The third task in Reading and Use of English is a text with 8 gaps in it that need to be filled with words made out of the words provided: “careless” out of “care”, “kingdom” out of “king” and so on. We are usually told to think what KIND of word we need – an adjective, a noun, a verb, an adverb or something else – and that’s it. Here, however, are some more steps which might help you – if not fill the gap – understand English word building better.
1. NOUN, VERB, ADJ, ADV?
If you think it’s an adjective or an adverb, think twice. English sometimes uses adjectives where other languages use adverbs – and the other way round. There are also adverbs that look like adjectives (eg. “fast”) – and the other way round (eg.”lovely”). Google that or get a good grammar book, such as Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage.
However, if the gap is right before an adjective, what you need is an adverb 99% of time.
4. NOUN, VERB, ADJ, ADV – OK, BUT WHICH ONE?
Sometimes we can make two nouns or two adjectives out of a single verb and so on. My next post is probably going to be a list of some of these pairs.
5. WHICH FORM?
Ok, it’s a verb, but the infinitive, Past Participle, the gerund? Ok, it’s a noun, but singular or plurar?
The last possibility is that your word is negative – “irrelevant” instead of “relevant” or “disobedient” instead of “obedient”.
7. WHICH KIND OF WORD BUILDING?
If it seems it’s a noun, for example, and you can’t remember the noun made of “deliver”. maybe you will remember with which kind of word building it was created – the way we don’t remember a word but remember it had 3 syllables and started with a “p”.
English word building can be divided into four kinds:
- “Latin/French” word building (words similar to its French or Latin or Spanish translations, usually ending with -ity, -ise, -ive etc.)
- “Germanic” word building (including irregular plurals such as tooth/teeth or endings such as -ing, -dom, -y, -ish, -like, -wise or -hood)
- words made by adding prepositions (offspring, breakout, instep)
- words made by adding two words (snowball, boyfriend)
Sometimes we get blocked because – although we know the word “snowball” or “snowy” – our brains expect some kind of a Latin ending. That’s another reason why it’s good to remember about the other three options.
There is a great list of words sorted by their endings at the end of the Ready For Advanced workbook (NOT the student’s book!). Then search for “advanced wordbuilding” at Quizlet.com to practice.
-ize or -ise? “Snowboard” or “snow-board”?
When it comes to hyphens, this is a great list: http://www.wilbers.com/part24.htm
Spanish speakers, beware of false friends in spelling, such as “inmediatamente”!
7. FALSE FRIENDS
We are used to thinking that false friends are words which exist in our language but have a different meaning in English (like “eventually” and “actually” in many European languages). However, it might happen to the endings or grammar categories, too. For example, “familiar” does exist in English, but we still say “a family dinner”, not “a familiar dinner”. Or “relax” – in English it’s only a verb, not a noun. I’m going to post a list of Spanish-English false friends at some point, but there are quite a lot of them around – they are quite fun to read:
Sometimes there are two adjectives to choose from, each with a different meaning (tasty, tasteful).
Sometimes it seems like there is a pair but one of the words or uses doesn’t exist! “Stressful” is ok, but “stressy” doesn’t exist. “Responsible” is an adjective, but it isn’t a noun etc.