Basic Units of English Language

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Basic Units of English Language

Introduction to English Grammar

Let us begin with the basics of the English language.

5 Basic Units constitute English Language

  1. Letter (alphabets)
  2. Word
  3. Phrase
  4. Clause                     
  5. Sentence
  1. Letter

The learning process begins with the simplest parts. So we can start with the 1st unit of the English language, the letters. 

As you all know, there are 26 alphabets in the English language. The letters are divided into two. 

  1. Consonants.
  2. Vowels.

Why they are classified so? 

What are Consonants letters?

A consonant is the alphabets that represent a basic speech sound produced by obstructing the breath in the vocal tract. 

There are 21 consonant letters in the English language. They are;

B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

What Letters Are Vowels?

The phonetic definition of “vowel” is that a sound produced with no constriction in the vocal tract.

There are 5 vowels 

A, E, I, O, U

But there are 2 consonants that act as vowels.

Sometimes Y and W will act as vowels. Let us have a glance at it.

Y as a vowel

The letter “Y” functions as a vowel in three situations:

Case 1
As the last letter of a word, for example: “sky”, “rely”, “tiny” or “easy”.

Case 2
As part of a vowel pair, for example: “play”, “they”, “toy”, or “buy”.

Case 3
Between two consonants, for example: “cycle”, “type”, “myth” or “system”.

W as a vowel;

“W” acts as a vowel only when it is the second partner of a vowel pair, for example: “brown”, “show”, “hawk” or “few”.

EXCEPTIONS: There are a few cases of silent “W”, as in: “answer”, “two”, “who”, “whole”, “wrap” or “wrong”.

2. Word

A word is a letter or group of letters that have meaning when spoken or written. A word converts the group of letters into a meaningful one. A word plays a pivotal role in the Units of English.

Eg: Car, boy, have, fish, by, etc.

Before moving to the next phase we have to understand two things;

  1. Subject
  2. Predicate

Well, the subject is The person or a thing who or which carries out the action of the verb.

The subject of the sentence is what (or whom) the sentence is about. In the sentence “The cat is sleeping in the sun,” the word cat is the subject.

The predicate is a sentence or clause that modifies the subject. The predicate in a sentence is what tells about what a person or a thing does or did or what happened to a person or to a thing?

A predicate is the part of a sentence or a clause, that tells what the subject is doing or what the subject is.

Eg: Jhony walked faster than James

In this sentence, “Walked faster than James”  is the predicate.

3. Phrase

A phrase is a group of words without a subject and a predicate but with a meaning.

Let us see a few phrases.

  1. The leader of the group
  2. The red ball
  3. Your class-mate
  4. Our family-members

Here no person or thing is present.

4. Clause

A clause is a group of words, with a subject and a predicate having a meaning.

  1. You are my best friend
  2. It is not possible for him to do that now
  3. When the train arrived
  4. If you are qualified
  5. As the election is declared

5. Sentence

A sentence is a group of clauses, conveying a complete meaning. A sentence is a form that carries all five Units of English. A sentence is the largest grammatical unit in a language. A set of words that is complete in itself, typically containing a subject and predicate, conveying a statement, question, exclamation, or command, and consisting of a main clause and sometimes one or more subordinate clauses.


1) I ate dinner.
2) It is possible only when all the members support this project. ( 1 main clause and 1 subordinate clause).

  • We had a three-course meal.
  • Brad came to dinner with us.
  • He loves fish tacos.
  • In the end, we all felt like we ate too much.

  • We all agreed; it was a magnificent evening.

Importance of Grammar

Let’s have a look at the below conversations;


(Question) “Today office is there?” 

(Reply) “No office is not there.


(Question) “Is today a working day?” OR “Are we working today?” 

(Reply) “Yes we are working today or no we are not working today.”

In the above examples, the context has dramatically changed when the grammar went wrong. Thus, it is very important to be grammatically correct.

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in a sentence. 

Grammar skills are useful in every aspect of life from education to leadership, and social life to employment opportunities. Proper grammar is also essential for understanding English as a second language as well as for learning as a new language. 

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