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Describing language
Describing language

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2 English sentence structure

Now you’ll pull your knowledge of word classes, noun phrases and verbs together. Words form larger units, or phrases. And it’s these whole phrases that fit together into sentences. Take the following examples (let’s imagine they are said about the same person):

Maria likes holidays.

My daughter’s best friend likes exotic and ridiculously expensive foreign travel.

In the first sentence we have just three words: a noun phrase (Maria), a verb (likes) and another noun phrase (holidays). In the second sentence there are more than three times as many words. But the words before and after likes in each sentence are doing similar things. They tell us who does the liking (My daughter’s best friend), and what it is they like (exotic and ridiculously expensive foreign travel). We can swap the noun phrases around and still have acceptable sentences:

My daughter’s best friend likes holidays.

Maria likes exotic and ridiculously expensive foreign travel.

So whether they contain only one noun (like Maria or holidays) or many words, these noun phrases are grammatically similar. Of course, as we’re describing language, there is some specialist terminology that helps us to describe how we order phrases.