Three Descriptions of the English Verb System

Publication Year



English, verbs, grammar, writing, language, verb system


Education | English Language and Literature | Technical and Professional Writing


A language is composed of sets of contrasting elements. The contrast is illustrated on the level of individual sounds by a series of words such as pan, pen, pin. Here the difference in the vowel sound signals a semantic difference. In a series like sing, sang, sung, song, the difference is grammatical as well as semantic. The contrast in word order and intonation between "She's singing" and "Is she singing" is also grammatical as well as semantic. These contrasts are not hit-and-miss but systematic; otherwise, no person would be able to learn and use language. It is the purpose of grammar to discover and describe the sets or systems of contrasting elements within a language and to describe the acceptable arrangements of these elements. A grammar functions to facilitate communication by providing for a meaningful selection of linguistic elements. The ideal grammar, regardless of the methods by which it proceeds, should describe the permitted usages as clearly and concisely as possible; the term "elegant" is used by grammarians to express this ideal.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

This document is currently unavailable online.