Parts of speech

The following question was sent in to our Writing Correction section at The Linguist. The text has not yet been corrected but the meaning is clear. I have posted the two answers I provided to this learner. I welcome any comments.

Dear tutor,

1. I try to practice to write a article, and the content is also my question that I want to understand. How shall I know the timing to use a noun or a verb? Like the word “importance” I learned from the INTRODUCTION, it’s a noun, I don’t know it before, but I know “important”, is there any rule more efficient to change a noun to a verb or a verb to a noun? Or the only way is learn by heart to each of them.

2. Regarding to the phrase of “content item”, even I consult with dictionary and understand each mean of them, but I just can’t really why you make these two word together, usually I use only “item”, is it mean some special meaning or just emphasize?

3. It’s not really easy for me at this moment to use all the word that I learned from the linguist system, So I rely the electronic dictionary on my PC very much, but it still some problem that one word perhaps has more than one meaning, sometimes it’s a difficulty to choose which meaning is correct, I know I shall judge from the contexts, maybe I need more experience to study then I will find out the way to decide which is the one (or double meaning) .

Tracey will correct your writing but I just wanted to send you a comment in answer to your questions.

Do not ask yourself too many grammar questions. “Important” is an adjective and “importance” is a noun. Neither is a verb. Just remember important as 重要 and importance as   重要性 and try not to think too much of the parts of speech. Try to save phrases like “It is extremely important”  “of great importance” “of the utmost importance”. This will also save the sentences where these phrases appear.  Learn that “extremely” goes with “important”, “great” and “utmost” go with “importance”. Watch for how the two words, “important” and “importance”, are used when you see and hear them.

Watch for the different forms of words that you are interested in, like “different” and “difference”, “angry” and “anger”, “connect”, “connection”, “connected” and so on. Save these words in The Linguist, even if you know them. Go to Words I am Learning and sort your words by different roots, like “connect” or endings like “ion” or “ce”, or “ly”  Study in the Review section and then become observant when you read and listen. Soon these words will be natural to you.

Accept that “content item” means an item of content. Do not ask why. It will only hold you back.

It is difficult to learn new words. You will forget them easily. Go to Words/Phrases I am Learning and sort out the words from a content item you have studied before by using the content filter. Study those words and phrases and then read and listen to the content item again. This will help you remember them. But do not worry. You are adding to your vocabulary even if there will always be words that you do not remember. Language learning is not about perfection, it is about constant and gradual improvement.

Good luck.


Let me add a few comments.

Try to imagine that words began as simple descriptions of things and actions. Imagine that these simple words were soon used for other purposes. The words soon were used to describe things as in “heavy” or “weighty”, “sharp” or “pointed”, “wet” or “soaked”, “fast” or “speedy”, “in back of “ or “in front of”, “beside” etc.. In some case we can see the original word, but in most cases we cannot see the origin of that word. The same is true in any language. In Chinese the word “gen” originally meant follow but now also means “with” for example.

Some words were combined to describe properties of things “drinkable” (able to drink), or “cat like” or “angry like” or “angrily”.

Some verbs can become nouns without changing, “go for a run” “do some work”. When verbs become nouns they usually add something like “ment” (enjoyment) or “age” as in “arbitrage” or “ing” as in “meeting”. Verbs can even change their meaning over time. “You are going to work” describes an action. In “you are going to go to work”  “going to” means “will” and describes the future tense. The role, form and meaning of words is continuing to change.

You can have fun sorting your words by different roots and prefixes and endings in our Review section. I recommend you do so.

However, the best way to really get to know words is to focus on how they are used. You need to know which words and used with which words. It is the location of a word or phrase in different contexts that will tell you how to use it. Make sure you become conscious of phrases. Save phrases. Try to develop a feel for which words belong together. Do not bother trying to remember whether the noun is “importance” or “important”, remember the phrases. Force yourself to say “of utmost importance” or “it is important to…”. If you say the phrases correctly you need not worry about whether the word is an adjective, noun, verb, preposition or whatever.


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