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Английский FAQ 
Welcome to the Английский FAQ In this area of our site, you will find the answers to the frequently asked questions, as well as answers to How do I and Did you know questions. Please feel free to post a comment on any Q&A.
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 The Parts of Speech
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.
8 What is an Interjection?
 The Parts of The Sentence
The parts of the sentence are a set of terms for describing how people construct sentences from smaller pieces. There is not a direct correspondence between the parts of the sentence and the parts of speech -- the subject of a sentence, for example, could be a noun, a pronoun, or even an entire phrase or clause. Like the parts of speech, however, the parts of the sentence form part of the basic vocabulary of grammar, and it is important that you take some time to learn and understand them.
2 What Are Objects and Complements?
 Punctuation
The following sections will help you understand and use different types of punctuation more effectively in your writing. This chapter begins with the comma, the punctuation mark which usually causes writers the most trouble, before turning to other types of punctuation.
7 What is The Dash?
 Using Pronouns
Pronouns connect people and things into sentences. Rather than saying a person's name, you can say 'they' or 'I'. This does remove information about the person or thing referenced and can make the sentence more general.
2 Tricky Points of Pronoun Usage
 Using 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 expresses actions, events, or states of being
16 ASK is one of the most common verbs in English
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Spelling ]


When a word ends in "y" preceded by a consonant, you should usually change the "y" to "i" before adding the suffix:

curly becomes curlier
party becomes parties
thirty becomes thirties, thirtieth

However, if the suffix already begins with "i", keep the "y" (except before the suffix "-ize"):

thirty becomes thirtyish
fry becomes frying
agony becomes agonize
memory becomes memorize

When the ending "y" is preceded by a vowel ("a" "e" "i" "o" or "u"), "y" does not change to "i":

journey becomes journeying
trolley becomes trolleys


Spelling ]


When the sound is a long "e" (as in feed), write "i" before "e", except after "c". After "c" reverse the spelling ("ei"):

After other letters
believe, yield, reprieve
After c
ceiling, perceive, conceit

The problem with this rule is that it works only when "ei"/"ie" sounds like the "ee" in feet. If it has any other sound, you should write "ei" even after letters other than "c":

foreign, vein, freight


Spelling ]


Spell checkers will catch some kinds of errors, but not all. For example, they tend to miss homonyms -- words which are pronounced the same way but spelled differently, such as site/ sight, there/ their/ they're, and its/ it's. Most spell-checkers, for example, would report no error in the following sentence, despite the fact that there are three serious spelling mistakes:

Their looking for a new sight where the gopher can build it's home.

The joint influence of British and American spelling on Canadian usage has provided an additional challenge to Canadian students: Canadians tend to follow standard British spelling for certain words (axe, cheque), to follow American spelling for others (connection, tire), and to allow either for yet more (programme/ program, labour/ labor, neighbour/ neighbor). The important thing to remember is to be consistent in usage and to follow a regular pattern when you spell. Don't mix neighbour with labor, for example. Choose one or the other pattern, and follow it closely. The best way to avoid problems with mixed British and American spelling is to keep a dictionary handy that shows Canadian usage.

Although spelling correctly is largely a matter of practice and the common-sense use of reference materials, there are four standard spelling rules. Although each has exceptions, if you study these rules carefully, you will be able to avoid most common errors, even without a spell-checker.


Diction ]


The relationship between words and meanings is extremely complicated, and belongs to the field of semantics. For now, though, what you need to know is that words do not have single, simple meanings. Traditionally, grammarians have referred to the meanings of words in two parts:

denotation
a literal meaning of the word
connotation
an association (emotional or otherwise) which the word evokes

For example, both "woman" and "chick" have the denotation "adult female" in North American society, but "chick" has somewhat negative connotations, while "woman" is neutral.

For another example of connotations, consider the following:

negative
There are over 2,000 vagrants in the city.
neutral
There are over 2,000 people with no fixed address in the city.
positive
There are over 2,000 homeless in the city.

All three of these expressions refer to exactly the same people, but they will invoke different associations in the reader's mind: a "vagrant" is a public nuisance while a "homeless" person is a worthy object of pity and charity. Presumably, someone writing an editorial in support of a new shelter would use the positive form, while someone writing an editorial in support of anti-loitering laws would use the negative form.

In this case, the dry legal expression "with no fixed address" quite deliberately avoids most of the positive or negative associations of the other two terms -- a legal specialist will try to avoid connotative language altogether when writing legislation, often resorting to archaic Latin or French terms which are not a part of ordinary spoken English, and thus, relatively free of strong emotional associations.

Many of the most obvious changes in the English language over the past few decades have had to do with the connotations of words which refer to groups of people. Since the 1950's, words like "Negro" and "crippled" have acquired strong negative connotations, and have been replaced either by words with neutral connotations (ie "black," "handicapped") or by words with deliberately positive connotations (ie "African-Canadian," "differently-abled").


Diction ]


Under pressure to create (usually against a deadline), a writer will naturally use familiar verbal patterns rather than thinking up new ones. Inexperienced writers, however, will sometimes go further, and string together over-used phrases or even sentences. Consider the following example:

When all is said and done, even a little aid can go a long way in a country suffering from famine.

The argument is commendable, but its written expression is poor and unoriginal. First, consider the phrase "when all is said and done." Once, this phrase was clever and original, but so many millions of writers and speakers have used it so many times over so many years that the phrase has become automatic and nearly meaningless. This type of worn-out phrase is called a catch phrase, and you should always avoid it in your writing, unless you are quoting someone else: you own, original words are always more interesting.

A particularly stale catch phrase -- especially one which was once particularly clever -- is a cliché. In the example given above, the phrase "a little aid can go a long way" fits into the formula "a little *** can go a long way," seriously lowers the quality of the writing. Essentially, a cliché is a catch phrase which can make people groan out loud, but the difference between the two is not that important -- just remember that neither usually belongs in your writing.

Here are some more sample clichés and catch phrases from students' essays:

the dictionary defines *** as ...
key to the future
facing a dim future
drive a wedge between
starving students
enough (for ***) to handle
in today's world
the *** generation
the impossible dream
enough to worry about without ...
putting the cart before the horse
a bird in the hand
glitzy, high-tech world

There is no simple formula that you can apply to decide what is a cliché or a catch phrase, but the more you read, the better your sense of judgement will become. Remember, though -- if you think that a phrase in your writing is clever, and you know that someone has used the phrase before, then you are best rewriting it into your own words.

Special Considerations for Catch Phrases

While clichés and catch phrases have no place in academic essays, there are some times of writing where you should use pre-existing formulas. Such documents include scientific papers, legal briefs, maintenance logs, and police reports (to name a few) -- these are highly repetitive and largely predictable in their language, but they are meant to convey highly technical information in a standard, well-defined format, not to persuade or entertain a reader -- creativity in an auditor's report, for example, would not be highly prized.

On the other hand, catch phrases are not appropriate in less technical areas. Journalists, especially, are under a pressure to produce a large amount of writing quickly, and those who are less talented or unable to meet the pressure will often end up writing entire articles made up of over-used catch phrases like "war-torn Bosnia," "grieving parents," or "besieged capital."


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