Adjectives and Verbs – Help

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A student learning English wrote:

I want to helpful them.

Can you see the error? Do you understand the problem?

The Correct Pattern

It should be:

I want to help them


I want to be helpful to them.

Categories of Words

There are categories of words in grammar. The main categories are noun, verb, adjective and adverb.

Word Family

Most words have a family of other words which are similar but with different endings. These are called word families. Look at this word family:

to help (verb)
a helper (noun)
some help (noun)
helpful (adjective)
helped (verb – past tense)
helps (verb third person singular present tense)
helping (present participle)

To master English grammar, it is necessary to understand the different forms of each word and to know how to use each word. This is not so difficult for speakers of European languages which are similar to English but it can be very difficult for speakers of Asian languages which use different word categories top English.

The Problems of Chinese Learners

People who speak Chinese, Thai, Lao, Cambodian or Indonesian or other languages with different classes of words will be confused. They will be confused by English word categories.

Learn Vocabulary in Context

The best way to learn vocabulary is in context. That means you should learn each word in a sentence. You have to see the word in a situation with a meaning then you will understand it. Look at these Examples which illustrate the vocabulary from the list above:
Vocabulary is the Key!

I want to help them. (verb)

I want to be a helper. (noun)

I need some help. (noun)

I want to be helpful. (adjective)

He is very helpful. (adjective)

I helped my friend to cook the dinner. (verb – past tense)

My father helps me do my homework. (verb third person singular present tense)

I am helping my daughter to do her homework. (present continuous tense)

Correcting Errors

The student who wrote: “I want to helpful them” did not understand the difference between a verb and an adjective. If you use an adjective, it goes with a “be” verb:

I want to be helpful.
She is helpful.
They are very helpful.

If you use a verb, it goes with a subject:

I want to help them.
She wants to help them.
I help them every day.
I helped them to understand.
They helped me to understand.
He helped me to understand.
It helped me to understand.

Questions – Clearing up Confusion

Is that clear?
If you are confused, ask a question. Write your question in the comments section below.


Follow the Links and listen and read more lessons:

Can I be of Assistance?
Understanding Grammar
Travel Broadens the Mind
Vocabulary is the Key


A Song about Helping your Friends

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