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Compound adjectives and prepositional phrases in essays

28 April 2020

The lesson plan below comes from my online course, Teaching Grammar for Business Essays, and focuses on two aspects of noun phrases: compound adjectives and prepositional phrases. (You may want to adapt it to another academic subject area.)

Feel free to use this plan in any way that suits your classroom or online requirements. You are welcome to copy and paste this web page into a separate document for editing or printing purposes. To access a Word version, please look under ‘Sample lesson plans’ on this page.

Links to two more lesson plans:

Cautious or ‘hedging’ language in essays

Nouns in pairs (in academic writing)

To read my short article 'What is academic grammar?' please click here.

(And to read an introductory article on 'spoken grammar', please click here.)

 

LESSON PLAN

Compound adjectives and prepositional phrases in business essays

Introduction

The ‘noun phrase’ – a group of words centred around a noun – is a key tool for ‘building information’ in an academic essay. In this lesson plan, I’m going to focus on two features that increase the amount of information that students can convey in noun phrases: compound adjectives and prepositional phrases.

Procedure

COMPOUND ADJECTIVES

1. You could introduce the topic of compound adjectives by getting students to suggest words to fill these gaps:

a highly-_ _ _ _ _ _  document

urgently-_ _ _ _ _ _  banking reforms

_ _ _ _ _ _-term investment

Guide them towards these answers:

a highly-sensitive/confidential document

urgently-required/needed banking reforms

long/short-term investment

2. Now show students how these adjectives convey information economically, normally by summarising relative clauses. Get the class to complete this list of examples:

e.g. banking reforms that are urgently needed       urgently-needed banking reforms

an outlet that sells fast food                      ………………………

a sector that is growing rapidly                ……………………...

pay that is led by performance                 ………………………

a restaurant chain that is oriented towards the family      ………………………………

Here are the answers:

an outlet that sells fast food                      a fast-food outlet

a sector that is growing rapidly                a rapidly-growing sector

pay that is led by performance                 performance-led pay

a restaurant chain that is oriented towards the family    a family-oriented restaurant chain

3. At this stage of the lesson, there are two things you may want to point out to your students. First, the grammatical flexibility of compound adjectives:

fast-food                                                          adjective + noun

rapidly-growing                                             adverb + present participle

performance-led/family-oriented             noun + past participle                        

And secondly, the fact that although compound adjectives frequently come before nouns, where they are hyphenated, the same phrase may also occur on its own, when the hyphen is normally dropped:

…a highly-sensitive document.              …a document that is highly sensitive.

4. Now for some practice that shows compound adjectives working in short texts. Ask your students to have a go at this worksheet:  

A. Find an appropriate word to complete the compound adjectives in this short text:

With simple problems, a ……………..-down communications channel may achieve the most rapid results. In more complex decision-…………….. processes, however, such as goal-…………….. activities, a ……………..-way dialogue between senior managers and their staff may be more effective.

B. Match the words on the left with their partners on the right, and then use the compound adjectives you have made to complete the text below:

                               above-                          term

                               self-                              average

                               time-                             supporting

                               long-                             consuming

‘Closed systems’ are, by their nature, ………………… units. Without the ………………… need to interact with other parts of the organization, such systems may, in the short term, produce ………………… returns. From a ………………… perspective, however, the lack of external input may mean that their goals no longer coincide with those of the wider organization.

Here are the answers:

A. With simple problems, a top-down communications channel may achieve the most rapid results. In more complex decision-making processes, however, such as goal-setting activities, a two-way dialogue between senior managers and their staff may be more effective.

B. above-average, self-supporting, time-consuming, long-term                      

‘Closed systems’ are, by their nature, self-supporting units. Without the time-consuming need to interact with other parts of the organization, such systems may, in the short term, produce above-average returns. From a long-term perspective, however, the lack of external input may mean that their goals no longer coincide with those of the wider organization.

5. Finally, as a brief research exercise, get your students to note down any useful compound adjectives they find over the next week or so in their reading, and bring them to class with enough context so that they make sense to their classmates.

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES

6. Now let’s look at ways of helping students to add information to nouns through prepositional phrases. One way to start is to clarify the concept of the prepositional noun phrase. You can do this by showing students two sentences, and asking them if they can see a difference in the way the preposition is used:

It is not difficult to find untrustworthy traders on the internet.

The recent increase in online purchasing has had a number of effects.

Guide students towards the idea that in the first sentence the preposition ‘belongs’ to the words that follow it (‘the internet’), completing the expression ‘on the internet.’ But in the second sentence, the type we’re focusing on, the preposition is determined by the noun that comes before it (‘increase’):

It is not difficult to find untrustworthy traders [on the internet].

[The recent increase in] online purchasing has had a number of effects.

This second way is useful for conveying information, and a good alternative to a two-part, verb-based sentence, as you can see here…

The recent increase in online purchasing has had a number of side-effects. (using a noun phrase)

Online purchasing has increased recently, and this has had a number of side-effects. (verb-based sentence)

7. Now ask students to create their own prepositional noun phrase along the same lines.

The internet has emerged as a medium of communication, and this has allowed companies to engage in a continuous conversation with their customers.

The emergence…

Here’s the answer:

The emergence of the internet as a medium of communication has allowed companies to engage in a continuous conversation with their customers.

Before continuing, it’s useful to point out to students that the nouns used after the preposition in these phrases may well be verbal nouns (the –ing form):

The recent increase in online purchasing

or:

Managers have an essential role in building a sense of mission in their staff.

8. But now for the tricky part: which preposition to use?

It might be an idea first to check students’ prepositional knowledge. Show them a sentence like this and ask the class to complete the gaps:

The need ……… change within an organization may be a response ……… external pressure: an example of this would be the failure ……… existing systems to meet new consumer demand.

Here are the answers:

The need for change within an organization may be a response to external pressure: an example of this would be the failure of existing systems to meet new consumer demand.

If students get these prepositions right, that’s good. The bad news is that if you’re not sure, there’s no certain way of telling which preposition to use. ‘Of’ and ‘in’ are the most common. But generally students just have to learn them. Except that words in similar areas of meaning tend to be followed by the same preposition.

9. A simple activity can raise students’ awareness of this.

First, show the class words that generally take the same preposition, as you see below. (The word ‘generally’ is important because there will be exceptions/alternatives: 'method' for example, is sometimes used with 'for'.) Ask students what that preposition is. (I’ve included the answers here on the far right.)

1 example             2 method               3 analysis             4 shortage                        + of

5 increase                                                                                                                       + in

6 demand               7 reason                                                                                         + for

8 article                                                                                                                           + on

9 answer                10 approach                                                                                   + to

Then read out at random the similar words that you see in italics in the completed table below, and get students to try and give you the right number for their location in the table.

1 example             2 method               3 analysis                               4 shortage            +of

   type                     means, way          examination, exploration         lack                                                   

5 increase               decrease, drop, fall, reduction, rise                                              +in

6 demand               7 reason                                                                                               +for

   need                       motivation, appetite

8 article                   assignment, book, essay, lecture, project, work                       +on

9 answer                 10 approach                                                                                        +to

   response                  introduction

If you have time, you could get students to create one or two sentences using these nouns with a preposition.

That’s it!

Best Wishes,

Ken