Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, A STUDENT'S INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH GRAMMAR (Cambridge University Press, 2005)


1. The task is to underline the nouns and put the NPs in square brackets. (keeping in mind that one NP can occur within another). This is the sort of thing we mean: given the following sentence (from another chapter of the same book)

In any natural history of the human species, language would stand out as the preeminent trait.

you would do this:

In [any natural history of [the human species]], [language] would stand out as [the preeminent trait].

Notice that any natural history is not an NP — it could be, in some other context, but here it's just the first three words of a larger six-word NP, which also wholly contains the NP the human species.

This may seem a very simple exercise, but debatable points can arise. For example, it would be possible to argue that natural history has become a single compound lexeme in modern English and the whole thing is a noun (we made the decision not to treat it that way, so we regard natural as simply an attributive adjective). Another issue that could be raised is whether human here is a noun being used as an attributive modifier of the head noun species. Certainly human is sometimes a noun (Early humans used crude stone tools). But it is primarily an adjective (it's found with typical modifiers of adjectives in phrases like a very human reaction, and we get nouns derived from it like humanness and humanity), and we made the judgment that it's the adjective that appears here.

2. For the first nine of the nouns given, you're asked to supply two examples containing the word in an appropriate context, one where it has its plural-only sense, and one where it is an ordinary plural with a contrasting singular form. For the tenth item, people, give one example where it is a plural-only noun, and one where it's a singular. Here are examples for the nouns green: and trunk. (The latter example may not work for every speaker: trunks for "short trousers used for swimming and sports" is still common in British and Australian English, but not so much in American.)

Plural-only use: That's what you'll look like in twenty years if you don't eat more greens. (Greens here means "vegetables", but it's strictly limited to the plural; so although you can say Broccoli is a vegetable, you can't express the same thing by saying *Broccoli is a green.
Ordinary plural use: You can't wear that scarf with that coat, because the greens don't match. Here the greens means "the two shades of green", and it is a straightforward ordinary plural of a singular noun.

Plural-only use: I don't know if he'd been swimming, but he was wearing trunks.
Ordinary plural use: The elephants were all waving their trunks in time to the music.

3. This exercise asks you to say whether the underlined nouns have a count or a non-count interpretation in the sentences given, and in each case to construct another example in which the noun has the opposite i erpretation. Take the nouns advantage and coffee, for example:

Her proposal's one advantage is that it would reduce costs.

Count interpretation (notice the plural Her proposal had several advantages).
The word can have a non-count use: They took advantage of us.

I drink too much coffee.

Non-count interpretation: here coffee simply denotes the substance, as the determiner too much shows. (With a strictly count noun, too much isn't possible at all: compare *too much electron with too many electrons.)
The count use of coffee is illustrated by I ordered you a coffee ("a cup of coffee").

4. Are the underlined NPs below definite or indefinite? Give reasons for your answer.

Example: Shall we go in your car?
Answer:Definite. I assume you can identify which car I'm referring to — the car that is yours.

Example:Several members urged him to resign.
Answer:Indefinite. I don't assume you can identify the members — it would be quite natural for you to respond, "Which ones?"

5. 5. In the following examples give (a) the function within NP structure, and (b) the category, of the underlined expressions (there are twenty in all; for reference they're labelled with small roman numeral subscripts).

Example: a rather shabby house

a: determiner belonging to the category determinative;
rather shabby: internal modifier belonging to the category AdjP.

Additional note: In connection with xiv, where you are asked to give not just the function but also the category of even, it would have been helpful of us if we had mentioned at the end of section 6 in Chapter 5 (see page 97, third bullet) that we regard even as an adverb. Not much hangs on the category assignment for this peculiar item, but it's certainly not a noun or a verb or a preposition; and it's not a determinative because it co-occurs with determinatives and with proper nouns; and although there is an adjective even (as in an even number), that is not what we see in even Kim or even smarter or even complained about the food. So the answer to the category question in [xiv] is "adverb".

6. Classify the fused heads in the following examples as (a) simple; (b) partitive; or (c) special:

Example: There are only two apples left, and one isn't ripe yet.
Answer: Partitive. we understand "one of the two apples that are left".

Example: I need some more paper: have you got any?
Answer: Simple. it just means "any paper".

Example: We had lunch at Kim's.
Answer: Special. We understand "Kim's place", but there is no prior mention of place to provide this interpretation.

7. Select an appropriate case-form of the pronoun I for the blank positions in the following examples. If more than one case-form is admissible in Standard English, list them all and comment on the difference between them.

Example: It wasn't __ who broke it.
Answer: Both nominative I and accusative me are admissible in this construction, the former being somewhat formal in style, the latter somewhat informal.

8. What kind of genitive do we have in the following examples: (a) subject-determiner; (b) subject; (c) fused-head; (d) oblique; (e) predicative; or (f) attributive?

Example: I found them in the boss's office.
Answer: Subject-determiner (compare the office of the boss)

Example: Sam has borrowed my car, so can we go in yours?
Answer: Fused-head (we understand "your car").