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  • 7/25/2019 Unit5_section1 the Noun Phrase


    The Distance DELTA

    Unit 5 Section 1 1

    The Noun Phrase


    Traditionally course books and teacher training courses have concentrated on theverb phrase and treated the noun phrase as a poor relation, even though a simplecount of errors in the writing produced by intermediate students often reveals ahigher proportion of noun-phrase-related errors than errors in the verb system(Thornbury 1997).

    In this section we will be looking at various aspects of the noun phrase through ananalysis of authentic texts, learners written work and published materials. You willalso be undertaking some reading.

    We recommend you work through the different subsections separately rather thantrying to cover all the information and tasks in one go.


    By the end of the section you will:

    Feel more confident about terminology.

    Have deepened your analysis of nouns, determiners (including articles),adjectives and compound nouns.

    Know where to do further research on the noun phrase.

    Have practised exam type tasks in respect of the noun phrase.

  • 7/25/2019 Unit5_section1 the Noun Phrase


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    Unit 5 Section 1 2


    1. Introduction

    2. Nouns

    2.1. Analysis of Noun Categories

    2.2. Countability

    3. Determiners

    3.1. Analysis of Determiners

    3.2. Commentary

    3.3. Some and Any

    3.4. Further Reading Tasks

    4. Articles

    4.1. Commentary

    4.2. Analysis of Article Use

    5. Adjectives

    5.1. What is an adjective?

    5.2. Analysing adjectives exam practice

    5.3. A More In-Depth Analysis

    6. Compound nouns

    7. More Complex Noun Phrases: Further Reading



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    Unit 5 Section 1 3

    1. Introduction

    First of all a definition of the noun phrase:

    A group of words with a noun or a pronoun as the main part. Thenoun phrase may consist of only one word (for example Gina in Gina

    arrived yesterday) or it may be long and complex (for example, all thewords before must in: The students who enrolled late and who havenot yet filled in their cards must do so by Friday)".

    Longman Dictionary of Teaching and Applied Linguistics(Richards, Platt & Platt, 1992)

    In terms of form, we can add that a noun phrase can be made up of the followingelements. Note that these are all noun phrases, not full independent sentences.Each is followed by a verb and complement. For example, the first one couldcontinue were the best Ive ever seen.

    Determiner Pre-modifier Head (noun / pronoun) Post-modifier


    More than 10







    of Australia

    who spoke to me

    with the black tail

    Before continuing, we strongly advise you to do some basic revision of word classes /phrases and simple sentence structure by working through the tasks in Unit 11 (Wordclasses and phrases) and Unit 12 (Sentence Structure: the simple sentence) inAbout Language (Thornbury, 1997), which were part of your pre-course reading.

    Alternatively, look at Rules, Patterns and Words (Willis, 2003, CUP), Sections 2.1and 2.4

    2. Nouns

    In this section we will be beginning with a classification task. This is similar to howyou will be required to analyse language in Paper 1 of the Exam. We will then befocussing in more detail on one aspect of nouns that often causes learners difficulty -countability.

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    Unit 5 Section 1 4

    2.1. Analysis of Noun Categories

    Task 1: Noun Categories (20mins)

    In this extract from the Social Programme of a language school, comment on thenouns, noun phrases and pronouns in bold in as much detail as you can. The firstone is done for you.

    Wednesday 10thJanuary

    Visit to Madame Tussauds

    Ever fancied rubbing shoulders (1) with the rich and famous (2)? Well, getdown to Madame Tussauds! (3) Whether you fancy playing super agents with007, measuring up to svelte Naomi Campbell or puckering up to heart throb(4)Brad Pitt, this is the place to be. Anyone whos (5) anyone(6) from sports to themedia, (7) politics(8) to punishment (in the chilling Chamber of Horrors) is here;you(9) can even travel back in time(10) on the spectacular Spirit of London ride.Madame Tussauds offers unique up-close-and-personal access to the hottestcelebrities. And you can gossip about them (11) to your hearts content (12) they wont answer back! Its(13) important to book early as this is a very populartrip.

    Meet: 2.30pm

    Place: Reception

    Tickets: 12.00

    E.g. (1) rubbing shoulders: noun phrase, the object of the verb fancied andpost-modified by the prepositional phrase with the rich and famous. rubbing: thegerund form of the verb rub, acting as a noun; shoulders: plural countablecommon noun.

    See Appendix 1 for answers.

    If you want further practice of this kind of classification and on nouns in general, workyour way through Tasks 1, 5, 9 and 10 of Unit 22 of About Language (The NounPhrase), or Rules, Patterns and Words (Willis, 2003, CUP), Section 4.2 (The NounPhrase).

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    Unit 5 Section 1 5

    2.2. Countability

    Task 2: Countable and Uncountable Nouns (10mins)

    1. List at least five problems your learners have with countable and uncountablenouns.

    2. Find some examples of where something is uncountable in English but countablein a language you know, or vice versa.

    See Appendix 2 for some suggestions for 1.

    Task 3: Reading (15mins)

    1. We can say: I went to get a coffee (countable) and I went to get some coffee?(uncountable). What are the properties of an item in (1) a countable context and(2) an uncountable context? We have done a few examples for you:

    Countable context

    1. Can co-occur with several.

    2. Each coffee has a distinct boundary.


    Uncountable context

    1. Cannot occur with several.

    2.Indistinct boundaries etc.


    3. Read the sections on countability and on individuation in Unit 2 of ExplainingEnglish Grammar (Yule, 1998)and add to your list above.

    Yules description of individuation is a good example of Batstones construct ofgrammar at 30,000 feet looking at a core concept in language (reference Unit 1,Section 3). Does it help you understand better? Is it usable with learners?

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    Unit 5 Section 1 6

    3. Determiners

    In this section we will be looking at determiners and focusing in particular on theissue of some and any. In Section 3 we will concentrate on another set ofdeterminers that are difficult for learners: the articles.

    3.1. Analysis of Determiners

    Task 4: Determiners (5mins)

    1. What is the function of determiners, i.e. what do they do?

    2. Can you list ten determiners e.g. a / an, many?

    See Appendix 3 for a list.

    3.2. CommentaryIn the Appendix the determiners are divided into two groups. Those in Group A helpto identify things, to say which one/s the speaker is talking about, to indicate whetherthey are known to the listener or not, to show whether they are general or specific.

    Those in Group B are mostly quantifiers and say how much or how many ofsomething we are talking about. Learners sometimes have problems rememberingwhich of these can be used only with countable nouns, which only uncountable andwhich with both. Look at the list again. Could you give your learners a clear answer tothis question?

    3.3. Some and Any

    In Unit 1 we looked at the difference between descriptive, pedagogic and prescriptivegrammars. (Can you recall the difference?) The treatment of some and anydemonstrates perfectly the tension between the descriptive and pedagogic accounts.In the following task you will be looking at different analyses of the rules regardingsome and any and thinking about how you focus on them with classes.

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    Unit 5 Section 1 7

    Task 5: Reading and Reflection (30 40mins)

    1. Look in the nearest elementary course book you can find. Exactly what rulesare taught about some and any?

    2. What do you tell your elementary learners about some and any? Do theyseem to have any problems with the rules you give them?

    3. Read the section on Some and Any in Chapter 4 of The English Verb (Lewis,1986). Do you find Lewis argument persuasive enough to make you change theway you teach some and any to elementary classes?

    4. Now read the section on Some and Any in Unit 5 of Grammar for EnglishLanguage Teachers (Parrott, 2000). Parrott here makes a distinction betweenstressed and unstressed some and categorises the uses of some and anydifferently from Lewis. Do you find this analysis helpful? Will it change yourteaching of this area in any way?

    3.4. Further Reading Tasks

    Task 9 in Unit 23 of About Languagewill give you further work on some and any.

    If you do not feel confident about other determiners, we suggest you do some extrareading, particularly about quantifiers in Grammar for English Language Teachersor Practical English Usage.

    4. Articles

    The most problematic types of determiners for many learners to use accurately are

    articles. We can see this clearly in much of our learners written work, where one ofthe most common areas of difficulty is article use, misuse, or omission. The ability toidentify and comment on learner