Basic English Grammar #1 – Nouns and Verbs

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


Now you’re probably wondering, “What does that quote have to do with anything we’re learning here?”. Nothing. I just like spicing things up with a quote or two.



Back to the point. So, what exactly is a noun? A noun is any word that operates as the name of some specific thing or set of things, such as living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. To put simply, it names things. To put simply-er (Ironic), it’s the kata nama of English. A noun can function as a subject, an object, and a subject complement in a sentence.

There are two types of nouns, namely the common nouns (kata nama am) and proper nouns (kata nama khas). Common nouns name a class of entities, e.g chair, tables, yellow, three. Proper nouns name a specific entity , e.g Pak Abu, Taman Kentut, The Walking Ded.

These two nouns branch into five smaller subcategories of nouns – countable nouns, uncountable nouns, collective nouns (penjodoh bilangan), abstract and concrete nouns (perkataan abstrak dan konkrit).


Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Countable nouns are common nouns that can take a plural, that is, they can denote two or more of the same entity. For example, chair into chairs, bottle into bottles, butt into butts. Uncountable nouns, however, cannot take a plural, e.g water cannot be pluralised into water, furniture cannot be pluralised into furnitures.


Collective Nouns

Collective nouns refer to groups consisting of more than one individual or entity. Simply put, it’s the penjodoh bilangan of English. That ‘seutas’ you see in ‘seutas jam tangan’ and ‘angkatan’ in ‘angkatan tentera’?  Yes. That. Case in point, a herd of cows, a pandemonium of parrots, an army of ants, et cetera. You get me.


Abstract and Concrete Nouns

Abstract and concrete nouns; what are they? Concrete nouns are physical entities that can be observed by, at least, one of the senses. For instance, you can touch a dog, smell a soiled diaper, taste the soiled diaper (not encouraged) and see stuff. Very concrete, indeed. Abstract nouns, withal, refer to abstract objects; that is, ideas, feelings or concepts. Put simply, anything you can’t observe with your senses, such as imagination, future, justice, hatred and so on. So technically, you can’t see your future. Good luck.



Now that you’ve got an impression of the usage of nouns, let’s move on to its much tougher, tattooed sibling — Verbs. What are verbs, you may be asking? Verbs are words used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. Right now, you are probably commenting on this post, “Bro, that’s adjectives lah bro”, and you’re very, very wrong. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns, whereas verbs describe actions. Happy? But then again, you may also wonder, “Then adverbs leh?”. Adverbs show how a verb is being performed. Basically, adverbs describe a description of an action. English is beautiful. Also, its the kata kerja of English.

Example of Verbs: run, walk, skip, swim
Example of Adverb: quickly, slowly, stupidly
Example of Adjective: blue, round, foggy, three

There are four types of verbs (at least the types that we’re going to cover lah): Intransitive verbs (kata kerja tak transitif), Transitive verbs (kata kerja transitif), Ditransitive verbs and Copular verbs. Oh boy is this going to get boring.


Intransitive and Transitive Verbs

These phrases may sound like rocket science to you, but it’s really not. First, you need to know what objects are. Objects are just nouns. Not hard, right? Now we can proceed. Intransitive verbs are verbs that do not need an object. For example, that man wept, the boy ran, that woman spoke. See, no objects. These verbs may also be followed by an adverb – that man wept gloomilythe boy ran steadily, that woman spoke quietly.

Enter transitive verbs. Transitive verbs are followed by nouns or noun phrases, or put simply, objects. For instance, the man earned money. ‘earned’ is the transitive verb, whereas ‘money’ is the object. Elementary, is it not?


Ditransitive Verbs

This is the part that gets you scratching your head in the beginning, then amazed once you understand the concept of it. Ditransitive verbs, according to Wikipedia, is a verb which takes a subject and two objects which refer to a theme and a recipient. Not helping, I know. Let me ease your headache by going through it slowly. Okay, so Wikipedia said one subject and two objects, right? Take a look at this exemplary sentence:

  • Mary gave John two apples.

A subject is a person or thing that is being discussed, described, or dealt with. In this case, it’s Mary. (one subject, found!)

The two objects are the two nouns that you can find in this sentence. Yes, it’s John and apples. (two objects found!) John is the recipient, whereas apples are the theme.

So, what’s the verb following this one-subject-and-two-objects galore? Correct! It’s the verb ‘gave’. And there you have it, ditransitive verbs.


Copular Verbs

Sounds mildly familiar as to that of copulation, and is as sexy. Not really. Still headache-inducing. Alright, copular verbs; what are those? Copular verbs are verbs that can’t end a sentence or be followed by an adverb, but instead, must be followed by a noun or adjective. *coughs* What? Okay, take a look at these sentences:

  • That boy seemed lost
  • Her mother became a man

These sentences have one thing in common – they have copular verbs. So, what makes?

Okay, copular verbs must always be followed by a noun or an adjective. See any nouns? Yes, it’s the phrase ‘a man’ in the second sentence. See any adjectives? Correct, it’s the word ‘lost’ in the first sentence. So, the verbs are ‘seemed’ and ‘became’. Easy, right?

Note: Not all verbs that end with nouns and adjectives in a sentence are copular verbs; that’s the wrong idea. Copular verbs cannot end with anything else than adjectives and nouns.

That’s all for #1! Next, we’ll cover on Pronouns, Gerunds and more Verb stuff! (oh god.)





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