A Synthesis of English Language Structure


The information offered here and on our YouTube videos is for independent learners, outlining and describing ten basic aspects of the English language, from nouns and articles, verbs and tenses, through adjectives and adverbs, to idiomatic language.

The program also includes the more complex aspects of gerunds and infinitives,prepositions, phrasal verbs, forms and clauses.

The website offers PDFs with additional information, exercises and answers for each section.


Part One: Nouns & Articles

Part One deals with count nouns and how to form various plural forms. It also describes and categorizes types of noncount nouns. The website and videos list categories of noncount nouns, from whole groups of similar items, such as baggage, clothing equipment, food, fruit, furni- ture, jewelry, luggage, machinery, mail money, postage, and traffic.

Fluids like water, coffee, tea, milk, and gasoline are always used an noncount nouns, as are solids like ice, bread, butter, cheese, meat, gold, silver, glass, paper, wood, and wool. Other noncount nouns include gases: steam, air, oxygen, smoke, smog, and pollution. Particles are used as non- count nouns: rice, corn, dust, flour, grass, hair, sald, sand, and sugar.

Abstractions are expressed as noncount nouns: beauty, confidence, education, happiness, honesty, intelligence, knowledge, music, peace, and truth, as well as advice, information, time, and work. Languages and fields of study are expressed as noncount nouns. Recreation, such as ten- nis and soccer, and activities such as driving, swimming, and walking.

Natural phenomena such as weather, dew, fog, rain, heat, snow, thunder, wind, darkness, light, and sunshine also use the noncount form.

This first part also explains the uses of a, an and the and the appropriate expressions of quantity to use with both count and noncount nouns. Singular nouns use a (a banana) if the noun begins with a consonant. If the noun begins with a vowel, the article an is used to denote a single object. If all bananas are referenced in the plural, no article is used. No article is used for noncount nouns.

The article the is used to identify definite, specific nouns which have already been mentioned, such as in the following sentence: Thank you for the banana. (a specific one, already mentioned and familiar to the listener)

A Few, Few & A Little, Little

A few is used with plural count nouns.

I have a few books. The meaning is positive.

A little is used with noncount nouns.

I have a little time. The meaning is positive.

Few is used with plural count nouns.

I have few books. I don’t have many books. The meaning is negative.

Little is used with noncount nouns.

I have little time. I don’t have much time. The meaning is negative.


Part Two: Verbs & Tenses

We present diagrams and descriptions of twelve tenses, with additional exercises available as PDFs from the website.

We also illustrate how each tense is used in communication. The YouTube video outlines the seven groups of irregular verbs, how to identify them, and how to use them.

English tenses have very specific meanings and forms. The simple present makes factual statements and discusses habitual activities. It can also be used to express future time, and opinions, perceptions or emotions.

The present continuous tense expresses a series of activities happening at the moment of speaking. It also can express a series of activities happening over a period of time. It can also be used to express future time.

The simple past describes short actions of the past, and can also be used to describe ac- tions that took place over a period of time in the past. It can describe past habitual actions.

The past continuous deals with actions that began before the present time and contin- ued after it. It can describe an action that continued for a longer period in the past.


The present perfect discusses an action that started in the past and continues to the pres- ent time. It can indicate a completed action and indicates that the action happened at an indefi- nite time in the past.

The present perfect continuous emphasizes the continuous nature of an action that be- gan in the past and has continued to the present. These actions are relatively recent or not yet completed, and indicates the duraction of an action.

The future tense with going to is used to make predictions or to express a feeling of cer- tainty, and to indicate something that has been deliberately planned. The future tense with will is also used to predict, but indicates a certainty about the future and a willingness to engage in an activity and possible future habitual actions.

The future continuous tense states an action that will be in progress at some time in the future.


The past perfect is used to talk about an action in the past that happened before another action in the past.


The past perfect continuous emphasizes the continuous nature of an action that hap- pened in the past before another action in the past.

The future perfect expresses an action that will be completed at some time in the future, before another action in the future.

The future perfect continuous emphasizes the continuous nature of an action that will be in progress at a specific time in the future before another action in the future.


Part Three: Adjectives

Various types of descriptive adjectives with illustrations are outlines in the videos. The program also describes how to form and use comparative and superlative adjectives.

We introduce and illustrate verbal modifiers, such as present and past participles, as well as possessive and demonstrative adjectives, descriptive phrases, and expressions of quantity that can be used as descriptors.

The video also describes the correct order of adjectives when writing a sentence and offers a sample sentence illustrating the correct order.


Descriptive adjectives tell the size, shape, age, color, origin, material of a noun, or give an opinion. Comprisons use forms such as near, nearer, not as near, less near. Longer adjective forms use additional words to compare aspects of a noun: careful, more careful, not as careful, less careful. Superlatives are formed as follows: easy, easiest, least easy. Longer words add other words: important, most important, least important.

Nouns can be used as adjectives: a glass vase, an apple pie, a dishwasher.

Verbs can be used as adjectives: sleeping babies, an interesting story, dried flowers.

Possessive adjectives describe to whom the object belongs: This is my book.

Demonstrative adjectives indicate specific items and their location: This watch is expen- sive. These books are new. That tree is blooming. Those books are not for sale.

Irregular adjectives do not follow the above rules. bad, worse, worst; far, farther, farthest;

good, better, best; little less, least. English also uses phrases of comparison: not as bad as, slower than, not as slow as, slower and slower, as pretty as, almost as, similar to, much more, different from, not quite as.


Part Four: Adverbs

Part four discusses the use of adverbs as descriptors of actions and of location.

We illustrate that adverbs can also indicate the frequency of an action and the manner in which it is carried out. Adverbs can also intensify the action described with the use of specific words.

The video emphasizes the correct order for adverbs when writing a sentence and provides a sample sentence for reference. The downloadable additional exercises illustrate noun combinations used as adverbs of time.

Adverbs of location are placed after the verb: here, there, everywhere, inside, under. Adverbs of time are also placed after the verb: now, already, recently, ago, tomorrow. English sometimes uses adverb and noun combinations as adverbs of time: the day before

yesterday, this evening, last night, next month, sometime.

Adverbs of instance include: once, three times, and are placed at the end of the phrase. Adverbs of frequency are placed before the verb: never, occasionally, often, always, usually.

Adverbs of manner are placed after the verb. quickly, more quickly, the most quickly.

There are adverbs which intensify adjectives and other adverbs. almost, only, really, quite, very, too.


Part Five: Gerunds & Infinitives

This section describes the use of gerunds as nouns to use as subjects, objects, and as objects of prepositions. Gerunds are nouns formed from verbs. walk, walking.

Gerund phrases act as subjects, objects and objects of prepositions in sentences. Playing tennis is fun. I enjoy playing tennis. We are interested in playing tennis.

It also provides a partial list of verbs that are always followed by either the gerund form or by the infinitive form.

The video indicates some verbs that can be followed by either the gerund or the infini-tive form, as well as adjectives that are always followed by infinitives.

The video also introduces prepositional expressions, indicating which expressions are followed by either the gerund or by the infinitive, as well as general expressions that are al- ways followed by the gerund form.

Verb and pronoun combinations followed by the infinitive are illustrated, and how the meaning can change whether an infinitive or a gerund is used.

The verb GO with various gerund forms is also introduced.


Part Six: Prepositions

Part six discusses the function of prepositions, such as in, on and at.

Prepositions indicate location, direction, time, special relationships and circumstances.

The video discusses how certain adjectives and verbs are always followed by specific prepositions.


This part also includes the use of prepositional phrases as modifiers.

Prepositions can indicate location: over, above, below, behind, ahead of, opposite, against, beside, between, among, beyond, within.


In can refer to a continent, a country, a state or a city, or a period of time, such as in a year, in the afternoon. On can refer to a coast, a beach, a side, a street, a floor, or a particular day, or holiday. At can indicate a building, the market, my house, home, an address, or a specific time. In can also refer to a specific place, the office, the kitchen, the corner. (of a room)

Some prepositions indicate directions: across, along, by, past, through, around, down, up, to toward, from, back to, into, out of, onto, off.

Other prepositions indicate time: before, after, during, since, until, up to, around, about, by, for, through, while.

Prepositions can indicate other relationships:


by                   by email, by car, by the boss, by hand


He delivered the letter by hand.


with               with friends, with a sewing machine


She traveled with friends.


in                    in watercolor, in oils,in wood, in metal


He liked to sculpt in wood.


of                    silk, cotton, silver, gold


The shawl was made of silk thread.


from               from my niece, from Paris


She received an invitation from Paris.


instead of      replacement


I’ll take tea instead of coffee.


except            exclusion


I would like all the shirts except the pink one.


as                   recognition


He was known as a great leader.


Part Seven: Phrasal Verbs

This section describes the special meanings in the use of phrasal verbs. It discusses phrasal verbs that can be separated to include the noun, and those that cannot be separated.


The video introduces 3-word phrasal verbs and intransitive phrasal verbs which cannot be followed by an object.

The exercises available from the website show the various meanings phrasal verbs can indicate.

Phrasal verbs are two and three weod verb & preposition combinations that have spe- cial meaning not related to the actual words used. They are a form of idiomatic English which can be learned only through practice.

Here are some samples of separable phrasal verbs: call (her) back; fill (the form) out; put (your coat) on; throw (the paper) away; turn (the light) off.


Following are some examples of non-separable phrasal verbs: call on (someone to speak); get in (enter a vehicle); get over (an illness); run into (meet by change).


Three-word phrasal word phrasal verbs can be followed by an object: come over to (my


house); get along with (the boss); get back from (Paris); look out for (the ice); keep away from (the fire).


Some phrasal verbs cannot be followed by an object: break down, come in, fall down, move in, show up, start over.

Here are some sample sentences using phrasal verbs as they are common in English speech.

We had a serious argument, but with time, our disagreement will blow over.

With a lot of effort, he will bring about the success of his company. Let’s close up our work for today and go home.

He had promised to help us, but he did not come through in time.

Our contract with the distributor will not succeed; it will fall through next week.

The business is having great economic difficulty and we don’t know how we will get through it.

After a whole day trying to finish the report, the people involved finally gave up.

Please look through the completed business plan and let us know if we should make any changes.

When the report is finally completed, we will need to run it by the company chairman, for him to look it over thoroughly.

Phrasal verbs can have several different meanings. Examine the one below.


Put on

placing something on the body

  I put on my coat before I went outside.

applying something to another surface

  He put the book on the table.

affixing something to another thing

  She hung the picture on the wall.

gaining weight

  After he ate the meal, he put on a few pounds.

performing a play

  The play was put on in the new theater.


  That cant’t be true! Stop putting me on!

Look at

focusing one’s eyes on something

  We looked at the frozen pond.

examining a situation to solve it

  We should look at the details of the problem.

having a certain opinion

  We should look at all sides of a situation.

considering an option

  He looked at the possible ways to solve the problem.


Part Eight: Forms


Part eight describes the specific uses of the helping verbs DO, MAKE, HAVE, TAKE and GET.


It describes the difference between take and bring, borrow and lend, say and tell, and hope and wish.


It discusses the uses of until, up to, as long as, and as far as.


We also describe used to, get used to, and be used to.


This section also provides specific vocabulary to describe various ways of seeing.


Following are some expressions that always use DO.


do a favor                    do your hair                do a job                       to business do exercise                  do harm                      do nothing                  to work

do the shopping          do the math                 do the paperwork        do your best do your duty               do well                        do the accounts           do something

The following expressions always use MAKE.


make a choice              make a decision           make an effort             make friends make a speech             make a list                  make a living              make a mistake make money                make plans                  make sure                   make a promise make room                  make sense                  make trouble               make excuses

Some expressions use HAVE.


have a nice time          have fun                      have a talk                  have a fight


have a look                  have a party                have breakfast             have a drink


The following are expressions with TAKE.


take a shower              take a vacation            take a walk                  take a gues take a deep breath       take a break                 take advantage            take care take your time            take it easy                  take a job                     take a trip take offense                 take part                     take for granted          take cover

Almost any noun, adjective or preposition can follow the auxiliary GET.


get an idea                  get upset                     get lost                        get in touch get back                       get going                    get ready                     get married get to the bottom        get along                     get used to                  get promoted get excited                  get by                          get a ride                     get over

Adverb clauses can be modified and become adverbial phrases.


While I was talking to my sister, I noticed that it started to rain. While talking to my sister, I noticed that it started to rain.


Part Nine: Clauses


This section inroduces and describes the function of adverb clauses of time relation- ships, cause & effect, contrast, and condition.

Clauses can be introduced by subordinating conjunctions of time:


after, as, as long as, as soon as, before, since, until, when, whenever, while


After it had stopped snowing, the children ran outside.


They can be introduced by subordinating conjunctions of place:


where, wherever


It does not matter where we have dinner.


Subordinating conjunctions of manner can be used to describe a clause:


as if, as though, as


It looks as if it is going to rain.


Subordinating conjunctions of reason and purpose introduce the reasons for an action.


since, in order that, because, so that


Since is is such a beautiful day, we will go for a walk.


Subordinating conjunctions of condition explain the reasons for an action.


as long as, in case, provided that, unless, if, whether or not


Unless the lessons are inexpensive, I won’t be able to take them.


Subordinating conjunctions of result introduce the outcome of a condition or situation.


so…that; such…that


It is so stormy today, that we will stay inside.


Subordinating conjunctions of contrast describe the differences in situations.


although, though, while, even though, in spite of the fact that, despite


Although the water is cold, we will go swimming.


The video also discusses how noun clauses can be used as subjects, objects and objects of prepositions. A noun clause has the same function as a single word noun.

Subordinating conjunctions involve the question words who, what, which, where, when, how, why and that, and the derivatives of these words: whom, whoever, whomever, whatever, which- ever, wherever, whenever, however, how much, how many, how long, how often, how soon.


Here are some examples using noun clauses as the subjects of sentences. Different tenses


can be used.


What we will do on Sunday is still unknown. When Stella is getting married is a secret.

The following are samples of noun clauses used as the objects of the sentences.


I don’t know when he arrived.


It wasn’t clear what he thought of our idea.


Here are some noun clauses used as the objects of prepositions.


He didn’t worry about how he would pay his bills. I can rely on whatever you tell me.

Adjective complements are noun clauses that follow the verb to be with an adjective and


complete the thought of the sentence.


I’m sure that he’ll succeed.


I’m convinced that she’s happy.


Adjective clauses are introduced by the relative pronouns who, whom, which, that, whose,when,where, and why, and can be the subjects, objects of a sentence, or objects of prepo- sitions. Some adjective clauses are important in a sentence and others are not. Sometimes the adjective clause is interesting, but not important to the meaning of the sentence.

My brother who lives in Chicago got married yesterday.


I have more than one brother, but the one who lives in Chicago is the one that got married.



My brother, who lives in Chicago, got married yesterday.


I have only one brother, and he lives in Chicago (an interesting little fact).


It is usually the punctuation which makes the meaning clear. Sometimes adjective clauses can be reduced to adjective phrases.


My brother, living in Chicago, got married yesterday.


Part Ten: Idiomatic Expressions


Part ten introduces common terms and categories of idioms.


Idioms describe situations common to human emotions and conditions, using language that does not always seem related to what is being expressed.

We offer both samples of situations and illustrations that use idioms in everyday conversations.

Idioms can be used as nouns or verbs, adjectives or adverbs, and with prepositions. Following is a list of idiomatic expressions and their meanings. Listen for them in every-

day English conversation and try to understand what they mean. Try using some daily.


a bit much                 something excessive or annoying       keep your chin up    don’t become a lot on my place     very busy                                                                                discouraged back to square one  start over                                            keep in touch            communicate back burner               low priority                                        last laugh                  advantage call the shots            be in charge                                        last straw                 final problem call it a day              stop working                                      make or break          last chance dead even                  same score                                          make waves              cause trouble dead in the water     hopeless                                              no pain, no gain       needs effort easy does it               don’t stress                                         never say die            don’t give up even keel                   balanced                                             on a roll                    succeeding face the music          accept the result                                 on the ball                doing well fair and square         following the rules                              piece of cake             easy job

game plan                 strategy                                              pie in the sky            unavailable get cracking              start working                                      quick fix                    easy solution hard to come by       hard to find                                         quiet before the storm

have a go                   try something                                                                         before


icing on the cake      an additional benefit                                                               problems occur


in a fix                      in trouble                                            rainy day                  bad times jump the gun            begin before the proper start               raw deal                    bad result jump through hoops make great effort                                 safe bet                      no risks



second wind more energy up in the air uncertain
take by storm impress up to speed to be current
take stock assess a situation walk a fine line be very careful
weather a storm get through a crisis

Study the following conversation between two colleagues on the job.


Were you able to save face in your meeting with your boss?


Was it possible for you to stay confident?


It was a piece of cake. Our project is on a roll and he thinks I’m on the ball.


It was easy. Our project is going well and he thinks I’m hardworking. Rather you than me! Are you getting ready for a rainy day, by any chance?

I’m glad it was you instead of me. Are bad times coming? I’ll rack my brain to see what you mean. Do you need a pep talk?

Let me think about what you mean. Do you need encouragement?


I’m just passing the time of day. If I don’t get cracking, I’ll be in a tight spot.


I’m just relaxing. If I don’t start working, I’ll experience difficulty.


It’s just a vicious circle working here. I’m getting a second wind and haven’t yet scratched the surface of my project.

It’s an unending problem working here. I’m getting some new energy and haven’t really begun working on my project yet.

Well, take the plunge, and don’t take your eye off the ball. Don’t take your project for granted, or you’ll have to take the heat when your boss waits in the wings to take stock of the situation.

Well, start right away and don’t forget your goal. Don’t expect your project to develop on its own, or you’ll have to accept criticism when your boss, watching you daily makes a judgement against you.

I don’t want to upset the apple cart. Go!


I don’t want to cause any trouble. Go!