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Claudia Gabriela



Craiova, 2012
Refereni tiinifici:
Prof.univ.dr. Ioana Murar
Lect.univ.dr. Mdlina Cerban

Copyright 2012 Universitaria

Toate drepturile sunt rezervate Editurii Universitaria

Descrierea CIP a Bibliotecii Naionale a Romniei

The basics of nominal reference / Claudia Gabriela
Pisoschi. - Craiova : Universitaria, 2012
ISBN 978-606-14-0440-7


Aprut: 2012
Str. Brestei, nr. 156A, Craiova, Dolj, Romnia
Tel.: +40 251 598054
Tiprit n Romnia

1.1. The connection between
the various branches of linguistics.... 7
1.2. The basic unit of analysis... 8
1.3. The domain of Morphology.
Derivation and inflection....12
1.3.1. The domain of Morphology.. 12
1.3.2. Derivation and inflection...13
Topics for discussion..16


2. 1. Determination and determiners..19
2. 2. The article as a determiner..23
2.2.1. Definition......23
2.2.2. Classification...23
2.2.3. Form. General characteristics....24
2.2.4. Functions.....25
Topics for discussion..40


3.1. Definition.45
3.2. Classification.46
3.2.1. The semantic criterion..46
3.2.2. The formal criterion...49
3.2.3. The structural criterion.50
3.3. Grammatical categories 50
3.3.1. The number of nouns..51
3 Count/ Individual nouns......51 Mass/Uncount/Invariable nouns.......59
3.3.2. The gender of nouns...62
3.3.3. The case of nouns73
3.4. Syntactic functions....85
Topics for discussion..86


4.1. Definition...93
4.2. Classification...94
4.2.1. Classification in point of form....94
4.2.2. Classification in point of meaning.96
4.2.3. Classification in point of
4.2.4. Classification in point of position...102
4.3. Characteristics.105
4.4. Grammatical categories.106
4.5. Miscellanea....114
4.5.1. Morpho-semantic aspects.114
4.5.2. Morpho-syntactic aspects.116 Supplementive adjective
clauses.115 Degree complements.119
4.5.3. Pragmatic aspects...122
Topics for discussion...130

5.1. Definition..................................................................137
5.2. Characteristics........................................................137
5.3. Classification ..........................................................141
5.3.1. Personal pronouns......................................141 Inflection .........................................141 Reference and role in
communication .................................................154 Substantivization ...........................166 Syntactic functions.........................167
5.3.2. Possessive pronouns and
adjectives......................................................168 Characteristics................................168 Syntactic functions.........................169 Pragmatic aspects..........................170
5.3.3. SELF pronouns............................................173 Form..................................................173 Classification ..................................174 Syntactic functions and
5.3.4. Demonstrative pronouns ...........................178 Inventory and characteristics .......178 Demonstrative adjectives ..............180 Demonstrative pronouns vs 3-rd
person personal pronouns....................184
5.3.5. Reciprocal pronouns .... ..................................187 Form .....................................................187 Meaning............................................187 Syntactic functions.........................187 Pragmatic tendencies....................188
5.3.6. Interrogative and relative pronouns..........188 Inventory and characteristics........188 Semantic and pragmatic aspects..192 Relative pronouns and
5.3.7. Indefinite pronouns......................................195 Definition...........................................195 Origin................................................196 Classification...................................196 Characteristics................................196 The all, every, each group..............197 The both, (n)either group...............199 The some, any, no group...............200 The much, many, (a) few, (a) little
group.......................................................204 The other, another group ...............205
Topics for discussion.........................................................206


Chapter I

1.1. The connection between the various branches of

1.2. The basic unit of analysis
1.3. The domain of Morphology. Derivation and
1.3.1. The domain of Morphology
1.3.2. Derivation and inflection
Topics for discussion

1.1. The connection between the various

branches of linguistics
Dealing with the form and changes of form that a
certain word can undergo in various contexts, morphology
is linked both to the level of linguistic form and to that of
content; phonemes are combined into morphemes; the
latter can have a meaning of their own, both lexical and
grammatical, which links morphology to semantics; in
their turn, morphemes make up words that can be
combined into sentences, hence the relation between
morphology and syntax. A native speaker of a language
can use a morpho-syntactic structure in various situations
of communication to convey different meanings.
Therefore, morphology is linked to pragmatics, too. The
choice of a certain word in a certain situation of

communication according to a multitude of criteria links
morphology to stylistics, each of us expressing
him/herself linguistically in a unique manner.
The basic linguistic levels are represented below;
except for the phonemic level characterized by form and
no content, the superior levels either generally have
semantic meaning (the morphemic level) or, even more
than that, are bound to express meaning (all the others);
as a result of that, they are in the range of study of
various branches of linguistics, their domains partly

Written Texts Compound and Complex Sentences Discourse Types

Simple Sentence





1.2. The basic unit of analysis

The basic unit of analysis seems to be the word, a
linguistic unit endowed with both form and meaning;
another term for the word is lexeme. The word is defined
by Marchand (1969: 1) as the smallest independent,
indivisible and meaningful unit of speech, susceptible of
transposition1 in sentences. The terms independent and
meaningful complement each other; the former refers to
the use of words as free morphemes, in isolation, while
the latter refers to the content of the word. According to
the same linguist, a word is a two-facet sign, having both
expression (signifiant) and content (signifi), as F. de
Saussure stated. The indivisibility of the word is
questionable since it can be further analysed into
component morphemes. Sometimes, a word is made up
of one morpheme, as in the case of book, learn, of, no,
For Adams (1973: 1) the structure of the word has
no relevance regarding its appropriate use in various
contexts; its meaning prevails:

to understand a word it is not necessary to be aware of how it

is constructed or of whether it is simple or complex, that is,
whether or not it can be broken into two or more constituents.
We are able to use a word which is new to us when we find out
what object or concept it denotes. Some words, of course, are
more transparent than others.

For the purposes of morphology and since the

word can become such an ambiguous term and concept,
the term lexeme is preferred:

Transposition refers to the change of the lexical class of a word; generally,
any word can become a different part of speech. It is a property but not a
necessary condition.
A lexeme is a unit of linguistic analysis which belongs to a
particular syntactic category, has a particular meaning or
grammatical function, and ordinarily enters into syntactic
combinations as a single word; in many instances, the identity
of the word which realizes a particular lexeme varies
systematically according to the syntactic context in which it is
to be used. (Stump, 1998: 13)

For example, the lexeme SING (abstract,

representing a dictionary entry) has multiple concrete
realizations: sing, sings, singing, sung. Other linguists
use the distinction morpheme (an abstract category) -
morph (concrete realization) to designate the opposition
lexeme- its realizations. Two or more morphs/alternants
that represent the same morpheme are called the
allomorphs of that morpheme. The zero alternant and
substitution alternants were proposed to explain forms
such as sheep, sang, etc.
The zero alternant or the zero morpheme explains
those cases in which one or more morphemes have no
concrete realizations: I sing vs he sings; sheep (sg.)-
sheep (pl.); etc.
Substitution alternants designate a concept used to
explain the vocalic alternation marking the change of the
root in the case of irregular verbs and irregular nouns:
man- men; sing-sang. The substitution alternants are a
and e, and i and a, respectively.
A predominantly analytical language, i.e. a
language with a poor inflectional system such as English,
is characterized by many portmanteau morphs, which are
the simultaneous concrete realization of several
morphemes. In other words, several grammatical
categories specific to a certain part of speech can be
expressed at formal level by a single morph; it is a
process called cumulative exponence:

writes is made up of the free morph write and the bound

inflectional morph s marking the following grammatical
categories: {Mood}, {Voice}, {Tense}, {Aspect}, {Person},
{Number}. Writes has the following features [+ Indicative],
[+Active], [+Present], [+Indefinite], [+3rd person],

The zero morph can also be a portmanteau morph: in

sing, marks all the above mentioned grammatical
categories. The change of the root of a word when it is
marked for a certain grammatical category can imply
adding an empty morph as in

children = child + -r- (empty morph) + -en (inflectional

suffix marking {Number}
The words realizing a given lexeme can be
conceived of both as units of form (as phonological
words) and as units of grammatical analysis (i.e. as
grammatical words, such as 'the past tense of SING); the
full set of words realizing a particular lexeme constitutes
its paradigm. Hence, morphology is the branch of
linguistics which studies the paradigms of a language.

The structure of paradigms in a given language is
determined by the inventory of morpho-syntactic
properties available in that language. Given a lexeme L of
category C, the structure of L's paradigm is determined by
the set S of morpho-syntactic properties appropriate to C
and by the co-occurrence restrictions on these properties.

1.3. The domain of Morphology. Derivation and


1.3.1. The domain of Morphology

Stump (1998: 14) does not refer to morphology as
a linguistic branch but to its devices, i.e. to the procedures
which make possible the interpretation of a word:
morphological devices can be used to deduce the words
constituting a lexeme's paradigm from that lexeme's
root(s) that part of a word which cannot be further
decomposed into smaller units having both form and
meaning; on the other hand, morphological devices can
be used to deduce new lexemes from existing lexemes.
Morphology put to the former, paradigm-deducing use is
inflection; morphology put to the latter, lexeme-deducing
use has traditionally carried the (potentially misleading)
label of word formation, which encompasses both
derivation and compounding.
The conclusion is that lexical elements are not
always free and grammatical ones are not always bound,
even if most cases would prove otherwise. Fromkin and

Rodman (1998: 94) schematize the types of English
- bound: affixes (derivational prefixes such as pre-, un-,
con- and suffixes such as ly, -ist, -ment or inflectional
suffixes such as ing, -s, -en, -ed, -er, est, -s) and roots (-
ceive, -mit, -fer);
- free: open class made up of content or lexical words
nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs; closed class
(function or grammatical words) conjunctions,
prepositions, articles, pronouns, auxiliary verbs.
Consequently, there appeared the necessity to
distinguish between derivation and inflection. To Valerie
Adams (1973: 30), a derived word contains at least one
bound form, with no independent existence, and with the
more general meaning that one would expect a
grammatical element to have.

1.3.2. Derivation and inflection

Stump summarizes the criteria of differentiating
between the two processes:

- change in lexical meaning or part of speech

Two expressions related by principles of derivation may

differ in their lexical meaning, their part-of-speech
membership, or both; but two expressions belonging to
the same inflectional paradigm will share both their lexical
meaning and their lexical class - that is, any differences in

their grammatical behavior will stem purely from the
morpho-syntactic properties that distinguish the cells of a
paradigm. (Stump, 1998: 15)

There are two major counterarguments:

-a change in lexical meaning is not always accompanied
by a change in part of speech: for instance, the change of
a concrete noun into an abstract noun:
fish - fishing; friend friendship;
-synonymous pairs such as cyclic/cyclical suggest that
derivational morphology need not change lexical
meaning: cyclic evolution; cyclical patterns;

-syntactic determination

A lexeme's syntactic context may require that it be

realized by a particular word in its paradigm, but never
requires that the lexeme itself belong to a particular class
of derivatives (Stump, 1998: 15)

His caused great surprise among his siblings.

The gap can be filled by a noun, required by the syntactic
environment, but there is no restriction regarding the
particular type of noun formed by derivation: arrival and
arriving can substitute each other in the context.

- productivity: Inflection is generally more productive than

derivation. (Stump, 1998: 16)

-semantic regularity: Inflection is semantically more
regular than derivation. (Stump, 1998: 17)
Inflection rules apply without any gaps, only the concrete
ways of doing so being different, whereas derivation rules
feature many gaps:
perspire- perspiration vs acquire -*acquiration
ambiguous ambiguate vs prestigious2- *prestigiate3

- closure: Inflection closes words to further derivation,

while derivation does not. (Stump, 1998: 18)

The postposition of inflections in relation to derivational

suffixes proves the above statement; one cannot mark a
word for inflection and then turn it into another part of
speech; only deciding on the words lexical class can the
appropriate inflection markers be attached to it.

both the noun and the adjective had derogatory meaning till the 19-th
century; the meaning "having dazzling influence" of the adjective is attested
from 1913 while sense of "dazzling influence" of the noun first applied
1815, to Napoleon. (http://www.etymonline.com)
Though Philip Butterworth (2005: 184) mentions the verb to prestigiate
explained in OED as having the meaning to deceive by jugglery or as by
magic; to delude and originating in the Latin verb praestigiare, probably
altered by dissimilation from praestringere "to blind, blindfold, dazzle, once
the derogatory meaning of the noun and adjective disappeared, the verb was
no longer part of the word family; both the noun and the adjective had
derogatory meaning till the 19-th century; the meaning "having dazzling
influence" of the adjective is attested from 1913 while sense of "dazzling
influence" of the noun first applied 1815, to Napoleon.
Topics for discussion

I. Do you agree with Adams considerations on word

structure and use (1973: 1)? Justify.
II. What can you say about the structure of examples such
as singing, studies, read? Are they ambiguous?
Analyse morphematically: write, information, sheep,
Compare the previous examples with the Latin amo and
the French allons and irai.

III. Consider the example of ful as an adjectival and a

nominal suffix. In which case is the suffix more productive
in contemporary English?

IV. Compare in point of further derivation:

lionesses, reasonable, furthermost, widowers, coming.


Adams, V. 1973. An Introduction to English Word

Formation. London: Longman.
Budai, L. 1997. Gramatica englez. Teorie i exerciii.
Bucureti: Teora.
Duescu-Coliban, T. 2001. Derivational Morphology.
Bucureti: Editura Fundaiei Romnia de Mine.

Fromkin, V. & R. Rodman. 1998. An Introduction to
Language, 6-th edition. Boston: Thomson Heinle.
Marchand, H. 1969. The Categories and Types of
Present-day English Word Formation. Munich.
Nedelcu, C. 2004. English Grammar. Craiova:
Quirk, R. & S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, J. Svartvik. 1985. A
Comprehensive Grammar of the English
Language. London & NY: Longman.
Stump, Gregory T. 1998. Inflection in The Handbook of
Morphology, Spencer and Zwicky, eds. Oxford:

Chapter II

2. 1. Determination and determiners

2. 2. The article as a determiner
2.2.1. Definition
2.2.2. Classification
2.2.3. Form. General characteristics
2.2.4. Functions
Topics for discussion

2. 1. Determination and determiners

Determination should be seen as an abstract
grammatical category which is specific to nouns. It
appeared as a result of the necessity to refer to a
particular item or to an entire category of items.
Determiners are the concrete realization of the
property of determination; they represent a class of words
(some of them having lexical meaning, too both, double,
half, etc) which have the function of specifying the
reference area of the noun they determine. Being
essentially functional words, they make up a closed
system, i.e. their inventory cannot be enriched.

Position. In some languages, such as Romanian,
articles may be attached to the noun, behaving like
grammatical suffixes (casa, peisajul, oamenii, etc)
whereas in English, a predominantly analytical language,
determiners are independent words, even if they cannot
be used in the absence of a head noun. They are
invariably placed before the head noun (the central
element of the noun phrase) in English.

Function. They add some information about the

area of reference of the head noun.

-depending on the nature of the determiner as a part of
speech: lexical-grammatical classes numerals,
adjectives with restrictive and numeric value; purely
grammatical classes articles, pronominal adjectives
(possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite)4;
- depending on their position in relation to one another
(they are all pre-posed to the head noun):
predeterminers, determiners proper5/central determiners6,

Pronouns represent a particular case since, even if they dont have their
own lexical meaning, they borrow the meaning of the nominal antecedent
they substitute, therefore their status cannot be similar to that of
prepositions, articles, etc.
Gleanu-Frnoag, G., Comiel, E., 1993: 97
Prlog, H. 1995: 40
Pre- Determiners Postdeterminers Modify- Head
determiners proper/ ing noun
Ordinal Cardinal
central adjective (center of
numerals numerals,
determiners the noun
all his first ten good grades
both these last pupils
double the price
much money
three- of every second small payment

Predeterminers are mutually exclusive and include:

indefinite pronouns become adjectives (all, both, half) and
numerals (multiplicative and fractional numerals)
double, one third, etc. Regarding their distribution, they
can combine with countable and uncountable nouns and
allow the presence of central determiners, in which case
the preposition of is optional: all (of) the money, half (of)
my money; twice your experience, three times a day, one
third (of) their expenses. In spoken English of is deleted. If
the head word is a personal pronoun, the preposition is
obligatory: half/both/all of them. In case of all and both the
parallel structures are they all/both.

Determiners proper/central determiners include the

subclasses of articles and pronominal adjectives. They
dont necessarily require the presence of any other type of
determiners and are mutually exclusive, since their
combining would result in redundancy and illogical
structures: * the my money. Nevertheless, they allow
intensifiers such as quite, rather, such, what. Prlog
(1995: 41) implicitly includes them into the class of
predeterminers, considering their position and not their
nature, even if she acknowledges the special status of
adverbs such as just, only, merely etc, whose position in
the sentence is mobile, therefore they dont depend on
the noun phrase:

You are quite an artist! You are a real/genuine

Its such a boring day.
She was just a poor woman. vs She was just tired.

Postdeterminers follow central determiners and

include cardinal and ordinal numerals, on the one hand,
and adjectives, on the other, mostly quantifiers covering
the antonymic series much7 (with the grammatical forms
more, most), many, a lot of, lots, plenty, a great/good deal
of (a) little (with the grammatical forms less, least), (a)
few, a small quantity/amount of, several. Other adjectives
filling the same position and sharing the same value are:
next, last, whole, certain.

Prlog (1995: 43) considers much as a central determinant because it can
never combine with articles. Nevertheless, it can combine with
predeterminers as in half as much time.

2.2. The article as a determiner
2.2.1. Definition
The definition of articles overlaps that of central
determiners in general: they are a grammatical category
which is subsumed to the class of determiners proper and
which specifies the area of reference of the noun it

2.2.2. The classification of articles has in view

their inventory, being thus rather formal in nature. English
has developed three types of articles: the definite, the
indefinite and the zero article, the first two being common
to other languages too, since they reflect the basic
opposition between a known and an unknown element
(the painting a painting).
The zero article is an abstract category which
results from applying a functional criterion: it is actually
the name for the lack of an article but this concrete
realization by a zero morph accounts for certain functions
in various contexts. It is therefore synonymous to the
presence of an article.
A strictly functional category, comprising
grammatical words (morphemes), articles make up a
closed system, no innovation being felt necessary and,
moreover, no enriching of the system.

2.2.3. Form. General characteristics
The article is invariable in point of form, therefore it
has no paradigm to be considered. Nevertheless, its form,
i.e. the form of the definite and the indefinite article, poses
some problems regarding both spelling and pronunciation.
In what concerns the definite article, there are
three variants of pronunciation, [ ], [i] and [i:]. The
choice is determined either by phonetic reasons, i.e. the
necessity to ease the pronunciation, or by stylistic
reasons, i.e. to emphasize the noun determined by the
article. Both definite and indefinite article have a strong
and a weak pronunciation, depending on how stressed
the noun they determine is. The second phonetic variant
of the definite article is used to make the pronunciation
easier for the nouns beginning with a vowel; the third
stresses the noun, irrespective of its initial phoneme:
The moon [ mu:n] vs [i: mu:n](stressed)
The egg [i eg] vs [i: eg] (stressed)
The same requirements hold true for the indefinite
article: its allomorphs, a [ ] and an [ n], are each used
depending on the initial sound of the noun they determine:
the former for nouns beginning with a consonant and the
latter for nouns beginning with a vowel: a train, an egg.
The emphatic pronunciation of the indefinite article is [ei]:
She is a child, not a grown-up.

2.2.4. Functions
The article adds the necessary information
regarding the reference of the noun it determines; from
the very beginning it should be useful to point out the
distinction between functions proper, which can be
explained conceptually and account for a whole class of
situations reflecting a logical pattern, and uses, which
sometimes cannot be given a logical explanation, being
merely the result of the tendencies in use throughout the
time. Of course, technically, functions are the reflection of
the general use but they appeared as the result of an
abstract process of categorizing uses.
As far as the functions of the article are concerned,
the oppositions to be expressed by articles are between
specific8 (reference is made to one element) and non-
specific/generic reference. Specific reference can be
viewed as including the reference to a known or to an
unknown element, whereas non-specific reference applies
to a class of elements, indirectly distinguishing it from
Uses include typical structural patterns in which
there can still be traced a logical reason in choosing a
certain article and what the literature calls non-significant
reference, i.e. cases when nouns/phrases contain a
certain article without linking that to any functional value.

Quirk et al., 1985: 265
Specific reference can be subdivided into
[+definite] and [-definite]; the first type refers to those
cases when reference is made to a known element: most
languages which have the category of article will use the
definite article for that function; it is its basic function:
The street that you were looking for does not exist.
The meal was delicious!
Specific definite reference of the article is
designated by two terms taken from Greek anaphoric
function (ana before and pherein to carry) or cataphoric
function (cata after and pherein to carry). In other
words, the simple use of the article can be further
subdivided according to the type of context which gives it
to be understood that the element under discussion is
known. Quirk (1985: 266) uses the syntagm the
recovering of the referent identity by the speaker and,
implicitly (though exceptions may appear), by the
interlocutor to designate the process underlying this
function of the definite article.
The recovering of the referent identity can be
achieved by means of:
1. the linguistic context, in which case we are dealing
either with an anaphora or a cataphora;
The anaphora can be a direct anaphora:
Ive bought a new book. The book is remarkable.
(The noun preceded by the definite article is the anaphora
which sends back to an antecedent; the antecedent and

the anaphora are co-referential, they refer to the same
or an indirect anaphora, functioning as in the
previous case but implying shared general knowledge:
I bought a book and one of the pages was torn.9
Indefinite article can also have indirect anaphoric
function depending on the shared knowledge:
They love each other. I dont believe in such a
sudden love.
The cataphora presupposes the use of the noun
determined by a definite article before mentioning its area
of reference, i.e. its definite character. The article does
not resume a previous referent, it anticipates it. The
definite character of the noun can be given by an attribute
or an attributive clause:

The book about gardening / that we talked

about is extremely interesting.
The flowers of his garden impress every visitor.
The most interesting film was on TV last night.

Quirk et al. (1985: 267) used a similar example and explained the necessity
of the interlocutors sharing the basic general knowledge linked to the
context. We should add that between the antecedent and the anaphora there
is a relation of inclusion. ( a book has pages and, in Quirks example, a
bicycle has wheels). Quirk himself called shared knowledge a palpable
fiction, i.e. something which is hardly achievable in real life situations, but
this type of anaphora is, in our view, a reduced case of cataphoric reference
which is precisely due to the common understanding of the context by the
interlocutors: I bought a book and one of the pages (of the book) was torn.
Both countable and uncountable nouns can be preceded
by a definite article if they are followed by a postmodifier,
usually an of phrase10:
the butter of Holland; the philosophy of Greece;
2. the situational context determining a situational
reference linked to
a. the immediate situation (Quirk, 1985: 266), given the
setting, i.e. the time and place when the verbal exchange
takes place. This is the anaphoric situational function,
which implicitly means emphasizing the noun preceded by
the definite article, this leading to its being also called
deictic11 or demonstrative12 function. The system of
reference considered in the verbal exchange is relative
and depends on the perspective of the interlocutors.
Shared knowledge is a necessary condition, otherwise
misunderstandings can appear:
The roses are very beautiful! (uttered in a garden,
shared general knowledge)
Has the man come? What man? (misjudged
shared knowledge, asking for a clarification) vs Yes, he
has. (shared general knowledge)
Examples such as Mind the step! or Beware of the
dog! are given by Quirk et al. (1985: 266) as

Prlog (1995: 45) considers that the article has a limited generic reference.
Gleanu-Frnoag & Comiel, 1993: 102-103
The demonstrative meaning of the definite article is explained
etymologically by its origin; it evolved from the demonstrative pronoun.
Prlog (1995: 44) talks about the overlapping of the demonstrative and
anaphoric functions in set phrases of the type under the circumstances,
nothing of the kind etc.
counterexamples regarding the theory of shared general
knowledge. They can be seen as elliptical cataphoric
structures: Beware of the dog [in this yard]!
When preceding nouns denoting body parts, the
definite article can be considered as having deictic value
since it replaces a possessive adjective; sometimes
parallel structures exist:
She was pulled by the hair. (the = her)
I shook him by the hand. I shook his hand.
Variants like
I shook him by his hand.
are acceptable but not idiomatic. (Quirk, 1985: 270-271)

The use of the indefinite article might include the

anaphoric situational function, as it is illustrated by the
I dont believe in such a sudden love.
Also, in the cases when a proper name is turned
into a common noun acquiring the value of an adjective,
some previous knowledge on the illustrious bearer of the
name is essential. The context can highlight various
features pertaining to the bearer of the proper name,
features which are extended (genuinely or ironically) to
the referent-subject:
He thinks he is a Napoleon. (Prlog, 1995: 49)
[+despotic]/[+courageous]/[+genius] etc
He behaves like an Othello.

b. a larger situation, when the setting is irrelevant and
the general knowledge prevails; they can be contrasted
with common nouns with unique reference within the
system of reference considered by the speaker. The latter
include the semantic domain of celestial bodies and of
institutions (moon, star, earth, sky, sea, cosmos, Church,
etc). Phrases referring to classes, groups of human
beings clans, tribes, races, etc- can be included into the
category of nouns preceded by the:

The President gave a speech last night.

The last war continues to be a topic of research.
The sky is full of stars tonight.
The bourgeoisie and the proletariat had opposite
The Romans conquered a large part of Europe.

Quirk et al. mention that there is no clear dividing

between immediate and larger situations:

instead, there is a scale of generality running from the most

restricted to the least restricted sphere that can be envisaged:
that of the whole universe of human knowledge. (1985: 267)

We consider that an ambiguous situation between the two

types of contexts appears with the nouns theatre, press,
newspaper, radio, TV, etc. There is a certain degree of
generic value when using such nouns preceded by the
definite article, as long as its not a building, i.e. a
concrete referent denoted, but an institution. This is what
Quirk (op. cit.: 269) calls sporadic reference. If an
example such as
She goes to the theatre regularly.
can be ambiguous between the generic and the [+definite]
readings, in
Whats on (the) TV tonight? or We can talk on the
the abstract reading is evident. Before television and radio
the general use imposed the omission of the article, which
is not possible before other nouns such as theatre or
She goes to the university/ theatre regularly.

Specific [-definite] reference is rendered by the

indefinite article. The individual referent is not known to
the speaker or the interlocutor, and is mentioned for the
first time in the linguistic context. This is the epiphoric
function of the indefinite article. Basically it precedes
count nouns in the singular but it can be used with proper
names of persons or with uncountable nouns if they have
a modifier:

A car is something that we dont need.

He has a good knowledge of English.
A John asked for you a minute ago.

The epiphoric function can combine with the numeric
function. The latter is accounted for by the origin of the
indefinite article which was initially an adjective with
numeric value. The numeric function becomes prevalent
when the article is contrasted with other numerals:

I saw a student and two teaching staff members in

the hall.
A dog is the last thing I want.
Take the pill twice a day.

The last example is part of a class of expressions

referring to frequency, speed, price, etc. (a dollar a piece,
once a year, one hundred miles an hour). In such
examples an can be replaced by per, which renders the
distributive meaning every, each more explicitly. The
definite article can be also used with distributive value
when it accompanies nouns expressing a measure unit;
such phrases contain a preposition, the prepositional
noun phrase functioning as a unit: by the hour; to the
pound (the = every):
We charge by the hour.
There are ten pieces to the pound.

One is preferred for emphasis: a mile or two / one or two

miles. The numeric value of the indefinite article
characterizes phrases such as a score/dozen/hundred,

The zero article has also a numeric function only
that the number or quantity implied is indefinite; in this
case the zero article has the meaning of the indefinite
adjective some which can replace it; there are linguists
who consider some (always stressed and reduced in
pronunciation when having this value) a type of article
which refers to a certain kind of referent in this case, a
contrast is explicit:

They ate fish and oranges.

I want some pen/pens/rice but not this
one/kind/sort. (Noonan, 2005: 46)
Both uncountable nouns and countable nouns can be
preceded by the zero article used with this value.
Structural and semantic criteria contribute to the
use of the indefinite article before a noun phrase
functioning as a predicative. The predicative expresses a
quality of the subject which is usually [+definite], therefore
the referent having that quality is clearly established.
Quirk (1985: 273) states the lack of referential function of
the article in such cases and its descriptive role.
Nevertheless, semantically, the feature implied by the
predicative is [-unique] and this criterion prevails in the
use of the article. When that condition is not met, the zero
article is used instead, to refer to a unique position. A
definite article can be used before a predicative if a
cataphoric value of the latter is implied (a postmodifier is

omitted and taken to be understood in the context).
He is a doctor. vs He is president./ She is the
secretary [of our university].

Sometimes there is a lack of consistency in the use of the

article, precisely because of the ambiguity of its role: his
position as (a) teacher; my decision as (a) parent.
The indefinite article appears with the same
function introducing noun phrases functioning as
appositions or prepositional objects:

As a teacher at this school, I would like to

congratulate you on your results.
Professor Brown, an old collaborator of ours, will
accept the prize on the winners behalf.

Non-specific/generic reference can be expressed

by all three articles, the distribution being given by the
feature [+/- count] of the nouns.

The definite article can be used with generic value:

- before a singular countable noun: The article is a
grammatical word.
- before collective generic nouns: The public loves us.13
- before substantivised parts of speech (it is actually the
only formal marker of their conversion): either

See Quirks larger anaphoric situational function of the definite article.
substantivised adjectives (denoting nationality names- the
Swiss/ Dutch/ Israelis/ Chinese-, classes of people- the
poor/ young/ diseased/ unemployed- abstractions- the
good/ evil/ future- musical instruments- to play the violin/
piano-) or substantivised numerals: the Big Five.
The indefinite article with generic function has the
role of assigning a person/object to a particular class/kind
and considering it in its most general sense (Prlog,
1995: 49). The author considers this function of the article
as a variety of the cataphoric function, since the operation
of including an item within a category is based on the
general competence of the speaker of a language, and
assuming the user has that competence, a condition of
belonging to that class is the feature expressed by the
verb phrase:

A bird can fly.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.
The distribution condition required in order to use the
indefinite article with generic function is that it should
precede a countable noun in the singular:

A horse is an animal.
*A wine is a drink.

The zero article collocates with countable nouns in

the plural or with uncountable nouns:

Life is full of joys.
He hates music but loves long walks.

The differences among the three options are also

determined by the semantic value conveyed to the
sentence by each article:
- the indefinite article can be replaced by the indefinite
adjective any since it refers to any representative member
of a class; therefore, if the reference is made to a feature
of the class, then the structure a/an + noun cannot be
used generically: *A panda is becoming extinct.
- with the definite article used generically, the class is
represented by its typical specimen; of course, sometimes
ambiguities can arise between the generic and the
specific reading of a sentence:

The president establishes the foreign policy. (the

generic value is rather evident)
The president has too much power. You dont
like the president? I mean presidents, in general.
- the zero article used generically implies a class of items
viewed as an undifferentiated whole: Has mankind (=
man/Man) learned anything from its/ his previous

Nonsignificant reference shows by its name that

the article is employed merely as a result of a repeated
use in certain structures and no abstract pattern of

thinking can be deduced from that. It is what we called
uses as opposed to functions.
This type of article use is specific to nouns
pertaining to certain semantic fields; generally those
nouns are geographical names or designate institutions,
facilities, etc. The definite and the zero article can be used
in such cases, the choice of one or the other being purely

Non-significant reference
THE Zero article ()
Names of countries and islands -
in the plural:
The Hebrides, The United

Exc. The Sudan, The Hague, Names of continents, countries,

etc islands, regions, cities, towns,
All the names listed on the right squares, streets:
side can get the definite article if Europe, France, Madagascar,
they are followed by a modifier: Kent, Rome, Trafalgar Square,
The Bucharest of my youth, The Oxford Street
Europe of the 19-th century
Geographical names (oceans,
rivers, canals, deserts, Exc. gulfs - Hudson Bay (proper
gulfs/bays, capes, chains of name+ common noun), peaks
mountains): (Everest)
The Atlantic, The Black Sea,
The Panama Canal, The Bay of
Naples, The Alps

Public institutions, facilities, etc Exc. Covent Garden, St. Johns
(hotels, restaurants, theatres, College, etc.
opera houses, museums,
libraries, etc): The Savoy, The
Ritz, The Metropolitan, The
British Museum.
Ships, trains, etc.: The Orient -
Express, The Queen Mary, etc
Newspapers: The Sun, The Exc. Magazines and some
Washington Post, The periodicals: Time, Punch,
Chronicle, etc. National Geographic, etc.

The second category of cases when (all three)

articles are used without any significant reference
consists of set phrases:
-with the definite article: on the whole, in the beginning, to
tell the truth, on the one hand/on the other hand, to take
the trouble, all the year round, all the time, to tell the time,
to pass the time, by the way, etc;
- with the indefinite article: once in a while, to create a stir,
all of a sudden, in a row, to be in a hurry, to be in a
position to, as a rule, as a matter of fact, to put an end to,
- with the zero article: to go by car/foot, etc, arm in arm,
cheek to cheek, newspaper in hand, judging by
appearances, all in all, by heart, in truth, to meet half way,
in confidence, with pleasure, on deck, by mistake, etc.

The zero article appears before: names of family

relations; appositive nouns denoting titles or ranks; meals;

institutions; means of transportation; time of the day/night
abstractly speaking; seasons; illnesses; sciences,
languages. Some of the cases listed above were
comprised in the set phrases selected. Exceptions are
caused by the presence of some modifiers accompanying
the nouns under discussion:

Mother was there but it was not the mother that I

I dont have breakfast but the breakfast that you
prepared was delicious.
I have never seen the city by night.

Structures involving a wh- word determining a singular

countable noun or a noun pre/postdetermined by a
numeral require the use of the zero article:

What answer is this?

Look at page three.

In its turn, the definite article can have a stylistic

value, either referring to the typical representative of a
class or implying a superlative value:

This is the policeman in action.

She is the mother.

The use of determiners such as ordinal numerals or
adjectives before the noun triggers the use of the definite
article14: the third chapter, the next /last page, etc.

Topics for discussion

I. What is the quantifiers distribution regarding count and

uncount nouns?

II. Are the adjective little and the quantifier little related?

III. Explain the value of the articles in italics according to

the type of context which justifies their use; comment on
the focus in the sentences:
I went to Paris last year. The streets are crowded.
Dont just stay there! Put the ice-cream into the the fridge!
The yellow rose in the right part of the garden is planted
by my friend.
The small shop across the street will be demolished.
I went to the/a store.
IV. Test your understanding of what has been presented.
4.1. Fill in the table with the appropriate articles
corresponding to the function mentioned:

called by Quirk logical use of the definite article (1985: 270)
Ref. Specific reference

type Definite reference Indefinite reference

Based on ling. Non-
Based on ling. /
context significant
context generic
(anaphoric epiphoric numeric refer-
(anaphoric and ence
c function)

4.2. Provide examples that illustrate the articles used with:

-textual reference;
-first mention;
-idiomatic usage;
-non-specific reference;
-noun predicate (introducing a noun phrase functioning as
-specific reference;
-mass nouns;
-countable nouns.

V. Analyse the (un)grammaticality of the following


*She has a coffee on her dress. (coffee a coffee) cf

Rom. A vrsat cafea/ o cafea pe jos.
*Well have examination in History next week. Cf Rom.
Avem examen la istorie sptmna viitoare.
That was the exam! I need two coffees! Coffee is my
It is not a proper headquarters, it is a barracks! We need
a means to find another.
Three waters, please!
Many of the employees at the company lost their
bonuses./ Many employees lost their bonuses.
The secretary is looking for a document that I misplaced.
?She is in the hospital after a minor accident.The guilty
person should go to prison not to the university.(US)

VI. Explain the errors. Some examples were inspired by

those of Celce (1999: 293):

*Change takes a long times.

*They have to make a plan B.
*Personal computer isnt luxury any more.
*When I went to the Europe (cf If you went to the
Europe of the 19-th century)
*I enjoy writing the poetry.
*His brother was student at Oxford. (cf Rom. Fratele lui a
fost student la Oxford.)

Budai, L. 1997. Gramatica englez. Teorie i exerciii.
Bucureti: Teora.

Celce-Murcia, M. & D. Larsen-Freeman. 1999. The
Grammar Book. An ESL/ EFL Teachers Course,
2nd edition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Crystal, David. 21985. A Dictionary of Linguistics and
Phonetics, NY: Basil Blackwell
Gleanu-Frnoag, G. & E. Comiel. 1993. Gramatica
limbii engleze pentru uz colar. Bucureti:
Omegapres & RAI.
Ilovici, E. & M. Chioran, M. Ciofu. 1970. A Practical Guide
to English Grammar. Exerciii de gramatic.
Bucureti: Editura Didactic i Pedagogic.
Levichi, L. & I.Preda. 1992. Gramatica limbii engleze.
Bucureti: Editura Mondero.
Levichi, L. 1970. Limba englez contemporan.
Morfologie. Bucureti: Editura Didactic i
Nedelcu, C. 2004. English Grammar. Craiova:
Prlog, H. 1995. The English Noun Phrase. Timioara:
Hestia Publishing House.
Quirk, R. & S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, J. Svartvik. 1985. A
Comprehensive Grammar of the English
Language. London & NY: Longman.
Thomson, A. J. & A.V. Martinet. 1997. A Practical English
Grammar. Oxford: OUP.

Chapter III

3.1. Definition
3.2. Classification
3.2.1. The semantic criterion
3.2.2. The formal criterion
3.2.3. The structural criterion
3.3. Grammatical categories
3.3.1. The number of nouns Count/ Individual nouns Mass/Uncount/Invariable nouns
3.3.2. The gender of nouns
3.3.3. The case of nouns
3.4. Syntactic functions
Topics for discussion

3.1. Definition
Descriptive grammar defines the noun considering
the semantic criterion, therefore the definition is more or
less common to any natural language: a noun is a
variable/inflectional part of speech which denotes a
concrete or an abstract element.

3.2. Classification of nouns
The classification of nouns can be made according
to various criteria: the semantic criterion, the formal
criterion, having to do with the inflectional characteristics
of the noun, and the structural criterion.
3.2.1. According to the first criterion, nouns can be
common (designating classes of elements) and proper
nouns, designating a particular person, place, thing, etc.
The proper noun has an individualizing function by itself.
Of course individuals or places having the same name
can be grouped together, but it would be an illogical
criterion, since their common name is not enough to
justify their belonging to the same category:
I know three Marys. (it would be relevant to say
something like that only if the speaker requires some
clarification about the identity of the referent designated
by the proper name- Mary who? )
He lives in Athens. When did he move to
Greece? No, Athens, Texas. (the interlocutor will ask for
clarifications, if the place designated by the name is not
the one indicated by his encyclopedic knowledge)

Similarly, there is more than one Georgia, but in using the

word we conventionally refer to one specific place either
Jimmy Carters or Stalins birthplace. (Noonan, 2005: 32)

Common nouns are divided into concrete and

abstract according to the element denoted: sand, cheese,

book, man versus art, phonetics, ideal, beauty15, etc.
Proper names are mostly concrete, designating names of
persons- Jane, Richard Smith-, geographical names
Paris, Europe, the Danube-, institutions -Covent Garden,
the British Museum, etc. Some of them can be abstract
when they designate an abstraction or a fictional/mythical
character, place, etc: Heaven, Snow-White, Zeus, El-
Internal conversion is the process by which
common nouns are turned into proper nouns and vice-

[] nouns are not inherently proper or common; rather, it is the

way we use them that determines their proper/common status.
(Noonan, 2005: 32)

The term internal conversion reflects the fact that it

is a process which does not result in the change of a part
of speech into another; the lexical class of the word
remains unchanged but another feature, namely
[+unique], marks the difference between the two
subcategories of nouns. When proper names become
common nouns, a feature specific to the most famous

Many abstract nouns can be converted into concrete nouns when they refer
to the feature of an individual: She is a beauty.
Budai (1997: 260) discusses the logical categories of nouns considering
the feature [+concrete] as the superordinate term which subsumes
[+common] and [+proper] nouns; in their turn, common nouns can be class-
nouns (countable) and material nouns; class nouns can be either individual
or collective.
bearer of the name is implicitly associated to the name
itself; thus, the name can be used by any referent who
has/claims to have that feature. The use of the proper
name as a common noun depends on the general
knowledge of the interlocutors:
He thinks he is a Shakespeare.17
Dont behave like a Shylock!
She is not exactly a Venus!
In other cases, the internal conversion is actually a
metonymy: for instance the authors name is used instead
of the work, as in
Its not a Picasso, its just a cheap fake.
Internal conversion justifies forms such as china, jersey,
brussels, etc., to designate a product which originated in
the area whose name it took over.
Any common noun can become a proper name if
there is a reason behind that choice; for instance,
common nouns denoting professions came to become
surnames since whole tribes/families were working in that
domain. That is why this phenomenon is characteristic to
many languages, not just English:

Mr. Smith works as a blacksmith.

Miss Taylor is the best tailor in the town.
Chris Shoemaker was hired last week.

The indefinite article is the formal marker of the change undergone by the
proper name become common noun.
Dr. Shepard is new in town. (Shepard <
shepherd, a change of spelling occurs)
A particular case when a common noun is similar
to a proper name is when one refers to his/her own
parents and the initial capital letter denotes the
individualization odf the noun, acquiring the value of a
possessive adjective:
I spoke to Father (= our father).

3.2.2. The formal criterion regards the inflectional

characteristics of nouns, but it partly involves their
semantics too, since their form can vary according to their
meaning (some nouns can be used as both countable and
uncountable depending on the context); the basic
distinction is between countable/variable nouns, i.e. those
which have singular and plural forms, in most cases the
two being distinct, and uncountable/invariable nouns, i.e.
those which dont have two forms for the two numbers:

I like wine. What are these wines like?

The museum is not a place for children, toys and
The sheep are his property.
They are graduates in literature.

In other cases the relation is more idiosyncratic, with the mass

noun naming a substance and the count noun naming a kind of
object historically made from it. [] the historic relationship
between the mass and count nouns need no longer hold; as

words take on new meanings, as in changing from mass to
count nouns, the new meanings take on a life of their own,
there is nothing contradictory about an iron [of either sort]
made from aluminium. (Noonan, 2005: 33)

3.2.3. The criterion involving the structure of the

noun takes into consideration the means of word
formation which led to the appearance of that word:
derivation, compounding, conversion. It is also of
importance whether the word contains one or more roots
and one or more affixes. From that perspective nouns can
- simple18: book, student, poem, the evil, the sublime, etc;
- derived: friendship, courtesy, establishment, teacher,
coming, trainee, etc;
- compound: blackmail, merry-go-round, editor-in-chief,
-composite/parasynthetic19 (made up by derivation and
compounding): vacuum-cleaner, shop-lifting, watch-
maker, homesickness, etc.

3. 3. Grammatical categories
The grammatical categories specific to nouns are:
number, gender, case and determination20. Since English

Here one can include nouns obtained from any other parts of speech,
which are simple words themselves: ups and downs of life, no buts, the
poor, etc.
Budai, 1997: 257.
is an analytical language, the formal marker of number
can also implicitly indicate gender (by the simple absence
of a particular gender marker) and case (usually indicated
by word order):
The actors/ the actresses were applauded for
[+plural] [+Nominative] [+/-masculine]
minutes in a row.

3.3.1. The number of nouns

Some nouns can be counted, therefore are
count(able)/ individual nouns. We consider appropriate to
overlap the categories of count and variable nouns, in
spite of the fact that some grammarians restrict the
category of variable nouns to those nouns whose form of
singular differs from that of plural. Count/ Individual nouns

Countable nouns proper can have a regular or an
irregular plural.
Countable nouns with regular plural
The regular plural is marked by the grammatical suffix s.
This number marking morph has the variant es, the two
variants being allomorphs; -es is chosen for phonetic
reasons in the case of those nouns ending in sounds after
which is it extremely difficult to pronounce the suffix s:

The noun has the property of being determined, that is of receiving an
article meant to indicate its area of reference. The role of articles has already
been discussed.
a. hiss, choice21; watch, touch; charge; box; buzz;
b. tomato, potato versus kilo; cuckoo, bamboo; soprano;
nouns such as ghetto, motto, volcano, cargo can get
either s or es;
c. country versus toy, play;
If nouns ending in o or y have their final sound
preceded by a consonant, they add es in the plural (y >
d. nouns ending in th and f/fe are considered either
cases of nouns with regular plural or with irregular
bath, mouth, path, youth versus birth, breath, myth,
length, growth, faith;23
calf, elf, half, knife, leaf, life, loaf, self, thief, wife, wolf vs
dwarf, roof, chief, belief, gulf, grief, etc; the nouns scarf,
handkerchief, hoof, wharf, turf, staff have double forms.
Compound nouns can be included within the class
of nouns with a regular plural, taking into account their
form. The plural suffix is added according to their
structure: if they have a noun in their structure and it is the
head word, then it is marked for plural; if there is no noun
within the compound, then the last element is marked for
plural; if one of the components is man or woman,
functioning as gender markers, and they are placed in

house has the plural houses.
Gleanu-Frnoag, 1993: 75-76.
Earth, oath, truth can have double forms in point of pronunciation.
initial position within the compound, then both elements of
the compound are marked for plural:
-classroom/s, horse race/s; looker/s-on, mother/s-in-law;
-forget-me-not/s, merry-go-round/s;
- man-servant vs men-servants, woman-doctor vs
With foreign compounds the form of plural oscillates:
court-martial courts-martial/ court-martials (American
English); attorney-general attorneys-general/ attorney-
generals. Compounds denoting names of officials add the
s to both words: Lords Justices, Lords Commissioners of
the Treasury, Knights-Templars.
Clearly, British English has in view the semantics of the
noun, whereas American English, the form.
Letters, substantivised numerals and abbreviations
mark the plural by s preceded by an apostrophe, though
the tendency is to mark the plural without the apostrophe:
in the 1980s/1980s, MPs/MPs but dot your is and cross
your ts.

Countable nouns with irregular plural

Three major categories of nouns should be
included here:
the plural of Anglo-Saxon nouns;
foreign plurals;
the nouns with unmarked plural.

Anglo-Saxon nouns are further subdivided into
three categories:
-nouns ending in f/-fe and th which have regular plurals;
they have been discussed under regular nouns;
-nouns with irregular plural marked by the grammatical
suffix en; it used to be the regular plural marker in Old
English but now only three nouns still form the plural by
adding this suffix: ox-oxen, child-children; brother-
-irregular plurals formed by root change; this means a
vocalic alternation within the root: the variants of vocalic
alternation are: a/e; oo/ee; ou/i:
man-men; woman-women [wimin]
tooth-teeth; foot-feet; goose-geese;
mouse-mice; louse-lice.
Foreign plurals regard regular plurals in the source
languages from which English has borrowed a
series of nouns. Loan words come from Latin,
Greek, French, Italian and Hebrew.
-Latin borrowings have the following singular and plural
markers: -us/-i; -a/-ae; -um/-a; -ex,-ix/-ices.
locus-loci; magus-magi; opus-opera; stimulus-
alga-algae; larva-larvae;
codex-codices; apex-apices/apexes; index-
indexes/indices; appendix-appendices/appendixes.

The regular plural brothers is generally used unless reference is made to
members of a religious order, etc.
The following nouns have double forms for plural, i.e. the
Latin plural and the regular plural:
cactus, calculus, focus, fungus, nucleus, syllabus;
antenna, formula;
aquarium, agendum, medium, ultimatum,

Some other nouns borrowed from Latin have preserved

only a regular plural:
bonus, campus, octopus, circus, virus, chorus;
area, arena, dilemma, era, encyclopedia;
album, museum, asylum, stadium.
-Greek borrowings have the following number marker
oppositions: -is/-es; -on/-a; -a/ata; -x/-ges.
axis-axes; diagnosis-diagnoses; synopsis-
synopses; thesis-theses; ephemeris-ephemerides;
phenomenon-phenomena; criterion-criteria; but
demon-demons; electron-electrons;
schema-schemata, hematoma-hematomata;
- French borrowings have the following number marker
oppositions: eau-eaux; -is-.
bateau-bateaux; rondeau-rondeaux; chateau-
chateaux; bureau-bureaux; beau-beaux; adieu-adieux/s;
bourgeois- bourgeois; chassis-chassis;

-Italian borrowings have the following specific number
markers oppositions: -o; -e/-i; in many cases, there has
been developed a regular plural form in s.
bambino-bambini; libretto-libretti; tempo-tempi;
-Hebrew plurals are also doubled by regular plurals:
seraph- seraphim/seraphs
cherub-cherubim/cherubs a beautiful or innocent

Nouns with unmarked plural are invariable nouns

which have either a singular or a plural form. Irrespective
of their singular or plural form, they are countable nouns
which get a zero morph in the plural: sheep, deer, fish,
fruit25, carp26, salmon, trout, etc; Chinese, Portuguese;
barracks, headquarters, species, works, etc.
The Paris headquarters is going to be reorganized
but not all headquarters are.
These sheep are thoroughbred.

Defective individual nouns are considered by

some grammarians a category of uncountable nouns. L.
Levichi treats them as a class of individual nouns,
focusing on their meaning: they all have a plural meaning
but can be made to refer to a single element by using

Fish and fruit can have regular plurals if various kinds/species are implied.
Carp, deer, trout can have regular plurals, rarely used.
partitives27. Partitives are the main means of quantifying
mass nouns, but some are used with count nouns: a
pound of nails, a ton of bricks, a box of cherries, etc.
The fact that some nouns are plural in form while
others are singular does not influence their common
feature of having a plural meaning. Those grammarians
who treat such nouns as uncountable consider their
meaning as prevailing and, technically speaking, it is not
the form of these nouns which is changed to express the
This class includes:
- summation plurals, i.e. nouns which are plural in form
and take a plural verb, while denoting elements made up
of two identical parts: they designtae either instruments
(scissors, pliers, tongs, pincers, scales, compasses,
binoculars, spectacles, glasses, etc) or clothing articles
(breeches, pyjamas, pants, shorts, trousers, flannels,
jeans, overalls, etc):
The pliers are not here, fetch me a pair of tongs
from the car.
On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you grade
your scales? Should I buy a similar pair?

Partitives are countable nouns which lose most of their lexical meaning
and become functional words in order to mark the number of uncountable
nouns; they act as quantifiers. Some partitives are general (piece, item, bit,
etc), other are specific (cake, word, loaf, bar, sheet, etc): a piece of
paper/wood/advice vs a shred of evidence; a drop of water; a blade of grass,
a flight of stairs, a wedge of cake, hunks of bread, a stack of money/work, a
round of ammunition/applause, a clove of garlic, a set of tennis, etc.
If you are a true navigator, then you dont rely only
on your compass, you should be able to calculate your
position on the map and you need a pair of compasses.

- pluralia tantum nouns (nouns which have a plural form

and plural meaning); they are invariable nouns in the
plural: valuables, news, coffee dregs, effects, earnings,
savings, scraps, stairs28, thanks, surroundings, contents,
customs, grounds, goods, funds, arms, annals, bowels,
colours, damages, fireworks, regards, remains, manners,
particulars, (conference) proceedings, etc.
They take the verb in the plural, an exception being the
noun news which gets the verb in the singular:

Your valuables were stolen.

The news is really bad. = These pieces of news
are really bad.

-singularia tantum nouns, i.e. nouns which are singular in

form and plural in meaning; they take a singular verb;
semantically they can belong to the class of concrete or
abstract nouns: money, furniture, luggage, baggage,
homework, merchandise, etc vs advice, knowledge,
information, nonsense, work, progress, strength, etc:

His money is as good as yours.

They cannot continue telling such nonsense.

Some of these nouns can be preceded by partitives: a flight of stairs.
The homework does not include exercises with
Our steady progress has been appreciated.
I didnt like the furniture: I wouldnt buy a single
article of furniture from that store. Mass/Uncount/Invariable nouns

Common nouns considered as unique29
- proper noun equivalents: sun, moon, star, equator, west,
east, north, south, etc. They agree with the verb in the
singular. It is important to keep in mind that we consider a
certain system of reference within which the nouns listed
above designate unique referents; outside that system of
reference the referents might not be unique:
The sun is shining today.
How many suns are there in the universe?
- material nouns: bacon, sugar, coal, chocolate30, soup,
chalk, land, gold, sand, etc;
- abstract nouns (names of sciences, diseases, games,
states of mind, aesthetic categories): friendship, charity,
patriotism, blues, spirits; phonetics, physics; darts,
billiards, cards; the good, the unusual; names of diseases
tended to get the verb in the singular according to their
meaning; nowadays there is a strong tendency to mark
the verb agreement according to the form of the noun:

Defective individual nouns are included in this category by some linguists.
Nouns such as chocolate, cheese, wine, steel, etc can be used in the plural
if various kinds of materials/substances, etc are implied. Chocolates means
chocolate bonbons.
Measles is/are a catching disease.

The agreement with the verb in the singular seems

obvious for those nouns denoting diseases which are
used obligatorily with the indefinite article: a cold/ hernia/
stroke/ sore throat/ headache/ cramp/ seizure/ broken
bone/ backpain/ hangover/ spasm/ fever. Others are used
with the zero article and the agreement seems more
difficult to establish for non-native speakers of English
and not only: to have diabetes/ appendicitis/ influenza31/
polio/malaria/ cancer/ tuberculosis/ anemia/ smallpox/
gonorrhea/ yellow fever, etc. A third category of such
nouns gets the definite article: the plague/measles/ gout/
flu/ chicken pox/ pox/ mumps/ blues/ horrors, etc.
With science names the choice regarding the verb
agreement depends on the semantic context: if reference
is made to a science in an abstract way, singular verbs
are used, if reference is made to the applications of a
science a plural verb is used:
Acoustics is the science of sounds.
The acoustics of this room are bad.

Collective nouns
- proper: family, crew, team, crowd, committee,
government, council,32army33 etc; they can agree with the

But the short form is used with the definite article: to have the flu.
It is essential to understand that the discussion about their collective or
non-collective interpretation regards them only if they are in the singular;
verb in the plural if the focus is on the multitude of
members or with the verb in the singular if they are seen
as denoting a unit:

The family is large. vs The family are not home.

The committee has analysed your proposal.
The jury have not reached a verdict.
-nouns of multitude: people34, police, cattle, youth, gentry,
clergy, vermin, the foot (infanterie), etc; such nouns
always agree with the verb in the plural. Some can take
partitives to express a certain number of members:

Twenty heads/head of cattle (20 de cpni de

vit/20 de capete de vite)
Twenty head of cattle refers to the living animal as a
whole, a number of animals of that species; the noun
head is uncountable in this case. Twenty heads of cattle
refers to the heads as parts of the body.

such nouns are countable and have regular plurals, but that situation is of no
concern in point of the agreement with the verb.
Army tends to be rather used with a plural verb in British English whereas
American English generally favours the agreement with a verb in the
In examples such as He is good people the collective noun people has
acquired the value of the countable noun person. It is very interesting that a
collective noun is used to refer to an individual. The meaning of the sentence
He is good, which could be apparently considered as a synonym of He is
good people, is different. The latter sentence would be interpreted as
referring to some particular quality, ability, competence, etc, and not to
somebodys character.
The police have followed the thieves.
The youth are coming to visit the new exhibition.
-individual nouns of multitude are nouns which get the
zero morph in the plural, being thus invariable nouns; they
can be considered countable nouns with irregular plural.
Semantically, they cover both concrete and abstract
nouns. In point of form, some look like singular nouns,
some like plural nouns: sheep, deer, fish, trout, eel, carp,
etc vs headquarters, means, series, etc.

3.3.2. The gender of nouns

It seems only logical that the gender of nouns
should be established according to a semantic criterion,
i.e. it should correspond to the natural gender (sex) of the
referent denoted by the noun under discussion. If the
referent is animate, then it is either masculine or feminine
in point of gender and the noun designating it behaves
identically: the noun girl is feminine since it designates a
female referent, boy is masculine because it designates a
male referent. If the referent is inanimate (i.e. an object)
or the noun denotes abstractions, then that noun is
The garden is wonderful in springtime.
He is equally fond of literature and science.
Therefore, English can be said to have lexical
gender, in other words, this grammatical category is
described exclusively by applying a logical criterion, the
semantic one; associating a certain noun to one gender or

another is of no consequence regarding the change of the
noun form: no agreement noun-adjective or nounverb (in
case of compound forms containing a past participle)
follows as a result of the noun belonging to a certain
gender; this is what makes Quirk (1985: 314) consider
that is is a covert or notional gender as opposed to
grammatical or overt gender.
The new boy/girl/letter is here.
In this light, the definition of gender in Quirks view (1985:
314) appears as the logical consequence of the specific
character of gender in English:

By gender is meant a grammatical classification of nouns,

pronouns, or other words in the noun phrase, according to
certain meaning-related distinctions, especialy a distinction
related to the sex of the referent.

In Romance languages gender is described as a

grammatical category, established according to a formal
criterion: the form of the noun in the singular contrasted to
its plural (in both cases the noun is preceded by cardinal
numerals) is the only criterion which indicates the noun
gender; its meaning has no relevance in the matter: o
carte-dou cri (the noun is feminine in Romanian); un
livre-deux livres (the noun is masculine in French). In
Romance languages the gender of the noun is essential
in marking the agreement with the adjective and the verb
(in case of compound forms containing a past participle):
Le beau livre est pos sur la table.

Cartea frumoas este pus pe mas.
Nevertheless, even English went through periods when
both criteria (meaning and form) established the gender of
nouns, though the latter prevailed in all Indo-European
languages as far as gender is concerned: most animate
nouns designating female referents were feminine and
most nouns designating male referents were masculine.
In Old English, some nouns denoting an inanimate
referent were masculine or feminine, not neuter: stn
stone, mna moon were masculine and sunne sun was
feminine as in German; on the other hand, nouns
denoting a feminine referent were of masculine gender
according to the form of the noun: wfman woman was
masculine because the second element of the compound,
man, was masculine.
A distinct category of nouns is represented by
dual35/common gender nouns: they denote names of
professions, functions, roles, etc, which can be
performed/held, etc by both male and female referents:
worker, writer, student, pupil, shop-assistant, professor,
governor, president, lawyer, doctor, parent, child, spouse,
monarch, novelist, inhabitant, fellow-traveller etc. In such
cases, the sex of the referent is irrelevant, it is the quality

R. Quirk distinguishes between dual personal gender and common gender,
the latter being intermediate between personal and nonpersonal: child,
substituted by she/he/it, depending on the context, and also names of animals
are included into this category (1985: 315-316). Levichi & Preda (1992:
26), among others, overlap the meanings of the two terms.
expressed which matters; if necessary, gender can be
explicitly marked:
The teacher talked to the students.
The woman-teacher talked to male and female
She has ten girl-cousins and no boy/male-
The units being in a paradigmatic relationship are
either in opposition or in free variation36: -s and es are in
free variation with nouns such as cargo, handkerchief,
etc; - s/-es and ae/-a/-i are in free variation with formula,
medium, fungus, etc.
Of the two opposed/contrasting units, one is
neutral/unmarked and the other is positive or marked.
Initially, this was equivalent to the presence and absence
of a formal marker respectively: elev elevi; student
students. In time, the opposition became more abstract
and was no longer restricted to two contrasting formal
markers. The unmarked form is more general in meaning
and its distribution is not so limited as that of the marked
element of the pair.37 For instance, considering the sex
opposition and following Lyons example, horse is
unmarked and mare marked, for gender. Hence, the
similar use of the two words in English and Romanian
should not be surprising:

If in free variation, two units can substitute each other in any context
without a change of meaning.
J.Lyons, (1968: 96).
What a beautiful horse you have! Is it a stallion or
a mare?
Ce cal frumos avei! E armsar sau iap?
On the other hand, horse can be interpreted strictly in
opposition to the marked form mare and thus it becomes
marked, having the feature [+male] and being
synonymous to stallion. Then, the above sentence
What a beautiful specimen you have! Is it a horse
or a mare?
Ce exemplar frumos avei! E cal sau iap?
Some nouns implicitly marked for gender came to be
used as common gender nouns but acquired a negative
connotation: sissy designating an effeminate and thus
implicitly coward man, tomboy being the opposite of sissy,
designating a female referent behaving like a boy:
You are a sissy, you dont dare to react like a true
There is nothing feminine in her behaviour, she is
such a tomboy.
Man can be used as an unmarked term referring to both
sexes, in the same way people implies both men and
Man is mortal.
There were many people in the public square.
Nouns such as man, guy, brother, used as
addresssing terms or as terms expressing an emotional
reaction of the speaker, can refer to both male and female

referents; sis(ter) can be used as an addressing term
even if the speaker and the hearer are not siblings, to
emphasize the idea of solidarity:
Hello, guys, how are you today? (addressed to
female interlocutors)
Oh, brother, leave me alone! (addressed to a
female interlocutor)
Man, give me a break! (idem)
Many nouns to be used for female referents have
negative connotation - bag, prude (mironosi), shrew
(scorpie), coquette, slut, harlot, strumpet, whore, broad -
or belong to the colloquial register; some can become
terms of addressing or even terms of endearment: doll,
siren, mermaid, cookie, peach:
Can I help you, doll? Pot s te ajut, drag?
How is daddys peach? (a father-daughter
You finished the research for my paper. You are a
peach. Ai terminat documentarea pentru lucrarea mea.
Eti o scump.

Means of expressing gender:

-different words38: earl-countess, monk-nun, lad-lass,

rooster-hen, boar/hog-sow, buck- doe, colt-filly, bachelor-

These are cases of lexically marked gender.
spinster39, gentleman-lady, nephew-niece, sir-madam,
tutor-governess, wizard-witch, etc;

Unmarked Lexically marked terms Romanian

term masculine feminine translation
fox vixen vulpe/vulpoi
duck drake duck ra/roi
cow, cattle Bull*/ox cow* vit/vac/bou,taur
pig boar/hog sow porc/scroaf
cock/rooster* hen* coco/gin
horse stallion, colt mare, filly mnz/iap, iap
sheep ram ewe oaie/berbec
dog* dog, hound bitch* cine/cea
rabbit buck* doe* iepure/iepuroaic
deer stag/buck hind cerb, cprioar

Note! The starred words can lose their lexical meaning

and become grammatical words, morphological markers
of gender used together with common gender nouns:
cock-sparrow hen-sparrow
buck-rabbit doe-rabbit
dog-fox bitch-fox

As in many other similar cases, the feminine has a negative connotation,
whereas the masculine is neutral, if not implicitly positive in point of
connotation; the connotative opposition expressed by the two words reflects
the extra-linguistic reality.
bull-frog cow-frog
bull-camel cow-camel

-compounding: gender is marked by adding common or

proper nouns which are implicitly marked for gender or
personal pronouns:
male-servant - female/maid- servant; doctor-lady doctor;
teacher-woman/female teacher; policeman-policewoman;
male camel-female camel; cock/bachelor sparrow-hen
sparrow; boyfriend-girlfriend;
Tomcat/tomcat/tom Pussy/Tibby/she- cat; Billy-goat
Nanny-goat; Jack -ass40 Jenny-ass;
he-wolf she-wolf; he-bear- she-bear;
-suffixes41: -ess; -ine; -ina; -a; -ix; -ette42: poetess, lioness,
heir-heiress, duke- duchess, marquis/marquess-
43 44
marchioness, master -mistress ; heroine; balerina;
sultana; imperatrix, executrix, prosecutrix; usherette,
dudette45, leaderette.

As a vulgar , offending term it is always spelled jackass, which illustrates
the evolution of the proper name from a lexical word to a grammatical word.
These are cases of grammatically marked gender.
-ette can also be a diminutive suffix as in kitchenette.
The omission of the last syllable of the masculine word may occur when
forming the feminine; the process is called back-clipping; it happens with
nouns such as tiger-tigress, traitor-traitress, benefactor-benefactress,
In many contexts, the feminine has acquired a negative connotation, since
it covers a wide semantic area of reference.
Dudette is used in spoken English as the feminine of the addressing term
dude, which can be considered a synonym of guy.
To avoid sexual bias in language, considering that
many feminine terms have acquired a negative
connotation and this has led to a somehow exaggerated
suspicion of alleged discrimination, dual gender nouns
have been preferred or even created, whenever the sex of
the referent was irrelevant. Quirk (1985: 315) enumerates
some cases:
supervisor instead of foreman
firefighter instead of fireman
chair(person)46 instead of chairman
spokesperson instead of spokesman
fisher instead of fisherman
mail carrier instead of mailman
usher instead of usherette
homemaker instead of housewife
Member of Congress instead of Congressman
flight attendant instead of airline hostess

The only case when the masculine is formed from

the feminine by adding the suffix er is widower from
widow. The extra-lingustic reasons explaining this
example seem obvious if we think about the huge series
of wars which resulted in a proportional number of
widows. It was by definition a role assigned to women.

Chair takes over the meaning of the head word person, thus the compound
being reduced to the first element. Its meaning becomes evident only in the
context. Chair for chairperson iis a case of metonymy.
The masculine noun is also marked in the case of
the noun bridegroom formed by adding a lexical element
to the feminine unmarked noun bride. The interesting
aspect is that groom evolved from a gender marker with
no lexical meaning in the compound to the status of head
word and the first element of the compound (bride) is now
implicit and no longer expressed; thus, the opposition
bridegroom-bride becomes nowadays groom-bride, being
another case of lexically marked gender with nouns.
Gender can be changed for stylistic reasons: if an
inanimate noun becomes animate the process involved is
personification; the opposite phenomenon is reification:
Sea, she has always fascinated people.
John is here? I dont want to see it here.
Elements linked to the feminine principle, associated to
[+attachment] and [+fertility], but also negative passions
and feelings, abstractions, names of arts, famous
universities, countries (as economic and political units),
vehicles are also by tradition feminine: hope, faith, justice,
devotion, charity; jealousy, pride, ambition; liberty, peace;
earth, moon, nature, sea, life, spring, morning, evening,
night, darkness; art, philosophy, science; Oxford
University; Romania, France; ship, car, bus, engine,
I have hope and she keeps me alive.
Can you see the moon? Her mysterious light is
beautiful tonight.

France is our traditional partner and her exports to
Romania increased.
It is obvious that in all the cases mentioned above there is
an affective connotation implied by the user; this
connotation is determined by subjective attitudes or by
objective reasons, as it happens in the case of vehicles,
mostly used by men, at least in the past; spending a lot of
time on a ship, for instance, and having your life depend
on it might lead to the need of gaining its benevolence
and influencing its changeable nature; from this to its
being assimilated to a feminine entity there was just one
Nouns denoting violent natural phenomena and
passions - anger, fury, terror, despair, love, crime,
murder, war; wind, thunder, storm, sun, time, sleep,
death, the grave -, rivers and oceans, mountains, etc, are
The sun rose and his brilliance made everyhting
War and his consequences were unpredictable.
A special case of personification is considered the
treatment of some animals like pets, hence their reference
by the pronouns he or she and not it. In the table
presented above, common nouns are designating
referents resumed by it, whereas the use of gender-
marked nouns implies a certain concern for the referent
resumed by he/she.

Large animals were generally considered as either
masculine or feminine, small animals not being
associated with the idea of gender. Nevertheless, Quirk
(1985: 317) speaks about higher and lower animals, in
terms of their close connection to man; in fact, there is no
objective criterion which to determine the association of
an animal with a certain sex, but only subjective criteria
having to do with interest or even affection:

The bachelor-sparrow was extraordinary to look

at, he made amazing movements. (the speaker takes a
scientific interest in the gender of the referent)
She is the kindest female-camel Ive ever seen.

3.3.3. The case of nouns

Case is a grammatical category which expresses a
relation between various parts of speech, therefore its role
is predominantly syntactic.
In point of its characteristics, it has no formal
markers in English, except for the synthetic Genitive.
To establish the number of cases in English, two
criteria can be taken into account: the formal criterion
which considers the formal binary opposition between the
Genitive/Possessive Case and the Common Case (an
abstract category covering the traditional Nominative,
Prepositional Genitive, prepositional Dative and
Accusative); the functional criterion which establishes a
parallel between the concrete case and the typical

syntactic function corresponding to it, thus resulting not
two cases, as in the previous classification, but three: the
Nominative, the Possessive and the Objective Case. The
two perspectives made Levichi & Preda (1992: 27)
oscillate regarding the number of cases in English:

If case is understood as it appears in synthetic languages, then

there are at most two cases in contemporary English: the
Nominative and the Genitive in s. But the case is not just a
form: it is part of a series of semantic-syntactic relations, which,
in addition to practical reasons, lead to acknowledging the
existence of four cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative,

The Nominative Case is unmarked formally,

corresponding to the thematic role of agent; it is the
specific case of the subject, predicative (which assigns a
certain quality to the subject, being semantically linked to
it) and apposition:

The school has been repaired and is an example

of remarkable architectural style.
The school, the most representative building in
town, has been repaired.

The Genitive Case expresses a relation of

possession and can be classified either in point of form or
in point of meaning (i.e. the type of relationship expressed

There is no Vocative Case, it is called the Nominative of Address.
at the Deep Structure level of the Noun Phrase). It
answers the questions: whose? Of what/of which?

Formally, there are four major types of Genitive:

- the Saxon48/Synthetic Genitive/ Associative Case49,
marked by the grammatical suffix s/, which implies some
restrictions of use regarding the types of nouns/pronouns
that can allow this kind of Genitive: the possessor must be
[+animate], but collective nouns, abstractions and
indefinite pronouns are compatible with Synthetic
Genitive, too. Noonan (2005: 66) includes personified, i.e.
animate, machines, temporal nouns, names of plants
and non-living things, frequently used, we would add
chair, room, box, dirt, rock:

cats claws; students exams; lifes joys; the partys

policy; somebodys fault, three days delay, dogs food,
the rooms brightness.

Levichi & Preda (1992: 29), consider that calling the Synthetic Genitive
Saxon Genitive is wrong; putting the sign of equality between them seems
reasonable for many linguists, considering that in Old English possessive
case was generally marked by the suffix s, which is thus interpreted as a
Saxon feature. The two authors do not agree with the synonymy between
Prepositional and French Genitive either; the latter name is determined by
the association of the generalised use of this type of Genitive to the Norman
French influence after 1066.
According to Noonan (2005: 66).
Some set phrases contain a synthetic Genitive: to
ones hearts content; a hairs breadth escape, etc. Some
idioms, for instance, of the type for ... sake have both the
variant with the synthetic genitive (marked by the
apostrophe, i.e. the zero genitive, if the noun in the
genitive ends in -s) and that with the prepositional
genitive: for the consciencesake/ for the sake of your
conscience; for Gods sake/ for the sake of God.
Quirk (1985: 320) talks about the Zero Genitive
meanig the marking of the Genitive only by an apostrophe
to avoid repetitive or awkward combinations of sounds.
This is true for nouns ending in s (pronounced [s] or [z]),
be they common nouns in the plural or proper names of
Greek or English origin. Both pronunciation and spelling
oscillate but most commonly the spelling means just using
the apostrophe and the pronunciation is [iz]:
Socrates philosophy ['sokr ti,siz]
Dickens novels ['dikin,siz]
- the Analytical/Prepositional Genitive/ Periphrastic
Associative Case50 is marked by the preposition of, hence
its name. It has no restrictions, though proper names are
not usually used with this type of Genitive, unless
emphasis is placed on it:
Johns house versus ?the house of John
Its Johns house, Im sure of it.
She will never enter any house of John.

According to Noonan (2005: 66).
- the Double Genitive/Post-Genitive51/ Combined
Associative52 implying a double marking of the case, both
by the suffix and by the preposition; semantically, in some
cases there is a difference between the simple Genitive
and the double one, in other cases, the choice of the
double Genitive is just a question of emphasis:
This is a picture of my brother. (representing him). This
is a picture of my brothers. (it belongs to him.)
It is that students decision. It is a decision of that
student. It is a decision of that students. (the three
variants express an ever increasing emphasis on the
- the Implicit Genitive appeared out of the necessity for
concision and is not formally marked, hence its name; the
noun in the Genitive functioning as a determiner of the
head noun is placed before it and only its position and
function give it to be understood that it is a Genitive:
The room windows = the windows of the room
World economy = the economy of the world/the worlds

Semantically, there are several types of the

Genitive Case, depending on the relationship established
between the possessor and the possessed element:

Quirk, 1985: 330.
According to Noonan (2005: 67).
-Possessive Genitive, implying ownership proper: my
friends son; Johns car;

-Descriptive Genitive, implying the general characteristic

of the head noun: a mans shoe; a students practical
course; a summers night;

- Subjective Genitive, where the deep structure

relationship between the head noun and the Genitive
noun is verb-subject: the professors resignation = the
professor resigned;

- Objective Genitive, where the deep structure relationship

between the head noun and the Genitive noun is verb-
object: the students test(ing) = X tests the students;

-Appositive Genitive (the noun phrase in the Genitive

functions as an appositive attribute of the head noun): the
City of New York = New York City;

-Partitive Genitive, which is used when the head word is a

numeral or a quantifier in order to specify the
class/category, etc from which a part/number is referred
to: ten of your dresses; many of our drawings; the babys
eyes, the earths surface53;

Quirk gives these examples though they might seem ambiguous in point of
interpretation (1985: 322).
-Gradation Genitive, which has the stylistic value of a
superlative: the king of kings, the fool of fools, etc. Such a
structure is not specific only to English, since it combines
concision and plasticity: frumoasa frumoaselor, etc;

-Genitive of Origin: the girls story, Englands whisky;

- Genitive of Measure: a five days delay; ten months

leave of absence; a pounds worth; one metres length;

- Genitive of Attribute: the partys policy; the victims


There are cases when the two types of Genitive,

synthetic and prepositional, can substitute each other,
sometimes with a slight diference in meaning; we
illustrated that in the next table:

Synthetic Meaning Prepositional Meaning

Genitive Genitive
- - the City of Appositive
London Genitive

The examples are taken from Quirk (1985: 322) and, at least for the first
example, might partly overlap the uses of the descriptive genitive, in our
The writers Descriptive the life of the Additional
life Genitive writer emphasis
John and Possessive the car of John Additional
Pauls car55 Group and Paul emphasis
Queen Subjective the reign of Additional
Elisabeths Genitive Queen emphasis
reign Elisabeth

There are some pragmatic aspects

regarding the use of Genitives; mainly, we refer to the
omission of the head noun and to the cases of
successions of Genitives.
The head noun is omitted out of pragmatic
reasons, to avoid useless repetitions; the head noun is
recoverable due to the linguistic or situational context; the
former case is simpler56:
It is not my shirt, it is my brothers (shirt).
Her memory is like an elephants. (=like an
elephants memory) (Quirk, 1985: 329)
The situational context helps understanding the implicit
head noun when it is presumably known considering the
encyclopedic knowledge of average people: the system of
The repetition of the Genitive marker after each noun leads to a different
meaning, that each referent owns his/her own possessed object: Johns and
Pauls car (each of them has a car of his own).
Quirk (1985: 329) states that this Genitive is frequently an elliptical
variant of a noun phrase in which the Genitive has its usual determinative
function; it is called by Quirk the independent Genitive, precisely because it
appears without its determined word, in spite of the fact that at the level of
the deep structure, the head noun is implicit.
reference could be narrow or wide, culture-specific or
non-culture-specific: well-known sites are included here,
famous institutions, stores, hotels, restaurants, etc, as
well as shops, offices, commercial firms, etc or
residences. It is what Quirk (1985: 329) calls the local
Genitive used in three major cases according to him: for
normal residences, for institutions such as public
buildings and for places where business is conducted; an
additional observation is that in the last situation the
Genitive marker is dropped, e.g. to go to the hairdresser
instead of to go to the hairdressers:

We wont go to St. Pauls (Cathedral) but to St.

James (Palace).
Lets have dinner at Tiffanys.
Harrods are/Harrods is/ Harrod is very good for
clothes. (see Quirk, 1985: 330)
What did you buy from the grocers (shop)?
You have forgotten about your dentists (office)
They lived at their mothers/ at the Johnsons.

As far as the succession of Synthetic Genitives is

concerned, a maximum of three such forms are allowed,
even if it is recommandable to avoid such constructions
for the sake of clarity:
My cousins brothers neighbours dog = the
dog of the neighbour of my cousins brother (the

interpretation and translation into Romanian of such a
succession of synthetic gentitives should be done from
right to left)

The Dative Case is the case of the indirect object.

It is unmarked formally, being identifiable by means of the
fixed word order or by means of the prepositions to and
for, specific for this case:
I would never do that to my parents.
We bought that for Jane.
In point of its distribution, a noun phrase in the
Dative follows:
-a verb:
He proposed/described/introduced the stranger to
the family. (the position of the indirect object is fixed and
it is always preceded by the preposition; verbs such as
address, announce, communicate, explain, etc, behave
like that)
They will read the poem to the public. They will
read the public the poem. (the position of the indirect
object is not fixed and, depending on the intention of the
speaker, it can follow the verb or the direct object; verbs
such as pay, offer, send, sell, buy, give, hand, tell, write,
wish, etc belong to this category;
-an adjective: He is equal to his colleagues.
-a noun (basically from the same word family as the
adjectives mentioned above): equality to, kindness to,
inferiority to, etc:

It was a wonderful example of kindness to all the
people present.

Semantically, the Dative Case can refer to:

-something concrete, and then it is called The Dative of
The chairman nodded to the secretary to
announce the guests.

-someting abstract, and it is called The Internal Dative:

She is very kind to the kids in the neighbourhood.

Pragmatically, there are some cases when the

indirect objects in the Dative are topicalised, i.e. placed in
front position in the sentence, to emphasize the referent
expressed by them; the reason could be the affection for
a third party or the speakers wish to dissociate
him/herself from the interlocutor/ a group:

For my brother, I shall do my best. (Dative of

To me, everything is clear. What about you?
(Dative of Reference)

The Accusative Case is the case of the Object

(Direct and Prepositional), Adverbial Modifier and
Prepositional Attribute.

It is unmarked formally and, by consequence,
identifiable only by means of word order and prepositions,
if it is preceded by them:

Eat your dinner! (the verb is followed by a Direct

We will teach them a lesson. (the verb is followed
by two Direct Objects)
He walked the dog in the morning. (an intransitive
verb is turned into a transitive one)
I gave him some advice. (the Direct Object is
stressed) I gave some advice to him. (the indirect
object is stressed by being placed at the end of the
They will discuss about the plan. (Prepositional

We have seen the manager at school. (Adverbial

Modifier of Place)

A man of honor like him wouldnt do that.

(Prepositional Attribute)

A noun in the Accusative can have a stylistical

value if emphasis is intended; this is the case of Internal
Accusative functioning as a Cognate Object (complement
intern) which follows the verb and belongs to the same
word family as the verb; the necessary and sufficient

condition is for the noun/Cognate Object to be preceded
by an adjective; the focus is actually on that adjective, it is
the purpose of creating an apparently tautological
construction57: to cry bitter tears, to live a wonderful life, to
dream the impossible dream, etc.

She smiled the sadest smile when she heard

about the delay.

3.4. Syntactic functions

A noun can have all the basic functions mentioned

above for each case: if in the Nominative, it can be
Subject, Predicative or Apposition; if in the Genitive, it can
have the function of an Attribute, morphologically being
either a determiner (if it occupies the place of an article or
other central determiner) or a modifier (if it occupies the
place of an adjective and it has a role similar to it); if in the
Dative, it is an Indirect Object and in the Accusative it can
be an Object, an Adverbial Modifier or a Prepositional
Since in English the syntactic function is mostly
indicated by word order, as it is true for identifying cases,
it cannot be drawn a clear line between morphology and

They dont necessarily look and sound tautological when the verb and the
noun collocating are related semantically but not etymologically; this is true
for both English and Romanian: to sleep a good sleep a dormi un somn
syntax; identifying the case of a noun can generally
implicitly mean determining its function and viceversa.

Topics for discussion

I. Explain the difference between the members of each


1. The class didnt quite down; it was in a boisterous

The class didnt quite down; they were in a boisterous

2. I got a speck of dust in my eye.

I got a piece of dust in my eye.

3. I dont have much time, just a little.

I have a lot of time today, we can talk about that at

II. What are the similarities and diffferences

between/among the members of each pair/group?
Translate the examples into Romanian and mention the
similarities and differences in the use of the partitive noun:

1. Will this deck of cards do?

Will a deck of these cards do? (Celce-Murcia &Larsen-
Freeman, 1999: 340)

2. I bought a head of cattle.

I bought ten head of cattle.
I bought ten heads of cattle.
* I bought ten head of dog/ swine/ deer.

I bought a head of lettice/ cabbage/ garlic.

* I bought ten head of pumpkin/ grapefruit/ melon.

Comment on Noonans observation (2005: 53):

It is easy to understand the metaphor that was

involved in using the word head to count lettuce and
cabbage. While somewhat less clear in the case of
garlic, one can still see the connection with the other
vegetables: all three are more-or-less round in
shape like a human head. However, not all round
vegetables are measured by the head; [...]
Moreover, it is hard to see what connection there is
between these particular vegetables and cattle.
Cattle do, of course, have heads, but so do other
animals, and we do not count thewm by the head
[...]. We are forced to the conclusion that the set of
things measured by the head is not a definable one,
unlike things measured by the pound, the liter, the
piece, and so on. One cannot infer from the shape

or other quality of an object that head would be an
appropriate measure noun for that object, and
therefore head is a special measure noun that must
be memorised along with the word it is used to

3.Would you like a serving of beans, corn or rice?

Would you like a serving of corn or rice?

4. Replace the following archaic partitives with presentday

ones in the next collocations:
a pride of lions; a gaggle of geese; a mob of kangaroos; a
cast of hawks; a harras of horses; a bevy of quails; a
barren of mules; a singular of boars; a cete of badgers; a
clowder of cats.

III. Explain the (un)grammaticality of the following:

1. Greece: A Centuries-Old Framework for Contemporary

Living (idem)
2. *They will finish in a couple a seconds.
3. *Larry bought a dozen of eggs. Cf Rom. Larry a
cumprat o duzin de ou.
4. *Some informations will be needed.
5. The advices are the result of the fact that you havent
listened to any of the pieces of advice given by us.
6. *They were given much homework.

IV. Form the plural and discuss the differences in
meaning. Provide examples:
art, wage, sand, spade, respect, spectacle, work, earning,
ice, air, custom, water, fruit, spirit, brother, staff, index,
genius, cloth, color, manner, pain, ground, compass,
people, copper, iron, paper, film, nickel.

V. Consider the nouns underlined. Comment on their

belonging to the class of count or mass nouns. Comment:
The brains/ *brain cooked by him taste good.
He has guts/ a gut.
Fiona feasted on sweetbreads. (Noonan, 2005: 84)

VI. Decide whether the underlined prepositional phrase is

an genitive, a partitive or an adjectival phrase:

She delivered a box of chocolates to him.

A picture of John Smithson was placed on the
How many head of cattle do they own?
A platoon of soldiers was sent to prevent any trouble.
Eleanor of Aquitaine married two kings.


Budai, L. 1997. Gramatica englez. Teorie i exerciii.

Bucureti: Teora.

Celce-Murcia, M. & D. Larsen-Freeman. 1999. The
Grammar Book. An ESL/ EFL Teachers Course,
2-nd edition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Crystal, David. 21985. A Dictionary of Linguistics and
Phonetics, NY: Basil Blackwell.
Gleanu-Frnoag, G. & E.Comiel. 1993. Gramatica
limbii engleze pentru uz colar. Bucureti:
Omegapres & RAI.
Ilovici, E. & M. Chioran, M. Ciofu. 1970. A Practical Guide
to English Grammar. Exerciii de gramatic.
Bucureti: Editura Didactic i Pedagogic.
Levichi, L. 1970. Limba englez contemporan.
Morfologie. Bucureti: Editura Didactic i
Levichi, L. & I.Preda. 1992. Gramatica limbii engleze.
Bucureti: Editura Mondero.
Lyons, J. 1968. Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics,
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Murar, I. 2010. A History of the English Language.
Craiova: Editura Universitaria.
Nedelcu, C. 2004. English Grammar. Craiova:
Noonan, M. 2005. A Course in English Grammar, volume
1, English 403: Modern English Grammar, version
9/05, typography by Deborah I. Mulvaney.
Prlog, H. 1995. The English Noun Phrase. Timioara:
Hestia Publishing House.

Quirk, R. & S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, J. Svartvik. 1985. A
Comprehensive Grammar of the English
Language. London & NY: Longman.
Thomson, A. J. & A.V. Martinet. 1997. A Practical English
Grammar. Oxford: OUP.

Chapter IV

4.1. Definition
4.2. Classification
4.2.1. Classification in point of form
4.2.2. Classification in point of meaning
4.2.3. Classification in point of function
4.2.4. Classification in point of position
4.3. Characteristics
4.4. Grammatical categories
4.5. Miscellanea
4.5.1. Morpho-semantic aspects
4.5.2. Morpho-syntactic aspects Supplementive adjective clauses Degree complements
4.5.3. Pragmatic aspects
Topics for discussion

4.1. The adjective is the part of speech

which denotes some characteristic of an object, interpreted

either as a quality (positive or negative, objective or subjective)
or as a space, time, quantity, etc, coordinate. (Levichi, 1970:

It is clear that the criterion had in view is semantic and,

moreover, the term object should be interpreted as a
synonym of referent, that is, any being, inanimate

referent, abstraction, etc, denoted by a noun. Also, the
word quality designates a characteristic, be it interpreted
from the perspective of the speaking-subject or not, or
connoted positively or negatively, which might entirely rely
on the contextual circumstances.

4.2. Classification
Four criteria can be taken into account when
classifying adjectives: form, meaning, function and
position; however, it mustnt be overlooked that the
criteria are interrelated: for instance, the function
conditions the position and vice-versa an attribute is
typically placed before the noun, whereas a predicative
follows the link verb; at the same time, the form of the
adjective, in point of its inflection is the direct
consequence of its semantic typology a qualitative
adjective is generally invariable, whereas a determinative
adjective may vary in point of inflection, for instance
according to the category of number.
4.2.1. In point of form two aspects are to be
discussed: the structure of the adjective in the positive
degree and its inflection.
According to its structure an adjective can be:
- simple, when its structure contains just the root: thin, fat,
cold, good, etc;
- a derivative, when the root is followed by a suffix:
analyzable, credible, cultural, atomic, childish, attractive,
beautiful, helpless, dangerous, dirty, etc;

- a compound, the structure containing two roots: dark-
green, clear-cut, etc;
- a para-synthetic word, formed both by derivation and
compounding: blue-eyed, hard-working, ever-lasting, etc.
Adjectives obtained by conversion from nouns are
of no concern to us at this stage, since they acquire the
value of an adjective functionally, but they remain nouns
in point of their structure and inflection: garden party,
economy control, school uniform, etc. Nouns such as
intellectual, fun, oral(s) illustrate full conversion, as in The
party was fun, others, such as medical, physical (exam)
illustrate partial conversion (the head noun is still

Nouns are commonly used attributively, and are thus

superficially similar to peripheral adjectives in satisfying the
syntactic criterion. (Quirk, 1985: 410)

In such cases the result of combining such two

nouns, the former functioning as an adjective, is a
compound noun which behaves accordingly in contexts.
In point of inflection, only some determinative
adjectives change their form in point of number: this boy
these boys; his concern their concern, etc. With
possessive adjectives the category of case is implicitly
marked: they are in the Genitive.
Some adjectives have comparison degrees,
depending on their meaning; if the quality expressed by

them cannot be gradable, they have no comparison
superior - *more superior - *the most superior
dead - *more dead - *the most dead
infinite - *more infinite

4.2.2. In point of meaning, adjectives are of two

types: modifying and determinative. The former
category refers to the role of modifier held by adjectives,
whereas the latter has to do with the pronominal origin of
the adjectives making up this subclass.
Modifying adjectives can be either
qualifying/qualitative or relative. For methodological
reasons, we subdivided qualitative adjectives according to
three criteria:
- context-dependent features: adjectives can be either
static or dynamic; tall, old, red, etc express static features,
i.e. features which characterize the referent permanently;
brave, careful, insolent, witty, etc are considered by some
linguists as dynamic adjectives; we think that they are
examples of dual-character adjectives, since they can
express either a contextual or a permanent feature.
What is he like? He is witty and self-sufficient.
He was so witty at the party.
I dont know how I dropped the bag. Im always
so careful. Be careful! The road is slippery.

- gradability: adjectives can be gradable and non-
gradable; most of them belong to the first category; this
aspect will be discussed at length when referring to the
comparison degrees, since the direct consequence of the
gradability of a characteristic is that the adjective denoting
it has comparison degrees; we give below two examples
of ungradable adjectives:
Sulphuric acid burns.
French wines are famous. vs You look very
French [= elegant, chic]. (figurative meaning)
This is a dish of the Romanian cuisine. vs I am
more Romanian [= patriotic] than you. (figurative

- inherence: adjectives can be inherent, i.e. the referent is

characterized directly (old, intelligent, marvelous, late58,
etc; others are non-inherent, i.e. the referent is
characterized indirectly, the feature is not defining the
referent but his/her /its relationship with another referent:
an old acquaintance (o veche cunotin), a quick
answer, etc.
Prlog (1995: 78) illustrates the three semantic
criteria of differentiating adjectives:

Not in the example They were late for the results.
stative gradable inherent example
- + + good man
+ + + old house
+ + - old friend
+ - + Romanian

Relative adjectives refer to the quality of an object

by reference to another object. They add some
information about the referent they characterize, have the
function of attribute and dont allow comparison.
Structurally, many of them end in the suffix en: a wollen
sweater, a brick wall, a stone monument, a wooden
house. Budai (1997: 334) discusses the difference
between the adjective obtained by conversion and the
corresponding adjective formed by derivation with the
suffix en: the former is inherent and, therefore more
linked to the noun; the latter is usually used figuratively: a
gold watch (made of gold) golden hair (shining). Idem
for stony heart, silvery voice, leaden (grey) skies, silken
skin, etc.
Determinative adjectives originate in a pronoun or
a numeral. They are subdivided depending on the type of
pronoun or numeral they are related to or depending on
their role (and on that of the sentence they are part of):
-article-like adjectives: some, any - They need some

-demonstrative adjectives: such, same, this, that, etc
the same mistake;
- possessive adjectives: his matter;
- interrogative and relative adjectives: what, which, whose
- what books do you read? Tell me what to do.
- exclamatory adjectives: what (a); such (a) What a
-adverbial adjective: a fast car;
-numeral: three books, the second show;
-indefinite: several, few, every, each, both every
garden, few friends, etc;
-negative: no, neither, not a- no money, neither side of
the road, not a soul.

4.2.3. In point of function most adjectives can

function both as attributes and as predicatives;
nevertheless, some can have only one or the other of the
two syntactic functions. Adjectives can freely occur in
attributive and predicative function (subject and object
complement), which is an essential feature of adjectives.
Those which can have both functions are central
adjectives, the others are peripheral:
*afraid people but extremely afraid people
The people are afraid.
utter nonsense but *The nonsense is utter.
Semantically, attributive adjectives can either
modify the role a noun expresses (reference modification)
in other words, when the adjective is non-inherent- or

they can modify the referent denoted by the noun the
adjective is inherent:
My old friend = 1. [a longtime friend, old as a
friend reference modification]; 2. [an old person who is
also my friend referent modification].
That is why examples such as *The nonsense is
utter are incorrect, because the adjective can never
express an inherent feature, therefore it cannot express
referent modification.

Attributive adjectives include adjectives such as

poor and dear (when used as addressing terms
expressing affection or sympathy)
My poor baby! vs They are poor.
Dear Jane! vs It is dear to me.
and certain subclasses:
- emphasizers which stress the meaning of the noun they
precede: sure, clear, definite, plain, pure, real, true,
simple, etc: sure thing, clear evidence, plain lie, pure
truth, real love, simple question It is just a simple
- amplifiers (differing from emphasizers by the fact that a
superior level of possessing a certain quality is implicit):
complete, total, perfect- complete failure, total strangers,
perfect liar, etc;
- restrictive adjectives: chief, exact, main, principal, sole,
etc chief concern, main problem, sole dream;

- adverb related adjectives: past, former, true, late,
possible, etc former teacher, true story, big liar, great
writer, quick car;
-denominal adjectives (derived from nouns): medical
condition, social call, criminal law.

Predicative adjectives59 begin generally with the

prefix a- and have no comparison degrees: afire, afloat,
aghast, akin, alight, adrift, etc. They modify the individual
designated by the noun, therefore we can talk about
referent modification (Noonan, 2005: 169).
The boat was adrift.
The forest is afire.
Many predicative adjectives have parallel
attributively used synonyms: alike similar; alone
lone/solitary; alive live/living; afraid frightened, etc
Some adjectives change their meaning depending
on their function:
He is a civil engineer. He specialized in civil
engineering (construcii civile). He is very civil (well-
His criminal60 behaviour will make him be judged.
The attack seems criminal.
According to criminal law, they will be charged

If preceded by an adverb, they can be used attributively: a fully asleep
baby; the totally ashamed doer, etc.
Criminal is considered a homomorph by Quirk (1985: 411), the same form
having two meanings for the attributive function of the adjective.
Talk to the criminal lawyer. (1. lawyer specialized
in criminal law; 2. a lawyer who committed a crime)

Another type of predicative adjectives are those

having complementation required by the preposition
following them: fond of, subject to, afraid to/about,
answerable to, etc; the prepositional object can be
converted into a THAT Clause:
He is fond of music.
I am happy with it, that is, I am happy that you

As a predicative adjunct/object complement, an

adjective can determine a noun phrase having the
function of direct object or a clause with the same role:
He pushed [the door] open. They couldnt boil [the
eggs] hard. Noun Phrase Direct Object
I consider [what he did] foolish. Direct Object

4.2.4. In point of position, adjectives can be pre-

or post-posed to the noun they determine. Usually, the
former situation is typical for English, considering its fixed
word order: this is true for the adjectives used in the
examples above and also with adjectives derived from
-ing forms or past participles:
-participles as modifiers: boiling water (water which is
boiling), sleeping child, following man; sometimes an

adjective proper ending in ing is mistaken for a participle:
calculating in She is calculating is the opposite of frank.
Noonan (2005: 173) also gives the example of calculating
in a calculating person opposed to a calculating machine
(o persoan calculat vs o main de calculat). The
same is true for alarming, etc in

It is very alarming what I hear.

-past participle as modifier: wanted prisoner (prisoner

who is looked for by the police), broken heart, lost
property; retired teacher, escaped convict, drunken
man, sunken eyes, melted butter, broad-shouldered
boy, well-read audience; offended public, unexpected
news are examples of adjectives proper ending in the
adjectival suffix ed, they should not be mistaken for past
They felt so offended by the unexpected

Past participles used exclusively as attributes have the

ending ed pronounced [id] in examples such as beloved,
learned, aged, crooked, naked, wicked, wretched,
dogged, ragged, jagged.
an aged man; the man is aged an aged wine; a man
aged 50.

-gerund as modifier: living room (room for every day
living), swimming pool, running shoes, etc.
As a conclusion, a pre-modifier is the reduction of a
Relative Attributive Clause. A present participle is
preferred for reasons of concision, but the subordinate is
favoured for emphasis:

Have you ever seen a sleeping child?

You dont disturb a child who is sleeping.

Post-modifiers are triggered by the presence of

other modifiers (complex structures) or determiners:
-the adjectives in able follow the noun if the noun is
preceded by a superlative, by only or all: the worst kind of
friend imaginable, the only people visible;
- emphasis on some adjectives: a nice afternoon, sunny
and calm;
- a compound adjective expressing dimensions: a block
ten storeys high;
- the adjective has its own complementation, a
prepositional phrase or an infinitive: a flower more
beautiful than that in your hand; a job difficult to
perform; an actor suitable for the play; a plan larger than
life; a house larger than his;
- predicative adjectives: no man alive;
- the head word is an indefinite pronoun: anything

- set phrases of Romance origin: ambassador
extraordinary, body politic, time immemorial, sum total,
heir apparent, notary public, Asia Minor, secretary
general, first person singular, honor due, etc.
Sometimes, the place of the adjective depends on
its meaning:
present company excluded the people present
at the party
involved sentence complicated in form the
personnel involved in the operation
due consideration cuvenitul respect the money
ill-fame a child ill with flu

4.3. Characteristics
-adjectives pre- (and sometimes post-) modify a noun,
functioning as attributes:
The secretary general accepted the proposal.
They need a modern new wooden bookcase.
-post modify a noun as subject or object complement:
He became sad.
We found his answer impolite.
-can take the adverb very as their own pre-modifier:
Its very late to call her now.
-have the category of comparison (with some exceptions):
You are as young as I remembered you.

4.4. The grammatical categories specific to
adjectives in Romance languages are number, gender,
case (borrowed in general from the noun they determine)
and comparison, which is a category shared by adjectives
and adverbs. It cannot be said that most adjectives in
English have the category of number and gender, since
they are invariable and there is no agreement between
them and the noun they accompany. Nevertheless,
Levichi (1970: 76) considers that English adjectives have
case, even if, we should add, it is not explicitly marked,
unless were talking about adjectives which were originally
tall boys vs those boys
beautiful forests vs their dreams
smart girl vs whose girl

Adjectives have no number [...]but they may be said to have

cases, depending on the case in which stands the noun with
which the adjective is connected. The specific adjective
questions are: what is ...like?, which? what...? but many of
them depend on case and syntactic function, e.g. He left by
the 11,00 oclock train. (By what train did he leave?) The
weather was fine. (What was the weather like?) (Levichi,
1970: 76)

Focusing on the category of comparison, we should

start by saying that it is defining for most adjectives, even
if not for all, since their meaning is the supreme criterion
in establishing their comparison degrees and some are
semantically incompatible with that category.
The first class of adjectives which has no comparison
degrees is that of relative adjectives (subsumed to
modifying adjectives), for obvious reasons:
Its a brick wall, *the brickest wall Ive ever seen.
Your house is *more wooden than mine. (if the wood
quality or quantity is involved, the sentence should be
rephrased: Your house is made of a better wood than
mine./ Your house structure contains more wood than
mine./ You used more wood than me in building your
house. etc)
Another class of adjectives that are incompatible with
comparison degrees is that of determinative adjectives,
again for clear reasons:
*more what book, *the most three cars, *more every
As for qualifying adjectives, by definition compatible
with comparison degrees, their meaning, as stated before,
is the only criterion which allows or blocks their use in the
comparative or superlative:
- Latin or Greek borrowings which are already
comparatives or superlatives in the sourse languages,
cannot be further marked for comparison in the target
language, even if the native speaker of English is no
longer aware of their meaning: inferior, superior, senior,
junior, major, minor, interior, exterior, anterior, posterior;
of course, mistakes appear similarly even with users of
Romanian when such loan words are employed in the
wrong way:

They are inferior to out competitors. (not *more
The supreme value is represented by their
freedom of speech. (not *the most supreme)
This is a minor mistake, dont worry. (not *less
minor than others)
-other adjectives, of various origins, which imply a certain
degree of comparison or are incompatible with that: equal,
right, splendid, square, oral, main, dead:
*He is less dead than yesterday. (unless the speaker
uses the adjective ungrammatically to express irony)
*You two look more married now.

Pragmatically, many ungrammatical forms in point

of comparison degrees became accepted for stylistic
reasons, even if they sound (and technically are)
You couldnt be more right.
It is the most remarkable painting. But * It is more
remarkable than yours. Cf Rom. Este cea mai remarcabil
She is the most gorgeous/wonderful woman. but
*She is very gorgeous. Cf Rom. E cea mai minunat
Have you ever seen a more sublime landscape or
experience a more sublime feeling?
Can anything be more extraordinary?

As in Romanian and in most languages, there are
three degrees of comparison:
- the positive degree, the basic form of the adjective: red,
interesting, foolish, hard-working, dark-green, etc;
- the comparative degree, implying the comparison of
some referents possessing a quality in different degrees;
there are three types of comparative: the comparative of
superiority (the focus is on the referent possessing a
quality to a higher degree than another/others, e.g. better
than, more important than, bigger than); comparative of
equality (the quality characterizes the referents to the
same degree, e.g. as big/late/stupid as); comparative of
inferiority (the focus is on the referent possessing a
quality to a lower degree than another/others, e.g. less
big/tired/important than);
- the superlative, subdivided into relative superlative
(implying a term of comparison, an element/a system of
reference, e.g. the most important, the biggest, the best)
and absolute superlative (implying a maximal degree in
possessing a quality, e.g. very nice, awfully kind, terribly
late, etc).
The means of marking the category of comparison
are either synthetic or analytical. Synthetic comparison
degrees are marked by grammatical suffixes: -er for the
comparative of superiority and est for the relative

superlative. This is true for monosyllabic adjectives and
disyllabic adjectives ending in y, -er,61 -ow, -le, -some:
big- bigger the biggest; clear- clearer- the
easy easier- the easiest63; clever cleverer the
cleverest; narrow- narrower the narrowest; able abler
the ablest64; handsome handsomer the
Budai (1997: 376) mentions that disyllabic end-
stressed adjectives form comparison degrees
synthetically and gives the following examples: polite,
sincere, complete, profound, obscure, remote, severe,
concise, pleasant, stupid. It should be stated that
nowadays many of the above adjectives have analytical
comparison degrees. The same author enumerates the
adjectives stressed in their final syllable and ending in two
plosives exact, correct, distinct, abrupt, etc as
exceptions from the class of synthetic comparison
adjectives. (Budai, 1997: 377)
Adjectives such as proper, eager, etc, form degrees of comparison
In spoken English one can hear forms such as much more quiet instead of
much quieter. Some would consider this former variant as more natural. An
example is given by Solomon (1994: 17) and quoted by Celce-Murcia (1999:
748): Its one of the most grand sights in New York City.
But corny more corny the most corny.
The adjective noble, though ending in le, has both synthetic and
analytical forms for comparative and superlative: more noble, the most
noble; the same is true for the disyllabic adjectives fertile, gentile, etc. In
point of spelling the final e of the base is dropped.
Handsome, troublesome, etc, have double forms for comparison degrees.
The same is true for common.
A series of monosyllabic nouns have irregular
comparison. Many of them form antonymic pairs:
good better the best
bad/ill worse the worst

much, many more the most

little - less66 the least

far further67, farther68 the furthest, the farthest

near- nearer the nearest, the next69

late later, the latter70- the latest; the last71;

old older, elder72 the oldest, the eldest.

From the nouns denoting the cardinal points,

adjectives can be converted and they will have a sort of a
mixed form of comparison degrees, technically using the
elements of the analytical comparison but turning the
relative superlative into a synthetic form by postposing
most; the same is true for the relative superlatives
lowermost, midmost, undermost, topmost:
The form lesser is used attributively and means smaller - a lesser toy or
not so severe a lesser punishment.
Referring to distance in space or time; also meaning additional,
Referring only to distance in space.
Referring to the ordering of elements in a series.
The last element in a series of two; it is the antonym of former.
Like next, last refers to the ordering of some elements; it is the antonym
of first.
Used only attributively for members of the same family.
east- eastern, more eastern east(ern)most
north northern, more northern north(ern)most

Not only the adjectives above have a mixed form of

comparison degrees, but also some adverbs which
become adjectives only in their comparative and
superlative forms73:

in inner- in(ner)most the innermost depths of

their souls
out outer/utter outermost/utmost/uttermost
the outermost village
up upper up(per)most the upper classes

When the relative superlatives are not preceded by

the definite article they become absolute superlatives:
The outermost layer will be covered with paint.
They live in utmost poverty (= srcie extrem,

In point of spelling, there are two major rules to be

noticed and observed: when a monosyllabic adjective
ends in a consonant preceded by a short vowel, the
consonant is doubled before the comparative and
superlative suffixes in order to preserve the pronunciation
of the base: fat- fatter- the fattest; monosyllabic adjectives

Prlog , 1995: 83.
ending in y change the y into i before er /-est: early
earlier the earliest.74
The reasons for the appearance, preservation and
frequency of both synthetic and analytical forms are
indirectly suggested by Evans &Evans (1957: 105),
though other linguists have favoured the analytical
means, which is proven by contemporary tendencies in

The inflected form is native English. It is still considered the

more natural and more vigorous of the two and is always used
in vivid or excited speech, while the form with more [] is also
preferred for words that are not often used in comparisons e.g.
real, right, just.
(apud Levichi, 1970: 91)

Analytical comparison degrees are formed with

the help of the comparative and superlative of the
adjective much: more, the most: brilliant more brilliant
the most brilliant, etc. In this case the forms of the
adjective much have lost their lexical meaning and have
simply become grammatical words. Analytical comparison
applies to disyllabic adjectives, other than those

Sly (viclean)- slyer the slyest; shy (timid)-shyer- the shyest,
spry(sprinten, agil)-spryer- the spryest are exceptions. Wry (diform, pocit,
nesincer, denaturat) has double forms in point of spelling, either preserving
the y or changing it into -i-: wrier/wryer; the wryest/the wriest.
mentioned above and for plurisyllabic adjectives75,
including compound ones:
distinct -more distinct- the most distinct;
complete- more complete the most complete;
intense- more intense the most intense;
absurd- more absurd the most absurd; etc.

interesting - more interesting the most interesting;

careful - more careful the most careful;
unexpected more unexpected- the most unexpected;

far-fetched- more far-fetched the most far-fetched;

ill-advised more ill-advised the most ill-advised76/
worse-advised the worst-advised;
deep-rooted deeper-rooted the deepest-rooted;
well-known better-known the best-known.
Another class of adjectives forming comparison
degrees is that of predicative adjectives: awake,
ashamed, asleep, afraid, aflame, alone, etc.
Miscellaneous adjectives follow the same pattern: right,
wrong, like, real.
The cat is more asleep than the dog.
You cant be more right.

Adjectives with negative meaning (containing negative prefixes) can have
double forms: such examples are unfriendly, impolite, etc.
Prlog , 1995: 83.
4.5. Miscellanea
4.5.1. Morpho-semantic aspects

The order of adjectives poses some problems to

non-native speakers of English, and since it is a matter of
the meaning of the adjective rather than of its form, we
considered it appropriate to discuss it under this heading.
There is more than one acceptable order of adjectives,
but the criterion largely accepted is the generality or
specificity of the feature denoted. The order is from
general to particular.

Color/ Origin
/ ag nou Gerun Head
size shape mater Part. /
descriptiv e n d noun
ial style
e adj.
wonderful small round old gold ruby ring
little silk French dress
incredible yellow rose

A conclusion of morpho-semantic nature is that any

part of speech can virtually be converted into an adjective
and the meaning is obvious from the linguistic and
situational context:
But any verbs I used were conditional. In their
iffest mood, I assure you.
(MacDonald, 1961: 82, apud Prlog, 1995: 84)

4.5.2. Morpho-syntactic aspects Supplementive adjective clauses

Quirk (1985: 424-426) introduces the concept of

supplementive adjective clauses, made up of adjectives,
which are the concrete realization of a verbless clause or
the heads of an adjective phrase. They can be considered
as elliptical absolute constructions.
We will comment on Quirks examples below:
The man, quietly assertive, spoke to the
assembled workers.
The construction is obviously absolute in nature since its
meaning does not depend on the main clause meaning
and on any of its constituents; this is explicitly marked at
formal level by the fact that the construction is separated
by commas from the rest of the sentence. A gerund of the
verb to be is presupposed before the adjective which has
its own modifier. The elliptical non-finite (gerundial) clause
has the value of an apposition in relation to the noun-
subject man but it can also be interpreted as having the
value of an adverbial clause of reason:

The man, who was quietly assertive, spoke to the

assembled workers.
The man, since he was quietly assertive, spoke to
the assembled workers.

The same is true for the other example provided by Quirk:

Unhappy with the result, she returned to work.

Noonan (2005: 168) calls such adjectives free

adjectives, the class functioning as a kind of adjunct,
supplying supplementive background information to the
main force (i.e. message [our note]) of the sentence. His
examples are similar to the previous one:
Strange, it was Roscoe who ate the pie.
Drunk, they are a bunch of feeble-minded idiots.
Nervous, he opened the door to Mr. Hardnoses
Supplementive adjective clauses have the
following characteristics:
- they are mobile, though usually preceding the subject of
the superordinate clause:

Rather unhappy, the pupils left the room.

The pupils, rather unhappy, left the room.
The pupils left the room, rather unhappy.

We consider that the mobility of this constituent is due to

the ambivalent nature of its meaning and, by
consequence, of its syntactic status.
- semantically, it is related to the content of the main
clause, even if the connection is not a strong one and it
varies from case to case;

- syntactically, it depends both on the predication and on
the subject;
- generally, it can be replaced by an adverb (which proves
its adverbial nature):

He opened the letter, rather nervous (=nervously).

-if the adjective has its own constituents, the adjective can
determine a noun phrase which is not the subject:

She glanced with disgust at the cati, quieti (now)

in her daughters lap/ now quieti.

-sometimes, the adjective making up the clause has very

little, if any, connection with the meaning of the main
clause. It is a parenthetical clause:

[What is] Strange/ More important/ Remarkable,

the plan was adopted.

-when the adjective clause expresses the

condition/circumstances in general of the action in the
main clause, it is called contingent adjectival clause
(Quirk, 1985: 426-427). It is elliptical of be, of the
grammatical subject and of the subordinator:

[Be it/ Even if it is] Right or wrong, she will

continue her fight.

If [they are] wet, dont place them on the floor.

-comment (parenthetical) adjective clauses can have the

form of an exclamation and they depend on the situational
context in point of their interpretation:

Excellent! How surprising! Great! Very funny! Degree Complements

Out of the need to express gradation with regard to

virtually any feature allowing various levels of intensity,
some constructions have been created. Gradation covers
the notions of excess (too + adjective/much/many +
noun), sufficiency (enough + noun/noun + enough) and
insufficiency (too little/few + noun). Such constructions
are meaningful only if they relate to a result expressed in
the form of a clause (finite or non-finite).
Degree complements are classified according to
the notions expressed and to the type of complementation
following the adverb +adjective + noun construction.

Too + adjective/adverb/ [much/little +

uncount noun]/ [many/few + count noun] +
for +Noun +infinitive

You are too tired to stay any longer. (too +

negative polarity adjective; the subject of the finite verb in
the main clause is co-referential with the implicit subject of
the infinitive; therefore, there is no need to express the
latter under the form of an Accusative; on the other hand,
the negative connotation of the too + adverb/adjective
construction takes scope over the infinitive, giving it the
negative meaning.
They left too fast for us to say good-bye. (too +
negative polarity adverb; the coreferentiality of the two
subjects doe not verify any more and the subject of the
infinitival clause is expressed under the form of an
Accusative preceded by for)
Its too little time to start now. (the subject of the
infinitive is not expressed since it has a generic value)
There will be too few people present in the hall.

Too + Much/ many express excess and little/ few

insufficiency, in an overt manner, the negative
connotation being always present:
We have too much money to keep it in the house.
(the excess is a bad thing in point of its possible
consequences the money might be stolen by a thief who
breaks in)
She has too little patience to work with small kids.
(it is a flaw because the insufficiency determines a
negative consequence she would act in a wrong way)

So + adjective /adverb/ [much/ + little+

uncount noun]/ [many/ few + count noun] +
(infinitival clause) + THAT Clause

They speak so much that we cannot sleep.
The city is so noisy that everybody is getting
We have so much paperwork to do that well
never finish.
He has so few flaws that his friends envy him.

So much/ little overtly emphasize the idea of causality in

the form of the THAT Clause. The noun and quantifier
distribution presented above remains valid for this case,

Such +[ a/an + count noun (sg.)]/ (adjective)

+ [uncount noun/count noun (pl.)] + THAT

You are such fools that I dont know what to say

The patient was in such agony that he had to be
taken to hospital.

Adjective/ adverb/ verb/ noun + enough + for

Noun + infinitival clause

He is good enough for this job.

We work enough to be promoted.

He is man enough to accept that he was wrong.
He is enough of a man to accept.
I have enough money/ money enough to pay for
it. Cf Rom. Am destui bani/bani destui.

We end this subchapter by presenting alternative

structures of the above types, which render the same
semantic meaning, even if the emphasis and ironical
connotations might differ in intensity:

Youve taken too much sugar in your coffee.

Its too sweet to drink.
You ve taken so much sugar in your coffee that
it cant be drunk.
Its enough sugar in your coffee to make anyone

It is too little light in this room. It is too dark in

this room.
Its not enough light in here. It s enough
light in here to make a bat happy.

4.5.3. Pragmatic aspects

-the order of adjectives when used in comparison

degrees: the shorter adjectives are placed in front
position, though the order can be reversed for emphatic

She was prettier and more self-composed than her
When more has the meaning rather, it is placed before a
monosyllabic adjective such as pretty:
She was more pretty than beautiful.
Prlog (1995: 83) points out that, depending on
what the speaker/writer wants to stress, the comparison
degrees of an adjective can take synthetic or analytical
forms. More precisely, if the stress is on the adjective
itself and not on the degree to which an object possesses
that quality denoted by the adjective, any adjective can
get analytical comparison degree forms, as in the
example above:
She was more pretty than beautiful. She was
prettier (implicitly than another person) and clever. Cf
Rom. Era mai degrab drgu dect frumoas. vs Era
mai drgu (dect altcineva) i deteapt. (the second
adjective is in the positive degree of comparison)

- grammatical homonymy between adjectives and

adverbs is an equally formal and functional matter. It
concerns three major cases: when the adverbs apparently
look like an adjective, lacking the characteristic lexical
suffix ly; when the adjectives end in the suffix
characteristic to adverbs; when adjectives and adverbs
look alike beginning with the lexical prefix a-.

The first class includes adjectives like fast, slow,
long, short77, hard, etc:
Drive slow(ly)! Buy cheap(ly)!
The examples chosen illustrate the double forms
for adverbs, marked and unmarked. Some examples
regard unstandard familiar English to pay sth. regular, to
play good, others standard English Speak clearer/more
clearly; its easier said than done; danger, go slow. Set
phrases should also be considered: to speak loud and
clear, to lose fair and square, to be brought up short and
The second class includes adjectives ending in ly,
which leads to the avoidance of the corresponding
adverbs and their replacement by phrases containing the
adjectives: early, likely, monthly, friendly, kindly, kingly,
lively, manly, masterly:
He felt bad. he felt badly (=intensely)about it.
She looks good. She looks well (healthy).
The third class regards adjectives which are
predicative, begin with the prefix a- and have the feature
[+temporary state], homonymous with adverbs having the
features [+direction], [+follow motion verbs]:
Go abroad vs go around/ away
Ambiguities can appear in contexts such as He went [and
was] afraid. (Quirk, 1985: 408)

The forms shortly , hardly exist but a have a different meaning than their
counterparts , the unmarked adverbs: They work hard (=a lot) They hardly
work. Go slow! Slowly, they began to get along.
- strategies of expressing a value equivalent to a
a. compound adjectives which might reduce a comparison
or a resultative clause: cold sober, icy cold =as cold as
ice; blind drunk = so drunk that you cant see straight;
freezing cold = so cold that you freeze; stinking rich, sky-
high; stone-cold.
b. structures with a prepositional genitive, expressing a
metaphorical value: a mountain of a wave, a devil of a
child, etc;
c. prepositional phrases: beyond ones power, without
equal, beyond compare, scared to death, full to the brim
(the last three examples are hyperboles) etc;
d. quantitative hendiadys, i.e. the conjoining of two
synonymous elements: null and void, safe and sound, etc;
e. similes: as drunk as a lord, as white as snow, as like as
two peas;
f. metaphors: he is a lion;
g. litotes: he is no coward;
h. in colloquial style, the relative superlative is used with
absolute value without explicitly specifying the set of
characteristics referred to:
He is the most! cf Rom. E maxim!

- the use of the article with nouns modified by adjectives

depends on the meaning intended by the speaker. Any
type of determiner can precede the nominal phrase

(adjective + noun): my better half; this better choice;
such structures can make up idioms:
Where is your better half (= spouse)?
I did that against my better judgement.

The definite article is more frequent in such

cases, since it is generally obligatory before the relative
superlative78, or before the comparative when it has the
value of a superlative:
They are the most generous people.
He is the more talented of the two brothers. (when
two elements are compared, the comparative is used with
the value of a superlative; in Romanian, this corresponds
to the relative superlative: E cel mai talentat dintre cei doi
Regarding this aspect, Celce-Murcia (1999: 743)
quotes Jespersen (1924) who points out that the
superlative does not necessarily indicate a higher degree
than the comparative but rather it expresses degree from
a different perspective. As a result of that, many
languages can do without the superlative but not without
the comparative. The former are more marked than the
latter, but the latter are more frequent. That is why many
users of English feel more comfortable using the
superlative when the comparative is formally more

If the relative superlative adjective is not followed by a noun or a noun
substitute in the surface structure (the noun was deleted), then the article
becomes optional: Which mountain is (the) highest?
accurate. The pattern corresponds to the situation in
Romanian. The semantic function of the superlative is to
select one or more members out of a set because they
rank first or last on a scale that measures a particular
attribute. The comparative ignores the extremes of the
scale, unlike the superlative, and deals with any two
points anywhere on the scale with regard to two or more
individuals/objects, etc. The number of objects compared
is therefore not the most important thing considered by
the English users when selecting between comparative
and superlative.
Another example of using particular forms for
comparing two elements is the lesser + noun;
nevertheless, the domain of nouns to be used in such a
construction is not unlimited; the result is in some cases
almost an idiom: the lesser of two evils/ the lesser evil
(Celce-Murcia, 1999: 748) cf Rom. cel mai mic din dou
The same article is used with comparatives when they are
part of idioms: So much the better cu att mai bine.

The definite article can be omitted for stylistic

reasons in declarative sentences and in exclamations:
That was most thoughtful of them.
Oh, most truthful friends! (Prlog, 1995: 84)
Most unusual reactions, take my word for it!

The indefinite article is used as an
intensifier; it can precede a superlative or be part of a
determiner used as an intensifier: a good/great deal +
comparative, a lot + comparative:
She met a most interesting man (= a man who
was extremely interesting).
He was a most gracious host.
The customer is a good deal more dissatisfied
than last time.
It would be a lot better if they left earlier.

or as part of the construction too/so + adjective +

indefinite article + noun having the value of an absolute
superlative. The construction can be part of an
exclamatory sentence, but even if it is a declarative one,
the attitude of surprise on the part of the speaker is
always implied:
It is too difficult a task for us.
Have you ever met so clever a boy (=such a
clever boy)? The structure is not frequent in speech, it is
rather formal in register.
Mary, your sister is so diligent a student!

So is pragmatically used in some structures to

emphasize an absolute superlative value, being thus
similar to very but more stressed than it:
They enjoyed your party so much! You have so
many friends!

Too is used as an antonym of very, also colloquial
and emphatic.
He isnt too bright. = He isnt very bright. He is
rather stupid.
They dont feel too good about leaving now. They
feel pretty bad about it.
The linguistic strategy involves an euphemistic
structure obligatorily containing a verb in the negative.
Such a use, which is restricted to semantically negative
contexts, is more specific to American English.
Celce-Murcia (1999: 742) questions the
grammaticality of a sentence like
?This food is too good.79
We would counterargue by exemplifying with an almost
idiomatic structure, identical in point of semantic-
pragmatic value and lexicalization in the two languages:
Its too good to be true. E prea frumos s fie
Too much and too little are used with an absolute
superlative value in implicit negative contexts too:
He eats too much and walks too little.

-constructions containing adjectives in the

comparison degrees:

Native speakers of Romanian would recognize a similar structure in
Romanian, used in a TV commercial for yogurt: Prea bun! Prea ca la ar!
The pattern of thinking is similar in Romanian and the resulting use
generally invoves a negative connotation: E prea mult!
a. a gradual increase/decrease: bigger and bigger; more
and more beautiful; less and less committed, all being
reduced to the synonymous construction ever bigger; ever
more beautiful; ever less committed cf Rom din ce n ce
mai mare/ frumos; din ce n ce mai puin implicat;
b. an intensified increase: far more beautiful than; more
beautiful by far than; by far the most beautiful;
c. a parallel increase: two sentences are juxtaposed, each
of them having the structure definite article + adjective in
the comparative + subject + verb; some of these
structures have been reduced, preserving just the
adjectives in the comparative, becoming proverbs:
The higher your expectations are, the more
disappointed you will get.
The sooner, the better. (the subjects and the verbs
are unimportant, it is the manner of performing the actions
which matters)

-negation and emphasis: an adjective in the

comparative can be negated either by preceding it by not
or by no; the latter form is more emphatic though:
She was not /no bigger than me.

Topics for discussion

I. Explain the differences if there are any:

A womans college female college

Frances wines French wines
Americas political system American political system
Englands cheeses English cheeses

II. Provide original examples that illustrate the following

-a comparative used in a superlative sense;
-intensifying, nonsuperlative use of most;
-a marked superlative;
-absolute use of too;
-comparative and superlative use of lesser.

III. Provide original examples for each of the patterns


Subject + verb + adverb + adjective + noun

Free adjective + subject + verb
Subject + verb + article + superlative adjective +
compound noun
Subject + verb + article + noun + adjective

IV. Explain the ungrammaticality of the following


*Shes the boringest and boredest person I know.

*John lives the farthest away of all and he is the elderest
of all.
*The unhappily married man feels badly about his
*They drive real good.
*Coffee good is always a treat after a meal.

V. Determine whether the collocations below are

compounds or simple structures containing a modifier +
Russian dictionary, book shelf, history book, Mandarin
orange, rain forest, witch hunt, crystal goblet, ice hockey,
Red Sea, red blood cells, fire truck inspector.

VI. Do the underlined adjectives modify the referent (are

inherent in nature) or the reference (are non-inherent); if
there is a case of both referent and reference
modification, explain:
He is a good man to have on your side in a fight.
He is good. (about a bank robber)
You are my good buddy.
He is a teacher aghast at his students performance.
You are a silly boy.
Johnson is a notary public.
Any soldier asleep on duty will be shot.
A complete idiot; an awful salesman; an Albanian

VII. Give the marked counterparts and explain the
pragmatic connotations:

How old/ wide/ big/ strong/ far/ tall/ true/ good/ wise/ high
+ V + S?
Give your own examples to make your point.


Budai, L. 1997. Gramatica englez. Teorie i exerciii.

Bucureti: Teora.
Celce-Murcia, M. & D. Larsen-Freeman. 1999. The
Grammar Book. An ESL/ EFL Teachers Course, 2-
nd edition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Crystal, David. 21985. A Dictionary of Linguistics and
Phonetics, NY: Basil Blackwell.
Evans, B. & C. Evans. 1957. A Dictionary of
Contemporary American Usage. NY: Random
Gleanu-Frnoag, G. & E. Comiel. 1993. Gramatica
limbii engleze pentru uz colar. Bucureti:
Omegapres & RAI.
Ilovici, E. & M. Chioran, M. Ciofu. 1970. A Practical Guide
to English Grammar. Exerciii de gramatic.
Bucureti: Editura Didactic i Pedagogic.

Levichi, L. 1970. Limba englez contemporan.
Morfologie. Bucureti: Editura Didactic i
Levichi, L. & I. Preda. 1992. Gramatica limbii engleze.
Bucureti: Editura Mondero.
Nedelcu, C. 2004. English Grammar. Craiova:
Noonan, M. 2005. A Course in English Grammar, volume
1, English 403: Modern English Grammar, version
9/05, typography by Deborah I. Mulvaney.
Prlog, H. 1995. The English Noun Phrase. Timioara:
Hestia Publishing House.
Quirk, R. & S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, J. Svartvik. 1985. A
Comprehensive Grammar of the English
Language. London & NY: Longman.
Thomson, A. J. & A.V. Martinet. 1997. A Practical English
Grammar. Oxford: OUP.

Chapter V

5.1. Definition
5.2. Characteristics
5.3. Classification
5.3.1. Personal pronouns Inflection Reference and role in
communication Substantivization Syntactic functions
5.3.2. Possessive pronouns and adjectives Characteristics Syntactic functions Pragmatic aspects
5.3.3. SELF pronouns Form Classification Syntactic functions and
5.3.4. Demonstrative pronouns

135 Inventory and characteristics Demonstrative adjectives Demonstrative pronouns vs 3-rd
person personal pronouns
5.3.5. Reciprocal pronouns Form Meaning Syntactic functions Pragmatic tendencies
5.3.6. Interrogative and relative pronouns Inventory and characteristics Semantic and pragmatic aspects Relative pronouns and adjectives
5.3.7. Indefinite pronouns Definition Origin Classification Characteristics The all, every, each group The both, (n)either group The some, any, no group The much, many, (a) few, (a) little
group The other, another group
Topics for discussion

5.1. Definition
Pronouns are the inflectional part of speech which
substitutes a noun. Definitely, the criterion involved in
defining them is a functional one, but it can be assimilated
to the semantic criterion as well, since the substitution
role characterizes the pronoun semantically too. Its
meaning depends on the meaning of the substituted
If we try to give a more general definition, pronouns
are a member of the class of pro-forms, which is highly
heterogeneous, i.e. its members have rather distinct
features and are difficult to be put together, unless their
functional role is considered. Quirk (1985: 335) disagrees
with the term pronoun, considering it a misnomer. He
favours the term pro-form, which designates closed-class
words with nominal value, where nominal means noun-
like, like a noun phrase. Pro-forms are used either for co-
reference (personal, reflexive, possessive and
demonstrative pronouns) or for substitution (indefinite
pronouns and the demonstratives that and those).
Substitution, the function which defines pronouns, is
described by Quirk as a main pronominal feature, a
relation between pro-form and antecedent, the pronoun
having replaced a repeated occurrence of the
antecedent (Quirk, 1985: 863).

5.2. Characteristics
- they have no meaning of their own; in other words, they
borrow the reference of the noun they replace; it does
not mean that they are meaningless, like form words
(prepositions, articles, conjunctions), but that they have
variable reference depending on the element they
The teacher is missing for the moment. You have to
wait for him.
Is that your brother? I dont recognize him.
In other cases, the reference of the pronoun is
independent of any other linguistic element, since it is
deducible or recoverable from the situational context: it is
the case of the pronoun you in the previous example.
Using Quirks terminology80, recoverability is a
characteristic of pronouns; actually, it is the essential
condition ensuring the efficiency of pronouns in
communication. Recoverability can be textual, depending
on the linguistic context, situational, depending on the
situational context, and structural, depending on the
users knowledge of grammatical structures. It is
important, nevertheless, to remember that the three types
intertwine and, for instance, English word order is linked
to the grammatical patterns and the linguistic context is in
itself part of the situation of communication, it reflects it in
a certain way. Following Quirks line of thinking, pro-forms
can be subdivided into substitution pro-forms and co-
referential81 pro-forms. The former type includes

Quirk, 1985: 861.
Co-referentiality is the bond of cross-reference between two items or
expressions which refer to the same thing or set of things; as mentioned
before, it is the typical function of pronouns.
pronouns highly dependent on the linguistic context,
which are either definite or indefinite, and can be replaced
by the antecedent, this being the test in order to check
their belonging to the class under discussion. Co-
referential pro-forms (pronouns and pronoun-related
adverbs) are always definite.
Co-referentiality is the typical function of pronouns
but it is not a necessary condition. It opposes the
indeterminate character of pronouns, i.e. their capacity of
referring to an element deducible from the situation of
Jane admitted she was late. (She can be co-
referential with the antecedent Jane or it can send back to
a previous situation of communication , in which case, co-
referentiality does not check.)

- they have no formal markers, i.e. they are not formed by

derivation and thus recognizable by identifying their
characteristic endings; they are typical examples of
suppletive forms, made up from different roots: I, me, you,
he, they; my, your, their; this, that, etc. Suppletivism82
meets the basic requirement of efficient communication,
that of having no numerous and confusable similarities
among the members of the pronominal system; otherwise,
users might misunderstand or misuse such forms and,
considering the frequency of using pronouns in everyday

Other languages, such as Romanian and French, have suppletive forms for
personal pronouns: eu, tu, noi, ei vs je, tu il, nous, etc.
communication, that would lead to negative effects. The
exception given by grammar books is the category of
-self pronouns (reflexive and emphatic). The reason
behind this assertion is that self pronouns, being
compound with an element which is also a word, are
transparent both formally and semantically in any context.

- structurally, they are mostly simple forms, though

compounds are included into the inventory too; we
underline the base pronoun: everybody, nothing,
whoever, themselves83 etc.
- they dont take determiners such as definite articles
(their reference is already definite unless they have a
generic function)84 or modifiers85; an indefinite article is
acceptable but in that case the pronoun is converted into
a noun; from this perspective the discussion of combining
an article and a pronoun looks superfluous:
*the everybody; *the he; * red mine, etc;

-they make up a closed system, no new members are

created. (Prlog, 1995: 126) (see A historical view)

With the last example, it can be counter-argued that the noun self has
turned into a combining form; this term, combining form, reflects the
intermediary status of a lexical item between a word and an affix. Some
might even consider that self/ves tend to become a grammatical suffix, thus
losing its lexical meaning altogether.
Quirk (1985: 335) states that they are intrinsically either definite or
indefinite, so they incorporate their own determiner.
Personal pronouns are an exception presented when discussing this type of
5.3. Classification
5.3.1. Personal Pronouns, together with reflexive
and possessive pronouns, are considered the most
important type of pronouns, making up the subclass of
central pronouns. This has in view their inflectional
features and their frequency of use. Inflection
They have the following grammatical categories
marked: person, number, gender (only for the third person
singular) and case. We have already mentioned the
suppletive character of pronouns, present also with
personal pronouns. Therefore, it is not the inflections
which mark the categories enumerated above. They are
implicitly marked (covert) and the characteristics of the
pronoun are more easily recognized by the user within the
sentence they are part of, after observing their place:

You give it to him, I cant!

Pronouns Case
(person, gender) Number
Nominative Genitive86 Dative/
(possessive Accusative
pronouns &
1-st person I Mine/my (to/for) me

2-nd person you Yours/your (to/for) you

3-rd Masc. He His/his (to/for) him
Fem. She Hers/her (to/for) her
Neuter It -/its (to/for) it
1-st person We Ours/our (to/for) us
2-nd person You Yours/your (to/for) you

3-rd person they Theirs/their (to/for)


There is little to no change in the inventory of the

pronominal system, strictly formally speaking, but the
situation changes when we refer to the pragmatics of this
lexical class. The interlocutors adjust their
communicational strategies to express in the best way the
illocutionary value intended and to obtain the expected
perlocutionary effect. A relationship among the
participants which implies equality or subordination
contributes to the choice of an adequate communicative
strategy, the register being part of the strategy
characteristics. The choice between Nominative and
Personal pronouns in the genitive represent a different class, that of
possessive pronouns. Possessive pronouns correspond to the paradigm of
personal pronouns for the genitive, i.e. expressing the idea of possession.
Quirk differentiates between determinative genitive illustrated by possessive
adjectives and independent genitive, illustrated by possessive pronouns.
(1985: 336)
Accusative pronominal forms becomes a pragmatically
determined choice.
In many cases the Nominative and the Accusative
tend to replace each other. Formally, there is a clear
distinction between the forms of Nominative and
Accusative, but pragmatically, users can be confused
regarding the most appropriate form to be selected in a
certain context; therefore, there appear cases of deviation
from the norm, generally determined by the tendency
towards simplification where Accusative is felt to be more
at hand; on the other hand, there are cases of
hypercorrectness, where users misunderstand the
semantic meaning of the utterance and misuse
Nominative forms, wrongly interpreting them as more
correct than their Accusative counterparts. Such realities
may prove true not only for English but for any language
which exhibits a rather complex pronominal system. Quirk
(1985: 337) explains the phenomenon by the distinction
operated between the subject territory (pre-verbal subject
position) and the object territory (all noun-phrase positions
apart from that immediately preceding the verb).
The informational load of a pronoun is essential in
deciding the order of the elements and also the choice
between Nominative and Accusative forms so as to avoid
hypercorrectness, on the one hand, and substandard
structures, on the other; the Accusative remains typical for
the object function, that is why it will be avoided as a
substitute of the Nominative in fiction texts, unless the

colloquial style is exploited as a stylistic means; the cases
which allow interchangeability in point of Nominative and
Accusative forms maintain valid when two pronominal
elements are coordinated. This proves that it is the
governing element (preposition, link verb) which allows or
blocks the use of the two case forms in free variation.
We took over Bibers selection of relevant contexts
(1999: 335) which exhibit the use of Nominative and
Accusative pronouns in free variation:

-after the verb to be, the predicative expressed by a first

person personal pronoun alternates between the forms I
and me; I is preferred in fiction, being considered more
correct, though it is used in free variation with me: its
I/me. In case of emphatic constructions, the Nominative
form is chosen in fiction as more appropriate to observe
the condition of co-referentiality with the relative pronoun
following it: who prevails in news and fiction, that and the
omission of the introductory element in ordinary speech.

IT+ BE+ personal pronoun + relative clause

Its I/me who/that phoned Jack the other day. Cf
Eu (sunt cel care) i-am telefonat lui Jack./Eu i-am
telefonat lui Jack.

In conversational register, Accusative forms are

favoured, without any reserves that the concord with the
following relative pronoun is not observed. The frequent

association of the Nominative forms I and he with the
relative pronoun who is explained by the semantic feature
[+human] of the latter. The whole sentence is a Cleft
Construction, the personal pronoun being syntactically the
predicative and semantically the complement of the non-
referential it. Functionally me is the focus, the highlighted
element or identifier (Halliday, 1994).

-both Nominative and Accusative are to be used after as

and then, in the same way they are used after the link
verb BE. Accusative forms are predominant in
conversation, as and than behaving rather as prepositions
than as conjunctions which introduce subordinates87.
Writers prefer a non-elliptical comparative clause to avoid
the choice between the Nominative and the Accusative:
She is as free as he is becomes elliptical by omitting the
subordinate verb, identical with the verb in the main
clause; after the omission of the verb, the Nominative and
the Accusative form of the pronoun become
interchangeable; the latter form is explained by the fact
that the adverbial clause of comparison becomes an
adverbial modifier of comparison She is as free as
he/him. In fiction, personal pronouns can be replaced by a
reflexive pronoun: She is as free as himself.
In Romanian the difference between Nominative
and Accusative forms of personal pronouns is not
perceptible at formal level in the contexts under

Quirk (1985: 337) sustains this assertion, too.
discussion since the root of the pronouns in the
Accusative is identical with the Nominative, the difference
consisting in the presence of the preposition as a marker
of the Accusative: (Ea) e la fel de liber ca el/ cum este i
el (nsui).

-Biber also analyses personal pronouns as compound

subject constituents: the fact of mentioning the
pronominal elements within a multiple subject implicitly
means emphasis; the speaker wishes the addressee of
the message to have clearly in his mind the agent
performing the action; otherwise the pronoun we could be
used: Mary and I/me washed the dishes instead of We
washed the dishes. The distinction made between the
agents does not exclude politeness, and that is why the
first person personal pronoun I tends to be on the second
place especially if the first element is a noun. Accusative
forms are chosen in conversation whereas Nominative is
specific to the written register but the fundamental
criterion in structuring an utterance containing coordinated
pronominal elements is represented by the informational
status of those elements: the manager and I/me; John, his
brother and you.
Selecting a reflexive pronoun instead of a personal
pronoun remains a valid option even for coordinated
elements: Michael and myself. Like personal pronouns,
reflexive pronouns are typically placed in final position but
the order can be reversed, and, moreover, the subject can

be resumed by the plural pronoun we: Myself / me and
Ann, we cant come or Ann and me/myself, we cant
Accusative forms are generally critised but the
exaggerated application of prescriptive grammar rules can
lead to situations of hyper-correctness in the use of the
Nominative, even if, in such contexts, the Accusative
should be the natural choice, for instance after
prepositions: for you and I instead of for you and me; like
you and I instead of like you and me.
The Accusative form is frequently used in the
following cases:
- it can anticipate the pronominal subject in the
Nominative: Me, I cant do it. Such an example reflects
explicitly and redundantly the contrast between the
subject and the others. We consider that the double co-
referential pronominal forms can be explained as a result
of an ellipsis applied to a set phrase: (As for )me, I cant
do it. In the familiar register an example such as Us girls
can always take a joke88 is possible.
- the Accusative form can be used as an affirmative
answer to a question, being the reduction to a mono-
member sentence of a simple sentence having the pattern
pronominal subject + auxiliary/modal: Who told him that?
Me. Such a substitution of Accusative for Nominative is
impossible in Romanian: Cine i-a spus asta? Eu.

Quirk, 1985: 339.
- Accusative is used is after an infinitive; such situations
are of interest because they create new reflexive forms,
associated with the personal pronoun in the plural if the
meaning is generic. The Accusative forms are kept in the
plural but they combine with the singular form self to
render the generic reference: ourself, themself: You wont
be the first or last man or woman who gets themself
involved in a holiday romance. We find ourself (Biber,
1999: 340). If there is no co-referential subject expressed
within the sentence the use of a reflexive pronoun instead
of the personal pronoun is blocked:
They explained that he/* himself and Jane couldnt
do it.
He explained that he/* himself and Jane couldnt
do it.
In Romanian the reflexive pronoun is never used in that
way, only an reflexive adjective could be selected to
emphasize the personal pronoun.
In conversation, the Accusative case is used in
compound nominal structures introduced by as and than,
exactly as it happens with pronominal elements used
alone. Within the reference utterance, such structures
tend to be peripheral or non-integrated. They can
anticipate the focus sentence or they can be part of a
disjunctive question:
As for me and John, we cant decide yet.
Shouldnt we decide, me and John?

Personal pronouns can be modified by:
- adjectives, in the informal register: Poor me! Silly you!
- appositions, mostly in the familiar register but not only:
You people should know better.
We doctors are responsible for our patients.
-relative clauses, mostly in the formal register: We who
have sworn to serve and protect
-adverbs: you there = you who are saying there (elliptical
-prepositional phrases: you near the window (idem as in
the previous example)
- emphatic adjectives: you yourself;
-indefinite adjectives: they all = all of them; you both =
both of you; we each = each of us.

A Historical view
During the period of Middle English (XIth- XVIth cent.), the
pronominal forms in y- begin to appear in contexts with
the feature [+singular], when the addressee was a person
with authority (monarch or bishop). This polite usage was
the result of imitating similar usages of personal pronouns
in Latin and French. In Early Modern English (XVIth- XVIIth
cent.) a complex system of selection between th- or y-
forms developed, considering contexts with the feature
[+singular]. In French, German and Spanish there is a
common tendency of borrowing the plural forms of
personal pronouns to denote one referent, as a marker of
respect. Hope (2003: 73) considers social relationships as

the major factor in choosing between the forms in th- or
y-. The former were specific for the upper classes, the
latter for the lower ones.
The two parallel systems governing pronoun
selection were the system of social values, relatively
stable, and the system of variable affective values. The
two systems interact; there are general tendencies and
expectations of the interlocutors, which are based on the
former system but which are always reversible when the
second system intervenes. The forms in th are the
recessive set of the two pairs of second person personal
pronouns existing in early modern English. These
pronouns of Scandinavian origin entered English through
the Northern English dialects which were under Danish
influence and had a well-established role: their
introduction solved the problem of the ambiguity created
in Old English between the forms of singular and those of
plural in case of h- forms. From a synchronic perspective,
linguists dont agree on the inventory of second person
personal pronouns. Gramley i Patzold (1992: 288)
consider that, beyond the purpose or the speakers
intentions, English has a single second person personal
pronoun, you. English does not formally mark the
distinction between singular and plural between the
colloquial and polite register as far as second person
pronouns are concerned. Hope (op. cit.: 90) considers the
dropping of pronominal markers for second person
singular pronoun in standard English as an usual

phenomenon, since most languages retained those
The evolution of th- and y- forms in the history of
the English language is presented in the next table
(Wales, 1996: 77):

The end of
Old English (up XVIIth XXth
the XXth
English to the XVIth cent.
Thou singular colloquial marked archaic
part of the
you plural polite unmarked common

In English, the homonymy between the singular

and the plural of the second person personal pronoun
results in the lack of formal markers of the feature
[+reverence]. The singular or plural meaning of the
pronoun is entirely inferred from the addressing terms
used in the context. The present-day stage of the English
language is the result of a long evolution and, functionally
it offers both advantages and disadvantages for the
language user. First of all, one disadvantage is the
ambiguity appeared between the reference to one
interlocutor or to more interlocutors.
The permanent tendency for paradigmatic
simplification is doubled by the necessity of precision in
expression and also by marking a reverential attitude.
This results in a more complex pronominal inventory by
means of derivation and compounding. In some cases,
we are not dealing with newly-created forms, but with the
activation of some old ones, appeared in the evolution of
the English language. Wales insists on the difficulty of
drawing a border between the pronouns proper and the
cases of noun phrase pronominalizing:
- the form you-all has existed beginning with the
XVIth century; it appears even in Shakespeares texts,
being doubled by the variant all you. The two elements, all
and you tend to form one unit, their order in the
compound becoming unimportant. The syntagm has
proven its efficiency in communication by the simple fact
that it has been preserved in usage till now.You-all with
the variants yall and yall are used in the south of the
USA. In case of yall the pronoun was shortened in favour
of all, not vice-versa; the inverted process would have
meant creating the form *youll, homonymous with the
contracted form of you will. In contemporary American
English yall has filled a gap; similar forms appear in
dictionaries as specific to the English spoken by Afro-
Americans (we-all, they-all, who-all). Considering its
specific range of discourse types, yall appears in phatic
utterances: thank yall, yall have a nice day. Montgomery
(2001) considers these structures as examples of plural
by association, but he does not explain the term. An
example like Yall come back, hear? can include the
reference to a bigger or smaller group of people from the
anturage of the interlocutor, depending on the situation.

- the formula of addressing you guys initially
presupposed exclusive reference to male persons, but,
under the influence of American English, the referents
gender has become irrelevant in the usage of the
syntagm. Noonan (2005: 71) asserts that in contemporary
American English the commonest second person plural
pronoun is you guys, generally used among speakers
under 50 in the US. It is neutral in gender and makes
reference to both males and females. In point of stylistic
register, the syntagm belongs to the informal style; it can
also express disguised authority when the speaker
intends to change the direction of a conversation, from the
general level to direct involvement. The expression has a
series of partial synonyms: you chaps, used in British
English by older generations to make reference to male
referents; you fellows, you boys, you girls, used in
American English for white, middle-class referents. The
syntagm you fellows tends to be used by [-male]
interlocutors if the feature [+similarity] is implied, in the
sense of mateship or camaraderie, in spite of the fact that
the noun fellow is a synonym of guy, respectively chap,
therefore it is marked for gender.
- You lot belongs to colloquial, familiar style,
implying authoritative, sometimes even impolite
connotation, marking the speakers disconsideration and
arrogance. The combination is influenced by the
frequency of the noun lot in colloquial English. Wales

states that the choice of this syntagm is favoured by the
presence in the context of the noun lot.
The marking of second person personal pronouns
for number, both in case of multiple referents and for
social differentiation, can be accomplished by affixation
only outside the borders of standard English:
- the form yous(e), used in Dublin and the northern part of
England and USA. Quirk (1985: 6.12) considers this form
as a low-prestige form, unacceptable from the point of
view of linguistic prestige. (apud Wales, op. cit.: 73)
- there are a multitude of variants of differentiating
singular from plural, not used in writing, since they belong
to informal, colloquial register and consequently appear in
family conversations; they all contain the pronoun yous,
become a determinant: two of yous, any of yous, yous
two, yous lot, bugger yous, all of yous. Reference and role in communication

Besides their inflection, what matters with personal
pronouns is their reference and role in communication.
Pronouns reference is variable and recoverable either
due to the linguistic context or to the situational context:
whereas first and second person pronouns have deictic
reference being identifiable in point of reference strictly
within the situation of communication, third person
pronouns have a reference which can be recovered only
within the linguistic context:
I speak, you listen.

Who are you to question my decision? (first
person pronoun will always refer to the same role, i.e. the
speaker). In other words, the communicative role of the
first and second person pronouns is automatically
established, only their reference can pose some problems
in written texts, whereas with third person pronouns there
is no role in communication attached, since they refer to
people not present in the communicative event. It is their
reference which can arouse some ambiguities in
interpretation. An exception is when the person referred to
by using a third person pronoun is present in the situation
of communication, but the speaker pretends that is not
true, not to make the referent feel diminished:
Look at her! She is behaving as if she is alone in
the room!89
First person personal pronouns always refer to the
speaker, they encode the reference to the person who
makes the utterance; similarly, second person pronouns
encode the reference to the hearer. It is irrelevant in our
discussion if the speaker is also the source of the
message or just the messenger, the addresser; in the
same way, it is irrelevant whether the hearer is the
addressee or just the receiver of the message:
You will obey the rules. Bosss orders. (the
addresser is not the source)

The reply can be said by the speaker as a part of a soliloquy, but the
reproach intention is preserved. Of course, such a communicative strategy is
to be used only when there is a close personal relationship between the two
The absents are to hand me their homework in
three days time. (the addressee is not identical with the

Like articles, personal pronouns in the third person

singular can have anaphoric or cataphoric value:
Ann1 is here and she1 is waiting for you. (Ann and
she are co-referential) cf Rom. Ana e aici i te ateapt.
This is the first interpretation any speaker would give the
sentence. The pronoun has an anaphoric value, resuming
the reference made by a noun, in this case, Ann.
Ann1 is here and she2 is waiting for you. (Ann and
she are not co-referential) cf Rom. Ana e aici i te
ateapt i ea (de acolo). This is the second
interpretation given to the sentence, possible only if the
referent designated by she is identifiable in the situational
context , the speaker pointing towards him/ her.

[They were late]S and itS annoyed people. (it

resumes the entire first sentence and technically it has an
anaphoric value; it is also an element which marks the
logical link between the two sentences, their cohesion.) cf
Rom. Au ntrziat i asta a enervat lumea.

She1 is here, Ann1. In this case, the pronoun has

a cataphoric value since it anticipates the referent
expressed by the noun. Tis example illustrates a strategy

of stressing the subject. Most examples of cataphoric
pronouns imply the presence of two sentences:

When she is home, Ann is always painting, it is

her passion.
Cf Rom. Cnd e acas, Ana ntotdeauna picteaz.
Expressing the subject by a noun in the second sentence
will implicitly stress the link between the subject and the
action expressed by the verb in the second sentence. It is
what the speaker wanted to bring as new information. The
variant When Ann is home, she is always painting, it is
her passion would reduce the emphasis and might lead to
the interpretation of the noun and the pronoun as non-
coreferential, cf Rom. Cnd e Ana1 acas, ea2
ntotdeauna picteaz.

Second and third person pronouns90 can have a

generic value in contexts where the reference is made to
a group of people or to the whole class of human beings:
They say it is a mistake to forgive treason. = It is
said that it is a mistake
He who laughs last, laughs best.
You never know.
SHE wants one thing, HE wants another. (We
thought of such a sentence in the light of some examples

The pronouns you and they are used in informal register; the latter can
refer to the authorities, media, the government, implying a certain feeling of
threat, according to Quirk (1985: 354).
found in written texts, more precisely in magazines; the
choice of spelling the two pronouns with capitals has two
values: it expresses the generic value of the two pronouns
- HE = men; SHE = women and an implicit contrast
between the subjects; such a headline would be
interpreted by readers as referring to the whole class of
men and women, respectively. The same strategy is used
in Romanian: EA vrea una, EL vrea alta. One should not
mistake this use of spelling with capitals for the use of the
initial capitalized letter when referring to God: I believe in
God and He tells us to respect our parents.

Values of IT (neuter gender third person personal

-anaphoric value (referring IT):
Have you read the book? Its interesting. (it
resumes the antecedent the book, mentioned previously
in the linguistic context;)
[You were late]S and people noticed itS. (it
resumes the whole previous sentence, which represents
the antecedent within the linguistic context;)
-cataphoric value;
1.a. ItS is nice [that you helped us]S.
1.b. ItS was believed/thought/mentioned [that you
helped us]S.
1a and 1b are cases when it anticipates a THAT Clause;
the main clause can be of the type it + BE +
adjective/noun or it + passive verb.

2.a. It turned out to be a problem.
2.b. It is easy to learn English.
2a and 2b are examples where it anticipates an infinitival
clause; the main clause can contain a nominal predicate
or a verbal one;

3.a. I find it hard to believe.

The difference from the previous pair of examples
consists in the doubling of the direct object, anticipated by
it and then expressed by an infinitival clause.

-impersonal value91; the pattern is IT+ BE +

NOUN/ADJECTIVE (expressing time, weather, distance,
Its morning/ 3 oclock/ late/ rainy/ a three
- empty/meaningless/dummy IT, appearing in set phrases:
to lord it a o face pe stpnul, to cab it a o lua cu taxiul,
to rough it to come it, etc:

Lets cab it, I dont feel like walking. Hai s-o lum
cu taxiul, n-am chef de mers pe jos.

Quirk (1985: 348) considers this value of IT as being also a case of empty
IT or prop IT, as he calls it, since the pronoun has a purely grammatical
value. He refines his position further and talks about various degrees of
emptiness or meaningless.
-emphatic IT, used to emphasize any part of the sentence
(subject, object, adverbial modifier) except for the verb; it
appears in emphatic structures cleft constructions:

It is John who won the first prize and its in the

morning that he took the test.

Personal pronouns in the plural have some specific
referential characteristics. Following our considerations92
regarding the referential potential of the pronoun we (cf
Rom. noi), the general synthetic relation below would sum
up all its pragmatic values:

WE = I + (YOU1 ++ YOUn )+ (HE1 + + HEn) + (SHE1 +

+ SHEn)
Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1999: 46) states that we never
corresponds to a plural I, unless collective reciting or
presentations determine such an interpretation. Wales
defines we as more than one I; its plural (Wales, 1996:

1. If all terms of the sum have a correspondent

referent, then we has the features [+egocentric],
[+Vocative]. This is we inclusive reference, i.e. it includes
the speaker who addresses the interlocutor and the
addressee of the message equally; generalized reference

Pisoschi, 2010: 89-96.
is also possible. Wales associates such a case with a
higher subjective value (1996: 59). Group solidarity or a
contrast we- others, the strangers (outsiders, the aliens,
not like us93) is implied. Quirk (1985: 6.21) mentions that
group solidarity can presuppose social inferiority, which
stresses the oppositions, the others being considered as
an unknown force controlling your life.

2. If you = then WE =I + + (HE1 + + HEn) +

(SHE1 + + SHEn). Wales associates the speaker with
the semantic features [+ego], [-Vocative], adding that the
speaker acts as a spokesperson. Her example is We, the
people of New York...
Appositions of the type we all/ we two/ we
Americans are meant to disambiguate the context. Me
and x is an apposition with anticipatory value or with
cataphoric value if placed as a tag question; Biber et ali
(1999: 329) mentions this type of apposition (coordinated
nouns and pronouns) as frequent in fictional texts:

I and x dont like Mie i lui x nu ne place...

We have arrived, your brother and me. Am ajuns,
fratele tu i cu mine.
Me and Sarah, we have changed our minds. Eu i
Sarah, ne-am rzgndit.

Wales, 1996: 60.
3. If they = , then WE =I + (YOU1 ++ YOUn )+
. The reference is clear.

4. If I = , then WE = (YOU1 ++ YOUn )+ (HE1 +

+ HEn) + (SHE1 + + SHEn). It is a case of we
exclusive, the speaker is not part of the referential area,
whereas the hearer is. Such a verbal strategy helps
expressing an (apparent) emotional involvement on behalf
of the speaker. The purpose is to impress the hearer by a
tender affection and to convince him to act in a certain
way (hypocoristic value). Sometimes the connotation can
be ironical:

Shall we eat our delicious yogurt? Ppm iaurtul

nostru bun? (a reply used by mother when talking to the
Are we nervous today? Suntem nervoi azi? (the
reply can be used when referring to people who are
present or not in the room /place where the verbal
exchange takes place)

5. The same examples remain valid if they

component is missing: WE = (YOU1 ++ YOUn ). Uttered
by a mother to her child or between friends, the two
previous examples illustrate an indirect message, that
implying the moral authority of the speaker. Such
interactional utterances, called like that by Halliday
(1985), allow by the use of the pronoun both an

identification of the referent and a manifestation of
empathy towards him/her.94

6. If I = and you = then the change is not a

fundamental one: WE = (HE1 + + HEn) + (SHE1 + +
SHEn); the range of possible connotations remains the
same, the addressee is present in the situation of
communication but passive interactionally.

7. If you = and he/she/they = then we acquires

a rhetorical value, representing a royal or modesty plural:
we = I + .
The typical example of royal we is limited to a
monarchs addressing his/her subjects: We, the Queen of
the United Kingdom...In any other situation, it is a false
royal we, implying (self)irony:

We are tired tonight. Majestile noastre sunt

obosite n seara asta.

The plural of modesty has three subtypes: authorial

we (Crystal, 1985), lecturing we and doctor we.
Authorial we has the feature [- addressee] and reflects a
balance between personal and impersonal coordinate. It
is used in articles and presentations, when the pronoun I

Hallidays example is: Have we lost our dolly then? Ne-am pierdut
ppuica deci?
Quirk, 1985: 350) considers editorial we as being [-addressee] and
authorial we [+addressee].
would be perceived as egotistical. The conventions tend
to change in favour of the more informal pronoun I,
accepted in academic writing and critiques. Wales (1996:
66) considers that authorial we has the semantic features
[+ ego] and collocates with declarative or mental verbs or
appears in anaphoric sentences:

We have seen the general aspects Am vzut

aspectele generale

but also with verbs expressing anticipation, delay, return,

etc, or in cataphoric sentences:

We deal with such cases below Ne ocupm de

cazuri de acest fel mai jos.

Lecturing we has the feature [+addressee] and

implies a general context involving demonstration,
common enterprise or intellectual activity:

Were doing this together. Vom face asta

At this meeting, we shall be the chairman. Vom
prezida aceast edin. (with your help).
Lets begin! (the cataphoric reference of us means
the speaker intends to challenge the interlocutor)

The linguistic context, the intentions of the speaker
and the conversational purposes contribute to the correct
interpretation of we; its reference can change within the
same utterance. Nunberg (1993) gives the following

We (= scientific community) do not know much

about this part of the brain, which plays such an important
part in our lives (= humanity), but we (= writer + reader)
will see in the next chapter... Nu tim foarte multe despre
aceast parte a creierului, care joac un rol att de
important n viaa noastr, dar vom vedea n urmtorul

You, the second person plural personal pronoun

can be systematized in point of the types of reference
expressed as follows:
you1 plural you
- deictic
you2 = you1 + non-I you1 + he / they -
deictic + contextual

If you1 = , then you2 = he1 ++hen +she1

++shen. The situation has been discussed for the
corresponding pronoun in the singular. If non I = , then
the reference is clear from the situational context,
especially since in English number is not formally marked.

For the third person plural personal pronoun the
combination possibilities are very numerous, having a
minimum of two elements to be combined and a
maximum of n. Each component specific for masculine,
feminine and neuter respectively, can have an unlimited
number of referents:

he1 + he2 + ... + hen

she1 + she2 + ... + shen
they = it1 + it2 + ... + itn
he + she + it
he1 + he2 + ... + hen + she / it
she1 + ... + shen + he / it

Second and third person pronouns can have a

generic value in contexts where the reference is made to
a group of people or to the whole class of human beings;
the use of they is specific to informal style, whereas the
use of the structure containing the pronoun it followed by
a verb in the passive is specific to formal register:
They say it is a mistake to forgive treason. = It is
said that it is a mistake Substantivization
The substantivization of personal pronouns is of
concern just in point of the conversion potential of
pronouns. We referred to this topic when discussing the
characteristics of pronouns; these characteristics are

implicit tests in order to consider a word as a pronoun or
not. Personal pronouns never accept definite articles but,
strictly referring to third person personal pronouns in the
singular96, their conversion into nouns obligatorily implies
their collocation with indefinite articles:
John has a baby! Its a he or a she? Its a she,
not a he. Syntactic functions

The syntactic functions specific to personal

pronouns are those compatible with nouns: subject,
object, attribute, subject complement (predicative):

They have accepted the idea with some changes.

(they - subject)
Ask him if he wants to talk about us and to give
us some advice. (him direct object; about us
prepositional object; us indirect object)
Its me again, Ive forgotten my keys. (me
The story about you is simply unbelievable. No
consideration regarding her was made. (about you,
regarding her prepositional attributes)

It would be illogical to give a first or second person personal pronoun a
[-definite] reference by preceding it by an indefinite article: *An I is not a
5.3.2. Possessive Pronouns and Adjectives

We already referred to their form and inflection

when discussing personal pronouns. At this point we will
try to point out the most important features, both formal
and functional. Characteristics
-they correspond to the Genitive of personal pronouns;
there is a distinction between determinative Genitive
(specific to possessive adjectives, which accompany a
noun) and independent Genitive (specific to possessive
pronouns); possessive pronouns with a determinative
function (Prlog, 1995: 56) are possessive adjectives, the
weak set of possessive pronouns (Quirk, 1985: 361). It is
evident that Quirk does not make a fundamental
distinction between the two types of possessives, their
single difference being a functional one; in his view, which
considers their stress, pronouns are always stressed;

-they are marked for person, number and gender (in the
third person singular); possessive adjectives refer to the
Was he out of his mind?

The agreement is in person, number and gender:

My sister is here. (my is in the Nominative)

Even functionally, the relationship between the two types
of possessives is obvious: Pronouns = Adjectives + s[z] +

-possessive pronouns correspond to the cases when the

head noun is recoverable from the preceding context, be
it linguistic or situational (the latter being relevant in case
of elliptical structures:

Hers (= her eyes) were not the type which would

pass unnoticed because of the long lashes.
I wish you and yours (=your family) all the best. Syntactic functions

Possessive pronouns can have all the functions
held by nouns:
-subject: Mine is this.
-direct object: Give me mine.
-prepositional object: I dont want to talk about hers.
-predicative: Which is his?
-prepositional attribute: A/ Some/ This friend of mine
came yesterday. (the construction is considered similar to
a double Genitive; the last sentence is used when a
negative connotation is intended).
Possessive adjectives function as attributes, they
replace a Genitive:

My duty is to insist on changing their opinion about
the plan. Pragmatic aspects

- possessive pronouns have a low overall frequency
because they require a recoverable head noun or specific
constructions; they have a higher frequency in
conversation and fiction, explainable by the inclination
towards using first and second personal pronouns and
third person singular pronouns, ellipses and Genitives
without a head noun (Biber et al., 1999: 342);

- in spite of the grammar books and grammarians that

deny the concrete general use of the possessive pronoun
its, and therefore question its maintainance within the
inventory of the possessive pronouns, Quirk et al. (1985:
362) state that the independent its can be found in parallel

Historyi has ITSi lessons and fictionj has ITSj.

We are talking about coordinated sentences; in such
cases, the possessive pronoun is always emphasized,
thus acquiring a stylistic value; an opposition relationship
between the two elements functioning as antecedents of
the pronouns is implicitly intended.

- in point of word order, possessive adjectives must be

repeated if they are used before two coordinated nouns

denoting different referents, to avoid ambiguity; if the
possessive is not repeated, then the reference is made to
a single referent characterized by two nouns:
your housei and your officej (the two nouns are not
coreferential; the same happens in case of the definite
article use)
my motheri and friendi (the two nouns are

- sometimes the Accusative is used instead of the

Genitive, especially in expressions:
for the life of me *for my life , n niciun caz, sub nicio
form, pe viaa mea c nu...
on the face of it *on its face apparently, aparent, la
prima vedere
the likes of him *his likes cei de-o teap cu el
the death of me *my death sfritul, ruina mea

There are cases when two variants are possible, one

containing a Genitive (a possessive adjective) and the
other an Accusative form: for instance, when the head
noun designates a body part:
to look somebody in the face (stress on the
person) to look in somebodys face (Budai,
1997: 307)

- OWN is an essential element in relation to possessives,

due to its wide range of roles performed:

added to a possessive adjective makes up a
possessive pronoun, lacking its head noun:
She makes her own, she doesnt need to buy. (the
situational context desambiguates the reference of the
pronoun her own; referenceher own {bread, butter, soap

it is used in set phrases: an own goal

autogol; own brother frate bun half brother; own
cousin vr primar;

it ensures coreferentiality with the

John1 cooks his1,2 dinner. (John and his can be
coreferential or not)
John1 cooks his own1 dinner. (John and his are
obligatorily coreferential)

- thine is used as an archaic and poetic form of yours; it

appears as a possessive adjective before nouns starting
with vowels as thy does before consonants; mine can be
used dialectally as a variant of my.

5.3.3. SELF Pronouns Form

SELF Pronouns, as they are called in the literature,

are the last type of central pronouns, i.e. a category which
has all the typical characteristics of a pro-form. This label
includes two functional categories: reflexive and emphatic
pronouns. Technically, they are not differentiated in point
of inflectional forms. We present their paradigm below:

Person Number Gender

First person Myself,
Second Yourself,
person singular yourselfs
Third masculine Himself
person feminine Herself
neuter Itself
common Oneself
First person Ourselves
Second plural Yourselves
Third Themselves

The first and second person pronouns are made up
by combining the corresponding possessive
adjective and the combining element self for the
singular with the variant selves for the plural. For
the third person forms the combination is between
the corresponding personal pronoun in the
Acccusative and self/selves.
There is no distinction for case.
A non-specific indefinite referent is designated by
the pronoun formed with the indefinite pronoun one
+ self. It is a form corresponding to the common
gender and expresses a generic value.
Politeness is rendered by a new-created form,
yourselfs, cf Rom. dumneavoastr niv/ nsev.
The form ourself corresponds to royal we and it
limited to those referents having the role of
monarchs. Classification
It depends on the criterion adopted: if it is the formal
criterion which prevails, then there is just one class of
pronouns, SELF Pronouns; if the functional criterion is of
interest, then two classes of homonymous pronouns can
be differentiated: reflexive and emphatic pronouns. Quirk
et al (1985: 355) consider the reflexives as the basic
functional category, emphatic pronouns being subsumed
to the former category.

174 Syntactic function and distribution
The two grammatical aspects complement each other,
syntactic functions are limited by the distribution of the
pronouns in different contexts.
Reflexives have the subject as antecedent and agree
with it; they belong to the object territory (Quirk, 1985:
356) being syntactically objects (direct, indirect,
prepositional) or predicative; they can also be a
prepositional attribute:

He prides himself with this job. (Direct Object)

Allow yourself a break! (Indirect Object)
It pays for itself. (Prepositional Object)
She is not herself. (Predicative)
I have a portrait of himself. (Prepositional Attribute)

Reflexive pronouns appear in three types of cases:

- when they are obligatory constituents, after verbs
such as to pride oneself on, to absent oneself from, to
avail oneself from, to demean oneself, to perjure oneself,
to ingratiate oneself with;97

He availed himself for this job. He took the first

opportunity regarding this job.

Quirk calls these verbs reflexive verbs. Some verbs from this class have
double meanings, depending on whether they are followed by a reflexive
pronoun or not: to apply (oneself), to conduct (oneself) = to behave
They acquitted themselves satisfactorily. They
did their duty satisfactorily.

With some verbs, the reflexive is obligatory, the

structures becoming quasi-idiomatic (verbal expressions):
to come to oneself, to do something with oneself, to speak
for oneself, to keep to oneself.

- when it is optional, after verbs such as: identify, prove,

worry, prepare, hide, adjust, accuse, admire, amuse,
dislike, get, hurt, persuade, etc; look after, do with, think
of, take upon;

- when it is omitted, after verbs such as dress, wash,

shave, etc98.
Wash (yourself) and then wash the cat, too!

Semi-emphatic pronouns are in fact emphatic

pronouns following prepositions (but, as, than, like, except
for, as for) and being interchangeable with personal
pronouns in the Accusative:

Except for myself/me, everybody accepted to

continue the journey.
Look around yourselves.
One cannot talk about oneself in any circumstance.

To Quirk this class and the previous represent semi-reflexive verbs.
Anyone but yourself would react immediately. (some
linguists consider yourself is analysed as an attribute
without the head pronoun you expressed; in this case, the
negative reproachful message of the utterance requires
the emhasis on the interlocutor.

Emphatic pronouns (in fact adjectives as value)

determine the subject - noun phrase in a sentence, having
the function of appositive attributes. In point of word order,
they are highly mobile and pragmatically imply a contrast:

I myself have seen the ghost. (the typical position in

the sentence can connote the strongest emphasis
especially if correlated with an adequate intonation)
I have myself seen the ghost. (the medial position
gives a neutral value in point of intensity)
I have seen the ghost myself. (placing the emphatic
adjective in final position, we give it more emphasis, since
the pronoun is part of the rheme, the new information in
the sentence )
Emphatic pronouns appear in petrified
constructions such as by oneself alone, for oneself
without any interference.

5.3.4. Demonstrative Pronouns Inventory and characteristics
The inventory comprises two forms which are
better known and others less frequent. The first two inflect
in number, the others dont.
Distance Number Form Invariable
[+proximal] singular this Same
plural these Such
[-proximal] singular that The former, the
plural those latter99
(the) other,

Other and another can be considered as

demonstrative pronouns (Nedelcu, 2004: 91) if, in a
certain context, they are contrasted to a demonstrative
proper: in that case they borrow the deictic value from
the demonstrative:
This dress [+deictic, ostensive value] doesnt suit
me; please, show me another [-definite; deictic by
contrast] .
This [+deictic, ostensive value] is too big, the
others [+definite; deictic by contrast] were better.

They mean the first of two, and the last of two, respectively; they have
been mentioned and discussed when approaching comparison degrees.
When in the linguistic context there is another demonstrative.
Briefly, demostrative pronouns and adjectives can
be said to have the following characteristics:
-they relate to personal pronouns (see below the
comparison between the two classes); their reference is
rather vague (especially in the case of that which is the
stressed counterpart of it)

-they are markers of discourse deixis, anticipating or

resuming parts of the text:
Thisi what I want to say:[.....]i
The story goes like thati: [...]i
[I dont care.]i Thati is what I want to point out.

- they have ostensive cataphoric value when introducing a

This is John. This /that John!
or anaphoric linguistic function:
Thats what/how I want to do. (pseudo-cleft
Its just Rosie that is. (Biber, 1999: 350)
Thats thats true that. (idem) (repetition has
stylistic value; the three demonstratives are co-referential)

- they are more frequent in conversation, and less

frequent when it comes to specialised use;

- they might appear in expressions: these days zilele

astea= acum, at present; this day last year anul trecut pe

vremea asta; this ten minutes; that ten pounds (collective
interpretation of the noun in the plural). Demonstrative adjectives/determiners

(Biber, 1999: 273), homonymous with the corresponding
pronouns, have the following characteristics:

-they are closely related in meaning to the definite article,

i.e. they designate a [+definite] referent; it can be a
[+/- human] or a [+/-animate] referent:

Take that ( = flower) from here, I cant stand the

Whos that? Ive never seen her.
That is my cat, the most beautiful there is.

- they are always stressed; for clarification and emphasis

they can collocate with the indefinite pronoun one:
I want this. = I want this one.

- they have the category of number but they are not

explicitly marked for gender or case;

- as with their pronominal counterparts, they express a

deictic value relative to the position of the speaker:
[+/-proximal]/ [+/- distal]; distance refers to the concrete
dimensions of space and time or to some abstract,
subjective attitudes.

In point of values, demostratives are either
dependent on the linguistic context, having anaphoric or
cataphoric value, or on the situational context, having
deictic value, sometimes ostensivelly marked, too (i.e. by
gesture). In the first case, only a small part of the original
meaning of the demostrative is retained; they become
markers of discourse deixis, anticipating or resuming a
whole sentence /part of the text; of course reference
made to an individual or entity is entirely possible:

This question arouses: who can help us under these

circumstances? (discourse marker, cataphoric value of
Who can help us under these circumstances, that is the
question to be asked.(discourse marker, anaphoric value
of that)

In the following examples from Biber, the domain

/field of the example is mentioned as being prototypical,
and the value is anaphoric, in most such cases this and
that being virtually in free variation: in the second example
below, they can be used interchangeably, but in the first
example the emphasis and focus would be lost if
changing the demonstrative; in the third example the
structure is almost a petrified construction, cf Rom.
unitatea de msur a cldurii este acea cantitate/
*aceast cantitate. In the last example, distance in time is

obligatorily marked by the distal demonstrative cf Rom.
Ne cerem scuze acelor cititori...

The simplest form of chemical bond, in some ways,

is the ionic bond. Bonds of this type are formed by
electrostatic attractions between ions of opposite charge.
This attraction is exactly of the same nature as the
attraction that makes hair stand up when some synthetic
fabrics are drawn over it. (ACAD)
(Biber, 1999: 273)

She asked for her name not to be used because

she wanted to protect her relationships with regular
callers. The fragility of those relationships underlines the
essential work done by the charity. (NEWS) (idem)

The unit of heat was defined as that quantity which

would raise the temperature of unit mass of water, at
standard atmospheric pressure, through one degree on
some temperature scale. (ACAD) (idem)

We apologize to those readers who did not receive the

Guardian on Saturday. (NEWS) (idem)

Deictic value is related to a point of reference

(usually the speaker, his/her location and time) and

expresses space or time location, but also connotative
values (positive or negative):
This cake is great, taste some!
This cousin of Mary is really nice!
Hows that bad leg of yours? (Prlog, 1995: 57)
This year is nothing compared to that summer
when we went sailing.
This Michael! Cf Rom. Mihai sta!
I cant stand that girl. Cf Rom. N-o suport pe fata
asta/aia. (the location of the speaker in relation to the
referent is relevant)
That bastard stole the money.
This girl, I like. (the direct object is topicalised and
dislocated for that purpose, being thus stressed.)

Regarding the distribution, Biber (1999: 274) states

that proximal forms are more common in the written
expository texts, including academic prose, with the
singular more frequent than the plural; in conversation,
singular and plural are roughly equally distributed. That is
more common in conversation and fiction, probably due to
its stylistic potential, we add.

Same is a demonstrative pronoun which expresses

identity with a previous referent. It can be used as an
They have the same hobbies.
Good luck! The same to you!

Such is a demonstrative which functions as a
pronoun or as a determiner:
He is a doctor and is known as such. E doctor i
este cunoscut n acea calitate/ ca atare.
The garden is such that you cannot see the fence.
Grdina este n aa fel [alctuit] nct nu poi vedea
Such is the exam for them to solve all the topics.

As a determiner, such combines with count nouns

in the plural and with uncount nouns: such letters/ people/
It was such an occasion to meet new friends!
It was such a long time ago! (in exclamations the
pronouns have the value of an intensifier) Demonstrative pronouns vs third

person personal pronouns
Following and simplifying the comparative analysis
between third person personal pronouns and
demonstrative pronouns we made in a previous book
(Pisoschi, 2010: 96-100), we can extract some basic
conclusions. The referents expressed by third person
personal pronouns or by demonstratives are both external
in relation to the situation of communication, i.e. to the
perspective of the speaker (Gouvard, 1998:19).
Nevertheless, the feature [+proximity] cannot entirely

express an objective reality, since the point of reference is
precisely the speaker.
Both personal pronouns and demonstratives are
used anaphorically. Since we discussed this function, we
refer now to indirect/ associative anaphora. It implies the
reference made by a word in a text (for instance, a
demonstrative) to an element which is implicit; between
the antecedent and the anaphora there is no direct
coreferentiality or conceptual identity. There is a
prototypical scenario, which means that the interlocutors
have in mind a succession of referents and actions and
also the relations among them.
When the demonstrative is an indirect anaphora,
the feature [+proximity] is present, but no longer in a
concrete manner, referring to space dimensions; it
acquires subjective shades of meaning, expressing
emphasis. This draws attention to the content of the
discourse to follow, creating suspense regarding the
pronoun reference:

This is what he told me. He didnt know about the

The variant with it instead of this is correct only when the
pronoun has anaphoric value, resulted from the linguistic
(He didnt know about the party.) It is what he told
me. (Really), he didnt know about the party.

If this has cataphoric value, that is an anaphora
and appears in contexts which contain indirect speech:
He didnt know about the party. That is what he
told me.
The distance expressed is emotional in nature and,
once the story is over, it ceases to be the center of
interest. In this case the personal pronoun can
successfully replace the demonstrative without any
difference of meaning:
He didnt know about the party. It is what he told
N-a tiut despre petrecere. (Cel puin), asta este
ceea mi-a spus. (Dac lucrurile stau altfel, nu tiu.)

In some cases the demonstratives dont have the

feature [+proximity] and can be explained just by the
situational context. They are emphatic, which is obvious
from the intonation:

That/It doesnt matter. Asta nu conteaz.

(anaphoric value; the demonstrative and the personal
pronoun are in free variation;)
Thatis iti! Ajunge! /Pn aici!/ Asta pune capac!
(negative connotation) Another translation would be Am
terminat!/Asta e tot! (neutral connotation);
So thatis iti now! Ei, asta e acum! (the
connotation implies irritation; it and that are coreferential
and have anaphoric value);

Thisi is iti! Asta e (ceea ce caut/vreau etc)! (it
refers to an inanimate referent).
When the pronoun it is a predicative, it refers to an
element clearly identified by the interlocutor, more
precisely to a whole context, and is coreferential with the

5.3.5. Reciprocal Pronouns Form

They are compounds made up of indefinite

pronouns; they have no variation in form, except for the
Genitive marker; their form can be said to vary according
to number, i.e. they have a form for dual each other, and
one for plural, one another.

Number Common Genitive

Case Case
(prep.) each
Dual number each others
Plural (prep.) one
one anothers
number another Meaning: the action/state expressed by

the verb is mutual. Syntactic function: object (direct, indirect,

Weve known each other/one another for ages.
Give each other a chance (IO)
Talk to each other/ one another. (PO) Pragmatic tendencies:

-each other tends to take over the value of one another101,
the reverse of what happens in general in language, i.e.
the plural replacing the dual forms:
They all help each other in this village.
-sometimes reflexive pronouns preceded by prepositions
have the value of a reciprocal pronoun and, consequently,
can replace it:
Discuss this among yourselves ( = with each
They were busy dividing the money among
themselves (= with one another) (Prlog, 1995: 134)

5.3.6. Interrogative and Relative Pronouns Inventory and characteristics
The inventory of interrogative pronouns comprises
the following pronouns, most functioning also as
determiners102: who, what, which. All these interrogative
pronouns can be used as relative elements, adding to
them the invariable relative pronoun that.
Who has the following characteristics:

Nedelcu, 2004: 112.
Only the Genitive form whose can precede a noun.
- it designates a [+human] referent in most cases, even if
a [+animate] [-human] referent can be referred to:
Who wrote the letter? Mary or John?
Who spilt the milk? The cat or the dog?

- it is the only interrogative-relative pronoun which has a

paradigm, more precisely has inflection according to the
category of case:
Case form
Case form (standard
Case (spoken
Nominative who who
Genitive whose103 whose
Dative To whom, whom...to Who ...to
Accusative (prep) whom Who ... (prep)

Who said that?

Whose coat is the one on the chair?
To whom did you give the money? /Who did you give the
money to?
Whom have you met? Who have you met?
About whom will she deliver the speech?/ Who will she
deliver the speech about?

- it can appear in expressions: whos who:

I cant tell whos who. Nu pot identifica persoanele.
Nu pot spune care cine e.

Functioning also as Genitive for inanimate referents, since which does not
have a form for the Genitive case.
Which has the following characteristics:
- it designates a [+/- animate] referent;
- it implies a selection from two or more than two
Which shall I choose? (the limited range of choices
is implicit) What shall I choose? (there is an unlimited
range of possibilities)
Which way shall I go? (the same comment as
above, only that the pronominal element functions as a

- it can be followed by the adverb ever, having the role of

an intensifier; the variant pronoun + so + ever is also
possible but only if the pronoun will function as a
Whichever party comes in power, the result will
be the same.

- it can be followed by an of phrase:

Which of the books is the most interesting?

- it can appear in expressions: which is which:

I cant tell which is which. Nu pot spune care cine
este/ cine este unul, cine este altul. (the choice is
made from a limited number of elements)

What has the following characteristics:

-the form is invariable, it has no paradigm;
- meaning: it implies selection from an indeterminate
number of elements, whether it is a pronoun or a
What did he say?
What answer did he give?
it can imply [+ definite] reference if it is followed by a
prepositional atrribute or by a relative clause; then it has
cataphoric value and is synonymous to the definite article:
Give me what (=the) books you have on the
matter. Take whatever measures you think best. (in this
example the referent is [+specific] for both interlocutors,
but it is [-definite] for the speaker and [+definite] for the
The association between a relative /interrogative
pronoun and the adverb ever can have two distinct
meanings, depending on whether the elements are written
in one word, making up a unit, or remain separate;
spelling reflects the semantic value; when the two
elements are separated in spelling the value is always
What ever are you taking about? = What on earth
are you talking about? (the message is that the speaker is
annoyed by the content of the hearers utterance)
Whatever you say, be careful about how you say

Nedelcu, 2004: 104.
Though by definition it refers to an inanimate
referent, what can be applied to human referents when
inquiring about somebodys character, profession, etc:
What is she? = What is her profession/occupation?
Who is she? (it refers to the persons identity) Which
is she? (it refers to the space location of the referent in
the situation of communication)

- it can be followed by the adverb ever, having the role of

an intensifier; the variant pronoun + so + ever is also
possible but only if the pronoun will function as a
determiner (see the example above);

- it can appear in expressions: what is what ce e bine, ce

e ru
I can tell what is what in this matter.
What can become an interjection :
What! I will never believe that.(cf Rom. Ce?
Poftim? Cum?) Semantic and pragmatic aspects

Syntactically, such pronouns or pronominal
adjectives are distributed in front position in interrogative
sentences which refer to a clause element or to a part of
the simple sentence, i.e. they are used in specific
questions/ wh-questions. Two interrogative elements can
appear in the same question, which means that the
speaker requires two pieces of information:

Who did what? Cine ce a fcut?
Who has been cheating on whom? Cine pe cine
a nelat?
Sometimes the question is an echo question, the intention
of the speaker being to express a certain state of mind
(surprise, irritation, reproach and warning for the future
not to say the same thing, etc):
Shes what? ( I dont believe that./ Repeat that if
you dare.)

The pragmatic value can indirectly express the

attitude of the speaker who does not want any
information, the sentence is not a genuine question but a
declarative disguised in the form of a question to be better
received by the interlocutor:
Who cares?
It has been 10 years since we met but whos
Who do you think you are to talk to me like that?
Whats that? You call that a roast?

What can acquire the value of a superlative in

exclamations, the connotation being either positive or

What a day! (+/-)

What nonsense! (-)
What manners! (-)

193 Relative pronouns and adjectives
As relative pronouns or adjectives, interrogative
elements preserve their characteristics, both in form and
in meaning, their value is the one which becomes
somehow different.
We consider of concern the following aspects
regarding relative pronouns: the type of Relative Clause
introduced; the function of the relative element, totally
independent of the syntactic status of the clause
That introduces Restrictive Relative Clause,
obligatory for the meaning of the whole sentence; it can
replace [+/- animate] referents and it can be omitted if its
function is not that of subject:
The man that/ you see is my workmate.
The flowers that/ * smell so nice are imported
from the Netherlands.

That is obligatorily used after numerals,

superlatives, indefinite pronouns or after the structures
the same/ only/ very:
The third that won the race is a veteran of such
Its the same film that you saw last week.
All that glitters is not gold.
Its the very thing that we have wanted for so long!

That followed by prepositions is placed in end-
position in the sentence can be replaced by relative
adverbs, which are shorter and preferred in spoken
language because of that:
That is the town (that) you live in? = That is the
town where you live?
That is the time that he arrived at. = Thats the
time when he arrived.
Its the reason that he came here for. = Its the
reason why he came here.

The syantactic function of the relative

pronoun/adjective has nothing to do with the type of
subordinate it introduces:
The third that won the race is a veteran of such
competitions. (introducing an attributive; it functions as
Do you know who has been cheating on whom?
(introducing a direct object clause; functioning as subject
and prepositional object, respectively)
I can tell what is what in this matter. (introducing a
direct object clause; functioning as subject and
predicative, respectively)

5.3.7. Indefinite Pronouns Definition: they are [-specific] by their

nature, their value being (un)intentionally non-specific.

195 Origin: initially they were noun phrases
made up of a quantifier + noun (with general meaning)
Indefinite Pronoun Noun Phrase (Quantifier + Noun) Classification according to structure

(Biber, 1999: 351):
- the every group: every + one, body, thing;
- the some group: some + one, body, thing;
- the any group: any + one, body, thing;
- the no group: no + one, body, thing.
The other pronouns are considered basically
quantifiers, expressing an indefinite number or quantity of
elements/ material, etc.
Classification of indefinite pronouns and
adjectives according to meaning (Budai, 1997: 309-317):
- expressing totality: all, every, each;
- expressing duality: both, either, neither;
- some , any, no and none;
- many, much, (a) few, (a) little;
- other , another.
The underlined forms function both as pronouns and as
adjectives; the pronoun none is never a determiner and
no can only be a determiner. Characteristics:
- they parallel the NPs with the corresponding

every single person = everybody;
some food = something to eat;
no observer = no one.
- common in conversation and fiction: -one compounds
are [+formal] and specific to the written register and
body compounds are common in conversation.
We will discuss them considering their semantic
classification: The all, every, each group

All is used with count nouns in the plural or
with uncount nouns:
All our troubles are far away.
All the knowledge is not enough if you lack

It can be followed by an of phrase; it follows the

personal pronoun it but precedes a demonstrative and a
personal pronoun except for it: all (of the ) students; all of
them; all these:
All students love such a show. (indefinite
The dean called all (of the) students. (definite
reference, all the members of a group; the article can
miss and the preposition too.)
All of them / they all enjoyed the show.
All these are things of the past.
Eat it all.

Every functions only as an indefinite
adjective, preceding a count noun in the singular. It is
synonymous to all + noun (plural), but, unlike the use of
all, it is the individuals who matter. Every means a
collection of single people or things (Budai, 1997: 309).
Pragmatically, it can acquire particular values in
certain contexts or patterns:
- with uncount nouns it means all possible:
I need every help I can get.
Make sure we have every assistance.
- in the pattern every + numeral + noun it expresses
recurrence or time intervals:
Every ten days they will send an e-mail.
- in the pattern every + other + noun it means all the
others or alternate:
I left, every other guest stayed.
They go home every other weekend.
- preceding a possessive adjective means all the
His every work is being studied.

Each is used with count nouns in the

singular or count nouns in the plural preceded by of:
Each girl was asked to recite a poem. = Each of
the girls was asked to recite a poem.

The focus in on the individual but as part of a
group, and the reference is generally made to a small
number of elements. Prlog (1995: 64) suggests that the
separate items form a whole when every is used, whereas
with each attention is directed to the separate item or unit.
Every tends to gather the separate units into a whole;
each focuses attention on the units individually and so
tends to disperse the unity. (Budai, 1997: 309)
Every employee loves the management! Have
you checked with each person?
Every man had a weapon = All men had weapons.
Each man had a weapon. (the speaker went to each
man in turn and checked that he had a weapon)
(Thomson & Martinet, 1997: 64)

Each and every can collocate in a set phrase with

emphatic value: each and every:
Your mother thinks of you each and every day. The both, (n)either group

Both and (n)either are forms remained from the
dual gender paradigm of pronouns, they refer to two
elements. They determine or substitute count nouns in the
plural. If both determines a personal pronoun, it follows it:
Both (my parents) are here.
Both of my cars are out of order.
We both went there.
You may take either scarf.

Trees lined either side (= both sides) of the street.

Neither has negative meaning and requires a verb

in the affirmative; its less emphatic correspondent is either
with the verb in the negative, unless neither is the subject:
Neither car is here. *There isnt either car here.
I saw neither. I didnt see either (of them). The some, any, no, none group

Some can be discussed mostly in point of its
meaning and distribution, since its form is invariable and
poses no problems. Its distribution is to be considered in
point of the sentence it is part of or in point of the head
word (i.e. noun/ noun phrase) it substitues as a pronoun
or determines as a determiner.
It appers typically in affirmative sentences, but also
in interrogatives if what is required is a confirmation of the
speakers sayings:
I need some sugar.
Do you have some bus tickets? I know you do.

Regarding the head word, some can substitute or

determine a count or uncount noun, as long as the
referent is known from the linguistic or situational context:
How is he doing? He has acquired some (books/
English/ gold/ experience).
In such examples, the pronoun has a numeric function,
being the plural equivalent of the numeral one if used with

count nouns, or referring to an indefinite number/quantity
if used with an uncountable noun:
We have some time. Here are some jewels
from the robbery.
Structurally, it can be followed by an of phrase to
explain the class of elements referred to in terms of an
indefinite number/quantity:
Some of her friends are not here today.
The pronoun becomes a determiner if preceding a noun
phrase containing a numeral and a noun, the meaning
being aproximatively:
We met some 30 people.
An explicit contrast can be expressed when an indefinite
number of elements is referred to:
Some will believe you, others wont.
Pragmatically, it can express emphasis, almost a
superlative value, the range of connotations being though
rather wide:
That was some answer! (admiration, some of
Some friend you are to stand me up. (irony)

Any is distributed in affirmative,

interrogative and negative sentences.
In affirmative sentences it has a [-definite]
reference (followed by an of phrase or in compounds of
the type anybody); sometimes the connotation can be

Any of you/ of the students can come on our trip
tomorrow. (indefinite reference regarding the individuals
but the selection is limited to a group)
Anybody (= any human being) can do that.
Anybody loves somebody. (the selection is not
limied to a group, unless we define the group by the class
of elements implicitly denoted by the noun substituted by
the indefinite pronoun)
Negative connotation implies emphasis; adding the
adverb just that emphasis is increased:
I dont give my phone number to (just) any
In interrogative sentences it has an indefinite value
and in negative contexts it has a negative meaning, being
used to avoid the ungrammaticality of double negation
sentences; if used as a determiner, it collocates with both
count and uncount nouns; when used as a pronoun, it has
anaphoric value and it can replace any type of noun:

Do you have any friends/ any experience in the

field? No, I dont have any.

With singular count nouns, it is synonymous to the

indefinite article or to the numeral one, replacing them in
informal English:

There arent any children in here. (Prlog, 1995:
61) = There isnt a single child/ even one child in here.

No is strictly used as a determiner in

negative contexts, always with the verb in the affirmative,
preceding count nouns in the singular/ plural or uncount
He is no colleague of theirs. He isnt a
colleague of theirs. (semantically the meaning conveyed
is the same but the former variant is more emphatic)
It precedes numerals or the pronoun other:
No two men think alike.
I love you and no other. (no other pe nimeni
No also appears in set-phrases: no mans land, by
no means, no way, in no time, no sweat, no wonder that
..., etc.

None has the following characteristics:

- it functions only as a pronoun but it can have its own
prepositional attribute which gives the necessary
information about the class of elements referred to:
None of them/ of the family members were late.
- the reference is made to more than two elements:
Have you seen any students? Ive seen none. Cf
Have you seen any of the students? No, I havent
seen either (of them)/ I have seen neither. (a group of
two referred to)

- the noun substituted can be count or uncount:
None of the patients had post-op complications.
I had more time last year to meet my friends, but
now I have none. (= no time)

One can be included in this class since it helps

creating compound forms someone, anyone, no one
referring to animate [+human] referents, synonymous to
somebody, anybody, nobody and opposing something,
anything, nothing; it is either a cardinal numeral or a
pronoun. As any pronoun, it is:

-the substitute of a noun:

You want a pencil; I saw one somewhere in the
room. (linguistic context; anaphoric value)
That one is not working. (situational context;
deictic value)
You get some bad ones and some good ones.
(Biber, 1995: 353) (generic value)

-the equivalent of a personal pronoun with generic value,

especially in the written register:
One does what one can. The many, much, (a) few, (a) little group

We referred to them when discussing them as
determiners, so we will add to this category the pronouns

several and enough and analyse only them at this point of
our presentation:
Several means some but not many and it can be
followed by an of phrase; it replaces or determines count
nouns in the plural:
They went their several ways.
Enough substitutes or determines uncount or count
nouns. We have also discussed it as an adjective:
I have enough friends / enough influence not to
worry about my enemies.
Are you enough of a friend to me to tell me the
Enough is enough.
It is usually placed after a noun but it can precede
it too:
We have food enough/ enough food for
We are friends enough to tell me the truth. The other, another group

Other means different, not the same. It replaces
or determines count nouns in the singular or in the plural:
I have other things to worry about.
He had other sisters but they are dead now.
Ask the others to keep silence, please.
It also appears in set phrases: on the one hand, on
the other hand, the other day = two days ago, in other
words, etc. It contrasts with the numeral one or with

demonstrative pronouns, as we have pointed out when
discussing the latter.

Another is made up of an + other and means

additional; the reference can be indefinite when used as
a pronoun:
Can I have another cup of coffee, please?
He is another Mr. Perfect.
I dont like the taste of this soup. Can you bring me
another? (of the same kind, but another serving, or more
improbably maybe, of a different kind; the function
remains anaphoric)

Topics for discussion

I. Analyse the form you guys. Can it be used in all

syntactical positions? Does it have a form for the Genitive
Case? Under what social conditions can it be used?

II. Fill in the blanks with the right pronoun and explain
your choice. Find the Romanian translation of the
sentence/phrase and explain the similarities/ differences
in the use of pronouns:

is fish that comes to his net.

comes to him who waits.
Grasp , lose .
Jack of trades and master of .

Much will have .
would be wise, if things were to be done twice.
To know is to know .
so deaf as who wont hear.
An after wit is s wit.
One good turn deserves .
Of two evils choose the .

III. Use who, whose, what or which. Give several variants

when possible and explain the differences:

is your sister?
is their favourite book?
Did you see ducks?
did you meet?
do we choose?
He knows whats .
on earth is she doing?

IV. True or false?

1. Pronouns are a minor word class. T/F
2. This is a closed class of words, finite in number and
unchanging. T/F
3. Quantifiers are always pronouns. T/F
4. Demonstratives have the same form as pronouns and
determiners. T/F
5. Some question words have the same form as pronouns
and determiners. T/F

6. Possessives have the same form as pronouns and
determiners. T/F
7. Pronouns can be subject, direct and indirect object,
complement [subject /object complement, i.e. predicative
or predicative adjunct]105 and prepositional complement.
8. Pronouns are substitutes for nouns or noun phrases.
9. Pronouns are never substitutes for finite clauses. T/F
10. Interrogative pronouns replace unknown subjects and
objects. T/F
V. Identify the pronouns and pronominal adjectives
(determiners) and mention their type:

This is a very curious omission, because it was a subject,

one must suppose, which would have interested readers.
One has an impression that he had to labour to make
himself clear. He seems to have been conducted round
this museum by those in charge, and they told him some
old stories about the place. The palace itself seems to
have been one of the ancient royal palaces. The multitude
of vessels that invest this river is so vast that no one who
should see or hear would believe it. So I will relate none
of them in this book of ours. Such was the terrible rout
which Kublai met.
(from Marco Polo by Maurice Collis, apud Broughton, 1990:

Our note.
VI. State the semantic and syntactic functions of it:

It is raining cats and dogs.

It is late.
It is generally accepted that Shakespeare wrote 37 plays.
It is I.
It is a long lane that has no turning.
It was Mary who said that.
It was natural that he should behave like that.
It was Saturday night, and we decided to go out.

VII. Put SELF Pronouns and explain their status and

value; if the personal pronoun and the self pronoun are
interchangeable, state that:

We all enjoyed at the theatre. I bought the groceries

, how can you say its not what you needed? She made
the cake all by . John cut when shaving. There is
plenty of work to do! Help ! I made sure that they
amuse in the garden and they have everything they
want. We saw in the mirror and got scared. You said so
. He settled as comfortably as he could. My brother
and came to the station to welcome them. It is . He
has more right to be here than .

VIII. a. Insert another, the other(s), other:

I talked to one student, then to . You just pass from to
and cannot decide. She is out, all are at home. He
didnt like the blouse and asked to be shown . Its one
thing to listen to one, and to believe him.

b. Insert interrogatives and demonstratives:

have you talked to? With did they go in the park?

do you want them to do with the information? is he?
The size of my room is bigger than of yours.

IX. Explain the use of pronouns:

One hardly knows what to say in such a case. It was a

difficult text, the one you gave us. When one is in the
right, one should say so. You know where the bookstore
is that new one. She was thinking of nothing else but
her little ones. I have a grammar examination tomorrow;
its the last one. (adapted from Ilovici et al., 1970 :31)

X. Supply the relative pronouns or adjectives:

The room in they discovered the corpse was dark. She

hasnt the faintest idea she lent the book. The box
you admired so much was stolen from me. It was he
accused me of theft. She desired to be informed she
was expected to say in court.

XI. Discuss the reference:

Louise said to herself in the mirror: Im so ugly.

The fact that he considers her pretty pleases Mary.
Whenever I see you, I think of her.
John discovered that a picture of himself was hanging in
the post-office, and that fact bugged him, but pleased her.
It seems that she and he will never stop arguing with
Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but
their own graves. (On a sign in a cemetery.)
(apud Fromkin & Rodman, 1998: 212)


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