Activity: true/false

I’d never really paid much attention to true/false activities before, where the students read a statement about a reading or listening passage and then decide if it’s true or false, and usually just whip through the answers without really spending too much time on them. But recently I’ve found them to be useful practice for focusing on two main points that are often overlooked.

The first is the use of the Finite. The difference between “He rides his bike” and “He does ride his bike” is, I think, that the second example is asserting the Predicate to be true. I don’t think students, especially lower levels, are often made aware of this distinction and I’ve found true/false activities a good way to do it. This is after all, as Halliday pointed out somewhere, how children argue: You smell! Do not! Do too! Do not! by asserting the truth or otherwise of a statement. For the activity, introduce the reading/listening as usual with the statements, e.g.:

  1. He rides his bike everyday     T/F
  2. He doesn’t goes to the park   T/F
  3. He is 12 years old                     T/F
  4. He can ride a motorbike         T/F

Rather than just “Number one is true, number two is false, etc.”, the students here have to assert the answer:

  1. For number one, he does ride his bike every day
  2. As for number two, he does go to the park

For more advanced students, the true/false difference between the two above can be made more explicit by isolating the Finite with the use of conjunctions:

  1. Number 1 says he rides his bike and he does
  2. Number 2 says he doesn’t go to the park but he does

The second point highlights the role of the Expression strata in indicating true/false through the use of tonic prominence. While examples 1 and 2 can be split into Finite and Predicate (rides → does ride), the examples 3 and 4 cannot so easily be highlighted. It is by giving them tonic prominence that this is achieved:

  1. .
  2. .
  3. He is 12 years old
  4. He can’t/can not ride a motorbike

I think, then, that true/false activities can be, in fact, a useful way to introduce or highlight the role of the Finite and that of tonic prominence.


The Predicator (underlined) is the non-finite element of all major clauses “realised by a verbal group minus the temporal or modal operator” (H & M, p.121). In the clause The sun was shining, for example, the Predicator is shining. It may also be a longer group, such as the Predicator in He has been trying to be heard. The Predicator may also be ‘fused’ with the Finite. The clause She played tennis, for example, consists of a fused Finite (did) + Predicator (play). The two then separate when forming the negative (She didn’t play tennis) or the question (Did she play tennis). The exceptions to this are is and have.

There are four functions to the Predicator (underlined):

  1. It “specifies time other than reference to the time of the speech event”, that is, ‘secondary tense’ (we are going to release the document);
  2. It “specifies various other aspects and phases such as seeming, hoping, trying” (you’ll have to make it look a lot clearer);
  3. It “specifies the voice: active or passive” (Brazil wasn’t discovered);
  4. It “specifies the process (action, event, mental process, relation)”

(H & M, p.122).

The Predicator is “realized by the lexical verb, that part of the verb which you might look up in a dictionary” (Bloor & Bloor, p.43).


The Residue is those parts of the clause as exchange that are not contained within the Mood block and “consists of functional elements of three kinds: Predicator [one], Complement [one or two] and Adjunct [up to about seven]” (H & M, p.121). For example:

Sister Susie ‘s sewing shirts for soldiers
Subject Finite Predicator Complement Adjunct
Mood Residue