Grammar: Introduction 2

English for Academic Purposes: Grammar

Grammar in EAP


Grammar is an essential component of EAP as without grammar there is nothing to hold the vocabulary items together within the texts. These vocabulary items are constructed from separate parts and inflect (Morphology) and occur in sequences (Syntax). The morphology and syntax is what makes the grammar of the language. As with all registers of English, EAP uses verbs, nouns, prepositions, articles, adverbs etc.

See:  Grammar in EAP: Example


Word Classes Exercises: Exercise 1Exercise 2

The important question, though, is: which aspects of grammar are relevant for EAP? The grammatical forms that are used in academic English differ in their distributions from other registers, and need to be studied carefully. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, (1999, p. 65), approximately 55% of lexical words in academic texts are nouns, 20% are adjectives, 15% are verbs and 10% are adverbs.

For example, written language is grammatically more complex than spoken language (Biber, 1988; Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999; Chafe, 1982; Cook, 1997; Halliday,1989). Written texts are lexically dense compared to spoken language – they have proportionately more lexical words than grammatical words. Written texts are shorter and have longer, more complex words and phrases. They have more noun-based phrases, more nominalisations, and more lexical variation. Written language has more subordinate clauses, more “that/to” complement clauses, more long sequences of prepositional phrases, more attributive adjectives and more passives than spoken language.

A good starting point is Biber, Johansson, Leech & Finegan (1992) or Biber (2006). Here are some aspects of grammar that are considered important in EAP:

Nouns and Nominal Groups


Nominal Group




Pre & Post-Modification

Adjectives & Adjectival Groups

Prepositional Phrases

See: Grammar in EAP: Nouns

Verbs and Verbal Groups


Modal Verb

Passive Voice

Perfective Aspect

Progressive Aspect

Ergative Verbs

Subordinate clauses/embedding

Complement clauses


See: Grammar in EAP: Verbs

Adjectives/Adverbs and Adjectival/Adverbial Groups

Used attributively

Used as complements.

See: Grammar in EAP: Adjectives

Words, Word Form and Word Order

Correct Words & Word Forms

Word Order

See: Grammar in EAP: Words

Clauses and Simple sentences


Clauses and Simple Sentences

Clause Complexes

See: Grammar in EAP: Clauses

Above the Sentence & Cohesion


Ellipsis and substitution


Lexical cohesion

See: Grammar in EAP: Cohesion


See: Grammar in EAP: Signalling



Can you punctuate this text? Punctuation Exercise.

See: Grammar in EAP: Punctuation



Can you spell these words? Spelling Exercise

See: Grammar in EAP: Spelling

Systemic Functional Linguistics

The grammatical description and analysis presented here is based on Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics. See: Grammar in EAP: SFL


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