What are Grammatical units, Word Types & Figurative Expressions

What are Grammatical units, Word Types & Figurative Expressions.

Grammar refers to our knowledge and proper use of language. It also refers to the rules in
sentence formation. As business communicators, it is very important for us to have a certain level
of knowledge regarding grammar issues. This is because failure to do so is likely to impede the
understanding of any message we choose to communicate.
The basic grammatical units of English are words, phrases, clauses and sentences.
A word is the smallest single meaningful unit of speech or writing. Words are therefore
fundamental grammatical units which are used to form sentences that aim to communicate a
given message.
There are nine word classes (parts of speech). These are:
1. Noun- the name of a person, animal, place or thing. Nouns may be proper, common or

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2. Pronoun- a word used in place of a noun. E.g. I, we, he, she, us, they, who, which, that.

3. Adjective- a word used to qualify (describe) a noun. E.g. fat, tall, huge, kind, beautiful.

4. Verb- a word that expresses an action. E.g. run, sleep, drive, and go.

5. Adverb- a word that modifies a verb. E.g. slowly, heavily, angrily, quietly.

6. Conjunction- a word which joins one word or sentence to another. E.g. and, as well as,
but, yet.

7. Preposition- a word or group of words used before a noun or pronoun to show place,
position or time. E.g. after, under, on, in, to, out of, on behalf of.

8. Interjection- aka exclamation. A short word, phrase or sound spoken suddenly to express
an emotion. E.g. Oh! Ow! Look out! Ha!

9. Determiner- a word that comes before a noun to show how the noun is being used.
Determiners are either articles such as a, the; possessives such as my, his, hers;
demonstratives such as this, that or quantifiers such as all, several, three, some.

A phrase is a group of two or more words without a subject, predicate or both. A phrase can  therefore not convey meaning on its own but usually provides more context to a sentence. For example, in the sentence Lectures were held at the Red Seats Theatre. ‘at the Red Seats Theatre’ is a prepositional phrase. Furthermore, the underlined parts in the following sentences are also phrases: She is standing by the river. They are at the hostel. The sea overflows its bank during
the rainy season.


A synonym is a word or expression that has the same meaning as another.

An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another.

A homonym is a word that has the same spelling or pronunciation with another despite their meanings being different.

A prefix is a letter or group of letters that when added to the beginning of a word changes its
meaning. E.g. a-, ambi-, auto-, bi-, co-, de-, ex-,im-, in-, over-, pre-, re-, tri-, uni-, etc.

A suffix, on the other hand, is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word to make
another word. E.g. –ness, -ly, -able, -cide, -dom, -ed, -hood, -ing, -less, -ship, -th, etc.


Figurative language (aka figures of speech) refers to language which differs from every day
“normal” or “literary” usage. The use of such language is in order to make speech or writing msnaainteresting and understandable. Common figures of speech include similes,metaphors, personifications, hyperbole, irony and oxymoron.

A simile is a figure of speech that involves comparing one thing with another while using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ to facilitate the comparison. E.g. He is as old as the mountains, her honesty
shines forth like a meteor, he is as sharp as a razor, etc.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes one thing with another in order to show that the
two have the same quality. Metaphorical speech eschews the use of ‘as’ or ‘like’ and applies a direct attribution of the quality being compared. E.g. the boy is a snake.

Personification involves attributing human qualities to an animal, object, or idea. E.g. the wind
howled, the clouds are pregnant, the sun smiled upon us, etc.

Hyperbole involves the use of exaggeration in speech for the purpose of emphasis. E.g. I am so
hungry I could eat a horse, she is as thin as a toothpick, her beauty eclipsed the sun, etc.

Irony (verbal) is the use of words in a manner that conveys the opposite of their literal
meaning. Irony is often used in making critical comments. E.g. Cheer up, the worst is yet to
come. I saw a fish drowning.

Oxymoron is a phrase that combines two words that are seem to be the opposite of each
other. E.g. sweet sorrow, bitter sweet, cruel kindness, open secret, awfully pretty, original copy, etc.

Other figures of speech that have to do with the patterns of sounds in sentences or phrases are:
alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia.

Alliteration involves repetition of consonant sounds; especially at the beginning of words. E.g.
kith and kin, part and parcel, Peter Piper picked a pick of pickle peppers, the teacher taught the
teenagers ten times.

Assonance is the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in two or more words of the
same sentence. E.g. bake and take your cake, cash the stash, light the fire, etc.

Onomatopoeia is the use of similar sounds to describe the noise made by something. E.g. the
buzzing of bees, the boom of thunder, chirping of birds, clapping of hands, the clicking of chicken,
cooing of pigeons, creaking of a door, hissing of a snake

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