and <t> in the past participle because if the participle is used as an adjective the /d/ resurfaces in the inflected forms. (See Dutch spelling for the 't kofschip rule.) German on the other hand knows only spellings in <t>.

In Icelandic, the dental has become a voiced dental fricative //, as it was in some verbs in Old English. In Afrikaans it has disappeared altogether.

Weak and strong
Weak verbs should be contrasted with strong verbs, which form their past tenses by means of ablaut (vowel gradation: sing - sang - sung). Most verbs in the early stages of the Germanic languages were strong. However, as the ablaut system is no longer productive except in rare cases of analogy, almost all new verbs in Germanic languages are weak, and the majority of the original strong verbs have become weak by analogy.

Strong to weak transformation
As an example of originally strong verbs becoming weak we may consider the development from the Old English strong verb scūfan to modern English shove:

scūfan scēaf scofen (strong class 2)
shove shoved shoved

Many hundreds of English weak verbs go back to Old English strong verbs.

In some cases a verb has become weak in the preterite but not in the participle, or (rarely) vice versa. These verbs may be thought of as "semi-strong" (not a technical term). Dutch has a number of examples of this:

wassen waste gewassen ("to wash")
jagen joeg gejaagd ("to hunt")

An example in English is:

sow sowed sown (strong class 7 with weak preterite)

Often the old strong participle may survive as an adjective long after it has been replaced with a weak form in verbal constructions. German backen (to bake) now has the participle gebackt , but baked cheese is gebakener Kse . The English adjective forlorn is an old strong participle of a now defunct prefixed form of lose .

Weak to strong transformations
The reverse process is also possible, though very rare: verbs which were originally weak can become strong by analogy. This can also be partial, producing "semi-strong" verbs:

show showed shown (originally weak verb with participle modelled on sown)

Weak verbs which develop strong forms are often unstable. A typical example is German fragen (to ask), which for a time in the 18th century had the forms fragen frug gefragen by analogy with tragen (to carry); but this proved to be a passing fashion (though a present tense frgt is still heard in dialects).

UKT: More in the original article.

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supine 081230

In grammar a supine is a form of verbal noun used in some languages.

In Latin

In Latin there are two supines, I and II. They are originally the accusative and dative or ablative forms of verbal noun in the fourth declension, respectively. The first supine is often used as the fourth principal part of Latin verbs and ends in -um. It has two uses. The first is with verbs of motion and indicates purpose. For example, "Gladiatores adfuerunt pugnatum" is Latin for "The gladiators have come to fight", and "Legati gratulatum et cubitum venerunt" is Latin for "The messengers came to congratulate and to sleep." The second usage is in the Future Passive Infinitive, for example "amatum iri" means "to be about to be loved". It mostly appears in indirect statements, for example "credidit se necatum iri", meaning "he thought that he was going to be killed".

The second supine can be used with adjectives but it is rarely used and only a small number of verbs traditionally take it. It is derived from the dativus finalis which expresses purpose or the ablativus respectivus which indicates in what respect. It is the same as the first supine minus the final -m and with lengthened "u". "Mirabile dictū", for example, means "amazing to say", where dictū is a supine form.

In other languages

Outside of Latin, a supine is a non-finite verb form whose use resembles that of the Latin supine.

The English supine is the bare infinitive (the verb's plain form) introduced by the particle to; for this reason it is often called the full infinitive or to-infinitive.

The Romanian supine generally corresponds to an English construction like for doing; for example, "Această carte este de citit" means "This book is for reading."

The Slovene supine is used after verbs of movement. See Slovenian verbs. The supine was used in Proto-Slavic but it was replaced in most Slavic languages by the infinitive in later periods. In Czech, the contemporary infinitive ending -t (formerly -ti) originates from the supine.

In Swedish the supine is used with an auxiliary verb to produce some compound verb forms. See Swedish grammar. This also applies to Norwegian where the form supine is called perfektum.

UKT: End of Wikipedia article.

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