Even if you speak English every single day, it’s never a bad idea to refresh your core English skills.
Fundamental English Skills: Going back to basics
When preparing for your IELTS, PTE, OET or TOEFL it’s important to know the strategies for success. This means understanding the structure of the test, understanding the skills you need to practice, and the methods you need to apply. However, it is just as important to go back and practice your fundamental English skills.
The building blocks of language
We all want to impress with complex sentences and fancy vocabulary, but we may fall short if our basic language skills aren’t there. This is why a review and practice of the building blocks of language – parts of speech – is so important.
Parts of speech are the groups of English words which fit into eight functional categories. These words make up sentences and are therefore the building blocks of language. Understanding how to use these building blocks will help you write better sentences and become a better speaker.
In this article, we are going to look at four parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
Nouns are words for things, places, people, feelings or concepts. For example, flower (thing); outdoors (place); mother (person); happiness (feeling); freedom (concept).
Nouns can be singular or plural. Most plural nouns (more than one) take ‘s’. For example, flower (singular) becomes flowers (plural). BUT some plural nouns are irregular. For example, child (singular) becomes children (plural). It is important to know the irregular plural nouns so that you avoid making mistakes in your IELTS writing tasks.
Some nouns cannot be made plural. We call these uncountable nouns. There are many!
Here are five commonly mistaken uncountable nouns:
Although in our minds we can count these things, their nouns cannot be made countable. They will always stay in singular form!
For example, we can never say “My father gave me many advices”, or “The scientists undertook many researches”.
However, we can make them plural by adding the word pieces of in front of them.
For example, “My father gave me many pieces of advice. But I can NEVER say “My father gave me many advices.”
There are many ways to form nouns. Let’s look at a few.
- Add -tion
Motivate -> motivation
Elevate -> elevation
Demonstrate -> demonstration
- Add -ence
Intelligent -> intelligence
Excellent -> excellence
Confident -> confidence
- Add -ness
Happy -> happiness
Weak -> weakness
Dark -> darkness
Check out our recent E2 English lesson about nouns:
Adjectives are words that describe nouns. The tell us what kind of noun. For example, a beautiful flower; the great outdoors; a kind mother; overwhelming happiness; limited freedom.
There are many ways to form adjectives. Let’s look at two of them.
- Add -y
Salt -> salty
Sun -> sunny
Itch -> itchy
* if a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) comes before a consonant (every letter that’s not a vowel), then we add an extra consonant. For example sun becomes sunny.
- Add -ful
Beauty -> beautiful
Care -> careful
Peace -> peaceful
Here is our core skills lecture about adjectives:
Most verbs are doing words. They describe actions such as run, jump, eat, sleep, cry, laugh, etc. Verbs can be formed as one word, or more. For example, are running, or is laughing. Verbs can also be three words. For example, have been sleeping, or has been crying. This has to do with which tense the verb is in. Tense indicates when a verb happened – in the recent past, distant past, present, future, or is still continuing etc. This will change the form of the verb.
Verbs that relate to a singular noun, take ‘s’ at the end. For example:
My teacher sings well.
‘Teacher’ is singular and therefore has no ‘s’, so the verb must take ‘s’.
Verbs that that relate to a plural noun, do not take ‘s’ at the end. For example:
My teachers sing well.
‘Teachers’ is plural and takes ‘s’, so the verb does not take ‘s’.
Adverbs describe verbs. They say how something is done. For example, run quickly, eat loudly, sleep softly.
Most adverbs end in -ly
Quick -> quickly
Slow -> slowly
Loud -> loudly
Quiet -> quietly
There are exceptions. For example, good does not become goodly. The adverb for good is well.
Understanding the different parts of speech will help you build better sentences. Fundamental English skills are just as important as test skills. To learn more, subscribe to our Core Skills channel on YouTube to watch live classes.
Jamal Abilmona is an expert IELTS teacher, curriculum designer and language buff. She has taught English for general and academic purposes in classrooms around the world and currently teaches for and writes e-learning material for E2Language.com.