English: An Essential Grammar: 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover

English: An Essential Grammar

3rd Edition

By Gerald Nelson


244 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780815358305
pub: 2019-01-22
SAVE ~$7.99
Hardback: 9780815358282
pub: 2019-01-29
SAVE ~$30.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781351122771
pub: 2019-01-10
from $19.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


English: An Essential Grammar is written specifically for native speakers, beginning with the basics and going on to deal with phrase, clause and sentence structure, word formation and spelling. This fully revised third edition features new material on:

  • the structure of phrases and clauses
  • light verbs
  • nominal adjectives
  • the Operator
  • preposition to and infinitival to
  • the four thats
  • determiners, prepositions, and common errors

With new exercises and answers for all new sections, this Essential Grammar continues to be the ideal reference for anyone who would like to improve their knowledge of English grammar.

Table of Contents

List of abbreviations


What is grammar?

Grammar ‘rules’ and grammatical structures

Standard English

English as a world language

British English and American English

How this book is organised

A note on sources



    1. The constituents of a sentence
    2. The Grammatical Hierarchy
    3. Form and function in grammatical description

1.4 Subject and verb

1.5 Identifying the Subject

1.5.1 The Inversion Test

1.5.2 The Tag Question Test

1.5.3 Subject-verb agreement

1.6 Verb types and sentence patterns

1.6.1 Intransitive verbs

1.6.2 Linking verbs and Subject Complements

1.6.3 Monotransitive verbs and Direct Objects

1.6.4 Ditransitive verbs and Indirect Objects

1.6.5 Complex transitive verbs and Object Complements

1.6.6 Adverbial Complements

1.6.7 Summary: The six sentence patterns

1.7 Active sentences and passive sentences

1.8 Adjuncts

1.8.1 The meanings of Adjuncts

1.9 Peripheral constituents in sentence structure

1.10 Fragments and non-sentences




2.1 Open and closed word classes

2.2 Nouns and determiners

2.2.1 Singular nouns and plural nouns

2.2.2 Common nouns and proper nouns

2.2.3 Countable nouns and uncountable nouns

2.2.4 Genitive nouns

2.2.5 Dependent genitives and independent genitives

2.2.6 Determiners


2.3.1 Personal pronouns

2.3.2 Possessive pronouns

2.3.3 Reflexive pronouns

2.3.4 Demonstrative pronouns

2.3.5 Quantifying pronouns and numerals

2.3.6 Relative pronouns

2.3.7 Nominal relative pronouns

2.3.8 Interrogative pronouns

2.3.9 Pronoun one

2.3.10 Pronoun it

2.4 Main verbs

2.4.1 The five verb forms

2.4.2 The base form

2.4.3 The -s form

2.4.4 The past form

2.4.5 The –ed/-en form

2.4.6 The -ing form

2.4.7 Irregular verbs

2.4.8 Regular and irregular variants

2.4.9 The verb be

2.4.10 Multi-word verbs

2.4.11 Light verbs

2.5 Auxiliary verbs

2.5.1 Modal auxiliary verbs

2.5.2  The meanings of modal auxiliaries

2.5.3  The passive auxiliary be

2.5.4  The progressive auxiliary be

2.5.5  The perfective auxiliary have

2.5.6  Auxiliary do

2.5.7  Semi-auxiliary verbs


2.6.1  Gradable adjectives

2.6.2  Comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives

2.6.3  Participial adjectives

2.6.4 Nominal adjectives

2.7  Adverbs

2.7.1 Circumstantial adverbs

2.7.2 Degree adverbs

2.7.3 Comparative adverbs and superlative adverbs

2.8  Prepositions

2.9  Conjunctions




3.1 What is a phrase?

3.2 The basic structure of phrases

3.3 Adverb phrases

3.3.1 The functions of adverb phrases

3.4 Adjective phrases

3.4.1 Comparative constructions

3.4.2 The functions of adjective phrases

3.5 Prepositional phrases

3.5.1 The functions of prepositional phrases

3.6 Noun phrases

3.6.1 Noun phrase Heads Identifying the Head

3.6.2 Determiners and Determinatives

3.6.3 Noun phrase Premodifiers

3.6.4 Noun phrase Postmodifiers Sequential and embedded Postmodifiers Postmodifiers and Complements

3.6.5 The functions of noun phrases

3.6.6 Apposition

3.7 Verb phrases

3.7.1 The Operator

3.7.2 The ordering of auxiliary verbs

3.7.3 Finite verb phrases and non-finite verb phrases

3.7.4 Movement

3.7.5 Tense

3.7.6. Expressing future time

3.7.7 Aspect

3.7.8 Mood



4.1 What is a clause?

4.2 Subordination

4.2.1 Finite and non-finite subordinate clauses

4.2.2  Adjunct clauses The meanings of Adjunct clauses

4.2.3  Relative clauses

4.2.4  Nominal relative clauses

4.2.5  That-clauses

4.2.6  Comparative clauses

4.2.7  The functions of clauses in sentences

4.2.8  The functions of clauses in phrases

4.3  Coordination

4.3.1  Coordination types

4.3.2 The meanings of coordinators

4.3.3 Correlative coordinators

4.3.4  Quasi-coordination

4.4 Sentence types

4.4.1 Declarative sentences

4.4.2 Interrogative sentences

4.4.3 Imperative sentences

4.4.4 Exclamative sentences

4.5 Positive sentences and negative sentences

4.6 Inverted sentences

4.7 Extraposition and postponement

4.8  There-sentences

4.9  Cleft sentences

4.10  Sentence connectors

4.10.1  Logical connectors

4.10.2  Structural connectors

4.11 Referring expressions



5.1  The structure of words

5.2  Prefixes

5.3  Suffixes

5.4  Compounding and blending

5.5  Acronyms, abbreviations, and clipping

5.6  Back formations

5.7  Combining forms

5.8  Inflections

5.9  Adding inflections: general spelling rules

5.10  Adding -ly and -ally

5.11  Plural nouns

5.12  Variants with s or z

5.13  British and American spelling variants

5.14  Problem spellings


APPENDIX: English Irregular Verbs

Glossary of terms

Further reading


About the Author

Gerald Nelson is Professor of English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

About the Series

Routledge Essential Grammars

Essential Grammars describe clearly and succinctly the core rules of each language and are up-to-date and practical reference guides to the most important aspects of languages used by contemporary native speakers. They are designed for elementary to intermediate learners and present an accessible description of the language, focusing on the real patterns of use today.
Essential Grammars are a reference source for the learner and user of the language, irrespective of level, setting out the complexities of the language in short, readable sections that are clear and free from jargon.
Essential Grammars are ideal either for independent study or for students in schools, colleges, universities and adult classes of all types.

All Essential Grammars are available as inspection copies.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General