15 Basic Facts About English (Numbers 1-4)

Did you know there are 15 basic facts about English which you should really know about?

by Louis Alexander

All these points are fully covered in Direct English, but here is a summary of Basic Facts Numbers 1-4:


English nouns don't have grammatical gender
- We use 'he' or 'she' for people and 'it' for everything else:
My accountant says he is moving his office.
My doctor says she is pleased with my progress.
- 'a/an', 'the' and adjectives don't have to 'agree' with nouns:
a nice man, a nice woman, a nice book the old man, the old woman, the old book the old men, the old women, the old book.


We use 's or s' (possession) mainly for people. We have to say:
It's my aunt's pen. (Not *It's the pen of my aunt.*)
If we want to show 'possession by things' we use a compound noun where possible:
Where's my car key? (rather than 'the key of my car' or 'the key to my car')


How we use articles with countable and uncountable nouns
- We use 'a/an' only in front of singular countable nouns to identify or define:
He's/She's a teacher. (Not *He's/She's teacher.*)
It's an encyclopaedia. (Not *It's encyclopaedia.*) BUT: I want some water please. (Not *I want a water please.*)
- We use no article + plural noun or + uncountable noun in general statements:
Beans contain a lot of fibre. (We use The beans ... only in specific references: the beans in the pan, etc.)
Life is short. Art is long. (We use The life ... The art .... only in specific references: the life of Napoleon, etc.)


How we use 'quantity words' with countable and uncountable nouns
- We use 'some/any/a lot of' with plural countable nouns ('apples') and with uncountable nouns ('bread').
- We mainly use 'some' in the affirmative:
There's some milk in the fridge.
and 'any' in questions and negatives:
Is there any milk in the fridge?
There isn't any milk in the fridge.
- We use '(a) few' and '(not) many' only with plural countable nouns:
There have been few complaints about our services this year. There haven't been many complaints about our services this year.
- We use '(a) little' and '(not) much' only with uncountable nouns:
There is a little bread in the breadbin. There isn't much bread in the breadbin.
- We use 'a lot of' or 'lots of' in place of 'much/many' in the affirmative:
There have been a lot of/lots of complaints about our services this year. ('many' is often possible in the affirmative but best avoided if you're in doubt)
There is a lot of/lots of bread in the breadbin. (Not *much*)


© LG & DE Limited 2006


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