I love you but I hate you.

Facebook is a social networking site which main purpose is to connect users, similarly to MySpace or Friendster. It allows you to create a profile that includes personal information about yourself, your interests, pictures and practically anything you can think of. Each of these pieces of data is now a link and after you click on it it shows all the other people who listed the same element on their profiles. Connections are also based on FB groups you can join. You gradually build networks of friends, contact them and set meetings with them. Although the very idea of the site is fantastic, I must say that not all FB profiles result in positive outcomes for the users. Creating one’s self identity or shall I say virtual identity pushes us and encourages us to discover who we are and how we relate to other people. The freedom of speech we gain once we’re on Facebook often leads downhill and just joking around comments can hurt other people who happen to be reading them.  Jealousy seems to play a big part as well – ambiguous comments, pictures and secret messages of our loved ones can drive a lot of us crazy.

 Although Facebook seems like a little private forum we administrate and have full control of, the sooner we accept the fact it’s public the better. Anything that has been ever uploaded to it belongs to it forever and there's no way back. Simple delete button won't solve the problem, however, it will help make given post or picture invisible to other users. Sadly, a lot of people on Facebook think that somehow the number of friends they have is suddenly the measure of their popularity (Facebook makes us call them friends when in fact they’re only just connections – often not even acquaintances). They’d kill for a cooler profile and pictures that in other circumstances they would surely keep away from public content (embarrassing shots, boasts about drinking or washing dirty laundry in public) but instead many of them simply lack the discretion or class (or both) and present themselves, and others, inappropriately online. They themselves spending hours and hours a day updating their statuses, joining useless groups such as “I hate Mondays”, looking at other people’s pages, taking pictures of themselves for their profiles, seeing who knows who, who goes out with who, who broke up with who… the list never ends. Then the whole thing of I don't like you and I won't accept your friend request as well as You upset me and I'm going to delete you now come on scene and ridicule Facebook even more.

I’ve tried using Facebook creatively (my wishful thinking!), staying in touch with friends, finding out and sharing information, talking to people with similar interests, joining my academic community, contacting my lecturers and basically everything that might provide new opportunities for my professional development plus networking. Unfortunately I find it unmanageable for the simple reason that all the people who are on my ‘friends’ list will be able to ruin it for me with one simple useless crap they post and I waste time looking at. Should I delete all the people who, in my opinion, contribute nothing at all, and, instead, surround myself with those of similar interests? Will this not potentially limit my exposure to new ideas and experiences? What is the solution? (Here's a brief linguistc digression - sensu stricto I can't really delete anyone - this is where Facebook takes part in word formation, along with other examples such as add sbd)

I have now deleted my old Facebook profile containing quite a bit of personal ‘dirt’ shall I call it and I’m settinp up a new account that I plan to keep public and open, however, as far as I’m concerned, the personal messages live in my Inbox and not where anyone can access it. The problem is that most of the unwanted data on my Facebook happens to be uploaded by other people and hardly ever myself which will require of me to be very strict with regular deleting all of the rubbish I don’t want on my wall. Facebook in fact allows you to block your wall from people commenting on it and this might be an option for me, however, this will mean some of them who could contribute positively will not be able to do so. Again, what’s the solution? Facebook, I love you but I hate you!

Modal Verbs

I’ve been thinking about writing this article for quite some time now and, at some point, I even decided to experiment and spend a day at work listening to people speak English only just to try and catch as many modal verbs as possible. I advise you to do the same – if you don’t live or work in an English speaking environment try watching a movie or listen to the BBC radio. It’s a lot of fun and you will be surprised of how we just can’t manage without modal verbs and how they are, in fact, the most common verbs in the English language. But what are they? Modal verb is a kind of helping word and in that context helping also means auxiliary. They aren’t only common in English but also many other languages such as German.

It’s easy to recognise auxiliary verbs – they don’t really stand on their own. In a sentence I don’t like fish contraction do not does not stand on its own – it is only there to negate the actual main verb of the sentence – like.  We certainly can’t just say I don’t fish… Similarly we say Do tell! and even though we only mean tell! really, do is there to emphasise the primary verb tell.  We can find auxiliary verbs in many other examples: did in Past Simple Tense, have and had in Present Perfect and Past Perfect Tense,  be in Present progressive, was/were in past progressive etc.

There are so called nice properties that distinguish auxiliary verbs from other verbs:

1. Auxiliaries alone can be negated (He doesn’t drive, I wouldn’t go to America)

2. Auxiliaries alone can be inverted (Are we going? Is she watching TV?)

3. Auxiliaries alone exhibit the ability to allow a following verb phrase to be deleted (Will they win the match? I think they might but my dad says they can’t)

4. Auxiliaries alone can be emphasised (She does speak English)

Modal verb is a special kind of an auxiliary verb that can be used to modify the modality of a sentence. Modal verbs have only finite (tensed) forms and don’t have participles or infinitives and they never take the inflection –s in the third person singular. Modality here refers to the attitude to the action indicated by a verb that can be used to describe ideas such as intention, obligation, necessity, desirability or probability.

We have following modal verbs in English: shall, should, will, would, may, might, can, could, must plus some linguist also categorise following as modal verbs: ought to, be going to, have to, used to. However, I tend to call them non-modal constructions that have a modal function.

There’s different ways in which modal verbs can function:

1. Epistemic (belief, assumption, probability) I could write you an email.

2. Deontic (obligation or command) You must leave now.

3. Dynamic (action or ability) I can swim.

Modal verbs are certainly very different to all the normal verbs and non-native speakers of English often have to be careful when using them. For instance saying you can go now isn’t at all polite, it in fact means more or the less I have power over you and I’m now going to release you. Get lost. It’s much better to grant permission saying you may go now. In standard English usage (there might be regional differences and variations such as in Southern American English) it is incorrect to follow one modal with another for the simple reason that modal must be followed by an infinitive and doesn’t have an infinitive form itself. Modal verb can be, however, combined with non-modal constructions that has a modal function such as have to. Therefore might have to is correct whereas might must isn’t even though have to and must carry the same meaning.

Agreement between subject and verb

Listen up, it really is that simple! If a sentence has a singular subject it is followed by a singular verb and if it has a plural subject it is followed by a plural verb. Verb and subject must agree.

She likes animals. She like animals.

  They like animals.  They likes animals.

Sometimes the subject of the sentence is more complex but even then the following verb still must agree with the main noun within the subject. Look at the following example:

A few participants of the course have arrived early. A few participants of the course has arrived early.

The words there and here are never subjects themselves therefore with those constructions (expletive constructions), the subject always follows the verb and determines the number of the verb.

There are many kids in my neighbourhood.  There is many kids in my neighbourhood.

There is an apple on the table.  There are an apple on the table.

If a subject is a clause, we usually use a singular verb unless it’s a clause starting with ‘what’ as a subject, then we use a singular verb if the following main noun is singular and either a singular or plural verb if the main noun is plural (although plural is usually preferred, especially in formal texts). Look at the following examples:

What makes me happy is your smile. What makes me happy are your smile.

What is required are application forms. What is required is application forms.

Collective nouns (nouns with singular form but referring to groups such as team) can be used with either a singular or plural form of the verb., however, it is preferred to use singular verb (in academic writing anyway). Only sometimes a plural form of the verb is required and this will always depend on the context. Compare:

A group of kids have raised their hands.  A group of kids has raised its hand.

Coordinated noun is usually followed by a plural verb:

Jean and Tom are sitting at the table.  Jean and Tom is sitting at the table.

This is except when the two items are making up a single item:

Fish and chips is a British dish.  Fish and chips are a British dish.

When names and titles end in –s we refer to them as a single unit and use a singular verb.

Netherlands has granted US Military use of its islands in the Caribbean.  Netherlands have granted US Military use of its islands in the Caribbean.

A number of + noun is followed by a plural verb since the expression is used to indicate more than one of something whereas the number of + noun is followed by a singular verb because the expression is used to refer to the exact number that makes up a group.

A number of people have answered our emails. A number of people has answered our emails.

The number of answers we got was great.  The number of answers we got were great.


What is morhology? ‘Morphology’ literally stands for ‘ the study of forms’ and was originally used in biology but since the middle of 19th century it’s been used to describe the analysis of basic elements used in a given language. Those ‘elements’ are technically referred to as morphemes. Let's take forms: talks, talker, talked, talking. They consist of one element talk and a variety of other elements (-s, -er, -ed and -ing). The latter are described as 'morphemes'.

What is a morpheme? What is a stem? Morpheme is a minimal unit of meaning or grammatical function. For example, word reopened consists of 3 morphemes. One minimal unit of meaning open, another minimal unit of meaning re- (here meaning 'again') and a minimal unit of grammatical function -ed (past tense). Word tourists consists of 3 morphemes too: tour – ist – s. In those examples, open and tour are free morphemes and they stand by themselves as single words whereas re-, -ed, ist and -s are bound morphemes and cannot stand alone but are always attached to another form. (See 'affixes' in one of my previous post). When free morphemes are used with bound morphemes the basic word-form involved is technically known as ‘stem’. Problem and disagreement occur over the characterisation of elements such as receive or repeat (since even though re- is often a prefix, -ceive and -peat aren’t free morphemes – because they don’t stand by themselves and don't carry any meaning on their own). You may come across a variety of terms used to describe those. The simplest distinction would be here to count ceive and peat as bound stems and forms like dress in undressed or care in careless as free stems.

Classification of morphemes

1. Free morphemes

a) Lexical morphemes

Those are a set of ordinary nouns, adjectives and verbs that carry the content of ‘message’ we convey such as monkey, stupid, read.

b) Functional morphemes

Those are functional words in the language such as conjunctions, prepositions, articles and pronouns. We hardly ever add new functional morphemes to the language; they’re described as a ‘closed’ class of words.

2. Bound morphemes

a) Derivational morphemes Those are used to make new words of a different grammatical category from the stem. For instance derivational morpheme -ness changes the adjective good to the noun goodness and -ly changes the adjective slow to the adverb slowly. Other common derivational morphemes in English are -ish, -ly, -ment, re-, pre-, dis-, co-, un-

b) Inflectional morphemes

Those indicate aspects of the grammatical function but don’t make new words.

English has only 8 inflectional morphemes: possessive: Jim’s, plural: sisters, 3rd person: likes, present participle: singing, past tense: danced, past participle: taken, superlative: longest, comparative: shorter. They never change the grammatical category of a word (short and shorter are both adjectives). All of the above are suffixes. Note that -er can be either derivational or inflectional morpheme: teach – teacher/small – smaller. They look the same but they have different function. They are both bound morphemes. Also, whenever there are both derivational and inflectional suffix added to the word, the derivational suffix appears first: teach -er  -s (never: teach -s -er).

ProblemsWhat is the inflectional morpheme that makes sheep the plural form of sheep or mice of mouse? Why is went a past form of go? Those have not been fully resolved. On the bright side, we know that the relationship between law and legal is a reflection of historical influence of other languages (law from Old Norse and legal from Latin). There is no derivational relationship between the two.

Analogy with processes known in phonology If phones are phonetic realisations of phonemes we can propose morphs as realisations of morphemes. Cat is a single morph realising a lexical morpheme whereas cats consists of two morphs realising a lexical morpheme (cat) and an inflectional morpheme (-s plural). Just as we noted there were ‘allophones’ of a particular phoneme we can now recognise allomorphs of a particular morpheme. Lexical morpheme cat + inflectional morpheme plural = cats, lexical morpheme sheep + inflectional morpheme plural = sheep. In result the actual morphs resulting from single morpheme turn out to be different but they are all allomorphs of the same morpheme.