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How English Sentence Structure Used by the Students

Learning English in Their Daily Communication

Abstract
This paper would like to explore how the English Learner's Sentence Structure: Tenses
and Singular and Plural Nouns used by students learning English. The aim of the study is to
identify tenses (simple present, simple past, present progressive), singular and plural nouns in
language used by the English Learners. The theory that will be used to analyze the data are Azar
(1989), Alexander (2003) and Swan (1995).
Key words: Syntax, Tenses, Singular and Plural Noun
1. Introduction
Language is a means of expressing humans thought and feeling in words. Through
language people can communicate each others. Using language is not simply as we thought since
there is a set of rules that must be followed called grammar, each language in the world has
different pattern and rules so does English as a foreign language. English has different rules that
should be paid attention to by the second language learners, stated by Irofatul Hidayati (2005, 1).
It means that it is possible for the learners make some errors while they are learning a foreign
language because it is a new subject for them. As Mc. Keating (1981: 212) states that learning a
new language is such a complex process that involves errors.
To understand the nature of language we must understand the nature of grammar, an it
particular, the internalized, unconscious set of rules that is part of every grammar. (Fromkin et.al,
2003: 15). It means that the grammar has important role in understanding language. In the next
page (Fromkin et.al, 2003: 15) said that No grammar, therefore no language, is either superior or
inferior to any other. Languages of technology undeveloped cultures are not primitive or illformed in any way.
In learning language of foreign language, learners often meet a lot of difficulties when
they learn a target language (Brown, 1980: 41). They might face more problems than they learn

own mother tongue. Although, they understand and can apply their own language easily, it does
not mean that they will be able to do it easily too in learning foreign language. They cannot avoid
making errors in conversation.
The previous study of this paper is Error Analysis in the Teaching of English by Sunardi
HasyimIn. This article, the writer presented some English sentences containing grammatical
errors. These grammatical errors were analyzed based on the theories presented by the linguists.
This analysis aimed at showing the students the causes and kinds of the grammatical
errors. By this way, the students are expected to increase their knowledge on the English
grammar.
The finding of this study show that the students make some errors in terms of: Errors in
using adjective, Errors in presenting subject and incorrect agreement, Error is using question
word how far, Error in using preposition, and Error in using passive voice terms.
The differences of this study and the previous study are in this study focus on the tense
(simple present, simple past, present continuous,) and singular and plural nouns while in the
previous study focus on using of adjective, question word how far, and preposition, passive
voice terms. The writer have opinion that to minimize the error that made by the students in the
previous study is it should know more about the basic of the grammar, since it is the foundation
to understand the language in general.
In this paper is interested in to know how the students learning English used tenses
(simple present, simple past, present continuous,) in language. And how the students learning
English used singular and plural noun?
2. Theoretical Framework
2.1 Syntax
Syntax is the organization of words into a phrase, a clause and a sentence. An English
sentence normally consists of verbal and nominal sentence:
a. Verbal Sentence
Verbal sentence is a sentence which is the predicate is verb.
The pattern: S + V + C
For example: they go to Surabaya
b. Nominal Sentence

Nominal sentence is a sentence which is the predicate is noun, adjective or verbal.


The pattern: S + TOBE + (NOUN, ADJECTIVE or ADVERB)
For example: I am happy.
2.1.1 Tense
According to Schott (1959: 55), tense is the form of the verb used to indicate the time, the
continuance, and the completeness of an action. Stanley, et.al, (1980) defines tense as the form
that verbs take in order to communicate information, usually this information relates to time.
Moreover Hopper (1980: 30) stated that tense refer to the of verb take depending on the time at
which an action occurs. Tense may indicate whether an action, activity, or states take place in the
present, past or future. Verbal and nominal declarative sentence in English have different form of
tense as following:
2.1.2

Simple Present Tense

a. Structure of Sentences
Verbal
The pattern: S + V1s/es + (O)
For

example,

he

Nominal
S + TOBE + (O)

studies For example, I am a student

English
b. Usage
There are three usage of simple present:
1.

The simple present says that something was true in the past, is true in the present, and
will be true in the future. It is used for general statements of fact.
For example, the world is round.

2. The simple present is used to express habitual or everyday activity.


For example, my classes begin at nine.
3. Certain verbs are not used in the progressive tenses. With this verbs, the simple present
may indicate a situation that exists right know, at the moment of speaking.
For example, He needs a pen right now.
See Azar, (1989: 11)

2.1.3

Present Progressive Tense

a. Structure of Sentence
Verbal
Nominal
The pattern: S + TOBE + Ving + the pattern: S + TOBE + O
(O)

for example, he is at home

for example, I am reading a


magazine
b. Usage
There are two usage of present progressive:
1. The present progressive expresses an activity that is in progressive at the moment of
speaking. It began in the recent past, is continuing at present, and will probably end some
point in the future.
For example, a. Jhon is sleeping right now.
2. Often the activity id of a general nature: something general in progress this week, this
month, this year.
For example, I am taking five courses this semester.
See Azar, (1989: 11)
2.1.4

Simple Past Tense

a. structure of sentence
Verbal
The pattern: S + V2 + (O)

Nominal
The pattern: S + TOBE + O

For example, they went to For example, she was a doctor


school.
b. usage
The simple past indicates that an activity or situation began and ended at the particular
time in the past.
For example, I walked to school yesterday.
See Azar, (1989: 24)

2.2 The Common Errors made by the Student Learning English In Using Language:
1. SINGULAR-PLURAL

he have been here for six month .


He has been here for six months

2. VERB TENSE

he is here since June


He has been here since June.

3. + ADD A WORD

I want ^ go to the zoo.


I want to go to the zoo.

4. - OMIT A WORD

she entered to the university.


She entered the university.

5. WORD ORDER

I saw five times that movie.


I saw that movie five times.

6.

INCOMPLETE SENTENCE

I went to bed. Because I was tired.


I went to bed because I was tired.

See Azar, (1989: A29)


2.3 Word Classes
Fries in Lim Kiat Boey (1975: 41) divided content words into the four major words
classes which he called class 1, 2, 3, 4 (roughly corresponding to nouns, verbs, adjectives,
adverbs, respectively). In this study the writer just include noun which is used in analyzing the
data.
2.3.1 Noun
A sentence is the basic utterance of standard written English (Conlin, 1965: 319).
Approximate 99 percent of the writing is in sentence form. Further organization of sentence is in
the form of paragraph then further into composition I the study of grammar, it must involve the
study of sentence. The essential elements of sentence are a subject and a verb and sometimes a
complement. The words that form the central core of sentence are the part of speech known as
noun (or pronoun) and verb (Frank, 1972:1). It indicates that noun has important role in a
sentence which functions as subject, objects of verb or objects of proposition. A noun is

traditionally defined as a word or group of word used to name a person, place, or thing (Birk,
1965: 145).
According to the type, noun is divided into two types:
a. Countable Nouns
Countable noun is the name of separate objects, people, ideas etc. Which can be
counted (Swan, 1995: 136) it can be divided into two types, singular and plural (they will
be discussed more detail in the next part).
The characteristics of countable noun are as follow (Hartono: 1996: 14)
1. It can be change into plural form.
2. It can be used with many, several, some in front of the plural forms.
3. If it is singular, it has been followed by a singular verb. If it is plural, it has to be
followed by a plural verb.
b. Uncountable Nouns
Uncountable noun is the name of materials, liquid, abstract, qualities, collections,
and other things which we see as masses without clear boundaries and not separate
objects (Swan, 1995: 136). For example: ink, oil, sugar, water, money etc.
The characteristics of countable noun are as follow (Hartono: 1996: 16)
1. An article a/an can not be used in front of the uncountable nouns directly.
2. It can not be changed into plural form.
3. It can only use much in front of uncountable noun.
4. In a sentence, it always followed by singular verb or to be.
2.3.2 Singular and Plural Nouns
According to numbers, English noun can be divided into two kinds, singular and plural
which have different characteristic and function. It is important for language learners to
distinguish the use of singular and plural nouns because it influences in choosing the verb form.
2.3.3 Singular Nouns
Singular noun is the form of word used in speaking or writing of one person or one thing
(Homby, 1987: 801). It means that if we are speaking one thing. The singular noun in a sentence

usually is followed by singular verb. The singular of most is made by just adding a/an before the
noun.

2.3.4 Plural nouns


Plural noun is the form of word used with reference to more than one thing (Homby,
1987: 643). It indicates that whether we are speaking more than one thing. The use of plural noun
in sentence usually is followed by plural verb. The plural of most nouns is made by just adding
s or es to the singular (Swan, 1995: 521). But there are some special case, which has different
pattern to form the plural noun.
Regular plurals
A final s is added to noun to make a noun plural
For example:

A final es is added to

Singular
Cat

plural
Cats

Door

Doors

Hospital

Hospitals

noun to make a noun

plural if the sound to the singular ends in sh, -ch, -s, -x, or z
For example:

Singular
Glass

Plural
Glasses

Box

Boxes

Flash

Flashes

Sketch

Sketches

Size

Sizes

If the sound ends in y and in front of it is consonant, so y change into i and adding es
For example:

Singular
Hobby

plural
Hobbies

History

Histories

Baby

Babies

A final s is added if the sound ends in y and in front of it is vowel


For example:

Singular
Monkey

Plural
Monkeys

Day

Days

Tray

Trays

A final es is added to noun to make a noun plural if the sound to the singular ends in o and the
noun is not made by human.
For example:

Singular
Potato

Plural
Potatoes

Tomato

Tomatoes

Mango

Mangoes

A final s is added to noun to make a noun plural if the sound to the singular ends in o and the
noun is made by human.
For example:

Singular
Radio

Plural
Radios

Piano

Pianos

Studio

Studios

A final s is added to some noun to make a noun plural if the sound to the singular ends in f
For example:

Singular
Roof

Plural
Roofs

Gulf

Gulfs

A final es is added to noun to make a noun plural if the sound to the singular ends in f by
changing it into ves
For example

Singular
Wife

Plural
Wives

Wolf

Wolves

Irregular noun
A final en is added to make a plural
For example:

Singular
Ox

Plural
Oxen

Child

Children

Some nouns change of vowel


For example:
Singular
Woman

Plural
Women

Goose

Geese

Man

Men

Foot

Feet

Some nouns have the same singular and plural form


For example:

Deer
Series

Means
Species

Sheep
Fish

Some nouns that English has borrowed from other languages have foreign plurals
For example:

3. Finding
3.1 Errors of Tense
A. Errors of Omission

Singular
Criterion

Plural
Criteria

Phenomenon

Phenomena

Formula

Formulae

These errors are identified by the absence of one or more items that have to appear in a
well-formed sentence. During the process of teacher learning proses, I often find that some
students make error in terms of Omission of ending s/es in the use of simple present tense of the
verb for the third person singular (he, she, it). This type of error found of sentence produced
when he/she tells other person daily activities as following:
Examples:

- She go to school with his father.


-

She study about her lesson for tomorrow.

In the examples above, the learner omits ending s/es after subject She and He as the third
person singular. It indicates that he/she still confuses of understanding of using verb for the third
person singular (he, she, it). The right forms of the sentences are:
-

She goes to school with my father.

She studies about her lesson for tomorrow.

These errors also found in Simple Present Progressive are by the absence of to be (is, am,
are) that must appear in a well-formed utterance. To form a declarative nominal sentence in the
simple present progressive tense, we have to add to be (is, am, are) + Ving. I this case, the learner
omit is, am, are in his/her utterance.
Examples:

- I now thirteen years old


- After that I studying English now

The right forms of those utterances are as follows:


- I am thirteen years old now.
- After that I am studying English now.
B. Errors of Addition
These errors are characterized by the presence of one or more items in a well-formed
utterance. Errors on the Simple Present Tense is indicated by the presence of item to (is, am, are)
before main verb. The items of to be must be left out before item main verb.
For example: I am get up at 5.30
The correct tense of the sentence is I get up at 5.30
It also occur in simple past tense
For example: - The baby are cried loudly, last night.
The correct tense of the sentence is
-

They cried loudly, last night

C. Errors of Verb Tense


The errors of verb tense are characterized by the use of wrong forms of a structure or
morpheme. From the data analysis, errors of verb tense are found in this error appears when the
learner use incorrect form of verb which is not in agreement with the simple present tense. This
error is found only in one sentence.
Example: - After that she went to school
The right tense of this sentence is:
-

After that she goes to school

These errors also occurred in simple past tense. These errors appear when the learner use
incorrect form of verb which is not in agreement with the simple past tense. As we know that, the
pattern of the simple past tense in declarative verbal sentence is S + V2. So, after the subject it
should be V2. This type of error found of sentence produced when he/she tells his/her last daily
activities as following:
For examples: - I take a bath at 8 oclock
- I play station
The correct tense of the sentences are as follow:
o I took a bath at 8 oclock
o I played play station
D. Error of Word Order
The errors of word order are characterized by the use of wrong forms of word order in
sentence. From the data analysis, errors of word order are found in:
A. Error on the Simple Present Progressive
These errors appear when the learner use incorrect form of word order in sentence.
Example:
- I now thirteen years old
- I take a bath in day two times.
The correct forms of the sentence are:
- I am thirteen years old now.
- I take a bath twice in a day.

3.2 Errors of Singular-Plural Nouns


A. Errors of Omission
From the data, it was found that only one type of error. It was error of omission. These
errors are identified by the absence of one or more items that have to appear in a well-formed
sentence. From the data analysis, errors of omission are found in:
1. Error of Omission of a/an in singular form
These errors are identified by the absence of a/an in items that must appear in a wellformed in utterance. If it is singular countable noun form we must use a/an before the items.
These errors are as follows:
Examples:
- My father is employee.
- I take a bath in day two times.
- There was fork
The errors of omission above occurred because of the absence of an item that must appear in
singular countable form. The nouns employee, day and fork were categorized into
countable noun. Therefore, the correct forms should be an employee, a day and a fork.
2. Error of Omission of -s
These errors are characterized by the absence of an item hat must appear in a well-formed
sentence, in this case plural markers s or es.
Examples:
- I eight classes.
- Five time.
- They were the young grasshopper.
The words of the sentence above were incorrect. The errors of omission occurred in those
constructions because the leaner did no attach s followed the plural noun. The noun "time and
grasshopper" were categorized into countable noun. Swan (1995: 521) states that "the plural of

most noun is made by just adding s or es to singular". Therefore, the correct forms should be
"times and grasshoppers".

4 Discussions
4.1 How is the English Learner Sentence Structure?
4.1.1 Tenses
Based on the finding above, the writer found some tenses error made by the English
learner in using tenses in language. The learner still confused to differentiate between five tenses
that mentioned above when he should use simple present tense or another one. It indicates that
the tenses that have studied by the learner cannot be understood deeply yet. The error made by
the learner need to be analyzed carefully since it keys in understanding language. He tends to use
certain tense, which he known and fail to apply the other tense. In this case, the learner only
concern to the simple present tense in some situation. While in using tenses it depends on the
time of the event occur. Hopper (1980: 30) stated that tense refer to the verb take depending on
the time at which an action occurs. Tense may indicate whether an action, activity, or states take
place in the present, past or future.

Simple Present Tense


in using simple present tense, the learner made some errors as following:
The first is error of omission. In this case, omission of s or es and to be. The ending

of s or es must appear in the verb if the subject is the third person singular (he, she, it).
However, the learner is inconsistent to add s or es of the verb. For example, She go to
school with her father. The learner failed in addition es when produced go. It should be
goes. Therefore, the correct constructions of the sentence are she goes to school with my
father. While, the omission of to be occurred by the absence of to be (is, am, are) that must
appear in well-formed utterance. The learner is not be able to differences between the simple
present tense in verbal form and nominal form. For example, I eight classes. This sentence is
nominal form of simple present tense. Therefore, we have to add is/am/are +
(noun/adjective/adverb). The correct form of the sentence should be I am eight classes.

The second is error of addition. This error characterized by the presence of one or more
items in a well-formed utterance. The learner is still confused to differences between the
simple present tense in verbal form and nominal form. For example, I am get up at 5.30. This
sentence is verbal form of simple present tense. So, the item of to be must be out. The correct
tense of the sentence is I get up at 5.30.
The third is error verb tense. Azar (1989: 11) states that the simple present is used to
express habitual or everyday activity. So it is wrong if it is used in past or another one. For
examples, she went to school. The topic of the conversation above is other people daily
activities. the time and the action that asked by the teacher is in daily activities so it should
use simple present tense. However, the learner responded by using simple past tense. He not
be able to use simple present tense. He assumes that there are not differences between simple
present tense and simple past tense according to the time and action. The correct tense of the
responded sentence is she goes to school.
The fourth is error word order, characterized by the use of wrong form of word order in
sentence. The learner did not apply the rule of the simple present tense. As we know that the
pattern of the simple present tense is:
S + V1s/es + (O)
For example, I after get up I take a bath.
In this utterance, the learner made error to put the adverb of time while it should be in the
(O) position or it can be put in beginning of the sentence. Therefore, the correct form of the
sentence is after I get up I take a bath.

Present Progressive Tense


In using present progressive tense, the learner made some errors as following:
The first is in using to be. He is omission some of to be in his utterance. As we know

that if we construct present progressive sentence, we must add to be + Ving. In this case the
learner is ignorance of using to be. For examples, I studying English now. The learner omits
to be in his utterance. The right form of the sentences is I am studying English now.
The second is error word order, characterized by the use of wrong form of word order in
sentence. The learner did not apply the rule of the present progressive. As we know that the
pattern of the present progressive tense is:
S + to be + Ving + (O)

For example, I now thirteen years old.


In this utterance, the learner made error to put the adverb of time while it should be in the
(O) position. So, the correct form of the sentence is I am thirteen years old now.

Simple Past Tense


In using simple past tense, the learner made some errors as following:
The first is error of addition. This error characterized by the presence of one or more

items in a well-formed utterance. The learner is still confused to differences between the
simple past tense in verbal form and nominal form. For example, the baby are cried loudly,
last night. This sentence is verbal form of simple past tense. So, the item of to be must be out.
The correct tense of the sentence is The baby cried loudly, last night.
The second is error of verb tense. Azar (1989: 24) states that the simple past is used to
indicate that an activity or situation began and ended at the particular time in the past. In
using simple past tense the learner create acceptable structure on the basis of his experience
in his utterance. The verb that is used in the simple past tense should be V2. In this case,
the learner fails to use it in his utterance. He might regard that he uses the correct tense.
Whereas he fails to understand when the right time uses simple past tense. For examples, I
play station. In this utterance, the learner used V1 while the oral question is in the past
action. The correct tense of the responded sentences above should be I played play station.
4.1.2 Singular-Plural
From the finding of errors made by the learner, it shows that in the process of learning
foreign language, he often faces difficulties. It could be seen from the errors he had made. The
error made by the learner need to be analyzed carefully since it keys in understanding language.
The learner often makes some errors in using singular and plural nouns in utterance although he
has learnt a rule for forming plural. In regular form a noun can be made plural by only adding s
or es to the singular, while the irregular ones have certain rules to make plural forms.
In using singular-plural nouns, the learner is ignorance and still confused how to used
singular and plural nouns. If the noun is in singular form of countable. The items a/an must
appear before the noun. However the learner often made error of omission of a/an. For example,
My father is employee. The word employee is categorized countable noun while the subject in
this utterance is the third person singular, my father. Therefore, it should used the singular form

by add the item of an in the utterance. The correct form of the singular is my father is an
employee.
Besides, he also made error of omission of s or -es. He did not attach s followed by the
plural noun. He might regard that he uses the correct form. Whereas he fails to understand when
the right time he uses the singular and plural nouns. For example, the learner uses singular forms
after the word five such as in phrase five time. He used singular form time after the word
five, whereas, the word five should be followed by a plural noun. Therefore, it should be
changed into plural form times.
5. Conclusion
The English learners made in five types of errors classified by Azar. They were errors of
omission, errors of addition, errors of verb tense, errors of word order. It indicated that
the English learner still faced many difficulties in using tenses in their conversation. They
can not capable in using the correct constructions of the tenses in utterance. Moreover,
they still confused to differentiate between five tenses that mentioned above when he
should use simple present tense or another one. It shows that the tenses that have studied
by the learner can not be understood well. They tend to use certain tense, which he
known and fail to apply the other tense. In this case, the learner only concern to the
simple present tense in some situation. Wheares, in using tenses it depends on the time of
the event occur. Hopper (1980: 30) stated that tense refer to the verb take depending on
the time at which an action occurs. Tense may indicate whether an action, activity, or
states take place in the present, past or future.
In using singular-plural nouns, the writer only found errors of omission. They tend to
omit an item (a/an and s/-es), which should be appeared in well-formed. The learners are
ignorance and still confused how to used singular and plural nouns.

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